World Wrap

Arms deal could bolster Syria peace talks

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
September 13, 2013

Putin pays for U.S. PR, Delhi rapists sentenced to death, and the Taliban claim deadly strike on U.S. consulate. Today is Friday, September 13, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits with U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as they each make a statement to the press after a meeting discussing the ongoing problems in Syria at the United Nations offices in Geneva, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Back on track. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to reconvene later this month in another effort to revive a long-stalled international peace conference on Syria’s civil war:

They would meet again in about two weeks, around Sept. 28 during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and hoped progress in Geneva in the coming day on a chemical weapons disarmament deal would help set a date for a peace conference. “We are committed to trying to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world,” Kerry told a joint news briefing. Washington and Moscow still had work to do to find common ground, Kerry said of a dispute that has raised echoes of the Cold War and to reach an agreement on scheduling peace talks. “Much … will depend on the capacity to have success here in the next hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons,” the secretary of state added.

On Thursday, Syria said it had become a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty, a step in Russia’s plan to place Syrian chemical weapon stores under international oversight. Iran, Russia, and China praised the move, but U.S. officials reacted with caution over concerns that Syria may be stalling for time. Meanwhile, Putin has been making his case against intervention directly to the American public with the help of an American public relations firm that shapes the Russian president’s image in U.S. media, including flattering interviews published in Outdoor Life magazine and his recent op-ed in the New York Times:

Ketchum, a division of the Omnicom Group Inc., has earned more than $25 million working for Russia, according to documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice. It also has been paid more than $26 million since 2007 to promote Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company.

Putin has said the United States should go through the United Nations in its response to the Aug. 21 chemical attack. An exclusive Reuters report found that the death toll estimate from the attack – a key detail in the United States’ case for a military strike – may have been inflated by including bombing victims.

A demonstrator shouts slogans outside a court in New Delhi, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Public pleased with rapists’ punishment. Four men found guilty of gang-raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman were sentenced to death on Friday, bringing to a close a months-long trial that highlighted the prevalence of sexual violence against women in India:

“The increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only once the society realize that there will be no tolerance (of) any form of deviance against women,” said [Judge Yogesh] Khanna. He ordered the men to “be hanged by neck till they are dead.” In a symbolic gesture, he broke the nib of the pen so that it could not be used to sign another death order, court officials said. Lawyers for all four men said they would appeal, which means their execution could still be years away. The case will go to the High Court and then Supreme Court. If they confirm the sentences, the final decision will lie with the president, who has the power to grant clemency.

Crowds gathered outside the courtroom and cheered in response to the ruling. Defense lawyer A.P. Singh said the judge bowed to political pressure in making his decision, a charge the country’s interior minister denied.

Afghan security forces inspect a damaged car, which was used during a suicide bomb attack, outside the U.S. consulate in Herat province, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Shoib

Complex consulate attack. Insurgents killed at least three people in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan:

Herat police chief General Rahmatullah Safi said a police officer and a translator had been killed and two Afghan staff working in the consulate had been wounded… “Our aim for this attack is to show the Americans that they are not safe anywhere in this country,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said in a statement emailed to reporters. Insurgents often stage so-called complex attacks involving suicide bombers and fighters on targets such as Afghan government and security forces, especially in the more volatile south and east, although assaults on high-profile and well-protected U.S. targets are less common.

The strike, which included a gun battle with security forces and the detonation of a powerful car bomb, continues a trend of violence and instability in the region ahead of Western troop withdrawal in 2014 and next year’s presidential elections.

Nota Bene: Al Qaeda leader calls for attacks inside the U.S. to “bleed America economically.”

Standouts:

Justice for Syrians - The benefits of prosecuting Assad. (Reuters)

Popped ambition - A man attempting to cross the Atlantic with hundreds of helium-filled balloons lands in Newfoundland. (Associated Press)

Remote robbery - Twelve are arrested for plan to cyber-steal millions of pounds from a Spanish bank. (BBC)

More than mooncakes - The Chinese bribe market expands to include tea and herbal tonics. (Quartz)

Frustrated foodies - Fast food in France is not so fast. (Wall Street Journal)

From the File:

  • Hawaii warns huge molasses spill could draw sharks.
  • Egypt pursues crackdown on Sinai militants.
  • Iran’s Rouhani says he wants to end nuclear issue stand-off.
  • India’s Modi crowned as opposition PM candidate.
  • Dozens dead in fire at Russian psychiatric hospital.

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