Tehran issues new threat to ramp up its nuclear program

Tehran issues new threat to  ramp up its nuclear program
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif shake hands following a meeting in Moscow on September 2, 2019. (AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev)
Tehran issues new threat to  ramp up its nuclear program
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The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Adrian Darya 1 moving slowly just outside the Lebanese territorial waters. (File/AFP)
Tehran issues new threat to  ramp up its nuclear program
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Updated 03 September 2019

Tehran issues new threat to ramp up its nuclear program

Tehran issues new threat to  ramp up its nuclear program
  • Crushing US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal over a year ago have halted those sales
  • The nuclear deal is meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic relief

JEDDAH/TEHRAN: Iran issued new threats on Monday to ramp up its nuclear program unless European states help it avoid US sanctions that have decimated its revenue from oil sales.

As top Iranian diplomats traveled to France and Russia for last-minute talks, government spokesman said Ali Rabiei said Iran will “take a strong step” away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers if Europe cannot offer the country new terms by a deadline at the end of this week.

Rabiei's statement reinforced the deadline Iran had set for Friday for Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the global market. 

Crushing US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear development. Trump's action over a year ago have halted Iran's oil sales.

Rabiei described Iran’s strategy to journalists at Monday’s press conference in Tehran as “commitment for commitment.” “Iran’s oil should be bought and its money should be accessible to return to Iran,” Rabiei said. “This is the agenda of our talks.”

FAST FACTS

  • Economic sanctions on Iran were reimposed after the US withdrew from the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
  • Iran has vowed to take further steps by Sept. 6, such as enriching uranium to 20 percent or restarting mothballed centrifuges.

“It is meaningless to continue unilateral commitments to the deal if we don’t enjoy its benefits as promised by the deal’s European parties,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Iran would “comply with its obligations in full when the Europeans comply with theirs in full,” he said.

While Zarif was in Moscow, his deputy, Abbas Araghchi, traveled to Paris with a team of economists Monday in a renewed diplomatic push. 

The French Foreign Ministry said teams of experts were meeting “to reach a de-escalation of tensions.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has worked to save the nuclear deal, and issued a surprise invitation to Zarif to last month’s G7 summit in Biarritz.


'Third step'

The regime in Tehran has already broken two of its commitments under the deal — on its stockpile of enriched uranium, and on the level of enrichment. It has threatened to breach the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities one by one, increasing pressure on the countries who still hope to save it.
Iran has vowed to take further steps by Sept. 6, such as enriching uranium to 20 percent or restarting mothballed centrifuges, machines that purify uranium for use as fuel in power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last week that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the JCPOA as the deal is known.

The UN agency also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5 percent, above the 3.67 percent allowed. Enriched uranium at the 3.67 percent level is enough for peaceful pursuits and is far below weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. At the 4.5 percent level, the uranium can help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant.

It remains unclear what further step Iran will take, though it could involve restarting advanced centrifuges prohibited by the deal or further bumping up its enrichment of uranium. Iran insists the steps it has taken so far are easily reversible. 

“We will announce implementation of the third step in a letter to the Europeans if the Europeans do not impalement necessary measures by Thursday,” said Zarif in a Sunday interview with Iran’s parliament news agency, ICANA.

The nuclear deal is meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic relief. It has been complicated by the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the deal and Washington’s increased sanctions on Tehran, which have been taking a toll on the Iranian economy.

That has left the other signatories — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — struggling to come up with enough incentives to keep Iran in the deal.

“The third step has been designed and will be stronger than the first and second steps to create balance between Iran’s rights and commitments to the JCPOA,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.


Nowhere to go


Meanwhile, the Iranian oil tanker that has been traveling across the Mediterranean Sea because no port will allow it to dock was tracked on Monday off the coast of northern Lebanon.

The Adrian Darya 1, previously the Grace 1, was seized by British forces off Gibraltar in July because it is carrying 2 million barrels of oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged the ship is bound for a refinery in Syria, which was the reason that authorities had seized the vessel off the coast of Gibraltar in July. The US has warned countries not to accept the Adrian Darya, which carries 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million.

 

(With AP)


 


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold
Updated 32 min 13 sec ago

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
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Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.