Shell suspends drilling plans in Arctic waters
WASHINGTON — Shell is dropping plans to drill in the Arctic waters off Alaska this year after a 2012 drilling season marred by equipment failures and ongoing investigations by the U.S. Coast Guard, Interior Department and the Department of Justice.
Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum said the company was suspending its plans to drill in the region this year but would be back “at a later stage.”
Shell’s announcement came as the Justice Department investigates 16 safety and environmental violations the Coast Guard found in late November on the Noble Discoverer, one of the company’s two Arctic drilling rigs. The other rig, the Kulluk, is the subject of a Coast Guard investigation into the circumstances of its grounding Dec. 31 off Alaska’s Kodiak Island.
Iran agrees to further nuclear program talks
WASHINGTON — Six world powers won Iran’s promise for further negotiations over its disputed nuclear program after easing their demands for curbs on an effort they fear is aimed at giving Tehran the ability to make a bomb.
After the final sessions of two-day talks in Almaty, the Kazakh capital, Iran agreed to a lower-level meeting next month in Istanbul and another high-level meeting in early April back in Kazakhstan. Saeed Jalili, the usually harsh top Iranian negotiator, praised the six powers for what he described as movement toward the Iranian position.
The new offer from so-called Five Plus One world powers — the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — contained some shifts that may unsettle Israelis and American conservatives.
US seeks to accelerate fall of Syrian regime
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that the United States and allies are jointly planning new ways to accelerate the fall of the Syrian regime amid signs that Washington may begin directly providing nonlethal aid to opposition fighters.
Speaking in Paris one day before a gathering of Syrian opposition officials and world leaders in Rome, Kerry said U.S. officials and allies are discussing ways to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad “that he can’t shoot his way out of this. … We are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve.”
As many as 70,000 people have died in the war between forces loyal to Assad and opposition fighters, according to the United Nations.
Administration officials, who have been under growing political pressure to expand the U.S. role, said they are weighing whether to begin directly supplying equipment such as armored vests and armored vehicles, which are nonlethal but valuable on the front lines. They remain opposed to providing arms, despite pleas from the rebels and many top U.S. officials.
By wire sources