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In brief: Iran leader doubts nuclear talks’ success

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s top leader said Monday that he doubts talks aimed at sealing a final deal between Tehran and Western powers over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear program will succeed, a day before the negotiations begin.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had accepted the talks at the behest of some Iranian leaders, but blamed what he saw as their likely failure on the United States, saying Washington is using the issue as an excuse to pressure the country.

“The nuclear issue is an excuse,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV. “ Even if one day, against all the odds it is solved based on the Americans’ expectations, then Americans will seek another issue to follow it. Just pay attention to the spokespersons of the U.S. government, who have also raised the issue of human rights, missiles and arms,” said Khamenei. “The job that foreign ministry has started will be continued,” he said however. “Iran will not violate what it has promised but Americans are hostile toward the Islamic revolution and the Islamic republic.”

Roof collapse kills 10 at college meeting

SEOUL, South Korea – A resort auditorium’s roof loaded down with snow and rain collapsed during a welcoming ceremony for South Korean university freshmen, killing 10 and injuring more than 100, officials said today.

The collapse happened Monday night. About 560 students from Busan University of Foreign Studies had gathered for a two-day freshman orientation at the Manua Ocean Resort in the southeastern city of Gyeongju when a crack appeared in the auditorium ceiling before the collapse. Recent heavy snow combined with rain likely put too much pressure on the structure, a fire official said.

Syrian rebels replace military commander

BEIRUT – After losing ground to Syrian forces and Islamic extremists for months, the Western-backed rebel movement announced Monday it was replacing its military chief with an experienced, moderate field commander from the south.

Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir replaces Gen. Salim Idris, a secular-leaning moderate who was criticized by many in the opposition for being ineffective and losing the confidence of the U.S. and its allies, particularly after Islamic extremists seized a weapons depot from moderate rebels. The move was announced Monday by the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council.

Thai police remove camping protesters

BANGKOK – Thai police have detained and removed about 100 anti-government protesters who were camped out near a government ministry in Bangkok.

It’s a sign that the government is taking steps to clear out demonstrators who have been blocking access to some government offices since late last year in an attempt to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power. Protest leader Rawee Matchamadon said today that police rounded up about 100 demonstrators outside the Energy Ministry. They were taken away in police trucks for questioning at a police base.

Afghan leader orders changes to law

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday ordered changes to a draft of new criminal legislation in response to an international outcry warning it would severely limit justice for victims of domestic abuse, his spokesman said.

Afghanistan’s parliament had passed a new criminal procedure code that would ban relatives from testifying against alleged abusers. While the legislation awaited signature from Karzai, human rights organizations and several of Afghanistan’s Western allies – including the U.S. and European Union – voiced strong concerns it would effectively curb prosecutions involving violence against women, where relatives are often the only witnesses.

Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the president was “well aware” of the criticism and decided at a Cabinet meeting Monday that the legislation must be changed.


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In reversal, Trump signs order stopping family separation

UPDATED: 7:36 p.m.

updated  Bowing to pressure from anxious allies, President Donald Trump abruptly reversed himself Wednesday and signed an executive order halting his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border.