WASHINGTON – World powers and Iran still face significant gaps in their negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, foreign ministers said Tuesday while forging ahead with efforts to secure a deal that could finally bridge a decades-long diplomatic chasm between the Islamic republic and the West.
“It is clear that we still have more work to do,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday, shortly before leaving Vienna, where negotiators had been holed up for weeks working on a plan to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb but still let it develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.
He cited “tangible progress” on important issues in the talks and stated his belief “that there is a way forward,” but he added that “there are also very real gaps on other key issues.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif suggested it was likely that the talks would continue beyond a Sunday deadline and into a six-month extension.
Moderate Sunni now leads Iraq parliament
BAGHDAD – Iraqi lawmakers broke two weeks of deadlock Tuesday and elected a moderate Sunni as speaker of parliament, taking the first step toward forming a new government that is seen as crucial to confronting militants who have overrun much of the country.
Still, it was not clear whether lawmakers had reached a larger deal that would also include an agreement on the most contentious decision – the choice for prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, has ruled the country since 2006 but is under intense pressure to step aside. So far, he has insisted on a third term.
After voting behind closed doors, the legislature tallied the results on a whiteboard wheeled into the hall that showed Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri winning with 194 votes out of 273 cast in the 328-seat parliament. A second candidate, Shorooq al-Abayachi, received 19 votes. There were 60 abstentions.
Jailed pastor’s family escapes from China
BEIJING – Three members of an imprisoned pastor’s family have sneaked out of China to the U.S. with the help of activists after complaining about an extended campaign of harassment by Chinese authorities, a Christian rights group said Tuesday.
Zhang Shaojie’s daughter, son-in-law and 1-year-old grandchild landed in Dallas on Monday, according to U.S.-based China Aid. The group said an underground network of activists helped the three leave China via Southeast Asia.
Zhang, who led the Nanle County Christian Church in the central province of Henan, was sentenced this month to 12 years in prison on charges of fraud and gathering crowds to disturb public order.
China moves oil rig that triggered riots
HANOI, Vietnam – China today moved an oil rig that it had deployed in a section of the South China Sea, triggering a dispute with Vietnam.
Beijing deployed the massive rig in early May close to the Paracel Islands, triggering a furious reaction in Hanoi and the most serious uptick in tensions in the waters in years.
Hanoi demanded Beijing withdraw the rig, and sent ships to the region to try and disrupt the operations. The Chinese move triggered protests in Vietnam and deadly anti-Chinese riots.
Beijing insisted it had done nothing wrong because the waters belonged to it.
The official Xinhua News Agency said today that the China National Petroleum Corp. on Tuesday announced the end of the operation, citing the typhoon season.
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