EU backs off from new sanctions against Iran — for now

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European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with the media as she arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (R), EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) and Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attend an EU foreign affairs council in Luxembourg on April 16, 2018. (AFP / Emmanuel Dunand)
Updated 17 April 2018
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EU backs off from new sanctions against Iran — for now

  • Irish FM stressed need to send a strong signal to Iran about its activities
  • Targets for new sanctions could include both Iranians and non-Iranian militias in Syria

JEDDAH: EU foreign ministers met on Monday for talks on how they could persuade the US not to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, but stopped short of imposing new sanctions on Tehran.
Britain, France and Germany used a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers to try to build support for expanding sanctions against Iran to punish it for its regional expansionism and its role in the conflict in Syria.
They hope that by doing so they will persuade US President Donald Trump not to follow through on his threat to abandon the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson said there was “a very broad majority” in favor of expanding sanctions, as the clock ticks down to a May 12 deadline imposed by Trump to “fix” the agreement.
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said there was a need to “send a strong signal to Iran that we’re concerned in relation to some of their activity, particularly in Syria.
“But also to send a message to Washington that we share their concerns in some of those areas,” Coveney said after the talks in Luxembourg.
Targets for new sanctions could include both Iranians and non-Iranian militias in Syria. But any decision would have to have unanimous support, and countries such as Italy and Sweden are not convinced.
“There is no consensus at the moment,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.
“I don’t exclude that this will happen in the future but it’s not the case today.”


Kuwait arrests 2 Filipinos accused of helping runaway maids

Updated 23 April 2018
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Kuwait arrests 2 Filipinos accused of helping runaway maids

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases
  • The two countries have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaiti police arrested two Filipinos for allegedly convincing housemaids to run away from their employers’ homes as the Philippines’ ambassador faced questions for comments about his embassy’s work in aiding abused workers, authorities said Sunday.
The arrests, reported by the state-run KUNA news agency, come as relations are tense between Kuwait and the Philippines, which sends many domestic laborers to the Gulf Arab emirate.
Already, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases, culminating in a February incident that saw a Filipino’s body discovered in a freezer at a Kuwait City apartment abandoned for more than a year.
KUNA said Sunday the two Filipinos acknowledged convincing the maids to leave. It wasn’t clear what law the two men were accused of breaking, though KUNA said the two “confessed to the crime in addition to other similar offenses that had been committed in various regions of the country.”
The arrests came after Kuwait summoned the Philippines ambassador over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy’s effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers. Ambassador Renato Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.
Villa’s office said he was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Duterte in January complained that cases of abuse reported by Filipino domestic workers “always” seem to be coming from Kuwait.
There have been prominent cases of abuse in the past, including an incident in December 2014 where a Kuwaiti’s pet lions fatally mauled a Filipino maid.
The Philippines banned workers entirely from Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis’ body in a freeze in February. In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence.
More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there.
Philippine officials have demanded that housemaids be allowed to hold their passports and cellphones, which is normal for skilled workers like teachers and office workers. But many Kuwaiti employers seize their phones and passports.