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US unleashes ‘toughest ever’ sanctions on Iran

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Washington : The US on Monday unleashed its “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran, a move that has already sparked mass protests in the oil-rich nation.

US President Donald Trump’s administration reinstated all sanctions removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting both Iran and states that trade with it, reports the BBC.

More than 700 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft were now on the sanctions list, including major banks, oil exporters and shipping companies.

 

Washington has also said that it wanted to stop what it calls Tehran’s “malign” activities including cyber attacks, ballistic missile tests, and support for terror groups and militias in the Middle East.

The Trump administration has granted exemptions to eight countries to continue importing Iranian oil, without naming them. They are reported to include US allies India, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed to sell his country’s oil and break the sanctions.

Iran’s military has said that it would hold air defence drills on Monday and Tuesday to prove the country’s capabilities.

Before travelling to a campaign rally for the US midterm elections, President Trump said Iran was already struggling under his administration’s policies.

“The Iran sanctions are very strong. They are the strongest sanctions we’ve ever imposed. And we’ll see what happens with Iran, but they’re not doing very well, I can tell you.”

The UK, Germany and France – which are among the five countries still committed to the nuclear pact – have all objected to the sanctions, the BBC said.

They have promised to support European firms that do “legitimate business” with Iran and have set up an alternative payment mechanism – or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – that will help companies trade without facing US penalties.

On Sunday, thousands of Iranians chanting “Death to America” rallied, rejecting calls for talks.

The rallies coincided with the siege of the US embassy on November 4, 1979 , which took place soon after the fall of the US-backed shah.


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Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US

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KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.

Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.

The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.

 

The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.

The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.

Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”

Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.

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UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce

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UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.

The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.

The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.

 

The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.

Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.

Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.

“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.

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Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.

As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.

A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.

 

The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.

It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.

The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.

“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.

After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.

Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.

Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.

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