Iran constructing new building near Natanz nuke site, Pompeo urges Europe to impose sanctions

The fire at the Natanz facility in July was blamed on sabotage. (AFP)
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Updated 09 September 2020

Iran constructing new building near Natanz nuke site, Pompeo urges Europe to impose sanctions

  • Announcement comes after a fire at the facility in July
  • Pomope says Iran's enriched uranium stockpile 10 times limit

DUBAI: Iran has begun to build a hall in “the heart of the mountains” near its Natanz nuclear site for making advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Tuesday, aiming to replace a production hall at the facility hit by fire in July.
Iran said at the time that the fire was the result of sabotage and had caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.
“Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz. Of course, the work has begun,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, according to state TV.
Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran’s enrichment program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the UN’s nuclear watchdog believe Iran had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms program that it halted in 2003. Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.
The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by IAEA inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
A confrontation between arch foes Tehran and Washington has worsened since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions. In reaction to US sanctions, Tehran has gradually distanced itself from the nuclear pact.
This comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that Iran’s stockpile of uranium is more than 10 times the limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty Iran signed with the US and European nations in 2015.
The IAEA stated in its quarterly report issued last Friday that the amount of low-concentration enriched uranium reserves in Iran reached 2,320 kilograms, which is 10 times more than the limit set by the IAEA’s board of governors.
Pompeo added in a tweet that Iran must European “must wake up to the reality that the nuclear deal is history and should join us in imposing strong sanctions.”
He also said that “pressure and comprehensive talks are the only path forward.”
According to the nuclear deal, Iran is not permitted to possess more than 203 kilograms of low-concentration uranium reserves, but Iran had previously announced that it had reduced its nuclear obligations due to US sanctions.
The IAEA’s board of governors in Vienna issued a decision in late June, proposed by Britain, Germany and France, condemning Iran’s nucleaar violations and not allowing the agency to visit two suspicious sites.
This was the first decisive decision by the UN organization against Iran during the past eight years.
Meanwhile, the IAEA said that its inspectors visited one of the two sites that it had agreed to inspect with Iran last week.
The agency said in its report, without naming the site, that environmental samples were taken and they will be tested to see if there are traces of uranium at the site.
(With Reuters)

Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization

Updated 17 min 40 sec ago

Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization

  • Israel counts a Sudanese population of around 6,000, mostly asylum seekers

TEL AVIV: Sudanese asylum seekers living in Israel fear being kicked out once ties are normalized between the two countries, though some hope their presence will be seen as an advantage.

Technically at war with Israel for decades, Sudan on Friday became the third Arab country this year to announce it is normalizing ties with the Jewish state, following the UAE and Bahrain in August.

But since the announcement, members of the Sudanese community in Israel have been “very afraid” of being sent back, said 26-year-old Barik Saleh, a Sudanese asylum seeker who lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Israel counts a Sudanese population of around 6,000, mostly asylum seekers.

Thousands of others left or were forced to return after Sudan split in 2011 when South Sudan won its independence — only for the fledgling country to plunge into civil war.

Some of the Sudanese — often labeled as “infiltrators” for crossing illegally into Israeli territory before being granted permission to stay — were minors when they arrived.

They are not always allowed to work, and they cannot gain Israeli citizenship.

Saleh, who grew up in West Darfur, was just nine when his family fled war to neighboring Chad.

“My parents are in a refugee camp,” said the young man, who arrived after journeying through Libya and Egypt, and has lived in Israel for 13 years.

“I will be the first one for normalization,” he said.

“But if I will be deported from here, then I will be in 100 percent danger,” he added.

Former President Omar Bashir oversaw Sudan’s civil war in the Darfur region from 2003. Some 300,000 people died in the conflict and 2.5 million were forced from their homes. Bashir, in detention in Khartoum, is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

“We are here because it is not safe to go back to Sudan yet,” said 31-year-old Monim Haroon, who comes from a stronghold region of Darfuri rebel leader Abdelwahid Nour’s Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction.

“The reason why we are here in Israel is not because of the lack of a diplomatic relationship between Sudan and Israel, but because of the genocide and ethnic cleansing that we went through,” Haroon said.

Sudan’s transitional government, in place after the fall of Bashir in 2019, signed a landmark peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups earlier this month.

But Nour’s rebel faction was not one of them.

Some of those in power in Sudan today were also in control under Bashir.

They include Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, vice president of Sudan’s ruling transitional sovereign council.

He heads the feared Rapid Support Forces, long accused by human rights groups of committing widespread abuses in Sudan’s Darfur provinces.

“For me it is very dangerous,” said Haroon, who was previously head of Nour’s office in Israel.

“Unless Abdelwahid signs a peace agreement, I cannot go back.”

In Neve Shaanan, a suburb of Tel Aviv known for its asylum seeker community, stalls and restaurants offer Sudanese food, including a version of the popular bean dish “foul,” served with grated cheese.

Usumain Baraka, a smartly dressed 26-year-old who works nearby, has finished a master’s degree in public policy at a university in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

Like Saleh, he too was nine when he fled Darfur for Chad, where his mother still lives in a refugee camp.

“They (militiamen) killed my dad and my big brother, and they took everything we had in the village,” Baraka said.

“At one point I had two options: To go back to Darfur to fight for a rebel group, or leave the camp and try to have a normal life.”

While the young men who AFP spoke to expressed fear that their presence in Israel would be at risk under the normalization agreement, some said they would like the Jewish state to see it as an asset rather than a burden.

Haroon said Sudanese in Israel could be a “bridge” between the countries, not only in the private sector, but also to help build understanding between the two peoples.

“I hope the Israeli government will see this potential asset, the important role that we can bring promoting the interest of the two countries,” he said.

Both Sudan and Israel have said in recent days that migration would be one of the issues on the agenda during upcoming meetings on bilateral cooperation.

“Israel is my second home,” said asylum seeker Saleh. “There is no language that I speak better than Hebrew, even my own local language.”

But Jean-Marc Liling, an Israeli lawyer specialized in asylum issues, warned that with the normalization announcement, the return of Sudanese asylum seekers would likely be on the government’s radar.

“The first thing that comes to the government’s mind is: we’ll be able to send back the ‘infiltrators’,” Liling said.