Iran slams US sanctions push, France warns of further Mideast instability

A file photo of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Reuters/Yves Herman)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Iran slams US sanctions push, France warns of further Mideast instability

  • France’s foreign minister said the US decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal will endanger the region
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Pompeo had repeated old allegations against Tehran “only with a stronger and more indecent tone.”

LONDON: Iran on Wednesday kept up a drumbeat of opposition to US demands for sweeping change in its foreign policy and nuclear program, and Tehran’s ally Damascus dismissed out of hand a US call for a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria.
France, one of several European powers dismayed by the US withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear accord, said Washington’s method of adding more sanctions on Tehran would reinforce the country’s dominant hard-liners.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not curb its regional influence, accusing Tehran of supporting armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Pompeo was speaking two weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran that had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. European powers see the accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Pompeo had repeated old allegations against Tehran “only with a stronger and more indecent tone.”
“Mr Pompeo and other US officials in the current administration are prisoners of their wrong illusions, prisoners of their past and have been taken hostage by corrupt pressure groups,” he told state television.
A senior Iranian military official, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said Iran would not bow to Washington’s pressure to limit its military activities.
“This enemy (the United States) does not have the courage for military confrontation and face-to-face war with Iran, but it’s trying to put economic and mental pressures on the Iranian nation,” state news agency IRNA reported him as saying.

“Endangering the region”​
In Damascus, Syria’s deputy foreign minister dismissed the notion of a withdrawal of Iranian forces.
In Syria’s seven-year-old conflict, Iran has provided vital support to President Bashar Assad’s military. Its forces and the militias it backs from the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, helped Damascus claw back control of major cities from militants and rebels.
“Whether Iranian forces or Hezbollah withdraw or stay in Syria is not up for discussion because it’s the (business) of the Syrian government,” Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV cited Faisal Mekdad as saying.
In Paris, France’s foreign minister said the US decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and implement a tough strategy on the country would strengthen Tehran’s hard-liners and endanger the region.
“We disagree with the method because this collection of sanctions which will be set up against Iran will not enable dialogue and, on the contrary, it will reinforce the conservatives and weaken President Rouhani. This posture risks endangering the region more,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio.
He said Paris would continue to implement the agreement even if it did agree with the United States that Iran’s ballistic missile activity and regional hegemonic ambitions needed to be curbed.
He said Paris shared Washington’s concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile “frenzy” and regional ambitions, but the 2015 nuclear deal was the best chance of stopping Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.
Deputy foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — will meet their Iranian counterpart on Friday in Vienna.
The meeting will assess what can be done to keep the deal and circumvent extraterritorial American sanctions that are impacting foreign business appetite for Iran.


Libyan airstrikes target group attacking oil ports

Smoke and flames rise from an oil storage tank that was set on fire amid fighting between rival factions at Ras Lanuf terminal, Libya. Reuters
Updated 55 min 48 sec ago
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Libyan airstrikes target group attacking oil ports

  • The country is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias
  • The UN Support Mission in Libya condemned the assault on the ports of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidr

CAIRO: Libyan forces carried out airstrikes against a militia attacking key oil ports in the east, a spokesman said as Libya’s national oil firm warned on Monday of further damage to oil infrastructure as well as environmental contamination in the north African country.
A militia, led by Ibrahim Jadhran who opposes Libya’s self-styled national army commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, attacked the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidr on Thursday forcing the National Oil Corporation to suspend exports and evacuate its employees.
The airstrikes late Sunday targeted fighters loyal to Jadhran, who are trying to seize the oil terminals, said Ahmed Al-Mesmari, a spokesman for the LNA.
He said warplanes carried out airstrikes against “terrorist positions and gatherings in the operational military zone stretching from Ras Lanuf to the edge of the city of Sirte.”
Al-Mesmari called on residents in the oil crescent area to stay away from “areas where the enemy gathers, munition storages and sites with military vehicles.”
Jadhran said in a video circulated on social media on Thursday that he had formed an alliance to retake oil terminals. “Our aim is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years,” he said.
The attack by Jadhran’s militia caused “significant” damage to at least two storage tanks, the NOC said Monday in a statement. It warned of further damage to oil infrastructure as well as environmental contamination.
The firm called for an unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Jadhran’s forces, adding that the closure meant the loss of 240,000 barrels per day in oil production. It advised two tankers scheduled to arrive at the ports to remain at sea until the situation was under control.
The UN Support Mission in Libya condemned the assault on the ports of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidr. “This dangerous escalation in Oil Crescent area puts Libya’s economy in jeopardy and risks igniting a widespread confrontation,” UNSMIL tweeted on Thursday.
Jadhran is a rebel commander who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed dictator Moammar Qaddafi. In 2013, he proclaimed himself the guardian of Libya’s oil crescent including the ports of Al-Sidr, Ras Lanuf and Brega, which represent about 60 percent of Libya’s oil resources. His actions cost the oil-rich country billions of dollars.
He lost control of the oil crescent to Haftar’s forces in 2016.
Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising. The country is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias. Haftar is allied with the east-based administration that is at odds with the UN-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli.