Iran’s supreme leader has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted online that the US was proposing talks while “pointing a gun at Iran”.
On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden suggested direct talks, separate to the wider international discussions due to take place later this month.
But the US widened sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, aiming to tighten a squeeze on Tehran’s ability to spend oil cash.
Iran, which is subject to an array of international sanctions, has long argued that its nuclear programme is for energy generation and research.
Tehran’s critics believe the government is developing nuclear weapons.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have held a series of negotiations with Iran over the years.
But they have often ended with Iran demanding the West lifts sanctions as a condition to any nuclear move, and the Western powers refusing.
Nineteen suspected Congolese rebels have been charged in a South African court with plotting a coup against President Joseph Kabila.
Prosecutors said the men belonged to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Union of Nationalists for Renewal (UNR) rebel group.
South Africa’s counter-terrorism forces arrested them earlier this week in the northern Limpopo province.
DR Congo has been hit by rebellions throughout Mr Kabila’s rule.
He took power in 2001, following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.
One of the suspected coup plotters has been identified as US citizen James Kazongo, AP news agency reports.
“South African authorities got in touch with our consular officers, who have visited him. We have been in touch with him and communicated with his family and provided consular services,” US embassy spokesman Jack Hillmeyer told AP.
Two Russian fighter jets have violated Japanese airspace, prompting Tokyo to scramble its own aircraft, reports say.
Japan lodged a protest after the planes were detected off the northern island of Hokkaido for just over a minute.
The incident happened after Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said he was seeking a solution to a territorial dispute with Russia over a Pacific island chain.
Russia’s military denied the incursion, saying the jets were making routine flights near the disputed islands.
Mr Abe was speaking on the anniversary of an 1855 treaty which Japan says supports its claims to the islands.
The four islands – which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories – are the subject of a 60-year-old dispute.
Because of the dispute, the two nations have not yet signed a peace treaty to end World War II.
Fierce fighting broke out in the Syrian capital, Damascus, as rebels attacked forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, witnesses and rebels said.
Much of the violence was centred around the Jobar district and a key junction on the Damascus ring road.
But it was not clear whether the rebels managed to retain any territory they claimed in battle, and the Syrian army said it too launched an offensive.
Earlier, reports said bombings in the town of Palmyra killed 19 people.
The violence in both Damascus and Palmyra came as the head of the main Syrian opposition alliance, Moaz al-Khatib, said his offer of talks with the government would be withdrawn unless women prisoners were released by Sunday.
US officials have agreed to release to Congress documents justifying drone strikes on Americans suspected of working with terrorist groups.
The justice department acted after NBC News published a leaked internal memo outlining some of the legal arguments.
President Barack Obama’s choice for CIA director, John Brennan, is likely to face questions on the programme during a Senate confirmation hearing later.
He is believed to have overseen the drone programme, escalated by Mr Obama.
On Wednesday it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had been operating a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia for the past two years.