US to continue maximum pressure of sanctions on Iran, says Pompeo

S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he hoped for further dialogue with Iran to free prisoners but announced new sanctions as he vowed no let-up in pressure. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2019

US to continue maximum pressure of sanctions on Iran, says Pompeo

  • Pompeo said the US will "follow every even tiny opening" to free the at least handful of Americans
  • Iran has also voiced a willingness for more prisoner swaps

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he hoped for further dialogue with Iran to free prisoners but announced new sanctions as he vowed no let-up in pressure.

Iran has also voiced a willingness for more prisoner swaps after the exchange Saturday of Xiyue Wang, a US scholar detained since 2016, for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States since last year.

"I do hope that the exchange that took place will lead to a broader discussion on consular affairs. We still have Americans held in Iran -- too many, for sure." Pompeo told reporters.

Pompeo said the US will "follow every even tiny opening" to free the at least handful of Americans known to be in Iranian custody.

"I hope it portends well for this. We have had some indication that may be the case, but I don't want to overstate that and I don't want to give false optimism about that pathway," Pompeo said.

Pompeo, however, said the United States would not deviate from its campaign of trying to strangle Iran's economy through sanctions.

"As long as its malign behavior continues, so will our campaign of maximum pressure," Pompeo said.

In the latest measures, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on shipping networks owned by Iranian businessman Abdolhossein Khedri.

The Treasury Department said the companies have been used by the elite Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force to send weapons to Yemen's Houthi militia.

The Treasury Department also designated sales offices in Hong Kong and Dubai for Iran's Mahan Air, which is already under US sanctions.

The US says that the airline has assisted the clerical regime by flying fighters and supplies to war-ravaged Syria to support President Bashar Assad.

President Donald Trump last year pulled out of a multinational deal on Tehran's nuclear program and imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at curbing the Islamic republic's regional influence.


Egyptian deaf-mute coffee shop shows all signs of success

Updated 34 min 9 sec ago

Egyptian deaf-mute coffee shop shows all signs of success

  • “I had hope and faith in achieving the dream of owning a coffee shop specialized in hosting the deaf and mute and where the staff would be deaf and mute as well.”

CAIRO: An Egyptian cafe for deaf and mute people is quietly showing all the signs of success.

Staff and customers at Wadi El-Nile coffee shop, in the Upper Egyptian city of Qena, use sign language to communicate and place orders.

Printed guides are on every table showing how to sign simple words and phrases to help visitors, whether or not they are deaf-mute.

And activities in the cafe are no different than in any other coffee house, with customers playing backgammon and dominos, enjoying hot and cold drinks, and smoking shisha.

Wadi El-Nile’s owner, Mustafa Khairat, said that the success of his establishment had proved that deaf people could be integrated into society.

“I had hope and faith in achieving the dream of owning a coffee shop specialized in hosting the deaf and mute and where the staff would be deaf and mute as well. They would communicate with customers using sign language, and that is what happened,” he added.

“Deaf people represent a huge segment in Egypt. They used to meet in several coffee shops in Qena governorate but when this one opened with deaf as well as other people attending, it turned into a destination for the deaf from other cities and villages. They meet here and they feel it is their home,” said Khairat.

“We printed papers with sign language as a guide and put them on every table. They have simple sign language signs written in letters to help customers if they are finding it difficult communicating with a waiter or other deaf and mute customers.”

Statistics issued by the UN in 2019, showed the number of deaf and mute people in Egypt to be around 7.5 million out of a population of 100 million, and coffee shops to cater for them have sprung up throughout the country.

In the city of Alexandria, Rady’s cafe in the neighborhood of Mansheya, is better known to Alexandrians as the mute’s coffee shop. The Brotherly Association for the Deaf, which is located in the same area, holds regular meetings there.

And last year, Mohamed Arafat opened his Candy restaurant in Cairo, which employs a number of deaf-mute staff.