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Today's News: Jan. 15, 2017

Stories from the United States and around the world.

Iraqi special forces search a house near Mosul University on January 15, 2017. Ahmed Saad / Reuters

—U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops have taken over Mosul University after a weekend of fighting with Islamic State militants, who have controlled Mosul since the summer of 2014. The city is the terrorist group’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq.

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).


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Trump Talks Brexit, Russia, Refugees in New Interview

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

President-elect Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging interview to The Sunday Times, published Sunday, discussing Brexit, the U.S. relationship with Russia, Germany's refugee policy, and more. During an hour-long interview at Trump Tower, Trump told the British publication that Brexit will “end up being a great thing.” The president-elect said he would offer the United Kingdom a trade deal with the U.S., to be worked out “very quickly” after a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, which he said would take place soon after his inauguration. He said May had sent him last month as a gift a copy of Winston Churchill's address to the American public. Trump said he would lift U.S. sanctions against Russia if its president, Vladimir Putin, brokered a nuclear-weapons reduction deal with the U.S. “They have sanctions on Russia—let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” he said. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it.” The U.S. has sanctions in place against Russian individuals and organizations for the country’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and, more recently, for the alleged hacking of American emails to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Trump has acknowledged Russia may have hacked U.S. institutions, but says the breach had no effect on the outcome of the election. In Sunday’s interview, Trump called German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for refugees a “catastrophic mistake.” He said the U.S. invasion of Iraq was “possibly the worst ­decision ever made in the history of our country,” and added that Afghanistan was “going badly.” The interview comes as May prepares to give a speech this week on Brexit, two months before her government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begins the formal withdrawal from the European Union.

Diplomats Meet to Discuss Israel-Palestine Conflict, Days Before U.S. Inauguration

Diplomats and representatives from 70 countries and international organizations met in Paris Sunday for a conference reaffirming their support for peace talks between Israel and Palestine and eventually a two-state solution to the conflict. The meeting appeared to be largely symbolic. President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, described the meeting as a “moment of great expectation," while Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, called it "useless" and said it had been "rigged" by the other side with help from the French, according to The New York Times. Representatives for Israel and Palestine did not attend, an absence the British pointed out, saying in a statement from the United Kingdom's foreign office that they had "particular reservations" about a gathering "intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them," the BBC reports. The conference came at a moment of some uncertainty about the nature of America's involvement in future peace talks. The Obama administration supports a two-state solution, and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, who attended Sunday’s meeting, spent his years in the job pushing for a diplomatic end to the dispute. But a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in later this week, has said that relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a "very big priority" for Trump. The move would be a reversal in U.S. policy, which has long held the the status of the contested city should be discussed in international negotiations.

Iraqi Forces Wrest Control of Mosul University From ISIS

U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces on Sunday took control of the campus of Mosul University after several days of fighting with Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city, the AP reports, citing Brigadier General Haider Fadhil of the country’s special forces. The U.S.-backed troops entered the grounds on Friday, where ISIS fighters deployed sniper and mortar fire, After driving the militants out, troops searched the school and removed bombs left behind by the terrorist organization, which has controlled Mosul since mid-2014. Iraqi troops have raised the country's flags over the buildings. The capture is part of a larger offensive to regain control of Mosul that began in October. About 30,000 troops—including Iraqi government forces, Shiite and Sunni militias, and Kurdish fighters—are involved in the operation. Mosul is ISIS's final stronghold in the country.