World News Brief, Friday February 8

Iran's Ayatollah rejected nuclear talks with US; Russian jets breach Japanese airspace; Chinese crackdown on self-immolations in ethnic Tibetan regions; Mercosur and Canada work towards free trade agreement; and more

Top of the Agenda: Iran's Ayatollah Rejects Nuclear Talks

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, rejected on Thursday an offer of direct talks (Reuters) made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden this week, saying they would not resolve issues between the two countries. Biden, speaking at a security conference in Munich, said the United States was prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. Khamenei's statement could also affect the negotiations in Kazakhstan (AP) later this month between Iran and a six-nation group composed of the permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany.


"President Obama needs to realign U.S. relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as thoroughly as President Nixon realigned relations with the People's Republic of China in the early 1970s. Simply 'talking' to Iran will not accomplish this," write Flynt and Hillary Leverett for Reuters.

"The Iranian leadership's real worry is not American planes but Iranian protesters. Their deepest anxieties revolve around a Persian version of Tahrir Square, a replay of the 2009 Green uprising that wasn't ended by the regime's violent repression. Strange as it may sound, the Islamic Republic is a lot more frightened of the imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh than it is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," writes Alireza Nader for the New York Times.

"[America's] economic and military realities argue intensely against attacking the Islamic republic and for muddling through by, perhaps, further tightening sanctions that have cut deeply into Tehran's economy," writes Steven Hurst for the Associated Press.



Russian Jets Breach Japanese Airspace

Two Russian fighter jets flew into Japanese airspace (KyodoNews) off Hokkaido on Thursday, prompting the government to lodge a protest against Russia over the incident. The incident comes just after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made conciliatory remarks (AFP) about signing a peace treaty with Moscow.

CHINA: Chinese authorities detained seventy people in a crackdown (Reuters) on self-immolations in ethnic Tibetan regions, the largest single reported sweep of suspects to date.


Mercosur and Canada work towards free trade agreement

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