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In brief | Nation & World, November 21, 2013

Iran nuclear talks resume with leader warning of ‘red lines’

GENEVA — A new round of Iran nuclear talks began in fits and starts Wednesday, with the two sides ending a first session just minutes after it began amid warnings from Iran’s supreme leader of “red lines” beyond which his country will not compromise.

Still, both sides indicated a first-step agreement was possible on a deal to roll back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, despite strong opposition from Israel and unease in both Congress and among Iranian hard-liners.

President Barack Obama appears determined to reach such an agreement, which could be a major step toward reconciliation between the United States and a former ally that turned adversary after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

But America’s longtime allies Israel and Saudi Arabia fear a deal will fall short of ending the Iranian threat and that a resurgent Iran will transform the balance of power in the Middle East.

A senior U.S. official said Wednesday’s brief plenary was only a formality and that bilateral meetings would continue through the evening to try to hammer out the first steps of a deal. She demanded anonymity under U.S. government briefing rules.

Fears about Iran forge ‘strange alliance’ between Israel and Gulf nations

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made another stop in the Middle East this month, he received an expected earful over Washington’s outreach to Iran: Don’t trust Tehran, tighten sanctions even more, anything short of complete nuclear concessions is a grave mistake.

Kerry’s meeting wasn’t in Israel, though. It was in Riyadh, listening to Saudi leaders.

In one of the region’s oddest pairings, Israel and the Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia increasingly are finding common ground — and a common political language — on their mutual dismay over Iran’s history-making overtures to Washington and the prospect of a nuclear deal in Geneva that could curb Tehran’s atomic program but leave the main elements intact, such as uranium enrichment.

“The adage about ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is playing out over Iran,” said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “This situation opens up some interesting possibilities as it all shakes out.”

There seems little chance of major diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and the Gulf’s array of ruling monarchs and sheiks. But their shared worries over Iran’s influence and ambitions already has brought back-channel contacts and “intimate relationships” on defense and other strategic interests through forums such as the U.N., said Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the world body.

Governor signs measure making Illinois 16th state to allow gay marriage

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday allowing same-sex weddings starting this summer, making President Barack Obama’s home state the 16th overall — and largest in the nation’s heartland — to legalize gay marriage.

Speaking in front of thousands at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Quinn said the new law ensured that “Illinois does not have a situation where individuals are discriminated against in any way when it comes to love and marriage.”

Illinois, where Democrats lead both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, legalized civil unions in 2011, but the road to same-sex marriage was bumpy.

When 2013 began advocates hoped Illinois would’ve been the 10th state, but watched as other states passed it. Gay marriage is allowed in Washington D.C., and 15 other states; Hawaii’s governor signed a measure last week.

Even with support from top business leaders, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the state attorney general and even a few top Republicans, several lawmakers were resistant to the idea. That included even Democrats in more conservative downstate Illinois and some Chicago-area lawmakers.

By wire sources

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