Top of the Agenda: IAEA Says It is Close to Deal With Iran
The director general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said today that he expects to sign a deal "quite soon" with Iran, allowing for an IAEA investigation in the potential military uses of the country's contested nuclear program (NYT). Amano's comments came after a one-day trip to Tehran to meet with senior officials, including Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are set to meet Jalili in Baghdad tomorrow for a new round of negotiations over Iran's uranium enrichment efforts. The West contends that Iran's nuclear program is for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, a claim Tehran strongly denies.
"The biggest issue on the table is the IAEA's ability to make intrusive, unannounced inspections of the Iranian nuclear program, including visits to military facilities like Parchin, where the Iranians may have been testing the blasting devices that can initiate a nuclear explosion. The U.N. has also demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment program," writes TIME's Joe Klein.
"But that is not the right goal. Given Iran's poor track record of honoring agreements, negotiations remain a gamble because they may never lead to an agreement, let alone one that can be sustained. Rather than focus on talks that may not produce a deal, then, the United States should place far more emphasis on supporting democracy and human rights in Iran," writes Patrick Clawson for Foreign Affairs.
Malaysian Opposition Leader Charged Over Protest
Malaysian prosecutors yesterday charged opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and two of his allies with violating a ban against public gatherings (AP) during an April 28 demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, at which thousands of protesters called for an overhaul of the electoral system. Ibrahim, who was acquitted of sodomizing a male aid earlier this year, called the charges "politically motivated."
CHINA: The People's Bank of China--the United States' largest foreign creditor--is able to purchase U.S. debt directly from the U.S. Treasury through an unobstructed computer link to its auction system, rather than having to use a primary dealer such as a Wall Street bank, according to a report by Reuters.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
NATO Agrees to Afghan Security Transition
The United States and its NATO allies agreed at a summit in Chicago yesterday to end their lead role in the war in Afghanistan by the summer of 2013, handing full control to Afghan national security forces (NYT). At the same time, U.S. military officials have indicated that U.S. troops will continue to have a combat role in Afghanistan after that point.
SRI LANKA: President Mahinda Rajapaksa pardoned former army chief Sarath Fonseka (al-Jazeera)--a soldier considered instrumental in ending the country's twenty-five-year civil war in 2009--releasing him yesterday from prison two years after he was jailed on corruption charges.
UN Condemns Yemen Suicide Attack
The UN Security Council condemned "in the strongest terms" a suicide bombing in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa yesterday that killed more than ninety soldiers. Al-Qaeda took responsibility (BBC) for the attack.
Hundreds of protesters broke into Mali's presidential palace in the capital of Bamako yesterday and beat up interim leader Dioncounda Traore (Reuters). The Economic Community of West African States--the group that tasked Traore with leading the country back to civilian rule following a military coup in March--condemned the attack and threatened sanctions.
SUDAN: A car exploded in the city of Port Sudan (AFP), killing at least one person, according to Sudan's Radio Omdurman. The incident comes a year after Sudan accused Israel of launching a deadly air strike in the same region.
OECD Cuts Eurozone Growth Forecast
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted today that eurozone gross domestic product would contract by 0.1 percent this year, calling the sovereign debt crisis the "the biggest risk for the world economy" (WSJ).
GREECE: British Prime Minister David Cameron defended comments he made yesterday that suggested Greece should leave the eurozone (Guardian) if the country elects anti-austerity parties--those opposed to the terms of the EU-IMF bailout plan--in parliamentary elections slated for next month.
Greece's political turmoil is spreading fresh economic uncertainty. But it is wrong to assume an automatic exit from the euro or further sovereign debt contagion, says expert Iain Begg in this CFR Interview.
Space X Rocket in Successful Launch
A rocket designed and built by U.S. company Space X (VOA) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early this morning on a mission to deliver a supply capsule to the International Space Station. Space X would be the first privately owned company to complete such a mission.
COLOMBIA: Rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (AP), who were sheltering in Venezuelan territory, attacked a Colombian army patrol yesterday, killing at least twelve soldiers and wounding four others.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are Colombia's two predominant rebel groups. While both have been depleted in recent years, they remain destabilizing forces, explains this CFR Backgrounder.