A new round of negotiations between European Union countries and Iran on the latter's suspect nuclear program was agreed to by both sides Sunday. However, an EU spokesman characterized the talks, slated for next month, as exploratory - to determine whether there are grounds for resuming formal discussions. The EU, which is represented by Britain, France, and Germany, has staked out the position that negotiations on long-term cooperation can only resume if Iran halts the enrichment of uranium. For its part, Iran's Foreign Ministry said the talks should include a guarantee that nuclear fuel processing won't be moved to Russia, a compromise offered as a guarantee against the production of weapons-grade uranium.Skip to next paragraph
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More than 1,500 people passed through the border checkpoint between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on its first day under Palestinian control. Under a deal brokered earlier this month by the US, European monitors watch the proceedings at the Rafah crossing and Israeli authorities may only look in via closed-circuit TV. The Rafah gate was open only four hours Sunday; ultimately, it is intended to operate around the clock.
Despite harassment by police, the latest round of runoff elections for parliament in Egypt resulted in 29 more victories for candidates from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Interior Ministry officials confirmed that the brotherhood - with one more round of voting to go - now has 76 seats, more than five times its representation in the outgoing legislature. Its candidates get around the ban by running as independents even though their positions are well known to voters. If the gains continue, analysts said, the brotherhood could reach the constitutional threshold needed to nominate a candidate for president in the next election. Police roughed up or blocked thousands of would-be voters at polling places in nine provinces.
Without specifying a date, the leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels warned the new government that they will "intensify" the "struggle ... to establish self-government in our homeland" unless there is a proposal soon that satisfies their political aspirations. Velupillai Prabhakaran said Tamils have "reached the brink of utter frustration" and "are not prepared to be tolerant any longer" if new President Mahinda Rajapakse does not address their grievances. Raja-pakse, who was elected by a narrow margin earlier this month, rejected demands for a Tamil state last Thursday and vowed to seek an overhaul of the 2002 cease-fire with the rebels that would curb their recruitment of child fighters.
In what the opposition called a "meaningless election," the party of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was headed for a landslide victory as a result of Saturday's vote for a new Senate. But turnout at the polls appeared as low as 15 percent, the poorest in any election since the nation achieved independence in 1980. Mugabe's ZANU-PF appeared on course to finish with 47 of the 66 seats. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai thanked Zimbabweans for heeding his call for a boycott. However, the campaign split the MDC, the only group that has challenged Mugabe to any significant degree in recent years. Other MDC leaders rejected Tsvangirai's boycott efforts and fielded 26 candidates, of whom only five were winning as the vote-count continued.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy activist, will be confined to house arrest for another year, the Home Ministry of Burma (Myanmar) said, according to news reports. A repeat of last November's one-year extension had been expected. Suu Kyi already has spent 10 of the past 15 years in confinement as the ruling junta shows no willingness to loosen its grip on power despite international pressure.