US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal
Antony Blinken and Jean-Yves Le Drian during the press conference. (Screenshot)
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Updated 25 June 2021

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal
  • The Biden administration says it is ready to lift economic measures related to nuclear work as laid out by the JCPOA
  • Analysts have said Iran could strike a deal before Raisi takes office in August

PARIS: The United States and France on Friday warned Iran that time was running out to return to a nuclear deal, voicing fear that Tehran’s sensitive atomic activities could advance if talks drag on.
On the first high-level visit to Paris by President Joe Biden’s administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French hosts saluted a new spirit of cooperation after four years of turbulence under Donald Trump.
But the two sides said that one key Biden promise — to return to the 2015 accord on the Iranian nuclear program that was trashed by Trump — was at risk if the clerical regime does not make concessions during talks that have been going on for months in Vienna.
Blinken warned that the United States still had “serious differences” with Iran, which has kept negotiating since last week’s presidential election won by hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi.
“There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA,” Blinken told reporters, using the formal name of the accord.
“We haven’t reached that point — I can’t put a date on it — but it’s something that we’re conscious of.”
Blinken warned that if Iran “continues to spin ever more sophisticated centrifuges” and steps up uranium enrichment, it will bring nearer the “breakout” time at which it will be dangerously close to the ability to develop a nuclear bomb.
But Blinken said that Biden still supported a return to the accord, under which Iran had drastically scaled back its nuclear work until Trump withdrew in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions.
“We have a national interest in trying to put the nuclear problem back in the box that it was in the JCPOA,” Blinken said.
France — which like Britain, Germany, Russia and China had stayed in the 2015 accord despite pressure from Trump — also ramped up pressure on Iran to move ahead.
“We expect the Iranian authorities to take the final decisions — no doubt difficult ones — which will allow the negotiations to be concluded,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the joint news conference with Blinken.
Talks have stalled in part over Iran’s insistence on the lifting of all sanctions, pointing to the promises of economic relief under the accord.
The Biden administration says it is ready to lift economic measures related to nuclear work as laid out by the JCPOA — but that it will keep other sanctions, including over human rights and Iran’s support to militant movements in the Arab world.
Some experts believe that Iran had been waiting for the election of Raisi, whose hard-line approach is backed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate arbiter of the Islamic republic’s foreign policy.
Analysts have said Iran could strike a deal before Raisi takes office in August — letting him take the credit for the expected economic boost but blame outgoing president Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who championed a better relationship with the West, if the situation deteriorates.
Blinken, who was raised in Paris, saluted the alliance with France and sprinkled his remarks with fluent French, in a sharp change of tone after the sometimes abrasive “America First” approach of the Trump administration.
“My dear Tony, I’m really very happy to welcome you to Paris,” Le Drian said as he welcomed Blinken in an ornate room of the Quai d’Orsay, the French foreign ministry.
“It’s expected that you would visit Paris because you’re at home here. I would even be tempted to say, welcome home!“
Blinken is on a European tour that also took him to Germany and will continue in Italy, just after Biden visited the continent.
The administration is looking to solidify relations with Europeans in the face of growing challenges from a rising China and an assertive Russia.
On hotspots of strategic importance to the French, Blinken also promised solidarity on tackling extremism in the Sahel and a united front on troubled Lebanon.
“We have decided to act together to put pressure on those responsible. We know who they are,” Le Drian said of Lebanon which is engulfed in twin economic and political crises.
Blinken added: “We need to see real leadership in Beirut.”


Manila tightens virus curbs as local transmission of delta variant is confirmed

Manila tightens virus curbs as local transmission of delta variant is confirmed
Updated 23 July 2021

Manila tightens virus curbs as local transmission of delta variant is confirmed

Manila tightens virus curbs as local transmission of delta variant is confirmed
  • The Philippines has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in Southeast Asia
  • Under new restrictions, the Philippines will ban travelers from Malaysia and Thailand from Sunday

MANILA: The Philippines tightened coronavirus restrictions on Friday, after health authorities confirmed local transmission of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
The Department of Health said in a statement on Thursday night that while half of the confirmed delta variant cases are of Filipinos returning from abroad, recent phylogenetic analysis showed the emergence of local clusters related to the more aggressive COVID-19 strain.
The local transmission of the delta variant, which is wreaking havoc in other Southeast Asian countries, has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to approve the recommendation of the country’s pandemic response body to place the metropolitan Manila area — the capital region with more than 13 million inhabitants — under general community quarantine “with heightened restrictions” from Friday until the end of the month.
The provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte have been placed in the same quarantine category.
“This action is undertaken to prevent the further spread and community transmission of COVID-19 variants in the Philippines,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Indoor sports and tourist venues have been closed, the operating capacity of indoor dining venues was scaled down to 20 percent, and open air dining is allowed at 50 percent capacity. Children between the ages of five and 17 are not allowed to leave their homes.
As part of the new restrictions, the Philippines will ban travelers coming from Malaysia and Thailand from Sunday until the end of July. The two Southeast Asian nations join the other countries on Manila’s travel ban list due to delta variant outbreaks — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Oman, the United Arab Emirates.
With more than 1.53 million infections and nearly 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has recorded the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and its health authorities are increasingly coming under criticism.
Senator Panfilo Lacson has accused the Department of Health of being unprepared in responding to the delta variant crisis.
With the Philippine presidential and vice presidential elections scheduled to take place in May next year, he called on the country’s leaders to find more competent health officials for their cabinets.
“Knowing the delta variant has already gripped India and Indonesia, it seems they have not prepared adequately,” he said. “The first order of the day for the next leader of the country is to scout for a more qualified person at the helm of the Health Department.”


In seasonal makeover, Pakistani barbers decorate camels with ancient motifs

Customers wait as barber Ali Hassan decorates their animal at a camel market in Karachi, Pakistan on July 20, 2021. (AN photo by S.A. Babar)
Customers wait as barber Ali Hassan decorates their animal at a camel market in Karachi, Pakistan on July 20, 2021. (AN photo by S.A. Babar)
Updated 23 July 2021

In seasonal makeover, Pakistani barbers decorate camels with ancient motifs

Customers wait as barber Ali Hassan decorates their animal at a camel market in Karachi, Pakistan on July 20, 2021. (AN photo by S.A. Babar)
  • Most of camel art designs are a continuation of southern Pakistan's thousands of years old artistic heritage
  • Demand for camel barbering increases during Eid Al-Adha when Pakistanis want to buy the best and most beautiful sacrificial animals

KARACHI: When the season comes, Ali Hassan often switches off his phone as camel traders from rural Sindh flood him with orders to decorate their animals with elaborate haircuts and ancient Sindhi motifs.

Now in his fifties, Hassan has been practicing camel barbering for the past four decades and is one of the most famous masters of the art.

Demand for his craft usually peaks in the first weeks of January, and again during Eid Al-Adha when Pakistanis want to buy the best and most beautiful sacrificial animals.

"People reach out to get their camels a new makeover, so much so that at times I have to switch off my phone to avoid the influx," Hassan told Arab News at a camel market in Karachi earlier this week, as he finished decorating a camel's hide with rilli, a complex embroidery pattern used in the traditional art of Sindh.

Camel barbering in Pakistan is a distinctive blend of art and symbolism. The artists make the patterns by cutting the rough hairy coat of the camels with scissors in multiple stages. Later, some of them apply natural henna dyes to color these motifs.

Camel hair tattoo designs at a camel market in Karachi, Pakistan on July 20, 2021. (AN photo by S.A. Babar)

"Not every barber is an artist," Hassan said, "but there are many whose artwork has breathed a new life to the Sindh’s traditional culture."

His hometown, Daulatpur in Shaheed Benazirabad district of Sindh, is particularly famous for camel barbering, with hundreds of craftsmen practicing it in the region. At least 40 of them are Hassan's students.

"I tell my students that you can only learn this craft if you are passionate about it," he said, as it takes lots of time, patience and precision to produce good designs.

Most of the designs are a continuation of Sindh's thousands of years old artistic heritage.

Hassan's customers usually choose Sindhi artwork patterns such rilli and the famous ajrak. But some also ask for ancient cities and forts. Or the moon and stars.

His prices range from Rs1,000 ($6) for Hassan said for a simple makeover to even Rs10,000 for special, more complicated designs.

Despite the price, camel owners still want their animals to be decorated by the best barbers whose touch everyone would notice.

"Artwork on camels costs much more than simple hair dressing, but everyone wants their camel to look different," Allah Bux, a camel owner, told Arab News.

Hassan knows exactly which motif would look best on the animal.

"When I glance at the camel, I instinctively know what to design," he said. "I've been doing this since my childhood. This scissor is my companion. I love the art."

 


UK police investigate after woman threatens ‘Algerian’ man on train

Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Updated 23 July 2021

UK police investigate after woman threatens ‘Algerian’ man on train

Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
  • In footage uploaded to Instagram, the woman racially abuses fellow passengers, threatening to stab and behead them

LONDON: Police in the UK have appealed for witnesses after footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers.

The incident took place near West Ham station in east London. In footage shared on social media site Instagram, the woman — wearing a purple and white top and skirt, and appearing to be drunk — calls a fellow passenger a “f— Algerian c—,” and tells him she will spit in his face.

She then threatens to “stab him in the f— face” and to “knock him out,” and tells him that if he looks at or raises his hands to a fellow passenger, who appears to be her friend, she will cut his head off.

“I don’t want to have to punch up this Asian guy,” she tells her friend, before calling the man a “n—.” Other passengers can be heard calling her racist and telling her to calm down.

The passenger whose footage was uploaded to Instagram tells her that he has to film what she is doing “for my safety, your safety, his safety, everyone else’s safety.”

In the video, after he accuses her of being racist, she tells him: “You don’t know what country I’m from, I’m half f— Kenyan you little b—.” He responds: “If you’re Kenyan then you should know better.”

Unperturbed, she replies: “Carry on recording me because I don’t care. I don’t give a f—. You’re some civilian mother— from the middle of Essex.”

She later knocks the phone out of his hand, and is seen pushing and slapping another male passenger who pushes her back, knocking her into a luggage rack.

The British Transport Police said it received a report of a racially aggravated public order offense, and urged members of the public to assist with its investigation.


Bankruptcy looms for UK Islamophobe after Syrian refugee libel case defeat

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 23 July 2021

Bankruptcy looms for UK Islamophobe after Syrian refugee libel case defeat

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Court orders Tommy Robinson to pay $137,600 damages, legal costs that could exceed $500k over unfounded claims

LONDON: A British far-right figurehead and anti-Islam activist who lost a libel case against a Syrian refugee he had made unfounded accusations against on Thursday claimed he could now face bankruptcy as a result of damages and legal costs that could amount to more than $637,000.

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Jamal Hijazi, including that he was violent toward female students, after the teenager was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates.

Hijazi, a refugee from Homs, a city in western Syria, took Robinson to court over the accusations, which he said were inaccurate and had deeply disrupted his life.

On Thursday, a London court ordered Robinson to pay Hijazi £100,000 ($137,600) in damages and, because of the nature of the English legal system, the English Defence League founder was also on the hook for legal costs for both parties that could total more than $500,000.

Robinson said: “I’ve not got any money. I’m bankrupt. I’ve struggled hugely with my own issues these last 12 months … I ain’t got it.”

He added that he was gobsmacked by Hijazi’s legal team’s costs, which included £70,000 ($96,318) for taking witness statements.

In two videos viewed nearly 1 million times, Robinson accused Hijazi, 17, of beating a girl “black and blue” as well as threatening to stab another boy at school — both claims denied by Hijazi and unproven by Robinson.

The judge said Robinson’s accusations were “calculated to inflame the situation,” and that the abuse Hijazi was then subjected to was predictable in its nature.

“It is my responsibility to make clear that the defendant has failed in his defence of truth, to vindicate the claimant and to award him a sum in damages that represents fair compensation,” the judge added. He also warned that Robinson’s bankruptcy declaration may make it difficult to extract from him the full sum awarded by the court.

Robinson’s accusations had a “devastating effect” on the schoolboy, Hijazi’s lawyers said, and they also landed him with multiple death threats. He was forced from his home and had to abandon his education after becoming the subject of a social media storm.

The judge said: “(Robinson) is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which, particularly the impact on the claimant’s education, are likely to last for many years, if not a lifetime.”

The court also handed Hijazi an injunction against Robinson, preventing him from repeating the claims. However, Robinson said that he had been commissioned to create a film of the incident, which he pointed out had already been completed.

“It’s left for the viewer to make their mind (up) on what’s happened,” Robinson added, and he told the judge that by granting an injunction, “it will look like you are trying to prevent (the film), but the film will go out in the United States anyway, so I don’t see the point.”

Hijazi’s lawyers said they were “delighted” that the teenager had won his case.

Francesca Flood, from Burlingtons Legal, said: “It took great courage for our client, Jamal Hijazi, to pursue his libel action against such a prominent far-right and anti-Islam activist as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson.

“Jamal and his family now wish to put this matter behind them in order that they can get on with their lives.

“They do however wish to extend their gratitude to the great British public for their support and generosity, without which this legal action would not have been possible,” she added.


As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on
Updated 23 July 2021

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on
  • Spaniards have largely opted to hang onto the face coverings that have become part of the daily lives
  • So far, just over 50 percent of Spain's 47 million people have been fully vaccinated

MADRID: It’s over 35 degrees Celsius and although masks are no longer obligatory in the streets of Spain, masks are everywhere in Madrid as people fear soaring Covid cases.
Unlike people in many other European countries who have dropped their masks, Spaniards have largely opted to hang onto the face coverings that have become part of the daily lives of billions of people over the past 18 months.
“Just in case,” says Katherin Castro, an 18-year-old who has already had one dose of the vaccine.
“Covid’s still around and even with the vaccine, there are a lot of infections.”
Walking down one of Madrid’s wide avenues, Juana Delgado, 65, has her face covered with a surgical-grade FFP2 mask which she wears every day.
“I’m in a risk category so I wouldn’t think of dropping it at the moment although I was fully vaccinated two months ago,” she said.
Despite being fully vaccinated two months ago, she says she only feels safe “at home.”
Nearly a month after Spain dropped its requirement for people to wear masks in the street, few here have done so unlike in the UK where face coverings were discarded this week, as France mulls a similar move for vaccinated people in some indoor locations.
“In the coming days, our streets and our faces will regain their normal appearance,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ahead of the lifting of the requirement on June 26 — as long as a safety distance of 1.5 meters can be observed.
But with new cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant spreading rapidly, Delfin Rapado believes that “until 80 or 85 percent of the population is vaccinated, we shouldn’t be taking them off.”
So far, just over 50 percent of Spain’s 47 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Rapado, who is pushing his granddaughter in a buggy and keeps his distance while speaking, says “the government was wrong to drop mask-wearing so soon,” dismissing it as a ploy to bring back tourists.
And tourists “don’t wear masks,” complains Flor Cardena, 64, who has a shop in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, grumbling as two bare-faced visitors walk past.
“I don’t feel safe. I’m not going to take off my mask even when the pandemic ends,” she says.
For Marie-Helene Leheley, a 57-year-old French tourist visiting Barcelona, it’s a surprise to see so many people “wearing masks all the time.”
In areas where virus cases have shot up such as the northern Basque Country, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia in the northeast or Andalusia in the south, regional leaders have urged the central government to reimpose the outdoor mask rule — but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Despite defending its decision to drop the requirement, the government has tempered its language, with Health Minister Carolina Darias saying Tuesday that masks were “still compulsory” in Spain except “in very specific cases.”
On Wednesday, when parliament passed the so-called “Smiles Law” which formally ended mandatory mask-wearing at all times, some of the government’s key allies abstained and the right-wing voted against.
Oscar Zurriaga, deputy head of the Spanish Epidemiology Society, believes mask-wearing in the open air should never have been made compulsory.
“In well-ventilated outdoor areas where there aren’t big groups of people and where the safety distance can be maintained, it’s never been necessary,” he said.
But he said “the subliminal message” sent through dropping the use of masks is significant in that it causes people to drop other health precautious such as keeping the safety distance.