Iran opposition group calls for regime change in Paris march

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A woman flashes the V-sign and holds a portrait of Massoud Rajavi, who disappeared in Iraq in 2003, and husband of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition to protest against the celebration in Iran of the 40th anniversary of the revolution. (AFP)
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Supporters of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, demonstrate in Paris, Friday Feb.8, 2019 as Iran marks the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2019

Iran opposition group calls for regime change in Paris march

  • Crowds waved posters of group leader Maryam Rajavi and MEK founder Massoud Rajavi
  • Security was tight during the rally and march through Paris’ Left Bank

PARIS: Several thousand supporters of an exiled Iranian opposition group marched through Paris on Friday, calling for an end to Iran’s clerical regime 40 years after the revolution toppled Iran’s monarchy.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, widely referred to in the West as the MEK, were joined at the rally by an array of speakers before the march, from former and current French politicians to a one-time Algerian prime minister and a Syrian opposition figure.
Crowds waved posters of group leader Maryam Rajavi and founder Massoud Rajavi — not seen since 2003 in Iraq, where the MEK once had a camp and waged war against Iran before being disarmed by invading US troops.
The group bases its headquarters outside Paris with several thousand members in Albania, extracted in a UN-brokered effort from Iraq. Supporters are scattered elsewhere in the West as part of the Iranian diaspora.
Security was tight during the rally and march through Paris’ Left Bank. The group’s annual rally last year was the target of an alleged bomb plot, which was thwarted by arrests. An Austrian-based Iranian diplomat is being held in Belgium, where police found bomb material in the car of a couple of Iranian origin.
“As long as we’re dealing with the main state sponsor of terrorism, there is a concern ... But that will never stop us,” MEK spokesman Shahin Gobadi said. The MEK hones to US President Donald Trump’s hard line on Iran, and supports US sanctions on Iran.
One speaker, former French Sen. Jean-Pierre Michel, said in an interview that “I’m not a fanatic of Mr. Trump ... but I think the United States is right about Iran.” He chastised Europeans for what he views as their softer approach to Tehran.
Michel, 80, is a long-time supporter of the Mujahedeen, which has drawn around it numerous US and European parliamentarians and former officials who disagree with critics’ portrayal of the organization as cult-like.
He praised MEK for having a woman at its head who says she wants democracy and separation of church and state in a future Iran, and he hopes one day to visit Tehran with Rajavi, saying, “It keeps me alive.”


Lebanon and Israel to hold talks on disputed borders

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago

Lebanon and Israel to hold talks on disputed borders

  • "UNIFIL stands ready to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution of this issue," the force said
  • The US will act as a facilitator during the talks, which are due to be held in the border town of Naqoura

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Israel will hold UN-mediated talks on their disputed maritime and land borders, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced Thursday.
The United States will act as a facilitator during the talks, which are due to be held in the southern Lebanon border town of Naqoura, Berri told a news conference without providing a date for the negotiations.
Berri said a framework agreement had been reached to start the negotiations, and read out a September 22 copy of it.
"The United States were asked by both sides, Israel and Lebanon, to act as a mediator and facilitator to draw up the maritime borders, and it is ready to do this," he quoted it as saying.
"On the issue of maritime border, continuous talks will be held at the UN headquarters in Naqoura under UN sponsorship," he said.
"The US representatives and the US special coordinator for Lebanon are prepared to provide meeting minutes together that they will sign and present to Israel and Lebanon to sign at the end of each meeting," he added.
The UN peacekeeping force patrolling the shared border welcomed the news.
UNIFIL "welcomes today's announcement of a framework agreement to launch negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on maritime border demarcation between the two countries," it said in a statement.
"UNIFIL stands ready to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution of this issue."
Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war.
US envoy David Schenker on September 8 said he hoped to come to Lebanon and sign a framework agreement towards starting discussions "in the coming weeks".
The issue of the maritime border is particularly sensitive due to the possible presence of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.
In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean for oil and gas with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.
Lebanon in April said initial drilling in Block 4 had shown traces of gas but no commercially viable reserves.
Exploration of Block 9 has not started and is much more controversial as Israel also claims ownership over part of it.