US secretary of state: Iran ‘weeks away from having material to build nuclear bomb’

US secretary of state: Iran ‘weeks away from having material to build nuclear bomb’
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Biden is building a strong team to deal with Iran to seek a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2021

US secretary of state: Iran ‘weeks away from having material to build nuclear bomb’

US secretary of state: Iran ‘weeks away from having material to build nuclear bomb’
  • New US secretary of state says Washington wants ‘longer and stronger’ deal to curb Tehran’s behavior

JEDDAH: Iran will be weeks away from building a nuclear bomb if it stays on its current path, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday.

In his first TV interview since his appointment was confirmed last month, Blinken said Tehran was months away from being able to produce enough material for a weapon, but it would be “a matter of weeks” if it continued to breach the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions, is an early foreign policy challenge for the new Biden administration.

Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, and Tehran has responded by gradually increasing its enrichment of uranium beyond what is permitted under the deal.

Blinken said on Monday the US was willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA if Iran did, and then work with US allies and partners on a “longer and stronger” agreement encompassing other issues.

Iran has rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants in the JCPOA, after French President Emmanuel Macron said new talks should include Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom and its Gulf allies believe any enhanced agreement should address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Blinken’s reference to a timeframe for Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb means the issue must be resolved rapidly, because the US will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The US is giving Iran an ultimatum to solve the matter within weeks,” he said.

Al-Shehri said the international community was aware that if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, it would not be alone in the region. “Other countries will not accept that Iran possesses nuclear weapons alone, and remain standing idly by,” he said. 

“However, although the US is offering to open the door for Iran to return to a deal, entrance is subject to certain conditions,” Al-Shehri said. These included US follow-up to ensure Iran’s compliance, addressing other issues such as ballistic missiles, and involving other countries including Saudi Arabia, he said.

Iran would understand the threat and was unlikely to wholly reject the proposal, Al-Shehri said.

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
Updated 6 sec ago

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
  • The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya
  • A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment

CAIRO: The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center.
The Security Council and the US said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama Al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation’s west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country subsequently slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in its western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya, home of two of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, Abdel-Rahman Milad, and militia leader Mohammed Kachlaf.
Both Milad and Kachlaf were sanctioned by the Security Council in 2018 over allegations of human trafficking and abuse of migrants.
A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment.
In its statement Tuesday, the UN sanctions committee said Al-Kuni “has acted for or on behalf of or at the direction” of Milad and Kachlaf.
The Department of the Treasury blamed Al-Kuni on “systematic exploitation of African migrants at the detention center where these migrants are subject to various human rights abuses.”
It said he or others under his direction “have been involved in or facilitated the killing, exploitation, abuse, and extortion of migrants at the detention center, including through sexual violence, beatings, starvation, and other mistreatment.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Libyan government to hold Al-Kuni and others implicated in human rights abuses accountable.
Libya holds migrants in overcrowded detention centers, like Al-Nasr, where torture, sexual assault and other abuses are rife. Detention center guards beat and tortured migrants, then extorted money from their relatives, supposedly in exchange for their freedom, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
UN-commissioned investigators said earlier this month that abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya amount to crimes against humanity.


Ding brings mobile top-ups to Snapchatters in 15 countries 

Ding brings mobile top-ups to Snapchatters in 15 countries 
Updated 11 min 17 sec ago

Ding brings mobile top-ups to Snapchatters in 15 countries 

Ding brings mobile top-ups to Snapchatters in 15 countries 
  • Snap Mini service available in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman in Middle East region 

LONDON: Ding, one of the world’s largest mobile top-up platforms, has partnered with Snapchat to bring its service to the platform as a Snap Mini. 

Snap Minis are bite-sized utilities within the app. Developers can design and integrate them within Snapchat to offer everything from gaming to booking tickets. 

In a global first, Snapchatters in 15 countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman, can now request a top-up from other users and top-up each other’s phones instantly from within the Ding Mini on Snapchat. The request is shared over Snapchat with friends and family, who can then purchase the top-up on their requester’s behalf in the Ding Mini. 

“We are delighted to launch the Ding Prepaid Top-up Gifts Mini in Snapchat. It gives us access to millions of potential new customers who are keen to keep their phones active,” said Ding Chief Commercial Officer Rupert Shaw. 

The move comes at a time when social commerce is rapidly growing, with users often making purchases from directly within social apps. 

“Younger generations are increasingly looking to avail of new services that help them live more of their lives on one platform,” said Shaw. 

With the demand for mobile data ever-increasing, the likelihood of users running out of credit is high. A report from Ericsson suggests that the average monthly data usage per smartphone will reach 35 gigabytes by 2026, up from 10GB currently, added Shaw. 

“The Ding Mini makes it easy and fun for Snapchatters to support their friends and stay connected through social commerce, all without leaving Snapchat,” said Alston Cheek, director of platform partnerships at Snap. This is the latest in a string of new commerce experiences in Snapchat, he added. 

The service is currently available in eight languages in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia. 

 

 


Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
Updated 27 October 2021

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
  • The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military

KHARTOUM: Khartoum International Airport will reopen on Wednesday at 1400 GMT, the head of Sudanese civil aviation told Reuters.
The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military.


Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
Updated 27 October 2021

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
  • Details of the attack and its source are under investigation

DUBAI: Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that gasoline distribution is returning to normal a day after a cyberattack which affected 4,300 gas stations across the country.
The details of the attack and its source are under investigation, Abul-Hassan Firouzabadi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council to Regulate Virtual Space, told the news agency.


Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position
Updated 27 October 2021

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position
  • The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement he rejected Kordahi’s comments

CAIRO: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said late on Tuesday that comments made by a member of his cabinet who criticized the Saudi military intervention in Yemen did not reflect the cabinet’s position.
“Lebanon is keen on having the best relations with Saudi Arabia and condemns any interference in its internal affairs,” Mikati said.
Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi said late on Tuesday that comments he made around the Yemen war, which started circulating on social media on Tuesday, were made in an August interview before he joined Mikati’s cabinet.
Saudi and Lebanese relations were tested earlier this year when former Lebanese foreign minister Cherbel Wehbe made comments in a television interview about how Gulf states were to blame for the rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Wehbe resigned over the comments in May.
In April, Saudi Arabia banned the imports of fruit and vegetables from Lebanon claiming shipments were used for drug smuggling. The ban weighed heavily on a Lebanese economy struggling with the worst financial crises in modern times.
Late on Tuesday, Interior Minister Bassem Mawlawi also made a statement, after the controversy over Kordahi’s comments, emphasizing the strong relations between the two countries followed by a statement by the foreign minister, who also supported Saudi ties.
The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement on Wednesday he rejected Kordahi’s comments adding they reflected little understanding and a superficial reading of the events in Yemen.
Gulf monarchies, who have traditionally channeled funds into Lebanon, have been loathe to come to its rescue amidst its economic meltdown so far, alarmed by the rising influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.