EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

Chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (File/AFP)
Chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2021

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’
  • IAEA says Tehran’s enrichment to high levels at Natanz plant is expanding
  • US backs EU-Iran discourse but calls Vienna ‘ultimate destination’

LONDON: The EU’s top negotiator will meet his counterpart from Tehran this week in Brussels for talks on restarting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal, a spokesman for the bloc said on Monday.
The EU and world powers are scrambling to try to get negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 accord back on track after the election of a hard-liner in Tehran.
Iran’s chief negotiator on the deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, wrote on Twitter that he would be in Brussels on Wednesday “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations.”
EU spokesman Peter Stano said the meeting would involve the bloc’s lead negotiator Enrique Mora, who visited Tehran earlier this month to push Iran to restart full negotiations.
Stano said the EU’s diplomatic service was “sparing no efforts to resume talks of all parties in Vienna.”
The agreement between Iran and world powers to find a long-term solution to the now two-decade-old crisis over its controversial nuclear program has been moribund since former US president Donald Trump walked out of the deal in May 2018.
His successor Joe Biden has said he is ready to re-enter the agreement, so long as Iran meets key preconditions including full compliance with the deal whose terms it has repeatedly violated by ramping up nuclear activities since the US left the pact.
But the Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little headway, before being interrupted by the election of hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president and suspended for the last four months.
The EU acts as coordinator for the deal that also involves Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
This comes as the UN nuclear watchdog said on Monday that Iran is expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20 percent purity at a Natanz plant where it is already enriching to 60 percent, but the new activity does not involve keeping the product.
The move is likely to help Iran refine its knowledge of the enrichment process — something Western powers generally condemn because it is irreversible — but since this time the product is not being collected it will not immediately accelerate Iran’s production of uranium enriched to close to weapons-grade. It has, however, prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency to “increase the frequency and intensity of its safeguards activities” at the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz, the IAEA said in a report seen by Reuters. As of around 90 percent uranium is considered weapons-grade.
The IAEA said in a statement outlining the report that Iran informed it last week of changes to the setup of centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, at the plant — Iran would feed uranium enriched to up to 20 percent into limited numbers of extra centrifuges without collecting the product.
“On 25 October 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding (uranium hexafluoride gas) enriched up to 20 percent U-235 into a single IR-6 centrifuge in R&D line 2 at PFEP and that the resulting product and tails streams were being re-combined,” the IAEA report said, meaning that after separating the enriched product it was mixed with the centrifuge’s waste and not kept.
Iran had said it planned to also feed uranium enriched to up to 20 percent into other single centrifuges or small- to medium-sized cascades, or clusters, of machines on the same line, but those were not being fed at the time, the IAEA said.
Meanwhile, the US said on Monday that it supported the EU’s engagement with Iran as coordinator of the lapsed nuclear deal, but stressed that the “ultimate destination” to try to revive the accord was to resume talks in Vienna.
“The EU is the JCPOA coordinator. And we are very supportive of the EU’s engagement with Iran in that capacity,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, referring to the deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “That said ... the ultimate destination needs to be Vienna,” Price added. 
(With AFP and Reuters)


Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
Updated 25 sec ago

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
  • A few days before his arrest on September 29, Shervin Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram
  • Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported

DUBAI: Shervin Hajipour, whose viral song became the anthem for anti-government protests in Iran, has been arrested by police with his whereabouts currently unknown.

It was also unclear what were the charges brought against the young singer, news website Radio Farda reported.

A few days before his arrest on September 29, Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram describing the current situation in the Islamic Republic, which was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police.

Hajipour’s song had garnered more than 40 million views on Instagram, and has spread on other social media platforms, before it was removed.

The lyrics of Hajipour’s song was woven from tweets posted by Iranians following Amini’s death, many of them blaming the country’s clerical leadership for the current social, economic and political problems.

“For the shame of having no money,” read one of the tweets in Hajipour’s song.

“For the fear of kissing a lover on the street,” said another tweet.

“For the political prisoners,” another part of the lyrics said.

Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported, after she posted a photo of herself eating out in Tehran without a head scarf and the image going viral on social media.

Rad’s sister claimed Donya was taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.


Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow
Updated 01 October 2022

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow
  • High-level jockeying for position over who will succeed Khamenei as supreme leader

JEDDAH: Iran’s clerical rulers are in disarray over how to crush mass anti-government protests amid rifts over security tactics and high-level maneuvering over who will succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, analysts say.
Nationwide unrest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody has coincided with new rumors about the 83-year-old supreme leader’s ailing health, posing a threat to Iran’s religious establishment.
Although in theory, the 86-member Assembly of Experts will choose the next leader, jockeying for influence has already begun, making it difficult for the ruling clerics to unite around a set of security tactics.
“This race has caused disarray inside the leadership. The deepening rift is the last thing we need when the country is in turmoil,” one hard-line official said. “The main issue right now is the Islamic Republic’s survival.”

FASTFACT

Nationwide unrest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody has coincided with new rumors about the 83-year-old supreme leader’s ailing health.

The two candidates viewed as favorites to replace Khamenei are his son Mojtaba and President Ebrahim Raisi. “Neither of them has popular support,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But what keeps the Islamic Republic in power is not popular support, but repression — and both men are deeply experienced in repression.”
As the protests spread to 80 cities nationwide, Iran’s rulers have accused a coalition of “anarchists, terrorists and foreign foes” of orchestrating the troubles — a narrative few Iranians believe.
Alarmed by the depth of popular outrage, some senior clerics and politicians have appealed for restraint to avoid bloodshed that could galvanize and embolden protesters.
But that has not stopped hard-liners calling for tougher measures, despite the death of at least 75 protesters in the security crackdown. “A part of the establishment fears that this time using more lethal force can push the Islamic Republic to a no return point,” said a senior former Iranian official.

 

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Lebanon schools struggle to open as finance woes bite

Lebanon schools struggle to open as finance woes bite
Updated 30 September 2022

Lebanon schools struggle to open as finance woes bite

Lebanon schools struggle to open as finance woes bite
  • Student dropout rate rising with parents unable to pay for basics, UNICEF rep warns

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public education system is facing collapse a week before the start of the academic year, with teachers unable to pay for transport, and students dropping out because their parents cannot afford essential school items.

After three years of an economic crisis that shows no sign of ending, schools are also struggling to provide basic needs, such as heating and electricity.

An adviser to Abbas Halabi, the minister of education and higher education in the caretaker government, told Arab News that meetings are being held with donor countries, international organizations, the World Bank and ambassadors in an effort to cover the costs of teachers’ transport to school.

Assistance to help students attend school has not yet been discussed, the official said.

Lebanon’s spiralling economy has forced thousands of parents to transfer their children from private schools and universities to public institutions.

Edouard Beigbeder, the UNICEF representative in Lebanon, warned of an increase in the number of students dropping out of school.

Estimates suggest that up to 16 percent of Lebanese children and 49 percent of Syrian refugee students have not been enrolled in primary school, despite education ministry efforts to encourage a return to study.

Parents blame the country’s financial woes for the problem, saying they cannot afford their children’s transport fees, books or stationery.

Halabi warned from New York during an education summit held on the sidelines of the UN’s General Assembly 10 days ago that “if Lebanese students do not receive education, no others will.”

He had previously pleaded with donors to “secure aid that will enable the ministry to launch the school year, which seems impossible in light of the educational bodies refusing to show up at public schools and the Lebanese University.” 

Lebanon is seeking aid of around $100 million for pre-university education, $37 million for the Lebanese University and $20 million for vocational education.

In addition to implementing a host of economic and political reforms, the international community has asked Lebanon to integrate Syrian and Lebanese students in morning and afternoon periods in order to reduce expenses.

Private schools and universities demanded payment of tuition fees partly in Lebanese pounds and partly in dollars.

However, the education ministry opposed the move, claiming it breached laws that stipulates the use of Lebanese currency.

Education institutions ignored the objection, claiming the only alternative would be to close, and established a “parents’ contribution fund” separate from the budget.

Parents who were unable to pay the tuition fees were left with the option of transferring their children from private schools or universities to public institutions.

Huda Suleiman, president of the Human and Future Association for children with special needs, said that she will be unable to open the school in Taanayel in the Bekaa Valley this year because the Ministry of Social Affairs, which “provides us aid, did not pay what it owes us.”

A limit on monthly bank withdrawals means she can pay only two teaching salaries.

“We have physical, motor and occupational specialists whose salaries are high, in addition to fuel costs,” she said.

Suleiman said parents were unable to contribute or even drop their children at school, as some traveled long distances.

Transport costs are beyond the salaries of most parents, many of whom are farmers or members of the military and internal security forces, she added.

The education ministry has yet to solve a dispute with education bodies demanding a salary increase and further financial incentives.

According to a study by the Center for Educational Research and Development, the number of students in Lebanon exceeded 1 million two years ago.

They include 334,536 students or 31 percent in public schools, 565,593 students or 52 percent in private schools, and 140,312 students or 13 percent in private free schools.

There are 36,375 students, or more than 3 percent, at UNRWA schools for Palestinian refugees.

Lebanon is home to 40 universities and institutes, and more than 40 percent of tertiary students attend the Lebanese University, a public institution.

 
 


Senior IRGC commander shot dead in clashes with anti-regime gunmen

Senior IRGC commander shot dead in clashes with anti-regime gunmen
Updated 30 September 2022

Senior IRGC commander shot dead in clashes with anti-regime gunmen

Senior IRGC commander shot dead in clashes with anti-regime gunmen
  • Ali Mousavi was a leading figure of the IRGC in the Sistan-Baluchestan province
  • At least 76 people have been killed in Tehran’s violent crackdown on protesters

LONDON: A senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was shot dead on Friday during clashes with anti-regime gunman, according to state media.

Ali Mousavi, who was a leading figure of the IRGC in the Sistan-Baluchestan province, was killed in the south-eastern city of Zahedan, Tasnim news agency reported.

State media also reported a shootout broke out at a police station in the city earlier in the day, amid ongoing anti-government protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini earlier this month.

She died in custody after being arrested by Iran’s morality police.

At least 76 people have been killed in Tehran’s violent crackdown on protesters, while anti-regime demonstrations have broken out in cities around the world.

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20,000 children enrolled in 226 centers marks milestone for Dubai’s early childhood education

20,000 children enrolled in 226 centers marks milestone for Dubai’s early childhood education
Updated 30 September 2022

20,000 children enrolled in 226 centers marks milestone for Dubai’s early childhood education

20,000 children enrolled in 226 centers marks milestone for Dubai’s early childhood education
  • Pre-schoolers are supported by more than 1,300 teachers
  • “Dubai is a future-focused city, and its future lies in cultivating our children’s wellbeing,” says education authority director-general

DUBAI: More than 20,000 children, aged between 45 days and six years, of 58 different nationalities, are now enrolled in 226 early childhood centers across Dubai.
Emphasizing Dubai’s cultural diversity and vibrant education ecosystem, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority — KHDA — reported on Friday that pre-schoolers are supported by more than 1,300 teachers and 1,900 teaching assistants at early childhood centers — ECCs — across the emirate, the Emirates News Agency said.
KHDA’s Milestones report offers in-depth statistics and details of Dubai’s private early childhood education and care sector for the first time.
“Dubai is a future-focused city, and its future lies in cultivating our children’s wellbeing, their sense of wonder and their love of learning,” said Dr. Abdulla Al-Karam, director-general of KHDA.
Everyone benefits when parents in Dubai have access to high-quality education for their children, he said.
“ECCs benefit from enrolment growth; parents benefit from the peace of mind that their children are being cared for and nurtured; and children benefit from learning and playing in a positive and supportive environment,” Al-Karam said.
Parents of young children can choose from 13 different early childhood curricula currently offered by Dubai’s ECCs, WAM reported.
Most ECCs offer the Early Years Foundation Stages curriculum, while other options include Montessori, IPC, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and several other curricula.
Parents can search for early childhood centers on the KHDA’s digital directory, available through the education regulator’s website and app.
Al-Karam said: “We want to build a quality-driven and diverse early childhood education and care sector to encourage even more parents to give their children a happy and beneficial learning experience.”
Data showed that 70 percent of children enrolled in Dubai’s private early childhood centers were in the 2-4 age group.