World briefs: Settlers cited for impasse

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WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Israel's announcement of 700 new apartments for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem precipitated the bitter impasse in peace negotiations last week between Israel and the Palestinians.

While Mr. Kerry said both sides bore responsibility for "unhelpful" actions, he noted that the publication of tenders for housing units came four days after a deadline passed for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and complicated Israel's own deliberations over whether to extend the talks.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry said the Israelis and Palestinians were still talking, with the U.S. acting as a broker, and that if the two sides could get past the dispute over the prisoner release, they could return to substantive negotiations for a peace accord.

U.S.: Nominee 'not viable'

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has told Iran that its nominee for ambassador to the United Nations is "not viable," but the White House did not outline steps it might take to derail the potential appointment.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said President Barack Obama has serious concerns about Tehran's choice of Hamid Aboutalebi, who has acknowledged that he was a member of the student group that led the 1979 armed takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Mr. Carney did not say if what he described as "diplomatic jargon" meant the State Department would refuse to grant a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi. His visa application to enter the United States as a diplomat has been stalled for months.

Hunger strike in Cuba

WASHINGTON -- Alan Gross, a former contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who has been imprisoned in Cuba for four years, said Tuesday that he has begun a hunger strike to help him win his freedom.

Mr. Gross, 64, who was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009 and accused of being a U.S. spy, has denied working for any intelligence agency. He is calling on Cuba to release him and is demanding that President Barack Obama get involved in his case.

Plane's signals undetected

SYDNEY -- Ships combing the Indian Ocean for a missing Malaysian Air jet failed to detect new pings that might point the way to the jet's flight recorders, as investigators narrowed the search area by almost two-thirds.

Australia's Ocean Shield heard no more sounds after picking up signals this weekend, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said Tuesday. Detecting pulses consistent with transmissions from the black boxes is essential before sending an unmanned submarine to scour the seabed.

Investigators are racing against time to pick up the pings again because beacons on the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders are nearing the end of their batteries' 30-day lifespan since Flight 370's March 8 disappearance.

Bomb on train kills 16

QUETTA, Pakistan -- A bomb ripped through a railway car parked at a station in southwestern Pakistan, killing 16 people and sending flames and smoke billowing into the air, officials said.

The explosion in the town of Sibi in Baluchistan province also wounded 35 people, the district police chief said.

A little-known separatist group claimed responsibility for the bombing. Baluchistan has been plagued by violence from various factions for years and Pakistani troops have been battling both Baluch separatists as well as sectarian groups in the area.


-- Compiled from news services

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