- - Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Memo: Hard-liners blocked nuke deal

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought some kind of nuclear fuel-swap deal more than a year ago but faced internal pressures from hard-liners who viewed it as a “virtual defeat,” according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The report also suggested that Iran trusted its archfoe the United States more than ally Russia to follow through with the U.N.-backed proposal: providing reactor-ready fuel in exchange for Iran giving up control of its low-enriched-uranium stockpile.

The assessment was given to a top U.S. envoy by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose nation has a growing friendship with Tehran and is scheduled to host the next round of nuclear talks this month between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.

The fuel-swap proposal is a centerpiece of efforts for greater international controls on Iran’s nuclear program, which the West and others fear could lead to development of atomic weapons.


Palestinian official dies in Beirut

BEIRUT | The radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) says one of its founders, Ahmed Yamani, has died in Beirut after a stroke. He was 86.

Mr. Yamani, also known as Abu Maher Yamani, died Monday in a Beirut hospital.

The PFLP was launched by the late Palestinian leader George Habash in December 1967, six months after the Arabs lost the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights to Israel.

The PFLP is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It gained notoriety for the 1970 hijackings of four Western airliners over the United States, Europe, the Far East and the Persian Gulf. The aircraft were blown up in the Middle East after passengers and crews disembarked.

Mr. Yamani will be buried in Beirut on Wednesday.


Afghans warn of crisis due to Iranian fuel ban

KABUL, Afghanistan | Iran’s decision to stop up to 2,500 fuel trucks at its border with Afghanistan is tantamount to an “embargo,” an Afghan commerce official said Tuesday, as others warned the move could leave millions of Afghans shivering as winter rolls in.

The unofficial ban, now in its second week, has pushed up wholesale domestic fuel prices as much as 70 percent. The shortage of fuel also threatens to stop trucks loaded with commercial goods from reaching the capital along a key southern transport route.

Iran on Tuesday acknowledged a link between the ban and its recent decision to slash domestic fuel subsidies in a bid to cut costs and boost an economy squeezed by international sanctions. Afghan officials say Iran also has told them it is concerned the shipments are destined for NATO forces operating in Afghanistan, though Afghan and NATO officials deny that.


U.S. fugitive commits suicide in prison

JERUSALEM | An Israeli doctor fighting extradition to the United States on murder charges has committed suicide in a Jerusalem jail, Israeli prison officials said Tuesday.

The Prison Authority said Dr. Eugene Perchikov, who was accused of killing two women in New York, bled to death after cutting himself with a prison-issued razor blade while his cellmates slept on Sunday. A guard inspecting the cell 10 minutes earlier had found nothing wrong.

Authority spokesman Yaron Zamir said the facial razor was tiny, but that “he was a doctor, and he knew how to do it.” He said medics treated Dr. Perchikov for 20 to 30 minutes before declaring him dead. No foul play was suspected.

According to Israeli extradition papers, Dr. Perchikov, 61, was born in Russia, became a doctor and received an Israeli medical license after immigrating to Israel.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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