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In brief: U.S. giving more aid to displaced Syrians

Washington – The Obama administration is providing an additional $100 million for humanitarian aid for displaced Syrians, officials said Wednesday, bringing to $510 million the total U.S. aid commitment since the civil war began more than two years ago.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to announce the new aid today during a visit to Rome, officials said. It will help support civilians in Syria, as well as more than 1.4 million refugees who have fled the country, they said.

The decision is not linked to White House deliberations over whether the U.S. should provide weapons and ammunition to rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad or to growing suspicion that Syrian forces used chemical weapons.

Missile data may be shared, official says

Washington – The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the Obama administration has discussed declassifying key data on U.S. missile defense in order to provide it to Russia.

The administration has been exploring how to ease Russian concerns that the U.S. missile defense shield is aimed at countering Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Arms control advocates have suggested that revealing missile interceptor capabilities could provide a breakthrough on an issue that Russia says stands in the way of nuclear arms reductions. But doing so would provoke charges by Republicans that the administration is compromising national security to appease Moscow.

Under questioning at a hearing Wednesday, Missile Defense Agency director Vice Adm. James Syring said that he has discussed declassifying data, including the speed of interceptors, with senior Defense Department officials.

Two women running for president in Iran

Tehran, Iran – Two Iranian women on Wednesday announced their candidacies for the presidency in elections on June 14.

The hopefuls are 45-year-old housewife Razieh Omidvar, a trained economist, and university professor Soraya Malekzadeh, also 45. Both told journalists in Tehran that their priority would be to combat astronomical inflation.

It is unclear, however, whether women are allowed to run at all in presidential polls as there are some ambiguities both in the constitution and election law.

According to the constitution and election law, the person eligible to register as a presidential candidate should be a “rejal” – an Arabic term for both distinguished men as well as VIPs.

There have been numerous discussions in recent years on whether the term “rejal” could also be associated with and adopted for women.

In the 34 years since the Islamic revolution, no woman has seriously been considered for the presidential post, and hence those debates did not yield any concrete results. Almost half of the eligible voters in the 2009 presidential election – more than 46 million – were women, and this will also be the case this year.

The deadline for candidates to register is Saturday.


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