Pompeo says letting Iran arms embargo expire is ‘nuts’

Pompeo says letting Iran arms embargo expire is ‘nuts’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna, Austria, August 14, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 14 August 2020

Pompeo says letting Iran arms embargo expire is ‘nuts’

Pompeo says letting Iran arms embargo expire is ‘nuts’
  • Pompeo reiterated that Iran should not be allowed to buy and sell weapons
  • He called the Islamic Republic “the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism”

VIENNA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urged an extension to a UN arms embargo on Iran, saying it would be “nuts” to let it expire.
Opposition from UN Security Council veto powers China and Russia is expected to block a resolution to extend the blockade beyond October.
Pompeo reiterated during a visit to Vienna that Iran should not be allowed to buy and sell weapons, calling the Islamic Republic “the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
“I mean that’s just nuts... We’re urging the whole world to join us” to extend the arms embargo, he said.
As things stand arms sanctions are set to be eased gradually from October, under a Security Council resolution blessing a 2015 deal Iran signed with world powers to limit its ability to develop a nuclear bomb — in exchange for easing trade barriers.
The landmark deal has come under strain since the US pulled out of it in 2018.
As Washington has re-imposed crippling sanctions, Tehran has in turn stepped up its nuclear activities again since last year.
Pompeo urged Tehran to provide “full, transparent and immediate cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.
After meeting Pompeo on Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters that Iran had still not granted the agency access to two sites where it has requested access in order to clarify questions about possible undeclared nuclear activity in the early 2000s.
But he added that he had “hope” continued dialogue would get Iran to open up.
“My objective is to get this access,” Grossi said.
Citing a restricted IAEA report, Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Iran was transferring advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium from a pilot facility into a new hall at its main Natanz nuclear fuel plant, which was hit by a fire last month.
Grossi said he would not comment on restricted reports from the agency, adding Iran had informed the IAEA of “what has been going on” in Natanz and it was part of inspectors’ “ongoing work.”
Austria is the latest stop on a Central European tour that has taken Pompeo to the Czech Republic and Slovenia. He will continue on to Poland on Saturday.
In Slovenia he signed a declaration that the EU member will “exclude untrusted vendors” from 5G networks, part of the Trump administration’s campaign to persuade allies to exclude Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.
Austria has so far declined to exclude any vendor outright.
Friday’s visit was a rare bilateral trip to Austria for a US foreign minister, although Vienna and Washington both say they value their close ties.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who Pompeo will meet later Friday, visited the White House last year.
The under-construction Nord Stream 2 pipeline designed to bring Russian gas to Western Europe is a bone of contention between the two governments, with Austria’s OMV one of the energy industry players involved.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.