** US, Iran Negotiating, but Nuclear Pact Appears Unlikely Before Deadline **
The top U.S. and Iranian diplomats are meeting in Vienna in a last-ditch effort to reach a comprehensive deal on Tehran's nuclear program, but an accord appears unlikely before Monday's deadline.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif started a fifth round of talks Sunday, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov set to join them later Sunday.
The Iranian Students News Agency quoted an unidentified member of Iran's negotiating team as saying a new pact will not be possible with the short time left until the deadline and the number of issues yet to be resolved. Iran said it would start discussion of an extension to the talks if no agreement is reached by Sunday night.
Kerry said Saturday "serious gaps" remain in the talks. He recently said the United States and its P5 Plus 1 allies - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - are not considering an extension past Monday's target date.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the main question is if Iran is ready to end its research on acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced new fears Sunday that the countries negotiating with Iran will leave it with the ability to create a nuclear weapon.
** Afghanistan Approves Plan to Increase US, NATO Military Action **
Afghanistan's lower house of parliament has approved agreements with the United States and NATO allowing international forces to remain in the country past the end of this year, amid a renewed offensive by Taliban militants.
Sunday's approval came after U.S. officials said President Barack Obama had issued new guidelines expanding the U.S. military's ability to respond to militants.
Speaking under condition of anonymity, officials told news outlets the decision allows U.S. troops to go after Taliban fighters if they pose a threat to U.S. and coalition forces. The order reportedly also applies if the militants provide direct support to al-Qaida.
The new authorization for 2015 also means the U.S. can offer air support to Afghan troops when needed.
President Obama had previously said U.S. missions in Afghanistan next year would be limited to training Afghan forces and counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida.