US put forward ‘very serious’ ideas to Iran on reviving nuclear deal: official

US put forward ‘very serious’ ideas to Iran on reviving nuclear deal: official
Protesters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian opposition group, in front of the 'Grand Hotel Wien' during the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna on April 9, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2021

US put forward ‘very serious’ ideas to Iran on reviving nuclear deal: official

US put forward ‘very serious’ ideas to Iran on reviving nuclear deal: official

WASHINGTON: The United States offered “very serious” ideas to Iran on how to revive a nuclear deal during talks in Vienna but is waiting for Iran to show the same “seriousness,” a US official said Friday.
“The United States team put forward a very serious idea and demonstrated a seriousness of purpose on coming back into compliance if Iran comes back into compliance,” the official told reporters as talks broke for the weekend.
But the official said the United States was waiting for its efforts to be “reciprocated” by Iran.
“We saw some signs of it but certainly not enough. There’s still question marks about whether Iran has the willingness to... take the pragmatic approach that the United States has taken to come back into compliance with its obligations under the deal,” he said.
President Joe Biden supports a return to the 2015 agreement trashed by his predecessor Donald Trump under which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.
Iran has demanded that the United States first lift all sanctions imposed by Trump, which include a sweeping unilateral ban on its oil exports, before it falls back in line with obligations it suspended.
The US official indicated that the major stumbling block in the initial talks was not the order of compliance but rather which sanctions were under discussion as Iran is demanding an end to all US restrictions.
Iran’s position is “not consistent with the deal itself because under the deal the US retains the right to impose sanctions for non-nuclear reasons, whether it’s terrorism or human rights violations or interference with our elections,” the official said.
“All sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA and are inconsistent with the benefits that Iran expects from the JCPOA we are prepared to lift. That doesn’t mean all of them because there are some that are legitimate sanctions,” he said, using the acronym for the accord’s official name.
Iran refused to meet directly with US negotiator Rob Malley during the talks led by the European Union, whose envoys shuttled between the two sides in different hotels. Talks are set to resume in the same format next week.


US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances
Updated 12 May 2021

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances
  • The development comes as Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history
  • The Treasury said six of the seven sanctioned were the group’s “shadow bankers”
BEIRUT: The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on seven Lebanese linked to the militant Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its financial arm.
The measures are the latest against Hezbollah, which Washington considers a terrorist group and has targeted with penalties for years.
The development comes as Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, including a loss of trust in the country’s once booming banking sector.
The Treasury said six of the seven sanctioned were the group’s “shadow bankers,” who used the cover of personal accounts at certain Lebanese banks to evade sanctions against Hezbollah’s financial arm. They transferred approximately $500 million over the past decade, it said.
The seventh sanctioned person, Ibrahim Daher, is one of Hezbollah’s chief financial executives who oversees the group’s overall budget, including the funding for its operations.
The Treasury said Al-Qard Al-Hasan — Hezbollah’s financial arm which the US has sanctioned since 2007 — has taken a more prominent role over the years. Founded since 1982 and registered as a charity in Lebanon, the association is used by Hezbollah to gain access to the international financial system, the Treasury said.
While the alleged charity “purports to serve the Lebanese people, in practice it illicitly moves funds through shell accounts and facilitators,” the Treasury said. “By hoarding hard currency that is desperately needed by the Lebanese economy, (it) allows (Hezbollah) to build its own support base and compromise the stability of the Lebanese state.”
Al-Qard Al-Hasan, considered Lebanon’s largest non-banking financial institution, stepped in amid the latest economic crisis to provide a vital lifeline for many. It has seen a significant increase in clients.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, recently said the association has provided $3.7 billion in loans to some 1.8 million people since its founding.
Hezbollah “continues to abuse the Lebanese financial sector and drain Lebanon’s financial resources at an already dire time,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury’s office of foreign assets control.
“Such actions demonstrate (Hezbollah’s) disregard for financial stability, transparency, or accountability in Lebanon,” she added.
The Treasury said Daher leads Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, overseeing its income, budget and coordinating payments of its members while the other six participated in shadow banking activities on behalf of Hezbollah, maintaining joint bank accounts in Lebanese banks that allowed for transfer of money within the formal financial system.

Iran state TV says Ahmadinejad will run in presidential race

Iran state TV says Ahmadinejad will run in presidential race
Updated 56 min 58 sec ago

Iran state TV says Ahmadinejad will run in presidential race

Iran state TV says Ahmadinejad will run in presidential race
  • The Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad has previously been banned from running for the presidency by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2017
  • Khamenei said Tuesday that he would not oppose the nomination of any candidate

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s state television reported Wednesday that the country’s former firebrand president will run again for office in upcoming elections in June.
Broadcast footage showed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marching accompanied by supporters to a registration center at the Interior Ministry where he filled out registration forms.
Ahmadinejad in recent years has tried to polish his hard-line image into a more centrist candidacy, criticizing the government for mismanagement.
The Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad has previously been banned from running for the presidency by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2017, although then, he registered anyway. A constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council ultimately disqualified him then.
Khamenei says he will not oppose the nomination of any candidate, although the electoral council may still block Ahmadinejad’s candidacy. In either case, the populist’s return to the political scene may energize discontent among hard-liners who seek a tougher stance against the west — particularly Israel and the US
Iran opened registration on Tuesday, kicking off the race as uncertainty looms over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers and tensions remain high with the West.
President Hassan Rouhani can not run again due to term limits, yet with the poll just a month away no immediate favorite has emerged among the many rumored candidates. There also appears to be little interest in the vote by a public crushed by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, many view the country’s hard-liners as ascendant — even as the US under President Joe Biden tries to find a way to re-enter the atomic accord.
Whoever wins the June 18 vote will take over from Rouhani, a relative moderate within the Islamic Republic whose two four-year terms began with Iran reaching the nuclear deal. His time in office now draws to a close with the accord unraveled after the US unilaterally withdrew from it under President Donald Trump in 2018.
Ahmadinejad pushed his nation into open confrontation with both the West over its nuclear program and its own people after his disputed 2009 re-election sparked the biggest mass protests since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Abroad, he became a caricature of Western perceptions of the Islamic Republic’s worst attributes, such as denying the Holocaust, insisting Iran had no gay or lesbian citizens and hinting Iran could build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.
At home, however, the former Tehran mayor drew support from the countryside for his populist cash handouts and home-building programs. As his two-term presidency drew to a close and in his life after office, he also crossed the clear red line of Iran’s Shiite theocracy, directly challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state.
Ahmadinejad entered office in 2005 and left in 2013, after the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who would go onto to make the nuclear deal with world powers. Yet even out of office, Ahmadinejad sought to reinvigorate his political fortunes in public and on social media.


Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
Updated 12 May 2021

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
  • Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip echoed to the sound of explosions as fighting between Israel and Hamas in contested Jerusalem escalated on Tuesday.

Since Monday night, 26 Palestinians, including nine children and a woman, have been killed in Gaza, most by Israeli airstrikes, health officials said.

Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “As long as the Zionist aggression against our people continues, the Palestinian resistance, especially Hamas, will remain in a state of permanent clash with the occupation, which has made Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Gaza Strip a target and a scene for its crimes and violations.”

Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of sites in Gaza, including homes and farming areas, as well as military training sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are in the midst of a military campaign. The Israeli army has been attacking hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.”

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement: “The enemy bombed a target where our mujahideen were present to repel the aggression, and we have martyrs and missing persons.”

Gazans endured a long night of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.

Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said that the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.

From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”

Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

Eyewitnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman and her son on the floor below.


Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Cairo spokesperson briefs Prince Faisal on efforts Egypt is making to restore peace
  • FMs agree on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed in a phone call on Monday attacks carried out by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other recent developments in Jerusalem.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades inside the mosque and at least three Palestinians lost an eye after being struck by plastic bullets that witnesses said were aimed directly at their heads.

Tensions on the Gaza Strip border with Israel continued to mount following recent violent confrontations at the mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Shoukry briefed Prince Faisal on the efforts Egypt is making to restore peace. He stressed the need for Israel to halt its aggression and to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people.

The two ministers affirmed their rejection of all illegal practices aimed at undermining legitimate Palestinian rights. They also agreed on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region and the importance of all parties respecting international law.

In an official statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its condemnation of “these rapid and dangerous developments.”

The statement emphasized the need to stop all practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the month of Ramadan. The statement also called for the protection of Palestinian civilians in the mosque and others in East Jerusalem.


Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
Updated 11 May 2021

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
  • Palestinians say herring and fesikh fish increase the appetite and are useful for the stomach following a month of fasting
  • Local fish industry is flourishing as imported herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly

GAZA STRIP: Abed Rabbo Adwan, who learned a few years ago how to prepare herring, prefers to cook the fish at his home in the city of Rafah, which is in the southern Gaza Strip. 

Herring and fesikh fish are used as the main dish on the tables of the majority of Gaza residents during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr because they believe it increases the appetite and is useful for the stomach following a month of fasting.

Its popularity has spread throughout Palestinian homes, especially in the southern Gaza Strip, adjacent to the border with Egypt.

Adwan said that preparing herring at home guarantees quality, and at a much lower price compared to what is available in the market, which is usually prepared locally or imported from Israel.

He said his family helps him prepare the fish, which creates an atmosphere of happiness during the last days of Ramadan and ahead of Eid.

The local fish industry is flourishing as the import of herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly. The price of a kilo of locally prepared smoked fish is 20 shekels ($6), about half the price of its imported counterpart from Israel.

To start, Adwan buys a kilo of mackerel or frozen tuna, cleans the fish, and then salts it with some help from his family. After that, he smokes the fish in a primitive way that does not cost much.

The preparation begins with removing its entrails, filling the cleaned fish with salt, and leaving it for 24 hours. After washing it well and then drying the fish, he hangs it vertically with iron clips over iron bars inside an oven. The flames are ignited with charcoal and sawdust.

Adwan does not have a furnace. He uses an iron container as an oven and closes it tightly to block the air so the fish inside does not catch fire or get spoiled.

“The fish remains in this position, exposed to smoke, for about two hours,” he said. “This gives the fish the taste of smoke and turns its color from white to yellowish to gold. Then it is ready to eat.”

As some in his family prefer fesikh to herring for breakfast on the first day of Eid, Adwan makes a limited amount of it using a different method. A kilo of fesikh in the market ranges between 10 and 30 shekels and it is stored in a place away from the air for about a month.

Traders say that Gaza produces large quantities of herring and fesikh which is sufficient for local consumption. Gaza can even export the fish if given the opportunity.

Ibrahim Hejazy, the owner of one of the largest herring plants in Gaza, said he started in the industry about seven years ago with a limited quantity that was for personal consumption. The idea developed and he set up a factory that started to produce quantity.

“I was encouraged by the great turnout to expand the factory and bring in a special oven for preparation,” Hejazy said. “Today, we have become the most famous factory in the Gaza Strip, distributing what we produce to merchants, distributors and shops.”

Hejazi took over other bakeries and doubled his workforce, which would have been overloaded with work in the middle of Ramadan. They work all night and day preparing smoked fish to meet the market’s needs.