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According to the UN nuclear agency, Iran has turned all of its enriched uranium closest to the level needed to make nuclear arms into more harmless forms.
The conversion of its stock of 20%-enriched uranium was part of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
The US said last week it would unblock $2.8 billion in frozen Iranian funds in return for Iran’s compliance.
A four-month extension to talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions was agreed on Friday between Iran and world powers.
The talks are aimed at persuading Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Iran has turned all of its enriched uranium closest to the level needed to make nuclear arms into more harmless forms
The six world powers involved in the talks – the US, France, China, Russia, Germany and the UK – suspect Iran seeks atomic weapons, which Iran denies.
The country insists that it is enriching uranium for use in nuclear power stations and for medical purposes.
Correspondents say Iran’s completion of eliminating its most worrying uranium stockpile is a promising sign that its leaders do not want to derail the diplomatic process.
A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran is observing all of its other commitments as well.
Iran had more than 200 kg of 20%-enriched uranium when the preliminary agreement to convert it was reached last November.
At 20%, enriched uranium can be converted quickly to arm a nuclear weapon and experts said 200kg was enough to make one nuclear warhead.
Negotiations between the six powers and Iran are set to resume in September, with the deadline for an agreement on November 24.
The parties have been unable to reach agreement on imposing long-term restrictions over Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium production – processes that could yield material for nuclear warheads.
In a joint statement after last week’s talks, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: “There are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.”
A deal could see the lifting of oil and trade sanctions on Iran.
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BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations.
As part of the deal, France’s largest bank will plead guilty to two criminal charges of breaking US sanctions against trade with Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
The bank will also be prevented from clearing certain transactions in US dollars for one year from the start of 2015.
The settlement is the largest for such a case in US history.
“Between 2004 and 2012, BNP engaged in a complex and pervasive scheme to illegally move billions through the US financial system,” said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a press conference.
In doing so, BNP Paribas “deliberately and repeatedly violated longstanding US sanctions”, he said.
Eric Holder added that he hoped the settlement would serve as a warning to other companies that did business with the US that “illegal conduct will simply not be tolerated”.
BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations (photo Euronews)
As part of its agreement with US authorities, BNP agreed to fire and not re-hire 13 individuals who were associated with the sanctions violations.
BNP said as a result of the fine it would take an “exceptional charge” of 5.8 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in the second quarter of this year.
It said this was on top of the $1.1 billion it had already set aside to cover the cost of the US penalties.
However it said it expected “no impact on its operational or business capabilities”, and said it would post “solid results” for the second quarter.
BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said resolving the issue was “an important step forward” for the bank.
“We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement,” he added.
In a conference call on Tuesday morning, Jean-Laurent Bonnafe explained that during the year in which the bank was banned from dollar clearing – converting payments from foreign currencies into US dollars – it would engage a third party to carry out the transactions.
Jean-Laurent Bonnafe added that as part of the settlement BNP Paribas would be able to keep its license to operate in the US.
The Swiss financial regulator, FINMA, also announced that it had closed its investigation into BNP Paribas operations in the country, following the US authorities’ decision.
FINMA said in a statement that BNP Paribas had “persistently and seriously violated its duty to identify, limit and monitor the inherent risks” relating to foreign transactions.
Shares in BNP Paribas rose more than 3% in morning trading, following assurances that the bank could weather the $9 billion fine.
France has been pressing the US over the size of the fine, which almost equals BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about 8.2 billion euros ($11.2 billion).
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French banking giant BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules, reports suggest.
The bank will also, unusually, admit guilt, Financial Times and The New York Times reported.
According to the Wall Street Journal, BNP plans to slash its dividends and issue billions of euros of bonds to pay the fine.
The bank is accused of breaking sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
This is alleged to have taken place between 2002 and 2009.
BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules
The reported size of the fine could almost wipe out BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about $11.2 billion.
In April, BNP Paribas said it had set aside $1.1 billion to cover the cost of US penalties, but warned that the “amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision”.
Earlier this month, one of the EU’s top officials intervened in the controversy.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said any penalty on the giant French bank must be “fair and objective”. Reports at the time suggested the fine would be in the region of $10 billion.
France’s President Francois Hollande has raised the matter with President Barack Obama, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently warned that such a fine could hurt EU-US trade treaty talks.
As part of the deal with US authorities, BNP may be suspended from converting foreign currencies into dollars, reports suggest, which would hit its ability to operate in international wholesale banking markets.
US authorities are keen to make an announcement on the settlement on Monday afternoon.
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Divorce parties gain popularity in Iran’s major cities as more marriages meet a premature end.
According to the conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper, the parties sometimes require extravagant preparations, complete with black roses and huge cakes.
“You go to a florist to order a bouquet of black roses. Next you come to us to order invitation cards,” one card shop owner tells the publication.
Divorce parties gain popularity in Iran’s major cities as more marriages meet a premature end
“I don’t miss you at all,” says one invitation, quoting the lyrics of a Persian pop hit.
“I swear I will not fall in love again as long as I live. Even if I do, it’s ok, as long as it’s not with you,” the lyrics continue inside the card.
The demand for divorce cards has been going up over the past two years, another shop owner told the Shahr-e Khabar news website.
Officials in the capital Tehran have recently expressed concern about the trend of celebrating divorce, the pro-government Iran newspaper says, and Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, one of the country’s top conservative clerics, has spoken out over the issue.
Last year, Iran saw a 4.6% rise in divorce cases, and a 4.4% decline in marriage rates. Nearly 20% of Iranian marriages now end in divorce.
One of the persons travelling on a stolen passport on missing Malaysia Airlines jet was a young Iranian who is not believed to have terrorist links, Malaysian police say.
Police say the 19-year-old – named as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad – was probably migrating to Germany.
Investigations are continuing into a second man using stolen documents.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing on Saturday, after taking off with 239 on board. The search has been widened.
Experts have said the presence of two people with stolen passports on a plane was a breach of security, but is relatively common in a region regarded as a hub for illegal migration.
Malaysia’s police chief Inspector Gen Khalid Abu Bakar said the young Iranian was “not likely to be a member of a terrorist group”, adding that the authorities were in contact with his mother in Germany, who had been expecting her son to arrive in Frankfurt.
He says the friend and another Iranian, also using a stolen passport, stayed with him before taking the Malaysia Airlines flight, and that they had hoped to settle in Europe.
One of the persons travelling on a stolen passport on missing Malaysia Airlines jet was a young Iranian who is not believed to have terrorist links
Reports from Thailand suggest that the tickets of the two men, routing them to Amsterdam via Beijing, had been bought through a Thai travel agent and an Iranian middleman.
Officials say they still have no idea what went wrong with the aircraft.
None of the debris and oil slicks spotted in the water so far have proved to be linked to the disappearance.
Four areas of investigation were focused on the possibility of human agency, the police chief said: hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems or personal problems with passengers or crew.
The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
At least 40 ships and 34 aircraft are taking part in the search in the seas off Vietnam and Malaysia.
Search teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, New Zealand and the United States of America are assisting.
Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the search was being conducted “on both sides” of the peninsula.
The area has been expanded from 50 nautical miles from where the plane had disappeared – over waters between Malaysia and Vietnam – to 100 nautical miles (115 miles).
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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that a nuclear deal could come in the next four months.
Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks lasting more than an hour with Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is making her first visit to Tehran amid a thaw in relations.
“We can do it in four or five months and even shorter,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
Catherine Ashton cautioned there was “no guarantee” her talks would lead to a comprehensive agreement.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
World powers want Iran to scale back its nuclear work to ensure it cannot assemble a nuclear weapon.
The election of Iranian moderate Hassan Rouhani as president last year led to an improvement in ties between the Islamic Republic and the EU.
In November, Baroness Catherine Ashton helped broker a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in return for limited sanctions relief.
Analysts say the war in Syria is also expected to be discussed, as Iran is a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad.
It is the first visit to Iran by an EU policy chief since 2008.
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Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi has been accused by prosecutors of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The claim came during the second hearing of his trial on espionage charges.
Prosecutors allege that he and 35 others were involved in a plot to destabilize Egypt. The trial was later adjourned to February 27.
The deposed Islamist leader is facing four separate trials.
Mohamed Morsi’s supporters say he and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders are the victims of politically motivated prosecutions.
The espionage trail opened on February 16 and on Sunday prosecutors detailed the charges against Mohamed Morsi and his co-defendants.
They were specifically accused of “delivering to a foreign country… national defense secrets and providing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with security reports in order to destabilize the security and stability of the country”, AFP news agency reported.
The statement read in court did not identify the “foreign country”.
Egyptian prosecutors have accused ousted President Mohammed Morsi of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards
Mohamed Morsi is also accused of collaborating with the Palestinian movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.
During Sunday’s hearing, Mohamed Morsi was held separately in a soundproof glass cage to prevent him shouting and disrupting proceedings.
Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military last July following mass street protests against his government.
There has since been a severe crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as on other activists seen as hostile to the military-backed government.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organization and authorities have punished any public show of support for it.
Other senior Brotherhood figures, including supreme guide Mohammed Badie and his deputy and former presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater, are also facing a raft of charges.
Proceedings in two other trials have already begun.
The first opened in November, with Mohamed Morsi facing charges of inciting the killing of protesters near the presidential palace when he was in office in 2012.
In January, another trial opened concerning Mohamed Morsi’s escape from prison in a jailbreak in 2011, during which police officers were killed.
The fourth trial, which has yet to open, will be on charges of insulting the judiciary.
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Iran announces it has successfully sent a monkey into space for the second time this year as part of a programme aimed at manned space flight.
President Hassan Rouhani said the monkey – named Fargam, or Auspicious – returned from space in perfect health.
However, the success of the first monkey flight was disputed when a different animal was shown in images released after the landing.
Iran’s space programme has raised concern among Western countries.
Some fear the technology could be used in ballistic missiles.
Iran announces it has successfully sent a monkey into space for the second time this year as part of a programme aimed at manned space flight
Iran is already under international scrutiny over the scope of its nuclear programme, which opponents say aims to develop nuclear weaponry.
President Hassan Rouhani congratulated the scientists involved in the space mission, according to a message posted on the English-language version of his website.
On the Persian-language version, he said it was carried by a liquid fuel rocket – Iran’s first use of the technology.
There were few other details, including when the flight took place.
In January, Iran said it had sent a monkey to an altitude of about 75 miles in a Pishgam rocket for a sub-orbital flight before returning intact to Earth.
But the release of images showing two clearly different monkeys prompted international observers to wonder whether the animal had died in space.
Iran insisted that was not the case, saying archive images of another monkey tested for its suitability for the mission had been wrongly released.
In 2010, Iran successfully sent a rat, turtle and worms into space. But an attempt to send a monkey up in a rocket failed in 2011.
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Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who is believed to have been held in Iran for the last seven years, was working for the CIA on an unapproved mission, the Associated Press news agency reports.
Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007.
US government officials have repeatedly called on Iran to help locate him.
“We have no comment on any purported affiliation between Mr. Levinson and the US government,” said a CIA statement.
“The US government remains committed to bringing him home safely to his family,” added CIA media spokesperson Todd Ebitz.
The Associated Press report alleges that the CIA paid off Robert Levinson’s family and reprimanded several analysts involved.
The media outlet writes that Robert Levinson was in Iran on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission that, when revealed, caused a serious internal CIA scandal.
The CIA reportedly paid Robert Levinson’s family $2.5 million to avoid a public lawsuit, and also disciplined 10 veteran analysts.
The team of analysts is said to have paid Robert Levinson to gather intelligence prior to his disappearance.
Three of the CIA analysts – who reportedly had no authority to run spy operations – were allegedly later forced out of the agency.
The Associated Press investigation reportedly included interviews with top US and foreign officials and access to confidential documentation.
Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007
The media outlet alleges it was asked by the US government three times since 2010 to withhold information related to Robert Levinson’s CIA ties.
The news agency said it decided to run the report after all efforts to return Robert Levinson to the US were seen to have failed.
“The US government strongly urged the AP not to run this story out of concern for Mr. Levinson’s life,” said National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.
“We regret that the AP would choose to run a story that does nothing to further the cause of bringing him home.”
There is no confirmation of who captured the former FBI agent or where he may be held, but US officials asked for Iran’s assistance in finding him just days after Iran and Western powers signed an interim agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in late November.
“We reiterate the commitment of the United States Government to locate Mr. Levinson and bring him home safely to his family, friends, and loved ones,” White House spokesman Jay Carney wrote in a statement at the time.
“We respectfully ask the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson’s health, welfare, and safe return.”
In August, Secretary of State John Kerry also asked for Iran’s assistance in freeing Robert Levinson and two other US citizens held in Iran, a former marine and a Christian pastor.
Robert Levinson, 64 when he went missing, was initially believed to have been investigating cigarette counterfeiting as a private detective when he disappeared.
His family received images of Robert Levinson in April 2011, showing him wearing a long grey beard, in an orange jumpsuit, holding up five signs that read:
- 4th YEAR… You can’t or you don’t want…?
- This is the result of 30 years serving for USA
- Why you cannot help me?
- I am here in Guantanamo – Do you know where it is?
- Help me
The family was also sent a video in November 2010, which it released in December 2011 to try to aid the investigation.
In the 54-second clip, Robert Levinson pleads: “Help me get home.”
Although he has appeared in images and videos as a captive, Iran has said it does not know where he is and that there is no evidence he is in the country.
Investigators traced the phone used to send the photographs to Afghanistan, but the owner was not involved. The video was sent from a Pakistan internet cafe.
The FBI offered a $1 million reward in March 2012 for information leading to Robert Levinson’s safe return.
However, the US government has not received any sign Robert Levinson is alive in nearly three years, the Associated Press reports.
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Global oil prices dropped and European shares rose in early trading Monday morning after Iran agreed a deal to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for an easing of international sanctions.
Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, but its exports have been hurt by the tough sanctions against it.
Though Iran will not be allowed to increase its oil sales for six months, the deal has eased tensions in the Middle East – a key oil-producing area.
Brent crude fell more than 2% in early Asian trade on Monday.
Global oil prices dropped after Iran agreed the nuclear deal
It dropped by $2.42 to $108.63 per barrel, while US light sweet crude fell 84 cents to $93.64 per barrel.
Fuel-intensive companies, such as airlines and travel firms, received a boost on the stock markets as a result.
International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, was up 2.87% in lunchtime trading, while Air France KLM rose 3.11%. Travel operator Thomas Cook lifted 3.68%.
World powers suspect Iran’s nuclear programme is secretly aimed at developing a nuclear bomb – a charge Iran has consistently denied.
In an attempt to force Tehran to curb its programme, the US and other leading economies have imposed a series of tough sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil exports – a key driver of its economy.
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The new Iran nuclear deal has been called a “historic mistake”by Israel and some Republicans in US Congress.
“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement. It was a historic mistake,” Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting Sunday morning.
“Today the world become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
The agreement between Iran and the US, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia aims to halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and rolls back key parts of it.
Earlier, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called the agreement “extremely dangerous for the free world.”
“It goes without saying that all options remain on the table and that Israel has the capability – and the responsibility – to defend itself using any means necessary,” Danny Danon said in a statement.
The West and Israel fear that Iran has been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear program is a peaceful energy project.
The White House has tried to reassure Israel that its fear that a deal would leave it vulnerable was unfounded. Late Saturday, President Barack Obama admitted huge challenges remain and said Iran’s promises will be put to the test over the next six months.
“As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions,” the president said.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu called the new nuclear agreement with Iran as a historic mistake
Emphasizing the US commitment to Israel as well as his personal relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, John Kerry said on Sunday that the two allies continue to share the same strategy and the US will not tolerate a nuclear Iran threatening Israel.
“There is no difference whatsoever between the United States and Israel about what the end goal is,” John Kerry said.
Earlier in the news conference, John Kerry said the agreement could not have been reached without the Iranians’ decision to come to the negotiating table. He said the next phase of talks, while even more difficult will also be more important
“If this first step leads to what is our ultimate goal – which is a comprehensive agreement – that will make the world safer,” he said.
An agreement with Iran will likely also affect US relations with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, which is threatened by signs of improved US relations with Shiite Iran.
The UAE officially has welcomed the deal but at least one senior Gulf diplomat was much more critical and expressed skepticism over the deal.
The deal stipulates that Iran will commit to halt uranium enrichment above 5% and also to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium. The Islamic Republic has also committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity. Iran will also halt work at its plutonium reactor and provide access to nuclear inspectors.
In exchange, the US and its allies have agreed to offer Iran “modest relief” from economic sanctions and access to a portion of the revenue that the country has been denied through these sanctions. No new sanctions will be imposed.
The Obama administration also faces skeptics in Congress. Reaction poured in late Saturday and early Sunday and appeared to be divided along party lines.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that the deal does not meet the standards necessary to protect the US and its allies.
“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” Ed Royce said in a statement.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, echoed those concerns, saying in a statement he found it “troubling” that the agreement “still permits the Iranians to continue enriching.”
“Iran’s long history of noncompliance with the U.N. Security Council is well known, as is its use of secret facilities to pursue its nuclear program,” Eric Cantor added.
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Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Geneva for Iran nuclear talks involving the UK, Russia, France, China and Germany after three days of lower-level meetings.
The foreign ministers hope to close a deal for Iran to curb uranium enrichment in return for a loosening of sanctions.
But Iran insists it must be allowed to enrich uranium for power stations, and denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.
Some US politicians say they will push for more sanctions if the talks fail.
Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Geneva for Iran nuclear talks
Negotiators have been working since Wednesday to try to find an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
The talks had been scheduled to conclude on Friday, but were extended amid hopes of a possible breakthrough.
The state department said John Kerry, who arrived in Geneva early on Saturday, had the goal of “continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement”.
John Kerry’s participation in itself does not prove a deal is at hand, but it does show that the talks may have reached a critical stage.
The other ministers from the so-called P5+1 group of nations were also arriving on Saturday.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters as he arrived: “I want a deal, but a solid deal, and I am here to work toward that end.”
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Two explosions have hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut in quick succession, killing at least 22 people.
The Iranian cultural attaché in Lebanon, Ebrahim Ansari, was among the dead. Officials said the death toll could rise.
TV images showed burning cars, bodies on the street and damaged buildings.
Iran is a major backer of the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.
Reports said one of the blasts was caused by a suicide bomber, while the second was a car bomb.
This has not been officially confirmed.
Two explosions have hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut in quick succession, killing at least 22 people
Reuters quotes Lebanese officials as saying CCTV footage showed a man rushing towards the outer wall of the Iranian embassy before blowing himself up, causing the first blast.
The Iranian ambassador to Beirut confirmed Ebrahim Ansari’s death to Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, but said it was not clear if he had been in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby.
Ebrahim Ansari had only taken up his post a month ago, he said.
The ambassador blamed Israel for the attack – an accusation Israel swiftly rejected.
Syria condemned the explosion.
The Syrian conflict has increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon.
South Beirut, including the area around the Iranian embassy, is considered a Hezbollah stronghold. It has been hit by several attacks in recent months.
Caretaker PM Najib Mikati called the attack “a cowardly terrorist act”, Lebanese state news agency NNA reported.
“The aim of the blast is to stir up the situation in Lebanon and use the Lebanese arena to convey messages,” he said.
Tehran and the Shia militant group are key backers of the Syrian government, which is currently trying to cut off one of the Syrian rebels’ last remaining supply routes across the Lebanese border.
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At least 17 Iranian border guards have been killed in a clash with gunmen on the border with Pakistan, the official Iranian news agency Irna says.
The clashes took place on Friday night in a mountainous region outside Saravan, a border town in the south-east province of Sistan Baluchistan.
A number of guards were also wounded in the attack, reports said.
An unnamed official quoted by Irna blamed “bandits or rebels opposed to the Islamic republic”.
At least 17 Iranian border guards have been killed in a clash with gunmen on the border with Pakistan
Iran lies on a major drug trafficking route between Afghanistan and Europe.
The population in this Sunni Muslim area complains of discrimination by Iran’s Shia establishment. An armed group, called Jundallah, has carried out a number of attacks against the state in recent years.
“We do not have exact details of the incident yet,” Tasnim news agency quoted Saravan’s member of parliament, Hedayatollah Mirmoradzehi, as saying.
“No group has claimed responsibility for the incident so far.”
“Since the venue of the operation is in a location that is geographically difficult of access, we have no exact information on whether any of the officers there were abducted or not,” he added.
The region has experienced repeated deadly clashes over previous years.
AFP news agency quotes officials as saying more than 4,000 police officers and soldiers have been killed in the past three decades in fighting with traffickers.
There is “no need” for Alireza M’s second execution after he survived a first hanging, Iran’s justice minister says.
Lawyers want the head of the judiciary to stop a repeat hanging after Alireza M was found alive in a morgue.
Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said executing the man would have repercussions against Iran’s image, the ISNA news agency reported.
The government has no direct control over the judiciary which has to decide whether a second execution takes place.
Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world.
Amnesty International has urged Iran not to go ahead with a repeat execution for drug smuggler Alireza M who survived a botched hanging
Alireza M, a 37-year-old convicted drug smuggler, was found alive in a morgue after being hanged at a jail in the north-eastern city of Bojnord last week.
He had been left to hang for 12 minutes after which a doctor declared him dead, reports said.
But when Alireza M’s family went to collect his body from the prison morgue the next day, they found he was still breathing.
The man was then moved to a hospital where he was being kept under armed guard.
Alireza M’s condition is not known although the IRNA news agency reported on Monday that he had fallen into a coma.
Last week, Amnesty International urged Iran not to go ahead with a repeat execution.
Amnesty International also called for a moratorium on all executions in Iran.
Amnesty International has urged Iran not to go ahead with a repeat execution for drug smuggler Alireza M who survived a botched hanging.
Alireza M was found alive in a morgue after being hanged at a jail in the north-eastern city of Bojnord last week.
The condemned man is now being nursed to recovery in preparation for his repeat execution.
“The verdict was the death sentence, and it will be carried out once the man gets well again,” an official said.
Human rights groups believe Iran is second only to China in the number of people it puts to death for crimes ranging from murder and rape to spying and drug-trafficking.
Amnesty International has urged Iran not to go ahead with a repeat execution for drug smuggler Alireza M who survived a botched hanging
In a separate incident reported by Iranian media on Monday, relatives of a condemned murderer in the western province of Ilam tried to stop his execution at a prison by hurling a grenade.
Around 30 people were injured but the hanging went ahead.
Alireza M, 37, was left to hang for 12 minutes, after which a doctor declared him dead.
But when the prisoner’s family went to collect his body from the prison morgue the next day, they found he was still breathing.
“We found him alive again, which made his two daughters very happy,” an unnamed family member told Iranian state media.
Alireza M was then moved to a hospital where he was being kept under armed guard.
“The horrific prospect of this man facing a second hanging, after having gone through the whole ordeal already once, merely underlines the cruelty and inhumanity of the death penalty,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, in a press release.
Philip Luther called for both a stay of execution for the hanging survivor and a moratorium on all executions in Iran.
According to Amnesty International, at least 508 people may have been executed in Iran this year to date. Most of those killed had been convicted of drug trafficking, it said.
Iran has been urged by China and the US to respond “positively” to an international offer over its nuclear programme, US officials say.
The call came ahead a rare, high-level meeting between the US and Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for a world without nuclear weapons, hours after saying Tehran wanted a deal in three to six months.
The West suspects Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim strongly denied by Iran.
Iran has been negotiating over the issue since 2006 with the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
On Tuesday, Hassan Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to engage in “time-bound and results-oriented” talks.
On Thursday, Hassan Rouhani called from stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of them.
“No nation should possess nuclear weapons; since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons,” he said, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the General Assembly.
Hassan Rouhani called from stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of the
The P5+1 has asked to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% – a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
It also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.
In return, it offered to ease the sanctions that have severely affected Iran’s economy.
“Both the US and China believe that Iran should cooperate with the P5+1 and should respond positively to the proposals that are on the table,” a US official told journalists at the UN.
Later, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly summit in New York.
It will be the highest level direct contact between the US and Iran for six years.
President Barack Obama has welcomed the new Iranian president’s more “moderate course”.
Barack Obama told the UN on Tuesday that the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Hassan Rouhani has said he is fully empowered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate on the issue.
At least 30 people have been killed and other 800 have been injured after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Bushehr province in south-west Iran, officials say.
Rescue teams have been sent to the affected area, but darkness is hampering rescue operations.
The quake struck 90 km (60 miles) south of Iran’s only nuclear power station in Bushehr, the US Geological Survey (USGS) says.
At least 30 people have been killed and other 800 have been injured after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Bushehr province in south-west Iran
However, the nuclear plant has not been affected and is working normally, officials have said.
The quake was felt across the Gulf in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
Some 10,000 people are thought to live in the affected area in more than 50 villages, two of which have reportedly been completely leveled.
The governor’s office has sent generators to the area so rescue operation can continue overnight.
Seismologists said the quake struck at 16:22 local time at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles) near the town of Kaki, south of Bushehr – a Gulf port city that is home to Iran’s first and only nuclear power plant.
Iran’s seismological centre in Bushehr province, linked to Tehran University, registered the quake at a magnitude of 6.1.
Tens of aftershocks – the strongest measuring a magnitude of 5.4 – struck within an hour, sending many people into the streets for safety.
One resident in Bushehr told Reuters news agency that they could “clearly feel the earthquake” but there was no damage.
State media reported that phone lines had been brought down by the quake and its aftershocks.
The earthquake shook buildings across the Gulf.
The governor of Bushehr, Fereydoun Hassanvand, told Iranian state TV that the nuclear plant was not damaged.
An official with the Russian firm Atomstroyexport told Russian media that the quake “in no way affected the normal situation at the reactor”.
“Personnel continue to work in the normal regime and radiation levels are fully within the norm,” the official was quoted by Russian state news agency Ria as saying.
Iran’s nuclear programme has roused concern among major powers that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons – a charge Iran strongly denies.
Iran straddles a major geological fault line, making it prone to seismic activity. In 2003, an earthquake in the city of Bam left more than 25,000 people dead.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted online that the US was proposing talks while “pointing a gun at Iran”.
On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden suggested direct talks, separate to the wider international discussions due to take place later this month.
But the US widened sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, aiming to tighten a squeeze on Tehran’s ability to spend oil cash.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme
Iran has announced its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz plant to the UN nuclear agency, reports citing diplomats say.
The move would allow the country to refine uranium at a faster rate, increasing fears among western states about Iran’s intentions.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful in purpose. The US and its allies fear it seeks nuclear weapons.
The plan was set out in a letter to the IAEA dated January 23, reports said.
The letter is said to mention a model of centrifuge, called IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the Associated Press.
Iran has announced its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz plant to the UN nuclear agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to member states saying Iran had informed the agency of its plans to use the improved machines at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, according to a document seen by Reuters.
“The Secretariat of the Agency received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran [AEOI] dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that <<centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22>> at the Fuel Enrichment Plant [FEP] at Natanz,” the IAEA communication is reported to say.
The Natanz facility, in central Iran, is at the heart of the country’s dispute with the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the European Union’s top foreign policy official said she believed that negotiations on the country’s nuclear programme would resume shortly.
The White House has denied a report in the New York Times saying that Iran had agreed to one-on-one negotiations over its nuclear programme with the US.
The report, quoting unnamed officials, said Iran had agreed to the talks for the first time but would not hold them until after US elections on 6 November.
The White House said it was prepared to meet Iran bilaterally, but that there was no plan to do so.
Western states think Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, something it denies.
Iran has been a key foreign policy topic in the US election campaign.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will hold their third and final campaign debate on Monday, on the subject of foreign policy.
The New York Times report said the US and Iran had agreed to one-on-one negotiations “in principle”.
But US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement that it was untrue the US and Iran had “agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections”.
“We continue to work… on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally,” he added.
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 negotiation group – which includes the UK, US, France, China, Russia and Germany – have stalled.
Western nations have used increasingly harsh sanctions in an effort to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme.
Mitt Romney has accused Barack Obama of being too soft on Iran.
Barack Obama opposes a near-term military strike by the US or Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but says he is determined to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
“The president has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that,” Tommy Vietor said.
“The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.”
Iranian riot police have clashed with protesters in Tehran over sharp falls in the currency, the rial.
Tear gas was used to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom were setting fire to tyres and rubbish bins. There were many arrests, reports say.
Eyewitnesses said scores of people gathered outside the central bank, calling for the governor to stand down, chanting anti-government slogans.
The rial has plummeted to record lows against the US dollar in recent days.
Money dealers were joined by traders from the nearby central bazaar, reports say.
Amateur video footage posted online appeared to show hundreds of people marching towards Iran’s central bank.
Eyewitnesses said riot police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Reports say many shops in the central Grand Bazaar have brought down their shutters in sympathy with the demonstrators.
Traders are angry at the lack of direction from the government in the crisis, which they say has led to more instability in prices and made trading almost impossible, according to commentators.
Authorities began jamming the channel’s signals on two satellites after the London-based Persian-language channel reported the Tehran protests.
The head of Tehran’s bazaar unions, Ahmad Karimi-Esfahani, said shopkeepers had not opened their businesses as they were “worried about security” but he expected them to reopen on Thursday.
A protest outside the bazaar started with a small group and then grew, he told the Iranian Labour News Agency (Ilna).
One eyewitness, who gave his name only as Omid, said the Sabze Maydon area within the bazaar was closed down and some shop windows were smashed.
He said the government had closed the currency exchange shops, hoping to curtail the turmoil.
A senior Iranian police commander confirmed to Ilna that “a limited number of people protested in front of the bazaar,” but he said the bazaar was not closed.
Hundreds of police are also reported to have rounded up and arrested illegal money changers in the capital.
Tehran’s bazaar is traditionally the biggest financial ally of the Iranian regime. The bazaar is said to have bankrolled the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The political core of the bazaar is the Islamic Allied Society or Motalefeh, a political group loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The protests were clearly targeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, accusing it of mismanagement and inefficiency in curtailing Iran’s currency crisis.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed Western sanctions for the fall in the rial, saying they amounted to an economic war.
However, many Iranians accuse him of financial mismanagement.
US officials say the slide reflects the success of US economic sanctions targeted at Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei said in a speech that the Iranian people would never submit to pressure from abroad.
Iran would put this crisis behind it, he was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying.
Barack Obama is addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is to say the US will “do what we must” to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
Six weeks before the US election, Barack Obama is expected to say that a nuclear-armed Iran “is not a challenge that can be contained”.
Barack Obama condemned the violence that erupted over a “disgusting” anti-Islam video as “an attack on UN ideals”.
Unrest across the Middle East is set to dominate discussion the summit.
Recent protests across the Muslim world in response to the US-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, as well as Iran’s nuclear programme and the 18-month conflict in Syria, are likely to be high on the agenda.
Barack Obama is addressing the UN General Assembly in New York
Opening the meeting on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the fighting in Syria as “a regional calamity with global ramifications”.
Ban Ki-moon called for action from the divided UN Security Council and said “the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control”.
“Brutal human rights abuses continue to be committed, mainly by the government but also by opposition forces,” he added.
People did not look to the UN to be simply a mirror reflecting back a divided world, said Ban Ki-moon: Rather, they wanted to see it come up with solutions to problems.
Barack Obama was blunter in his assessment of Syria, saying Bashar Assad’s regime must end.
The US president opened his address with a tribute to the US ambassador to Libya murdered in Benghazi, challenging the UN to affirm that “our future will be determined by people like Christopher Stevens, and not by his killers”.
“Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations,” he said.
Barack Obama was to vow that “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” with the backing of “a coalition of countries” holding Tehran accountable.
Although the White House said the president’s address should not be considered a campaign speech, it follows critical remarks about his foreign policy from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney condemned Barack Obama’s description of the murder of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans as “bumps in the road”. He has also castigated him for not taking time out to hold talks on Iran during the summit with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barack Obama has rejected the Israeli leader’s calls for Washington to set Tehran “red lines”.
Benjamin Netanyahu has recently appeared on US television to press for a tougher line on Iran, and he will take the same message to the General Assembly on Thursday.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.
On the eve of the assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a UN meeting that Israel was a “fake regime”, prompting Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, to walk out.
Syria’s 18-month conflict is not formally on the General Assembly’s agenda but it is likely to be addressed by several speakers on the opening day. including French President Francois Hollande and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Francois Hollande, in his first appearance at the assembly, is also expected to call for backing for an international force to be sent to the West African state of Mali to help dislodge Islamist militants who have taken over the north of the country.
The UN Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on the Syria crisis and on Monday UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned that the situation was “extremely bad and getting worse”.
While he did not have a full plan, he said he had “a few ideas”. Lakhdar Brahimi has just visited Damascus as well as refugee camps in neighboring Jordan and Turkey.
Diplomats have played down expectations for Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission, with no sign of fundamental divisions on the council being bridged.
Iran has restricted access to Google’s search engine and to its email service, Gmail.
A firewall already prevents Iranians from accessing many Western sites.
The latest move coincides with protests throughout the Muslim world – including some in Tehran – against an anti-Islamic film posted on Google’s video-sharing site YouTube.
A government deputy minister announced the upcoming ban on Sunday on state television.
“Google and Gmail will be filtered nationwide, and will remain filtered until further notice,” said an adviser to Iran’s public prosecutor’s office Abdul Samad Khoramabadi.
Iran has restricted access to Google’s search engine and to its email service, Gmail
The announcement was also sent out as a text message on mobile phones.
The unsecured version of the search engine, which is much easier to eavesdrop on, remains accessible.
“Google search website is accessible, but is not functioning properly. Google services which need a secure SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] connection are out of reach in Iran,” said one user.
“Any attempt to get access to those services leads the user to a never-ending waiting phase, where nothing comes up.”
Users can only access Gmail accounts by using virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow web surfing behind heavily encrypted firewalls.
Many Iranians already use VPNs to bypass the government’s restrictions on other blocked Western websites, said Mahmood Tajali Mehr, an Iranian telecommunications consultant living in Germany.
“This is just a move by the Iranian government towards a so-called nationwide intranet, to control all the traffic from the outside, and authorities are saying they will implement it in about three years.
“But every school child knows how to bypass restrictions by using VPNs, it’s very common in Iran.”
It is not the first time Iranian authorities have cut access to Google services.
Both Google Search and Gmail were restricted in February, ahead of parliamentary elections in March.
Mahmood Tajali Mehr said that he did not think the services were going to stay restricted for long.
“This is just a propaganda tool to demonstrate that Iran is doing something against the US, but it is unlikely to last longer than a few days.
“The current trouble with the anti-Islamic film is helping the government with this propaganda.
“The state is saying that the people are asking to block these services because of the film, but there haven’t been such protests as in Pakistan and elsewhere, only small organized protests, so my personal feeling is that it has nothing to do with the film.
“Especially keeping in mind that YouTube has been blocked for some time already.”
Google’s YouTube site has been censored since mid-2009, following protests and allegations of vote fraud after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The websites of several Western media organizations are also blocked in the country, and a number of other web services, including Facebook and Twitter, are often censored.
In March, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered officials to set up a body tasked with defining policy and co-ordinating decisions regarding the internet, called the Supreme Council of Virtual Space.
Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi has told a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Iran that the Syrian uprising is a “revolution against an oppressive regime”.
Mohammed Mursi, who is making the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since 1979, said the movement had an “ethical duty” to support the uprising.
His comments sparked a walkout by the Syrian delegation.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Mr Mursi’s speech “incites continued bloodshed in Syria”.
Egypt has been holding the rotating NAM presidency and Mohammed Mursi was handing the duty over to Iran during his visit.
He used his speech to tell delegates of the 120-member body: “Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, as it is a political and strategic necessity.
“We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom.”
Egypt's President Mohammed Mursi has told Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Iran that the Syrian uprising is a revolution against an oppressive regime
He compared the anti-government movement in Syrian to the Palestinians, saying they were both “actively seeking freedom, dignity and human justice”, and said Egypt was “ready to work with all to stop the bloodshed”.
Tehran’s hope for the summit was to show the West the Islamic Republic had plenty of friends elsewhere, but Mohammed Mursi’s comments would certainly have upset the hosts.
However, he says not everyone in Iran would have noticed, as one Iranian state TV channel mistranslated Mohammed Mursi’s words into Persian, giving the impression that president was actually speaking in support of the Syrian government.
Syria’s delegation walked out of the conference room when Mohammed Mursi began speaking, Egyptian and Syrian media reported. Iranian media said they had simply left to conduct an interview.
Walid Muallem said Mohammed Mursi’s comments “violated the traditions of the summit and are considered interference in Syrian internal affairs”.
He accused Mohammed Mursi of “inciting continued bloodshed in Syria”.
Mohammed Mursi’s visit was the first by an Egyptian leader to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iran cut ties with President Anwar Sadat’s administration over its signing of a peace treaty with Israel.
After his speech, Mohammed Mursi met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the presidents had discussed bilateral ties and “emphasized the need to solve the Syria crisis via diplomacy and to prevent foreign intervention”.
Mohammed Mursi left Tehran shortly afterwards, Iranian media said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is attending the summit, said Syria was facing a long-term civil war, and warned that “those who provide arms to either side in Syria are contributing to the misery”.
“The situation cannot be resolved with the blood and the bodies of more than 18,000 people and counting. There should be no more bullets and bombs. I urge all parties in the strongest possible terms to stop the violence now,” he said.
Ban Ki-moon’s acceptance of Tehran’s invitation to the summit was described by the US State Department as “strange”, but the South Korean has not shied from drawing attention to the Iran’s human rights record, telling a press conference he had “serious concerns”.
Nuclear disarmament is also on the agenda of the talks and in his speech to delegates on Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei said that, contrary to the view held in the West, Iran was “never seeking nuclear weapons”.
He said such weapons were “a major and unforgivable sin”, but that Iran would “never give up the right to peaceful nuclear energy”.
The ayatollah also criticized the “illogical” structure of the United Nations Security Council, saying it enabled the US to impose its “bullying manner” on the world, Reuters reports.
“The UN Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship,” he said.
Ban Ki-moon responded to the ayatollah’s statement by calling on Iran to build confidence in its nuclear ambitions by co-operating fully with the Security Council over its nuclear programme.
He also rebuked Tehran for its hostility towards Israel, saying: “I strongly reject threats by any member states to destroy another or outrageous attempt to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust, claiming that another state, Israel, does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms.”
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