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Nov 13, 2013

“Pink Star” diamond sells for world record $83 million – Sotheby’s

GENEVA (Reuters) – The “Pink Star”, a huge flawless pink diamond, sold for 76.3 million Swiss francs ($83.02 million) including commission fees in Geneva on Wednesday, a world record price for a gemstone at auction, Sotheby’s said.

The oval-shaped diamond, mounted on a ring, weighed in at 59.60 carats. It was bought by a man bidding in the room, who told reporters that he was buying it on behalf of an anonymous person whom he represented, and would not give his own name.

Nov 11, 2013

Polio virus strain in Syria confirmed as being from Pakistan – WHO

GENEVA, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Polio that has crippled at least
13 children in Syria has been confirmed as being caused by a
strain of the virus that originated in Pakistan and is spreading
across the Middle East, the World Health Organisation said.

Genetic sequencing shows the strain found in Syrian children
in Deir al-Zor, where an outbreak was detected last month, is
linked to the strain of Pakistani origin found in sewage in
Egypt, Israel and Palestinian territories in the past year.

Nov 11, 2013

U.S. lawmakers seek tighter Iran sanctions before any deal

WASHINGTON/GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday they aimed to tighten sanctions on Iran to prevent Washington giving away too much in a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that diplomats said was still possible despite the failure of high-level weekend talks.

Their comments reflected widespread Congressional skepticism about a rapprochement between Iran and world powers and coincided with renewed lobbying from Israel against a proposal it sees as leaving open a danger Iran could build a nuclear bomb. Tehran denies harboring any such ambition.

Nov 10, 2013

Rouhani says Iran rejects threats, cites red lines in nuclear talks

DUBAI/GENEVA (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani, architect of Iran’s diplomatic opening to big powers, said on Sunday it would not yield to any threats or discrimination in an apparent bid to keep hardliners on side as Tehran edges toward a deal on its nuclear programme.

He was speaking to the Iranian parliament, a bastion of conservatives, a day after the Islamic Republic and the six powers narrowed differences at talks in Geneva and decided to resume them on November 20 to try to defuse a decade-old stand-off and fears of a drift towards a new Middle East war.

Nov 10, 2013

Iran nuclear talks fail to reach deal, France pushes back

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran and six world powers failed in marathon talks to clinch a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program but said differences had narrowed and they would resume negotiations in 10 days in a fresh bid to end the decade-old standoff.

But clear divisions emerged among the U.S. and European allies on the final day of the talks as France hinted that the proposal under discussion did not sufficiently neutralize the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Iran is hoping for a deal that would ease the international sanctions that have frozen its assets around the world and prevented it from selling its oil.

Nov 10, 2013

Iran nuclear talks end without breakthrough: France

GENEVA (Reuters) – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday that nuclear talks between Iran and global powers had finished without an agreement but that they would continue at a later date.

“From the start, France wanted an agreement to the important question of Iran’s nuclear program. The Geneva meeting allowed us to advance, but we were not able to conclude because there are still some questions to be addressed,” Fabius told reporters early on the fourth day of ministerial talks in the Swiss city.

Nov 8, 2013

Syria, neighbors to vaccinate 20 million children against polio

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) – More than 20 million children are to be vaccinated in Syria and neighboring countries against polio to try to stop the spread of the crippling infectious disease following its re-emergence there after 14 years, United Nations agencies said on Friday.

The mass vaccination against polio, which can spread rapidly among children, is already under way in the Middle East a week after the region declared a polio emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN children fund UNICEF said.

Nov 7, 2013

Evidence supports Arafat poisoning theory, wider probe needed: experts

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat showed test results consistent with polonium poisoning and should lead to a judicial investigation even if they were not absolute proof that he died that way, Swiss experts said on Thursday.

The two forensic experts were part of an international team that opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November and took samples from his body to see if there was evidence he was poisoned with the radioactive element. Their report was released on Wednesday.

Nov 7, 2013

Evidence supports, not proves, Arafat poisoning theory: experts

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat showed test results consistent with polonium poisoning, but were not proof that he died that way, two Swiss experts said on Thursday.

The two forensic experts were part of an international team that opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November and took samples from his body to see if there was evidence he was poisoned with the radioactive element. Their report was released on Wednesday.

Nov 5, 2013

U.S., Russia fail to agree Syria peace talks date

GENEVA, Nov 5 (Reuters) – The United States and Russia
failed on Tuesday to agree a date for a Syrian peace conference,
remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end
the civil war and over who would represent Syria’s opposition.

“We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a
date today; unfortunately we are not,” said U.N.-Arab League
envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the meeting at the United
Nations in Geneva. “But we are still striving to see if we can
have the conference before the end of the year.”