BBC news 2013-09-28

BBC News with Sue Montgomery

Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani have spoken by telephone in the first direct contact between US and Iranian presidents since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979.

“Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme. I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York-- while there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.”

Mr Rouhani has said the atmosphere between Iran and the US is quite different from the past. At a news conference at the end of his four-day visit to the UN General Assembly in New York, he said that talks on Iran’s nuclear programme between his foreign minister and the US secretary of state were very positive and hopeful. Mr Rouhani said he had not met President Obama because there wasn’t enough time to prepare for the meeting, which after 35 years of tension would, he said, bring its own complications.

The BBC has established from senior security sources that in the weeks leading up to the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, militants rented a shop in the building. Earlier senior security officials were summoned to appear before the Kenyan parliamentary defence committee. Karen Allen reports from Nairobi.

As well as the lapses in the security system which appeared to have paved the way for last Saturday’s devastating attack, MPs want to understand the detail of the rescue operation amid claims of confusion over who was in charge. It comes as a BBC investigation has revealed that the Islamist extremists hired a shop in the prestigious Westgate mall using falsified documents and were able to stockpile weapons, allowing them to resupply during the attack. They used a ventilation shaft as a hiding place and base during the deadly siege.

Thousands of people have demonstrated in cities across Sudan as unrest continues over the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies. The authorities have closed the offices of two international television stations Al Arabiya and Sky News Arabia after complaining about their coverage of the protests. Here’s Mary Harper.

Police used teargas to disperse some 2,000 protesters in Sudan’s largest city of Omdurman. It lies just across the river from the capital Khartoum, which was also affected. This is the fifth day of demonstrations with some protesters calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Human rights groups have accused the police of deliberately opening fire on demonstrators. Local activists say more than 180 have been killed. The authorities put the figure at 29.

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The international chemical weapons watchdog is meeting to decide a timetable for dismantling Syria’s stockpile. If they agree, experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons could begin work in Syria as early as next Tuesday. In a separate meeting in a few hours, the UN Security Council is expected to approve a draft resolution on Syria agreed by the United States and Russia.

Indonesian officials say a boat carrying asylum seekers bound for Australia has sunk off the southern coast of Java, killing more than 20 people. Many others are missing. A Lebanese woman and her eight children are reported to be among the dead. A Lebanese news agency says the woman’s husband survived. The sinking comes just days before the new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is due to visit Jakarta for talks that will focus on stopping the flow of asylum seekers.

Athletes in Cuba are going to be allowed to keep most of their overseas prize money for the first time. They’ll also be able to sign contracts with foreign clubs. The new system will come into force next year. Here’s Sarah Rainsford.

Ever since Fidel Castro banned professional sport, Cuban athletes have been drilled to compete for their country, not for cash—a nation’s applause was always the greatest reward. But in a major shift, the government has announced it allows athletes to take up professional contracts abroad. A slice of their earnings will go to the state—how much isn’t clear yet. But even so, they’ll be free to earn far more than they have so far here in Cuba. The move seems aimed at stopping so many top athletes leaving the country lured by big-money contracts and opportunities overseas.

One of the world’s top football stars, Lionel Messi, has appeared along with his father at a court in Spain over allegations that they defrauded the tax authorities of more than 4m euros. The judge will now decide how to proceed with the charges.

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