- - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IRAN

EU lawmakers seek to extend sanctions

BRUSSELS | European Union lawmakers sought to pressure the bloc’s chief diplomat Tuesday to step up sanctions against Iran after failed talks over its disputed nuclear drive.

After EU High Representative Catherine Ashton “left Istanbul empty-handed last weekend,” Scottish Conservative Struan Stevenson called for the European Union “to impose tougher sanctions on the clerical regime for its flagrant human rights violations, continuous drive to acquire nuclear weapons and export of terrorism.”

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a leading Spanish member of the European Parliament, added that the ongoing “soft” approach to talks between Western powers and Tehran would only prove “futile,” after the pair and others met with Iranian opposition figures in Brussels and U.S. backers of an Iranian opposition movement.

The call comes as diplomats and analysts query whether fresh sanctions should be applied by the West over Iran’s disputed nuclear program after the latest talks between world powers collapsed in Istanbul over the weekend.

WEST BANK

Defiant Abbas says he’s on ‘right path’

RAMALLAH | Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned to a hero’s welcome in the West Bank on Tuesday, making his first public appearance at home since Al-Jazeera published embarrassing documents showing him making broad concessions to Israel in peace talks.

The Arab satellite channel has been releasing what it says are hundreds of internal documents summarizing a decade of peace efforts.

In Al-Jazeera’s latest revelation late Monday, a document quoted Mr. Abbas as acknowledging that the Palestinian dream of returning millions of refugees to Israel is unrealistic - drawing accusations of treason from his Hamas rivals.

Greeted by hundreds of supporters at his headquarters in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas vowed to weather the storm over the leaks, which have highlighted the gap between his tough public positions on sensitive issues and the offers he has made to Israel behind closed doors. Opponents have accused him of treason.

“Our trust is first in God and in our people, and in ourselves that we are on the right path to get back our people’s rights,” Mr. Abbas told the crowd shortly after returning from Egypt.

ISRAEL

Ancient water tunnel excavated in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM | Archaeologists say they have finished clearing a 2,000-year-old tunnel running under the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Israel Antiquities Authority thinks the tunnel served to drain rainwater near the Second Temple, the center of Jewish faith destroyed in A.D. 70.

It runs near - but not underneath - the sacred and politically explosive enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, home to the al-Aqsa mosque.

Archaeology and politics in Jerusalem are hopelessly entangled, and there was criticism of the new excavation Tuesday.

The tunnel runs from inside the Old City to the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, where a settler group both funds archaeological digs and moves in Jewish families, angering Palestinians.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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