Iran stiffens in envoy flap

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TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran rejected naming a new diplomat Saturday to represent it at the United Nations after the United States refused to grant its pick a visa.

The standoff over Hamid Aboutalebi, a member of the group responsible for the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, comes as world powers negotiate with Iran over its contested nuclear program. It also threatens to stir fresh animosity between countries that recently have seen their relations thaw.

The Obama administration said Friday that the U.S. had informed Iran it would not grant a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi, suggesting that behind-the-scenes discussions to get them to withdraw him from consideration failed. On Saturday, Iranian state television anchors discussed the U.S. reject, with a crawl at the bottom of the screen reading: "The Foreign Ministry says Aboutalebi is Iran's only choice as its U.N. envoy."

French official huddles

HAVANA -- The French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in 30 years Saturday at a time when the communist-led Caribbean nation is seeking to draw more foreign investment and improve ties with the European Union.

The minister, Laurent Fabius, quickly met with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, after arriving in the island nation.

The European Union suspended cooperation with Cuba in 2003 when the government jailed 75 dissidents. Dialogue was restored five years later, though it was conditioned on improvements in the human rights situation. In February, the EU's foreign ministers approved talks to negotiate a broad new political agreement with Cuba.

Plane pessimism grows

PERTH, Australia -- A day after expressing optimism about the hunt for the missing Malaysian jet, Australia's leader warned Saturday that the massive search would likely continue "for a long time."

"No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in Beijing, on the last day of his China trip.

Mr. Abbott appeared to couch his comments from a day earlier, when he met in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping to brief him on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which was carrying 239 people -- most of them Chinese -- when it disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Stranded plane revealed

BEIJING -- A Cathay Pacific flight from New York City to Hong Kong was stranded for more than 16 hours in a Chinese city with all 256 passengers kept on board for the entire time late last month because of immigration regulations, bad weather and limits on the crew's work hours.

The airlines said Saturday that Flight 831 was diverted to the southern city of Zhuhai on the night of March 30 because of a hail storm. The plane was left sitting on the tarmac for hours until Cathay Pacific sent in a new flight crew, with the first crew having reached work-hour limits.

Oil pipe leak taints water

BEIJING -- An oil pipe leak caused excessive levels of the toxic chemical benzene in a major Chinese city's water supply, prompting warnings against drinking from the tap and sending residents to queue up to buy bottled water.

The scare, which has affected more than 2.4 million people in the northwestern city of Lanzhou, has once again raised concerns over safety of China's oil pipes.



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