EU and Iran defend nuclear deal, under fire from Trump

Federica Mogherini (R), High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, walks through the US Capitol between meetings in Washington, DC, Nov. 7, 2017. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini brings her campaign to save the Iran nuclear deal from US President Donald Trump’s scorn to Capitol Hill, where senators are working on a bill that could kill it. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
Updated 10 November 2017
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EU and Iran defend nuclear deal, under fire from Trump

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan: Senior officials from the European Union and Iran spoke up on Friday in defense of the agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, as the pact comes under heavy pressure from US President Donald Trump.
The nuclear deal was “a major achievement of European and international multilateral diplomacy,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a conference in Uzbekistan.
“The European Union will make sure it will continue to be fully implemented by all, in all its parts,” she said.
Trump on Oct. 13 dealt a blow to the pact by refusing to certify that Tehran was complying with the accord, under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. International inspectors said it was complying.
The US Congress has until mid-December to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted by the deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also spoke on Friday at the United Nations-sponsored conference on Central Asian security and development in Samarkand.
“By clinching the nuclear deal and fulfilling all our commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we have in action proved our compliance with the principle of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament,” he said, without mentioning Trump directly.

Uzbek thaw
Mogherini said the EU’s ties with ex-Soviet Central Asia were at an all-time high following moves by Uzbekistan’s new government to open up the previously isolated nation.
Mogherini, the first EU foreign policy chief to visit Uzbekistan in four years, met President Shavkat Mirziyoyev as well as foreign ministers of all five Central Asian nations.
Mirziyoyev was elected president last December after the death of his authoritarian predecessor Islam Karimov, who was accused of systematic human rights abuses and whose relations with the West were poor.
Seeking to modernize Uzbekistan’s economy, Mirziyoyev has moved to mend those relations and announced an ambitious reform program at home.
After a “very long and fruitful meeting” with Mirziyoyev, Mogherini said the reforms had the full support of Brussels.
Mirziyoyev has also improved ties with neighboring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan after years of bitter standoffs over matters such as borders and water use, winning further praise from Mogherini.
“I would say that we are at the top of our historical experience of cooperation, but we want to use it not as a target point, but as a starting point,” she said.


Jordan pushes new IMF-backed tax bill to parliament

Updated 26 September 2018
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Jordan pushes new IMF-backed tax bill to parliament

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Tuesday sent to parliament an IMF-backed draft tax bill, a main plank of austerity measures to ease rising public debt, an issue that caused street protests last summer, officials said.
The government hopes to push through the new legislation within two months despite opposition from many deputies, saying the law promotes social justice by targeting high earners and combats long-time corporate tax evaders.
Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by the monarch last June after his predecessor was sacked in a move to defuse a crisis that saw some of the largest protests in years over tax hikes.
Razzaz withdrew from parliament a tax law that had been put forward by the previous government and said he would hold “broad consultations with civic bodies over a new tax system that will not trample on citizens’ rights.”
Earlier this year, a general sales tax was raised and a subsidy on bread was scrapped as part of the IMF’s three-year fiscal plan that aims to cut the spiralling $37 billion debt, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product.
Unions and civic associations behind last June’s protests have rejected the new modified tax bill saying it should not have been drafted but have so far stopped short of calling for street protests. They want the government to give priority to fighting corruption and cutting public waste.
The government says the new law softens the impact of the tax hikes on middle class families by raising personal income thresholds and reintroducing personal exemptions.
Razzaz has promised to restore public trust in a country where many blame successive governments for failing to deliver on pledges of reviving growth and curbing corruption.
Razzaz has warned that parliament’s rejection of the bill would risk hurting the debt-laden economy, where annual growth has been stagnant at around 2 percent in recent years.
Any delay would push even higher the cost of servicing over 1 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of foreign debt due in 2019, raising the prospect of rating agencies downgrading the kingdom’s credit ratings, Razzaz said in a recent interview with state television.
“If we don’t come with a tax law we will face these dangers. It will cost us dearly,” Razzaz said last week.
He said the tax bill would bring an extra 300 million dinars in revenue for the budget and avoid worsening a chronic 1.7 billion dinar budget shortfall. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)