Lebanon president says US pullout from Iran deal will hurt Middle East

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, Nov. 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
Updated 16 July 2018
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Lebanon president says US pullout from Iran deal will hurt Middle East

  • "US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will have negative repercussions for stability in the region," Aoun wrote
  • Aoun is a political ally of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Monday the US withdrawal from world powers’ 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran would have negative consequences for Middle East stability.
Aoun, a Maronite Christian politician, is a political ally of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah. The United States, which classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, arms and trains Lebanon’s army.
“The unilateral US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement (in May) will have negative repercussions for security and stability in the region,” Aoun wrote on Twitter, his first public comment on the accord.
“Lebanon considered (the deal) a cornerstone for stability in the region, helping make it an area free of weapons of mass destruction,” Aoun’s office said in a statement summarising a meeting between him and Iranian foreign ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari.
Aoun said he welcomed the commitment of other countries to continue with the deal.
In Lebanon’s May parliamentary elections Hezbollah together with groups and individuals that are politically aligned to it won more than half of parliament’s seats, boosting the group politically.
Under the 2015 accord, Iran won a lifting of international sanctions in return for verifiable curbs on its disputed uranium enrichment program.
US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the deal in May, calling it deeply flawed, and has reimposed stringent US sanctions, heaping pressure on other signatories including major European allies to follow suit.
European powers have reaffirmed their commitment to the accord and say they will do more to encourage their businesses to stay engaged with Iran, though a number of firms have already said they plan to pull out to avoid US penalties.


France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Updated 4 min 12 sec ago
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France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

PARIS: France on Thursday called for Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to be released and warned Tehran that its adherence to a nuclear accord does not give it a blank cheque on human rights.
“We will do all we can to secure the release of Mrs.Sotoudeh,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the upper chamber Senate.
“She was condemned under astonishing conditions,” for “defending the rights of women, in particular those who contest the obligation to wear the Islamic veil,” he added.
Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told AFP on Sunday that his wife had been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to only serve the longest sentence, 12 years imposed on Sunday for “encouraging corruption and debauchery.”
She has also been convicted of espionage.
Sotoudeh has also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.
According to Khandan, Sotoudeh has refrained from choosing a lawyer as attorneys on her previous cases have faced prosecution for representing her.
“We have been making considerable efforts in recent months to preserve the (Iranian) nuclear accord, despite America’s withdrawal,” said Le Drian.
“We are doing so because we respect our signature, but Iran must also respect its obligations in particular those international agreements relating to civil and political rights,” he added.
Last month the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran has been adhering to its deal with world powers on limiting its nuclear program, as diplomatic wrangling continues over the future of the accord.
The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Last week, European nations rejected a call from US Vice President Mike Pence to follow the US lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.
Le Drian said Thursday: “Our wish to preserve the Vienna accord does not grant carte-blanche to Iran and certainly not in the matter of human rights.”
Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.
She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.