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Kerry to Netanyahu: Give US ‘benefit of the doubt’ on Iran nuclear talks

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday tried to calm tensions with Israel before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s congressional address, yet insisted the Obama administration’s diplomatic record with Iran entitles the U.S. to “the benefit of the doubt” as negotiators work toward a long-term nuclear deal.

Kerry said in an interview broadcast before he left for more talks in Switzerland with Iran’s foreign minister that Netanyahu was welcome to speak in the U.S. and that the administration did not want the event “turned into some great political football.”

That sentiment was a step back from some of the sharp rhetoric between the allies in recent weeks, and Kerry mentioned that he talked to Netanyahu as recently as Saturday.

But Kerry stressed that Israel was safer as a result of the short-term nuclear pact that world powers and Iran reached in late 2013, and he described that improvement as the “standard we will apply to any agreement” with the Islamic Republic.

Officials have described the United States, Europe, Russia and China as considering a compromise that would see Iran’s nuclear activities severely curtailed for at least a decade, with the restrictions and U.S. and Western economic penalties eased in the final years of a deal.

“We are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created, so you don’t have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week.”

“Our hope is that diplomacy can work. And I believe, given our success of the interim agreement, we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future.”

Netanyahu, set to arrive in Washington later Sunday, will press his opposition to a diplomatic accommodation of Iran’s program in a speech Tuesday to Congress. The prime minister says he is making the address out of concern of Israel’s security.

The Republican invitation and Netanyahu’s acceptance have caused an uproar that has exposed tensions between Israel and the U.S., its most important ally.

By consenting to speak, Netanyahu angered the White House, which was not consulted with in advance, and Democrats, who were forced to choose between showing support for Israel and backing the president.

“I will do everything in my ability to secure our future,” Netanyahu said before flying to Washington. He described himself as “an emissary” of the Jewish people.

The congressional speech also has sparked criticism in Israel, where Netanyahu is seeking re-election on March 17. He also planned to speak Monday at the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Netanyahu considers unacceptable any deal that does not entirely end Iran’s nuclear program. But President Barack Obama is willing to leave some nuclear activity intact, backed by safeguards that Iran is not trying to develop a weapon. Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful energy and medical research purposes.

The dispute has become more personal of late.

Last week, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, described the timing and partisan manner of Netanyahu’s visit as “destructive” for the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

On Sunday, Kerry painted a more positive picture of continued close cooperation. He said the U.S.-Israeli security partnership was closer than at any point before, and noted the large investment of American money in the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

He said the U.S. government has “intervened on Israel’s behalf in the last two years a couple of hundred of times” in more than 75 forums “in order to protect Israel.”

The post Kerry to Netanyahu: Give US ‘benefit of the doubt’ on Iran nuclear talks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

‘I am not afraid': Mass rally held in Moscow to remember Nemtsov

People hold flags and posters during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday
         night, near St. Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow March 1, 2015. Holding placards declaring "I am not afraid",
         thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday in memory of Nemtsov, whose murder has widened a split in society that some
         say could threaten Russia's future.     REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES
         OF THE DAY) - RTR4RMPB

People hold flags and posters during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov near St. Basil’s Cathedral in central Moscow on March 1. Credit: REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Tens of thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday in memory of Boris Nemtsov, the opposition politician who was gunned down near the Kremlin shortly before midnight on Friday.

Supporters chanting “Russia without Putin” held portraits of the slain Kremlin critic and carried signs saying “I am not afraid,” Reuters reported.

“This is being seen as a pivotal moment for Russian politics,” New York Times Moscow correspondent Andrew Kramer told PBS NewsHour on Saturday. “Some are saying this suggests a return of fear to Russian politics, even of terror. This is really a new horizon for what’s happening here.”

A couple embraces during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night, in Moscow
         March 1, 2015. Holding placards declaring "I am not afraid", thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday in
         memory of Nemtsov, whose murder has widened a split in society that some say could threaten Russia's future.  REUTERS/Maxim
         Shemetov (RUSSIA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR4RN6T

A couple embraces during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night, in Moscow March 1, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Nemtsov, 55, was killed a few hours after giving a radio interview in which he criticized Russian intervention in Ukraine as a “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war,” according to the Associated Press. He was shot four times in the back and head.

“We’ve had dissidents arrested before. We’ve had them go into exile, and we’ve had journalists and human rights workers, obviously, die under mysterious circumstances,” Kramer said. “But this was a senior member of the Russian government in the 1990s, and he was shot very theatrically right in front of the Kremlin.”

A woman holds a poster reading "No words" during a march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov
         in central Moscow on March 1, 2015. The 55-year-old former first deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin was shot in the
         back several times just before midnight on February 27 as he walked across a bridge a stone's throw from the Kremlin walls.
         AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV        (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman holds a poster reading “No words” during a march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow on March 1. Credit: Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images

Russian officials have proposed a number of possibilities for who might be behind Nemtsov’s assassination, including Islamic extremists or members of his own opposition movement. Nemtsov’s supporters counter that Russian authorities were responsible.

“The authorities are corrupt and don’t allow any threats to them to emerge. Boris was uncomfortable for them,” opposition leader Gennady Gudkov told Reuters.

Leaders in the United States, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have condemned Nemtsov’s killing and have called for an impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his murder.

In a statement released Friday, Obama praised Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”

“Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled,” he said.

Speaking on the ABC program “This Week” on Sunday, Kerry called for a “thorough, transparent” investigation into Nemtsov’s assassination.

“The bottom line is we hope there will be a thorough, transparent, real investigation, not just of who actually fired the shots but who if anyone may have ordered or instructed or been behind this,” he said.

The post ‘I am not afraid': Mass rally held in Moscow to remember Nemtsov appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Stolen Picasso painting recovered by New Jersey officials

A stolen painting by the artist Pablo Picasso was recovered in New Jersey and authorities are now taking steps to return the work to its rightful owner, the French government.

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In a Brooklyn court on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil action to forfeit Picasso’s “La Coiffeuse” (The Hairdresser) that had been smuggled into the U.S. from Belgium on Dec. 17 of last year.

“A lost treasure has been found,” U.S. Attorney Lynch said in a press release. “Because of the blatant smuggling in this case, this painting is now subject to forfeiture to the United States. Forfeiture of the painting will extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner.”

The 104-year-old oil painting done in the cubist style was reported stolen from a museum storeroom in Paris in 2001, according to a Justice Department press release. At the time, it was worth about $2.5 million, Reuters reported.

Authorities alleged the person who sent the package falsely completed the customs declaration, labeling the item a holiday “art craft” worth 30 euros ($37) and including a cheeky message: “Joyeux Noel” (Merry Christmas).

Upon its arrival in the United States, the shipment was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the painting was subsequently seized by Homeland Security Investigations.

The filing of the civil complaint is the first step in an effort to return the work to the French government.

In the south of France on Feb. 10, Picasso’s former electrician and his wife went on trial to face charges of possessing 271 stolen drawings and paintings by the late Spanish artist.

The post Stolen Picasso painting recovered by New Jersey officials appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

What does the death of Russian opposition leader Nemtsov mean for the West?

Photos, flowers and candles are left in memory of Boris Nemtsov, who was recently murdered in Moscow,
         in Independence Square in Kiev

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: For more now on the shooting death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov — reporter Andrew Kramer has been following the story for The New York Times. He joins us via Skype from Moscow.

So, for our American audience, who was he?

ANDREW KRAMER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He was a very influential politician in the 1990s, very dashing, handsome, up-and-comer under President Boris Yeltsin.

He embodied the hopes for democratic reform in post-Soviet period in Russia.

He was the governor of a region, Nizhny Novgorod region, and then moved into national politics.

Under President Putin, he was in the opposition, and he was part of a very small and beleaguered community of opponents of Mr. Putin, sometimes standing on the street holding signs, just with a few people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And put in perspective for us, if you can, how he rose to prominence as a dissident. He got condolences from world leaders after he was killed last night.

ANDREW KRAMER: That’s right. He was a very high-placed politician under President Yeltsin in the 1990s, and many of his colleagues from that time went into business or dropped out of public view but he, in contrast, dived into opposition politics and he was arrested a number of times.

Amnesty International had counted him a prisoner of conscience. He was very high profile. Often traveled to Europe and met with world leaders.

So, it’s not a surprise that when this happened, there was quite a bit of support and outpouring of condolences for his family, from world leaders, including President Obama.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the question for the investigation now is who is behind the murder, right? I mean, this was– it says it looks like a contract hit. But who has motives to kill him?

ANDREW KRAMER: The police have put out a number of theories today. Some of them are not considered very plausible.

They had said that maybe Islamic militants were involved, or that the opposition had itself organized his murder as a way to create a martyr and invigorate their cause.

Mr. Nemtsov’s own colleagues have pointed the finger at the Kremlin and at the security services here in Russia.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what does this do to any of the opposition? Is there an opportunity for them to band together?

ANDREW KRAMER: There’s a potential for that happening. The opposition has been very fractured and marginalized.

Now, they’ve agreed to unite for a memorial march tomorrow in Moscow. We’ll see going forward how significant this event is. But many people here think that it’s pivotal.

This is a galvanizing and searing experience for the opposition. And now, there is a rallying cry to continue to support the causes that he had lived for.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how closely will the West be watching what happens next?

ANDREW KRAMER: Very closely. This is being seen as a pivotal moment for Russian politics.

Some are saying this suggests a return of fear to Russian politics, even of terror. This is really a new horizon for what’s happening here.

We’ve had dissidents arrested before. We’ve had them go into exile, and we’ve had journalists and human rights workers, obviously, die under mysterious circumstances.

But this was a senior member of the Russian government in the 1990s, and he was shot very theatrically right in front of the Kremlin.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Andrew Kramer of The New York Times, joining us via Skype from Moscow — thanks so much.

ANDREW KRAMER: Thank you.

The post What does the death of Russian opposition leader Nemtsov mean for the West? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

BBC News

Mass rally for Nemtsov in Moscow

Tens of thousands of people march in Moscow to honour Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday.

Nigerian mob kills bomb suspect

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MH370 teams trial long-haul tracking

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'Hundreds' of S Sudan boys seized

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