Hamas says will not attend Palestinian meeting over Jerusalem

Israeli border guards prepare to disperse a protest by Palestinians against the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, on January 9, 2018 north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Hamas says will not attend Palestinian meeting over Jerusalem

GAZA: Hamas said Saturday it would not participate in a meeting of Palestinian leaders to debate responses to the controversial US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision not to take part in the meeting to begin late Sunday is a further setback to failing reconciliation efforts between leading Palestinian factions.
“We have taken the decision not to participate in the meeting of the (Palestinian) Central Council in Ramallah,” Hamas said in a statement, however stressing its “commitment to the unity of our people.”
“The conditions under which the committee will be held will not enable it to carry out a comprehensive and responsible political review, and will prevent decisions that reach the level of our aspirations.”
The two-day meeting will bring together the heads of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian Islamist movement, were invited to attend despite not being part of the PLO. Islamic Jihad has also announced it would not take part.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, had been pushing for the meeting to be held outside the Palestinian territories but Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas decided instead to host it in Ramallah, the base of his government in the West Bank.
The Hamas statement said this left them subject to the “pressures” of Israel, which occupies the West Bank and regularly arrests Hamas officials.
The meeting is due to discuss responses to US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision infuriated Palestinian leaders, who see at least the east of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Trump’s administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and the PLO office in Washington was briefly threatened with closure.
Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement in October that was meant to see the Islamists hand over control of Gaza by the end of the year.
The talks have however broken down, with disputes over the fate of tens of thousands of Hamas civil servants and the future of Hamas’ vast armed wing.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, forcing out Abbas’ forces in a near civil war.
It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and is considered a terrorist organization by the Jewish State, the United States and others.


Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

Updated 17 min 29 sec ago
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Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

  • The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day
  • Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility

JEDDAH: Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium and boosted its ability to enrich it to weapons grade, the head of its atomic agency admitted on Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the regime had imported 550 tons of uranium before the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program. It had acquired about 400 tons more since then, bringing the total to between 900 and 950 tons.

Iran has also built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges a day for uranium enrichment, Salehi said.

The announcements came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal.

Under the agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the deal. Iran has said it will wait to see what they can do, but has signaled it is ready to put its enrichment activities back on track.

Salehi insisted the new factory did not break the terms of the agreement. “Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but have not started it,” he said.

Salehi said last month that Iran had begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

The announcements suggest that a nuclear bomb is on Iran’s agenda, Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News

“Iran’s negotiating strategy here seems to be pegged to pressuring the EU to provide European businesses protection from complying with renewed US sanctions,” he said.

“IR-6 centrifuges are relatively complex and if Tehran moves forward with enhancing their capacity to mass-produce faster advanced centrifuges, they could easily establish a position to breakout quickly toward nuclear weapon production, if the decision is made.

“The capacity to build en masse more advanced centrifuges in the future doesn’t violate the deal itself, but it sends a strong political signal that nuclear weaponization could very well still be on the agenda in Tehran.”