France sees risk of stumbling into US-Iranian conflict

Iraqis demonstrate against the conflict between Iran and the US on 24 May. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2019
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France sees risk of stumbling into US-Iranian conflict

  • Washington has since tightened sanctions to block Iran’s oil exports and other benefits accruing from the deal

PARIS: Iran’s breaching of caps on its uranium enrichment after the US pulled out of world powers’ nuclear deal with Tehran was “a bad reaction to ... (a) bad decision,” raising fears of a stumbling into war, France’s foreign minister said.
Tensions have risen as Washington has blamed Iran for several attacks on oil tankers and Tehran shot down a US surveillance drone, prompting President Donald Trump to order airstrikes that he called off only minutes before impact.
Trump withdrew the US last year from the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers to curb its nuclear program, to the dismay of co-signatories France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China.
Washington has since tightened sanctions to block Iran’s oil exports and other benefits accruing from the deal. Tehran has responded by enriching uranium beyond set limits and threatening to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment well above the level deemed normal for electricity generation.
“The situation is serious. The rise of tensions could lead to accidents,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters when asked about the risk of a wider Middle East war.
“The fact Iran has decided to pull back from some of its engagements on nuclear proliferation is an additional worry. It is a bad decision, a bad reaction to another bad decision, that of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal a year ago,” he said, arriving for Paris’s annual Bastille Day military parade.

HIGHLIGHT

Washington has since tightened sanctions to block Iran’s oil exports and other benefits accruing from the deal. Tehran has responded by enriching uranium beyond set limits.

The European powers do not support Trump’s sanctions squeeze on Iran, aimed at forcing it into negotiations on stricter nuclear limits and other security concessions, but have been unable to come up with ways to allow Iran to avert them.
“No one wants a war. I’ve noticed that everyone is saying they don’t want to go to the summit of the escalation. Neither (Iranian) President Rouhani, nor President Trump or other Gulf leaders. But here there are elements of escalation that are worrisome,” Le Drian said.
“Iran gains nothing from withdrawing from its engagement (with nuclear deal). The US also gains nothing if Iran gets nuclear weapons, so it is important that de-escalation measures are taken to ease the tensions.”
In Baghdad on Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini backed Iraq’s proposal for a conference between Iran and its regional rivals, US-allied Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


Israeli army raids offices of Palestinian NGO

Updated 18 min 38 sec ago

Israeli army raids offices of Palestinian NGO

  • Israeli soldiers forced their way into the offices of prisoner support group Addameer in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah
  • No staff were in the office at that time as thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including five computers were seized

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israel’s army raided the offices of a prominent Palestinian NGO early Thursday, its director said, in an operation Amnesty International said aimed to “crush peaceful activism.”
Israeli soldiers forced their way into the offices of prisoner support group Addameer in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah at around 2:00 am, the organization’s director Sahar Francis said.
No staff were in the office at that time, she said, but Israeli forces seized thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including five computers.
“They searched the whole office,” Francis said.
Addameer works to support Palestinian prisoners in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons.
Israeli right-wing activists accuse it of links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
The Israeli army did not immediately respond to request for comment on the raid.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East Director Saleh Higazi condemned the “chilling raid,” labelling it an Israeli attempt “to crush peaceful activism and silence NGOs.”
“This was a sinister and calculated attack designed to curtail Addameer’s vital human rights work,” he said in a statement.
The NGO, which documents allegations of abuse in Israeli prisons, has been raided twice before, most recently in 2012.
Francis said that time they had smashed the door and also seized computers.
“We never got back the things they stole in 2012, despite making a request,” she said.
An Addameer employee has also been detained without charge since last year under Israel’s administrative detention laws, Amnesty said.
Higazi said the raid was part of an intensifying Israeli campaign against civil society organizations.
Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories is currently fighting an Israeli expulsion order over allegations he called for a boycott of Israel.
The country in 2017 passed a law banning entry to foreigners supporting a boycott.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since a 1967 war.
The office is in a part of the West Bank nominally under full Palestinian control, but the Israeli army regularly carries out raids in such areas.