Iran minister urges ‘realistic’ US response to revive nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein†Amirabdollahian. (AFP file photo)
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein†Amirabdollahian. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 07 August 2022

Iran minister urges ‘realistic’ US response to revive nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein†Amirabdollahian. (AFP file photo)
  • In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors passed a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites

TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign minister called on Saturday for a “realistic response” from the US to Iranian proposals at indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, state media reported.
The comments came as talks continued for a third day on Saturday with few expecting a breakthrough compromise while Tehran’s disputed uranium enrichment program surges forward.
“Hossein Amirabdollahian ... stressed the need for a realistic US response to Iran’s constructive proposals on various issues to make the deal work,” state media reported, without providing details on the proposals.
Little remains of the 2015 pact between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on Iranian enrichment activity the West fears could yield atomic bombs — which says its nuclear program is for power generation and other peaceful purposes — breached the agreement in several ways including rebuilding stocks of enriched uranium.

BACKGROUND

In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors passed a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

Iranian media suggested a sticking point in the talks to revive the pact may be over Iran’s refusal to address alleged unexplained uranium traces as demanded by the UN nuclear watchdog, with Tehran insisting that the nuclear deal had cleared its nuclear program of alleged possible military dimensions.
In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors passed a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites.
But a senior Iranian presidential aide said Tehran demanded the issue be closed before it would agree to resume compliance with the pact.
“In all of (President Ebrahim) Raisi’s telephone calls with the presidents of France, Russia and China, his firm position has been that a final agreement could be reached only when safeguards claims were resolved and closed,” state media on Saturday quoted the deputy head of Raisi’s office as saying.
The European parties to the deal on Friday urged Iran “not to make unrealistic demands outside the scope of the JCPoA (nuclear deal), including on IAEA safeguards.”
“The text is on the table. There will be no re-opening of negotiations. Iran must now decide to conclude the deal while this is still possible,” a European statement said.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington restarted in Vienna on Thursday with a meeting between the Islamic Republic’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and European Union coordinator Enrique Mora.
Reuters, citing one Iranian and one European official, reported in June that Tehran had dropped a major stumbling block — its demand for the removal of its Revolutionary Guards from a US sanctions list.
A senior Iranian official suggested that the issue might not be a sticking point anymore, telling Reuters on Thursday: “We have our own suggestions that will be discussed in the Vienna talks, such as lifting sanctions on the Guards gradually.”


Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
Updated 10 sec ago

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
  • Banks reopen to queues and security service patrols

BEIRUT: Lebanese army retirees scuffled with Parliament guards in Beirut during a rally on Monday amid anger overdecimated monthly pay.

Hours after the protest, Parliament passed the 2022 budget, with 63 legislators voting in favor, 37 voting against and six abstaining.

The new budget will calculate customs tax revenue at 15,000 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar at a time when the black market rate is more than double that at 37,000 pounds to the dollar.

Since the country’s economic meltdown began three years ago, customs tax revenue has been calculated at the official rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar.

According to the new budget, government expenditures stand at 40.9 trillion pounds ($1.1 billion) at the parallel market rate, while revenue stands at 30 trillion pounds.

The protesters, who appealed to the army chief to listen to their concerns, demanded that their salaries be tripled to account for the loss of purchasing value due to the economic crisis.

A stampede took place earlier as the army and Parliament guards were summoned to tackle the protesters.

The retirees — including military widows — were later able to break the security cordon in the face of what they described as their “military sons.”

Security personnel in charge of protecting Parliament used a tear gas grenade to prevent the protesters from reaching the stairs of the Parliament building.

MP Jamil Al-Sayed, a retired major general, walked out of the plenary session to address the protesters.

He was preceded by MP Cynthia Zarazir, from the Change Representatives bloc, who went out in solidarity with demonstrators.

“This police state is repressing protesters,” the MP shouted as she faced the stampede.

Some protesters sprawled on the ground to prevent attempts to remove them.

A small delegation of protesters, accompanied by Al-Sayed, entered one of the corridors of Parliament.

“The message from the protest has been received, and we don’t want to clash with our military colleagues,” said George Nader, a retired brigadier general.

Caretaker Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Maurice Selim left the Parliament hall to meet retired soldiers in Najma Square.

He told them that it had been decided that salaries would be tripled.

The detailed calculations will be handled by specialized agencies in the Ministry of Finance, the minister said.

MP Sami Gemayel warned that increasing salaries would lead to more currency printing, higher inflation, and consequently, a decrease in purchasing power.

Gemayel called for more focus on carrying out reforms and bringing more US dollars into the country.

Independent MP Michel Moawad described the budget as a “crime against the Lebanese” since it was being discussed without balancing the accounts, which meant a “new escape from accountability.”

MP Ibrahim Kanaan objected to figures sent by the Ministry of Finance for the customs dollar to be based on the exchange rate of the dollar at a value of 15,000 Lebanese pounds.

Director-General of Parliament Financial Affairs Dr. Ahmad Al-Laqis, an academic specializing in budgets and taxes, told Arab News: “It is the least possible budget. It is required by the International Monetary Fund. All objections are for political purposes.”

Al-Laqis added that the budget is only relevant for the remaining three months of the year.

As of next year, there will be general financial regulation, and the solutions required to resolve the economic crisis can be included in the draft 2023 budget as the state sets its economic plan, the official said.

The increase in retired military personnel salaries will be three times the basic salary, and will not include the benefits they receive, Al-Laqis said.

Meanwhile, Lebanese banks, which reopened their doors to customers after a week-long closure, witnessed crowding in front of their doors by employees and military personnel, who flocked to complete transactions and withdrawals.

The Association of Banks has adopted new procedures for receiving customers, including the need for appointments.

Some operations, including cash withdrawals and deposits related to transfers, can be completed through ATM exchange platforms.

Lebanese security services patrolled around bank branches during the reopening.

The banks, which initially resorted to opening a few branches to customers, took strict security measures to prevent a recurrence of the holdups carried out two weeks ago by angry depositors.

Some depositors had used weapons and incendiary devices to threaten employees in order to obtain their dollar deposits, which have been frozen since a decision by the Banque du Liban in 2019.


Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare
Updated 15 min 9 sec ago

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare
  • “We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said
  • Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group said at least 76 people have been killed in the crackdown in Iran

OTTAWA: Canada on Monday announced sanctions against Iranian officials over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on protests driven by the death of a young woman after her arrest by the morality police.
“We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference.
“We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully.”

More than 75 people have been killed in the Iranian authorities’ crackdown against unrest sparked by the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, a rights group said Monday.
The authorities last put the death toll at 41, including several members of the security forces.
Officials said Monday they arrested more than 1,200 people as the dragnet widens against the nationwide demonstrations over Amini’s death, following her arrest for allegedly breaching the country’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.

Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group said at least 76 people have been killed in the crackdown in Iran, up from a previous count of 57.

“We call on the international community to decisively and unitedly take practical steps to stop the killing and torture of protesters,” said IHR’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

 


World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
Updated 26 September 2022

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
  • Faisal Mekdad issues strongly worded attack on Western countries over ‘wars of occupation’
  • Attempts to ‘break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world’ have failed

LONDON: The Syrian regime has criticized Western-led interventions in the Middle East, telling the UN General Assembly on Monday that the world is at a “critical, dangerous point.”

Following a strongly worded attack on Western countries, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad issued an appeal to “meet the challenges of food insecurity, terrorism and climate change together.”

He described Syria’s decade-long conflict as having originated from “attempts by some countries to impose hegemony on others,” condemning decisions to “put a stranglehold on economies”, “flout international law” and wage “wars of occupation.”

The conflict is “ultimately an attempt by the West to maintain control over the world,” he added, warning that the attempt to “break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world” had failed.

Mekdad said Western countries have intervened in the Middle East under the “excuse of spreading democracy and human rights,” adding that terrorist groups labeled “moderates” were “used as tools.”

He claimed that by a deliberate undermining of Syria’s access to medication, food, fuel and basic goods, the country’s people have been punished by the West.

He called for the creation of a multipolar world order, overseen by the UN, to fulfil the organization’s charter and support its purpose.

Mekdad said Israel’s practices had raised tensions and caused instability in the Middle East. He alleged that during the conflict in Syria, Israel had covertly supported terror groups fighting in the country, including Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, in what he described as an “act of military aggression.”

Israel’s activities in the Golan Heights — which it captured from Syria in 1967 and illegally annexed in 1981 — are also cause for concern, he added, warning that Damascus will seek to “hold it accountable for these crimes.”

Syria continues to support Palestine becoming a full-fledged UN member, Mekdad said.

He highlighted some of the steps that the regime is making toward ending the conflict in Syria, arguing that it had consistently called for “national and local reconciliation in order to promote national unity.”

In that regard, Mekdad said the regime had signed 21 amnesty orders, “enabling Syrians to return to normal lives” and ending fighting around the country.

But he warned that as a result of Western “economic terrorism,” Syria has lost an estimated $107 billion in oil and gas revenues since 2011, leading to further economic issues.

Syria will continue to seek compensation for the lost revenues, Mekdad said, adding that the regime is “doing everything possible” to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Turning to international issues, he said Syria supports the “right of Russia to secure its national territory,” adding: “Russia is defending not only itself, but justice and the right of humanity to reject unipolar hegemony.”

He also spoke of Syria’s support for China, arguing that Beijing has the right to protect its national sovereignty against “Western attempts” to influence events in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.


Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown
Updated 26 September 2022

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown
  • Also accused Iranian security forces of using unlawful force against protesters
  • Organization slammed regime for shutting down access to the internet

LONDON: Amnesty International launched a petition Monday calling for an independent UN investigation into the “serious crimes” being committed by the Iranian regime during its crackdown on widespread protests in the country.

Amnesty called on member states in the UN Human Rights Council to help combat the deadly suppression of protests raging across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died on Sept. 13 after being arrested by the country’s morality police.The organization said a “crisis of impunity” had “emboldened” the regime in Iran to kill and torture protesting Iranians without fear of reprisals in recent years.

Authorities in Tehran have been getting away with “grave crimes” over the past few years without any consequences, a statement from the organization added.

Amnesty accused the Iranian regime of routinely subjecting women and girls to “arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment” for not complying with Iran’s “abusive, degrading and discriminatory compulsory veiling laws.”

They also accused the Iranian security forces of using unlawful force against protesters, including the firing of live ammunition and metal pellets at close range, misuse of tear gas and water cannons as well as excessive and severe beatings with batons.

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in the crackdown on protesters, with hundreds more seriously injured, according to Amnesty, who also highlighted the case of two men who were blinded in one or both eyes.

The organization slammed the Iranian regime for shutting down access to the internet in an attempt to “hide their crimes,” while its statement also said many of those injured do not seek hospital treatment for fear of arrest or further reprisals.


Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
Updated 26 September 2022

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in attack on his car outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran has pressed charges against 14 people for their alleged role in the November 2020 assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, local media reported Sunday.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been under US sanctions for his role in Iran’s nuclear program, was killed in an attack on his car outside Tehran that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi announced that “14 people were indicted” in the case, according to Tasnim news agency, without naming them.
The charges against them include “corruption on earth,” aiding “espionage for the Zionist regime,” “colluding with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “actions against national security,” Salehi said.
Iran claims that the bombing and shooting attack that killed Fakhrizadeh was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun.
Israel has never commented on the killing. In 2018, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Fakhrizadeh had led Iran’s efforts to build an atomic bomb, a claim Iran has always vehemently denied.