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Monday, September 16, 2013

Iran Reaches Out, Reportedly Offers to Shut Nuclear Plant

An exchange of letters between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could bring about the first meeting between leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution. They could meet at the UN’s General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York next week at what has been described as an “orchestrated encounter in a corridor”, so that both sides could be given deniability. A tweet on the Iranian president’s English language feed also seemed to suggest that a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, had also been planned for the UNGA, taking the Foreign Office (FCO) by surprise. “We would be happy to meet, but we have had nothing formal from Tehran about it”, said a FCO spokeswoman. Meanwhile, German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel suggested that Rouhani was ready to make important concessions in an attempt to restart negotiations with Western countries over its nuclear programme. The Iranian president is reportedly ready to decommission the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant and allow inspectors to monitor the removal of the centrifuges, but would ask in return that all sanctions against the Iran be lifted.

Four Killed, 10 Wounded at DC Navy Yard Shooting

At least four people have been killed in a shooting at the Navy Yard, a US Navy facility in the US capital, Washington, with another 10 reported to have been shot by a gunman, later reported as killed by an FBI hostage response team. It was not known at the time of publishing if there were other gunmen at the Navy Yard, with a search still underway at the time of publishing. “It’s a large piece of land with many buildings. It’s going to take a while to determine that it is safe”, said Assistant DC Police Chief Peter Newsham. Several schools close to the area were placed in lockdown as a precaution, while a ground traffic halt was declared at the city’s National and Dulles airports as a temporary measure. As many as 3,000 people work at the site, which purchases, builds and maintains ships and submarines for the Navy.

UN Confirms Sarin Gas Used in Syrian Chemical Attack

UN inspectors have released a report attesting that there is “convincing evidence” that sarin gas was used in a rocket attack in a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, in August. While the US says the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame for the attack, while Russia points to the rebels as the culprits, the UN document does not apportion blame to any side. “The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Ghouta area of Damascus” on 21 August. The conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic against civilians including children on a relatively large scale. This result leaves us with the deepest concern”, reads the preamble of the document.

UK Should Debate “Ban on Veils”, According to Lib Dem Minister

Home Office minister Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat, said that the UK needs a national debate on whether Muslim women should be banned from wearing veils in schools and public places, saying that such a measure could “ensure the freedom of choice for girls in Muslim communities”, but also that he was “instinctively uneasy” about such a ban. “My own view, I don’t think we should end up like different countries where we tell people how they go about their business. I do think there is an issue with teachers in the classroom that might be an area where a full veil might be inappropriate”, said Browne. Meanwhile, a Muslim woman was told by a judge that she could stand trial wearing a full-face veil, but that she must remove it while giving evidence in court. “If the defendant gives evidence she must remove the niqab throughout her evidence. The court may use its inherent powers to do what it can to alleviate any discomfort, for example by allowing the use of screens or allowing her to give evidence by live link”, said Judge Peter Murphy at London’s Blackfriars Crown Court.

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