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International FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

Cafe bombings push Iraq death toll to 46 BAGHDAD: Late night bombings at a Baghdad cafe left 13 people dead, officials said yesterday, pushing the toll from a day of nationwide blasts, shootings and shellings to at least 46. The violence has been primarily driven by discontent in the minority Sunni Arab community, which alleges mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government and security forces, and by the civil war raging in neighboring Syria. The coordinated bombings struck the cafe in the Washash area of western Baghdad at around 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) Wednesday, killing 13 people and wounding 40, according to a revised toll yesterday by security and medical officials. An initial roadside bombing near the cafe was followed by a suicide blast, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Violence elsewhere in and around the capital on Wednesday killed eight people, while four policemen were killed by a booby-trapped corpse north of Baghdad. Attacks in the restive provinces of Diyala, Nineveh and Kirkuk, also left six dead. In the mili-

tant-held city of Fallujah, meanwhile, shelling by government forces, as well as clashes in and around the city, killed 15 people and left 40 others wounded on Wednesday, according to Ahmed Shami, the chief doctor at the city’s main hospital. Fallujah has been outside government control since militants overran it and parts of nearby Ramadi, capital of the predominantly Sunni surrounding province of Anbar, in early January. Security forces have managed to wrest back control of Ramadi but a stalemate has persisted in Fallujah, which lies just a short drive from Baghdad. More than 300 people have been killed so far this month and upwards of 2,000 since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on reports from security and medical sources. Analysts and diplomats have called for the Shiiteled authorities to do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni minority, but with elections due to be held on April 30, political leaders have been loath to be seen to compromise. — AFP

EU sees big gaps in Iran nuclear talks Enrichment, Arak reactor at core of dispute VIENNA: Positions between Iran and world powers diverge widely in some areas but Iranian negotiators seem “very committed” to reach an agreement on the country’s disputed nuclear program, a senior EU official said in an email seen by Reuters yesterday. The brief email from Helga Schmid to senior officials of EU member states was written after a meeting between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday. Schmid is the deputy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the six nations. The negotiations are aimed at reaching a final settlement to a decade-old stand-off over Iran’s atomic activities, which Tehran says are peaceful but the West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. In this week’s meeting, Iran and the powers locked horns over the future of a planned Iranian nuclear reactor that could yield plutonium for bombs, and the United States warned that “hard work” would be needed to overcome differences when the sides reconvene on April 7. This line was echoed in Schmid’s email. “Since we are at an early stage of the final and comprehensive negotiations, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. On some areas, positions differ widely,” it said. “However, the impression is that the Iranian negotiators remain very committed to reach a comprehensive solution within the agreed 6-month period,” Schmid added. She was referring to a late July deadline for a long-term deal agreed in an

interim accord struck in November. The meeting in Vienna was the second in a series that the six nations hope will produce a verifiable settlement, ensuring Iran’s nuclear program is oriented to peaceful purposes only, and lay to rest the risk of a new Middle East war. Iran happy about talks Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif characterized the latest round of negotiations as “very successful” in terms of clarifying the issues involved, the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported. “In terms of understanding and clarification, Vienna-2 was among our very successful round of talks ... extremely beneficial and constructive,” it quoted Zarif as saying. The two sides sought to spell out their positions on two of the thorniest issues: the level of uranium enrichment conducted in Iran, and its Arak heavy-water reactor that the West sees as a possible source of plutonium for bombs. The next meeting was then set for April 7-9, also in the Austrian capital. The over-arching goal is to transcend mutual mistrust and give the West confidence that Iran will not be able to produce atomic bombs while Tehran - in return - would win full relief from economic sanctions hamstringing the OPEC state’s economy. Iran denies that its declared civilian atomic energy program is a front for developing the means to make nuclear weapons. But its restrictions on UN inspections and Western intelligence about bomb-relevant research have raised concerns. — Reuters

21 Mar  

Friday Times