France’s top envoy to hold key talks with Iran

In this file photo, an Iranian flag fluttering outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1200 kms south of Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 09 July 2019
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France’s top envoy to hold key talks with Iran

  • Tehran warns Europe against retaliatory measures for breaching uranium enrichment cap

PARIS: A French envoy was in Tehran on Tuesday to boost European efforts to save the 2015 nuclear deal, after Iran warned Europe against retaliatory measures for breaching a uranium enrichment cap.

The accord between Tehran and world powers promised sanctions relief, economic benefits and an end to international isolation of the country in return for stringent curbs on its nuclear program. It has been more than a year after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tasked with inspections, while Iran consistently lived up to its commitments under the deal until recently it is now in breach of two of them.

French President Emmanuel Macron sent his top diplomatic adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, to Tehran after Iran announced on Monday it had passed 4.5 percent uranium enrichment — above the 3.7 percent limit under the agreement.

Bonne is “to piece together a de-escalation” strategy, the French presidency’s office said.

After the US withdrew in May 2018 and reimposed stinging sanctions on Iran, especially on its banking and oil sectors, the future of the accord became uncertain.

As the Iranian economy went into free-fall, Tehran demanded that the other parties to the deal, especially France, Germany and Britain, deliver the promised economic benefits and help it bypass US sanctions. However, it gradually became clear that this was no simple task.

In May, a year after Trump’s withdrawal, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would roll back its commitments under the deal in stages every 60 days in an effort to force the other parties to deliver on their side of the bargain.

As tensions rose the US dispatched a naval carrier, bombers and extra troops to the region to counter perceived threats from Iran.

Last month, Trump said he had called off a retaliatory military strike against Iran at the last minute after Tehran shot down a US drone that it said had crossed into its airspace, a claim denied by Washington.

The IAEA confirmed on Monday that Iran had enriched uranium to a level above the deal’s cap of 3.67 percent, though the 4.5-percent level reported by Tehran is still far below the 90 percent necessary for military purposes.

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed this month that Iran has exceeded a 300-km limit on enriched uranium reserves, another cap that was imposed by the deal.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned Iran on Tuesday that it is within range of Israeli airstrikes, citing what he described as Iranian threats to destroy Israel.

“Iran recently has been threatening Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu said at an Israeli air force base, where he viewed a squadron of advanced US-built F-35 warplanes.

“It should remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran, and certainly Syria,” he said in a YouTube video clip filmed at the base, with an F-35 in the background.


Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Updated 1 min 52 sec ago
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Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.


Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.
On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.