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Washington: 3:32:26 am - November 26, 2014 - Jerusalem: 10:32:26 am - Kislev 4, 5775


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Former envoy: Iran showed no flexibility in nuke talks


Veteran US diplomat and former Obama adviser Dennis Ross (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Iran’s unwillingness to move on its positions during recent rounds of nuclear negotiations indicates Tehran’s negotiators may be incapable of sealing a comprehensive agreement, veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross said Tuesday morning.

A day after nuclear talks with Iran were extended until July 2015 after the sides failed to come together after a year of intensive negotiations, Ross said that the US had demonstrated flexibility during the talks, including a willingness to back down on demands over the Arak heavy water facility, but that they were received by intransigence by their Iranian counterparts.

Ross, a former special adviser on the Persian Gulf for the US State Department who is currently a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, did not play any official role in the talks.

He did not detail how he knew the inside working of the negotiations, which have mostly been kept under wraps.

Ugly ouster:
'Frustrated' Hagel faces unfair
sniping on way out, says McCain

Ousted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had become "very, very frustrated" in the post before President Obama sought his resignation, according to a key lawmaker, who blasted the White House for a whispering campaign that accompanied the Pentagon boss' abrupt ouster Monday morning.

“I thank Chuck Hagel for his service, and I know that he was very, very frustrated,” Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is expected to take control of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January, said in a radio interview with KFYI.

McCain spoke following a Rose Garden press conference at which Hagel stood stiffly while Obama announced he would be stepping down. Although McCain, who served in the Senate with Hagel from 1996-2008, opposed his fellow Vietnam veteran's appointment to defense secretary, he said administration sources were wrong to assail Hagel on his way out the door.

“Already White House people are leaking, ‘Well, he wasn’t up to the job,’" McCain said. "Well, believe me, he was up to the job. It was the job he was given, where he really was never really brought into that real tight circle inside the White House that makes all the decisions which has put us into the incredible debacle that we’re in today throughout the world.”

Israel fears EU Parliament will recognize Palestine

The European Parliament plans to hold a vote on Thursday on a resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, following Sweden’s official decision to do so and symbolic votes in Spain, the UK and Ireland.

The moves reflect mounting frustration in the EU at Israel's expanding settlement program on land the Palestinians want for a state following the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks.

Israel is working to foil the decision, with officials warning that if the motion passes, the country will view Europe’s decision as anti-Israeli.

The parties behind the initiative are the Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D) and the Unified European Left Party (GUE).

Merkel against unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday rejected the idea of Germany recognizing a Palestinian state unilaterally, saying the Palestinians and Israel could solve their long-running conflict only through negotiations. Since the 28 EU member states would need to decide unanimously on recognizing a Palestinian state, Merkel's objection mounts to a veto on the subject.

The aim should be that both sides agree on a two-state solution - Israel and a future 'Palestine' - co-existing side by side, Merkel told a news conference in Berlin after meeting Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

"Therefore from our point of view, any unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state would not move us forward on the way to a two-state solution," the conservative chancellor said.

Iran nuclear talks extended seven months
after failing to meet deadline

Iran and six powers failed on Monday for a second time this year to resolve their 12-year stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and gave themselves seven more months to clinch an historic deal.

Western officials said they were aiming to secure an agreement on the substance of a final accord by March but that more time would be needed to reach a consensus on the all-important technical details.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, trying to win relief from crippling international economic sanctions by patching up relations with the West, said the gap between the sides had narrowed at the latest round of talks in Vienna.

"It is true that we could not reach an agreement but we can still say that big steps have been taken," he told state television.

Monster Sunspot May Unleash Powerful Solar Flares

The largest sunspot to appear on Earth's nearest star in more than two decades is once again pointed at the planet, and it will likely kick-start solar storms, NASA scientists say.

The massive sunspot, previously known as Active Region 12192, was turned toward Earth in October and early November, but rotated out of view. While it was on the Earth-facing side of the sun, the sunspot did not produce any coronal mass ejections — hot bursts of material ejected into space at 4 million mph (6.4 million km/h) — which have the potential to damage satellites and power grids. Now the active region has rotated back around to face Earth again, and although the sunspot has shrunk in size, it will likely be disruptive, NASA scientist Holly Gilbert told Space.com during a video interview about the massive sunspot.

"This time around, it's more likely to have some coronal mass ejections associated with it, even though the solar flares might be smaller," said Gilbert, chief of the Solar Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "We have a good idea, based on the structure of that magnetic field and the sunspot, that it's very possible that it will create some midlevel flares."

'Koenig's Eye View from the White House'
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