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Iran will break US sanctions: Rouhani

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Tehran : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will break the sanctions imposed by the United States on Tehran as well as on countries that do business with it, shortly after a round of anti-Iran sanctions by America took effect.

Speaking at a meeting with the directors and deputies of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance on Monday, 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,” the Iranian president said.

 

The meeting and remarks came shortly after a new round of US sanctions took effect. The new bans target, among other things, Iran’s oil sales and Central Bank. More Iranian individuals have also been targeted by the US Department of the Treasury.

The US measures also include so-called secondary sanctions — punitive measures against third countries doing business with Iran.

US President Donald Trump introduced a first round of “primary” and “secondary” sanctions against Iran and its trade partners in August.

In May, he unilaterally pulled the US out of a multilateral deal with Iran. Two months later, footage reportedly came out in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed he had personally convinced Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal.

Iran struck the deal with originally six world powers and the European Union (EU) back in 2015, agreeing to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of restrictions mainly on its oil sales.

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.”

The US had since the May 8 withdrawal designated November 4 as the date when it aimed to bring Iran’s oil sales down to “zero.” However, three days ahead of that much-advertised deadline, the US granted waivers to eight major state buyers of Iranian crude.

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.


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Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process

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Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.

“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.

Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.

 

“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.

Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.

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US, India in talks over strategic missile defence cooperation: Pentagon

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Washington: The Trump administration has discussed a potential missile defence cooperation with India as part of its effort to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon has said, asserting that New Delhi is a “key element” in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

The Pentagon’s announcement in the 81-page ”Missile Defence Review” report released by President Donald Trump gains significance in view of India placing a USD 5 billion order to purchase S-400 air defence system from Russia, for which the US had publicly expressed its displeasure.

Noting that the threats posed by offensive missile capabilities are no longer limited to a few regions around the world, the Pentagon in its report said there were now a number of countries in South Asia that are developing an advanced and diverse range of ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.

 

“Within this context, the United States has discussed potential missile defence cooperation with India. This is a natural outgrowth of India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and key element of our Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said the Pentagon report on Thursday.

The report, which identifies missile development projects by Russia and China as major threats to the US, did not give any further details about its potential missile defence cooperation with India.

The US has shown reluctance to offer its missile defence system to India.

Given the tough neighbourhood that India is in, New Delhi several years ago had approached US and expressed its desire to acquire a missile defence system from it, particularly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system popular as THAAD.

The previous Obama administration was not very forthcoming in sharing its advance missile defence system with India, following which New Delhi went ahead to procure it from Russia.

As part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration now seems to be more than inclined to let India procure its missile defence system with talks between the two countries having already started.

“We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region,” said the 2017 National Security Strategy of the US, which has been mentioned in the Pentagon report.

The Missile Defence Review report said that the cornerstone of US’ security and diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region is its strong bilateral alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging security relationships with others such as India.

Japan and South Korea are working with the US to build missile defence systems that are increasingly interoperable with American defences and increasingly capable against regional offensive missile threats and coercion.

This cooperation includes bilateral missile defence training exercises with the US.

Australia participates in a trilateral discussion on missile defence with the US and Japan. The US and Australia meet annually to discuss bilateral missile defence cooperation. New areas of focus include joint examination of the challenges posed by advanced missile threats, it said.

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400 migrants detained after crossing under fence into US

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Washington: Nearly 400 migrants burrowed under a fence on the US-Mexico border earlier this week and crossed into the US, informed sources told CNN. US Border Patrol officers stationed in Yuma, Arizona, took about 375 migrants into custody after they had made it into the US, the officials said on Thursday, calling it an unusually large apprehension.

It was not immediately clear if the migrants voluntarily surrendered to Border Patrol officials or if they were caught after attempting to evade authorities. The “vast majority” of the group were family members arriving from Guatemala, said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd.

“It`s the largest I`ve ever heard of,” said Judd when asked if this was a significant number for a single group. There are often groups of 20 to 30 people, sometimes as large as 100, apprehended in the Yuma area, according to a Customs and Border Protection official.

 

The incident comes as President Donald Trump continues to demand funding for new barrier construction on the US-Mexico border as the government shutdown entered its 27th day , saying there was a “crisis” at the border that can only be solved with the construction of new border walls or fencing.

In November, a group of around 80 migrants from Guatemala — primarily families — were apprehended by Border Patrol after climbing over the legacy landing mat border wall east of the San Luis Port of Entry.

Hours later, another group of around 80 people entered the US by digging a shallow hole underneath the same portion of the wall, according to CBP. There has been a recent spike in total Border Patrol apprehensions in Yuma, up from 2,117 in fiscal year 2017 to 26,244 last year.

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