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Both the United States and Iran are denying claims of having reached an agreement in principle for direct, one-on-one nuclear talks. The New York Times reported Saturday that a deal had been struck between U.S. diplomats and top Iranian officials reporting to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran is said to have asked that the talks be delayed until after the upcoming November elections so they could know with whom they’d be sitting down. But in a statement, the White House said: “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections.” Speaking to journalists, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also denied the report.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi: “We don’t have anything like discussions or negotiations with America. Yes, we have negotiations with the P5+1 group of nations. If it is about nuclear talks, the talks are going on with the P5+1 group of nations. We have no discussions with the United States.”
The news comes as Iran grapples with a plunging currency and growing internal hardship in the face of crippling international sanctions. More broadly, Iran has proposed the establishment of a nuclear-free Middle East, but that call has gone all but ignored.
A gunman killed three people and wounded four others at a Wisconsin spa on Sunday before taking his own life. The shooter, Radcliffe Haughton, had recently been put under a restraining order and called upon to surrender his guns over a domestic violence case. All three of the dead victims were female, and one was reportedly Haughton’s estranged wife.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney square off in Boca Raton, Florida, tonight for a third and final debate focused on foreign policy. On the campaign trail in Virginia, Obama debuted a new dig at Romney, saying his opponent’s alleged wavering on political stances can be explained as a case of “Romnesia.”
President Obama: “He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will, too. I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we’ve got to — we’ve got to — we’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think — I think it’s called 'Romnesia.' That’s what it’s called.”
Unrest has broken out in Lebanon following the assassination of a top intelligence official in a car bombing. The killing of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan prompted calls of Syrian involvement, leading to protests at the end of Hassan’s funeral. On Sunday, militants traded fire in areas of southern Beirut hours after mourners tried to storm government offices.
Author and professor Noam Chomsky made his first trip to the Gaza Strip over the weekend, appearing at an academic conference. During his visit, Chomsky said he was inspired at witnessing how Palestinians survive under Israeli occupation, and later expressed solidarity with the detained Estelle passengers seeking to break the blockade.
Noam Chomsky: “[My] main impression is how inspiring it is to see people living under extreme duress but nevertheless remaining vibrant, vigorous, active, hopeful, resilient, and continuing the struggle. … I should say that every time Israel stops a boat, that’s another blow to its diminishing legitimacy and another element of support both to the those who are resisting internally and to those who are opposing the policies outside, and sooner or later the wave will sweep over the barriers.”
In other news from the Occupied Territories, Palestinians held their first vote in six years over the weekend with a round of municipal elections. The vote took place only in the West Bank as the governing Hamas movement held a boycott in Gaza following the breakdown of unity talks with rival group Fatah.
Police in Kuwait cracked down Sunday on a crowd of thousands of protesters opposing the ruling monarchy’s effort to change electoral laws. The U.S.-backed Kuwaiti regime has stoked anger after dissolving parliament and proposing voting laws that opponents have described as a constitutional coup. On Sunday, an estimated crowd of up to 50,000 gathered across the capital Kuwait City in an attempt to march on government headquarters. At least 29 people were admitted to the hospital after police surrounded marchers and used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them.
Deadly protests have broken out in Panama over the sale of state-owned land within the duty-free area of Colón. On Friday, a nine-year-old boy was killed and several others were wounded when police opened fire on demonstrators who had burnt tires and thrown projectiles. The shooting prompted further rallies over the weekend. Professor and protest organizer Carlos Baltazar said the demonstrations would continue.
Carlos Baltazar: “We will continue with this peaceful event. The front [the Frente Amplio Colonense organization] does not want violence. The front wants the law to be repealed. The law has been approved irresponsibly.”
The former South Dakota senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern has died at the age of 90. McGovern is best known for running against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election on a platform of withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam. Memorial services are scheduled to begin on Thursday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
A federal judge has blocked a new state law in Arizona barring funding for the reproductive services group Planned Parenthood. The law bans the use of public funds by state or local government to contract with any organization that provides abortions as one of its services. Planned Parenthood of Arizona won a temporary injunction on Friday, extending a freeze on the law’s implementation. Planned Parenthood has faced a crackdown in more than a dozen states, including in Texas, which last week threatened to shut down a health program for low-income women rather than allow Planned Parenthood to remain involved.