Europe, US to meet on Iran as nuclear deadline looms

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a mask during a virtual speech, in Tehran, Iran Feb. 17, 2021. (Official Khamenei website/Handout via Reuters)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a mask during a virtual speech, in Tehran, Iran Feb. 17, 2021. (Official Khamenei website/Handout via Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2021

Europe, US to meet on Iran as nuclear deadline looms

Europe, US to meet on Iran as nuclear deadline looms
  • Merkel voiced concern to president Rouhani that Iran is not fulfilling its commitments
  • IAEA chief to visit Iran to find a solution to continue nuclear inspections

LONDON: The United States and its allies have called for Iran to reverse and refrain from any steps that would impact its assurances to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday, as Tehran said it will start banning short-notice inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog.
“Iran should reverse the steps and refrain from taking others that would impact the IAEA assurances on which not only the United States, not only our allies and partners in the region, but the entire world relies,” he said, adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw an “important role” for the EU.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will host his German and British counterparts in Paris, with Blinken joining via videoconference, to see how to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the French foreign ministry said, days ahead of a deadline set by Tehran that could hinder the efforts by limiting inspections.
Analysts say only a small window of opportunity remains to save the landmark deal, which was dealt a near-fatal blow when former US president Donald Trump walked out of the accord in 2018.
The administration of Joe Biden has said it is prepared to rejoin the deal and start lifting sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance, a precondition disputed by Tehran.
However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Iran wants to see “action not words” from parties to the country’s nuclear deal,
“We have heard many nice words and promises which in practice have been broken and opposite actions have been taken. Words and promises are no good. This time (we want) only action from the other side and we will also act,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Iran’s president for “positive signals” that would help resolve a diplomatic standoff over the future of the nuclear deal with world powers, her office said.
In a phone conversation with Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, Merkel stressed the “high interest” of Germany and the other remaining signatories in preserving the deal, her office added in a statement.
She voiced concern that Iran isn’t fulfilling its commitments and told Rouhani that “it is now time for positive signals that create trust and raise the chances of a diplomatic solution,” the statement added.
Iran has said it will stop part of the inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA next week if the West doesn’t implement its own commitments.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Director General Rafael Grossi will visit Tehran on Saturday for discussions with senior Iranian officials, whom it did not identify.
It said the aim is “to find a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country.”
Iran has said it will stop part of the inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA next week if the West doesn’t implement its own commitments.
On Monday, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said he had sent a letter to the agency detailing restrictions on inspectors to take effect on Feb. 23.
He said Iran would cease to adhere to the so-called Additional Protocol, an arrangement that provides the IAEA broad access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
Tehran has been using its violations of the deal to put pressure on the remaining signatories — France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China — to provide more incentives to Iran to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US pullout.
The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it does not want to do.
The UN nuclear watchdog said last week that Iran had started producing uranium metal in a new violation of the accord, prompting the European powers to warn that Tehran was “undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy.”
(With AP, AFP and Reuters)


Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M
Updated 58 min 33 sec ago

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M

Lebanon signs central bank audit contract with A&M
  • The audit is a key requirement for Lebanon to secure foreign aid

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister Youssef Khalil on Friday signed a new contract with restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out a forensic audit at the country’s central bank, the ministry said in a statement.
A&M will give an initial report to the ministry within 12 weeks of its team starting work, the ministry said.
Lebanon is suffering one of the deepest economic depressions in modern history. Three-quarters of its population is now classified as poor by the United Nations and the local currency has lost 90 percent of its value in the past two years.
The plan for an audit, a key requirement for Lebanon to secure foreign aid amid its financial meltdown, hit a roadblock in November when A&M withdrew, saying it had not received the information it needed from the central bank.
Parliament then agreed in December to lift banking secrecy for one year, amid much back-and-forth between Lebanese officials including the ministry and the central bank over whether certain information could be disclosed.
The finance ministry said in April the central bank had agreed to hand over some documents.
Khalil, a former top central bank official, was appointed finance minister as part of a new cabinet cobbled together by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun after a year of political deadlock that has compounded the country’s economic meltdown.
Mikati’s cabinet has said it was committed to a resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund, pre-conditions for which include a restructuring of the banking sector and public debt.
Last year’s IMF talks were derailed when politicians and bankers disputed the scale of financial losses mapped out in a financial recovery plan drawn up by the then government.


Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials
Updated 17 September 2021

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

LONDON: Police in Yemen's province of Marib arrested a group of Houthi militia planning to bomb public places with the aim to assassinate government military officials, state news agency Saba reported on Thursday.
The commander of Special Forces in Marib Brig. Gen. Saleem Al-Sayyaghi told Saba that a cache of explosives and maps of bomb sites were seized in possession of the Houthi members.
Initial investigations, he said, revealed that those arrested “steered by the Iran-backed Houthi militia” and were tasked with bombing civilian crowds and military leaders.

Sayyaghi claimed that the plot comes as the militia failed to take Marib in the battlefield despite sending fighters towards the army positions over the past months.  


Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
Updated 17 September 2021

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
  • The head of Iran’s prison system admitted that videos purportedly obtained by a self-described hacker group that show abuses at the Islamic Republic’s notorious Evin prison are real

NICOSIA: Amnesty International has condemned the “climate of impunity” that prevails in Iran over deaths in custody despite reports of more than 70 such cases over the past decade.
“Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials,” said the London-based rights group.
The latest documented case involved a 31-year-old whose death was reported to his family by intelligence ministry officials in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province on September 8, Amnesty said in a statement.
“Reports of the death of Yaser Mangouri in suspicious circumstances further exposes how the prevailing climate of impunity further emboldens security forces to violate prisoners’ right to life without any fear of consequence or accountability,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
The group’s report follows an admission by Iran’s prisons chief last month that “unacceptable behavior” had taken place at a notorious Tehran prison after videos published abroad appeared to show violence against detainees.
The footage of prison guards beating and mistreating detainees was reportedly obtained by hackers who accessed surveillance cameras at Evin prison.
Amnesty International said the leaked video footage “offered disturbing evidence of beatings, sexual harassment, and other ill-treatment of prisoners by prison officials.”
It said that in 46 of the 72 deaths in custody, informed sources said they had resulted from “physical torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of intelligence and security agents or prison officials.”
Another 15 deaths were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas by prison guards to suppress protests over Covid-19 safety fears, said Amnesty.
For the remaining 11 cases, the deaths occurred in suspicious circumstances, but no further details about potential causes were available, it added.
“Iranian authorities typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, drug overdose or illness in a rushed manner and without conducting any independent and transparent investigations,” the watchdog said.
In July, Amnesty and nine other rights groups urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a mechanism to collect, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious crimes committed in the Islamic republic.
Iran regularly defends itself against reports by the United Nations or international rights groups criticizing its treatment of prison inmates.


Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
Updated 17 September 2021

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
  • The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease
  • The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years

DUBAI: Over 50 percent of residents in the UAE have been affected by heart disease, according to a study of more than 1,000 people.

The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease, Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

The report further said heart disease was the main cause of death in the country, with symptoms showing a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed countries.

“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community. Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned,” Dr Ronney Shantouf, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said.

The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years, while 30 percent said they had never done so.

“It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent heart disease,” Shantouf said.

The study has further shown that 15 percent of respondents did not have any risk factors of heart disease.

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Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’
Updated 16 September 2021

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

VIENNA: Iran on Thursday dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog’s work as “unprofessional” and “unfair” shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran.
The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.
“The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
Gharibabadi was referring to a passage in an IAEA report last week that said the lack of progress was seriously affecting the IAEA’s ability to determine that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran says it is.
Failure to resolve the issue complicates efforts to restart talks aimed at bringing the US and Iran fully back into the fold of the 2015 nuclear deal, since Washington and its allies continue to pressure Iran to give the IAEA answers.