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Iran says EU ‘hostage’ of US, warns of ‘consequences’

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Tehran: Iran has criticized the European Union for failing to set up a payment mechanism meant to circumvent US sanctions, warning that the bloc should account for the “consequences” of the delay.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran holds Europe definitely responsible for failing to implement the financial mechanism called the SPV,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

The SPV or the special purpose vehicle is a virtual clearing house which the Europeans have been working on for months to process Iran-related transactions independent of the US but the mechanism has yet to see the light of the day.

 

So far, the Europeans have failed twice to fulfill their promises to get the system up and running in order to persuade Iran to remain in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA after the US abandoned it.

The EU first pledged to make it operational before the US sanctions went into effect in August 2018. Last month, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she expected the instrument to be established before the end of the year but that date also passed without any explanation.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc will not allow any foreign meddling in Brussels’ legitimate trade ties with other countries amid US attempts to hinder the EU’s business relations with Iran.

Mogherini said on Wednesday that efforts to implement the special purpose vehicle for trade with Iran will continue into 2019 but Qassemi warned that Iran’s patience was running thin.

“The Europeans, as the main culprit, should consider the consequences of their decision, because Iran has so far honored all its JCPOA commitments, but ultimately there is a limit to Iran’s patience. Hence, it is about time the EU made a strategic decision and chose its path,” he said.

Qassemi cited “the domination of the dollar and the interconnectedness of the European and American economies” as the reasons behind the delay, state news agency IRNA reported.

“The European Union and even the three European parties to the deal with Iran are captive and hostage to the American economy, so they need to decide for their independence,” he said.

Iran is already angry with the EU over its failure to stop European companies from leaving the Islamic Republic.

US sanctions will take six months to kick in, but a number of European companies have already halted their business in Iran.

“European countries should pay for their independence from the United States, because doing so cannot be without costs, especially for the implementation of important historical tasks such as the SPV, which could be a major milestone for European solidarity on the global stage; so the European countries need to make a decision at this point and juncture,” Qassemi said.

Qassemi said while the Europeans started with goodwill and showed a “positive political will” to set up a financial mechanism, “over time and during negotiations over the past months, they are reinforcing the impression that the European states face a series of serious disabilities in implementing the SPV.”

The US secretary of state claims his country’s cruel sanctions against Iran are aimed at allowing Iranian people to “have better lives.”

“The US imposition of sanctions against the Iranian nation with the logic of improving their lives is hurting the sentiments of Iranians and is totally wrong.

“Hence, Pompeo should watch the mood in which he speaks. Is it possible to sanction the Iranian people and, like they [US authorities] say, exert more pressure on them in order to bring more relief to them?” Qassemi said.


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International

Imran Khan reshuffles cabinet amidst mounting criticism over govt performance

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled his Cabinet amidst mounting criticism at the lackluster performance of the government.

The key ministry of interior was assigned to former ISI officer, Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah who was recently appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

He was a confidant of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly named him among three people who were a threat to her life.

 

Shah was elected as a member of Parliament in last year elections.

Azam Swati, who stepped down last year as minister of science and technology for allegedly using his influence over police to register a case against a poor family, made a comeback and appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

Among other changes, information minister Fawad Chaudhry was made minister for science and technology and petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar made minister for aviation.

Mohammad Mian Soomro would cease to hold portfolio of aviation and would be just the minister for privatisation. Minister of State for Interior and Shehryar Afridi was shifted and appointed as Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions.

Dr Zafarullah Mirza was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services in place of Amir Kiani who was sacked.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Nadeem Babar appointed as SAPM on Petroleum Division.

The Prime Minister has not appointed a new finance minister and instead planning to appoint an advisor on finance. Several names were making rounds for the key post. Those being discussed included Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, Dr Hafiz Pasha and Shaukat Tareen. It is the first major reshuffle in the Cabinet since Khan became the prime minister eight months ago.

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International

213 died in Libya clashes, says WHO

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Washington: A total of 213 people have been killed and 1,009 others injured in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based Army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

“Tripoli toll is now 213 dead and 1,009 wounded. WHO medical teams continue assisting surgical staff at local hospitals,” WHO tweeted.

“Two more ambulances have been damaged. WHO calls on all parties in Libya to protect civilians, health workers and health facilities,” the agency said.

 

The Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, has been leading a military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli where the UN-backed government is based.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

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International

Peace talks postponed after Taliban object to size of Afghan delegation

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KABUL: A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid said, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with US officials.
Ghani said on Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
A senior government official said Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks are in jeopardy.
The talks between Afghan and Taliban officials at the same table for the first time have been considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted war.
The senior official said negotiations went awry after President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by the Qatar government, which is sponsoring the talks. The list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday.
The list differs in part from Ghani’s list of 250 people, according to the senior government official.

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