Iran nuclear deal parties meet after month of friction

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran have been trying to salvage the pact since the United States withdrew from it last year. (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2019

Iran nuclear deal parties meet after month of friction

  • The European-led efforts to protect trade with Iran against the US sanctions have yielded nothing concrete so far
  • The meeting in Vienna comes after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker on July 19

VIENNA: Parties to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal met in Vienna on Sunday for emergency talks called in response to an escalation in tensions between Iran and the West that included confrontations at sea and Tehran’s breaches of the accord.
Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran have been trying to salvage the pact since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018 and re-imposed and toughened sanctions on Iran, crippling an already weak economy.
The European-led efforts to protect trade with Iran against the US sanctions have yielded nothing concrete so far. Earlier this month, Tehran followed through on its threat to increase its nuclear activities in breach of the agreement.
“All our steps taken so far are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfil their commitments,” an Iranian diplomat told Reuters before the extraordinary meeting was due to start.

***Read more: Iran says European naval mission in Gulf would be ‘provocative’***

In response to the sanctions, Iran said in May it would decrease its commitments under the nuclear pact. Under the deal, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in return for limitations on its nuclear work.
So far, Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile as well as enriching uranium beyond a 3.67% purity limit set by its deal with major powers, defying a warning by Europeans to stick to the deal despite US sanctions.
The UN nuclear watchdog, policing the deal, has confirmed the measures announced by Tehran.
“(Trade vehicle) INSTEX , along with other measures, will be discussed in the meeting. Other parties should accelerate their efforts, otherwise Iran will take a third step,” the diplomat said.
Sanctions
The meeting in Vienna comes after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar which it said was violating sanctions on Syria.
Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday Britain’s seizure of the Iranian oil tanker was a violation of the nuclear pact.
“We witnessed the seizure of an oil tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Strait of Gibraltar which in our view is a violation of (the nuclear deal),” Araqchi said.
“And the countries who are part of (the nuclear deal) shouldn’t create obstacles for the export of Iranian oil.”
Britain has called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital international oil shipping route. An Iranian government spokesman said on Sunday such a mission would send a “hostile message.”
Britain said on Sunday Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan had arrived in the Gulf to join a British frigate escorting British-flagged ships through the Strait.
Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the waterway, where several oil tankers have been attacked, if the United States tries to strangle its economy with sanctions on its vital oil exports.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”