IRAN: A BREAKTHROUGH?
Nothing signed, no formal announcement, but for the first time in months there is some reason for hope on the long-festering international crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Alex MARQUARDT reports the head of the IAEA said a framework deal for inspections will be signed soon. The IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano, who returned from Tehran Tuesday, said the deal will allow the U.N. nuclear agency to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on developing nuclear arms. The news comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations – and the hope is that those talks will result in an Iranian agreement to stop enriching uranium to a level that can be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms. The IAEA chief said the talks in Tehran “will have a positive impact on the negotiations” in Baghdad. As the AP adds, By compromising on the IAEA probe, Iranian negotiators could argue that the onus was now on the other side to show some flexibility – and boost its chances of convincing the U.S. and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit Iran’s critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – always in the Don’t-get-your-hopes-up category – said the P5+1 countries must make “clear and unequivocal demands” that Iran stop all enrichment and ship out all enriched material.
-NATIONAL HOLIDAY TURNED DAY OF MOURNING…It’s National Day in Yemen – a holiday with precious little to celebrate. Those soldiers who were massacred yesterday were rehearsing their formations for a military parade planned for this morning – and as Martha RADDATZ and Nasser ATTA report, it was one man with an explosives belt who killed 112 of them, making this one of the deadliest single suicide attacks ever. Another 300 were injured.
-BIG PICTURE…A few big-picture takeaways, on the day after: First, the U.S. anti-terror effort in Yemen has suffered a terrible blow. This is its number one concern, in terms of the threat and an expanding haven for Al Qaeda – and those 112 soldiers were front-line fighters in the anti-terror fight. Second, there is some concern that the Qaeda bombmakers in Yemen may have also meant yesterday as a test run for explosives that may be used in other countries; and finally, Al Qaeda and its spinoffs in Yemen appear to be shifting their focus to the capital after weeks of battles against U.S.-backed government forces. Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility – calling the bombing retaliation for U.S. drone strikes and those American-assisted offensives.
-NEW VIDEO…Nasser ATTA has flagged new video of soldiers on the ground after the bombing. Warning: it’s graphic.
-FORCES KILL PROTESTERS IN FRONT OF UN OBSERVERS…Syrian police have killed two protesters after opening fire on a crowd who came to welcome United Nations observers in the east, according to a Free Syrian Army official. “As soon as the U.N. convoy entered al-Busaira a jubilant crowd of hundreds came out to welcome them. It was not minutes before they came under fire,” Abu Laila, a Free Syrian Army official, told Reuters by phone from the eastern province of Deir al-Zor. Meanwhile, five people were killed when an explosive device detonated at a restaurant in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian state media and activists said. State television blamed the explosion on “terrorists”, a term the Syrian government uses when referring to the armed opposition.
-EX-DETAINEE: PRISONS “SLAUGHTERHOUSES”…Prominent Palestinian writer Salameh Kaileh, 56, who was jailed in Syria for nearly three weeks, described the facilities as “human slaughterhouses,” saying security agents beat detainees with batons, crammed them into stinking cells and tied them to beds at night. “It was hell on earth,” Kaileh told The Associated Press.
-TWO DEAD IN BEIRUT CLASHES…The spillover into Lebanon continues. Hundreds of Islamist gunmen fired in the air Monday at the funeral of a Sunni Muslim cleric whose killing ignited street battles that took two lives. Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, an opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was buried in northern Lebanon a day after he was shot dead at a Lebanese army checkpoint in a part of that country where Sunni sympathy for Syria’s rebels and the uprising against Assad is particularly strong.
-U.S. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN TO STEP DOWN…Muhammad LILA reports from Kabul: veteran U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker is stepping down soon from his post as President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan, departing just as the United States negotiates a host of challenges on its course out of the long, costly war. The Obama administration is considering Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham to replace Crocker. It’s not immediately clear why the widely-respected diplomat was leaving – and this comes on the heels of Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter’s decision that he, too, will be stepping down.
-THE SNUB HEARD ROUND THE REGION…LILA again: At the NATO Summit, President Obama thanked a number of nations for their contribution to the Afghan mission, but he never mentioned Pakistan. Pakistani officials downplayed it – saying they weren’t expecting Obama to thank them for closing the NATO supply route – but nonetheless it’s an indication of the deepening rift between the two “Frenemies” as many are calling them.
-EURO-CRISIS & A GLOBAL THREAT…The United States and Japan are leading a fragile economic recovery among developed countries that could be blown off course if the eurozone fails to contain its flaring growth crisis, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday. In its twice-yearly economic outlook, the OECD forecast that global growth would ease to 3.4 percent this year from 3.6 percent in 2011, before accelerating to 4.2 percent in 2013, in line with its last estimates from late.
-MADE IN AMERICA -AGAIN?…Interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal- on how the “vast tide” of U.S. manufacturing jobs that were lost to China…is now beginning a reversal.
A THIRD OF MALARIA DRUGS ARE FAKE?
The BBC reports a third of malaria drugs used around the world are counterfeit. Researchers who looked at 1,500 samples of seven malaria drugs from seven countries in South East Asia say poor-quality and fake tablets are causing drug resistance and treatment failure. Data from 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including over 2,500 drug samples showed similar results. Experts say The Lancet Infectious Diseases research is a “wake-up call”.
IRAQ AND IRAN SWAP REMAINS OF SOLDIERS
An Iraqi official says Iraq and Iran have exchanged the bodies of 111 soldiers killed during the two countries’ 1980-1988 war. Mahdi al-Tamimi, an official in Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry, says the remains of 98 Iranians and 13 Iraqis were returned to their native countries during a ceremony on Tuesday. More than 1 million people from both sides were killed or went missing during the eight-year war.
SUU KYI TO GIVE FIRST INTERNATIONAL TALK
The head of the U.N. labor office says Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver her first speech outside the country to a labor conference in Geneva on June 14. Juan Somavia, director-general of the U.N.’s International Labor Organization, said Tuesday the ILO’s conference next month “will be the first place where she will speak internationally after leaving Myanmar.”
MOUNT EVEREST TOLL: FOUR DEAD, ONE MISSING
It was rush hour on Mount Everest this weekend with 150 climbers reaching the summit, including a 73-year-old woman, but the world’s tallest peak also claimed the lives of four climbers, and one more is missing. The first stretch of clear weather during the spring climbing season spurred the rush of climbers to crowd the trails leading to the 29,029-foot peak, which spans the borders of China, Nepal and Tibet. The resulting traffic jam of people may have contributed to the deaths, according to the Associated Press.
PRIEST CONTROVERSY: HEAD OF ORDER KNEW
From Phoebe NATANSON in Rome: The latest on Father Thomas Williams – the head of the Legionaires of Christ order reportedly knew in 2005 that Williams had fathered child. More here.
MALI PRESIDENT BEATEN
From Wilfred WAMBURA in Nairobi: Interim Mali President Dioncounda Traore has been taken to hospital with a head wound after being attacked by demonstrators during mass protests by supporters of March’s coup who were angry at a deal for Mr Traore, 70, to remain in office for a year. Three people were shot dead during the demonstrations. Mali has been facing such demonstration after the coup and thousands who had fleed their homes are in the streets. Aid agencies say they are extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Mali, which is also suffering from the regional drought.
UK’S ROYAL NAVY HAS FIRST WOMAN AT COMMAND OF SHIP
The first woman to command a major Royal Navy warship is taking up her post. Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Commander Sarah West will take control of the frigate HMS Portland Tuesday. The 40-year-old has served in the Royal Navy for 16 years. The ship is being refitted and will be based in Devonport.
MEDIA OUTRAGED BY FEES FOR CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS AT CANNES
For journalists covering the Cannes Film Festival, gaining access to the stars has always been tricky. But this year, Canadian journalists were surprised to receive a price list from the distribution company Alliance Films, Der Spiegel reports. It is the first time in Cannes history that journalists have been charged fees for interviews with Hollywood celebrities. For €2,500 ($3,190) journalists could buy a 20-minute interview with Brad Pitt, who is starring in the competition contender “Killing Them Softly.” A slot with Kristen Stewart, who appears in “On the Road,” can be bought for around half that price. Alliance Films will distribute the films in Canada. The price list varied according to whether it was a group interview, or for TV or print, Canadian press reports said.
AUSTRALIA: THE HAPPIEST COUNTRY
The Wall St. Journal reports Australia is living up to its nickname of “the lucky country,” with a new survey marking it as the happiest industrialized nation in the world based on criteria such as jobs, income and health. Having sidestepped the economic malaise gripping much of Europe and with near full employment owing to a once-in-a-century resources boom, Australia has come out on top ahead of Norway and the U.S. in the annual Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
WORLD’S TALLEST TOWER, THE TOKYO SKYTREE, OPENS
The world’s tallest tower and Japan’s biggest new landmark, the Tokyo Skytree, opened to the public on Tuesday. Nearly 8,000 visitors were expected to take high-speed elevators up to the observation decks of the 634-meter (2,080-foot) tower to mark its opening. Some reportedly waited in line more than a week to get the coveted tickets for a panoramic view, though Tuesday ended up being cloudy in Tokyo.