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Feb. 16, 2013 at 12:19 PM
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Iran's ayatollah renounces nuclear weapons

TEHRAN, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Iran's supreme ayatollah said Saturday his nation was not developing nuclear weapons and was in favor of banning the bomb worldwide.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei told an audience in Tabriz Iran would already have a nuclear capability if it was actually pursuing one.

"We believe that nuclear weapons must be obliterated, and we do not intend to make nuclear weapons, but if we had not had this belief and had decided to possess nuclear weapons, no power could have ever been able to stop us," Khamenei said in remarks carried on Press TV.

Khamenei, who holds the title Leader of the Islamic Revolution, also said allegations about Iran's supposed nuclear ambitions leveled by the United States and Israel were only aggravating tensions and violated Iran's rights as a nation.

Iran has insisted its secretive nuclear program is aimed at developing peaceful energy sources; however the United States, Israel and other Western nations suspect it is a military program.

Iran's former chief negotiator with the West added Saturday the whole matter could be settled through serious international talks held without the pressure of economic sanctions.

"Iran has always said that it is ready to hold serious negotiations," Hassan Rohani told the Tehran Times.

"When the West is increasing pressure and at the same time is talking about negotiations, then negotiations mean surrender," Rohani said. "If negotiations are serious and based on mutual understanding, there is no need for such tough actions."

Sectarian bombing in Pakistan kills 47

QUETTA, Pakistan, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The bomb that killed nearly 50 people in Pakistan Saturday was apparently set off by remote control and targeted a Shiite neighborhood, investigators said.

The death toll in the city of Quetta reached 47 with more than 200 people injured, including a number of women and children.

"The death toll may rise," senior police officer Wazir Khan Nasir told DAWN.com. "It was a remote-controlled bomb."

The explosion occurred along a busy street near a school in a section of town with a large population of ethnic Hazaras, a group tied to the Shia branch of Islam.

"It was a sectarian attack," the officer said. "the Shia community was the target."

DAWN.com said the explosion brought scores of police and troops to the area, and Hazara leaders issued calls for a strike Sunday to protest the attack.


GOP urges Obama to spare defense budget

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Republicans made another pitch Saturday for further cuts to the U.S. budget in their weekend radio address.

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., did the honors as Congress and the Obama administration faced the unpleasant deadline for the so-called sequestration cuts, which will hammer virtually all government spending programs.

Roby urged President Obama to give in and start cutting. The goal, she said, was to make sure defense spending was spared.

"Threatening these devastating sequester military cuts was President Obama's idea in the first place," Roby said. "That matters – not because of who should get the blame – but because of who should be leading the effort to solve this problem."

Roby, whose district includes the U.S. Army base at Fort Rucker, said the president should find "better, more responsible spending cuts" that will avoid the $85 billion in across-the-board reductions mandated by the sequestration plan, which kicks in March 1.

The Hill said the GOP sent Roby to the microphone following the unveiling of a Democratic plan that would raise taxes by $55 billion and chip another $55 billion from farm subsidies and the Pentagon's budget.

Roby did not make any specific proposals for social-program cuts; however The Hill said the GOP prefers slashing what it sees as bloated social programs.

Show to air without Pistorius' girlfriend

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The creator of a South African reality show says he will still air the show despite the death of contestant Reeva Steenkamp.

Steenkamp, the girlfriend of Olympian Oscar Pistorius, found shot dead in his home Thursday, was a contestant on the Tropika Island of Treasure 5 show, The Saturday Star in Johannesburg reported.

Creator Samantha Moon said show members were devastated by the loss of Steenkamp, 30.

While the decision to continue broadcasting the show had difficult, Moon said "Reeva was an intelligent, beautiful and amazing woman and we feel it would be an injustice to keep that unknown from those who did not know her personally."

Moon added, "Reeva was a wonderful human being and an extremely talented and intelligent woman. Her kind and loving spirit was evident to all who knew her and her zest for life will be truly missed."

"Every episode that she is in, every frame that she so ably dominates shines with her light, her laughter echoes in every conversation, and we want to share these special memories with the rest of South Africa," Moon said.

Pistorius has been arrested in Steenkamp's death. A double amputee, he made Olympic history by running on carbon fiber blades that earned him the name "Blade Runner."

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