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In brief | Nation & World | 4-3-14


Palestinians leave door open for continued talks with Israel, despite new recognition bid

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to seek further international recognition of a “state of Palestine” — despite promises to hold off while negotiating with Israel — has thrown into disarray the troubled U.S. mediation efforts on a peace deal. Here’s a look at the possible repercussions.

Abbas signed letters stating the state of Palestine would join 15 international conventions and treaties. This includes the Geneva Convention on protecting civilians in conflict zones as well as covenants prohibiting torture and discrimination against women. The letters were given Wednesday to the relevant parties, including a U.N. envoy.

The Palestinians say they have the right to seek membership in 63 U.N. agencies, international conventions and treaties as a result of the General Assembly’s decision in November 2012 to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. In the vote, the General Assembly said Palestine encompasses the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967. Israel opposed the Palestinian bid, alleging it was an attempt to bypass negotiations.

Former CIA official insists politics played no role in changes to Benghazi talking points

WASHINGTON — The CIA’s former deputy director said Wednesday he deleted references to terrorism warnings from widely disputed talking points on the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack to avoid the spy agency’s gloating at the expense of the State Department.

Mike Morell faced more than three hours of questioning from the House Intelligence committee in a rare open session that examined who changed the talking points — and why — in the politically-charged aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11 assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in two separate attacks over a chaotic period of several hours. Multiple independent and congressional investigations have largely faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the mission.

Morell, a 33-year veteran of the agency who has served six Republican and Democratic presidents, insisted that politics had no bearing on the revisions to the talking points and said he was under no pressure to protect either President Barack Obama or then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I never allowed politics to influence what I said or did. Never,” he said.

Team of experts has been able to ID all but 1 of 29 sets of mudslide remains

EVERETT, Wash. — Members of the medical examiner’s office in a Washington county devastated by a mudslide work around the clock to identify bodies. Of the 29 sets of remains delivered so far just one is still a mystery.

Journalists on Wednesday were given a tour of the Snohomish County office in Everett and told about the difficult task of identifying bodies from the March 22 disaster.

Europe’s surging far right — riding French electoral win — sets sights on European Parliament

PARIS — France’s far-right National Front, coming off a historic electoral victory at home, is marching toward a new target: the European Parliament.

Party chief Marine Le Pen is leading the charge for continentwide elections next month like the general of a conquering army, and hoping to attract kindred parties around Europe in a broad alliance.

As the extreme right rises across Europe, Le Pen wants to seize the momentum — raising the voice of her anti-immigration National Front and amplifying it through a broad parliamentary group. These parties, leveraging public frustration with the EU, want to weaken the bloc’s power over European citizens from within Europe’s premier legislative institution.

“My goal is to be first” in France’s vote for the European Parliament, “to raise the conscience over what the European Union is making our country live through,” she said on French television the morning after her party won a dozen town halls and more than 1,000 city and town council seats in municipal elections.

The voting for the 751-seat European Parliament, based in Strasbourg in eastern France, takes place in each of the EU’s 28 member states, stretching over four days beginning May 22. Even if far-right groups expand their presence in Parliament, they’re unlikely to break the mainstream majority, and their divergent nationalist agendas may clash with each other on the legislative floor.

By wire sources