Regional Roundup 2/27/13

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The Pope Changes the Rules

Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules of the conclave to elect his successor by allowing cardinals to move up the start date before the typical 15-day waiting period if all of them arrive in the Vatican before that time.

In one of his final acts before resigning Thursday, Benedict signed a document issuing line-by-line changes to the 1996 Vatican law regarding the election of a new pope, according to an article in the Associated Press.

The election has been moved because the cardinals want to have a new pope in place for the all-important Holy Week beginning March 24.

In order to have a pope installed for Holy Week, the new pope would have to be elected by March 17, which would be a difficult time frame if the conclave were to start March 15.

Iran Relief

Major powers intend on offering Iran sanctions relief during talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, should they agree to eliminate the nuclear program, according to a U.S. official in an article in Reuters.

Speaking with anonymity, the U.S. official says that Iran could face further economic sanctioning if it chooses not to address the international concerns surrounding its nuclear program.

“There will be continued sanctions enforcement,” the official said in the Reuters article. “There are other areas where pressure can be put.”

Both the United States and Russia have stressed that time is of the essence in solving this dispute which has ignited fear of a new war in the Middle East.

Iran, which has taken steps to increase its uranium enrichment activities in defiance of international demands to curb it, wants the harsh sanctions hurting the export of its oil supply to relax.

However the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France’s priority is to convince Iran to cease its higher-grade enrichment, which is a step away from an atom bomb.

“The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a London news article. “There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.”

Cease-Fire Broken

At least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has struck Israel, according to an article in the New York Times, breaking a truce that has lasted for over three months.

The Israeli police and military say that a single Grad rocket landed outside the city of Ashkelon. The rocket caused damage but no injuries.

The military wing of the Palestinian’s Fatah faction said in an email that the rocket was in response to the assassination of 30-year-old Palestinian Arafat Jaradat, according to the article.

Jaradat died in an Israeli prison on Saturday. The Palestinians blame the death on “severe torture” after his Feb. 21 arrest for throwing rocks at Israelis in November.

The body contained bruises and broken ribs in an autopsy revealed by the Israelis, however no cause of death has been determined. The Palestinians believed that the bruising and broken ribs were evidence of torture but Israeli officials say that the injuries may have been caused by resuscitation efforts.

The government has shut down Kerem Sholom, the crossing where goods from Gaza reach Israel, except for humanitarian, medical, and “exceptional cases,” according to a statement from the military.

Not much is known yet of how the Israeli government will further respond to the rocket launch, but there is fear of retaliation.

“Quiet will be met with quiet; missiles will be met with a response,” said Shimon Peres, President of Israel.

Republican Recoil

Several prominent Republican leaders met and signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to be married.

Among the members in attendance were advisors to former President George W. Bush, four former governors, and two members of Congress, according to an article in The New York Times. As of Monday 75 Republicans not normally associated with same-sex marriage advocacy have signed the brief.

The document will be submitted to the Supreme Court this week in support of a suit seeking to eliminate Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative striking down same-sex marriage.

The brief argues that “same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and it advances conservative values,” according to the article.

The brief, lawyers say, has the chance to persuade some conservative justices both for its legal arguments and the signers, who are speaking out for the first time on the issue or are changing their previous positions.

“The ground on this is obviously changing, but it is changing more rapidly than people think,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former House aide who did not sign the brief. “I think that Republicans in the future are going to be a little bit more careful about focusing on these issues that tend to divide the party.”

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