World briefs: Iran's top leader denounces U.S.

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TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader harshly denounced the United States on Thursday as negotiations to conclude an interim agreement in the Iranian nuclear dispute resumed, saying those talks illustrated what he called the hostility of Americans toward Iran and the Muslim world.

The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported by Iran's official media, covered a range of grievances he has harbored against the United States, including what he described as U.S. hypocrisy on human rights issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Guantanamo Bay prison, which President Barack Obama had promised to close.

Ayatollah Khamenei also reiterated his contention that the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program had no relevance to the progress that has been made in the negotiations with the big world powers in recent months under Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.

Sharon's health worsens

JERUSALEM -- Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health deteriorated sharply Thursday and he was in "grave condition" with his family by his bedside, the hospital treating him announced.

Mr. Sharon, who has been in a coma since suffering a stroke eight years ago, experienced a setback last week with a decline in his kidneys and other key bodily organs.

Indian diplomat indicted

NEW Y ORK -- Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat accused of visa fraud for underpaying her Indian baby sitter, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury on two felony counts that carry a maximum prison term of 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Ms. Khobragade is charged with visa fraud for allegedly making "multiple false representations" and also accused of filing false information to U.S. authorities to obtain a visa for the caretaker.

Ms. Khobragade was first charged Dec. 12. Her case triggered a falling out in U.S.-Indian relations when news circulated that she was strip-searched while being held with other female suspects.

Film director fined

HONG KONG -- China's most internationally known film director, Zhang Yimou, and his wife, Chen Ting, are likely to be $1.24 million poorer after a government office in Wuxi on Thursday ordered the couple to pay a fine for violating family planning limits by having three children.

In November, the Communist Party leadership endorsed proposals to relax family size restrictions slightly, so that more urban couples can have two children. (The changes would not affect this case.)

Family reunions blocked

SEOUL -- North Korea on Thursday rejected a South Korean proposal to resume reunions for elderly family members divided since the Korean War, a humanitarian program that has been on hold for more than three years.

The North's decision adds to the challenges facing South Korean President Park Geun-hye as she attempts to promote even modest cooperation between the two Koreas. On Monday, Ms. Park had proposed holding a new round of reunions, saying that long-lost relatives needed to find "healing for their pain."

Also on Thursday, Dennis Rodman apologized in an interview on CNN for comments he made in North Korea about Kenneth Bae, a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized a game with former NBA players.

Mr. Rodman implied Mr. Bae was at fault.


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