Nuclear work speeds up
Intelligence officials from several countries say Iran in recent weeks has virtually completed an underground nuclear enrichment plant, racing ahead despite international pressure and heavy economic sanctions in what experts say may be an effort to give them leverage in any negotiations with the United States and its allies. The installation of the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges at a site called Fordo, deep under a mountain inside a military base near the holy city of Qom, puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon if its leaders decide to proceed. The United States, Israel and the United Nations have vowed to prevent that from happening, imposing increasingly tough sanctions on the country and using cyberwarfare to slow its progress in obtaining a weapon. Iran’s progress was disclosed by officials familiar with the findings of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Hajj pilgrimage begins
Muslims from around the world set out early Thursday on the first day of the annual hajj pilgrimage, a central pillar of their faith. The four-day hajj features millions packed shoulder to shoulder in prayer and supplication. According to Islam, each able-bodied believer must make the pilgrimage once. Muslims believe the hajj traces the paths of the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad. The hajj typically concludes as it began, with a set of rituals at the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca’s Grand Mosque that observant Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day.
Mayan tomb discovered
Archaeologists announced Thursday they have uncovered the tomb of a very early Mayan ruler, complete with rich jade jewelry and decoration. Experts said the find at Guatemala’s Tak’alik Ab’aj temple site could help shed light on the formative years of the Mayan culture. Government archaeologist Miguel Orrego said carbon-dating indicates the tomb was built between 700 and 400 B.C., several hundred years before the Mayan culture reached its height.
Compiled from wire reports.