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Iraq claims progress in key battle against ISIS

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials said Tuesday that troops had retaken a neighborhood on the outskirts of Ramadi, a provincial capital west of Baghdad that was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earlier this year.

The retaking of the area on Tuesday came just over a week after Iraqi forces announced the capture of the Palestine Bridge, completing the encirclement of the city.

ISIS captured Ramadi in May, dealing the biggest blow to Iraqi forces since the fall of Mosul nearly a year before. The government soon announced a counter-offensive, but progress has been sluggish.

Iraq trying to take back Ramadi from militants
"Face-saving" with new offensive to take back Ramadi from ISIS

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief to the press.

The battle for Ramadi was grinding on as Saudi Arabia gathered leaders of the disparate opposition groups fighting against the government in neighboring Syria, where ISIS also holds vast swathes of territory, in an attempt to forge a unified delegation to take part in international peace talks to end the crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the next high-level diplomatic meeting on Syria, planned for New York later this month, depended on the "flow of events" over the coming week.

Speaking on the sidelines of a global climate conference in Paris, Kerry said he hoped to have the meeting as scheduled on Dec. 18, but that it would depend on the results of the Saudi-led gathering of Syrian opposition figures.

The talks are meant to be accompanied by a ceasefire between the government and moderate rebel factions, so the Saudis' ability to forge some unity among the leading opposition groups is key to the diplomatic effort.

ISIS, al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front and other extremist groups are not involved in the discussions for a ceasefire, and the hope in Washington and elsewhere is that the moderate rebel groups will also unite in the fight against the extremists.

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