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Iran to quit NPT if its nuclear programme referred to UN: Zarif

Iran’s military fires a long-range S-200 missile during an exercise in the port city of Bushehr [File: Amir Kholousi/ISNA via AP]

Iran threatened to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if European countries bring alleged violations of the historic nuclear deal with world powers to the United Nations Security Council.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued the warning on Monday saying the Islamic Republic could take other steps before withdrawing from the NPT, without specifying them.

“If the Europeans continue their improper behaviour or send Iran’s file to the Security Council, we will withdraw from the NPT,” Zarif said in comments carried by Iranian news agencies.

The 190-member NPT, which was signed in 1968 and came into effect in 1970, bans signatories other than the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France from acquiring nuclear weapons – in return for allowing them to pursue peaceful nuclear programmes for power generation, overseen by the UN.

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NPT is the foundation of global nuclear arms control since the Cold War, including a 2015 deal that Iran signed with the world powers, which offered it access to global trade in return for accepting curbs to its atomic programme.

The Islamic Republic gradually stepped back from its obligations under the accord after US President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions that have severely harmed the Iranian economy.

Germany, France, and the UK accused Iran of violating the nuclear accord and launched a dispute mechanism last week, which could see the matter referred back to the Security Council and a reimposition of UN sanctions.

“If the Europeans return to the commitments, Iran will also stop reducing its commitments, but if the Europeans continue as they have been… we have different options,” said Zarif.

‘Door not closed’

Earlier on Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman also warned more measures could be taken in retaliation for the European move.

Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said Tehran had not closed the “door to negotiations” in efforts to resolve the dispute over the nuclear agreement.

“Tehran still remains in the deal… The European powers’ claims about Iran violating the deal are unfounded,” Mousavi said.

“Whether Iran will further decrease its nuclear commitments will depend on other parties and whether Iran’s interests are secured under the deal,” he said.

Tehran has repeatedly held talks with European officials to find ways to keep the nuclear agreement alive, but has blamed the Europeans for failing to guarantee economic benefits that Iran was meant to receive in return for curbing nuclear work.

Britain has said a “Trump deal” could replace the 2015 deal, while France has called for broad talks to end the crisis.

Iran says it cannot negotiate with Trump, who broke promises by repudiating the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama. Mousavi repeated Iran’s rejection of a “Trump deal”.

Zarif skips Davos

Mousavi also said Zarif will not attend this week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland after organisers changed his programme.

The four-day annual summit, which kicks off in the Swiss resort of Davos on Tuesday, is overshadowed by escalating tensions between the US and Iran.

Zarif’s absence removes any chance of a showdown with Trump, who is expected to attend the forum.

“They changed the original programme they had for him [Zarif], the programme that had been agreed upon, and came up with something else,” said Mousavi. “Either way, this trip unfortunately will not happen.”

Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, tensions between Washington and Tehran have worsened, almost reaching a breaking point after a US drone attack on January 3 killed one of the Islamic Republic’s top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani.

Iran hit back five days later by firing a barrage of missiles at US targets in neighbouring Iraq, but causing no fatalities.

Hours later, Iran’s armed forces accidentally downed a Ukrainian airliner near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

Trump previously threatened to hit 52 targets in Iran if it targeted US citizens or assets following Soleimani’s killing.

Source: Aljazeera

PHOTOS: Trucks Conveying Protesting PDP Members Collide In Abuja

Two trucks conveying protesting PDP members collide in Abuja on January 20, 2020. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

 

It was a sad experience for some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after they were involved in an accident on Monday.

Thousands of PDP faithful had occupied the streets of Abuja and some major cities in the country in what they described as the ‘mother of all protests’.

The protest was against the judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on Tuesday last week in which the court sacked the PDP governorship candidate in Imo State and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the winner of the March 9 poll.

While the protest went smoothly in some cities, it was a sad event for some PDP faithful in the nation’s capital as two trucks conveying protesters collided.

One of the trucks was stationed at the junction of a major road while the other which was approaching lost control in apparent stunt and collided with the first vehicle.

A number of protesters are feared to have sustained various degrees of injury while it has yet to be ascertained if anybody died in the incident.

See more photos and video of the accident below:

Two trucks conveying protesting PDP members collide in Abuja on January 20, 2020. Photos: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

What happened in the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton?

Then-President Bill Clinton watches as Vice President Gore addresses members of Congress outside the Oval Office after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president [File: Doug Mills/AP Photo]

President Donald Trump is the third president in United States history to face an impeachment trial in the Senate, and only the second in the last 150 years.

Former President Bill Clinton, the 42nd US president, was tried and acquitted by the Senate in 1999. Senate Republicans are now looking to Clinton’s case for guiding precedents for handling Trump’s trial.

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Republicans who control the US Senate by a 53-47 majority over Democrats plan to use the impeachment trial of Clinton as the model for the trial Trump.

In an extraordinarily controversial political episode, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 1998. He had been the subject of a four-year, wide-ranging investigation by Special Counsel Kenneth Starr, who will be a member of Trump’s defence team in the upcoming Senate trial.

Initially, Starr was commissioned to look into the president and First Lady Hillary Clinton’s involvement with a fraudulent land development in Arkansas while Clinton had been governor of the state.

The inquiry expanded to cover, among other matters, the president’s conduct in a sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee.

During the investigation, Clinton lied under oath about having a sexual affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Special Counsel Starr issued a 211-page report with a voluminous appendix of underlying evidence to Congress detailing Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky in October 1998.

The House of Representatives, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, quickly initiated an impeachment inquiry (A star in the Republican Party, Gingrich would soon resign from Congress amid Republican losses in the November 1998 election and a scandal of his own over an affair he was having with a congressional staff aide).

The House voted on December 19, 1998, to approve two articles of impeachment against Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Two other articles were defeated in the House.

The day Clinton was impeached by the House was an electric moment in US history.

Even as the House was debating the articles of impeachment against Clinton, then-Speaker Bob Livingston – who had replaced Gingrich – stunned his Republican colleagues by resigning, himself caught in past extramarital affairs.

Meanwhile, the US had bombed Iraq for four days to punish Saddam Hussein for allegedly obstructing United Nations weapons inspectors. It was the heaviest US bombing of Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War presaged the US invasion in 2003.

The trial

The Senate trial began on January 7, 1999, with the ceremonial swearing-in of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and swearing-in of senators as jurors.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican, and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, negotiated an agreement for how the trial was to proceed. That agreement was supported by all 100 senators.

At the time, Republicans who were the opposition to Clinton controlled a 55-45 majority in the Senate. That is the opposite of today’s political alignment in which Democrats, Trump’s opposition, are in the minority.

Under the rules deal in the Clinton trial, the House had three days to present its case, the president’s defence team had three days for its rebuttal and there were two days of answers to written questions submitted by senators.

Clinton impeachment

Then, as now, there was a controversy regarding whether additional witnesses would be called. The Senate voted 56-44 to seek depositions from Lewinsky and two Clinton aides.

House prosecutors questioned Lewinsky behind closed doors and video excerpts of her testimony were played during final summations.

Deliberating in secret after rejecting a “sunshine” proposal to open the proceedings to public view, the Senate acquitted Clinton.

Ten Republicans joined all 45 Democrats to reject the article of impeachment for perjury. The Senate split 50-50 on the question of obstruction of justice.

Source: Aljazeera

Simon Voted Nantes Man of The Match In French Cup Defeat To Lyon 

Super Eagles winger Moses Simon has been voted Nantes Man of The Match in their French Cup round of 32 defeat against Lyon at the weekend, Completesports.com reports.

Nantes made the announcement on their verified Twitter handle on Monday.

Also Read: Super Eagles To Know 2022 W/Cup Qualifying Group Opponents Tuesday

“Two assists and one goal, Moses Simon is you Man of The Match,” the club wrote.

Simon was impressive for Nantes despite their 4-3 home defeat, as he scored a goal and bagged two assists.

He got 61 per cent of the votes cast by the club fans while Renaud Emond who was also on target got 17 per cent.

He now has six goals, eight assists in 22 appearances in all competitions for Nantes this season.


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Source: Complete Sports

Iran will go beyond missile strikes to avenge Soleimani

Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei delivered a sermon during Friday prayers at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran on January 17, 2020 [Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP]

After the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, many feared a major war would break out in the Middle East. Iran’s retaliation came quickly but it did not provoke a conflict.

On January 8, two bases hosting US and coalition troops were hit by a barrage of missiles. Many perceived the attack as a sign of de-escalation as it did not result in human loss and the Iraqi authorities were warned about it in advance.

Since then, Tehran has been sending contradictory signals about the country’s next move in this crisis. While Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that the attacks “concluded proportionate measures in self-defence”, Esmail Qaani, the new commander of the  Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), declared that Iran will hit its “enemy in a manly fashion”.

On January 17, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei outlined the way forward for Iran. In a rare speech during Friday prayers in Tehran, he called the Quds Force, “the fighters without border”, declared that the European Union should not be trusted “because of their track record and their support for Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War”, and called on Iranians to put their collective efforts into “strengthening themselves in every aspect”.

Khamenei’s speech signals that Iran will likely seek to avoid a full-scale war and adopt the following strategy: start advancing its nuclear capacity and seek to continue power projection abroad through the Quds Force and its regional allies. 

In the aftermath of the assassination, Iran announced that it was abandoning nuclear deal limits. On January 15, European countries triggered a dispute mechanism that can lead to the return of the United Nations sanctions on Iran. The Iranian authorities could respond by quitting the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which will pose a set of serious risks for the West and the Middle East. 

Apart from that, Iran could seek to escalate tensions in the region through its political and military allies.

In its campaign to resist US presence in the region, Tehran has invested heavily in various armed groups. Over the past decade, under the leadership of Soleimani, the IRGC has mobilised and equipped tens of thousands of fighters in the region (mainly in Iraq and Syria).

Groups such as Kata’ib Hezbollah, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, Liwa Zeinabiyoun, Liwa Fatemiyoun, Quwat Imam al-Baqir, Liwa al-Sayyida Ruqayya, and Quwat al-Ridha have been receiving Iranian material support and strategic guidance.

This is in addition to a strong alliance with Hezbollah in Lebanon and strategic engagement with the Houthis in Yemen.

On January 7, the supreme leader ordered the allocation of an additional $220m budget for the Quds Force, part of which will probably be dedicated to strengthening these Iranian-backed armed groups.

In the aftermath of the assassination of Soleimani, the IRGC threatened to attack the city of Haifa in Israel and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, in the event of an attack on Iranian soil.

The risk of retaliatory attacks by Iranian proxies across the region will remain high. Iranian-backed militias are determined to fight US forces. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that US “military bases, soldiers, officers, and warships” will be targeted.

Iran’s desire for revenge will also affect the region politically. 

In Syria, where Iran has had an uncomfortable partnership with Russia, the IRGC will likely seek to further entrench its presence. Russian attempts to curb Iranian military presence in response to US and Israeli calls may not be successful. In Yemen, Iran will also seek to secure its gains as an “indispensable diplomatic stakeholder”.

In Iraq, Iran will continue to exert influence over internal political affairs, which will lead to further destabilisation as the country tries to cope with major political unrest.

Already suffering from major divisions, Iraq will likely see cleavages between supporters and opponents of Iran deepen. On January 5, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution obliging the government “to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil”. The Kurdish and some of the Sunni members of the parliament did not attend the parliamentary session that approved this decision.

Many Shia political and religious leaders are in favour of the departure of foreign forces, but the US military presence is an integral element of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) security, especially in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum. Thus the push to expel US troops will become another point of contention between Baghdad and Erbil.

Soleimani’s assassination also prompted calls for unity among Shia forces in Iraq which, until recently, were divided over the Iraqi protests. This means the demands by the protesters for political reform and desectarianisation of the political system are unlikely to be met. This will likely complicate the government formation efforts in coming months and could further exacerbate tensions between the various ethno-religious components of the country.

In Lebanon, the fallout of Soleimani’s killing is also likely to be felt. Hezbollah is the most important strategic asset of the Islamic republic in the region and therefore, it is likely to continue its financial support of the group.

Like Iraq, Lebanon is experiencing social upheaval, with protesters demanding an overhaul of the political system. A stronger Hezbollah will likely be more assertive in its political negotiations with other forces within the country, especially as Saudi Arabia, the main backer of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, has indicated it does not wish to escalate against Iran.

In the Gulf, the escalation in the US-Iran confrontation has caused much anxiety, especially as last year Saudi Arabia and the UAE witnessed Iran’s military capabilities with the drone strikes on Aramco and the attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

Fearing for their key oil sectors and economic stability, both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have made it clear that they want to avoid any further escalation with Iran.

After the assassination of Soleimani, Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, travelled to Washington and London to meet with political and defence officials to express the need for de-escalation. 

Saudi Arabia has reduced its airstrikes in Yemen and emphasised that the Houthis can assume a role in the future Yemeni government. Before his resignation in November, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi had taken the role of a mediator between Riyadh and Tehran, actively facilitating negotiations for a de-escalation between the two. Although, this has not been confirmed by either Saudi Arabia or Iran, it seems to be the only expected approach for the Saudi leaders in the coming months.

The UAE also recently initiated negotiations with Tehran to re-establish diplomatic and possibly economic collaboration. The Emiratis have already started to scale back their military involvement in Yemen by pulling out their troops in the summer of 2019.

In October, reports surfaced that Emirati officials visited Tehran to spearhead talks for normalisation and de-escalation, and that Abu Dhabi had released $700m in Iranian funds previously frozen due to the US sanctions.

By contrast, Qatar has maintained good relations with Iran, which supported it during the blockade initiated by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. Doha has made long-standing efforts to act as a mediator and partner for its big neighbour. Just a day after Soleimani’s assassination, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani travelled to Tehran to seek to de-escalate tensions. A week later, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also visited the Iranian capital and called for a dialogue.

Despite efforts to mediate by Qatar and others in the region, more instability and confrontation is on the horizon.

In his keynote speech at the last Doha Forum in December 2019, Iran’s Zarif said the Middle East was afflicted by a “cognitive disorder” which has caused countries to perceive security as a zero-sum game – ensuring one’s security by depriving one’s neighbours of it – and to pursue ever-growing weapons deals.

The problem is that Iran’s overall strategy in the region does not really differ from this “cognitive disorder”. And the assassination of Soleimani has opened a new chapter in its confrontation with the West. A withdrawal from the nuclear deal will only deepen the crisis.

Source: Aljazeera

The Pembrokeshire Murders: Luke Evans in true crime drama

The true story of how a serial killer was brought to justice is to be made into a three-part drama starring Hollywood actor Luke Evans.

Dracula Untold star Evans will play Dyfed-Powys Police officer Steve Wilkins who in 2006 reopened two unsolved double murders from the 1980s.

Microscopic DNA and fibres linked the murders to John Cooper who was already in prison for a string of burglaries.

Evans said it was a privilege to be playing the role in the ITV drama.

The star, who was brought up in Aberbargoed, Caerphilly county, said: “It’s a huge responsibility for me as the drama depicts a true crime which to this day still affects the families of those whose lives were tragically taken.”

The Pembrokeshire Murders has been adapted from the true crime book Catching the Bullseye Killer, written by Det Ch Sup Steve Wilkins and ITV journalist Jonathan Hill.

In 1985 Cooper murdered brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas by shooting them at their remote mansion near Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, and setting the property alight.

In 1989 he murdered Peter and Gwenda Dixon who he shot at close range on the Pembrokeshire coastal path near Little Haven.

In 2011 he was jailed for life.

The drama will be made by production company World Productions, makers of Line of Duty and Bodyguard.

Keith Allen, Owen Teale, Alexandria Riley, Caroline Berry, Oliver Ryan and David Fynn also star in the series.