Iran place to look into for extraterritorial killings, says former US secretary of state

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Updated 24 March 2021

Iran place to look into for extraterritorial killings, says former US secretary of state

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Iran was the place to look into for extraterritorial killings and not Saudi Arabia. (File/AFP)

LONDON: Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Iran was the place to look into for extraterritorial killings and not Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has denounced a CIA report about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it completely rejected the “negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”

Pompeo told Fox News that President Joe Biden’s administration wanted to take the Kingdom, which is an important security partner for the US, and make it a foe. 

“They want to go sit down and cut deals with the Iranians who have, by the way, murdered far more people all across the world than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has during our four years and the eight years before that as well,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, if you’re looking about extraterritorial killings the ayatollah is the place to look, (Foreign) Minister Zarif is the place to look, President Rouhani is the place to look in Iran, not the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

The Kingdom’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the people responsible for the journalist's death had been convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts, and that these sentences were “welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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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Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting in Cairo, Egypt April 12, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 30 min 33 sec ago

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights
  • Sergey Lavrov: Russia is looking forward to reaching a solution for all parties, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, on the filling and operation of the dam through negotiations

CAIRO: Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that Moscow will oppose any interference in Egypt’s historical water rights in the Nile.

Ethiopia is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River’s main tributary, which Egypt and Sudan deem a major threat if it is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.

In a meeting with the Egyptian leader on Monday, Lavrov highlighted Russia’s firm position rejecting any interference in Egypt’s historical water rights in the Nile, and rejected unilateral actions in this regard.

He also voiced appreciation for Egypt’s efforts to resolve the issue.

Lavrov said that Russia is looking forward to reaching a solution for all parties, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, on the filling and operation of the dam through negotiations.

El-Sisi said the lack of resolution of this issue would affect the security and stability of the region.

El-Sisi also discussed the Egyptian efforts to support the new interim government in Libya at various bilateral, regional and international forums, stressing the need to clear Libya of mercenaries.

Illegal foreign interference in Libyan affairs is fueling the crisis, he said.

Lavrov underlined Cairo’s role, especially the president’s personal efforts, to prepare a political pathway in Libya.

He said that this underlined Egypt’s role in regional security and stability, adding that Russia seeks to continue cooperation and coordination with Cairo on the issue.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry briefed Lavrov on the recent consultations over the dam held in Kinshasa in the presence of the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

He said that communication will continue with Russia over the issue as it is an active member of the UN Security Council, and because of its diplomatic capabilities and its impact in the international arena.

 


Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker
Updated 13 April 2021

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker
  • UN considers Abd Al-Rahman Milad one of Libya’s most wanted human traffickers
  • His release is ‘disturbing news,’ says head of Sinistra Italiana party

ROME: Members of left-wing political party Sinistra Italiana expressed their dismay at Libyan authorities’ decision to release a man considered by the UN to be one of the country’s most wanted human traffickers.

Abd Al-Rahman Milad, known as Bija, was arrested on suspicion of being part of a criminal network operating in northwest Libya.

He was released less than four months after his arrest in Tripoli. The city’s military attorney general dropped the charges against him “for lack of evidence.”

Italian newspaper Avvenire reported that Bija and five other Libyans were placed under sanctions in 2018 by the UN Security Council for being directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats.

The newspaper reported that Bija had attended official meetings in Rome with Italian authorities during negotiations over illegal migrants. He was introduced there as “a commander of the Libyan coastguard.”

Bija’s release “is disturbing news,” Sinistra Italiana leader Nicola Fratoianni said in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, asking the government to “clarify this obscure situation.”

He added: “This man is accused of torture and other cruel criminal acts on human beings. The relationship between Italian institutions and this man, who was freed only a few days after the visit to Tripoli of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, must be fully clarified.” 

Fratoianni told Arab News: “In Libya, migrants live in inhumane and atrocious conditions, as confirmed by all international organizations. The Italian government must do something.”

Marco Minniti, Italy’s interior minister at the time of the meetings attended by Bija, has denied any wrongdoing, saying Rome was unaware of the allegations against the Libyan.

Nello Scavo, the Italian journalist who first reported for Avvenire on Bija’s presence in Italy, and Nancy Porsia, the freelance reporter who first wrote about the Libyan’s suspected criminal activities in 2016, were given police protection after receiving threats.

In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya’s coastguard and local groups to try to halt the dangerous sea crossings via the Mediterranean to reach Italian shores.

Several NGOs, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuse.

An Associated Press investigation in 2019 revealed that militias tortured, extorted and abused migrants for ransom in detention centers under the nose of UN officials, often in compounds that receive millions in European money, paid to Libya’s government to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.


Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast
Updated 13 April 2021

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

An Israeli-owned ship was attacked off the coast of the UAE, Israel's Channel 12 TV reported.

Unnamed Israeli officials told the channel that they blamed Iran for the attack. There were no casualties in the attack, the report said.

Ship tracking websites showed the Hyperion Ray was on its ways to Fujairah, on the UAE's Arabian Sea coast.

More to follow ...  


Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever
Updated 13 April 2021

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever
  • Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi's comments come after attack on Natanz nuclear facility, blamed on Israel
  • Iran had been enriching up to 20% – a short technical step to weapons-grade levels

DUBAI: Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, higher than the program ever has before though still short of weapons grade, after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, an Iranian negotiator said Tuesday.
The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. It could result in further action by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and further raise tensions across the Mideast.
Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi’s comment, quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency, came after Iran’s foreign minister warned that the weekend assault could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange relief on sanctions.
Iran had been enriching up to 20 percent. That is a short technical step to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the media reports but had no comment at the time.
Press TV, the Iranian state television’s English-language arm, separately said that the IAEA had been informed of the move. It said the enrichment would begin as of Wednesday.

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The broadcaster also quoted the negotiator as saying Iran would introduce another 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz, without elaborating.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to go to 60 percent enrichment in February if the country needed.
“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities in line with the needs of the country,” Khamenei said then, according to a transcript of his speech published by his website. “For this reason, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20 percent, and we will take whatever action is necessary for the country.”
Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60 percent for nuclear-powered ships. The Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.
Details remained scarce about the weekend attack at Natanz. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls — but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack.
The US has insisted it had nothing to do with Sunday’s sabotage. Instead, Israel is widely believed to have carried out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.
But earlier Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still issued a warning to Washington.
“Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks,” Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them.”
Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel over the sabotage, saying that if Iran determines its archenemy was behind it, “then Israel will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.”
Kayhan, the hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to “walk out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”
“Despite evidence that shows the role of the US as main instigator of nuclear sabotage against Iran, unfortunately some statesmen, by purging the US of responsibility, (aid) Washington’s crimes against the people of Iran,” the paper said in Tuesday’s editions.
While Kayhan is a small-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.
Such a walkout remains unlikely as the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get the US to rejoin it and provide desperately needed sanctions relief. However, pressure does appear to be growing within Iran’s theocracy over how to respond to the attack.
The talks in Vienna — among Iran, world powers still in the deal and the US — are aimed at reviving America’s role in the agreement that former President Donald Trump abandoned and lifting the sanctions he imposed. Iran, in turn, would return to the limits set by the deal and dilute its growing stockpile of uranium — some of which has been enriched up to a short step away from weapons-grade levels.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program up until the end of 2003. However, the deal prevents it from having enough of a uranium stockpile to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Rouhani met later Tuesday with Lavrov and stressed the importance of all parties returning to the deal. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.
“We are neither ready to accept less than that, nor are we after achieving more than that,” he said.


Iran sees record spike in COVID cases after holiday travels

Iran sees record spike in COVID cases after holiday travels
Updated 13 April 2021

Iran sees record spike in COVID cases after holiday travels

Iran sees record spike in COVID cases after holiday travels
  • Authorities blamed the surge on millions travelling across the country for Iranian New Year last month
  • Health ministry said on Tuesday 24,760 new daily cases were identified, taking the total to 2,118,212 cases

DUBAI: Iran on Tuesday reported a record 24,760 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, as the worst-hit country in the Middle East faced a fourth coronavirus wave.
Authorities have blamed the latest surge on millions traveling across the country for Iranian New Year last month and taking part in family gatherings in defiance of health precautions promoted by the government.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Tuesday that 24,760 new daily cases were identified, taking the total to 2,118,212 cases. The daily death toll rose to 291, the highest since Dec. 9, to bring the total to 65,055.
Lari said 295 counties have been classified as very high-risk “red” zones, and 99 as high-risk “orange” areas, while 45 counties were rated “yellow” and just 9 as low-risk “blue” zones.
On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country affecting 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
Non-essential businesses, schools, theaters and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.