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.


Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

Israeli border policemen take up position during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators at a protest against Trump's decision on Jerusalem, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 January 2020

Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

  • The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property

JERUSALEM: Israeli police launched a manhunt on Friday after an apparent arson attack, accompanied by Hebrew-language graffiti, at a mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
“Police were summoned to a mosque in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem, following a report of arson in one of the building’s rooms and spraying of graffiti on a nearby wall outside the building,” a police statement said.
“A wide-scale search is taking place in Jerusalem,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. “We believe that the incident took place overnight. We are searching for suspects.”
The spokesman would not say if police viewed it as a hate crime. The graffiti, on a wall in the mosque compound and viewed by an AFP journalist, contained the name Kumi Ori, a small settlement outpost in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Times of Israel newspaper said on Friday that the wildcat outpost “is home to seven families along with roughly a dozen extremist Israeli teens.”
“Earlier this month security forces razed a pair of illegally built settler homes in the outpost,” it reported.
All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.
The paper said: “A number of young settlers living there were involved in a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and (Israeli) security forces.”
Police said that nobody was injured in the mosque incident.
The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property in revenge for nationalistic attacks against Israelis or Israeli government moves against unauthorized outposts like Kumi Ori.
“This is price tag,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Osama Saadi told AFP at the scene.
“The settlers didn’t only write words, they also burned the place and they burnt a Qur’an,” said Saadi, who lives in the area.
Ismail Awwad, the local mayor, said he called the police after he found apparent evidence of arson, pointing to an empty can he said had contained petrol or some other accelerant and scorch marks in the burned room.
“The fire in the mosque burned in many straight lines which is a sign that somebody poured inflammable material,” he said.
There was damage to an interior prayer room but the building’s structure was unharmed.
In December, more than 160 cars were vandalized in the Shuafaat neighborhood of east Jerusalem with anti-Arab slogans scrawled nearby.
The slogans read “Arabs=enemies,” “There is no room in the country for enemies” and “When Jews are stabbed we aren’t silent.”
The attackers were described by a local resident as “masked settlers.”