The U.S. has long opposed an Iranian role in the so-called Geneva II talks later this month, but Secretary of State John Kerry's comments in Jerusalem may be the first sign that opposition is softening. Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces are battling a range of rebel groups, some of them backed by the West.
Senate Democrats will ring in the New Year with a vote on a three-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed. Benefits for those jobless for more than six months expired on Dec. 28. Prospects for a revival of benefits are uncertain at best in the Senate, and the measure faces even bigger hurdles in the House.
He made the announcement Sunday while giving his weekly blessing at the Vatican. The trip would be the pope's second foreign trip, following his visit to Brazil in July 2013.