In Brief | Nation & World, December 24, 2013


Man who designed AK-47, world’s most popular firearm, dead at 94

MOSCOW — Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world’s most popular firearm.

It was the carnage of World War, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, which altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt. The distinctive shape of the gun, often called “a Kalashnikov,” appeared on revolutionary flags and adorns memorabilia.

Kalashnikov died Monday at age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president. He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.

Kaslashnikov often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.

“I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” he told The Associated Press in 2007.

Secret Iran talks cement its status as rising national security player

WASHINGTON — Last year, while Jake Sullivan was traveling with his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he quietly disappeared during a stop in Paris. He showed up again a few days later, rejoining Clinton’s traveling contingent in Mongolia.

In between, Sullivan secretly jetted to the Middle Eastern nation of Oman to meet with officials from Iran, people familiar with the trip said. The July 2012 meeting is one of the Obama administration’s earliest known face-to-face contacts with Iran and reveals that Sullivan — who moved from the State Department to the White House earlier this year — was personally involved in the administration’s outreach to the Islamic republic far earlier than had been reported.

Senior administration officials had previously confirmed to The Associated Press that Sullivan and other officials held at least five secret meetings with Iran this year, paving the way for an interim nuclear agreement signed in November by Iran, the United States and five other world powers.

The cloak-and-dagger diplomacy may seem like a tough assignment even for a grizzled foreign policy veteran, but Sullivan is just 37 and looks even younger. Even-keeled and pragmatic, Sullivan’s temperament mirrors that of President Barack Obama, people close to him say. That helped him crack the tight-knit foreign policy team at the White House where he serves as Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

While Biden is a possible presidential candidate in 2016, Sullivan remains loyal to Clinton and is seen as her likely pick for White House national security adviser, should she run for president and win.

Foreigners seeking protection in violent South Sudan city

NAIROBI, Kenya — British, Canadian and Kenyan citizens are among 3,000 foreigners trapped in a South Sudan city experiencing bouts of heavy machine gun fire, one of the most violent areas of a weeklong conflict that has likely killed more than 1,000 people, a top U.N. official said Monday.

Australians, Ugandans and Ethiopians are also among 17,000 people seeking protection at a U.N. base in Bor, a city that could see increased violence in coming days, said Toby Lanzer, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator.

The death toll from a week of violence in South Sudan has likely surpassed 1,000 people, though there are no firm numbers available, he said. The number of internal refugees is probably more than 100,000, said Lanzer, who is seeking urgent financial assistance from the U.S., Britain and other European countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council late Monday to add 5,500 troops and police to the 7,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, citing growing violence in many parts of the country, human rights abuses, “and killings fueled by ethnic tensions.”

By wire sources