Iran’s actions in Mideast key concern, says Merkel

The Israeli premier is lobbying against Iran’s nuclear deal during talks in Europe. (AFP)
Updated 05 June 2018
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Iran’s actions in Mideast key concern, says Merkel

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she agreed with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s activities in the Middle East were a concern, particularly for Israel’s security. 

“We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that,” she said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu.

The Israeli premier, who is on a tour to persuade European countries to follow the US administration of Donald Trump in tearing up a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran, said Tehran has been able to bankroll a growing military presence in countries such as Syria and Yemen because sanctions had been lifted in exchange for its halt in nuclear enrichment activities.

He will travel to Paris on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron before coming to Britain on Wednesday for discussions with Theresa May.

“The Times” newspaper on Monday reported that Israel had shared secret files with European security services showing Iran’s determination to build an atomic bomb.

Among the documents seized by Israel from a Tehran warehouse in January, is a memorandum that formally hands responsibility for the production of weapons-grade enriched uranium to the Iranian defense ministry.

The document, seen by The Times was sent from the Iranian atomic energy authority to the defense ministry around 2001, authorizes the military to take over the task of enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) by centrifuges from three percent to more than 90 percent. 

Netanyahu is expected to use the finds from the files to make the case to May on Thursday that the deal with Tehran has been based on a false pledge from Iran that it never pursued a nuclear weapons program.

Iran wants to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis,” he said at Monday’s joint press conference with Merkel.

“This will inflame another religious war — this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,” he said.

Iran’s activities across the Middle East threaten to drive another wave of refugees to Europe, Netanyahu said after Monday’s talks with Merkel.

Merkel also said that talks and the nuclear agreement, torn up by the US, offered ways of thwarting Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.

“We support Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran at all times,” she said.

Merkel defended the nuclear accord as ensuring “at least for a certain time, that Iran’s activities are under control” noting that Tehran had been “on the brink of having a nuclear weapon” before the deal was signed.

But she acknowledged that a supplementary deal with Tehran covering its ballistic missile program as well as its interventions in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen was needed.

“But we believe that this can be achieved with tough negotiations,” she said.

Asked about Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comments on Twitter Sunday calling Iran a “malignant cancerous tumour”, Merkel said Germany and its partners had “repeatedly and with great clarity told Iran that we will stand up for Israel’s right to security.”

Western powers view Iran’s involvement in its neighbors affairs as destabilizing for the region while Israel sees it as a direct threat to its existence.


Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

Updated 21 November 2018
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Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

JUBA: Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.
“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice “threatens girls’ lives” and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency’s country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
“It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture,” John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
“Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving,” said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan’s ministry of gender.