New UN nuclear agency chief: 'firm and fair' stance on Iran

Designated Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference during a general confernce at the International Center in Vienna, Austria on Monday. (AP)
Updated 02 December 2019

New UN nuclear agency chief: 'firm and fair' stance on Iran

  • Tehran is continuing to provide IAEA inspectors access
  • Grossi told reporters he expected to travel to Iran himself in the “relatively near future” to meet with leaders there

VIENNA: The incoming head of the UN’s atomic watchdog agency said Monday he will take a “firm and fair” approach toward inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and plans to visit Tehran in the near future.
Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi’s comments came after he was confirmed as the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency unanimously at a special session. His four-year term begins on Tuesday.
The 58-year-old succeeds Yukiya Amano, who died in July, and takes over at a time when the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is unraveling.
The landmark 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. The IAEA’s role has been to inspect and verify Iran’s compliance with the deal.
With the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement last year and the imposition of new American sanctions, Iran’s economy has been struggling. So far, the other nations involved — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — have been unable to offset the effects, and Iran has slowly been violating the terms of the JCPOA.
Tehran is, however, continuing to provide IAEA inspectors access. Grossi told reporters he expected to travel to Iran himself in the “relatively near future” to meet with leaders there.
“It is really a priority,” he said of the situation in Iran, adding that his philosophy on inspection safeguards was to be “firm and fair.”
Those “two guiding principles” apply not just to Iran, but to how the IAEA deals with everybody, though “different cases demand different approaches,” he said.
“An inspector is not a friend. He’s someone who comes and needs to ascertain the facts without bias, without agenda, in an objective and impartial way,” Grossi said. “This has to be done in firmness, but in fairness as well.”
Grossi became Argentina’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA in 2013 and was previously the IAEA’s chief of cabinet under Amano.


Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

Updated 15 December 2019

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

  • Attacks came just hours after Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters

BEIRUT: Attackers in northern Lebanon set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.
The assaults came just hours after the capital Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons throughout the night to disperse anti-government protesters from the city center — the epicenter of the protest movement in Beirut — and around parliament.
The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.
In the northern Akkar district on Sunday, attackers broke the windows and torched the local office for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s political party in the town of Kharibet Al-Jindi.
In a separate attack in Akkar district, assailants stormed the local office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Their party said the contents of the office in Jedidat Al-Juma town had also been smashed and burned.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.
The violence comes a day before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister on Monday.
Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan on Sunday ordered an investigation into the clashes which she said injured both protesters and security forces. She said she watched the confrontations “with concern, sadness and shock.”
Al-Hassan blamed “infiltrators” for instigating the friction and called on the demonstrators to be wary of those who want to exploit their protests for political reasons. She didn’t elaborate.
Nationwide protests began on Oct. 17, and the government headed by Hariri resigned two weeks later.
Political parties have since been bickering over the shape and form of the new Cabinet. Protesters want a technocratic government, not affiliated with established political parties.
After weeks of back and forth, Hariri has emerged as the likely candidate for the job.