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UPDATE: Details of the deal are emerging including $4.2bn in FX
Despite earlier denials from Iran’s Deputy FinMin, EU, Iran, and US officials have confirmed:
- *IRAN NUCLEAR ACCORD WITH WORLD POWERS ENDS 10-YEAR DEADLOCK
- *IRAN WILL HALT 20% ENRICHMENT FOR 6 MONTHS, FARS REPORTS
- *IRAN AGREEMENT DOESN’T FORMALLY RECOGNIZE RIGHT TO ENRICH
- *IRAN AGREEMENT WILL STILL ALLOW IRAN TO ENRICH URANIUM
- *IRAN INTERIM AGREEMENT FREEZES ADDITIONAL SANCTIONS
- *IRAN DEAL LIFTS TRANSPORT AND INSURANCE SANCTIONS ON OIL
There are no details yet – but an interim agreement has been reached to ‘roll back’ some of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of some sanctions. Close U.S. ally Israel opposes the deal as too generous to an enemy it sees as a mortal threat. Israel is not a party to the talks. President Obama will address the nation at 1015ET to take a victory lap (perhaps this foreign victory will lift his domestic approval rating off record lows)…
The Iranian President seems pleased…
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) November 24, 2013
But not so much The Israelis:
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin) November 24, 2013
Some details on the deal…
#Iran will get access to $4.2 bn in foreign exchange as part of the agreement, a Western diplomat said on Sunday.
— AJELive (@AJELive) November 24, 2013
Close U.S. ally Israel opposes the deal as too generous to an enemy it sees as a mortal threat. Israel is not a party to the talks.
The proposed deal offered to Iran would reportedly allow limited uranium enrichment, although under tight restrictions and heavy international monitoring. But Western officials have balked at recognizing a legal “right” to uranium enrichment, hoping instead to craft language in the final agreement that acknowledges the right of all countries to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Zarif appeared to endorse that approach publicly last week.
The sides also continued to haggle over details of the limited sanctions relief to be offered to Iran in return for scaling back its nuclear program, diplomats said. The relief would reportedly include freeing up a small portion of Iran’s overseas currency accounts and easing other trade restrictions.
The most painful sanction, affecting Iran’s oil and banking sectors, would remain until the end of the deal’s first phase, depending on Iran’s willingness to accept permanent curbs on its nuclear program, Western officials said.
The President deep in negotiation:
WH posted photos of Pres Obama conferring with top aides today about nuclear weapons talks with Iran. http://t.co/BoMDNBYYJz
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 24, 2013
Via Al Jazeera,
Iran and six world powers have reached an agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, several delegations in the talks said on Sunday.
“We have reached an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull speaking from Geneva said “marathon talks have come to an end, the French foreign minister gave a thumbs up as he departed the Intercontinental hotel.
“Foreign ministers of the P5+1 negotiation with Iran will be going to Geneva’s UN headquarters where they will announce details of the deal,” he said. “There are no details yet, but a interim agreement has been struck to roll back some of Iran’s nuclear programme.”
“It is extrordinarily significant,” he added.
A diplomatic solution is unquestionably the preferred approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. But for years Iran has maintained an indisputable posture of deceit and defiance towards the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and nations around the world, including, centrally, the P5+1.
Given this history, and the concomitant lack of trust, the P5+1 will need to be ever vigilant in determining whether Iranian leaders are, in fact, sincere and will fulfill their part of the deal, or will rather play for time while trying to advance their nuclear program.
Serious questions for us to consider in evaluating the merits of this agreement with Iran include:
— How do America’s closest allies in the Middle East view the deal, since, after all, they are the nations most immediately threatened by the prospect of Iran’s belligerence, nuclear weapons capability and delivery systems?
— Does the agreement preserve, explicitly or implicitly, an Iranian “right” to enrich uranium? And, specifically, what are the implications for permitting Iran to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5% during the six-month interim deal?
— Are there precise, satisfactory monitoring arrangements for halting all construction, inside and outside, at the plutonium facility in Arak?
— Is Iran permitted to continue building centrifuges, for potential installation later — say, at the end of the six-month interim deal — to enhance still further its enrichment capability?
— Is Iran required to provide full access to all of its enrichment facilities, centrifuges and nuclear material holdings, including yellow cake?
— Does Iran have to declare and allow inspections of all work related to nuclear-weapons development, as the IAEA has identified, including triggers, computer simulations of nuclear explosions, ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads?
— Have the six world powers received any concrete commitment on Tehran’s involvement in the brutal war in Syria, support for Hezbollah, and efforts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles?
Ultimately, the true test of this agreement will be the ability of the world powers and UN agencies to verify Iranian compliance, including openness to, and full cooperation with, regular, intrusive inspections of all of its nuclear facilities.
Meanwhile, we believe that existing sanctions should remain in place and new sanctions, whose trigger date would not necessarily be immediate, should be pursued to underscore the seriousness of America’s determination — and the consequences of an Iranian failure to act in good faith.
Tangible deeds, not poetic words, will ultimately determine whether Iran has embarked on a new path of cooperation and compliance, or is pursuing the same aggressive and destabilizing policies, which pose such a threat to regional and global security, simply wrapped in new packaging.
And in other news…
BREAKING: Republican Party to change name to “Iran” in order to get Obama to negotiate with them
— Right Scoop (@trscoop) November 24, 2013
Imran Khan, Pakistani politician and cricket star, led the protest staged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province [AFP]
|Thousands of people protesting US drone strikes have blocked a road in northwest Pakistan that is used to transport NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan.
Imran Khan, a Pakistani politician and former cricket star, led the protest in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that his Tehreek-e-Insaf party governs, and called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the US to end deadly drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.
“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told the protesters, who dispersed after his speech.
The US Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on the protest that closed a route leading to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighbouring Afghanistan where the US leads the coalition of NATO troops battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The protest was likely to have more symbolic value than practical impact, because there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays.
Drone strikes have been a growing source of friction between Islamabad and Washington.
Khan and other officials regularly denounce the attacks as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, although the country’s government is known to have supported some of the strikes in the past.
The protest came only two days after a rare US drone strike outside of Pakistan’s remote tribal region killed five people, including at least three Afghan fighters, at an Islamic seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The attack outraged Pakistani officials, as did one on November 1 that killed the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to hold peace talks.
Khan pushed the Pakistani government to block NATO supplies after the strike on Mehsud, but it has shown little interest in doing so.
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, has been a vocal critic of drone strikes, but he has also said he values the country’s relationship with the US.
Sharif pushed US President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in a visit to Washington in October, but the US government has shown no indication that it intends to stop using a tool that it sees as vital to battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Dozens died in Sudanese protests against fuel price rises in September [Al Jazeera]
Sudan’s central bank has devalued the Sudanese pound by almost a quarter against the US dollar, the second such move in little over a year as the African country struggles with hard currency shortages.
Sudan’s economy has been in turmoil since South Sudan’s secession in 2011 took away of three-quarters of oil production.
Oil was the driver of the economy and source for dollars needed for food and other essential imports. Sudan produces too little to feed its around 32 million people.
Bidding prices for the Sudanese pound were stated as 5.6871 for one dollar, compared with 4.4 previously, central bank data on Reuters terminals showed on Monday. The official rate was nearer 3 Sudanese pounds to the dollar in 2011.
The central bank has been trying to bridge a ballooning gap with the black market rate where one dollar costs 7.8 Sudanese pounds as import firms struggle to get their hand on hard currency.
The black market rate has become the benchmark for banks and firms.
A central bank official, asking not to be named, said the rate had been already changed in September when the government cut fuel subsides. He did not elaborate.
The subsidy cuts led to mass protests, with dozens of people killed in the capital, Khartoum.
The secretive central bank tends not to announce devaluations, which are embarrassing for the government, which denies there is a shortage of hard currency.
Sudan has sought to offset the loss of southern oil reserves by boosting gold sales, which make up almost 70 percent of exports. But a recent sharp fall of the global gold prices means 2013 revenues will be well below last year’s $2.2 billion.
And so another conspiracy theory, that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned with Polonium, becomes non-conspiracy fact. From Reuters:
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband’s corpse.
“We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,” she told Reuters in Paris.
A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning. “This has confirmed all our doubts,” said Suha Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. “It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.”
She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies. Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.
Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life.
The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle.
An investigation by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.
That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.
The head of the Russian forensics institute, Vladimir Uiba, was quoted by the Interfax news agency last month as saying no trace of polonium had been found on the body specimens examined in Moscow, but his Federal Medico-Biological Agency later denied he had made any official comment on its findings.
The French pathologists have not reported their conclusions publicly, nor have their findings been shared with Suha Arafat’s legal team. A spokeswoman for the French prosecutor’s office said the investigating magistrats had received no expert reports so far.
One of her lawyers said the Swiss institute’s report, commissioned by Al Jazeera, would be translated from English into French and handed over to the three magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre who are investigating the case.
The Al Jazeera investigation was spearheaded by investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former U.S. Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and was suspicious of the manner of his death.
Hani al-Hassan, a former aide, said in 2003 that he had witnessed 13 assassination attempts on Arafat’s life, dating back to his years on the run as PLO leader. Arafat claimed to have survived 40 attempts on his life.
Now… whoever may have wanted the leader of the Palestinians dead?
He escaped another attempt on his life when Israeli warplanes came close to killing him during the invasion of Beirut when they hit one of the buildings they suspected he was using as his headquarters but he was not there. In December 2001, Arafat was rushed to safety just before Israeli helicopters bombarded his compound in Ramallah with rockets.
Puerto Rico heads towards debt default – Americas – Al Jazeera English. (source/link)Puerto Rico’s economy is shrinking at an alarming rate. Officially the unemployment rate in the US territory is 13 percent, but some economists say it is three times higher.
The island is $70bn in debt, it has lost nearly 200,000 skilled workers in the past two years and could be heading towards default.
The US government says it is monitoring the situation. But without financial aid or a bail-out, the three and half million people that still live in Puerto Rico could be facing an even bleaker future.
Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher reports from San Juan.
The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the territory’s electricity needs [Al Jazeera]
|A shortage of fuel has halted the production of electricity across the Gaza Strip, the Energy Authority in the Palestinian enclave said.
“The power plant has been shut down due to fuel shortage. The stock of fuel is zero. All parts of life in Gaza will be affected.” Fathi el-Sheikh Khalil, the authority’s deputy chairman, told Al Jazeera.
The electricity supply had been cut off across most of the territory on Friday morning.
Khalil blamed the power outage on Israel’s destruction of tunnels used for bringing fuel to Gaza and accused the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of charging Hamas too much for its fuel.
“Less than 50 percent of the needs of the Gaza Strip are currently covered by electricity from Israel [and] we can no longer get Egyptian fuel due to the destruction of tunnels from Egypt,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority pledged last week to deliver fuel to Gaza without a usual tax, allowing the Hamas government to buy 400,000 litres of fuel a day.
But the Authority cancelled its offer of a tax exemption, Khalil said in a statement, making it difficult for the Gaza authorities to afford the fuel.
The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the territory’s electricity needs.
In addition to the power plant, which produces up to 65 megawatts, Israel feeds the strip with 120 megawatts and Egypt pours in 27 megawatts.
Gaza residents have endured around eight hours of daily blackouts in recent years because of fuel shortages. The Gaza Energy Authority said the power plant’s closure means Palestinians could suffer 12 hours of daily blackouts.
“The plant will remain shut until fuel supplies resume from Egypt through the tunnels or the Rafah border crossing, or from Israel if the Palestinian Authority agrees not to impose the heavy taxes,” said Khalil.
In September, the Gaza Energy Authority warned of an impending shortage of fuel and called on Egypt to resume deliveries to the territory.
Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since the Egyptian army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July.
An Israeli raid to destroy a Gaza tunnel ignited clashes late Thursday in which tank fire killed four Hamas commanders and five Israeli soldiers were wounded, officials from both sides said.
- Israeli Gaza strike kills three Palestinian militants – Reuters UK (uk.reuters.com)
- 4 Hamas members killed in Israeli Gaza raid (worldbulletin.net)
- Power outage across Gaza as fuel runs out: Hamas (dailystar.com.lb)
The United States’ espionage chiefs have said spying on allies is necessary and the collection of millions of European phone records was conducted with the help of European governments.
The US national intelligence director, James Clapper, told members of the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee on Tuesday that spying on allies was “a hardy perennial” and a “basic tenet” of intelligence work.
“It’s invaluable to us to know where countries are coming from, what their policies are, how that would impact us across a whole range of issues,” Clapper said. Asked if US allies had conducted the same type of espionage against US leaders, Clapper responded: “Absolutely.”
The director of the National Security Agency, Keith Alexander, meanwhile told the panel that the “metadata” from phone records of millions European citizens were swept up by NATO and not his organisation.
Over the last week, media reports have said that the NSA collected tens of millions of European phone records, and spied on political leaders, such as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
Asked about collection of foreign phone records, Alexander said that the US was given data by NATO partners as part of a programme to protect military interests.
Both spy chiefs said that the reports from France, Spain and Germany were inaccurate.
Their evidence was given after President Barack Obama called for a review of NSA spying, and several senior politicians lined up to condemn the NSA’s reach.
In rare agreement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, both said Tuesday that it was time for a thorough review of NSA programmes.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who leads the upper house’s intelligence committee, called for a “total review of all intelligence programmes” following the Merkel allegations. She said that her panel has not been fully advised of NSA activities in programmes in operation for almost a decade.
Several longtime allies have joined Germany in expressing their displeasure about spying on their leaders.
Spain’s prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry to determine whether a crime was committed by NSA surveillance of its citizens.
The French president, Francois Hollande, said the US should not be eavesdropping on its allies.
|Bangladeshi journalists have said the government is threatening the freedom of the press in the country.The ruling Awami League has shut down TV stations and detained a prominent newspaper editor in the past few months in an apparent bid to restrict the media.
Opponents say it is part of a political strategy ahead of next year’s elections, but the government says the measures are necessary after months of violent protests.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull reports from Bangladesh.
- Egypt extends detention of Jazeera journalist: lawyer (dailystar.com.lb)