M23 chief, rebels sur­ren­der to Uganda’s mil­i­tary

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

KAM­PALA | The top com­man­der of Congo’s M23 rebel move­ment and about 1,700 of his fight­ers sur­ren­dered to Ugan­dan au­thor­i­ties af­ter de­feat by Con­golese troops, a Ugan­dan mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

The move raised hopes that the rebels might sign a peace set­tle­ment af­ter 19 months of a bru­tal in­sur­gency that dis­placed thou­sands of peo­ple in east­ern Congo’s North Kivu prov­ince.

Iran’s top nu­clear ne­go­tia­tor claimed Thurs­day to be on the verge of a break­through deal with the U.S. and other world pow­ers that would par­tially lift sanc­tions on the Is­lamic repub­lic in ex­change for Tehran agree­ing to open its dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram to close in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny.

Ab­bas Araghchi said all sides are likely to be­gin “com­pil­ing the text of an un­der­stand­ing” Fri­day, the sec­ond day of a third round of nu­clear talks in Geneva be­tween Iran and the so-called P5+1 group con­sist­ing of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s five per­ma­nent mem­bers — the U.S. Bri­tain, France, China and Rus­sia — plus Ger­many.

“Com­pil­ing a writ­ten text is a time-con­sum­ing, lengthy and hard process and a con­sen­sus is needed for each and ev­ery word of it,” said Mr. Araghchi, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the of­fi­cial Ira­nian news ser­vice Fars.

While U.S. of­fi­cials would not cor­rob­o­rate Mr. Araqchi’s claim late Thurs­day, a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial said be­fore this week’s talks that, if Iran agrees to a first step of halt­ing its cur­rent nu­clear pro­gram from ad­vanc­ing, the U.S. would be “pre­pared to of­fer lim­ited, tar­geted and rev­ersible sanc­tions relief.”

The of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, sug­gested that a deal with Iran could be signed be­fore the talks close Fri­day. With the talks be­ing held un­der se­crecy, how­ever, it was not clear Thurs­day what the de­tails of such deal will look like — or whether it will be reached as quickly as the Ira­ni­ans say.

In an anony­mous state­ment Thurs­day, another se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial said that a U.S. del­e­ga­tion led by Wendy Sher­man, un­der sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, had en­gaged in a pri­vate, one-hour meet­ing with the Ira­nian del­e­ga­tion led by Mr. Araghchi, dur­ing which “a sub­stan­tive and se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion” took place.

Should a deal be reached, it would sig­nal a break­through in the nu­clear talks, which have been stalled for years. Ira­nian of­fi­cials say their nu­clear pro­gram is purely for peace­ful and civil­ian pur­poses, but U.S. and other Western in­tel­li­gence ser­vices sus­pect the Is­lamic repub­lic is se­cretly en­rich­ing ura­nium to­ward the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear weapon.

Wash­ing­ton’s skep­ti­cism also has been fu­eled by Tehran’s an­gry pos­tur­ing to­ward Is­rael, Amer­ica’s clos­est ally in the Mid­dle East.

With Is­raeli lead­ers warn­ing the world that Iran is dan­ger­ously close to de­vel­op­ing a bomb, Western pow­ers have im­posed harsh sanc­tions on Tehran. The U.S. also has pushed for a global em­bargo on Ira­nian crude oil, which — cou­pled with the sanc­tions — have crip­pled ma­jor sec­tors of Iran’s econ­omy, many Western an­a­lysts say.

The core of any deal with Iran is likely come down to whether the Is­lamic repub­lic agrees in writ­ing to halt its ura­nium en­rich­ment or limit them sub­stan­tially. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has sug­gested it might be will­ing to tol­er­ate lim­ited en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties by Iran, but Is­rael has pres­sured Wash­ing­ton to ac­cept noth­ing less than a to­tal halt in en­rich­ment be­fore any sanc­tions on the Is­lamic repub­lic are lifted.

The po­ten­tial for the Fri­day’s talks to fall apart stems from the prospect that Ira­nian ne­go­tia­tors will de­mand that their na­tion be al­lowed to con­tinue en­rich­ing ura­nium at least on a lim­ited ba­sis.

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