US says Iran nuclear commitment cuts ‘unacceptable’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that Iran's latest reduction in commitments of a nuclear deal was “unacceptable.” (File/AFP)
Updated 07 September 2019

US says Iran nuclear commitment cuts ‘unacceptable’

  • Iran has been negotiating with European powers that hope to salvage the accord despite the reimposition of sanctions by the United States
  • Despite his hawkish stance, President Donald Trump has said he is willing to speak with Iran, a prospect proposed by France

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that Iran’s latest reduction in commitments to a nuclear deal — made in retaliation for US sanctions — was “unacceptable.”

“They announced... that they’re going to continue to do more research and development on their nuclear weapon systems. Those things are unacceptable,” Pompeo told Kansas City radio station KCMO.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made the announcement Wednesday and the country’s atomic energy organization is set to hold a press conference on Saturday, as Tehran shows its frustration with the 2015 deal.

Iran has been negotiating with European powers that hope to salvage the accord despite the reimposition of sanctions by the United States, which last year pulled out of the deal.

Despite his hawkish stance, President Donald Trump has said he is willing to speak with Iran, a prospect proposed by France.

“For months now President Trump has said that he’d be happy to meet with Iranian leadership with no preconditions. But our outcome from those conversations is also unambiguous,” Pompeo said.

In addition to ending the nuclear steps, Pompeo said the United States wanted Iran to end its “terror campaigns” through proxy groups and its development of missiles.

Iran has already taken a series of small but symbolic steps to reduce compliance with the 2015 deal, in which it sharply curtailed its nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.

IAEA role in verifying Iran nuclear deal

On Friday, the European Commission  emphasised its reliance on the UN's nuclear watchdog being able to monitor Iran's activities as it voiced "great concern" at Tehran's shrinking back from the nuclear accord.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a "key role... in monitoring and verifying the implementation by Iran of the nuclear commitments" under the 2015 accord with world powers, Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told a media briefing.

"Our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran," she said, adding that the EU based its assessment of that "on the reports done by the International Atomic Energy Agency".

The IAEA in its latest report, on August 30, said it continues to verify compliance through cameras and on-site inspections. But in an apparent hint at worries about access it said "ongoing interactions ... require full and timely cooperation by Iran".

Iran sent a letter to the EU's top foreign policy official Federica Mogherini detailing its latest cut to the terms of the accord.

Kocijancic said that "we note with great concern that announcement made by Iran in the letter".

She reiterated the Commission's exhortation that Iran "reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments... and to refrain from any further measures that undermine the preservation and full implementation of the nuclear deal."

She also noted that an initiative by European powers Britain, Germany and France to provide a financial channel for Iran immune from US sanctions -- a "special purpose vehicle" known as INSTEX -- had started to process payments.

Iran argues that Europe is not doing enough to shield its vital oil sales from the US sanctions and that it is therefore justified in pulling back, bit-by-bit, from the nuclear accord.


‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

Updated 07 August 2020

‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

  • The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion
  • The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest

BEIRUT: Beirut residents began trying to rebuild their shattered lives on Friday after the biggest blast in the Lebanese capital’s history tore into the city, killing at least 154 and leaving the heavily indebted nation with another huge reconstruction bill.
The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion smashed a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
Security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the government and a political elite, who have presided over a nation that was facing economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.
“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old, sitting in the family home in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where highly explosive material was stored for years, a ticking time bomb next to a densely populated area.
As Abdou spoke, a domestic water boiler fell through the ceiling of his cracked home, while volunteers from the neighborhood turned out on the street to sweep up debris.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest. State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived.
Shockwaves
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion — a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150% of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again. Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
The weeping mother of one of the missing called a prime time TV program on Thursday night to plead with the authorities to find her son, Joe. He was found — dead — hours later.
Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told local radio VDL that three more bodies had been found in the search, while the health minister said on Friday the death toll had climbed to 154. Dozens are still unaccounted for.
Charbel Abreeni, who trained port employees, showed Reuters pictures on his phone of killed colleagues. He was sitting in a church where the head from the statue of the Virgin Mary had been blown off.
“I know 30 port employees who died, two of them are my close friends and a third is missing,” said the 62-year-old, whose home was wrecked in the blast. His shin was bandaged.
“I have nowhere to go except my wife’s family,” he said. “How can you survive here, the economy is zero?“
Offers of immediate medical and food aid have poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France. He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
He was greeted on the street by many Lebanese who asked for help in ensuring “regime” change, so a new set of politicians could rebuild Beirut and set the nation on a new course.
Beirut still bore scars from heavy shelling in the 1975-1990 civil war before the blast. After the explosion, chunks of the city once again look like a war zone.