Iranian opposition urges Europe to reinstate nuclear sanctions on Tehran

Thousands of people, some of which are supporters of the National Council Of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its leader Maryam Rajavi, gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the German capital's Mitte district, in a protest against the current Iranian regime. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Iranian opposition urges Europe to reinstate nuclear sanctions on Tehran

  • Calls come as Europe weighs how to respond to Iran breaching 2015 atomic deal
  • Iran said it is enriching uranium beyond the limit set by the accord

LONDON: European powers must reinstate sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran’s  breach of the international accord to curb its nuclear program, the Iranian opposition in exile warned.
Europe had been attempting to preserve the 2015 deal since Donald Trump withdrew the US last year. But Iran has reacted to heightened tensions with Washington by enriching uranium beyond limits set by the agreement.
The escalation has placed European leaders in a difficult position as they scramble to  salvage the agreement.
Speaking to Arab News in London, Hossein Abedini of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI) Foreign Affairs Committee, said the only choice now is for Europe to ramp up pressure on Iran.
“The Europeans must immediately snap back sanctions,” Abedini said. “The brazen actions to breach the nuclear deal ... clearly show that the mullahs’ regime never abandoned its nuclear projects and it is trying to capitalize on a placating policy to pursue it once again.”
The NCRI, a Europe-based umbrella bloc of opposition groups that seeks an end to Iran’s theocracy, has spent years warning about Tehran’s atomic ambitions.

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But its message now comes at a critical time as Iran demands that Europe must maintain economic relations even as the US moves to isolate the regime.
A diplomat sent to Tehran by Emmanuel Macron held talks Wednesday with Iranian officials in a bid to stop the deal collapsing.
But at a recent rally in Germany, the NCRI’s president elect Maryam Rajavi urged Europe to stop appeasing the Iranian regime.
“Each euro traded with the clerics is a euro for fueling the Khamenei repression and war machine,” she said.
Any concession to Tehran, she added, increases the prospect of a “catastrophic war” by the clerics.
The 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program and halt the country gaining a nuclear weapon. In response, world powers removed sanctions that had crippled the Iranian economy for years.
But many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, said the deal had merely allowed Iran to accelerate its missile technology and fund a foreign policy of stirring up trouble in the Middle East. Donald Trump agreed, and swiftly withdrew the US after he became president.

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He reinstated punishing sanctions on Iran’s economy, reducing its main income of oil exports to a trickle. In recent months the US also ramped up its military presence in the region and accused Iran of attacking oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned European signatories of the deal last week that Tehran would “take the next step” in growing its enrichment of uranium from Sunday.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed Monday that Tehran had enriched uranium to 4.5 percent purity, beyond the deal’s limit of 3.67 percent.
Abedini said the announcement proved the Iranian regime has never given up its nuclear projects.
“Past experience shows that the regime has always deceived the international community about its real intentions,” he said.
“It is high time that the whole nuclear infrastructure of the regime is totally dismantled.”
US sanctions have also targeted senior figures in the Iranian regime, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Last month, Trump said he was imposing hard-hitting new sanctions, including on the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in response to the shooting down of a US drone.
Abedini said sanctioning Khamenei and the IRGC are “the most imperative steps which will deny the regime funds it needs to continue its destabilising policies and repression at home.”


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.