UN says access difficult to besieged Yemeni city of Taiz

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Updated 25 January 2016
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UN says access difficult to besieged Yemeni city of Taiz

SANAA, Yemen: The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen said Saturday that they are seeking ways to ensure unconditional access to Taiz, a city of about 25,000 residents besieged by Shiite rebels who control the capital and have been fighting an internationally recognized government.
“Only a few shops are open. Food and other basic goods needed to survive are in short supply. Basic services are scarce, including access to water and fuel,” UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said in Sanaa, the national capital, following a visit to Taiz.
“Humanitarian access to three districts within the city has been difficult for many months,” while hospitals haven’t been spared the violence, said McGoldrick.
Taiz has been besieged for months by Shiite militias known as Houthis who have been indiscriminately shelling the war-devastated city and blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to residents and aid groups.
World Food Program Deputy Director Adham Musallam said they managed to bring in enough food supplies for 3,000 families in the city.
Taiz, which lies on the border between northern and southern Yemen, could be a major turning point in Yemen’s civil war, potentially cementing the Houthis’ loss of Yemen’s south.
UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, Julien Harneis, said about 1,900 children were either killed or injured since the conflict began, with most of the current deaths in the provinces of Taiz and in Saada, the Houthis’ main stronghold.
Yemen’s civil war began when the Houthi rebels, allied with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, overran the capital in September 2014. In March 2015, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia began airstrikes and later, a ground operation to retake the country. More than 5,800 people have been killed and over 80 percent of Yemen’s population is in dire need of food, water and other aid, according to the United Nations.


Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

  • Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal
  • The US quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions

UNITED NATIONS: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.
Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.
“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”
Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.
Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.
“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.
No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.
“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”
The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.
Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from traveling outside a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.
Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.
Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.
Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.
Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.