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Setting the standard internationally31/03/2015 - 03:59
Time runs out as Iran nuclear talks hit deadline day
Marathon talks aimed at stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons reach the finish line Tuesday as global powers scramble to clear the final hurdles hours before a midni...
Time runs out as Iran nuclear talks hit deadline day1766273c794cfd331ac573441827dbae83c786f3.jpg
afp.com / POOL / Brendan Smialowski
A member of the Iranian media walks on a chess board at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 30, 2015 in Lausanne, where marathon talks aimed at stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons have reach the finish line
Marathon talks aimed at stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons reach the finish line Tuesday as global powers scramble to clear the final hurdles hours before a midnight deadline for a framework deal.
After 18 months of tortuous talks, foreign ministers from Iran, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany hope such an accord will end a standoff that has been threatening to escalate dangerously for 12 years.
An army of technical and sanctions experts worked late into the night in Switzerland on Monday exchanging documents and groping for ways to figure out the outlines of this potentially historic agreement.
"There are marathon meetings happening all over the place. There are several issues that have not been resolved yet. These are important issues," an Iranian negotiator said late Monday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Lausanne since Wednesday in the latest in a series of meetings with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that have criss-crossed the globe, late Monday said there was still work to do.75236defe23a3cdb5cb27fc85420831bfb078943.jpg
AFP / Adrian Leung
Graphic on major nuclear facilities in Iran
"There still remain some difficult issues," Kerry told CNN in his luxury lakeside hotel.
"We are working very hard to work those through. We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow."
Kerry said there was "a little more light... today, but there are still some tricky issues. Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow."
A meeting between Kerry and his counterparts from the other five powers was expected to begin first thing on Tuesday, without Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov however who left on Monday.
Lavrov will only return if there is a "realistic" chance of a deal, his spokeswoman said earlier.
- Early warning -
The threat of new US sanctions, and domestic pressure on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for his attempts at rapprochement with the West, all but rule out any putting more time on the diplomatic clock.14aa593cfd53e72826fda9a851bed61dbf85fc57.jpg
AFP / Fabrice Coffrini
(LtoR) British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry take a break during the Iran nuclear talks, on March 30, 2015 in Lausanne
State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf appealed to the Iranians to help overcome the last hurdles. "It's sort of time to see whether they can make these decisions."
Under the deal, due to be finalised by June 30, the powers want Iran to scale back its nuclear programme to give the world ample notice of any dash to make the bomb by extending the so-called "breakout" time.
In return, the diplomatically isolated Islamic republic denies wanting atomic weapons and is demanding the lifting of sanctions that have strangled its economy.
Some areas including the future size of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity -- a process for making nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb -- appear tentatively sewn up.e44889193714aa83a33cad6ce63c15dec0559c57.jpg
afp.com / Pool / Brendan Smialowski
Representatives of European and world powers pictured prior to meeting to pin down a nuclear deal with Iran, at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 30, 2015
But the two sides still appear wide apart on other areas including what to do with Iran's stockpiles of nuclear material and the pace at which sanctions would be eased.
Other tricky issues include the duration of any accord, with Iran resisting demands by the powers to submit to ultra-tight inspections by the UN atomic watchdog for at least a decade.
The powers are also uncomfortable with Iran's desire to continue researching and developing newer centrifuge machines that would enable Iran to process nuclear material more quickly.
With all eyes focused on Tuesday's deadline, Harf said she could not predict what would happen if the outlines of a deal were not agreed in time.MMV735569_TEN.flv
"Obviously we always are planning for contingencies," she told reporters, adding: "We will have to take a very hard look at where we are and we will have to decide what happens next."
"No one is thinking about what will happen if there is no deal. No-one has discussed this in the talks. Everyone is focused on finding solutions," the Iranian negotiator said.
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Essential news in text, photo, graphic and video format31/03/2015 - 03:08
Probe sees link between semen quality, pesticides
AFP / Issouf Sanogo
Men who consume fuit and vegetables with high pesticide residue have almost half the sperm count of their peers, a study has found
Higher levels of pesticide residue in fruit and vegetables are associated with lower quality of semen, according to a study published on Tuesday.
Its authors said the research was only an early step in what should be a much wider investigation.
In a first recommendation, they urged men not to stop eating fruit and veg, and pointed to organically-grown food, or food that is low in pesticides, as options for lowering any apparent risk.
The US team analysed 338 semen samples from 155 men attending a fertility centre between 2007 and 2012.
The volunteers were aged between 18 and 55, had not had a vasectomy, and were part of a couple planning to use their own eggs and sperm for fertility treatment.
The men were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their diet, asking them how often, on average, they consumed portions of fruit and vegetables.
These portions were then placed into categories of being low, moderate or high in pesticide residues, on the basis of US Department of Agriculture data.
Peas, beans, grapefruit and onions, for instance, fell into the low category, whereas peppers, spinach, strawberries, apples and pears were in the high category.
The data factored in whether the items had been peeled and washed before being eaten.
Men who had the greatest consumption of high-category fruit and vegetables had a total sperm count of 86 million sperm per ejaculate.
This was 49 percent less than men who ate the least. They had a sperm count of 171 million per ejaculate.
In addition, men with the lowest pesticide residue intake had an average of 7.5 percent of normally-formed sperm -- but this tally was nearly a third lower, at 5.1 percent, among those who had the highest intake.
There were no significant differences between the low-and moderate-residue groups.
- 'Unnecessary worry' -
"To our knowledge, this is the first report on the consumption of fruit and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue in relation to semen quality," said the study, published in the journal Human Reproduction.
"These findings suggest that exposure to pesticides used in agricultural production through diet may be sufficient to affect spermatogenesis in humans."
The study acknowledged limitations: men attending fertility clinics are prone to having semen quality problems, and the diet in this case was assessed only once and could have changed over time.
In addition, the pesticide residues were estimated rather than actually measured in the lab, and it was not known whether the fruit and vegetables that were consumed were conventionally-grown or organic.
"These findings should not discourage the consumption of fruit and vegetables in general," said Jorge Chavarro, assistant professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, who co-led the study.
"In fact, we found that total intake of fruit and vegetables was completely unrelated to semen quality.
"This suggests that implementing strategies specifically targeted at avoiding pesticide residues, such as consuming organically-grown produce or avoiding produce known to have large amounts of residues, may be the way to go."
Outside commentators said the research was interesting but limited. Further work was needed to confirm the findings, and see if they applied beyond this small group of men.
"This paper may cause unnecessary worry," said Jackson Kirkman-Brown of the Birmingham Women's Fertility Centre in central England.
"Men wishing to optimise their sperm quality should still eat a healthy balanced diet until more data is available," he told Britain's Science Media Centre.
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