Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal

Update Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal
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Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves the Palais Coburg, the venue of nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, on August 4, 2022. (REUTERS/Lisa Leutner)
Update Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal
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Russia’s Governor to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov, center, picks up some papers as he arrives at the Coburg Palais in Vienna on Aug. 4, 2022. (AFP)
Update Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal
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A general view shows Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria, venue of closed-door talks on Iran's nuclear program, which resumed on August 4, 2022. (REUTERS/Lisa Leutner)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal

Iran nuclear talks restart, with US urging Tehran to take deal
  • Inspectors report nuclear progress at Iran's Natanz reactor
  • Mullah regime ‘ready to build atomic weapon at will’

VIENNA: Negotiators kicked off a fresh round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna on Thursday, seeking to salvage the agreement on Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
Officials from world powers and Iran were meeting in the Austrian capital for the first time since March, when negotiations, which began in 2021 to reintegrate the United States into the agreement, stalled.
A senior EU official said progress was being made on some of the remaining obstacles, including guarantees that the United States would not scupper the deal by going back on its word in the future.
“We have now quite substantial guarantees,” the official said. “It’s my understanding that Iran is happy and feels satisfied with what is in the text.”
A demand by Tehran that the United States remove the country’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s official blacklist of “foreign terrorist organizations” has been dropped from the discussions, the official added. It will instead be handled “in the future” — after the deal.
Tehran and Washington still have to agree on “issues related to sanctions lifting and a couple of nuclear questions that did not exist in March as the Iranians advanced their program,” the official said.
“We are a bit exhausted, I cannot imagine myself here in four weeks,” the EU source said. “This is not another round, we are here to finalize the text.”
“I think there is a real possibility but it’s not going to be easy.”




Iranian opposition supporters protest in front of the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria, as closed-door nuclear talks with Iran restarted on August 4,2022. (REUTERS/Lisa Leutner)

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday there was “a deal on the table” and Iran “ought to take it.”
“You’ve heard the president say we’re not going to wait forever for Iran to take this deal,” Kirby said, adding that “clearly time does appear to be getting very short in terms of being able to get to a deal.”
In late June, Qatar hosted indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in the hope of getting the process back on track — but those talks failed to make a breakthrough.
In a last-ditch effort, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell submitted a compromise proposal last month and called on the parties to accept it to avoid a “dangerous nuclear crisis.”
Borrell said the draft text includes “hard-won compromises by all sides” and “addresses, in precise detail, the sanctions lifting as well as the nuclear steps needed to restore” the 2015 pact.
Bilateral talks began earlier on Thursday at Vienna’s luxury Palais Coburg hotel under the auspices of the European Union’s representative Enrique Mora.
The Iranian and Russian delegations, which have traditionally been close in the negotiations, held a separate meeting.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United States signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, in July 2015. Delegations from all parties were set to partake in Thursday’s talks, but officials from the US and Iran are not expected to meet face to face.
The JCPOA aims to guarantee the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a gradual lifting of sanctions.
But following the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018 under former president Donald Trump and the re-imposition of US sanctions, Tehran has backtracked on its obligations.
Iran subsequently exceeded the JCPOA’s uranium enrichment rate of 3.67 percent, rising to 20 percent in early 2021.
It then crossed an unprecedented 60-percent threshold, getting closer to the 90 percent needed to make a bomb.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, on Tuesday warned Iran’s program was “moving ahead very, very fast” and “growing in ambition and capacity.”

Cautious optimism
Ahead of Thursday’s talks, officials expressed cautious optimism, while cautioning that the parties remained far apart on key issues.
These include sanctions, Iranian demands for guarantees and the end of a probe by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The head of the US delegation, Rob Malley, and the head of Tehran’s representatives, Ali Bagheri, said on Twitter ahead of the talks that they were coming in good faith but put the onus on each other.
Analysts said reviving the JCPOA remained the best option.
“The last thing the United States needs is a nuclear crisis with Iran that could easily escalate to a broader regional conflict,” Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a statement.
Ellie Geranmayeh, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), said that “at the end of the day, Tehran and Washington know the alternatives to a JCPOA collapse are terrible.”
“This is unlikely to be a meeting that resolves the outstanding issues,” but “it could create the breakthrough necessary to push the talks toward a finishing line rather than a collapse,” she said.
 

 


Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
Updated 28 September 2022

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
  • Metaverse will shape new digital future for humanity, says Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai crown prince
  • Over 500 professionals and 40 organizations specialized in metaverse and digital tech taking part in the event

DUBAI: Hundreds of global experts and policymakers, and leading global organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies attended the first day of the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Assembly on Wednesday.
Present at the inauguration, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, said the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The two-day Dubai Metaverse Assembly is being organized by the Dubai Future Foundation.
Over 500 professionals and more than 40 leading organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies are taking part in the event.
WAM said that more 20,000 people attended on Wednesday, using both virtual platforms and metaverse technologies.
Sheikh Hamdan said Dubai is emerging as a major contributor to shaping a new global vision for advanced technology and a pioneer in adopting next-generation digital innovation.
“We are constantly working to foster the development of technological tools and applications to raise the community’s quality of life. In the coming years, the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity and Dubai will consolidate its status as a testbed for innovation in this emerging technology.”
Dubai will always welcome innovators and experts to explore and design the future of the metaverse and explore its potential, he said.
“Through the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, we aim to provide a global platform for the metaverse community to discuss new opportunities emerging from this new technology and promote knowledge-sharing and partnerships between entrepreneurs and innovators. We also look forward to discussing how the metaverse can generate solutions for some of the world’s most critical challenges,” Sheikh Hamdan said.
Sheikh Hamdan, who is also DFF’s chairman of the board of trustees, met with officials from around the globe and visited activations installed by the event’s partners to showcase experiences from the metaverse.
Meanwhile the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Teleworking Applications, Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama, delivered a speech in which he outlined the goals of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy and the key initiatives to strengthen Dubai’s position in the digital sector.
“Over the next 50 years, we will work to turn challenges into opportunities and build a digital, knowledge-driven economy. With world-class infrastructure, talent and bold leadership, Dubai can become the beating heart of the metaverse economy and an epicenter for its growing community,” Al-Olama said.
The event hosts more than 25 sessions and workshops at the Museum of the Future and AREA 2071, DFF’s innovation ecosystem, located at the Emirates Towers.
 


Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
Updated 28 September 2022

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
  • Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office
  • Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament speaker has called a Thursday session to elect a new president, despite a political deadlock caused by a splintered chamber failing to agree on a candidate.
Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office, and as rival parliamentary blocs refuse to nominate or even discuss who should replace him.
Lebanon’s Parliament of 128 MPs contains two main blocs after elections earlier this year: The Hezbollah-aligned March 8 Alliance with 60 MPs, and their opponents, the March 14 Alliance with 38.
Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority. As a result, a new president must have cross-bench support.
Ali Darwich, a former MP, said the announcement by Berri, whose Amal Movement is part of March 8, is intended “to hold everyone accountable.”
He said: “We hope that the session leads to the election of a president, but tomorrow’s scene will reveal that an agreement on the new president’s identity has yet to be reached.”
Consultations among parliamentary blocs have intensified since Berri’s announcement, with sources suggesting that many have agreed to attend the session.
Melhem Khalaf, a member of the 13-member Forces for Change opposition bloc, said Berri had “fulfilled his constitutional duty by urging deputies to carry out their responsibilities and avoid a presidential vacuum,” and “as reformists, we will be the first to attend.”
His alliance has however not nominated a candidate. Instead, it has issued a set of standards for Aoun’s replacement: “Lebanese-made, a savior chosen from outside the corrupted system that contributed to the destruction of the country.”
Under the constitution, which divides power between the country’s religions, any Maronite Lebanese can run for the presidency.
The most prominent candidates are usually the leaders of Christian parties, such as former deputy Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the Marada Movement and an ally of the Syrian regime; Gibran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and an ally of Hezbollah; and the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea. However, none enjoy majority support in parliament.
The names that were reported on Wednesday to have received some support include Lebanon’s ambassador to the Vatican since 2018, Farid Elias Al-Khazen; former MP Salah Hanin; Michel Moawad, the son of former President Rene Moawad; and independent Neamat Ifram, an MP and businessman formerly of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Other tips for candidacy include Damianos Kattar and Jihad Azour, both former finance ministers; banker Samir Assaf; and Ziad Baroud and Marwan Charbel, both former interior ministers.
The Lebanese president is elected by secret ballot. Candidates must gain a two-thirds majority of the 128 MPs in the first round of voting to be elected outright.
A candidate with a simple majority of 65 votes can be declared the winner if further rounds are required.


PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
Updated 28 September 2022

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
  • One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin
  • A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident

ANKARA: Turkey has blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a deadly attack on a police guesthouse in the country’s southern coastal Mersin province.
One policeman was killed and another injured in the attack reportedly carried out by two women who opened fire with long-barreled weapons and detonated bombs late on Monday.
Another bomb, found in a bag near the guesthouse, was defused.
One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU, launched a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state in 1984, which has since claimed 40,000 lives.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Turkey not to go to areas within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Monday’s attack coincided with domestic debates taking place in Turkey in the run-up to next year’s election marathon.
Erol Bural, a retired colonel and head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Combating Terrorism and Radicalization (TERAM), told Arab News that the Mersin attack was a message to Ankara from the PKK that it was still active in Turkish towns.
He said: “Terrorism is an instrument to exert political violence. The PKK wanted to show that it is still alive in Turkey to launch terror attacks against specific targets.”
Bural noted that the PKK had not carried out an urban attack on such a scale for some time due to the effectiveness of Turkey’s increased anti-terror, and intelligence-gathering measures.
“This attack was carried out by the urban team of the PKK by people who were familiar with the district and who seem to have been specifically trained for such urban operations. They knew very well that the police guesthouse could not have been protected as strongly as a police station. Therefore, they picked that target,” he added.
Bural pointed out that the PKK may also have used the attack as a signal to discourage Turkey from conducting any potential operations in Syria.
“Another underlying reason for this attack might also be revenge following Turkey’s cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK hideouts,” he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Monday that around 400 PKK members in northern Iraq had been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed, or captured — since the start of a cross-border operation in April.
On Sept. 23, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) captured a PKK member against whom a red notice had been issued, and on Wednesday it apprehended another group member, Sabah Ogur. The same day, Akar said the guesthouse attack had been plotted in Syria and added that, “necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators when the time is ripe.”
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s anti-Daesh operation, 16 Daesh suspects were caught in Istanbul and eight in Mersin.
Think tank TERAM closely follows counter-terror operations in Turkey, and Bural said: “Each month, about 1,000 terrorists from different groups are caught in Turkey, and some of them are detained. Therefore, Turkey’s counter-terror operations will continue following this attack with the same vigor.”


Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
Updated 28 September 2022

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
  • Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks
  • Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion

RAMALLAH: Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured, some seriously, during an Israeli military raid early on Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp in in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks. Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the camp, apparently after an explosion. In the streets, men sheltered behind cars as heavy gunfire could be heard.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said one of the men killed in the clashes was Ahmed Alawneh, a 24-year-old intelligence officer.

The party added that the incursion was a “dangerous escalation.” It called for demonstrations to honor the “heroic martyrs” and “unify the battlefields against the Israeli occupation that is trying to single out and isolate Jenin.”

Thousands later participated in the funeral of the four dead amid chants calling for revenge.

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, Jenin’s governor, told Arab News that the Israeli army used excessive force and intended to kill.

He said the two wanted men died in the yard of a house that had been surrounded by Israeli soldiers, despite possessing no weapons and showing no resistance.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, called for the men’s killers to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Mosques announced mourning and a general strike in Jenin and Nablus.

Ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the killings showed that “this occupation, which practices terrorism in all its forms against our Palestinian people,” understands only force.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the “dangerous Israeli escalation” would not give legitimacy, security or stability to Israel.

He added that Israel is an international pariah and that the US, its principle ally, has lost credibility with its continued calls for calm while Palestinian lives, land and holy sites are being destroyed.

“The occupation still insists on crossing all red lines, whether in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the “terrorism of the occupation” would not break Jenin’s determination, and “the fall of the martyrs becomes fuel for the resistance.”

He added that the battle against Israel will continue until it is expelled from all Palestinian land.

Israel accused Hamas of stoking tensions in the West Bank, claiming that an explosive device was detonated when its soldiers tried to arrest the wanted men in Jenin and that both died in an exchange of fire.

Hamas was also accused by Israel of stoking Palestinian resistance at the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, which has been stormed by Jewish settlers for three consecutive days.


Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
Updated 28 September 2022

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
  • Envoy is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz
  • Grundberg: We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real

AL-MUKALLA: Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy for Yemen, arrived in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday for talks as he pushes the Yemeni militia and the internationally recognized government to extend the UN-brokered truce for six months and implement truce elements.

Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz, among other things.

The envoy’s visit comes as the Yemeni government and the Houthis received a new draft of the envoy’s proposal, which includes, in addition to the six-month truce, opening secondary roads in the besieged city of Taiz and adding new destinations for commercial flights from Sanaa airport to include Doha, Muscat and Mumbai.

The proposal would ask the Houthis to use revenue from fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port to pay government employees in their territories based on the 2014 payroll, with the Yemeni government covering any payment shortfall.

A Yemeni government source told Arab News that the government received a copy of the draft and expressed reservations about opening only small roads in Taiz rather than at least one main road leading into and out of the city and requested that the Houthis fully pay the government employees in areas under their control.

“Minor roads in Taiz, such as Osefrah, Al-Sateen, Al-Zulai and Al-Rahedah, will be opened during the first phase. Opening the main Softeel road is important for the government,” said the Yemeni official who preferred anonymity, adding that the government is seeking assurances that the Houthis will adhere to the truce’s terms.

The UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been extended twice, will expire on Oct. 2.

Despite significantly reducing hostilities throughout the country and allowing commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo, as well as allowing fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports, the truce did not even result in a partial lifting of the Houthi siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, or the cessation of discriminatory attacks on residential areas in the city.

The UN envoy, after concluding a trip to Riyadh and Muscat, warned on Tuesday that the truce was at serious risk of collapsing and that new fighting could erupt, urging Yemeni parties to achieve peace.

“We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people,” Grundberg said.

The Houthis rejected the new proposal on Tuesday and other calls for extending the truce and insisted the Yemeni government pay public servants in their areas and end what they called the “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“Any discussion of peace in Yemen lacks credibility and seriousness until these critical humanitarian issues are addressed, which are a demand of all Yemenis,” Mohammed Abdul Sallam, a Houthi chief negotiator, tweeted.