Tillerson seeks UK, French support for new penalties against Iran

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Tillerson seeks UK, French support for new penalties against Iran

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran and preventing a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe.
Tillerson left Washington as the government shutdown enters its second day. The State Department said he is conducting foreign relations that are essential to national security.
Britain and France are parties to the 2015 Iran deal that President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to his liking.
The official said Tillerson’s intent is “to close the gaps” in the accord that gave Iran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, and to explore more ways to counter Iranian behavior in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss Tillerson’s plans before the trip, and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, Trump pledged to stop waiving US sanctions unless the Europeans agreed to strengthen its terms by consenting to a side deal that would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume some advanced atomic work. Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has rejected any renegotiation. Britain, France and the other European party to the accord, Germany, have expressed some willingness to work with the US over the issue.
A US withdrawal probably would scrap the agreement, a chief foreign policy achievement for President Barack Obama, by reimposing a broad range of sanctions that isolate Iran from the international financial system. Iran has said it will no longer be bound by the terms of the deal if that happens.
Tillerson, on his eighth trip to Europe since becoming secretary of state a year ago, planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and national security adviser Mark Sedwill on Monday. He also intended to visit the new US Embassy in the British capital. Trump had been expected to preside over a formal ribbon-cutting for the embassy next month but canceled plans to visit Britain, citing the billion-dollar cost of the embassy and lambasting the Obama administration for its location in a less desirable area than the old site in London’s posh Mayfair district.


Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to merge FATA with KPK

Updated 9 min 2 sec ago
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Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to merge FATA with KPK

  • Government supported by all opposition parties but opposed by two allies.
  • The bill was passed despite opposition from two government-allied parties.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment bill allowing the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. 
This despite opposition from two government-allied parties: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) and the Pukhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
“This issue needed a national consensus, and thank God we achieved it today,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the National Assembly after the passage of the bill.
The merger will greatly impact development in FATA, which borders restive Afghanistan, he said.
“This is the beginning of the process,” he added. “We have to win the trust of the people of FATA, and we can achieve it through infrastructure development in the area.”
Abbasi announced a tax exemption for FATA for the next five years, and promised a 100-billion-rupee ($864-million) special infrastructure development package.
“We need to build hospitals, schools and roads in FATA to bring it at par with other parts of the country,” he said.
The government required a two-thirds majority (228 votes) in the Lower House to pass the bill, and got the support of all opposition parties.
The bill will become law after it is passed by a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and by the KP Assembly.
The bill envisages the abolition of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) — a special set of colonial laws that governs FATA — and representation in the KP Assembly.
The assembly will have an additional 21 seats from FATA “provided that elections to the aforesaid seats shall be held within one year after the general elections 2018.”
JUI-F legislator Naeema Kishwar said her party had asked Abbasi to hold a referendum in FATA. The merger “will not augur well for Pakistan” as it is fulfilling a “foreign agenda,” she added.
The government allocated 100 billion rupees for FATA in last year’s budget, but only 10 billion were released, she said. 
“How can we trust the government that it will fulfil all its promises of development in the tribal area?” she asked.
PkMAP legislator Abdul Qahar Khan Wadan said the people of FATA want a separate province, not a merger with KP. “We will fight for our rights, as the government has betrayed us,” he added.