Iran, big powers' nuclear talks complex, need more time: EU
By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and six world powers need more time to work out complex technical steps on implementing last month's deal for Tehran to curb its nuclear program, the European Union said on Friday after four days of expert-level talks in Vienna. The November 24 interim accord, reached after marathon talks in Geneva, is seen as a step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions that Iran is covertly seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Experts from Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union labored during a December 9-12 meeting at the headquarters of the U.N. nuclear watchdog to agree on how to carry it out in practice. But, in a sign of the technical difficulties involved, they will now consult with their capitals before meeting again.
Assad win may be Syria's 'best option'
The sectarian bloodbath in Syria is such a threat to regional security that a victory for Bashar al-Assad's regime could be the best outcome to hope for, a former CIA chief said. Washington condemned Assad's conduct of the conflict, threatened air strikes after he was accused of targeting civilians with chemical weapons and has demanded he step down. The United States is also supplying millions of dollars in "non-lethal" aid to some of the rebel groups fighting Assad's rule. But Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general who until 2009 was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a rebel win was not one of the three possible outcomes he foresees for the conflict.
Desperate Syrians find little comfort in new homes
They fled air strikes and shelling, but many of Syria's three million refugees have found little comfort elsewhere, suffering in squalid camps and risking death to reach Europe's shores. In Lebanon, many crowd into makeshift shelters in agricultural fields that will soon be blanketed in thick snow, and in Egypt they have faced government crackdowns and deportation. A lucky few have found asylum in Sweden or Germany, but many more have ended up in the EU's poorest nation Bulgaria, held in overflowing shelters. Some of the estimated three million Syrian refugees are treading paths well-worn by economic migrants from Niger, Eritrea and elsewhere -- people fleeing poverty as much as conflict.
Winter storm pummels Mideast, adding to refugee misery
A bruising winter storm brought severe weather to the Middle East Thursday, forcing the closure of roads and schools and blanketing already miserable Syrian refugee camps with snow. The nearly three-year-old conflict in Syria has killed an estimated 126,000 people and displaced millions, including more than two million who have fled across the borders and thousands who are living in makeshift camps. Bad weather also delayed the first-ever international UN airlift, set to leave the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for Qamishli in northeastern Syria. "When it will start is difficult to say -- I think the authorities in Qamishli are going to check conditions at the airfield on Friday," UN refugee agency (UNHCR) regional spokesman Peter Kessler told AFP.