Iran ‘inching’ toward place where talks could be held: Pentagon chief

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it appeared that is Iran was inching toward a place where talks could be held. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2019

Iran ‘inching’ toward place where talks could be held: Pentagon chief

  • Friction between the two countries has grown since Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 international accord
  • Washington has since renewed and intensified its sanctions against Tehran

LONDON: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that it appeared Iran was inching toward a place where talks could be held, days after US President Donald Trump left the door open to a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York.
“It seems in some ways that Iran is inching toward that place where we could have talks and hopefully it’ll play out that way,” Esper said at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London.
Friction between the two countries has grown since Trump last year withdrew from a 2015 international accord under which Iran had agreed to rein in its atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Washington has since renewed and intensified its sanctions, slashing Iran’s crude oil sales by more than 80 percent.
Rouhani on Wednesday said Iran would take another step away from the 2015 deal by starting to develop centrifuges to speed up its uranium enrichment, but he also gave European powers two more months to try to save the multilateral pact.
Separately, the United States refused to ease its economic sanctions on Iran, imposed fresh ones designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil and rebuffed, but did not rule out, a French plan to give Tehran a $15 billion credit line.
The moves suggested Iran, the United States and the major European powers may be leaving the door open for diplomacy to try resolve a dispute over Iran’s nuclear program even as they largely stuck to entrenched positions.
Trump on Wednesday left open the possibility of a meeting with Rouhani at the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York.
Asked about the possibility of such a meeting, Trump told White House reporters anything was possible. “Sure, anything’s possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem,” he said, referring to inflation in Iran. “We could solve it in 24 hours.”


Tunisia says militant leader killed in anti-terror raid

Updated 20 October 2019

Tunisia says militant leader killed in anti-terror raid

  • Tunisian armed forces and national guardsmen led the operation
  • A terrorist leader from the Al-Qaeda branch in Tunisia was killed

TUNIS: An Al-Qaeda leader was killed and another wounded during an anti-terror raid in Tunisia on Sunday, according to the country’s defense ministry.
Tunisian armed forces and national guardsmen led the operation against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the mountainous Kasserine region near the Algerian border, ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri told AFP.
“A terrorist leader from the Okba Ibn Nafaa group was killed” and another injured in the ongoing operation, he said.
Okba Ibn Nafaa is the Tunisian branch of AQIM.
Various extremiist groups are active in the rugged frontier region of Kasserine, including the Daesh group-affiliated Jund Al-Khalifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate.”
Security forces regularly carry out raids in the area.
Tunisia faced a rise in extremist activity after its 2011 revolution, with attacks killing dozens of security personnel, civilians and foreign tourists.
While the security situation has significantly improved since a series of deadly attacks in 2015, Tunisia has maintained a state of emergency for four years and assaults against security forces have persisted.