DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Iran defiant amid calls for European sanctions

Iran closed out naval war games in the Gulf on Tuesday much the way they began last month: striking a tone of military defiance while Western powers rallied behind tougher oil and financial sanctions as a crippling tool against Tehran’s nuclear program.

The standoff atmosphere – less than a week after Iran warned it could block one of the world’s key oil tanker sea lanes in response to economic pressures – appeared to deepen further with an Iranian general suggesting a U.S. aircraft carrier is not welcome to return to the Gulf.

In Paris, meanwhile, France’s foreign minister said there is “no doubt” that Iran is moving toward a nuclear weapon and urged Europe to match America’s tighter sanctions set in motion last week. Alain Juppe said the measures could include targeting Iran’s Central Bank and imposing an Iranian oil embargo.


Body found on land near queen’s country house

There were all the elements of a mystery novel of the type Britons love so well: a wooded area on the queen’s country estate, a neighbor out walking a dog through the trees during the winter holidays, a body discovered.

A corner of Queen Elizabeth II’s country estate of Sandringham, where the royal family traditionally spends the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, became a homicide crime scene Tuesday.

Norfolk county police in nearby King’s Lynn, about 100 miles northeast of London, launched a murder inquiry after the discovery of the body of a woman in the woods close to Anmer, a village on the 20,000-acre area of farmland and woods owned by the royal family.

Authorities said the remains were found on New Year’s Day on the royal estate’s 600 acres that are open to the public year round and used by hikers.

After an autopsy Tuesday, police said the body was that “of a young adult female” and that it had been lying on the site for one to four months.

The crime scene is just three miles from the Sandringham house described by the royal website as a private holiday residence for four generations of royalty and the favorite refuge of King George V, the queen’s grandfather.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Taliban plans to open office in Qatar for talks with U.S.

The Taliban announced Tuesday that they will open an office in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar to hold talks with the United States, an unprecedented step toward a peace process that might lead to a winding down of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

Although U.S. and Taliban representatives have met secretly several times over the past year in Europe and the Persian Gulf, this is the first time the Islamist insurgent group has publicly expressed willingness for substantive negotiations.

In recent months, the idea of a Taliban political office in the Qatari capital of Doha has become a central element in U.S. efforts to draw the insurgents into such talks. The idea is to give the Taliban more legitimacy to negotiate in a location that presumably would at least partly shield them from Pakistani pressure.