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story.lead_photo.caption Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reviews an honor guard Tuesday after arriving in the northern Iranian city of Shahroud, where he spoke about the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian again threatens oil-route shutoff

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday repeated his threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea, if the U.S. shuts off Iran's oil exports.

State TV quoted Rouhani as saying that "if someday, the United States decides to block Iran's oil [exports], no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf."

The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is crucial to global energy supplies.

Rouhani also pledged that the United States would not be able to prevent Iran from exporting its crude.

Rouhani has made similar threats in the months since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal and began restoring sanctions. Trump has vowed to eventually cut off all Iranian oil exports, but the administration has given waivers to several countries.

Later Tuesday, Rouhani said he had rejected multiple U.S. requests for direct negotiations.

"In the past year, the current U.S. administration sent eight direct messages to negotiate," he was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Tasnim new agency. "I refused."

Costa Ricans work to ID woman's body

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Costa Rican authorities said Tuesday that they found what appears to be the body of a Florida woman who was on vacation in the Central American country to celebrate her 36th birthday and that a suspect had been detained.

Walter Espinoza, head of the country's investigative unit, said officials were comparing fingerprints to confirm the identity. An autopsy revealed that the victim suffered head injuries and lacerations on her neck and arms, he said.

A Facebook page set up by friends of the missing woman, Carla Stefaniak, said family members went to the morgue in San Jose on Tuesday to identify the body, but were turned away by authorities.

The body was found covered in plastic bags near an Airbnb apartment that was rented by Stefaniak, who disappeared nearly a week ago.

Police discovered what appeared to be blood in the apartment where Stefaniak stayed and analyzed surveillance video from the apartment complex.

Espinoza said the images in the video did not align with statements made by the building's security guard, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan who police detained for further questioning.

Italy says arrests foil mob's restoration

ROME -- Italian authorities said Tuesday that they had dismantled the rebuilt upper echelons of the Mafia in the Sicilian capital by arresting 46 people, including the man presumed to have taken over as provincial kingpin after the death of "boss of bosses" Salvatore "Toto" Riina.

Based on wiretaps, police determined that Settimo Mineo was elected head of a reconstructed "cupola," or provincial mob commission, during a May 29 meeting of clan leaders in Palermo. It was the first time clan leaders had gathered in such a forum for years, and followed Riina's November 2017 death, prosecutors said.

Italy's chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero de Raho, said the election of Mineo, 80, was significant because it showed that the center of power of Cosa Nostra had shifted to Palermo. Under Riina, its longtime base was Corleone, the Sicilian town made famous by writer Mario Puzo when he used Corleone as the main character's name in his 1969 novel The Godfather.

Police recalled that the "provincial commission" structure was created in the 1950s as the decision-making forum for Sicilian and U.S. Mafia families. During the 1980s, it became less collegial under Riina's domination and effectively ceased to function after his 1993 arrest.

Prosecutors say Mineo effectively tried to resurrect the structure in the province of Palermo.

Ukraine touts unblocking of two ports

KIEV, Ukraine -- Shipping traffic has resumed to and from Ukraine's ports on the Sea of Azov after a standoff with Russia, a Ukrainian minister said Tuesday.

Commercial ships were moving through the Kerch Strait linking the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea, Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said.

Omelyan, who accused Russia last week of blocking Ukrainian cargo trying to pass through the strait, said the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol were "partially unblocked" thanks to a "stern international response."

Later Tuesday, the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry said grain was again being loaded onto ships in the two ports. The ministry also said that "the passage of ships with agricultural products through ports on the Sea of Azov have been unblocked."

Russia, however, insisted that it never blocked vessels from sailing through the Kerch Strait and that any possible disruptions were from bad weather.

The tug of war between the neighboring countries over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine escalated after a Nov. 25 incident in which the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 seamen on board.

Photo by AP/MYKHAILO MARKIV
In Kiev on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko comforts Irina, the wife of sailor Yury Budzinsky, one of several sailors detained by Russia.

A Section on 12/05/2018

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