World briefs: Iranian officials hint at nuke talks
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TEHRAN -- A sober analysis assessing the possible threat of a military confrontation over Iran's nuclear program and highlighting the benefits of negotiations to avert a deeper crisis has been published by a surprising source: Iran's Ministry of Intelligence.
The report first appeared on the ministry's website Tuesday and has been republished by various Iranian media outlets, adding to growing speculation that new negotiations with the international bloc known as the P5+1, or even direct talks with the United States, may be on the horizon.
The Intelligence Ministry is viewed as a hawkish power center within Iran's system but not a channel for expressing the Islamic republic's foreign policy views. The findings in the report suggest that the ministry has a pragmatic understanding of the challenges the country faces, the cost it is paying for continuing uranium enrichment at current levels, the threat of Israeli aggression and, perhaps most important, a way out of the stalemate.
SAN MARCOS, Guatemala -- A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people as it ravaged a small state near the Mexican border, the country's president said.
The mountain village of San Marcos, 80 miles from the epicenter, suffered much of the damage with about 30 homes collapsing in its center. Hundreds of frightened villagers were on the streets, one of which was cracked open by the temblor, the strongest to hit Guatemala since a deadly 1976 quake that killed 23,000.
PARIS -- The French cabinet approved a draft bill legalizing same-sex marriage Wednesday after weeks of loud opposition, especially from religious figures and the political right.
During his successful campaign for president, Francois Hollande promised to legalize same-sex marriage. Mr. Hollande and his Socialist Party have a majority in both houses of Parliament, and the bill is expected to pass sometime early next year.
The draft law redefines marriage to stipulate that it is "contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex," and the words "father and mother" in existing legislation are replaced by "parents." The bill would also allow married gay couples to adopt children.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian authorities brought criminal charges against a former defense minister and two current Defense Ministry officials Wednesday, in what some lawmakers feared presaged a wave of reprisals against members of President Mikhail Saakashvili's defeated government.
Mr. Saakashvili's party lost parliamentary elections last month in the country's first post-Soviet constitutional transfer of power, and party members are surrendering control after eight years in office. The new prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said he would make it a priority to investigate officials in the departing government. Such investigations have followed previous defeats of sitting leaders.
PRAGUE -- Czech Premier Petr Necas on Wednesday won a confidence vote tied to an unpopular tax increase after suppressing a revolt among his lawmakers that weakened the government as it pursues budget cuts.
The lower house approved a bill containing 22 billion koruna ($1.1 billion) of measures to reduce the budget deficit to less than the European Union limit next year.
With the country facing the prospects of the longest recession on record, Mr. Necas is trying to avoid the fate of European leaders who were ousted as they pushed austerity measures that stunted economies from Romania to Spain. The premier, who credits previous cuts with helping to reduce borrowing costs, is likely to meet more difficulties as a defection of one rebelling lawmaker pushed the government into a minority.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published November 8, 2012 12:00 am