US and European trio reaffirm determination to limit Iranian nuclear research

Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain met in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the region, and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken joined them by videoconference on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Twitter/@GermanyDiplo)
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Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain met in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the region, and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken joined them by videoconference on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Twitter/@GermanyDiplo)
Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain met in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the region, and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken joined them by videoconference on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Twitter/@GermanyDiplo)
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Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain met in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the region, and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken joined them by videoconference on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Twitter/@GermanyDiplo)
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015, was based on Iran providing safeguards that it would not make an atomic bomb, in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions. (File/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015, was based on Iran providing safeguards that it would not make an atomic bomb, in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions. (File/AFP/Getty Images)
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Updated 19 February 2021

US and European trio reaffirm determination to limit Iranian nuclear research

Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain met in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the region, and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken joined them by videoconference on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Twitter/@GermanyDiplo)
  • Eu’s Charles Michel: I spoke with Rouhani, EU supports full implementation of JCPOA
  • US easing draconian restrictions imposed by Trump administration on movements of Iranian diplomats accredited at the UN

CHICAGO: US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK on Thursday reaffirmed their determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Blinken said that if Iran returns to full compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including a review of its activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Washington will open discussions with the Iranian government.

He hosted a virtual meeting with the foreign ministers of the three European nations, sometimes referred to as the E3, during which they discussed Iran and the de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf, offered support for the efforts by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to end the war and address the humanitarian crisis in the country, denounced attacks targeting Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and condemned the military coup in Myanmar.

“They stressed in particular the urgency of ending the war in Yemen, while reaffirming their steadfast commitment to the security of their regional partners,” according to an official US statement.

“They expressed concern about the recent Houthi offensive against Marib and strikes against civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, calling upon the Houthis and all Yemeni parties to engage constructively in the political process.”

The officials said that any return to the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, would require IAEA-supervised inspections to monitor and verify Iranian compliance with the terms of the 2015 agreement, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018.

“The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity,” according to the statement.

“They reiterated their full support for the professional and impartial role of the IAEA and its director general, and their efforts to implement the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.”

The officials said there is no “credible civil justification” for Iran to continue enriching uranium to 20 percent or produce uranium metal, a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.

“The E3 welcomed the prospect of a US and Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA,” the statement continued. “The E3 and the United States affirmed their determination to then strengthen the JCPOA and, together with regional parties and the wider international community, address broader security concerns related to Iran’s missile programs and regional activities. We are committed to working together toward these goals.

“The ministers also called on Iran to release all our arbitrarily detained nationals and reunite them with their families. They also expressed deep concern about the continuing grave human-rights violations in Iran.”

The officials urged military leaders in Myanmar to “immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically elected government, refrain from violence, release all those unjustly detained, and respect human rights and the rule of law.”

Myanmar’s democratically elected government was removed from power by a military coup on Feb. 1.

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US Yemen envoy affirms support for Hadi government’s peace efforts

US Yemen envoy affirms support for Hadi government’s peace efforts
Updated 19 sec ago

US Yemen envoy affirms support for Hadi government’s peace efforts

US Yemen envoy affirms support for Hadi government’s peace efforts

RIYADH: US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking met President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Riyadh on Thursday and affirmed US support for the Yemeni government’s peace efforts.

The two officials also discussed the latest developments in Yemen and ways to achieve peace in the country.

Hadi said the Yemeni government agrees with the US on strategic issues including ensuring the “Iranian experiment is not transferred to Yemen and the region,” securing international shipping lines and fighting terrorism.

The president also highlighted the importance of placing international pressure on the Houthi militia to stop the targeting of innocent people and displacement camps and other actions targeting cities and ports.

Missiles and explosive-laden drones fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saturday ripped through the Red Sea port of Al-Mocha, causing damage to infrastructure and igniting a warehouse fire.

Lenderking affirmed US support for UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg who arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday.

 


Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen
Updated 16 September 2021

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen

Tunisian president says border with Libya to reopen
  • Tunis and Tripoli agreed on a health protocol “subject to revision in light of developments in the health situation”
  • The Ras Al-Jdeir and Dahabiya crossings are key economic lifelines for Tunisian traders in the country's south

TUNIS: Tunisia and Libya are to reopen their shared border on Friday, the presidency in Tunis said, two months after they were closed as the country's coronavirus caseload soared.
"The president of (Tunisia) issued orders to reopen border crossings with the state of Libya from Friday" at 7:00 am local time (0600 GMT), the office of President Kais Saied said in a statement.
Libya closed its land borders and suspended flights between the two countries on July 8 due to an explosion in Covid-19 cases in Tunisia, which responded by closing its own crossings.
But with the caseload rapidly dropping, officials on both sides agreed to reopen the frontier, with measures in place to limit the possibility of contaminations.
Tunis and Tripoli agreed on a health protocol "subject to revision in light of developments in the health situation in the two countries," the Tunisian statement read.
The reopening would be reviewed in case of any "violation", it added.
Tunisia's Covid-19 caseload, which in August was the world's worst according to official data, has since significantly improved.
On Tuesday the country of 11.7 million recorded 1,142 new cases and nine coronavirus-caused deaths.
Reopening the border was a key point of discussions between Saied and Libyan transitional Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, who visited Tunis last Thursday.
The Ras Al-Jdeir and Dahabiya crossings are key economic lifelines for Tunisian traders in the country's economically marginalised south, while many Libyans cross to access medical treatment and visit Tunisia for tourism.


Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon
Updated 16 September 2021

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon

Hezbollah-organized fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon
  • Delivery violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran
  • Lebanon’s crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class

AL-AIN, Lebanon: A convoy of tanker trucks carrying Iranian diesel crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon early Thursday, a delivery organized by the militant Hezbollah group to ease crippling fuel shortages in the crisis-hit country.
The delivery violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers three years ago.
It was portrayed as a victory by Hezbollah, which stepped in to supply the fuel from its patron, Iran, while the cash-strapped government grappled with the fuel shortages for months.
“This is a very big and great thing for us because we broke the siege of America and foreign countries. ... We are working with the help of God and our great mother Iran,” said Nabiha Idriss, a Hezbollah supporter who gathered with others to greet the tankers’ convoy as it passed through the eastern town of Al-Ain.
Hezbollah has portrayed the Lebanese economic meltdown, which began in October 2019, as partly caused by an informal siege imposed by America due to the militant group’s power and influence in Lebanon. The group has been sanctioned by consecutive US administrations.
Lebanon’s crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class and a sectarian-based political system that thrives on patronage and nepotism. Severe shortages in fuel have paralyzed the country, resulting in crippling power cuts that have disrupted the work of hospitals and bakeries. Just to get gasoline, people must wait hours in line, commonly called, “queues of humiliation.”
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had announced a month ago that Iran was sending fuel to Lebanon to help ease the crisis. The first Hezbollah-commissioned Iranian oil tanker arrived in the Syrian port of Baniyas on Sunday and the diesel was unloaded to Syrian storage places before it was brought overland to Lebanon on Thursday by tanker truck. The convoy went through an informal border crossing in Qusayr in Syria.
Nasrallah said in a televised speech earlier this week that the tanker did not offload its cargo directly in Lebanon to avoid embarrassing Lebanese authorities and risking sanctions on Lebanon.
Hezbollah, which is often accused by its opponents of operating a state-within-a-state and has been taking part in Syria’s civil war alongside government forces, has its own crossing points along the Lebanon-Syria border away from formal border crossings.
There was no immediate comment from Lebanese or US officials on the Iranian fuel delivery Thursday.
“Don’t forget this day,” tweeted Laury Haytayan, a Lebanese oil and gas expert and activist, describing it as the day Hezbollah won over the Lebanese state.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV called it “the tanker truck convoys to break the American siege” adding that 20 tanker trucks each carrying 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons) crossed the border Thursday and were on their way to the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek where Hezbollah will start distributing the fuel.
The tanker trucks crossed from Syria’s central province of Homs into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and were welcomed by residents who gathered on the sides of the main road. Hezbollah’s yellow flags and banners praising the Iran-backed group and Syria’s President Bashar Assad decorated the streets. A few women showered the trucks with rice and flowers as they drove past.
The arrival of the Iranian diesel comes nearly a week after a new government was formed ending a 13-month deadlock. Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not commented on the deal to import fuel from Iran.
Nasrallah said earlier this week that the diesel will be donated for a period of one month to institutions including public hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, water stations and the Lebanese Red Cross. Nasrallah added that others who will get fuel at low prices are private hospitals, medicine and serum factories, bakeries and cooperatives that sell food products.
Nasrallah said three other tankers carrying diesel and one carrying gasoline will arrive in the coming weeks.


El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs
Updated 16 September 2021

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs

El-Sisi: Egypt rejects foreign interference in Iraqi affairs
  • The Egyptian president also stressed the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that his country rejects all foreign interference in Iraq’s affairs.

During his meeting with the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Muhammad Al-Halbousi, he stressed the need to adhere to the principles of mutual respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.

El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s readiness to support Iraq in all fields to restore its historical position and its Arab and regional role.

A spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said El-Sisi welcomed the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament,  conveying his greetings to President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi.

The spokesman said that the meeting reflects the improving joint relations and the exchange of visits of senior officials in the two countries, whether at the bilateral level or through the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Jordan.

El-Sisi also affirmed Egypt’s readiness to transfer the experience of its development experience to Iraq to support the government’s move to stabilize the country, restoring its historical position, its active Arab and regional role, and consolidating its position in the Arab world.

The Egyptian president also stressed the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections in shaping Iraq’s future and strengthening its national institutions.

Al-Halbousi conveyed to El-Sisi the greetings of Salih and Al-Kazemi.

Al-Halbousi stressed his country’s pride in the successive visits of El-Sisi to Iraq, adding that it has consolidated the depth of the close bilateral relations between the two countries.

The speaker praised Cairo’s supportive role in restoring stability in Iraq, and its contributions to its development and consolidation of security.

He expressed the aspiration to develop cooperation between the two countries in various fields, especially at the parliamentary level, and to benefit from the Egyptian experiences in development and building state institutions.


Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast
Updated 16 September 2021

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast

Judge seeks arrest of ex-minister charged in Beirut blast
  • Former public works minister Youssef Fenianos is one of a number of former government officials who have declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar
  • Bitar has charged Fenianos and 3 other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence

BEIRUT: The lead judge investigating Lebanon’s massive port explosion last year issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a former government minister who failed to appear for questioning, the state-run National News agency reported.
Youssef Fenianos, the former public works minister, is one of a number of former government officials who have declined to appear before investigating judge Tarek Bitar.
Bitar has charged Fenianos and three other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence that led to the deaths of more than 200 people in the blast and over 6,000 wounded.
Bitar also summoned the former and current security chiefs. The former prime minister has also refused to appear before the judge.
Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, had been improperly stored in the port for years. It finally exploded on Aug. 4, 2020, devastating parts of the capital Beirut.
The Lebanese investigation has been running into major obstacles, including the removal of Bitar’s predecessor on charges he violated the constitution by summoning government officials. More than a year after the blast, there are still no answers to what triggered the explosion, and no one has been held accountable.
Rights groups and local media revealed that most state officials knew of the presence of ammonium nitrate in the port but did nothing to remove it or properly store it. In an extensive report issued last month, Human Rights Watch said senior officials knew of the risks posed by the highly explosive material and did nothing to protect the public against it.
On Wednesday, more than 140 local and international organizations and survivors of the blast have repeated a call issued earlier urging a UN-backed probe into the blast to mete out justice.
In their plea, the groups said government officials have refused to appear for questioning and authorities declined to lift immunity to allow for prosecution of members of parliament or senior government and security officials.
“Political leaders have attempted to cast doubt on Judge Bitar’s impartiality, accusing him of being politicized,” the groups said and criticized Lebanese security forces for forcefully breaking up protests by families of the blast victims on at least two occasions. “The failures of the domestic investigation to ensure accountability dramatically illustrates the larger culture of impunity for officials that has long been the case in Lebanon.”
Fenianos’ legal team argued Thursday that the matter is no longer for Judge Bitar to investigate after parliament opened a review into the charges leveled against lawmakers and government officials.
The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded and was the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s troubled history. Lebanon has a long history of violence that goes unpunished and a legal system widely criticized for falling under political influence.