Iran’s nuclear program to remain ever peaceful
Iran’s nuclear program will always remain peaceful even if the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers unravels, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said, adding that Tehran does not want to reach a point of tension.
In an interview with Spanish ABC newspaper, Abbas Araqchi in response to a question on the impacts of the US exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear and reimposition of sanctions on Iran, said even before the new rounds of sanctions took effect, and since Donald Trump took office, some foreign companies had begun to stop activities in Iran due to uncertainty and a psychological climate.
“Those companies not linked with the United States are continuing their cooperation with Iran. Around 3,000 small, medium-size and large companies are working with Iran. What they want is a financial channel for doing business,” said Araqchi, who is in Madrid for the second round of negotiations with his Spanish counterpart.
The Iranian official said there is a possibility of reduction in Iran’s oil sales but not to the extent that the US wishes.
Sanctions not to change policies
“Perhaps the country has to pay heavy prices for sanctions, but they cannot change Iran’s policies. The previous US administration had imposed much harder sanctions against Iran, but eventually it had to sit for negotiations. Trump is still following an already failed experience. The United States is an economic power and like a bully is putting pressure on other countries. But it is a country which has been isolated politically,” he said.
Asked whether as in previous rounds of sanctions, when Iran increased the number of its centrifuges from 200 to 20,000, it will do the same this time, Araqchi responded that Iran curbed its nuclear activities to show its credibility.
“If there is no agreement there will be no limitations. Iran’s nuclear program will remain of a peaceful nature forever. We used to have first generation centrifuges and now we are working on the third and fourth generations, but we do not want to reach a point of tension,” he said.
On US claims that Iran supports terrorism and is misusing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to develop nuclear arms, the Iranian deputy foreign minister said, “Our nuclear program is under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has verified 13 times Iran’s commitment to its obligations under the deal. The Zionist regime is good at lying and we should not be deceived by false claims of warmongering individuals.”
No presence in Yemen
To a question on Iran’s alleged presence in Yemen, Araqchi replied, “We have no presence in Yemen. We are in contact with Houthis, but this does not mean that they [the Houthis] are doing whatever we want them to do. We are trying to help in establishing peace in that country. This war is the result of Saudis’ miscalculations. They used to talk about eliminating the Houthis within two months, but with the passage of four years the war is still raging in that country. This is why they intend to attribute this to Iran. The solution is not the war but rather in politics.”
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power and crushing the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Some 16,000 Yemenis have been killed and thousands more injured since the onset of the US-backed Saudi-led aggression.
More than 2,200 others have died of cholera, and the crisis has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Asked if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had some evidence to support his statement that slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered with the support of the United States, Araqchi said, “President Rouhani meant that Washington’s all-out support for the Saudi Arabian government has emboldened it to do whatever it wished, including Khashoggi’s murder. Even the US is supplying arms to Saudi Arabia for its war on Yemen.”
Russia may switch to settlements in national currencies with Iran: Novak
Russia may launch settlements with Iran in national currencies in order to continue bilateral cooperation despite the US sanctions against Tehran, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
“We do not recognize [the US sanctions against Iran], which were introduced unilaterally without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. We will continue seeking mechanisms for cooperation, and one of them is the settlements for supplied goods in national currencies,” Novak said.
According to Novak, who also co-chairs the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission, this step will enable Moscow to develop cooperation with Iran.
“This is not a new situation for us when sanctions are introduced against Iran. Until 2015, when they were lifted, we had cooperated with Iran and developed trade and economic cooperation,” Novak underlined.
The first round of new US sanctions on Iran took effect on August 7, targeting Iran’s automotive sector and trade in gold and other metals. The second round of sanctions, including against the Iranian oil sector, came into force on November 5.
On November 2, Novak said his country will help Iran counter fresh US sanctions, adding Moscow will continue trading Tehran’s crude in defiance of Washington.
“We believe we should look for mechanisms that would allow us to continue developing cooperation with our partners, with Iran,” Novak told the Financial Times.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has warned Russia against any move that could help Iran evade the sanctions.
Novak further emphasized that Moscow has no concerns about the threat of US retaliation for handling Iranian crude.
Novak further added that Russia seeks to “continue developing” its trading of Iranian oil under an oil-for-goods scheme originally signed in 2014 between the two countries regardless of the US sanctions.
In early November, the Russian energy minister said the first Iranian oil supply to Russia under the oil-for-assets program has been completed and the two sides could extend the deal for five years when it runs out at the end of the year.
According to the arrangement, Russia would initially buy 100,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.
The deal allows for an increase in currently-traded volumes and Iran will be looking for additional buyers if some of its regular customers turn away when the sanctions take effect.
British foreign secretary due in Tehran today
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is scheduled to arrive in Tehran today to hold talks with Iranian officials on his first visit to Iran after taking office.
He will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other top officials to discuss bilateral cooperation and the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), IRNA reported.
Continued on Page 2
Pakistani PM stresses further development of ‘age-old’ Iran ties
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the country’s officials to double efforts to further broaden relations and cooperation with Iran.
“Iran is a friendly and neighboring state and we have age-old relations with the country,” Imran Khan said during a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday, Fars News Agency reported.
“We want to expand ties with Iran,” he underlined.
Senior leaders of Iran and Pakistan have vowed to enhance the values of trade exchanges between the two countries to the level of $5 billion.
A senior Pakistani trade official underlined in August that his country would not quit developing trade relations with Iran despite the US reimposition of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“Sanctions will have no impact on Iran’s trade with other countries and cannot hamper its progress,” President of Iran-Pakistan Federation of Culture and Trade Khawaja Habib-ul Rahman said.
Earlier this month, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced the reimposition of the “toughest” sanctions ever against Iran’s banking and energy sectors, with the aim of cutting off the country’s oil sales and crucial exports. The announcement came after Washington withdrew in May from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement.
Khawaja Habib-ul Rahman underlined that the reimposition of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic is an unjustified move, and said, “The economic situation of Iran is far better than the past and the new round of the US sanctions on Iran cannot hamper its progress.”
In September, Imran Khan voiced his country’s willingness to broaden mutual cooperation with Iran in different fields, saying that Islamabad was looking for the establishment of friendly relations with all neighbors.
EU demands Saudi ‘clarity’ on Khashoggi
Compiled from Dispatches
The EU told Saudi Arabia to “shed full clarity” on what it openly calls the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Still wavering is US President Donald Trump, whose ally Riyadh denies orders came from the top.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini publicly told Saudi Arabia late Saturday that it still needed to “shed full clarity” on the “horrendous crime” despite blame being placed on five suspects by Saudi prosecutors, dw.com reported.
Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, sparking global outrage against the kingdom and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Riyadh had offered numerous contradictory explanations for his disappearance, before saying Khashoggi was killed after “negotiations” to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Trump on Saturday said via the US State Department that reports that his government had reached a final conclusion were “inaccurate.”
Trump himself told reporters in Malibu he would be briefed “probably on Monday or Tuesday,” adding that Saudi Arabia was a “truly spectacular ally.”
“I’m president — I have to take a lot of things into consideration,” Trump said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Sunday that the killers of the Saudi journalist may have taken his dismembered body out of Turkey in luggage.
“One probability is that they left the country three to four hours after committing the murder. They may have taken out Khashoggi’s dismembered corpse inside luggage without facing problems due to their diplomatic immunity,” CNN Turk cited Akar speaking at a panel as part of an international conference in Halifax, Canada, Reuters reported.
Turkey has said a group of 15 individuals, including a two-man “clean-up team,” was involved and that Khashoggi’s body had been dismembered. Turkish officials have also called for an investigation into whether the body was dissolved in acid.
Saudi public prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, said on Thursday that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed to an unidentified “local cooperator.”
More than a month after the murder, Turkey is trying to maintain pressure on Prince Mohammed, releasing a stream of evidence that undermined Riyadh’s early denials.
“Very premature” assessment
President Trump on Saturday called a CIA assessment blaming Prince Mohammed for the killing “very premature” and said he would receive a complete report on the case on Tuesday.
Turkey says it has recordings related to the killing which it shared with Western allies. One Turkish official told Reuters that officials who heard the recordings, which include Khashoggi’s killing and conversations leading up to the operation, were horrified but their countries had done nothing.
On Thursday, without naming them, Shalaan said the Saudi prosecutor had requested the death penalty for five individuals “charged with ordering and committing the crime, and for the appropriate sentences for the other indicted individuals.”
He said 11 of 21 suspects had been indicted and would be referred to court, while investigations of the remaining suspects would continue.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was not satisfied with Shalaan’s statement, pushing Riyadh to disclose the location of Khashoggi’s remains and calling for the suspects to be tried in Turkey.
Number of foreign tourists visiting Iran up 50%
The total number of foreign tourists arriving in Iran during the current Iranian year ending March 21, 2019 increased by 50 percent, said the deputy head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization for tourism affairs.
Speaking in a press conference on 12th International Festival of Tribe’s Cultures to be held in Golestan Province, Vali Teimori added that despite a 17-percent decline in the number of European travelers, a significant rise has been observed in the number of tourists arrivals in Iran from regional countries during the period.
He said the figures are based on passport stamps given by Iranian Immigration and Passport Police while the provincial tourism cultural heritage, handicraft and tourism departments are the main sources for announcing the number of domestic travelers visiting
various parts of Iran.
The official said lack of tourist satellite account (TSA), as an
international criteria, in Iran caused the figure not to be precise.
The official said establishing TSA in Iran is only possible with the help of Statistical Center of Iran and the Tourism Bank.
Teimori added a plan has
recently been submitted to World Tourism Organization to call on the international body help ICHHTO’s tourism department in this respect.
“We are determined to use the trip distribution model in Iran”, he said adding
holding the international festival of tribe’s cultures is among the plans devised by the ICHHTO’s tourism department to achieve the purpose.
He believes that the cultural and religious diversity of Iran can’t be found in any regional country, stressing that the potential can be used to draw more foreign tourists.
Speaking in the same press conference, Director General of Golestan Province’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Department Ebrahim Karimi said 12th International Festival of Tribe’s Cultures will be held in Gorgan from Nov. 20-23 in Gorgan and from Nov. 24-28 in Gonbad Kavous.
He said 31 provinces will participate in the handicraft exhibition to be held during the festival, pointing out that a major number of provinces having local music will also take part in its music festival.
Karimi said holding the 12th International Festival of Tribe’s Cultures will provide a suitable opportunity for introducing the Iranian villages having eco-tourism potential.
“A souvenir exhibition, to be participated by all Iranian provinces, will also be held during the festival,” he concluded.
Iran finishes fourth in world poomase meet
Iran’s Ali Salmani snatched a gold medal at the 2018 World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Chinese Taipei on Sunday as Iran finished fourth in the overall table.
Salmani overcame Ernesto Guzman of the Philippines 7.660-7.500 in the final to claim the top spot in the men’s 31-40 age class.
South Korean Kim Do-kyeong and Samuel Meilan Fernandez of Spain took the joint-bronze medals.
Salmani’s triumph marked Iran’s third gold of the world championships as the women’s trio of Atousa Farahmand, Seyyedeh Masoumeh Hosseini and Sona Razzaqi and the mixed pair of Hosseini and Akbar Forouzan had finished their campaign with a top-spot prize in the 31-40 category.
Also on the final day of the competitions, Yasin Zandi – representing Iran in the men’s 12-14 age category – settled for a bronze medal while the mixed duo of Zeinab Toghyani and Reza Nazari also finished third in the 15-17 age group.
A total of 11 medals – three golds, one silver and seven bronzes – gave Iran a fourth-place finish – following South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Mexico which claimed the top three podiums respectively.
The competitions were held at the University of Taipei Gymnasium on November 15-18.
Syrian forces retake last Daesh hideout in south
Syrian forces retook control of the last southern hideout of Daesh terrorist group.
More than seven years into Syria’s grinding war, multiple forces are battling to push the Daesh out of its remaining scraps of territory in the country, AFP reported.
On Saturday, Syrian forces retook the southern area of Tulul al-Safa as the terrorists pulled back into the desert after months of fighting, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syrian forces regained control of the volcanic plateau between the provinces of Damascus and Sweida “after Daesh terrorists withdrew from it and headed east into the Badia desert”, observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The withdrawal likely came under a deal with the government forces after weeks of encirclement and air raids, he said.
In recent weeks, airstrikes on the Tulul al-Safa pocket had increased and hundreds of Syrian forces were sent as reinforcements, the report said.
State news agency SANA reported government forces had made “a great advance in Tulul al-Safa” and said they were combing the area for any remaining terrorists.
That victory has whittled down the terrorist group’s territorial control to a single pocket in the east of the country, where it faces a separate assault by US-backed forces.
A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by a US-led coalition has been fighting to expel Daesh from that far eastern patch near the Iraqi border since September.
The observatory said coalition airstrikes early Saturday on the village of Abu al-Husn in Deir Ez-zor Province killed 43 people, including 36 family members of Daesh terrorists.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition confirmed strikes in the area of Abu Husn, but said they targeted armed members of the terrorist group.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Saturday the US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is a “big mistake”, adding that the issue had strained ties between the NATO allies.
Continued on Page 3
China, India keen on Iran trade despite US sanctions
Business might have slowed in Iran due to the US-imposed sanctions, but China and India are resolved to weather the storm.
With commercial ties dating back to the ancient Silk Road, many Chinese companies have said that they will still find a way to do business in Iran, despite the threat of US punitive actions, aljazeera.com reported.
Aggressive US actions may actually be strengthening Sino-Iranian relations; the two ancient civilizations seem set to endure the hardships together.
Also, the outgoing Indian ambassador to Tehran expressed his country’s willingness to boost trade ties with Iran.
He met the head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture to discuss ways of continuing Iran-India trade under reimposed US sanctions, Eghtesad Online reported, according to ndtv.com. Saurabh Kumar and Masoud Khansari explored the avenues to continue trade relations.
Continued on Page 4
Top US military officer says Taliban ‘are not losing’
The top US military officer said that the Taliban “are not losing” in Afghanistan, and much more needs to be done to bring peace to the war-torn country.
“They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the Taliban during a discussion at a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Dunford said that while there would never be a “military solution” on its own to bring peace to Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO partners are working to leverage military, political and economic pressure to convince the Taliban it is in their interest to negotiate a political solution to the crisis with the government in Kabul, CNN reported.
“Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” he said. “The key to success is to combine all that pressure to incentivize the Taliban” to negotiate.
While Dunford said recent elections in Afghanistan were “largely successful” and noted the importance of next year’s presidential election there, he added, “I think we are a long way,” from being able to say that point of reconciliation with the Taliban has been reached. As part of the administration’s strategy to bring about a political resolution to the 17-year war, President Donald Trump announced an increase in US troops last year that brought the total number in the country to about 14,000.
Former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was recently named the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation and has traveled repeatedly to the region for discussions with national governments and the Taliban to try to jump-start a dialogue. But progress toward ending the decades-long conflict has proven elusive. Earlier this month, the US government’s ombudsman for the American effort in Afghanistan issued a report that said the Taliban have strengthened their grip on the country over the past three years, with the Afghan government in Kabul controlling only about 56% of the country – down from 72% in 2015.
May says ousting her won’t make Brexit talks easier
Britain’s besieged Prime Minister Theresa May warned Sunday that a leadership change wouldn’t make Brexit negotiations easier, as opponents in her Conservative Party threaten to unseat her and the former Brexit secretary suggested she failed to stand up to bullying from European Union officials.
As furious Conservative rebels try to gather the numbers to trigger a no-confidence vote, May insisted she hadn’t considered quitting, AP reported.
“A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier and it isn’t going to change the parliamentary arithmetic,” she told Sky News in an interview.
May added that the next seven days “are going to be critical” for successful Brexit talks, and that she will be traveling to Brussels to meet with EU leaders before an emergency European Council summit on Nov. 25.
An announcement this week that Britain has struck a draft divorce agreement with the EU triggered a political crisis in Britain, with the deal roundly savaged by both the opposition and large chunks of May’s own Conservatives. Two cabinet ministers and several junior government members quit, and more than 20 lawmakers have submitted no-confidence letters in May. Forty-eight such letters are needed for a leadership challenge vote.
Asked about the attacks directed at her, May said: “It doesn’t distract me. Politics is a tough business and I’ve been in it for a long time.”
Dominic Raab, who quit Thursday as Brexit secretary, said, “There is one thing missing and that is political will and resolve.”
“If we cannot close this deal on reasonable terms, we need to be very honest with the country that we will not be bribed and blackmailed or bullied and we will walk away,” he told the Sunday Times.
Many pro-Brexit Conservatives want a clean break with the EU and argue that the close trade ties between the UK and the EU called for in the deal would leave Britain a vassal state, with no way to independently disentangle itself from the bloc.
Britain’s opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday that a second Brexit referendum was an option for the future rather than today. Labour has said it will not support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement in an upcoming vote in Parliament, and some in the party have backed calls for a referendum on the deal.
“It’s an option for the future, but it’s not an option for today, because if we had a referendum tomorrow, what’s it going to be on? What’s the question going to be?” Corbyn told Sky News.