Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah proposed two years ago for a stronger union with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emeriates. Now Saudi Arabia's dream of binding the Gulf Arab states into a union will get a skeptical hearing when the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council hold their annual meeting in Kuwait. this week, with differences over Iran, Egypt and Syria demonstrating that the Gulf's absolute monarchs do not all speak with one voice.
Germany's Christian Democrats voted on Monday to approve a coalition with the arch-rival Social Democrats after Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her conservatives to swallow some of their misgivings and back the deal. Merkel won September's election but fell short of a majority and struck an agreement on November 27 for a "grand coalition" with the centre-left SPD. All 474,000 SPD members are now voting on it in a postal ballot whose results are expected this weekend. "It's taken us nearly three months to form a government and now it's time to get to work," Merkel told the 181 CDU delegates at a special party congress called to vote on the coalition deal.
Iran and six world powers began expert-level talks on Monday to work out nitty gritty details in implementing a landmark accord for Tehran to curb its disputed nuclear program in return for a limited easing of sanctions. The preliminary accord is seen as a first step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions Iran might be covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons "breakout" capability, a perception that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East war.
President Nicolas Maduro's government won a majority of votes in Venezuela's local elections on Sunday, disappointing the opposition and helping his quest to preserve the late Hugo Chavez's socialist legacy. The election board said, with votes in from three-quarters of the nation's 337 mayoral races, the ruling party and allies had combined 49.2 percent support, compared with the opposition coalition and its partners' 42.7 percent. Since taking power in April, Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver, has faced a plethora of economic problems including slowing growth, the highest inflation in the Americas, and shortages of basic goods including milk and toilet paper.