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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards worried nuclear talks will damage country’s pride

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Iran and six powers held nuclear talks for a second day Wednesday as the commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guards warned against damaging “national pride” but predicted a “victorious” outcome.

Speaking in Iran, Revolutionary Guards commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned against crossing “red lines” that would damage the country’s pride.

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He has previously indicated his opposition to any dismantling of nuclear facilities, even though the chief US negotiator, Wendy Shermann, said Iran “does not need” the Fordo site or a new heavy-water reactor at Arak.

Jafari said that Iran “will be victorious either way” in the talks.

Michael Mann, spokesman for the powers’ lead negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said the talks in Vienna were “substantive” and “useful”.

He declined to comment, however, on the substance of the meetings between Iran with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, nor on whether they would continue on Thursday as scheduled, nor on a date for the next round.

Ashton is due to chair a meeting in Brussels on Thursday afternoon of EU foreign ministers on the situation on Ukraine. It was unclear if this meant the Iran talks must finish by then.

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The parties in Vienna hope to create a lasting accord out of the landmark interim deal struck in November, under which Iran agreed to freeze certain nuclear activities for six months.

In exchange, the Western governments offered minor relief from a range of punishing sanctions that have cost Iran up to $8 billion per month in lost oil revenues, as well as a promise of no new sanctions.

The six-month deal expires on July 20 but can be extended, with the parties aiming to conclude negotiations and implement the final “comprehensive” deal by November.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said late Tuesday that the talks had “started on the right track”.

“We have a shared objective, and that is for Iran to have a nuclear programme that is exclusively peaceful,” he said from Vienna in a webcast discussion with Denver University’s Center for Middle East Studies.

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He said a deal was “totally achievable” but would take more than “one or two sittings” and would require “some innovation and some forward thinking”.

Others have been considerably more circumspect about the prospects for a deal that satisfies hardliners on both sides, as well as other countries such as Israel, after a decade of failed initiatives and rising tensions.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that this effort would “go nowhere” but that he was not against trying.

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The aim of the final deal would be for Iran to retain its civilian nuclear programme, but likely on a reduced scale and with enhanced oversight in order to ensure a dash for nuclear weapons is all but impossible.

In exchange for a full lifting of sanctions, the powers want Iran’s nuclear programme to be within what the Geneva deal called “mutually agreed parameters consistent with (Iran’s) practical needs” and for a “long-term duration”.

Iran has long been suspected of seeking atomic weapons, despite its denials, and the US and Israel — the latter assumed to have a large atomic arsenal itself — have never ruled out military action.

Further upping the ante between the two foes, Iran’s foreign ministry on Wednesday blamed a double suicide car bombing near an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut that killed four people on Israeli “agents”.

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Former Republican Congressman admits he ‘can’t explain’ Ted Cruz: ‘You’d think he’d have more self-respect’

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday to perpetuate the false narrative that Ukraine hacked the 2016 election, a fact that has been disproven by all of the U.S. intelligence agencies. When asked to explain what Cruz could possibly have been thinking, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) confessed he has no idea how to explain Cruz.

"So, Charlie, what's going on here?" asked CNN host Fredricka Whitfield.

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Trump busted for acting like the Saudi’s ‘press secretary’ after Florida naval yard shooting

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Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot blasted President Donald Trump for essentially becoming a "press secretary" for the Saudi Arabian government in wake of the Pensacola, Florida mass shooting.

In his column Sunday, Boot noted that the typical mass shooting sentiments like "thoughts and prayers" were absent Friday when Trump discovered that the shooting was done by a Muslim.

"It turns out that Trump actually has a triple standard, because he treats attacks by Saudis differently than those from other Muslim nations," Boot observed. "On Friday, a Saudi air force officer studying at the Naval Air Station Pensacola shot dead three Americans and wounded eight others. Instead of expressing outrage or vowing vengeance, or even waiting for all the facts to come in, Trump sounded as if he were auditioning for the job of press secretary at the Saudi Embassy."

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McConnell blocked by his own party from calling impeachment witnesses Trump wants for Senate trial: report

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According to a report from the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is finding his hands tied by members of his own party who are skeptical over the appropriateness of calling some of the witnesses Donald Trump  -- and a few of his House Republican enablers  -- want to appear.

As the Times notes, "While Democrats who control the House are focused on a swift impeachment vote by year’s end, the White House is almost entirely consumed by the trial that would follow in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Mr. Trump’s team believes he would have the chance to defend himself and where Democrats would almost certainly fall short of the two-thirds vote they would need to remove him from office."

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