Washington seeking ‘supplemental’ Iran deal with European powers

Abbas Araghchi, right, political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and the secretary-general of the EU External Action Service (EEAS), Helga Schmid, attend E3/EU+3 and Iran talks at Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Washington seeking ‘supplemental’ Iran deal with European powers

VIENNA: The US and European powers have had good discussions toward agreeing a “supplemental” accord beyond the Iran nuclear deal by May 12, a senior US official said on Friday.
President Donald Trump said in January that the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers must be “fixed” by May 12 or the US will walk away.
Senior State Department official Brian Hook said on Friday after talks in Berlin and Vienna that Trump wants to reach a “supplemental” deal with the European signatories to the agreement by then.
This would cover Iran’s ballistic missile program, its regional activities, the expiration of parts of the nuclear deal in the mid-2020s and tighter UN inspections, Hook said.
“We are taking things one week at a time, we are having very good discussions in London, Paris and Berlin,” Hook, recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s chief of strategy, told reporters.
“There is a lot we agree on and where we disagree we are working to bridge our differences,” Hook said.
He declined to indicate what would happen if and when such an agreement is reached, saying: “We are not under instructions from the president to go beyond seeking an agreement with our European allies.”
The 2015 accord between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany curtailed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran, which according to the UN atomic watchdog has been abiding by the deal since it came into force in January 2016, has ruled out any changes to the agreement.
The talks in Vienna on Friday, a regular review of the accord, involved Iran and the six other signatories.
Trump’s decision this week to replace Tillerson with Mike Pompeo as secretary of state has been widely seen as another bad omen for the agreement.
Tillerson and his erstwhile Cabinet ally Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had urged Trump to listen to the Europeans to preserve the agreement.
Pompeo, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is seen as taking a harder line on Iran.


Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

  • Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side

ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.

Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.