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Updated: 27 min 51 sec ago

Syria's Assad pays Easter visit to recaptured Christian town

45 min 41 sec ago

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visits Maaloula townBy Firas Makdesi MAALOULA, Syria (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited an ancient Christian town recaptured from rebels last week, state media said, as he seeks to persuade minorities that the government is their best protection against hardline Islamists. Assad's Easter visit to Maaloula - a rare appearance outside central Damascus - also highlighted growing government confidence in recent gains against insurgents around the capital and along the Lebanese border. Islamist fighters, including some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of Maaloula in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal.


Ghana company says U.S. plane seen in Tehran broke no laws

1 hour 23 min ago
By Kwasi Kpodo ACCRA (Reuters) - A U.S.-flagged plane which landed at an airport in the Iranian capital Tehran last week was carrying business executives from Ghana and did not flout international laws, according to the mining firm which leased it. The New York Times reported on Thursday that the plane, owned by the Bank of Utah, was parked at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on Tuesday. Its presence caused a stir as the United States and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades and the Islamic Republic is subject to economic sanctions, which would generally prohibit U.S.-registered aircraft from flying to the country. It was later reported that the aircraft was leased to Ghana-based mining firm Engineers and Planners (E&P), founded by the Ibrahim Mahama - a multi-millionaire and brother of Ghana's President John Mahama.

Rouhani says Iranian women not second class citizens

2 hours 10 min ago

Picture released on April 20, 2014 by the official website of the Iranian president shows president Hassan Rouhani (2ndR) waving as he arrives in Tehran for a forum attended by members of Iran's female elite to mark Women's DayIran's President Hassan Rouhani admitted Sunday that women in his country still face discrimination and cultural barriers but he insisted they are not universally treated as second-class citizens. In a speech marking Women's Day in Iran, Rouhani, seen as a moderate reformer, said more had to be done but that the West did not offer a model that had to be followed. The remarks were followed by confirmation that the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had agreed to pardon or commute the sentences of some women prisoners. Rouhani's speech was consistent with his promise of more social freedoms, a cornerstone of the campaign that gave him a surprise victory in the June presidential election.


Report: Next Iran nuclear talks to be in New York

2 hours 11 min ago

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, Iran's heavy water nuclear facility is backdropped by mountains near the central city of Arak, Iran. Iranian state television reported on Saturday, April, 19, 2014 that Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi has said a dispute between world powers and the country over its heavy water reactor at Arak has been “virtually resolved.” Iran and world powers are negotiating the terms of a permanent deal over its contested nuclear program. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state news agency is reporting that the next round of expert-level talks over its contested nuclear program will be held in New York.


Iran says it watered down, converted over 200 kg of enriched uranium

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 18:31

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reacts upon his arrival to attend the official opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the Iranian embassy in AmmanIran said on Saturday it had completed watering down and converting more than 200 kilograms (440 lb) of enriched uranium under a deal reached in Geneva last November with world powers over its disputed nuclear program. "Based on the agreement with the West, we were supposed to have half of our 200 kilogram stock of uranium diluted and the other half converted to uranium oxide," Iran's atomic chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the Arabic-language Al Alam television channel. The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday that Iran has acted to cut its most sensitive nuclear stockpile by nearly 75 percent in implementing a landmark pact with world powers, but a planned facility it will need to fulfil the six-month deal has been delayed. Salehi, who heads the country's atomic energy organization, said the fast process of uranium conversion was expected to expedite the release of frozen Iranian assets in the West.


Iran slams U.S. justice verdict on Manhattan skyscraper

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 16:19
Iran on Saturday criticized a U.S. government move to seize a Manhattan skyscraper owned largely by a foundation that promotes its language and Islamic culture, saying this violated the right to religious freedom in the United States. According to a court document filed in New York on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to distribute proceeds from the sale of the Fifth Avenue high-rise to families affected by alleged Iranian-aided attacks, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The settlement marks the latest turn in a long-running battle over the 36-storey building owned chiefly by Alavi Foundation, a non-profit Persian and Islamic cultural center. Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the decision "lacks legal justification and negates America's commitment to protecting its citizens' religious freedom." "Confiscation of the properties of an independent charity organization raises doubt about the credibility of U.S. justice," she was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Two killed by bomb inside Bahrain car: ministry

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 15:41

Forensic experts investigate at the scene of a car explosion in the village of al-Maqshaa', west of ManamaTwo people were killed in a car that blew up in a mainly Shi'ite village in Bahrain on Saturday, and the interior ministry said the initial investigation showed that a homemade bomb had detonated inside the vehicle. Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been hit by several small bombings in recent weeks as the kingdom struggles to end simmering unrest among its Shi'ite Muslim majority, which rose up unsuccessfully in an Arab Spring-inspired revolt in 2011. A third person was wounded and was being treated in hospital for second-degree burns, the statement said, citing the health ministry. Bahrain's Shi'ites want political reforms and an end to alleged discrimination against them, which the government denies.


Iran vice president says row over reactor resolved

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 15:07

FILE -- In this Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, a part of Arak heavy water nuclear facilities is seen, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iranian state television reported on Saturday, April, 19, 2014 that Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi has said a dispute between world powers and the country over its heavy water reactor at Arak has been “virtually resolved.” Iran and world powers are negotiating the terms of a permanent deal over its contested nuclear program. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country's vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program.


Egypt Brotherhood leader jailed for prosecutor insult

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 13:04

Egyptian students, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, demonstrate outside Cairo University, on April 9, 2014An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced an Islamist leader on trial for murder alongside deposed president Mohamed Morsi to a year in jail for insulting a prosecutor, judicial sources said. Top Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed al-Beltagui and Morsi were both in court Saturday accused of inciting the killing of opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in Cairo in December 2012. Their trial is part of a relentless crackdown targeting Morsi and the Brotherhood since the military ousted him on July 3, ending a turbulent single year in office. It is the first time a senior member of the Brotherhood has been given a jail sentence since Morsi's ouster.


Iran says Arak nuclear reactor row all but resolved

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 12:46

A picture taken on January 15, 2011, shows a general view of the heavy-water reactor facility at Arak, IranIran's dispute with world powers over its unfinished Arak heavy water reactor has been "virtually resolved," it said Saturday, less than a month before nuclear talks seeking a permanent agreement. The facility -- whose remaining components Iran cannot commission or install under an interim agreement struck in November -- is of international concern as it could theoretically give Tehran a second route to a nuclear bomb. Nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers were now seeing eye to eye on the Arak reactor after Tehran offered to make certain changes.


Iran says settlement on New York skyscraper 'illegal'

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 12:45

View of the Manhattan skyline in New York on February 14, 2014Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed as "illegal" plans by US prosecutors to sell an Iran-linked Manhattan skyscraper in the largest terror-related seizure to date, media reports said Saturday. Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement late Friday the settlement lacked "legal credibility" and was influenced by "anti-Iran political propaganda," according to the reports in Iranian media. The settlement was unveiled on Thursday and has been approved by a federal judge. Its main target is a 36-storey building in the heart of New York City that is majority owned by the Alavi Foundation, a non-profit corporation promoting Islamic culture and the Persian language.


Report: Iran VP says row over reactor resolved

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 11:30

FILE -- In this Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, a part of Arak heavy water nuclear facilities is seen, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iranian state television reported on Saturday, April, 19, 2014 that Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi has said a dispute between world powers and the country over its heavy water reactor at Arak has been “virtually resolved.” Iran and world powers are negotiating the terms of a permanent deal over its contested nuclear program. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state television is reporting that the Islamic Republic's vice president is saying a dispute between world powers and the country over its heavy water reactor at Arak has been "virtually resolved."


Iran says plane at airport leased to Ghana after U.S.-flagged plane sighting

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 11:04
Iran says that a plane which landed in Tehran airport flying the American flag was leased to Ghana's presidential office and carrying a business delegation from the West African nation. The New York Times reported on Thursday that a plane owned by the Bank of Utah was parked in Mehrabad Airport in Tehran on Tuesday. Its presence was noteworthy as the United States and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades and the Islamic Republic is subject to economic sanctions. A State Department spokeswoman said on Friday these sanctions "generally prohibit" U.S.-registered aircraft from flying to Iran.

Two killed in Bahrain car explosion: Interior Ministry

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 08:34
An explosion in a car killed two people and wounded a third in a mostly Shi'ite village in Bahrain on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said. There were early signs the car contained explosive substances, it added. Bahrain's majority Shi'ite Muslim population wants political reforms and an end to perceived discrimination in the Sunni-Muslim ruled country. Bahrain denies any discrimination.

Iran denounces US ruling to sell property

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 08:24
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has condemned a ruling issued by a U.S. federal judge approving plans to sell a 36-story Manhattan office building and other properties owned by Iran nationwide in what will be the largest terrorism-related forfeiture ever.

Special Report: How the U.S. made its Putin problem worse

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 07:07

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)By David Rohde and Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK (Reuters) - In September 2001, as the U.S. reeled from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vladimir Putin supported Washington's imminent invasion of Afghanistan in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War. He agreed that U.S. planes carrying humanitarian aid could fly through Russian air space. He said the U.S. military could use airbases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia. And he ordered his generals to brief their U.S. counterparts on their own ill-fated 1980s occupation of Afghanistan.


Iran general urges Tehran to make new UN pick

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 06:21
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A senior Iranian military official has urged the foreign ministry to name a new envoy to the U.N. after the U.S. blocked its chosen ambassador over alleged ties to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Iran says plane at airport leased to Ghana after U.S.-flagged plane sighting

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 05:25
Iran says that a plane which landed in Tehran airport flying the American flag was leased to Ghana's presidential office and carrying a business delegation from the African nation. The New York Times reported on Thursday that a plane owned by the Bank of Utah was parked in Mehrabad Airport in Tehran on Tuesday. Its presence was noteworthy as the United States and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades and the Islamic Republic is subject to certain economic sanctions. State news agency IRNA on Friday night quoted Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying that the plane was transporting the brother of Ghana's president and a mining delegation.

Obama signs bill aimed at blocking Iran's UN envoy

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 22:58

This Feb. 6, 2014 photo, provided by the office of the Iranian President, shows Hamid Aboutalebi, an Iranian diplomat, who was recently named as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in his office in Tehran, Iran. President Barack Obama has signed legislation aimed at blocking Iran’s chosen ambassador to the United Nations but says he’s only treating it as guidance. The unusual legislation bars anyone from entering the U.S. as a U.N. representative if they’ve engaged in espionage or terrorist activity and still pose a threat to U.S. security. It’s aimed at blocking Hamid Aboutalebi, linked to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. (AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday aimed at blocking Iran's chosen ambassador to the United Nations because of his ties to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. But the president says he's only treating the legislation as guidance.


Mercy for Iran woman on death row if she tells 'truth'

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 20:57

The UN says that more than 170 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014An Iranian woman on death row for the murder of an ex-intelligence official could be forgiven if "she tells the truth", the son of her alleged victim said Saturday. Interior designer Reyhaneh Jabbari has been sentenced to death for the 2007 slaying of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, which a UN human rights monitor claims was done in self-defence against a potential rapist. Judiciary officials say there is no date yet for her execution but her lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshahi warned last week it could be "carried out within a month." Jalal, Sarbandi's eldest son, told Iranian reformist dailies Shargh and Etemad that his family "will not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed."