Monday, January 20, 2014

Islamist group threatens Sochi Winter Olympic in video by ITN Monday January 20th, 2014 at 1:57 PM | U.S. Tells U.N. to Withdraw Iran Invitation to Syria Talksby By MICHAEL R. GORDON, SOMINI SENGUPTA and ALAN COWELL Monday January 20th, 2014 at 1:55 PM NYT > World

Islamist group threatens Sochi Winter Olympic in video 

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Islamist group threatens Sochi Winter Olympic in video

Subscribe to ITN News: An Islamist group is
claiming responsibility for two December suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd, ...
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A Gas Hike May Shatter an Old Venezuelan Illusion

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In Venezuela, the country with the world’s cheapest gasoline, a beleaguered economy may force the government to raise prices.

Protesters in Ukraine Try to Block Government Offices

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Overnight violence appeared to be the worst in at least a month for the Ukrainian protest movement, as the country’s political crisis deepened.

Pakistan drone strike relative loses GCHQ court case

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Judges say case would involve 'sitting in judgment' on US and block move by Noor Khan, whose father died in a 2011 attack
A Pakistani man whose father died in a drone strike has failed in an attempt to hold British officials responsible for the killing.
The court of appeal ruled on Monday that considering whether GCHQ staff had passed on "locational intelligence" to the CIA before the attack in 2011 would involve "sitting in judgment" on the US.
Noor Khan, 28, lost his father, a tribal elder, to the strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan, which had gathered to resolve a mining dispute.
"However the claims are presented, they involve serious criticisms of the acts of a foreign state," the three court of appeal judges concluded. "It is only in certain established circumstances that our courts will exceptionally sit in judgment of such acts. There are no such exceptional circumstances here."
The court would have to find the CIA implicitly guilty of a war crime before it could consider whether GCHQ had been involved, the court said.
Lawyers for the UK government had argued that the case should not proceed as "a finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood … by the US as a condemnation of the US."
Responding to the ruling, Kat Craig, legal director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which is supporting Khan, said: "It is shameful that the risk of embarrassing the US has trumped British justice in this case.
"It now appears that the UK government can get away with murder, provided it is committed alongside an ally who may be sensitive to public criticism. It is a sad day when the rights of civilian victims of drone strikes take second place to the PR concerns of the US government."
Khan said: "I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the government has put itself above the law.
"However, I am still determined to get answers from the UK government about the part they have played in the death of my father. The CIA's drone programme has not only killed hundreds of civilians, but is turning people in Pakistan against the US and its allies.
"This is why I was so upset to hear that Britain is helping the CIA to carry out these killings, and even more upset when the government refused to respond to my questions."
Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, which is representing Khan, said: "The court's decision not to determine the lawfulness of our government's involvement in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, deadly strikes which have killed many civilians over recent years including my client's father, simply to spare the US government embarrassment is not only disappointing but also deeply worrying.
"The courts must have jurisdiction over the legality of our government's action irrespective of whether they act alongside a foreign state or not." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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U.S. Tells U.N. to Withdraw Iran Invitation to Syria Talks

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The decision by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, to invite Iran to the peace conference on Syria threatened to derail the meeting before it began.

Iran to Attend Syria Talks Without Preconditions

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Iran said it will attend this week's Geneva conference aimed at finding a resolution to Syria's war, andthat it will do so without agreeing to anything in advance.
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Page 2

Iran Says to Attend Geneva 2 Talks on Syria, No Preconditions

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Iran said on Monday it had accepted an invitation by United Nations Secretary-General to attend talksdue to start on Wednesday in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war, the student news agency ISNA reported. “We have always rejected any precondition for attending the Geneva 2 meeting on Syria... Based on the official invitation that we have received, Iran will attend the Geneva 2 without any preconditions,” ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as...

Claudio Abbado obituary 

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One of the world's finest conductors, with La Scala, the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, and his own orchestra in Lucerne
Claudio Abbado, who has died aged 80, was not only among the greatest of conductors; in his last decade, after suffering from very severe illness, he raised a superband of players all gathered together for his sake, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, to heights that many listeners have never experienced in other orchestral concerts.
A recording producer defined his special gift as a sense of "absolute pulse" – more precisely, an unerring sense of the right and natural tempo relations in a piece that could give shape and meaning even to the most seemingly amorphous of works, and within that a supple life to the individual musical phrases that no contemporary has equalled. He was also a true figure for our times, rejecting what he called the "ghettoisation" of music and refusing to make a special case for "modern" music as a thingapart: he was as ardent a champion of many living composers as of Brahms or Debussy.
Reserved and economical of gesture in rehearsal, frequently inspirational in performance, he regarded conversation about his profession as a poor means of communicating about the act of music-making. He was surely right; his achievements at the head of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras – who elect their chief conductors – and then of the Lucerne ensemble speak for themselves.
He was born into a musical family in Milan. His mother, Maria, gave him his first piano lessons when he was eight years old; his father, Michelangelo, was a violinist and teacher at the city's Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, where Claudio followed his older brother Marcello, now a distinguished pianist and composer, as a student of piano, conducting and composition. Graduating from the conservatory in 1955, he spent the following summer at the masterclasses of Siena's Accademia Chigiana. There another promising student, Zubin Mehta, recommended him to his teacher at the Vienna Music Academy, Hans Swarowsky, whose mathematical approach Abbado was later to value for laying firm foundations and freeing him to concentrate on interpretation.
Abbado also benefited from the more general lessons of great masters in Vienna. In Milan, he had seen Furtwängler and Toscanini conduct; now he and Mehta joined the bass section of the Vienna Singverein exclusively to learn from the technique of Herbert von Karajan. In 1958, the year of his graduation from the academy, he travelled to Tanglewood in the US to participate in the Koussevitzky prize competition and on his own admission was astonished to come first.
Success, however, was still not immediate; after making his operatic debut that same year conducting Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Trieste and a first appearance at the Milan's Piccolo Scala in a concert to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Alessandro Scarlatti in 1960, he turned to teaching – partly to support his new wife, Giovanna Cavazzoni, and their two children, Daniele and Alessandra. As the post was to take charge of chamber music at the Parma Conservatoire, he learned invaluable lessons about listening to other musicians and lost no time in familiarising his Italian students with scores by Schoenberg, Bartók and Stravinsky. Then, in 1963, he returned to America for another competition given in the name of a conductor he was always to revere, Dimitri Mitropoulos; this time, he later declared, he conducted badly, the award of (joint) first prize was wrong and the whole experience only served to reveal the iniquities of the competition system.
The real turning point came not with his subsequent appearance with the New York Philharmonic but two years later, when at Karajan's invitation he chose to perform Mahler's Second (Resurrection) Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival.
The large-scale late romantic symphony was to become one of the pillars on which his reputation was established, and launched his last Mahler series in Lucerne; two others followed in the shape of a contemporary opera – Giacomo Manzoni's Nuclear Death – and Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi, both of which he subsequently conducted at La Scala. Milan was not slow to offer him the post of principal conductor there, which he took up in 1968; the titles of music director and artistic director followed in 1972 and 1976 respectively.
Strengthening the backbone of the Scala orchestra with an injection of non-Italian players, he encouraged it to look beyond the confines of Italian opera to the wider symphonic repertoire and even to chamber music. Even so, he never lost sight of its essential Italianate singing quality and refused to record Verdi with any other orchestra – a conviction to which his 1977 recording of Simon Boccanegra is perhaps the finest testament. At the same time, other opera houses were to benefit from his supremely flexible Verdi conducting; he made his debut at London's Royal Opera in 1968 with Don Carlos.
Establishment infighting took its toll on the conscientious and introspective Abbado; he resigned several times in the 1970s when La Scala politics threatened to overwhelm the business of music-making. A shorter course in opera-house politics came in 1991 when he gave up his two-year post as music director of the notoriously difficult Vienna State Opera on grounds of ill-health (though he continued to serve as artistic consultant). Yet his achievements here, too, were outstanding – above all new productions of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Berg's Wozzeck, both recorded for posterity – and his relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic, which also serves as the opera's orchestra, had been well established since 1971.
Three collaborations with younger ensembles brought out the best in Abbado, as they were to do in Lucerne when he conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. He united the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and an outstanding roster of international singers in Rossini's effervescent but then-neglected Il Viaggio a Reims at the 1985 Pesaro festival; the resultant recording proved a bestseller and remains a desert-island set for many opera lovers.
When he took over as music director of the European Community Youth Orchestra in 1977, the astonishing results they achieved together came from a training and dedication few other international conductors would be willing to offer. The orchestra's organiser, Joy Bryer, has spoken about his concern for the individual welfare of the young players, and his tireless attempts to help them in their careers after their time in the ECYO. In 1986 he established another ensemble for whom no allowances of age and inexperience ever needed to be made, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; their Mahler Fourth and Ninth Symphony performances are, happily, preserved on DVD.
Abbado would have been the first to place his concerts with the ECYO as equal in importance to his long-term work with three major orchestras. In 1979 he celebrated his appointment as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra with a typically electrifying concert of Brian Ferneyhough, Brahms – the First Piano Concerto, with his long-term concerto partner Maurizio Pollini – and Tchaikovsky, to whose symphonies he always brought a bel canto beauty of line. His programmes in the orchestra's Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century series were both eclectic and logical; on one evening, the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony and Debussy's Nocturnes shared an elusive tonal incandescence which will never be forgotten by those who heard it.
Even so, the Vienna Philharmonic remained Abbado's ideal instrument for Mahler, and in 1990 he moved on to the greatest challenge of his career at that time – moulding the life of the Berlin Philharmonic after the Karajan years. On the face of it, the changes in Berlin were obvious – to extend the orchestra's repertoire beyond the late romantic core which had been Karajan's element. Although Abbado would voice his reservations about visiting conductors who expected to shine in the standard works for which the orchestra had become famous rather than to challenge audiences with anything new, he was in a unique position to do both. His intensive work with promising musicians continued in the Berlin Encounters concerts of the annual Berlin festival, created in conjunction with the cellist Natalia Gutman – who later, and surely uniquely for the finest of soloists, played in his Lucerne orchestra – to bring together young instrumentalists with established professionals.
His dislike of compartmentalising composers in festival projects revealed itself in an annual theme; the legend of Prometheus, for example, allowed him to bring Beethoven, Liszt, Scriabin and Luigi Nono together in a single programme. Concert performances of operas included a performance of Boris Godunov (subsequently recorded) which discovered the life between the musical lines of Mussorgsky's detailed character-studies in a way that no other conductor has been able to realise.
Musical life in Berlin was not always plain sailing; Abbado was wounded, as ever, by critical campaigns against his integrity and his work with the orchestra. There was sometimes a feeling in his later performances and recordings that the old, familiar sense of challenge had gone gentle; his Mahler Eighth Symphony in Berlin, for example, proved a surprisingly soft-grained conclusion to a Mahler cycle on disc that had begun with a far greater sense of dynamism (it was the only Mahler symphony he would later fail to conduct in Lucerne, where an advertised performance was pulled and replaced by the Mozart Requiem).
On the other hand, the Brahms Third Symphony which he brought to London with his orchestra in 1998 still revealed a masterly control of ebb and flow in a work which Abbado had always regarded as one of the most difficult to conduct from the technical point of view. His turning back to Beethoven at the end of a musically rich career was characteristic of the way he was able to blend a self-renewing personal vision of familiar music with a close examination of textural scholarship (in this case Jonathan Del Mar's painstaking edition of the symphonies).
After radical treatment for cancer, Abbado took on a new lease of life by recreating the ideals of a Festival Orchestra in Lucerne in 2003. Not only did this usually laconic figure speak eloquently about how music had given him a burning will to live and how he felt his approach had now deepened; the players he gathered around him raised the whole notion of orchestral solidarity, at a time when the structure was coming under question, to a whole new level.
There were string quartets starting with the Hagen Quartet, top players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other world orchestras and a core of the youth he valued so much in the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. When I met the MCO conductor Daniel Harding at the 2005 festival, he described the big orchestral collaboration as resulting in "not so much a concert as a love-in", treasuring its uniqueness while questioning whether such a situation could possibly last.
It did, through to a Mahler Ninth in 2010 which I cannot be alone in unhesitatingly naming the greatest concert that I have ever heard. There were also a concert Fidelio, and a Bruckner Fifth which the ensemble brought to
London in 2011.Sadly,
Abbado was too ill to conduct further concerts in London planned visit last year with his other new ensemble, the Orchestra Mozart of Bologna, founded in 2004. I count myself lucky to have seen a collaboration between the Orchestra Mozart and the Orchestra of Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where Abbado wrought supernatural magic in Tchaikovsky's The Tempest and was warmly embraced at the end by former EU Mario Monti. It came as no surprise when last August he was appointed senator for life by President Giorgio Napolitano.
Abbado's breadth of interests and curiosity remained a constant: a start had been made on planting the 90,000 magnolias that he suggested for Milan in 2008; later, deeply impressed by Peter Haneke's film The White Rose, he earmarked him as the ideal collaborator for a putative production of Berg's Wozzeck.
The awards and honours garnered throughout the conductor's life would be as impossible to list as the number of truly outstanding performances with orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. What remains are the films and the discs, equalling in their mastery and outshining in their breadth those of his equals, Furtwängler and Toscanini.
Abbado's first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Gabriella Cantalupi, and their son, Sebastiano; by Daniele and Alessandra; by Misha, his son with the violinist Viktoria Mullova; and by his brothers, Marcello and Gabriele, and his sister, Luciana.
• Claudio Abbado, conductor, born 26 June 1933; died 20 January 2014 © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Iran's invite to Syrian talks sparks anger

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Iran needs to be part of the solution, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says. But the Syrian opposition counters: "This is a deal breaker."

Ukrainian media criticise authorities, opposition leaders over clashes - BBC News

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BBC News

Ukrainian media criticise authorities, opposition leaders over clashes
BBC News
Both the Ukrainian authorities and opposition leaders have come under fire from media commentators after the weekend's violent clashes in the capital Kiev. Some hold little hope that the government's offer of talks with the opposition will lead anywhere.
Ukraine clashes will escalate, warns
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US, Europe lift some Iran sanctions under nuclear deal - Washington Post

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US, Europe lift some Iran sanctions under nuclear deal
Washington Post
TEHRAN — Iran said Monday that it
had halted its most sensitive uranium-enrichment work, honoring a deal struck with world powers over the country's nuclear program and clearing the way for a partial lifting of sanctions. The announcement in Tehran met a...
The clock starts on Iran nuclear dealUSA TODAY
US to Begin Easing Economic Sanctions on IranABC News
West, Iran activate 
landmark nuclear deal Reuters
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Economic Times

Ukraine Opposition Snubs Talks

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Talks aimed at solving the political crisis in Ukraine foundered as the opposition refused to take part without President Viktor Yanukovych.
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Taliban groups launch attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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Suicide bomber kills 13 in Pakistan city of Rawalpindi and insurgents attack Nato base in Zhari, Afghanistan
The Pakistani and Afghan branches of the Taliban mounted provocative attacks near military bases on Monday, the latest in a series of high-profile militant strikes on either side of the troubled border.
In the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi a speeding suicide bomber on a motorbike killed 13 people, including five soldiers, after detonating himself at a checkpoint close to the headquarters of the country's powerful army. Dozens more were wounded.
Responsibility was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a coalition of Pakistani groups that pledges nominal allegiance to Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban.
Rawalpindi is just a short drive from the capital and is home to the headquarters of Pakistan's half a million strong army, which is deeply frustrated by the government's refusal to back a crackdown on militant groups.
Also on Monday, insurgents tried to fight their way into a Nato base in Zhari, one the rural districts bordering Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan and foreign military officials said a suicide bomber in a car filled with explosives attempted to punch a hole in the wall of the base before eight armed attackers wearing foreign military uniforms and suicide vests attempted to rush inside.
A spokeswoman for the Nato mission in Afghanistan played down the incident, saying: "There was moderate damage to the outer perimeter of the base, but as soon as they attempted to breach it they were all killed."
Zhari – once the home of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar– has particular symbolic value for the movement. In the early 1990s, before the then obscure movement began its conquest of Afghanistan, Omar presided over a mosque in the area.
The US put considerable resources into attempting to dislodge the Taliban from the district as part of Barack Obama's troop surge, but a recent US intelligence report warned many of the military gains made in recent years could be lost by 2017.
Although both the TTP and the Afghan Taliban pledge allegiance to Mullah Omar, the two organisations are distinct. However, they both enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan's troubled borderlands and there is considerable operational overlap between the two.
Anxiety is running high in both Pakistan and Afghanistan about whether the end of US-led combat operations in Afghanistan this year will create even more violence and instability on both sides of the border.
In recent days those concerns have been heightened by a series of particularly high-profile attacks.
In Kabul on Friday night a Taliban team assaulted a restaurant and killed 21 diners, including many foreigners.
On Sunday, the Pakistani army suffered one of its worst single attacks when a bomb planted on a privately hired truck preparing to shuttle frontier corps troops out of their base in the north-west town of Bannu exploded, killing 26 and injuring as many more.
Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, responded by cancelling a trip to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Earlier in the month TTP militants killed Chaudhry Aslam, a senior Karachi policeman famous for his ruthless techniques against the rising power of the Taliban in sprawling coastal city.
And last Friday the TTP attacked a television broadcast truck, killing three employees of the Express News media, which a TTP spokesman accused of "carrying out propaganda against us".
The headline-grabbing attacks have reignited long-simmering controversy over whether Pakistan should respond to the TTP menace by fighting or talking.
Sharif is determined to negotiate even though his seven months in power has been punctuated by regular TTP attacks.
So far, all peace overtures have come to nothing. Most experts argue the strategy is doomed to fail given the TTP's extreme demands and the long history of militant groups breaking peace accords.
But leading opposition leader Imran Khan has kept up the pressure, remaining adamant that peace will come if the country disassociates itself from US military operations in Afghanistan.
On Sunday a TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said the movement was ready for "sincere and meaningful talks". But he also repeated preconditions for talks which the government would find impossible to implement, including an end to US drone strikes and a withdrawal of all soldiers from the tribal areas.
His remarks came just hours after the Bannu attack, which will have infuriated an army already horrified by the government's stubborn veto against a major counterterror crackdown.
The army has long wanted to conduct a major operation in North Waziristan, a tribal area bordering Afghanistan that is largely controlled by al-Qaida-linked militant groups. But Sharif and Khan insist talks must be attempted first.
Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistani army officer, said the military's patience would not last indefinitely.
"Killing 20 troops in one go is a bit much for them to swallow," he said. "Eventually someone is going to say enough is enough." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Al Qaeda offshoot imposes strict Islamic rules in north Syria

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - A group linked to al Qaeda, emboldened by its recent victory over rival rebels in Syria, has imposed sweeping restrictions on personal freedoms in the northern province of Raqqa as it seeks to consolidate control over the region.


Iran invited to Syria peace conference: UN chief

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Iran has been given a late invitation to this week's Syria peace conference, UN leader Ban Ki-moon says.
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CCTV footage shows the final moments of Volgograd station bomber - Daily Mail

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CCTV footage shows the final moments of Volgograd station bomber
Daily Mail
The two men warned that as long as President Vladimir Putin occupies the North Caucasus region near Sochi, Russians and Olympic visitors alike will not be safe. 'We'll have a surprise package for you,' one of the men said in the video, according to the ABC...
Two men warn of 'presents' for Sochi crowds if winter games aren't called offTIME
Warning posted to Vladimir Putin and Sochi Olympics from reported Islamic ...euronews

Militants warn of 'present' for Sochi tourists as chilling details from video emergeThe Globe and Mail
 -The Moscow Times -RT
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Daily Mail

Syrian President Assad in exclusive AFP interview

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In an exclusive interview with AFP, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has said that the "war on terror" must be the focus of Geneva II and there was "signific...
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Ukraine protests: Violence clashes between police and protesters in Kiev 

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Violent clashes have broken out between demonstrators and police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. . Report by Sophie Foster.
From: ITN
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U.S. Expects U.N. to 'Rescind' Invitation to Iran

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Senior U.S. officials said Monday they expect the United Nations to rescind its invitation to Iran to attend an international conference on Syria this week and said prospects for the talks in Switzerland now are uncertain.

Kerry confronts U.N. over invitation to Iran

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ISTANBUL — The Obama administration scrambled Monday to persuade the United Nations to withdraw an invitation to Iran to attend a long-awaited Syrian peace conference after the unexpected invite prompted a threat by the Syrian opposition to withdraw.
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EU Eases Iran Sanctions as Nuclear Deal Takes Effect

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European foreign ministers have approved the easing of sanctions on Iran, marking the start of a six-month interim agreement intended to pave the way for ending the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Ukraine opposition calls for talks, bruised Kiev picks up pieces

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich named a top aide to organize peace talks with the opposition after violent clashes between police and protesters in Kiev, but the opposition warned him on Monday not to play for time.

Olympics receive new video threat

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New concerns have surfaced ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Russia. CNN's Phil Black reports.

WorldViews: This photo shows Russia may have a toilet problem in Sochi 

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MOSCOW - As if the Russians didn't have enough problems as the Olympics approach Feb. 7, fending off talk of terrorism, defending themselves against accusations of homophobia, denying any corruption was involved in the $51 billion construction project.
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