VIENNA (AP) — The United States and Iran say a new deadline in nuclear talks could allow them to finally reach a deal. But Tehran's apparent reluctance to compromise may soon leave U.S. negotiators running out of ideas on how to reduce Iran's capacity to make nuclear arms.
Western diplomats familiar with the talks said Tuesday they have agreed on little more than to keep talking until June 30, after failing to substantially narrow differences by Monday's deadline in Vienna.
Based on information from the diplomats, progress made so far has mostly stemmed from the U.S. and its allies revising positions closer to the minimum of what they may be able to accept. Iran's demands, in contrast, have changed less — and the country may be digging in as the next round approaches.
While Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has backed the nuclear negotiations, he signaled on Tuesday that his country would stand firm, saying Washington and its European allies will be unable "to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees."
Washington's mantra has long been "no deal is better than a bad deal," and extending the talks has put off a decision on whether to walk away from them rather than give up too much.
But while the U.S. administration may opt for more wiggle room on the size and capacity of Iran's nuclear program, that may not be the case for powerful sceptics of too much U.S. compromise.
Members of the new Republican-controlled U.S. Congress to be sworn in early next year have threatened to impose additional sanctions on Iran and may well have enough votes to overturn an expected veto by President Barack Obama. That would almost surely push Tehran away from the table.
Shortly after the extension announcement, Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican whose work with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey on oil sanctions helped drive Iran to the negotiating table, pledged to come forward with a new bipartisan sanctions package.
Menendez suggested similar action, saying he'd work "to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state."
Key to an agreement for the U.S. is capping Iran's uranium enrichment program.
Iran denies any interest in atomic arms and says it needs to enrich to make reactor fuel and for other peaceful uses. But the West fears that Tehran could ramp up the program and enrich to levels used for the fissile core of nuclear weapons.
Iran now has nearly 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium.
Washington came to the negotiating table 10 months ago demanding that Tehran pare down that number to less than 2,000 in attempts to increase the time Iran would need to make enough weapons-grade uranium from a few months to a year or more.
The U.S. is now ready to accept just over 4,000, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the confidential talks. Iran also has moved — but not nearly as much. It is now floating around 8,000 centrifuges as acceptable.
Washington also has compromised on the timeline for the enrichment restrictions. Originally it wanted the caps in place for 20 years or more. Now, it may be ready to accept 15 years.
Iran, however, wants limits substantially below 10 years, while continuing to insist on expanding the program immediately after constraints are lifted. It is aiming for enriched uranium output at that point that would equal nearly 200 percent more than that the centrifuges it now has.
That is unacceptable to the Americans.
With centrifuge numbers in dispute, the U.S. and its six partners at the negotiating table, including Russia and China, have proposed other ways to push Iran's "breakout" time for making enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb to a year or more.
One way would be to persuade Tehran to ship out much of its stockpile of uranium gas, reducing it from about seven tons to no more than half a ton. Iran appeared interested at least until Wednesday, said the diplomats, negotiating with Russia as the possible recipient.
But in a potential complication last week, Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi said: "There is no reason to send our fuel to Russia."
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — China, one of the first countries to send aid to battle Ebola in West Africa, ramped up the assistance significantly Tuesday by opening a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia as rows of uniformed Chinese army medics stood at attention.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf toured the Ebola treatment center built by China, calling it "first-class."
"We want to commend China for this exceptional response," Sirleaf said.
The facility, which is air-conditioned and has digital document-keeping, will start accepting patients next week, Chinese Embassy officials said. The giant white building with a blue roof and red signs with Chinese characters on them was built in the parking lot of a stadium outside Monrovia, Liberia's capital.
China is Africa's largest trading partner and has especially close ties with Liberia, where many Chinese firms won contracts for post-war reconstruction projects. It has pledged $81 million in aid to West Africa to stem the Ebola outbreak and has also sent at least 200 medical staff and promised more.
While infection rates in Liberia appear to be stabilizing, they continue to rise in Sierra Leone. International Medical Corps said it will start accepting patients on Wednesday at a treatment center in one of the hardest-hit areas of that country.
"The crisis in Port Loko District is dire and getting worse," said Hussein Ibrahim, who directs the group's emergency response team in Sierra Leone.
Ebola has infected more than 15,000 people, the majority of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and has taken an especially high toll on health workers. That has depleted the ranks of doctors and nurses in countries that had too few to begin with just when they needed them most.
Another Sierra Leonean doctor has contracted the disease, Abass Kamara, a Health Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday. Dr. Aiah Solomon Konoyeima, who works at a children's hospital in the capital, tested positive on Monday.
Because they are at such a high risk of infection — and have often worked without sufficient protective gear — health workers have frequently protested during the outbreak. On Monday, ambulance drivers and burial teams lined up Ebola corpses in body bags outside a hospital in Sierra Leone to protest delayed payment. The bodies have since been brought back into the morgue, and Health Ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis said the workers have been paid but fired.
Roy-Macaulay reported from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's governor ordered more National Guardsmen into Ferguson on Tuesday to keep order after a night of violence over the grand jury decision in the police shooting of Michael Brown, as attorneys for the Brown family blasted the authorities' handling of the case.
Smoke billowed from burned-out Ferguson businesses on Tuesday and glass littered the sidewalks from display windows that were smashed during the protests that erupted after it was announced that police Officer Darren Wilson wouldn't be indicted for killing Brown on Aug. 9.
Monday night's protests were far more destructive than any of those that followed Brown's death, with more than a dozen businesses badly damaged or destroyed. Authorities reported hearing hundreds of gunshots, which for a time prevented fire crews from fighting the flames.
There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing, St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman said. There were 21 arrests in St. Louis, where protesters broke some store windows along South Grand Avenue, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.
Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement saying he was calling in more National Guard troops to assist law enforcement in Ferguson, but he didn't say how many additional troops or how long they would remain.
Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said that unless his agency could bring in 10,000 officers, "I don't think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community."
At least 18 people were injured and sought treatment at area hospitals, including someone who was shot and recovering Tuesday at SSM DePaul Health Center. The hospital didn't give any details about the shooting. Two other people were admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for undisclosed injuries. Everyone else was treated and released.
Meanwhile, many area districts cancelled classes out of concern for the safety of students traveling to and from school.
The grand jury's decision means that Wilson, who is white, will not face any state criminal charges for killing Brown, who was black and unarmed. Brown's death inflamed deep racial tensions between many black Americans and police.
Attorney Benjamin Crump said at a news conference Tuesday that he and the rest of the Brown family's legal team objected to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's decision to call a grand jury and to not appoint a special prosecutor.
"We could see what the outcome was going to be, and that is what occurred last night," Crump said.
Wilson's lawyers issued a statement praising the decision and saying the officer, who has remained out of the public eye since the shooting, is grateful to his supporters.
"Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions," the lawyers wrote. "Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law."
McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
In the first flash of unrest after the grand jury announcement, Belmar said he told officers to back off, suggesting they handle the situation as if it were a festival or baseball game. But the situation quickly "spun out of control," as protesters looted businesses and set fire to numerous vehicles, including at least two police cars. Officers eventually lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse crowds.
As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.
Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, a defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous witness accounts. When asked by a reporter whether any of the accounts amount to perjury, he said, "I think they truly believe that's what they saw, but they didn't."
McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed.
Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson's testimony.
Wilson told jurors that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and, when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive. Wilson then noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, "and that's when it clicked for me," he said, referring to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store.
Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional police, and then backed his vehicle up in front of Brown and his friend. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said Brown slammed it back shut.
The officer said he pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking: "What do I do not to get beaten inside my car."
"I drew my gun," Wilson told the grand jury. "I said, 'Get back or I'm going to shoot you.'"
"He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,'" Wilson told grand jurors. He said Brown grabbed the gun with his right hand, twisted it and "digs it into my hip."
Asked why he felt the need to pull his gun, Wilson told grand jurors he was concerned another punch to his face could "knock me out or worse."
After shots were fired in the vehicle, Brown fled and Wilson gave chase. At some point, Brown turned around to face the officer.
Witness accounts were conflicted about whether Brown walked, stumbled or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded, McCulloch said. There were also differing accounts of how or whether Brown's hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson's vehicle.
Thousands of people rallied — mostly peacefully — in other U.S. cities on Monday night, and President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding, pleading with both protesters and police to show restraint.
"We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make," Obama said. He said it was understandable that some Americans would be angered, but echoed Brown's parents in calling for peaceful protests.
About 10 St. Louis-bound flights were diverted or canceled Monday night because of concern about gunfire being aimed into the sky, a Lambert-St. Louis International Airport spokesman said, but the restrictions expired at 3:30 a.m.
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, Brown's family could also file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.
The August shooting heightened tensions in the predominantly black suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force. As Brown's body lay for hours in the center of a residential street, an angry crowd of onlookers gathered. Rioting and looting occurred the following night, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.
Protests continued for weeks — often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. Nixon briefly summoned the National Guard.
Ron Johnson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol captain who oversaw Ferguson security during the summer protests, said the community must take some responsibility for the looting that took place Monday night. There were about 25 fires set overnight, and 10 cars burned at a dealership, Ferguson Assistant Fire Chief Steve Fair told local media. A pizza shop, beauty supply store and two auto parts stores were among those burned.
"Those are dreams," Johnson said. "Those are small-business owners, and we've torn those dreams away."
Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Clayton, Andale Gross and Jim Suhr in Ferguson and Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report. Follow David A. Lieb at: https://twitter.com/DavidALieb .
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activist groups say Syrian warplanes have conducted a series of airstrikes on the northeastern city of Raqqa held by the extremist Islamic State group, killing at least 60 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some of the air raids struck a popular market near a museum and an industrial neighborhood in the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria.
It put the death toll at more than 60, among them 36 civilians. The Local Coordination Committees said the strikes killed at least 70 people. Another Raqqa-based collective said it documented over 80 deaths. Such discrepancies are routine in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Syria.
The Syrian government as well as the U.S.-led coalition frequently bomb Islamic State group targets in Raqqa.
PARIS (AP) — France suspended the planned delivery of a warship to Russia on Tuesday, after months of growing speculation about what would be the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to the Kremlin.
The French president's office announced the suspension "until further notice" after growing pressure from allies to suspend the sale because of tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The first of the two ships, the Vladivostok, is docked at the French port city of Saint Nazaire, where about 400 Russian sailors have spent months training aboard the vessel.
The second ship, named the Sevastopol, after a port in the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, was slated for delivery next year and recently arrived at the Saint Nazaire docks for finishing touches.
Tuesday's statement, like a previous suspension of the delivery, stopped short of cancelling the deal, suggesting the French government is reluctant give up on a contract worth more than 1 billion euros and thousands of jobs at a time of an economic slump in France.
The Vladivostok can carry 700 troops, 16 helicopter gunships, and up to 50 armored vehicles.
Analysts have said the warships would give Russia an enhanced ability to move large numbers of troops and equipment, but were not game-changers for Moscow's military.
Russia's deputy defense minister told RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that Moscow was not planning to take any immediate action against France for delaying the deal.
"We are satisfied, it is the French who are not satisfied, and we are going to patiently wait," said Yury Brosiov. "Everything is spelled out in the contract, and we are going to act in accord to the contract like all civilized people."
Associated Press writer Laura Mills in Moscow contributed to this report.
ATLANTA (AP) — Forecasters say at least three tornadoes struck Georgia as part of a storm system that crossed the state on Sunday.
The National Weather Service said in a statement Tuesday morning that three twisters have been confirmed after surveys of damage, and that damage assessments were still ongoing.
Forecasters said the strongest tornado began in Alabama and crossed into Stewart County, Georgia. They say it reached its peak intensity, with winds estimated at 130 mph, as it traveled north of the Thomaston area of Upson County, where it destroyed a building.
Another tornado struck Monroe County, where it snapped trees and damaged barns.
The third twister began in Houston County and ended in Pulaski County. Forecasters said it pushed a mobile home off its foundation and peeled off its roof.