- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IRAN

Rice warns Tehran over nuke programs

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates | Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran on Monday of not being serious at weekend talks about its disputed nuclear program despite the presence of a senior U.S. diplomat, and warned it may soon face new sanctions.

In her first public comments since Saturday’s meeting in Switzerland, Miss Rice said Iran had given the runaround to envoys from the United States and five other world powers. She said all six were serious about a two-week deadline Iran now has to agree to freeze suspect activities and start negotiations.

Miss Rice was briefed on the meeting by the State Department’s No. 3 diplomat, Undersecretary of State William Burns, who attended the session in a shift from Washington’s previous insistence that it would not meet with the Iranians unless enrichment of uranium had stopped.

Along with the United States and Israel, the mainly Sunni Muslim Gulf Arabs are increasingly wary of majority Shi’ite Iran’s muscle-flexing in the region.

FRANCE

Lawmakers narrowly approve constitution

VERSAILLES | President Nicolas Sarkozy’s risky bid to rewrite France’s political rules with sweeping constitutional changes worked, but just barely, with both houses of parliament meeting in special session Monday to pass the measures by a single vote.

The reform gives parliament greater authority but also gives new powers to France’s already strong presidency, notably allowing the chief of state to address together the two houses of congress. However, it limits the president to two five-year terms.

Parliament is now able to veto major presidential appointments and can reduce the government’s ability to push through legislation without a vote.

The president will also be required to inform parliament of any troop deployment overseas, and must win parliamentary authorization for any deployment lasting more than four months.

BURMA

Cyclone survivors face fresh perils

SINGAPORE | Survivors of Burma’s Cyclone Nargis face a “second emergency” unless relief efforts receive another $1 billion in international aid over the next three years, according to the first full assessment of the disaster released Monday.

The joint report by the United Nations, the Burmese government and Southeast Asia’s main bloc puts the damage from the May cyclone that devastated the Irrawaddy River delta and parts of Rangoon at $4 billion. Infrastructure and asset losses amounted to about $1.7 billion and loss of income was estimated at $2.3 billion.

It paints a dismal picture of the impact of the storm, which killed at least 84,537 people. Another 53,836 are missing and presumed dead.

PORTUGAL

Police shut down Madeleine probe

LISBON | Portuguese authorities Monday closed the investigation on the young British girl Madeleine McCann, still missing after a year, and lifted the “suspect” label from her parents due to lack of evidence.

They decided to “close the file on the investigation … due to lack of evidence that any crime was committed by the persons placed under formal investigation,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

In a case that generated international tabloid headlines, Madeleine vanished from an apartment in southern Portugal in May 2007, days before her fourth birthday, as her parents Gerry and Kate McCann dined with friends at a nearby restaurant.

A spokesman for the girl’s parents said they were relieved at the decision to close the case and that they wanted access to the Portuguese police files.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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