Iran’s Khamenei issues new threat to ramp up Iran’s nuclear program

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the seizure of the ship “piracy”. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019

Iran’s Khamenei issues new threat to ramp up Iran’s nuclear program

  • He pledges revenge for UK tanker seizure
  • Concerns grow for UAE vessel in Strait of Hormuz

DUBAI: Iran vowed on Tuesday to ramp up its nuclear program and repeated threats of retaliation against the UK for seizing an illegal Iranian oil shipment to Syria.

Since the beginning of July, Tehran has been escalating breaches of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program in return for an easing of sanctions.

Increasing its enrichment of uranium is an attempt by Tehran to pressure Britain, France and Germany — the European signatories to the JCPOA — into finding a way round crippling US sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump after he withdrew from the deal last May.

“We have started to reduce our commitments and this trend shall continue,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday.

“Europe made 11 commitments, none of which they abided by. We abided by our commitments and even beyond them. Now that we’ve begun to reduce our commitments, they oppose it. How insolent!”


It was the first time Khamenei had explicitly pledged to press ahead with Iran’s nuclear program, rejecting European appeals to restore enrichment limits preventing rapid development of a nuclear weapon.

It was the first time Khamenei had explicitly pledged to press ahead with its nuclear program, rejecting European appeals to restore limits on enrichment aimed at preventing the rapid development of a nuclear weapon.

He also repeated threats of retribution against the UK for its seizure this month of an Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gibraltar. The Grace 1 was transporting a million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria, in breach of EU sanctions.

“Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship ... and gives it a legal appearance. The Islamic Republic ... will not leave this wickedness unanswered and will respond to it at an appropriate time and place,” he said.

Britain called for calm. “Escalation in the Gulf is not in anyone’s interests and we have repeatedly stressed that to the Iranians,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Amid tension in the Gulf, US defense officials believe Iran may have seized a small UAE oil tanker that turned off its tracker on Saturday night in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Riah, a 58-meter coastal vessel that operated from Dubai and Sharjah on the west coast to Fujairah in the east, is now in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base on it.

“We certainly have suspicions that it was taken,” a US official said. “Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That’s a possibility. But the longer there is a period of no contact ... it’s going to be a concern.”


Sudan to name ruling council after landmark signing

Updated 36 min 13 sec ago

Sudan to name ruling council after landmark signing

  • Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of Khartoum
  • Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan”

KHARTOUM: Sudan was expected to form its sovereign council Sunday, the first step after the signing of a transitional constitution triggered unprecedented celebration in Khartoum.
Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of the capital on Saturday after generals and opposition leaders signed the documents that will govern Sudan’s three-year transition to civilian rule.
The ceremony in a hall by the Nile river was attended by several high-ranking foreign officials, the biggest such event in years to be held in the once-pariah state.
Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan” after 30 years of rule by the now-detained Islamist general Omar Al-Bashir.
“I welcome this historic moment for Sudan. This agreement responds to the demands of the Sudanese people who have tirelessly called for change and a better future,” said Britain’s Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed his country would support the establishment of “a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections.”
According to the green book of documents signed on Saturday, several key steps will be taken before embarking on the long and obstacle littered road to 2022 polls.
The ruling sovereign council is to be comprised of six civilians and five military nominees.
Opposition sources told AFP that five names had so far been chosen, including only one woman.
The body, which will replace the Transitional Military Council, will be headed by a general for the first 21 months, and a civilian for the last 18 months of the transitional period.
Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist who was on Thursday picked by the protest camp to be prime minister, is due to be formally appointed on Tuesday.
A cabinet is then to be formed before Sudan’s new institutions can tackle the main challenges that lie ahead, first among them measures to rescue a moribund economy.
Making the most of a new freedom acquired during eight months of protests — and clashes with men in uniform that left at least 250 dead — Sudanese families took to the streets for wild celebrations Saturday night.
Youths spilling out of honking cars drag-raced down the main Nile-side road deep into the night, while groups sang and danced — the same two words echoing across the entire city: “Madaniya, Madaniya.”
It loosely translates as “civilian rule” and one would be hard-pressed to find somebody on the streets of Khartoum publicly opposing that goal.
Some members of the opposition alliance that organized the protests however fear that the euphoria could be short-lived.
Deep distrust remains between the incoming sovereign council’s main players.
While the power-sharing compromise reached earlier this month was widely hailed as the best Sudan could hope for, some members of the protest camp feel it short-changed their revolution.
The omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — a paramilitary commander who was one of the signatories of the documents on Saturday — is one of the main causes of unease.
His forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests and many suspect the man best known by his nickname ‘Hemeti’ is simply biding his time to pounce on power and nip democracy in the bud.
Sudanese analyst Abdel Latif Al-Buni stressed however that one of the most immediate perils facing the transition was a desire for vengeance.
“A spirit of revenge against the former regime is dangerous,” he said. “It will lead to a clash between the former regime and the new rulers.”
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges for crimes committed in the Darfur region, faces trial on corruption charges but his fate remains unclear.