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March 30, 2015

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Iran Nuclear Talks Intensify Ahead of Deadline

The foreign ministers from Iran, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany met on Monday in Lausanne in a final push (FT) to reach a framework agreement to limit Tehran's nuclear program by the March 31 deadline. Significant gaps remain (Guardian) on core issues, including which sanctions against Iran would be lifted and when and whether or not Iran will be allowed to continue nuclear research and development. In an apparent setback to negotiations, Iranian officials said on Sunday that shipping (NYT) Iran's stockpile of uranium to Russia was not on the agenda. Iran had previously tentatively agreed to send large amounts its stockpiled material to Russia. U.S. officials said Monday that they were still negotiating (NYT) with Iranian representatives on the uranium shipments.

ANALYSIS

"Executive branch negotiators can promise only to lift or waive sanctions that the president has sole authority to control. At the same time, the administration must be cautious not to agree to any deal that would be so unpopular in Congress that a supermajority of Congress could pass additional sanctions on Iran over a presidential veto," says CFR's John B. Bellinger III in an interview.

"The fine print can wait until the conclusion of a final deal. However, the accord that still seems likely to be announced by March 31st must express high confidence that the Iranians have accepted what they must do if such a regime is eventually to be put in place. If that remains unresolved, the deal will only provide ammunition for those like Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who are already convinced that what is being cooked up is a 'very bad deal,'" writes the Economist.

"Sanctions exert a ruinous effect on the health and well-being of Iranians in ways not dissimilar to how for-profit, class-tiered healthcare remains a source of disenfranchisement for the working poor and middle class here at home. It is time to de-sterilise the discourse around sanctions and recognise them for what they are: economic warfare and the collective punishment of millions of innocent people," write Sammy Almashat and Maziar Shirazi in Al Jazeera

PACIFIC RIM

Abe and Park Meet on Sidelines of Lee Funeral

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye met (Kyodo) briefly on Monday in Singapore on the sidelines of Lee Kuan Yew's funeral, suggesting a possible thaw in relations. Abe urged Park to facilitate a trilateral summit with China, in hopes of elevating the dialogue to the leaders' level.

CHINA: U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pressed (SCMP) China to further open its markets, calling on the country to remove barriers to technology transfers, during his meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. Meanwhile, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Russia joined (SCMP) the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank over the weekend, ahead of the March 31 deadline for countries to apply to be founding members. 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistan, India to Evacuate Nationals in Yemen

Pakistan and India have both launched efforts to evacuate (Arab News) their citizens from Yemen as the country's security deteriorates. Pakistan sent a jumbo jet and a naval ship and reported that nearly five hundred Pakistani nationals were evacuated on the first flight. India is leading efforts to airlift its workers and other citizens, but has also sent a ship to support evacuation efforts as the Yemeni airport in Aden took fire over the weekend.

UZBEKISTAN: The electoral commission in Uzbekistan is set to announce the preliminary results (Radio Free Europe) of presidential elections on Monday, with current President Islam Karimov expected to win a fourth term. Critics say that Karimov has removed almost all political opposition during his tenure.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Arab League Members Approve Joint Military Force

The heads of the Arab League agreed (Al Jazeera) to create a regional military force at a summit over the weekend that was overshadowed by escalating conflict in Yemen. Separately, dozens are dead amid fresh clashes (Middle East Eye) between Shia Houthis and tribal fighters in the southern region of Yemen, as the Saudi-led coalition continues to conduct air strikes (Al Arabiya) on military bases and arms depots in Sana'a and Saada.

Yemen has become the latest locus of Iran-Saudi, Shia-Sunni conflict, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass in this Op-Ed.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Nigerians Await Election Results

Nigerian officials are expected to announce the results (Premium Times) of this weekend's presidential and national assembly elections on Monday. Voting was extended over two days following glitches and spurts of violence.

There are concerns that the Nigerian elections could trigger a new round of instability, writes CFR’s John Campbell in this Expert Brief.

GUINEA: President Alpha Conde declared a forty-five day health emergency (BBC) in five regions of the country following an uptick in new cases of Ebola.

This CFR Backgrounder provides an overview of the Ebola virus and the 2014 outbreak. 

EUROPE

Creditors to Review New Greek Reform Plan

Greece is expected to meet with international creditors this week after proposing new reforms plans (Deutsche Welle). Talks over the weekend failed to make progress. Greece’s government is expected to run out of money on April 20 if a deal is not reached. 

FRANCE: Nicholas Sarkozy's center-right UMP party, in an election coalition with the centrist UDI party, made significant gains (Guardian) in local elections over the weekend, winning sixty-six to seventy of France's departments, dealing a blow to Socialist President Francois Hollande.

AMERICAS

United States, Cuba to Discuss Human Rights

Representatives from the United States and Cuba are expected to discuss (LAHT) human rights on Tuesday in Washington in a bid to make further progress in the renewing of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the history of U.S.-Cuba relations.

ARGENTINA: Securities regulation authorities in Argentina barred (Buenos Aires Herald) Citigroup's local subsidiary from capital market operations after the bank reached a deal with U.S. hedge funds that are seeking payments on defaulted Argentine debt.