Zarif: Talks with US require mutual respect
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that any future negotiations with the United States require a new approach by Washington as well as mutual respect.
“Mutual trust is not a requirement to start negotiations – mutual respect is a requirement,” Zarif said in a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview with USA TODAY.
The Trump “administration does not believe in diplomacy. It believes in imposition,” Zarif said in the interview, just before the White House on Monday reimposed economic sanctions on Iran’s energy and banking sectors.
While the US government insists the sanctions do not target humanitarian goods, amid a currency crash and international companies pulling out of Iran, basic goods have become more expensive and some life-saving medicines unavailable.
“Mutual respect starts with respecting yourself, with respecting your signature, respecting your own word,” Zarif said, a reference to various international agreements Trump has abandoned or renegotiated since taking office.
Iran’s foreign minister spoke to USA TODAY in Antalya, a resort town on Turkey’s southwestern Mediterranean coast, where he was attending an economic conference. He addressed how Iran’s already-crippled economy will cope with the sanctions and attempts by European leaders to salvage the accord without Washington.
“The current US administration is essentially asking all members of the international community to violate international law” by forcing them to break a deal that was enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution, Zarif said, later adding: “Iran is used to US sanctions. We’ve had them for almost 39 years.”
Zarif also spoke about Iran’s role in the Middle East region and Tehran’s ties with Riyadh.
The Saudis have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi state operatives in Istanbul, Turkey.
“Unfortunately, a person has been murdered in a very brutal way,” Zarif said, referring to Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi Consulate. “Who created the Taliban? Whose citizens were involved in the September 11 attacks? Who supported the Islamic State group [Daesh] in Syria? Who is bombing Yemeni civilians? Who abducted [Lebanon’s prime minister] and kept him in captivity for three weeks? … Look at all these realities,” he added, saying Saudi involvement in these episodes, not all of which have been conclusively proven.
“The United States has been not only making the wrong choice [by being a Saudi ally] but the West has been sending the wrong signal. Basically, literally, telling the Saudi royal family that you can get away with murder.”
Zarif noted that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord came over the objections of the USA’s closest allies – and despite repeated confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has been complying with the accord’s terms.
“For somebody to simply say, “I don’t like it. I want to walk away from it because I believe I am powerful enough to do it.’ What is the guarantee that they won’t do that again in the next agreement?” Zarif said in the interview.
“It doesn’t have to be a different administration, but it does require a different approach,” Zarif stressed, referring to what it would take for Iran to join US talks.
Trump has said in recent weeks that he is open to the idea of holding talks with Iran’s leadership, without preconditions, about the prospect of a new nuclear deal – an offer that Iran has rejected.
“We reached an agreement with the United States, not a two-page agreement, but a 150-page agreement. And the United States decided to walk away from it,” Zarif said.
He then rattled off a litany of agreements the Trump administration has either withdrawn from or demanded that they be renegotiated, from the Paris climate accords to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to a landmark arms control agreement with Russia dating to the Reagan administration in the 1980s.
“It wasn’t our fault that the United States is not a reliable negotiating partner,” Zarif said in the interview. “It’s a problem that the international community is facing.”
Iran will ‘proudly bypass’ US sanctions
President Hassan Rouhani said Monday Iran will break and “proudly bypass sanctions” by the United States that took effect on Monday targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors.
Speaking at a meeting with the directors and deputies of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, President Rouhani said, “We should break the sanctions very well, and we will do that.
“With the help of the people, and the unity that exists in our society, we have to make the Americans understand that they must not use the language of force, pressure, and threats to speak to the great Iranian nation. They must be punished once and for all.
“I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it’s against international regulations.”
The sanctions described by the US as “the toughest sanctions ever” come six months after US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to abandon the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. He announced in May that Washington would withdraw unilaterally from the landmark nuclear pact signed in 2015 between Tehran and major global powers.
The latest tranche of US sanctions aims to significantly cut Iran’s oil exports – which have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May – and cut off its banks from international finance.
The United States has given temporary exemptions to eight countries to continue buying oil in a bid to avoid disturbing their economies and global markets.
China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among eight countries expected to be given waivers.
President Rouhani said US officials had in fact conceded defeat.
“They (the Americans) saw that they couldn’t replace [Iranian oil on the market]; and even assuming they did not concede defeat and did not grant waivers to countries, we would still be able to sell our oil [because] we have adequate capabilities to do that,” the Iranian president said.
“America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales ... but we will continue to sell our oil ... to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television.
Trump’s administration says it wants a new deal with Iran that curbs its activities around the Middle East and missile program – demands that have been flatly rejected by Tehran.
Despite the US withdrawal, Iran has stayed in the deal but has stressed that the other parties to the agreement have to work to offset the negative impacts of the US pullout. Europe has been taking a range of measures to meet the Iranian demand for practical guarantees.
President Rouhani said Europe, too, was angry at US policies.
“Today, what the Americans are doing is merely pressure [ordinary] people, and no one else. It’s pressure [that is being put] on [the Iranian] people, other nations, other [foreign] businesses, and other governments,” he said. “Today, we are not the only ones who are angry at US policies; even European businesses and governments are angered by US policies, too.”
‘Europeans want Trump gone’
Rouhani also said he believed that America had never before seen as lawless an administration as that of Trump’s.
He said all US administrations had violated international law, but “these (current officials) score on top on the lawlessness rankings.”
“I don’t recall a group assuming power at the White House that was racist as these,” the Iranian president said.
“This is not [just] us who wish for the life of this incumbent administration in the US to become shorter and shorter; their (the Americans’) own European allies have told me in [private] meetings that that is one of their wishes,” Rouhani said.
‘Dialogue needs no intermediary’
Rouhani said when he was in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September, “the leaders of four major countries” sought to broker a meeting between him and the US president. He did not name those leaders.
“Constantly they are sending us messages saying, ‘Let’s sit and negotiate.’ Negotiations for what?” said Rouhani.
He said, however, that there was no need for mediation.
“Honor your obligations first! We will speak then,” Rouhani said, addressing American officials. “We have no problem with talking. If our interlocutor honors its word and promises, what will be wrong with talking?”
He noted that the unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal has isolated the US.
“Just look at how many countries support the US move and how many don’t,” he said. “The fact America insists on something and the entire European Union resists that same thing is nothing simple. That means victory for [our] diplomacy and foreign policy.”
Earlier, President Rouhani’s chief of staff announced that Trump had eight times requested a meeting with the Iranian president while he was in New York but had been rejected all eight times.
‘Iran in economic war’
President Rouhani also said that the Islamic Republic was engaged in “an economic war” with the US.
“We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don’t think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions,” he added.
“We have to stand and fight, and win,” he said. “God will help us win.”
The Iranian president also said the current economic problems faced by Iran will not continue.
“We will relaunch economic growth. No one should think the trend we have been seeing in the past several months will continue like that. This trend will be stopped.
“Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy ... the main target of sanctions is our people.”
Trump’s announcement in May helped fuel a run on Iran’s currency that has seen the rial lose more than two-thirds of its value, driving up prices.
Rouhani’s central strategy since taking power in 2013 was to boost the economy by rebuilding ties with the world and attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment.
That now looks in tatters, despite the other parties to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – vehemently opposing the US move and promising to keep trade going.
Private companies and banks in those countries are unwilling to make enemies of the US Treasury and most international firms that set up in Iran after the 2015 deal have been forced to leave, including France’s Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany’s Siemens.
“Today, it’s not just us who are angry with America’s policies. Even European companies are angry with America’s policies,” said Rouhani.
Press TV, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.
Poland ready to widen cooperation with Iran’s mining sector
Poland’s Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology voiced its willingness to broaden cooperation with Iran’s mining and industry sector, and said cooperation between the two countries is on the right track.
Cooperation with Iran provides a great opportunity for Polish companies to enter the regional market, Tehran Bureau Chief of Polish Investment and Trade Agency Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
He reiterated that Iran is among major potential targets of the Polish manufacturers, and said, “Some 25 percent of the machineries manufactured in the European country are mining equipment, which majorly suit Iranian market due to its considerable capacity and the characteristics of Iranian mines.”
Kaczynski underlined that Iran has a strategic geographical location which can also be used as a corridor for regional markets.
“Several Polish brands are already present in the Iranian market and are operating in major coal mines,” he said, adding, “For almost 13 years, our machineries have been operating in Iran, and we have granted support for around 150 Iranian companies and provided them multiple services via more than 450 Polish manufacturing firms.”
Kaczynski underlined that trade between the two countries witnessed a remarkable 187.5 percent growth since 2015, which marks the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers.
“Trade between the two states stood at $80 million in 2015 but the figure reached $230 million in 2017,” he added.
Goods traded between Iran and Poland mainly include agricultural machineries, medical instruments, glass items, home appliances and food products.
Mayweather to fight kickboxer Nasukawa in Japan
American boxer Floyd Mayweather opened the door to his first MMA bout by announcing his next fight will be against Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa.
Mayweather will pocket tens of millions of dollars for the money-spinning event in Saitama, Japan, on New Year’s Eve, but the rules are yet to be decided on a fight that could see Money’s first departure from traditional boxing, The Independent reported.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday, Mayweather said the decision to fight in Japan was about expanding his global profile.
“I wanted to do something different. I wanted to display my skills outside the US and be in a special fight,” he said after signing a deal with Japanese mixed martial arts promotions company RIZIN Fighting Federation.
“I spoke with my team and with RIZIN and we put it together. I have fought in the US for all 50 of my fights. As a professional I haven’t had a chance to go outside the US to display my skills and to display my talent for the world.”
Nasukawa competes in their championships in both MMA and pure kickboxing. He has won all four of his MMA fights.
While boxing rules restrict bouts to the use of fists, MMA rules can incorporate kicks, knees and elbow strikes, as well as wrestling, joint locks and chokes.
Mayweather said the terms of the fight would be decided in the coming weeks.
“As far as the weight class and the rules, we will talk about that and will get that situated within the next couple of weeks,” Mayweather added.
The 41-year-old had earlier said he would be comfortable fighting under any format.
The Rizin Fighting Federation was founded in 2015 by Japanese businessman Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who was previously the president of Pride Fighting Championships before it was sold to the then-owners of Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2007.
Sakakibara was clearly delighted with his coup.
“There were many twists and turns to get here,” he said, sitting between Mayweather and Nasukawa. “We first negotiated with Mayweather’s side to convince him to join Rizin.
“(Then) Nasukawa Tenshin was the first guy we could think of, and the only guy we can think of (for this match).”
Mayweather’s last bout was in 2017 when he beat Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor, running his boxing record to 50-0 and earning close to $300 million.
Mayweather had come out of a near two-year retirement to fight McGregor and afterward said he was done with boxing.
“We do foolish things sometimes but I am not a dam fool. If I see an opportunity to make $300 million in 36 minutes why not,” he said after that fight in Las Vegas.
“But this is the last one, you have my word on it.”
‘Flight No. 745’ takes off for Germany
Art & Culture Desk
An Iranian puppet show titled ‘Flight No. 745’, directed by Marjan Pourgholam Hossein, will begin its theatrical tour of three German cities.
The performance of 60 puppets will first be staged in Kulturzentrum GOROD in Munich on November 7, IRNA reported.
Theater der Ding festival will host the second and third performance of the puppeteers in Berlin on November 12 and 13.
The fourth performance of ‘Flight No. 745’ will be in Prinz-Regent-Theater, Bochum on November 15.
Earlier, ‘Flight No. 745’ went on stage in the Netherlands and Brussels and was recognized as the best war show at Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen in the Dutch city of Groningen.
Poetic reconstruction of memories lost after years, a woman has returned to Iran to sell her parental home. She fled the country as a child during the war with Iraq. Returning to the home of her early youth, she cautiously attempts to reconstruct memories she thought she had lost.
Iranian Puppet Theater has found a special way to represent the reconstruction. Using beautifully crafted maquettes and tiny puppets filmed by the performers, ‘Flight 745’ brings the war-tinged memories of the protagonist to life in a poetical manner.
All the characters, buildings and settings are based on real life.
‘Flight No. 745’ was awarded at Iran’s prestigious Fajr International Film Festival for its creative approach to Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
The play was staged at Tehran’s City Theater Hall last year.
Saudi sent experts to cover up Khashoggi murder: Turkey
Saudi Arabia sent two experts to Istanbul with the specific aim of covering up evidence after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul, a Turkish official said on Monday.
More than a month after the Saudi royal-insider-turned critic was killed inside the mission on October 2, Turkey has still yet to recover the remains amid claims that his body was dissolved in acid, AFP wrote.
The killing of the 59-year-old has severely dented the kingdom’s image in the West and put powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the defensive.
“We believe that the two individuals came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder before the Turkish police were allowed to search the premises,” a senior Turkish official said, asking not to be named.
The official confirmed a report in the Sabah newspaper saying that chemicals expert Ahmad Abdulaziz al-Janobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani were among a team sent from Saudi Arabia purportedly to investigate the murder last month.
The report said they visited the consulate every day from their arrival on October 11 until October 17. Saudi Arabia only allowed Turkish police to finally search the consulate on October 15.
After weeks of allegations in pro-government media, Turkey’s chief prosecutor last week confirmed Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate and the body was dismembered.
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China, Europeans back Iran after US sanctions
China and European countries expressed their keenness to continue trade with Tehran after the United States reinstated its “toughest sanctions ever” on the Islamic Republic on Monday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Asian giant’s lawful trade cooperation with Iran should be respected and expressed regret about the US reimposing sanctions on Tehran.
“China expresses regret at the US decision. We also noted that the international community is widely against unilateral sanctions,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
“China consistently rejects unilateral sanctions and long arm tactics. We think China and Iran carrying out normal cooperation under the framework of international law is lawful and reasonable, and [this right] should be respected and protected,” he added.
The European Union also said it is opposed the US decision, under which the second batch of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors were put into effect.
“The European Union does not approve of it,” European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told franceinfo radio on Monday, hours after the sanctions were reinstalled.
The European Union, France, Germany and Britain have already said they regretted the US decision and would seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
A German government spokesman said on Monday that Germany is convinced that it should enable legal business relations with Iran and is checking how to protect companies affected by sanctions reimposed on Iran by Washington.
“We are assessing how we will be able to protect the basis of our business engagements there,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Switzerland said on Monday it is holding talks with the United States and Iran about launching a humanitarian payment channel to help ensure food and drugs keep flowing to the Islamic Republic.
“Switzerland is committed to safeguarding Swiss economic interests and closely follows the development of the situation. The authorities are in direct contact with the competent authorities of the United States, the EU and Iran,” the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said in an emailed statement.
“Particularly in the humanitarian field, the federal government is committed to ensuring that food and pharmaceutical products can continue to be supplied from Switzerland,” it said.
The Swiss were also not involved in developing alternative mechanisms to SWIFT in the area of secure messaging and payment transactions.
Switzerland in August encouraged Swiss companies to pursue business ties with Iran prudently and expressed regret at the poor sanctions situation.
US sanctions take force
The support came as the US imposed strict sanctions on Iran on Monday and threatened more action to stop Tehran pursuing “outlaw” policies.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Monday that Iran “has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”
Pompeo said the “objective is to starve” Iran of “the funds it uses to fund violent activity throughout the Middle East and around the world. Our ultimate goal is to encourage them to abandon their revolutionary course.”
“We hope a new agreement with Iran is possible, but until Iran makes changes in the 12 ways I listed in May, we will be relentless in exerting pressure on the regime,” Pompeo said.
The move restores and strengthens sanctions lifted under a 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program from which Washington withdrew in May.
The sanctions cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 persons and vessels in its shipping sector, and targets Tehran’s national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
US sanctions permit trade in humanitarian goods such as food and pharmaceuticals, but measures imposed on banks and trade restrictions could make such items more expensive. Pompeo said Washington had granted exemptions to eight countries allowing them to temporarily continue buying Iranian oil. More than 20 countries had already cut their oil imports from Iran, reducing purchases by more than one million barrels per day, he said. “We continue negotiations to get all of the nations to zero,” he said.
Press TV, Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.