Iran’s top leader pledges to continue missile program

Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP)
Updated 03 August 2017
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Iran’s top leader pledges to continue missile program

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader has slammed the new US sanctions on Tehran signed by President Donald Trump the previous day, and vowed his country would continue its missile program despite international pressure.
Washington will “use any excuse to make a fuss” against Iran, said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking at a ceremony marking the formal endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani for his second term in office.
“You launch a satellite-carrying missile, they make noise,” he said, describing the Iranian launch as a “scientific and technical job that is routine and necessary.”
“The response to the hostility is to become stronger,” Khamenei added and described the US government as “the top aggressor and the most shameless “enemy of Iran.
“Some have sharply applied hostility (against Iran), like those who today are in office in the US,” Khamenei said, without mentioning Trump or the US president’s signing of the legislation on Wednesday.
The law also imposed new sanctions on Russia and North Korea.
According to a letter sent to the UN Security Council and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the US and three Western allies called Iran’s recent launch of a satellite-carrying rocket “a threatening and provocative step” that is “inconsistent” with a UN resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran last week launched the country’s most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, marking the most significant step forward for the Islamic State’s young space program.
In the letter to the Security Council, the US, France, Germany and the United Kingdom complained that the Simorgh space launch vehicle, if configured as a ballistic missile, would have the range and “payload capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.”
EU remarks
The EU said Thursday that all the parties to the Iran nuclear deal were abiding by its terms.
“So far we consider that all parties have been implementing their commitments under the deal,” Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, told a press briefing in Brussels.
“We expect their continued adherence,” Ray said when asked to comment on the Iranian charges.
Ray based her expectation on a July 21 meeting in Vienna of the Mogherini-chaired commission that brings together Iran and the other parties to discuss the deal’s implementation.
Mogherini’s office issued a statement at the time saying the meeting’s participants confirmed their continued adherence and “stressed the need to ensure its full and effective implementation in a constructive atmosphere.”
Ray said the joint commission allowed for the Iranian view on new US sanctions to be widely discussed.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani announced that Tehran has officially complained to the UN Security Council over the latest US sanctions.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said Iran should continue to stand powerful in the face of its enemies.
“International engagement should not lead to ignoring hostility of the enemies,” Khamenei said at the ceremony, broadcast live on state TV.
He added that “despite all the sanctions and enmities, the Islamic Republic is stronger” than before.
Rouhani said the nuclear deal has been a sign of “good faith” by Iran and that it brought the nation respite from most difficult UN sanctions.
“Transition from the most difficult sanctions was achieved through a combination of the power of diplomacy and deterrent defensive power,” said Rouhani.
He said that in his second term in office, Iran will “insist on constructive engagement with the world more than before.”
Earlier Thursday, the state TV website quoted deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi as saying that Iran will come up with a “smart” reaction to the last US sanctions.
Araghchi reiterated Iran’s stance that the US legislation signed by Trump amounts to a “hostile” breach of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.


Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

Updated 48 min 45 sec ago
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Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

  • Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Idlib region Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the Russia-backed regime bombardment of the battered enclave.
Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to AFP.
He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheikhun, rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas Al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defense Center in Idlib,” in a Twitter post.
An AFP journalist saw White Helmet members gather to bid farewell to their friend, whose body was laid on a thick red blanket.
The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.
Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.
But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.
Raed Al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria.”
“It’s a great loss,” he said.
Dyab, who was single, leaves behind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said.
The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-story building with two members of the Jaish Al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.
Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.
The Idlib region is supposed to be protected by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey, but a buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented.
The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.