Iran issues new threat to world over nuclear deal

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi (Center R) and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary-General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. (AFP / ALEX HALADA)
Updated 29 July 2019

Iran issues new threat to world over nuclear deal

  • Save JCPOA or we boost our atomic program, Tehran tells crisis meeting

VIENNA: Iran on Sunday renewed threats to boost its nuclear program unless world powers rescue the collapsing 2015 deal to curb it.

The new threats followed an emergency meeting in Vienna with the remaining other signatories to the agreement — the UK, Germany, France, the EU, Russia and China.

“We will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran’s interests,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqhchi said.

The 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), eased sanctions against Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon.

The deal’s original signatories included the US, and the others have been trying to prevent its collapse since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s already struggling economy.


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Tehran has responded by increasing its nuclear activities in breach of the deal, enriching uranium and increasing uranium stockpiles beyond the agreed limits. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Sunday that Iran would restart activities at the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, in a further breach of the agreement. Heavy water can be used in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.

The Europeans say further breaches of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could lead to war.

Tension with the West rose further this month when Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces boarded a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and forced it into an Iranian port, in retaliation for the British seizure in the Mediterranean of an Iranian tanker carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

The confiscation of the Iranian vessel was a breach of the nuclear deal, Araqchi said on Sunday. “Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran’s export of oil is actually against the JCPOA,” the minister said.

The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the Gulf on Sunday to join a British frigate escorting UK-flagged ships, and Britain has proposed a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran again criticized that plan on Sunday. It “carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.