UK minister meets Iranian officials in Tehran on nuclear deal

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi (2nd R) and visiting Junior British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt (1st L) are seen at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Tehran, September 1, 2018. (Photo by Tasnim News Agency)
Updated 01 September 2018
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UK minister meets Iranian officials in Tehran on nuclear deal

DUBAI: A British junior minister held talks in Iran on Saturday as Tehran said European states should take action if they wanted to save Iran’s nuclear deal following Washington’s withdrawal from the accord, Iranian state media reported.
“It is time for the Europeans to act in addition to voicing their political commitment,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as telling reporters.
“These measures may be costly, but if countries want to reap benefits and if they believe the nuclear accord is an international achievement, they should be ready to keep these achievements,” he was quoted as saying.
Britain and other European signatories are trying to keep the nuclear deal alive, despite US President Donald Trump’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.
UK’s Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt, on the first visit by a British minister since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, earlier met Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s state television reported.
Zarif said the talks with Burt had involved “access to banking resources and the sale of oil.”
Iran has been seeking commitment from European signatories of the nuclear deal that it will be able to access the Western banking system and continue to sell oil despite US sanctions.
In a statement before his visit, Burt said: “As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region.”
Zarif later spoke by telephone with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, state media reported, saying they discussed bilateral ties, the nuclear deal and regional developments.
A day earlier, Iran dismissed a call by Le Drian for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
Britain’s Burt was also expected to discuss the cases of dual nationals detained in Iran.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Accompanying Burt in Tehran, London’s special envoy to Syria Martin Longden later met senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hosein Jaberi Ansari, IRNA reported.
IRNA said Longden had expressed concern about the future of Idlib and the possibility of the use of chemical weapons there.
The Syrian province of Idlib and surrounding areas are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, a close Iranian ally. A source has told Reuters Assad is preparing a phased offensive to regain the province.


US weighing options on American Daesh sympathizer in Syria

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard on top of a building on February 17, 2019, in the frontline Syrian village of Baghuz. (AFP)
Updated 35 min 6 sec ago
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US weighing options on American Daesh sympathizer in Syria

  • Neither option would likely pass muster in the cases of US citizens, who enjoy strong legal protections under the Constitution

WASHINGTON: The United States said Tuesday it wanted to ensure foreign terrorists remain off the battlefield as it weighed options on an American detained in Syria who says she wants to return home.
The United States has urged European powers to take back hundreds of their citizens who fought with the Daesh group in Syria, but acknowledged the situation was complex in the rare case of an American terrorist.
Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old from Alabama who became a prominent online agitator for the extremists, said in an interview published Sunday with The Guardian that she had been brainwashed online and “deeply regrets” joining the movement.
While declining to discuss Muthana’s case specifically, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said that the status of US citizens detained in Syria “is by definition extremely complicated.”
“We’re looking into these cases to better understand the details,” he told reporters.
Palladino said that the United States generally did not see a different solution between what to do with US fighters and with foreigners, saying the fighters pose “a global threat.”
“Repatriating these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin, ensuring that they are prosecuted and detained — that’s the best solution, preventing them from returning to the battlefield,” he said.
The situation of foreign terrorists detained by US-allied Kurdish forces has taken a new urgency as President Donald Trump plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces say they may have to refocus on fighting Turkey, which has vowed to crush Kurdish fighters it links to separatists at home.
Trump has contemplated reopening the US military base at Guantanamo Bay to take in new foreign inmates, while Britain on Tuesday revoked the citizenship of a female terrorsist who wanted to return home with her newborn baby.
Neither option would likely pass muster in the cases of US citizens, who enjoy strong legal protections under the Constitution.
Muthana, who was married three times to terrorists and has a son with one of her husbands, fled her family in 2014 to join the Daesh group in Syria, where she took to Twitter to urge attacks on fellow Americans.
In the interview with The Guardian, Muthana said that she was “really young and ignorant” when she joined Daesh and has since renounced radicalism.
“I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return and I’ll never come back to the Middle East,” she told the newspaper.
Hassan Shilby, a lawyer for Muthana, told ABC television’s “Good Morning America” that the young woman had been “brainwashed and manipulated” and is “absolutely disgusted” by the person she became.