TEHRAN -- Iran appears to be locked in a fierce internal debate over whether to hold bilateral nuclear talks with the United States, with key political leaders calling for dialogue with Washington and hard-liners pressing ahead with expansion of the country's nuclear facilities.
The Obama administration, girding itself for what could be the first major foreign policy test of its second term, has dangled an offer of bilateral talks in hopes of breaking through the nuclear impasse with Iran and easing the threat of a new Middle East war.
Iran has shown no hint that it plans to accept the offer, U.S. and European diplomats say.
Instead, intelligence analysts are detecting signs of continued progress at Iran's uranium-enrichment plants and no significant softening on the part of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who will ultimately decide the country's nuclear course, according to the diplomats.
JERUSALEM -- The West Bank tomb of Yasser Arafat has been cordoned off and screened from public view ahead of an expected exhumation, a Palestinian Authority official said Tuesday, four months after a television investigation raised new suspicions that the Palestinian leader had been poisoned.
The preparations for the exhumation have been enveloped in almost as much mystery and contention as was the death of Arafat in 2004, at the age of 75 of unannounced causes.
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 21st year in a row.
The final tally Tuesday was 188-3, with Israel and Palau joining the United States. The Marshall Islands and Micronesia both abstained. Last year's tally for the symbolic measure was almost identical, 186-2, with three abstentions.
The embargo was first enacted in 1960 following Cuba's nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Sanctions against the Caribbean nation were further strengthened to a near-total embargo in 1962.
MOSCOW -- A hunter in Russia's Far East was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months of community service and fined about $18,500 for killing a Siberian tiger, a rare case in this country of punishment for poaching the endangered animal.
Khasan District Court found Alexander Belyayev guilty of killing one of the remaining 500 tigers in the Maritime and Khabarovsk territories.
GENEVA -- Christie's auctioned off the Archduke Joseph Diamond for nearly $21.5 million Tuesday night, a world auction record price per carat for a colorless diamond.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond was the first of two out-of-this world diamonds being auctioned off this week in Geneva. Sotheby's today will auction what it calls an exceptionally rare fancy deep blue briolette diamond of 10.48 carats expected to get up to $4.5 million.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond went for $21,474,525 including commission at Christie's auction. That was well above the expected $15 million and more than triple the price paid for it at auction almost two decades ago. The 76.02-carat diamond, with perfect color and internally flawless clarity, came from the ancient Golconda mines in India.