Iran deal reached, Obama hails step toward ‘more hopeful world’

admin   •   July 15, 2015   •   2335

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond (L-R) meet at the Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Klamar/Pool

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond (L-R) meet at the Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Klamar/Pool

Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of negotiations with an agreement that could transform the Middle East.

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed a step toward a “more hopeful world” and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said it proved that “constructive engagement works”. But Israel pledged to do what it could to halt what it called an “historic surrender”.

The agreement will now be debated in the U.S. Congress, but Obama said he would veto any measure to block it.

“This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction,” Obama said. “We should seize it.”

Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.

Iran will mothball for at least a decade the majority of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium and sharply reduce its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

The agreement is a political triumph for both Obama, who has long promised to reach out to historic enemies, and Rouhani, a pragmatist elected two years ago on a vow to reduce the isolation of his nation of almost 80 million people.

Both face scepticism from powerful hardliners at home in nations that referred to each other as “the Great Satan” and a member of the “Axis of Evil”.

“Today is the end to acts of tyranny against our nation and the start of cooperation with the world,” Rouhani said in a televised address. “This is a reciprocal deal. If they stick to it, we will. The Iranian nation has always observed its promises and treaties.”

Delighted Iranians took to the streets, honking car horns and flashing victory signs in celebration after the announcement a deal they hope will end years of sanctions and isolation.

For Obama, the diplomacy with Iran, begun in secret more than two years ago, ranks alongside his normalization of ties with Cuba as landmarks in a legacy of reconciliation with foes that tormented his predecessors for decades.

“History shows that America must lead not just with our might but with our principles,” he said in a televised address. “Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in our pursuit of a safer, more helpful and more hopeful world.”

REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION

Republicans lined up to denounce the deal. Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, called it a terrible deal that would make matters worse. Former senator Rick Santorum, another candidate, said the administration had capitulated to Iran.

The Republican-controlled Congress has 60 days to review the accord, but if it votes to reject it Obama can use his veto, which can be overridden only by two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses. That means dozens of Obama’s fellow Democrats would have to rebel against one of their president’s signature achievements to kill it, an unlikely prospect. Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the deal “an important step that puts the lid on Iran’s nuclear programs”.

While the main negotiations were between the United States and Iran, the four other U.N. Security Council permanent members, Britain, China, France and Russia, are also parties to the deal, as is Germany.

Enmity between Iran and the United States has loomed over the Middle East for decades.

Iran is the predominant Shi’ite Muslim power, hostile both to Israel and to Washington’s Sunni Muslim-ruled Arab friends, particularly Saudi Arabia. Allies of Riyadh and Tehran have fought decades of sectarian proxy wars in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

But there are also strong reasons for Washington and Tehran to cooperate against common foes, above all Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim militant group that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq. Washington has been bombing Islamic State from the air while Tehran aids Iraqi militias fighting it on the ground.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters that the deal was about more than just the nuclear issue:

“The big prize here is that, as Iran comes out of the isolation of the last decades and is much more engaged with Western countries, Iranians hopefully begin to travel in larger numbers again, Western companies are able to invest and trade with Iran, there is an opportunity for an opening now.”

“HISTORIC MISTAKE”

Still, Washington’s friends in the region were furious, especially Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has cultivated a close relationship with Obama’s Republican opponents in Congress.

“Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world,” he said. “Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.”

His deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, denounced an “historic surrender” and said Israel would “act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified”, a clear threat to use its influence to try and block it in Congress.

Some diplomats in Vienna said the strong Israeli response could actually help, by making it easier for Rouhani to sell the agreement back in Iran.

While Saudi Arabia did not denounce the deal publicly as Israel did, its officials expressed doubt in private.

“We have learned as Iran’s neighbors in the last 40 years that goodwill only led us to harvest sour grapes,” a Saudi official who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters.

Nor were hardliners silent in Iran: “Celebrating too early can send a bad signal to the enemy,” conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani said in parliament, according to Fars News agency. Iran’s National Security Council would review the accord, “and if they think it is against our national interests, we will not have a deal”.

It will probably be months before Iran receives the benefits from the lifting of sanctions because of the need to verify the deal’s fulfillment. Once implementation is confirmed, Tehran will immediately gain access to around $100 billion in frozen assets, and can step up oil exports that have been slashed by almost two-thirds.

The deal finally emerged after nearly three weeks of intense negotiation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – unthinkable for decades, since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Hatred of the United States is still a central tenet of Iran’s ruling system, on display only last week at an annual protest day, with crowds chanted “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!”.

But Iranians voted overwhelmingly for Rouhani in 2013 on a clear promise to revive their crippled economy by ending Iran’s isolation. Hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not block the negotiations.

“NEW CHAPTER OF HOPE”

“Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope,” Zarif, who studied in the United States and developed a warm rapport with Kerry, told a news conference.

Kerry said: “This is the good deal we have sought.”

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said:

“I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world.”

Obama first reached out to Iranians with an address in 2009, only weeks into his presidency, offering a “new beginning”. But he followed this up with a sharp tightening of financial sanctions, which, combined with sanctions imposed by the EU, have imposed severe economic hardship on Iranians since 2012.

Tehran has long denied seeking a nuclear weapon and has insisted on the right to nuclear technology for peaceful means. Obama never ruled out military force if negotiations failed, and said on Tuesday that future presidents would still have that option if Iran quit the agreement.

France said the deal would ensure Iran’s “breakout time” – the time it would need to build a bomb if it decided to break off the deal – would be one year for the next decade. This has been a main goal of Western negotiators, who wanted to ensure that if a deal collapsed there would be enough time to act.

Obama said Iran had accepted a “snapback” mechanism, under which sanctions would be reinstated if it violated the deal. A U.N. weapons embargo is to remain in place for five years and a ban on buying missile technology will remain for eight years.

Alongside the main deal, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced an agreement with Iran to resolve its own outstanding issues by the end of this year. The main deal depends on the IAEA being able to inspect Iranian nuclear sites and on Iran answering its questions about possible military aims of previous research.

For Iran, the end of sanctions could bring a rapid economic boom by lifting restrictions that have shrunk its economy by about 20 percent, according to U.S. estimates. The prospect of a deal has already helped push down global oil prices because of the possibility that Iranian supply could return to the market.

Oil prices tumbled more than a dollar on Tuesday after the deal was reached. [O/R]

(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Nouri and Jeff Mason; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Giles Elgood)

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Gatchalian on nuke energy deals: Take extra precautionary measures

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 8, 2019

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has advised taking extra precautionary measures in entering into nuclear power deals, in relation to the signed nuclear power agreement between the Philippines and Russia.

On Monday (October 7), Gatchalian expressed concern over the said deal since the Constitution does not have enough laws that promote nuclear power in the country.

“Kailangan ng maraming batas, for example nuclear safety. Kailangan din ng batas paano i-transport itong mga nuclear waste, saan itatago iyong nuclear waste. So, we have to be very cautious in moving forward, kulang pa tayo sa framework,” he said.

(We need a lot of laws, for example, on nuclear safety. A law is also needed in transporting nuclear waste and where will the nuclear waste be kept. So, we have to be very cautious in moving forward, we still lack framework.)

The senator also said there is a huge risk in investing in nuclear power plants especially during disasters.

However, Gatchalian said he is still open to studying the use of nuclear power plants in the country.

“Iyong technology for power nagiging mas mura, magiging mas advanced, so pwede natin pag-aralan. But for now ang importante mayroon tayong mga safeguards, batas, nag mag-reregulate nitong nuclear power,” he said.

(The technology for power will be cheaper and affordable. It will also be more advanced, so we should study it. But for now, what’s important is having safeguards, and laws that will regulate nuclear power.)

He also clarified that nuclear energy is allowed in the Constitution but not nuclear weapons.—AAC

DFA says Filipino crew member of seized oil tanker now released

Robie de Guzman   •   September 27, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday reported that a Filipino sailor was among the crew members of a British-flagged and Swedish-owned tanker released by the government of Iran after weeks of captivity.

The DFA cited a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tehran about the Filipino sailor who works as the vessel’s Second Officer.

“Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos conveyed to Iranian authorities the appreciation of the Philippine Government for releasing the said Filipino crew member, who is the Second Officer of the Stena Impero, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all crew members of the Stena Impero,” the department said in a statement.

The Stena Impero was captured by Iranian forces last July 19 for accusations of violating international maritime rules while it was passing through international water in the strait of Hormuz.  

The vessel was then brought to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where it was anchored for more than two months.

In a statement, the management of Stena Impero has confirmed that its vessel has left the Iranian port and is transiting to Dubai for the crew’s disembarkation and medical de-briefing.

“The families of crew members have been informed and the company is currently making arrangements for the repatriation of its valued seafarers at the earliest possible opportunity,” Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Stena Bulk said.

Iran’s Rouhani says Aramco attacks were reciprocal response by Yemen

UNTV News   •   September 17, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

 An attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities was a reciprocal measure by “Yemeni people” to assaults on this country, said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday (September 16), hours after a Saudi-led coalition said the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Rouhani said Yemeni people “exercised their legitimate right to defense”.

The Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Speaking at the same news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to help Saudi Arabia following attacks on the Saudi oil industry if needed.

These Russian weapons would protect any infrastructure facilities of Saudi Arabia, he added. (REUTERS)

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