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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

‘Cautious Optimism’ at Iran Nuclear Talks

Iranian negotiators sat down for nuclear talks in Geneva on Tuesday with the “capacity to make a breakthrough”, according to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. He added that representatives from the P5+1 group, composed of the US, the UK, Russia, China and France plus Germany were receptive of the Iranian proposal, but had agreed to keep its details confidential for the moment. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi had told Iranian state television on Sunday that one offer off the table would be the removal of uranium from the country’s sites. “We will not allow even a gram of uranium to go out of the country”, he said. Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said that there was “cautious optimism” around the table, the first talks since Hassan Rouhani had become president of Iran in August. “We have come here with a sense of cautious optimism and a great sense of determination because we believe it is really time now for tangible results”, he said.

Earthquake Strikes the Philippines, At Least 90 Killed

An 7.2 earthquake struck the Philippines on Tuesday, killing at least 93 people and causing widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure on the islands of Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor. Bohol sustained the most damage, with at least 65 people killed. Four bridges collapsed around the island, as well as government buildings and homes. “A magnitude 7 earthquake has energy equivalent to around 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Compared to the 2010 Haiti earthquake — that had a magnitude of 7.0, this one had a magnitude of 7.2, slightly stronger”, said Renato Solidum, head of the local seismology agency. Another eight died on Cebu and one person died in Siquijor. “Many of the structures were old”, said President Benigno Aquino, who said he would tour the stricken areas on Wednesday. The deadliest natural disaster on record for the Philippine islands occurred in 1976, when a tsunami triggered by a 7.9 earthquake struck Mindanao island, killing between 5,000 and 8,000 people.

Sicily Declares State of Emergency Over Migrants

The governor of the Italian island of Sicily, Rosario Crocetta, has said that the island’s governing council had decided to declare a state of emergency over the large number of migrants it has had to deal with in the past few days. “With this measure we are looking to provide more assistance to the civil defense agency in Sicily to deal with the migrants, but also to plead with the national government to approve measures that would allow us to be more efficient in this regard”, said Crocetta. The country had previously called on the EU for help in dealing with the thousands of migrants that landed on its beaches every year, arriving mostly from Africa and the Middle East. On Monday, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro had said the Italian Navy would increase its presence in the southern Mediterranean to come to the aid of these migrants and avoid the death of more people sailing in overcrowded boats. “We need strong action to stop these shipwrecks”, he said.

Pope Appoints New PM Tasked with Reforming the Vatican

Pope Francis has appointed Pietro Parolin, a 58-year-old career Vatican diplomat, as his new prime minister with the specific task of reforming the state’s structures in replacement of Tarcisio Bertone. Parolin’s appointment was welcomed by cardinals at the Vatican, who said he was “an excellent choice, an efficient man, a good negotiator, very balanced”. Pope Francis thanked the 78-year-old Cardinal Bertone for his years of “dedication”, “sometimes with sacrifice”, possibly referring to the Vatileaks case which revealed some of the inner workings of the Vatican through documents exposed by former Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler. Bertone had at the time said he was battling “crows and vipers” in the Vatican . He also said new prime minister Parolin “knows the government very well, has worked within it for many years and in a sense he is coming home”.

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