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Trump pulls US out of Iran nuke deal

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Washington: President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran, an Obama-era accord which he has repeatedly criticised as “disastrous”.

“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent Iran nuclear bomb. The Iran deal is defective at its core. Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said.

Moments later he signed fresh set of sanctions against Iran and warned countries against any cooperation with Tehran on its controversial nuclear weapons programme. The “disastrous” deal gave Iran millions in cash and did not prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, he said.

 

In reversing the signature foreign policy accomplishment of his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump by taking this decision ignored advice against such a move from his key European allies and top US Democratic leaders.

Describing this as a bad deal, Trump said that the nuclear deal is unlikely to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Before Trump’s announcement in this regard, which was televised live, top administration officials including Vice President Mike Pence informed Congress about his decision.

“The Iranian promise of abandoning its nuclear weapons is a lie,” Trump alleged.

Allowing the deal to stay would result in an arms race in the region, he said, adding that the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s “destabilising behaviour”.

Ever since his election campaign, Trump has frequently criticised the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. He had described the agreement, which was negotiated by then US secretary of state John Kerry, as a bad deal.

The Iran nuclear deal was reached in Vienna in July 2015 between Iran and the P5 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany and the European Union.

Trump’s decision would have global ramifications, straining Iranian economy and heightening tensions in the Middle East. Referring to his consultation with key American allies, Trump said it is that they cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the “decaying and rotten” structure of the current agreement.

“If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said.

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States. America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction, and we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on earth,” Trump said.

Announcing to terminate the JCPOA, Trump said the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and over time reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. “The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran. It exchanged for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity and no limits at all on its other maligned behaviour,” he alleged.

“In theory, the so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime,” he said.

Alleging that the heart of the Iran deal was a “giant fiction”, that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy programme, Trump said the US has definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.


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Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House

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WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.

During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.

The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.

 

“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”

Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.

“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

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Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11

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BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.

The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

 

The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.

State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.

They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.

Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.

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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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