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Iran opens new talks with UN nuclear watchdog

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The UN nuclear watchdog was holding fresh talks with Iran Friday in Vienna, where it was expected to push for access to a suspected testing site near Tehran.

The agency’s chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and deputy director general Rafael Grossi were meeting Iran’s envoy to the agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, to try to get greater access to Tehran’s contested nuclear programme.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency is especially interested in the Parchin military base near the Iranian capital, where it believes suspicious explosives testing was carried out before 2003 and possibly after that.

Western powers and Israel suspect Iran of trying to develop a bomb behind the veil of its civilian nuclear programme, a charge denied by Tehran, which says it is developing civilian atomic power.

The agency says it was denied access to the Parchin site during two visits to Iran in January and February.

In a report last month, the IAEA said new satellite imagery indicated “extensive activities” at the base, where it said for years there had been virtually none.

This included the razing of two small buildings and what looked like a water run-off, suggesting a clean-up, experts said.

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On May 21, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano visited Iran after talks in Vienna.

Afterwards, he noted that the two sides were close to a deal that would allow agency inspectors greater access to sites, people and documents tied to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Earlier this week however, he hinted that a deal might still be some way off.

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“If we do not have access to the Parchin site or other people, information and sites, then… we cannot give assurance that all the activities in Iran have peaceful purposes,” he added.

Soltanieh refused to comment on the talks Friday, when he arrived for the meeting at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, though two days earlier he expressed optimism that a deal would be concluded.

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During talks in Beijing Friday, urged his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cooperate with the IAEA, state Xinhua news agency reported.

Hu also called on Iran to be “flexible and pragmatic” ahead of talks with the so-called P5+1 world powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — in Moscow on June 18-19.

Talks between the P5+1 and Iran were revived in Istanbul in April and they met again in Baghdad in May, although little was achieved.

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A key source of dispute has been Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20-percent purity, bringing Tehran consistently closer to producing the 90-percent enriched uranium required to make a bomb, according to Western powers.

On Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin insisted Moscow supported Tehran’s atomic programme as long as it was “peaceful.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile called on Iran to be ready to take “concrete steps” on its disputed programme ahead of the Moscow talks.

Barring progress there, an EU oil embargo against Iran will come into force on July 1, adding to a range of sanctions imposed under UN resolutions.

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Iranian officials have repeatedly said in recent months that making, owning and using atomic weapons is “haram” (forbidden) under Islam.

Iran’s regime also insisted Thursday that Western powers must recognise Tehran’s “right” to uranium enrichment if talks in Moscow are to advance.

It says the the country needs the process to produce medical isotopes.


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Kayleigh McEnany says she has no ‘data’ on whether Tulsa rally increased COVID — but city official says it likely did

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At Wednesday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was confronted with the fact that President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma led to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Her reply was to plead ignorance: "I have no data to indicate that."

However, according to a health official in Tulsa, the pattern of cases indicates it is "likely" that it did just that.

"President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests 'likely contributed' to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday," reported Sean Murphy for the Associated Press. "Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday."

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New Hampshire Republican officials aren’t interested in attending Trump’s upcoming rally

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President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was supposed to be massive, but one of the main problems that came up for the team is that thousands and thousands of people signed up for tickets, who never attended. This time, they think they've figured it out, said the New York Times.

"Campaign officials believe they will be able to prevent the kind of ticket prank that helped turn Mr. Trump's rally last month," the report said, noting that the crowd was a "far smaller event than expected — but they still can't say for sure."

"Registering for a rally means you've RSVPed with a cellphone number, and we constantly weed out bogus numbers," campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh said. "These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking. What makes this lame attempt at hacking our events even more foolish is the fact that every rally is general admission — entry is on a first-come-first-served basis, and prior registration is not required."

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Native Americans, Polynesians shared DNA 800 years ago

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Native Americans and Polynesians bridged vast expanses of open ocean around the year 1200 and mingled, leaving incontrovertible proof of their encounter in the DNA of present-day populations, scientists revealed Wednesday.

Whether peoples from what is today Colombia or Ecuador drifted thousands of kilometres to tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific, or whether seafaring Polynesians sailed upwind to South America and then back again is still unknown.

But what is certain, according to a study in Nature, is that the hook up took place hundreds of years before Europeans set foot in either region, and left individuals scattered across French Polynesia with signature traces of the New World in their DNA.

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