US will not lift sanctions to negotiate with Iran

Donald Trump tweeted his reaction to an article published by Der Spiegel. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

US will not lift sanctions to negotiate with Iran

  • Zarif said Iran is still open to negotiations with US if sanctions are lifted
  • Exchange comes after Iran says it has the capacity to enrich uranium at any percentage it likes

DUBAI: The United States will not lift sanctions on Iran in order to negotiate, US President Donald Trump tweeted late on Saturday, seemingly in response to a Der Spiegel interview with Iran’s foreign minister.
“Iranian Foreign Minister says Iran wants to negotiate with The United States, but wants sanctions removed. @FoxNews @OANN No Thanks!” Trump tweeted in English on Saturday and later in Farsi.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Sunday by tweeting an excerpt from the interview with Der Spiegel published on Friday, where he said Iran is still open to negotiations with America if sanctions are lifted.
“@realdonaldtrump is better advised to base his foreign policy comments & decisions on facts, rather than @FoxNews headlines or his Farsi translators,” Zarif said in the tweet with the interview excerpt.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have reached the highest levels in decades after the US killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting Iran to fire missiles days later at bases in Iraq where US troops are stationed.
Tensions between the two have been increasing steadily since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have driven down Iran’s oil exports and hammered its economy.
The deputy head of Iran's nuclear agency said in a report published on Saturday that Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium at any percentage if Iranian authorities decide to do so.
"At the moment, if (Iranian authorities) make the decision, the Atomic Energy Organization, as the executor, will be able to enrich uranium at any percentage," Ali Asghar Zarean said.
Iran said earlier this month it would scrap limitations on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, but pledged to continue cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Since Iran took the latest step in reducing commitments to the accord, the country's stock of uranium produced has passed 1,200 kilograms and it will quickly be added to the stock of enriched uranium, Zarean said.
The United States says it aims to force Tehran to agree a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs a ballistic missile program and ends regional proxy wars. Iran says it will not negotiate while sanctions remain in place.
Tehran has steadily been reducing its compliance with the deal, which prompted Britain, France and Germany to formally accuse it in mid-January of violating the terms and activating a dispute mechanism in the deal, which could eventually lead to the reimposition of U.N. sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that if Iran's nuclear file is sent to the U.N. Security Council, the country will withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), according to the official IRNA news agency.
Iran denies any intent to acquire nuclear weapons and says its breaches of the deal would be reversed if Washington lifts sanctions.

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

Updated 02 April 2020

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

  • Pets being dumped by owners over fears

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Forces Command confirmed on Wednesday that an officer from the second Land Border Regiment has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) along with a law enforcement officer at the Guard Brigade of the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The army officer is undergoing treatment, and “precautionary measures have been taken,” according to the army, including placing anyone with whom he has recently been in contact in quarantine.

On Wednesday, 16 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, with number of laboratory-confirmed cases in Lebanon now at 479.

Two deaths were announced in the intensive care unit for coronavirus patients — one in their fifties and the other in their sixties — both of whom were suffering from chronic diseases. The Health Ministry’s report stated that Matn in Mount Lebanon (99 cases) and Beirut (89) are the two areas with the highest number of cases.

A TV report falsely claiming that cats and dogs can transmit COVID-19 to humans is believed to be one of the main causes behind an increase in owners abandoning their pets in Lebanon.

According to the Animal Health Department at the Ministry of Agriculture — based on the number of vaccines that Lebanon imports for veterinary use — there are 110,000 dogs and around 55,000 cats kept as pets in the country. Images of dogs that have reportedly been abandoned or, in some cases, poisoned, have been circulating widely on social media. The network responsible for the incorrect report later apologized.

Dr. Bassel Bazzal, head of the Animal Health Service at the Ministry of Agriculture told Arab News, “We witnessed this phenomenon in the last week of February and the first week of March, and then it subsided after the veterinarians’ clarifications on television, based on reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no evidence that companion animals/pets transmit the virus to humans.”

The Lebanese Veterinary Syndicate, headed by Dr. Ihab Chaaban, had called on pet guardians “to comply with specified vaccination dates, and not to take any information except from relevant scientific authorities.”

Bazzal said that the television report was based on news from Hong Kong that a dog there had been infected with coronavirus by its owner. However, he stressed, that dog did not transmit the virus to others.

He noted that dogs can be infected with a particular strain of coronavirus (IBV), for which a vaccine already exists and that cannot be transmitted to humans.

Jounieh-based veterinarian Rami Mdawar told Arab News that his clinic has already received “three or four” poisoned dogs. “We used to only see poisoning cases sometimes, but after the spread of coronavirus and the false information about dogs transmitting the virus to humans, we are now witnessing abandonment cases of pets and poisoning in many areas.”

While Mdawar said he understood that people who abandoned their pets were probably acting out of “panic and fear for their families,” he also stressed that “it is not based on correct scientific information.” In fact, he said, he has been preventing clients from accompanying their animals into his clinic, because, “it is animals that face the threat of humans, and I do not want the virus to be transmitted to the animals at the clinic.

Mdawar noted that although parliament has approved the Animal Welfare Law which will punish those who kill or harm animals, that law has yet to be implemented.

The veterinarian stressed, however, that the majority of people in Lebanon are not cruel to animals. “It is not all negative,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are adopting dogs, and some have more than one dog in their homes. Other people are actually buying pets at this time because they help them psychologically and comfort them. And that’s not just seniors or people who live alone”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Veterinary Syndicate in France warned of “the danger of using detergents or hand sterilizers to clean pets” after images of dogs whose legs were burned after their guardians used sanitizers or bleaching products on their pets surfaced online.