In brief: Khamenei rejects U.S. bid for direct nuclear talks
Washington – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the U.S. offer of direct talks on his country’s disputed nuclear program, deepening doubts about the prospects that Tehran’s upcoming discussions with six world powers over the issue will make progress.
Khamenei, who sets his country’s policy on the issue, said in comments carried Thursday on his personal website that talks “will not settle the issue” when the United States has imposed sanctions and is threatening Iran with attack if it doesn’t yield.
“You take up arms against the nation of Iran and say: ‘Negotiate or we will fire,’ ” Khamenei said in a speech to Iranian civilian and air force officials. “But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions.”
Vice President Joe Biden last weekend repeated President Barack Obama’s offer that the United States would open talks with Tehran if Iranian officials showed they were serious.
Ruling Islamist party rebuffs call for new government
Tunis, Tunisia – Tunisia sank deeper into political crisis Thursday, as the ruling Islamist party rejected its own prime minister’s decision to replace the government after the assassination of a leftist politician led to a wave of angry protests.
The murder of Chokri Belaid, a 48-year-old secularist and a fierce critic of hardline Islamists as well as the more moderate ruling party, laid bare the challenges facing this nation of 10 million, whose revolution two years ago sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
Because of its small, well-educated population, there were hopes Tunisia would have the easiest time transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. But instead Tunisia – a staunchly secular state under ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – is now a battleground pitting secularists, moderate Islamists, and hardline Islamists against one another.
The economy has struggled, power-sharing negotiations have stalled, and political violence is on the rise. The rejection of the prime minister’s move to create a government of technocrats to guide the country to elections also made clear that divisions exist between hardliners and moderates within the ruling party, Ennahda.