• Slim chances of Iran nuke deal by November

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    PARIS: A deal on Iran’s contested nuclear program before a November 24 deadline is highly unlikely, a Western diplomat close to negotiations said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).

    “There are four-and-a-half weeks left to conclude a definitive pact. We are hoping for that but the chances are very slim,” the diplomat said.

    “The ball is in Iran’s court” and Tehran would have to make “significant gestures,” the diplomat added.

    The six powers in the talks with Iran—Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany, known as the P5+1—have set November 24 as the deadline for a comprehensive deal.

    The aim is to close avenues towards Tehran ever developing an atomic bomb, by cutting back its enrichment program, shutting down suspect facilities and imposing tough international inspections.

    In return, the global community would suspend and then gradually lift crippling economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic.

    But the two sides, despite long-running talks, remain far apart on how to reconcile their objectives.

    The diplomat said the divisions between two sides remained great.

    US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has spoken of “a forest of distrust” between the West and Iran.

    But in months of discussions since an interim agreement struck last November took effect in January, some progress has been made.

    This includes possible changes in the design of an unfinished reactor at Arak so that it produces less weapons-grade plutonium, enhanced United Nations inspections, and alterations to Iran’s fortified Fordo facility. AFP>>>

    Lebanese army takes control of Tripoli sector

    TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese soldiers were in control on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) of a Tripoli neighborhood once a base for Islamist militants after three days of fierce fighting that killed at least 16 and forced thousands to flee.

    The fighting was the deadliest bout of Syria-related violence in Lebanon’s second city since the 2011 outbreak of the civil war in Syria, leaving 11 soldiers and five civilians dead between Friday and Sunday (Saturday and Monday).

    It was also the first to pit Islamists against the army in Tripoli.

    The fighting caused major damage to the impoverished Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh, which Islamists accused of ties to Al-Qaeda had used as their stronghold.

    On Monday morning, the army was in full control of the Islamist bastion as troops moved in without facing any resistance, a military spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

    AFP

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