Iran’s nuclear activities loom over high-level UN summit

Iran’s nuclear activities loom over high-level UN summit
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken speaks during a meeting with Non-Proliferation Treaty Non-Nuclear Weapons States Parties at the UNGA Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 02 August 2022

Iran’s nuclear activities loom over high-level UN summit

Iran’s nuclear activities loom over high-level UN summit
  • President of NPT 10th Review Conference tells Arab News that Iran issue will be raised in light of IAEA report casting doubt on peaceful nature of Tehran’s program
  • Arab world concerned at nuclear weapons states’ failure to comply with NPT calls for elimination of atomic weapons: Jordanian FM

NEW YORK: The US continues to believe that a mutual return to compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal offers the best hope of “making sure we are putting Iran’s nuclear program back in a box and averting any kind of crisis,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
Blinken delivered his remarks at a press conference, attended by Arab News, at the UN headquarters in New York, where he led a 60-strong delegation to help kick off high-level nuclear discussions over the coming month.
He said that the US has agreed to an EU proposal, drafted “after many, many months of discussions, negotiations and conversations,” adding that it remains to be seen whether Iran will follow suit.
“We remain prepared to move forward on the basis of what has been agreed. It’s still unclear whether Iran is prepared to do that,” Blinken said.
His comments came shortly after the US slapped a new round of oil and petrochemical sanctions on Tehran and follows claims by Iran’s atomic energy chief, Mohammad Eslami, that Tehran has the ability to build a nuclear weapon, “but does not plan to do so.”
State parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons gather every five years in New York to review the agreement’s operation and the implementation of its provisions: Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, destroying the existing nuclear arsenal in order to eventually achieve a nuclear weapon free world, and promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the conference with a warning that it is taking place at a critical juncture for world peace and security, “as humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in the terrifying fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Geopolitical tensions are reaching new highs, Guterres said, while states “are seeking false security in stockpiling and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet.”
The last Review conference was in 2015 and the current conference was supposed to have taken place in 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic.
With its membership of 191 countries — including five nuclear weapon states, China, Russia, France, the US and UK — the NPT is the most wide-ranging multilateral arms control agreement. It came into force in 1970 and has been a cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime.
The Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was agreed after the 2015 review conference so it has never been discussed by state parties before.
Gustavo Zlauvinen, president of the 10th Review Conference of the NPT, told Arab News that he believes the US and other state parties will raise concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear programs, referring to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report which revealed “inconsistencies and a host of other issues (which) cast a shadow on (Iran’s nuclear) program and have (raised) questions about whether that program is truly for peaceful purposes or not.”
Zlauvinen said that he expects Iran to defend its program as a peaceful one.
“And then the question will be how much the US and others will push for this issue to be included or not in any outcome document.”
He added: “I believe that the more progress we may have in the talks in Vienna regarding the JCPOA, the less the level of discussions in the review conference will be. But if there is no progress on those talks, there will probably be more debate here.”
Speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, said that Arab states view the NPT regime as highly important, and acknowledge the IAEA as the only agency with a mandate to verify incidents related to the peaceful use of nuclear material.
He told world ambassadors and ministers that the treaty was based on a deal that called on nuclear states to eliminate their atomic weapons and on all other nations to commit to not producing such weapons.
“Nuclear weapons states have not complied. The Arab world has concerns about that,” said Safadi, urging those states to adopt transparency regarding their nuclear arsenals.
He called for the creation of binding instruments to reassure non-nuclear states of international safeguards against the use of atomic weapons.
Safadi also evoked the clear ban on nuclear technology transfers to states that are not party to the treaty, singling out Israel, one of four countries that have not joined the agreement, along with Pakistan, India and South Sudan.
The 1995 Review conference ended with a decision to create a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
Safadi said that the “Middle East has enough troubles already to deal with (without) any new form of crisis or the entry of nuclear weapons to our nations.”
Jordan “fully commits to the NPT,” he added.
But Safadi said that the goal of achieving a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East goes hand in hand with the resolution of all Middle Eastern issues, including the Palestinian struggle, the war in Syria, the Yemeni conflict and the tensions in Libya.
“These are real impediments, mutually reinforced. Without mutual resolution (of them all) we will continue to see the Middle East struggling,” he said. 


Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
Updated 25 September 2022

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’

Borrell says Iran protest crackdown ‘unjustifiable, unacceptable’
  • A wave of protests has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police

BRUSSELS: The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday that Iran’s crackdown on protests is “unjustifiable” and “unacceptable,” as Tehran vowed no leniency against the unrest gripping the country.
A wave of protests has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
At least 41 people have died, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll, although human rights groups say the real figure is higher.
In a statement on behalf of the EU, Borrell said: “For the European Union and its member states, the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protesters is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
Moves “to severely restrict Internet access by the relevant Iranian authorities and to block instant messaging platforms is a further cause for concern, as it blatantly violates freedom of expression,” he added.
Amini was arrested on September 13, accused of having breached rules that mandate tightly fitted hijab head coverings as well as ripped jeans and brightly colored clothes.
Iran’s judiciary chief on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency.”


Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
Updated 25 September 2022

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
  • The Quad countries called on the Houthis to open the main roads around Taiz
  • Reaffirmed support for Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed importance of cohesion in the council

LONDON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US have condemned the Houthis’ large scale military reinforcement and all attacks that threaten to derail the truce in Yemen.

The countries, known as the Quad, recently met to discuss the situation in Yemen and also condemned recent Houthi attacks on Taiz and a Houthi military parade that was put on in Hodeidah at the beginning of this month which violated the Hodeidah Agreement.

The Quad welcomed the tangible benefits of the truce in Yemen for the country’s people since it began on April. 2 and the continued implementation of agreed confidence building measures by its government.

The countries welcomed the flow of fuel into Hodeidah Port despite a Houthi order that delayed the established process for clearing ships, and the resumption of flights in and out of Sanaa airport.

They called for the implementation of outstanding measures including the opening by the Houthis of the main roads around Taiz and an agreement on a joint mechanism for the payment of civil servant salaries.

The Quad said it fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg to extend and expand the truce which is due for renewal on Oct. 2, and that all terms of the truce must be fully implemented.

The governments of the four countries also agreed that a permanent ceasefire and a durable political settlement must be the ultimate objectives of the Yemeni political process, under UN auspices, and that such a settlement must be based on the agreed references and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

They reaffirmed their support to Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed the importance of cohesion in the council, and welcomed the council’s commitment to improving basic services and economic stability in the war-torn country.


Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
Updated 25 September 2022

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
  • Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran
  • At least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began

DUBAI: Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday it summoned Britain’s ambassador to protest what it described as a hostile atmosphere created by London-based Farsi language media outlets. The move comes amid violent unrest in Iran triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported the ministry also summoned Norway’s ambassador to Iran and strongly protested recent remarks by the president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani.
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police launched unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.
Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran. State TV has suggested that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities put the toll at least 11, with more than 1,200 demonstrators arrested.
The Foreign Ministry’s website said it summoned Simon Shercliff, the UK’s ambassador to Iran, on Saturday and protested the hosting of critical Farsi-language media outlets. The ministry alleges the news outlets have provoked disturbances and the spread of riots in Iran at the top of their programs.
Iran said it considers the news agencies’ reporting to be interference in Iran’s internal affairs and acts against its sovereignty.
The crisis in Iran began as a public outpouring of anger over the the death of Amini, who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.
Amini’s death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations.


Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
  • Derian: ‘We hope for government within days’

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian warned on Saturday that Lebanon has become a failed state.

“We are rapidly moving toward no state at all, and the Arabs and the world will soon start ignoring Lebanon’s existence because of political mismanagement at all levels,” he said.

“We need to elect a new president and the MPs are responsible for electing him or creating a presidential vacuum.”

Derian had invited Sunni MPs for a meeting at Dar Al-Fatwa to discuss possible candidates.

All but three of 27 Sunni MPs from different political currents attended the meeting, including one MP affiliated with Hezbollah, in addition to reformist and independent MPs.

Two reformist MPs, Ibrahim Mneimneh and Halima Al-Qaaqour, and independent MP Osama Saad did not attend.

A source in Dar Al-Fatwa said that the meeting was aimed at uniting the Sunni bloc in parliament to allow it to have a meaningful say in the presidential elections.

The bloc also aims stop any attempts to tamper with the Taif Agreement and undermine its provisions regarding Lebanon’s constitution, the source said.

The meeting focused on efforts to preserve national unity, and respect constitutional deadlines on the election of a new president and the formation of a government capable of implementing financial, monetary and legislative reforms, including an economic recovery plan.

During the meeting, Derian said that the survival of nations and states depends on the effectiveness of their constitutional institutions.

The president is the protector of the constitution, and the Christian president in Lebanon is a symbol of coexistence on which the Lebanese system is based, he said.

Arabs “recognize and appreciate the Lebanese experience” because the Lebanese president is the only Christian president in the Arab world, Derian added.

He urged MPs to encourage respect for the president’s position, and help him assume his role at home and abroad.

Derian also said the new president must preserve the principles of the Taif Agreement, the constitution, coexistence, and Lebanon’s national, Arab and international legitimacy.

If these matters are neglected, Lebanon will be unable to maintain order, stability and its national entity, he added.

Derian highlighted the need to put an end to made-up sectarian, divisive clashes over powers and return to the constitutional principle of separating powers but maintaining cooperation between them.

He called for the election of a president characterized by the personal and political qualities of a public businessman who would be ethically responsible for the mission with which he is tasked.

The new president must have wisdom, national responsibility and integrity, as well as the ability to be inclusive of all Lebanese, and to use his powers to help the country out of this crisis and prevent it from reaching total collapse, he said.

Derian reiterated: “Either we elect a president with these qualities, or we see the regime and the state fall before our eyes.”

He also appealed for respect for the prime minister and help for the PM-designate with his mission.

“This is a joint responsibility that rests with everyone. We are looking forward to forming a government as soon as possible, perhaps in the next few days,” said Derain, adding that Lebanon needed a government with full powers  — and not a caretaker government —   in these harsh and difficult circumstances.

Derian said Lebanon can survive only if consensus is reached. There is no salvation without unity, away from tension, sectarian strife and incitement, he added.

Lebanon needed a president “who is not part of the problem or the cause of it.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, those present stressed the principles advocated by Dar Al-Fatwa, especially in terms of committing to the Taif Agreement, Lebanon’s Arab identity and national unity.

They also condemned the abuses that had harmed and were still harming the foundations of national reconciliation and coexistence.

The Sunni MPs stressed the need to end Lebanon’s suffering under mismanagement and rampant corruption.

“Saving Lebanon requires recognizing the mistakes that were made, holding the perpetrators accountable, whoever they are, and sincerely cooperating with the different Lebanese and Arab parties and the international community to restore Lebanon’s identity and stature,” they said.

The Sunni MPs said that they will work with fellow MPs to elect a new president on the specified constitutional date.

They said that the new president “needs to abide by the constitution and be loyal to the people of Lebanon and their interests.”

The statement added that Lebanon’s enemy was and still is the Israeli army, which continued to occupy parts of the Lebanese territories.

It called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions that stipulate the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the recognition of Jerusalem as an occupied city.


Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
  • Each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s banks will reopen on Monday, the banking association said, after five days of closure following a wave of holdups in the country by depositors seeking access to their frozen savings.
The association said in a statement on Sunday that the decision to reopen “was taken after consideration of the current difficult security conditions and the need to maintain the safety of customers and employees alike, in the absence of adequate protection by the state.”
It added each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions, and the health care sector among others.
A top Lebanese banker on Friday criticized politicians for failing to enact a capital control law, saying this was the way to avoid bank raids by savers demanding funds from frozen accounts and to stop banks’ “discretionary practices.”
The holdups reflect savers’ desperation three years after Lebanon’s financial system collapsed due to decades of state corruption and waste, and unsustainable financial policies.
The government has agreed neither a financial recovery plan nor enacted reforms deemed vital to get Lebanon out of the crisis. While the government says it is committed to reforms, the International Monetary Fund says progress remains very slow.