Clock ticking on Iran talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Switzerland where he is due to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Monday, in the latest crucial round of talks about Iran’s nuclear capability. The meeting was originally due to take place on Sunday, but was delayed after earlier consultations between the two sides.

Later on Monday Zarif is set to travel to Brussels to meet with British, French, German and EU ministers before returning to Switzerland.

Sec Kerry said at the weekend that he was hopeful  an interim agreement might be reached “in the next days” but had also warned that “important gaps” remain, while the aim “is not just to get any deal. It is to get the right deal.”

Any potential deal obviously has ramifications for the entire region. A senior member of the Saudi royal family warned that the outcome could prompt a nuclear arms race. “If Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told the BBC.

Meanwhile, Maysam Behravesh writes in the Tehran Times on “How Netanyahu saved the Iran nuclear talks.”

The irony of [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu’s spoiler speech lies in the fact that it is helping narrow rather than widen the gaps between the negotiating parties, by turning him into a catalyst for both the Obama administration and the Iranian leadership to reach an agreement. This does not mean, however, that a deal is at hand or can be taken for granted.

There is a nominal US congressional deadline of March 24 before possible movement on sanctions, while Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei is to give a closely-watchd New Year’s address on March 21.

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* WORLD * With Monday marking the last full day of campaigning ahead of elections in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to his supporters to “stop a left-wing government from coming to power.” The final round of opinion polls on Friday showed a narrow lead in projected seats for the center-left Zionist Union over Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Aid has begun arriving in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, where its president said a tropical cyclone over the weekend had “wiped out development.” The situation on some of the outlying islands is still unknown. More aid is expected to arrive on Monday when commercial flights are set to resume.

vanuatuNBC(image: NBC News)

The government of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is to present a package of anti- corruption measures “within days” after more than a million people took to the streets complaining about declining public service and calling for political reform, Bloomberg reports.

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* POLITICS * Sen Rand Paul used a trip to SXSW to praise Snapchat and again attack Hillary Clinton over her private emails. Talking about how candidates had to use whatever technological means was at their disposal to reach younger voters, Paul said: “You’ve got to talk to the Texas Tribune and that girl in the bathtub,” he said, referring to the YouTube star GloZell Green, who before her January interview with President Obama was best known for bathing in milk and cereal, the AP reported.

Ben Brody at Bloomberg writes about how Carly Fiorina is going after Hillary “in a way others can’t.”

Mrs Clinton herself, meanwhile, looks to be on the verge of bringing her potential campaign headquarters to New York – specifically, the MetroTech section of Brooklyn Heights. New York Magazine calls it “Mayor de Blasio’s consolation prize for losing the DNC convention to Philly.”

In British politics, meanwhile, as general election preparations gather pace, Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies has launched a new podcast, appropriately enough called “Election”.

election-590x288

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* MEDIA * At SXSWI, one of the noisemakers is streaming video app Meerkat. The Drum‘s Natan Edelsburg talks to the company’s Head of Community Ryan Cooling and finds that the service is already looking to the future after the surprise success of its launch earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Tim Nudd at AdWeek writes that “Tinder users at SXSW are falling for this woman, but she’s not what she appears.”

The FT’s Andrew Hill had a weekend magazine profile of Sir Martin Sorrell as the head of WPP turns 70.

The advertising magnate is a voluble, engaging but elusive subject. Sitting at the boardroom table in WPP’s London mews headquarters, he deftly diverts more personal lines of questioning into a dead end of well-polished stories.

 

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* BUSINESS * As Greece prepares for a debt deadline, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the Athens government has things “mostly under control” and told German TV the country would repay its debts “while still managing to cover civic needs, social security and a public workforce.”

Dolce & Gabbana appear to have something of a social media brand nightmare and a Twitter “boycott” campaign on their hands after raising the ire of Elton John and other celebrities in a row over the designers’ stance on IVF treatments. In a statement on Sunday, Stefano Dolce said: “I was talking about my personal view, without judging other people’s choices and decisions.”

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* SPORTS * The bracket is set for this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, which gets under way on Tuesday and culminates on April 6 in Indianapolis. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore writes that “it’s Kentucky and the Field, and the Field s the underdog.”

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* CULTURE * HBO’s six-part documentary show The Jinx – The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst reached a dramatic conclusion on Sunday night. New York magazine’s The Vulture writes:

The series finale, entitled “What The Hell Did I Do?,” had a lot to live up to. On Sunday, hours before the episode aired, news broke that Durst had been arrested in New Orleans on charges of first-degree murder in the death of his once best friend, Susan Berman. By the end of this tense, revealing, and unbelievable hour, there was no question why.

 

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