UN chief: Iran may be defying UN on missiles, OK on nukes

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Updated 14 December 2017
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UN chief: Iran may be defying UN on missiles, OK on nukes

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that Iran may be defying a UN call to halt ballistic missile development even as it complies with the nuclear deal with six world powers.
The UN chief says in a report to the Security Council that the United Nations is investigating Iran’s possible transfer of ballistic missiles to Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen that may have been used in launches aimed at Saudi Arabia on July 22 and Nov. 4.
The report on implementation of a UN resolution that endorsed the July 2015 nuclear agreement was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The US Mission to the United Nations said Ambassador Nikki Haley would hold a news conference Thursday in Washington to highlight its findings as well as Iran’s “destabilizing activities in the Middle East region and elsewhere in the world.”
In the report, Guterres stressed that the nuclear deal remains “the best way” to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
He said President Donald Trump’s Oct. 13 decision not to certify the agreement under US law created “considerable uncertainty” about its future. But, he added, “I am reassured that the United States has expressed its commitment to stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for now.”
Trump, however, has left open the possibility of pulling out of the nuclear deal.
Guterres welcomed support for the treaty from its other parties — China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, the European Union and numerous other countries.
“I encourage the United States to maintain its commitments to the plan and to consider the broader implications for the region before taking any further steps,” he said. “Similarly, I encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to carefully consider the concerns raised by other participants in the plan.”
Trump has called the agreement a bad deal, and the US has focused especially on its time limits and a provision in the Security Council resolution that calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Guterres said the UN is studying debris from missiles fired at Yanbu in Saudi Arabia on July 22 and at the capital of Riyadh on Nov. 4 and also is reviewing other information.
He said France, Germany, Britain and the United States sent a letter saying the Simorgh Space Launch Vehicle that Iran launched on July 27, if configured as a ballistic missile, is “inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
But Guterres said Russia, an ally of Iran, sent a letter Aug. 16 that the Security Council resolution contains only a “call” for Iran to forgo missile work — not a prohibition. He said Iran says the launch vehicle was “part of a scientific and technological activity related to the use of space technology” that it is determined to pursue.
The Security Council discussed the launch on Sept. 8, and “there was no consensus among council members” on how it related to the 2015 resolution, Guterres said.
He said Israel protested that Iran’s test of a Qiam ballistic missile on Nov. 15, 2016 “used a Star of David as the intended target,” and citied other ballistic missiles it reportedly launched at targets in Syria on June 18-19. France, Germany, Britain and the US also raised these tests as well as the test of a medium-range missile July 4.
The secretary-general said Iran called Israel’s claim of a specifically marked target “a sheer falsehood.” Iran also said its “military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, have not been designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons and thus are outside the purview of the Security Council resolution,” Guterres said.


Egyptians angered by latest price hikes

After the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, the economy of Egypt has been in deep trouble. Shutterstock
Updated 8 min 31 sec ago
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Egyptians angered by latest price hikes

  • The new hikes will save up to $2.8 billion from funds allocated for state subsidies in the country’s 2018-19 budget
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared that Egypt’s spending to cover fuel, food and electricity is $18.6 billion a year and he plans to slash these figures

CAIRO: For Mamdouh Ahmed, a bank accountant from Cairo, life has just become a lot more expensive.

The 50-year-old used to pay 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.60) for 20 liters of 92 octane gasoline for his car. But after the government hiked fuel prices during Eid Al-Fitr, he now pays 135 pounds — a 35 percent increase.
“At least they should have done 10 percent only and in the next three-four months applied another increase. This is too much,” Ahmed, told Arab News.
The increase in fuel prices — the fourth since 2014 — have angered Egyptians already struggling to cope after hikes in the cost of drinking water, electricity and public transport.
Caused by the removal of subsidies, they are part of the painful austerity measures introduced by the government to service the country’s ailing economy.
The increases announced on Saturday included a 60 percent rise in the price of cooking gas. Prices for commercial use went from 60 to 100 pounds per cylinder and for home use from 30 to 50 pounds.
For gasoline, the increase averaged about 34 percent. For 92 octane, prices increased from 5 pounds to 6.75 pounds per liter and 80 octane increased from 3.65 to 5.5 pounds.
The new hikes will save up to $2.8 billion from funds allocated for state subsidies in the country’s 2018-19 budget, Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla said.
Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said that cutting fuel subsidies was necessary to help bridge the country’s budget deficit. A recent surge in crude prices has placed further pressure on Egypt’s deficit, as the country imports most of its oil.
The increases were met with angry reactions that varied from furious social media posts to calls for strikes and protests.
“What should we expect from the poor who can’t afford these rises,” said Walaa Mohamed, an engineer in Cairo. “People who have low salaries and don’t have anything else, how can they support their kids, clothing and transportation? Should they steal, beg or commit suicide?”
Mohamed El-Yamany, a Cairo resident, said that basic economics says that a government in such a tough position as Egypt’s should also work on industrial projects, fight corruption, deal with tax evasion and fight the parallel economy.
“Fix all of this first and then let’s talk about subsidy lifts,” El-Yamany said.
Another Cairo resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We can handle the price increases if it was planned gradually over five years. This sudden increase means that prices will double soon in a few months. It is really frustrating us in Eid and the solution is to have a civil strike.”
The government has also increased the price of drinking water by up to 45 percent, electricity by 26 percent, and raised metro fares 250 percent in the past few weeks. The metro fare prices rise were met with some protests.
After the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, the economy of Egypt has been in deep trouble.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared that Egypt’s spending to cover fuel, food and electricity is $18.6 billion a year and he plans to slash these figures.
While the minimum salary has remained the same for four years, the price of diesel has risen five-fold, cooking gas has increased by 15-fold and 92 octane gasoline by 360 percent.
In 2016, Egypt secured a three-year $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund by introducing austerity measures that included currency floatation, cutting subsidies and raising value-added tax.
The current fiscal year 2017/18 looks promising according to the government, which is targeting a 5.8 percent growth rate, compared to the current 5.2 percent rate, as well as lowering the budget deficit from 10.9 percent in the fiscal year 2016/17 to 8.4 percent.