Iran refuses Trump’s offer of talks unless US shows ‘respect’


In an exclusive interview with CNN, Zarif warned the US was “playing a very, very dangerous game” by boosting its military presence in the region.

Zarif criticized the US for sending the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf. “Having all these military assets in a small area is in of itself prone to accidents,” Zarif said. “Extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game.”

He accused Washington of walking out first on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the 2015 deal designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities in return for the lifting of sanctions. “We acted in good faith,” Zarif said of the deal, which was signed by the US, Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. “We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises.”

Earlier this month, Trump said Iran should be “calling me up.” But on Sunday the President hardened his rhetoric. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump said in a tweet. “Never threaten the United States again!”

Iran would not bow to the threats, Zarif said. “Iran never negotiates with coercion. You cannot threaten any Iranian and expect them to engage. The way to do it is through respect, not through threats.”

Zarif said there “will be painful consequences if there is an escalation.” But also added that Iran was “not interested in escalation.” Instead, he called for an immediate end to the “economic warfare” waged by the US on Iran, saying that sanctions were “depriving citizens of their means of livelihood.”

“All we want to do is sell our oil,” Zarif said, adding that the US was “just a bully preventing people from buying our oil.”

He said US sanctions, which have hit the Iranian economy hard, “amounts to terrorism” on the country’s citizens.

US ‘left the negotiating table’

Iran announced it would be partially withdrawing from the deal on the one-year anniversary of the US’s departure from the accord. It gave the remaining signatories of the deal until July 7 to ease restrictions on Iran’s badly hit banking and oil sectors, or face unspecified retaliation.

European signatories are in a delicate position — either side with the Trump administration and walk away from the deal, or preserve the pact by caving in to Iranian calls to ease restrictions, despite the threat of US sanctions.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — whose government has repeatedly pledged its support for the deal — warned Iran of “consequences” if it does not comply with the agreement.

But Zarif said Iran’s announcement was not an ultimatum to the remaining signatories, insisting that it was acting within the rules of the agreement. Instead, he pointed the finger at the US for leaving the negotiating table in the first place.

Zarif noted that the Trump administration had also walked away from the Paris climate accords, the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Uranium production quadrupled

Zarif’s comments came after it emerged that Iran has quadrupled its rate of production of low-enriched uranium, according to the Tasnim news agency which cited an official at the Natanz nuclear facility Monday.

By ramping up production, Iran could soon exceed the 300-kilogram threshold agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal — though without knowing the details of the country’s current stockpile, it’s difficult to predict when the threshold will be breached.

Under the deal, Iran can only enrich uranium at 3.67% — suitable for a power plant and far below the 90% required for weapons grade.

The move puts further strain on what remains of the nuclear deal. Iran earlier this month announced it was partially withdrawing from the accord, following the US decision to walk away.



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Austrian political crisis prompts no-confidence vote


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EPA

Image caption

Chancellor Kurz has attempted to dismiss his interior minister over the scandal – but faces obstacles himself

Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz faces a no-confidence vote on Monday amid political chaos over a secret video.

The video shows the head of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) appearing to offer government contracts to a woman in exchange for electoral support.

The scandal has prompted the collapse of Mr Kurz’s coalition.

When Mr Kurz announced he was firing the FPÖ interior minister over the scandal, all the far-right ministers said they would resign in protest.

The Austrian parliament has tabled a special session for 27 May – and the motion of no confidence has been tabled by a small environmental opposition party, Jetzt (Now).

Two FPÖ politicians were seen in the incriminating video: party leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who resigned on Saturday, and FPÖ parliament group leader Johann Gudenus.

Why is chancellor facing a vote?

The fallout has spread beyond the FPÖ to Chancellor Kurz, who is the leader of the centre-right People’s Party in the coalition government.

Mr Kurz effectively ended the coalition by calling for fresh elections in September and announcing the dismissal of Interior Minister Herbert Kickl – who was FPÖ secretary general at the time the video was made in 2017.

Mr Kurz said he wanted “total transparency and a completely and unbiased investigation”.

Other FPÖ ministers, however, said on Monday they would stand by Mr Kickl and resign in solidarity.

Mr Kurz has said a caretaker government would continue in power until September vote, but his ruling party has only 62 seats in the 183-seat parliament.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache stepped down on Saturday over his appearance in the video

The no-confidence motion, presented by Peter Pilz of the Jetzt party, called for a technocratic government to replace him until elections.

Mr Kurz had been part of two failed governments, he said. “Increasingly we get the impression that this failure is no accident…. With him apparently it’s about increasing his own power.”

“In the current situation, stability can only be achieved with an independent group of experts, not by a campaigning cabinet led by Kurz.”

It is unclear which parties will back the motion.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Kickl said his party would vote against the chancellor if a no-confidence vote was brought forward.

But a Freedom Party spokesman told the Austrian Press Association that Mr Kickl’s comments had been misinterpreted, and no decision had yet been taken.

What is in the video?

The scandal is widely being labelled “Ibiza-gate”, after the Spanish island where the video was recorded. It was made just weeks before the election which saw both the FPÖ and Chancellor Kurz’s People Party perform well.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionMr Strache said he resigned because he did not want to provide a pretext for the government’s collapse

In the footage, released last Friday by German media, Mr Strache can be seen relaxing and drinking for hours at a villa with Johann Gudenus, while they meet with a woman, considered an investor purported to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

During the conversation, Mr Strache appears to propose offering her public contracts if she buys a large stake in the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung – and makes it support the Freedom Party.

He is heard suggesting that a number of journalists would have to be “pushed” from the newspaper, and that he wants to “build a media landscape like [Viktor] Orban” – referring to Hungary’s nationalist leader.

Many questions remain unanswered about the video itself: it is not clear who recorded or how it was offered to German media outlets.

The timing of its release – a week before European Parliament elections across the EU – has also been called into question. The Vienna prosecutor is considering a possible criminal inquiry.

How did scandal unfold?

The video’s content was enough to force the resignation of Mr Strache on Saturday, within hours of it emerging and despite his protestations of innocence.

Chancellor Kurz said his party was “shocked”, labelling Mr Strache’s behaviour “a wrong approach to politics”. He also called for a criminal investigation.

And he revealed the long-standing friction between the coalition parties, saying: “Even if I didn’t express myself publicly at the time, there were many situations that I found difficult to swallow.”

“I must say quite honestly: Enough is enough,” he added.

Mr Kurz and President Alexander van der Bellen called for fresh elections over the scandal on Sunday.

A European Commission spokesman said members had “followed in disbelief as a leader of a political party was seen negotiating access to media and institutions, in exchange for funds from external benefactors who clearly do not have Europeans’ best interests at heart”.

A flurry of meetings and press conferences on Monday revealed little more, but it soon became clear that the FPÖ was standing by the interior minister.

Although the remaining FPÖ ministers announced their resignation, reports say only Mr Strache’s resignation is confirmed.

What happens next?

Austrians, in common with all other EU countries, are voting this week. Many who are voting by post have already cast their ballots, Austrian broadcaster ORF reports – and they cannot change their mind at this stage.

Meetings of senior officials continue, and it is possible the president may announce replacements for the FPÖ ministers, as the chancellor attempts to hold his government together.



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Iran refuses Trump’s offer of talks unless US shows ‘respect’


In an exclusive interview with CNN, Zarif warned the US was “playing a very, very dangerous game” by boosting its military presence in the region.

Zarif criticized the US for sending the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf. “Having all these military assets in a small area is in of itself prone to accidents,” Zarif said. “Extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game.”

He accused Washington of walking out first on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the 2015 deal designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities in return for the lifting of sanctions. “We acted in good faith,” Zarif said of the deal, which was signed by the US, Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. “We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises.”

Earlier this month, Trump said Iran should be “calling me up.” But on Sunday the President hardened his rhetoric. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump said in a tweet. “Never threaten the United States again!”

Iran would not bow to the threats, Zarif said. “Iran never negotiates with coercion. You cannot threaten any Iranian and expect them to engage. The way to do it is through respect, not through threats.”

Zarif said there “will be painful consequences if there is an escalation.” But also added that Iran was “not interested in escalation.” Instead, he called for an immediate end to the “economic warfare” waged by the US on Iran, saying that sanctions were “depriving citizens of their means of livelihood.”

‘Economic war’

Iran announced it would be partially withdrawing from the deal on the one-year anniversary of the US’s departure from the accord. It gave the remaining signatories of the deal until July 7 to ease restrictions on Iran’s badly hit banking and oil sectors, or face unspecified retaliation.

European signatories are in a delicate position — either side with the Trump administration and walk away from the deal, or preserve the pact by caving in to Iranian calls to ease restrictions, despite the threat of US sanctions.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — whose government has repeatedly pledged its support for the deal — warned Iran of “consequences” if it does not comply with the agreement.

Uranium production quadrupled

Zarif’s comments came after it emerged that Iran has quadrupled its rate of production of low-enriched uranium, according to the Tasnim news agency which cited an official at the Natanz nuclear facility Monday.

By ramping up production, Iran could soon exceed the 300-kilogram threshold agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal — though without knowing the details of the country’s current stockpile, it’s difficult to predict when the threshold will be breached.

Under the deal, Iran can only enrich uranium at 3.67% — suitable for a power plant and far below the 90% required for weapons grade.

The move puts further strain on what remains of the nuclear deal. Iran earlier this month announced it was partially withdrawing from the accord, following the US decision to walk away.



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British Steel ‘on the verge of collapse’, risking 25,000 jobs | News


British Steel, the beleaguered manufacturer which last week asked the United Kingdom government for a $95m bailout loan, is on the brink of collapse, a source told Reuters news agency.

The steelmaker’s owners, Greybull Capital, agreed to put up some of the money themselves, and the loan request was dropped to $38m. 

But if the crisis loan is not approved by Tuesday afternoon, administrators could be called in as early as Wednesday. The company employs 5,000 workers, mostly at a giant plant in the northern town of Scunthorpe, and a further 20,000 jobs are dependent upon its supply chain.

“Administration would be devastating for the thousands of workers and their families who rely on this key industry in a part of the country which has not had enough support and investment from government over decades,” said Gill Furness, Labour’s spokeswoman for steel.

“The UK steel industry is critical to our manufacturing base and is strategically important to UK industry.” 

Unions have urged the government to approve the loan.

“Yesterday, the government, alongside trade unions and employers, signed a UK Steel Charter at Westminster,” GMB National Officer Ross Murdoch told Reuters.

“They must now put their money where their mouth is. GMB calls on the government and Greybull to redouble efforts to save this proud steelworks and the highly skilled jobs.”

Any financial support form the government to a steel company would have to be on a commercial basis, Whitehall’s Business Department noted in an email to Al Jazeera.

Business minister Andrew Stephenson said he met with representatives of TATA Steel on Monday.

“The government will leave no stone unturned in its bid to support the UK steel industry,” he told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Global economic considerations continue to be challenging for the industry,” he added.

“We will do whatever is in our power… to support all aspects of the UK steel sector.”

Nik Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe, was wearing a “Save Our Steel” badge in the House of Commons on Tuesday. “Does the minister agree the stakes are too high, for the government, for us, to fail?”

Stephenson replied: “When we are in a position to update the House we will do so… at this stage I cannot comment on specifics.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the collapse of British Steel would be “devastating”.

“The government must act to secure the long-term future of the steelworks – protecting people’s livelihoods and the community,” he posted on Twitter.

History of the problem

British Steel has been in trouble for a while. Three weeks ago, the government agreed a $150m loan so that the company could make its payments to a European Union environmental scheme and avoid a $630m fine from European regulators.

Under the scheme, companies are awarded a certain number of “carbon credits” based on their target emissions outputs. If they perform well and emit less carbon, as British Steel did from 2013 to 2018, they can sell their remaining credits to those companies emitting more carbon into the atmosphere. British Steel sold off its remaining credits when Britain was expecting to leave the EU at the end of March. 

Then Brexit was delayed by six months and the manufacturer faced a huge shortfall in its credits, facing a huge fine. On Tuesday, pro-Brexit politicians in the House of Commons urged their colleagues to pass Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement when it returns to parliament in order to give some certainty to businesses.

The steelmaker told The Guardian last week that its EU orders had dried up. In the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, WTO tariffs on steel would be 20 percent – a significant disincentive for European buyers.

About 70 percent of British Steel’s products are exported to either the EU or Turkey and North Africa, according to the Financial Times.

But British Steel’s problems go back further still. Formerly part of Tata Steel’s European operations, a deal to sell off the division fell apart in 2015, with would-be buyers citing China’s dumping of steel onto global markets causing unpredictable price fluctuations as a major reason for abandoning the purchase.

In 2016, Greybull Capital, a private investment firm, bought Tata’s steel division for a token amount of £1 ($1.27 at the current rate) – and renamed it British Steel, saving thousands of jobs.

Now, Greybull itself is facing additional scrutiny. In the two years following the acquisition, Greybull charged British Steel more than $20m a year in interest on loans it had itself provided, the Financial Times reported. The newly-owned British Steel also made a $50m investment in a French steelmaker.

Contacted by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment directly on whether the loan was likely to be agreed, saying: “As the business department, we are in regular conversation with a wide range of companies.”





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Seeing red in unfair green deals


Despite a severe drought and the hottest summer on record, voters in Australia just reinforced a chilly lesson for global campaigners on climate change. The lesson: Cuts in carbon use must be balanced by economic justice. 

In a May 18 election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s center-right coalition won a surprise victory in large part because it pledged fewer restrictions on coal emissions than the Labor Party. Pollsters had missed the fact that voters in the coal-dependent “soot belt” did not want to bear an unfair burden in tackling global warming. Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal for power.

The unexpected election result comes after similar setbacks in other countries that suggest climate harmonization should go hand in hand with social and economic harmonization.

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In Washington state last November, for example, voters again shot down a “carbon fee” because it was seen as unfair to working families and small businesses. At the same time in France, the so-called yellow vest protests erupted over a proposed fuel tax that would have placed a heavy toll on rural drivers. President Emmanuel Macron has since retreated on many green policies, learning a hard lesson that the political elite cannot get too far ahead of voters who perceive inequities in solutions to climate change.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a legal and electoral rebellion in several provinces against a plan to impose a carbon tax. One big issue: whether government will stick to a promise to recycle all the revenue from a carbon tax back to energy consumers (“equalization payments”).

Few countries have yet to find an equitable allocation of the costs in curbing carbon pollution. In democracies, politicians can differ over details of the shared sacrifice. In Australia, which is the developed country that has been most vulnerable to climate change, compromise may still be possible between political parties. To gain a working majority in Parliament, Prime Minister Morrison will need to cut a deal with smaller parties that advocate strong climate action.

Extreme heat has put Australia’s feet to the fire. Eventually the Aussies may show the rest of the world how to distribute the obligations of creating a clean, green future.

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Treat fleeing Venezuelans as refugees, U.N. urges world


GENEVA (Reuters) – Venezuelans fleeing political and economic crisis at home deserve protection as refugees, the United Nations said on Tuesday, urging other states not to deport them.

A Venezuelan migrant woman enters a camp run by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Maicao, Colombia May 7, 2019. Picture taken May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Some 3.7 million people have left Venezuela, including 3 million since 2015 as the economy has imploded causing widespread shortages and hunger, and anti-government street protests have brought waves of violence and deaths.

Venezuelans continue to leave at the rate of 3,000 to 5,000 a day, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said, giving updated guidance on how to handle the exodus.

“UNHCR … now considers that the majority of those fleeing the country are in need of international refugee protection,” agency spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a news briefing.

“It is incredibly important given the situation in Venezuela that there aren’t deportations, expulsions or forced returns.”

UNHCR noted that there had been some deportations from Caribbean islands, including by Trinidad and Tobago last year.

Only 460,000 Venezuelans had sought formal asylum as of the end of 2018, mainly in Peru, the United States, Brazil and Spain, while others have legal stay arrangements in countries including Colombia, Chile and Ecuador, it said.

The U.N. children’s agency said that deteriorating conditions inside Venezuela had left vulnerable children with limited access to health, education, protection and nutrition services.

The agency has provided nearly 190,000 children with access to nutrition programs but cannot do all it wants to in Venezuela, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said.

Dozens of nations around the world now recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, saying President Nicolas Maduro rigged a 2018 election and is behaving like a dictator. But Guaido has been unable to remove Maduro, who still has the backing of the top military brass.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by John Stonestreet and Andrew Cawthorne



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Chef Jamie Oliver’s UK restaurant chain goes into administration


Chef and businessman Jamie Oliver speaks onstage at the Edelman seminar during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 23, 2015 in Cannes, France.

Richard Bord | Getty Images

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain said it was entering administration on Tuesday, threatening jobs at the firm’s 25 sites in the United Kingdom.

Oliver, 43, who became a well-known figure in Britain and beyond for his popular TV shows, founded his Jamie’s Italian brand of high street restaurants in 2008.

His restaurant group also includes Barbecoa, a steakhouse, and Jamie Oliver’s Diner.

“I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the staff and our suppliers who have put their hearts and souls into this business for over a decade,” he said in a statement.

“I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected.”

More than 1,000 jobs will be put at risk by the administration, a form of protection from creditors. The Jamie Oliver Group said it had appointed Will Wright and Mark Orton of KPMG.

Oliver, who was discovered by the BBC while working as a chef in London’s River Cafe, gained widespread fame for his “Naked Chef” show, which was broadcast in dozens of countries.

He used his reputation to put pressure on politicians to combat growing child obesity problems by campaigning for healthier school meals.

Oliver’s restaurant chain is the latest victim of a brutal trading environment on Britain’s high streets.

In March, Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) said it planned to close more than a third of its Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner outlets, while Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Strada and Gourmet Burger Kitchen closed branches in 2018.



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Vincent Lambert: Doctors told to restart life support for paralysed patient | World News


French doctors have been ordered to resume giving food and water to a quadriplegic – just 12 hours after they switched off his life support against his parents’ will.

The fate of Vincent Lambert, who has been in a vegetative state since a motorcycle accident in 2008, has renewed a fierce debate over the right to die that has split his family and the country.

Mr Lambert’s doctors in the northeastern city of Reims said earlier this month they would start withdrawing care, and on Monday stopped feeding him food and water through a gastric tube and began administering sedatives.

Image:
His wife Rachel says care should be withdrawn

His mother Viviane, who branded doctors “monsters”, launched a last-ditch legal bid to keep him alive at the European Court of Human Rights and appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene.

The Strasbourg-based tribunal said there was no violation of Mr Lambert’s right to life in the medics’ decision, while Mr Macron said he could not intervene.

However, the Paris Appeal Court ruled doctors must respect a 3 May request made by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the French government that it prevent the “euthanasia” of Mr Lambert while his case is examined.

During the last 11 years, the 42-year-old has had almost no consciousness, but can breathe without a respirator and occasionally moves his eyes.

A woman holds a placard reading "I am Vincent Lambert" (a quadriplegic man who is currently on artificial life support in a hospital in France) as she takes part in a walk for life "Marche pour la vie", on January 25, 2015, in Paris.
Image:
Mr Lambert’s case has renewed a fierce debate over the right to die that has split the country

His wife, Rachel, and some of his siblings say care should be withdrawn, but his parents, backed by other relatives, say he should be kept alive.

Euthanasia is illegal in France, but in 2016 a law was introduced giving terminally ill patients the right to be put into continuous deep sedation (CDS) by doctors until death.

The law draws a distinction between euthanasia and CDS, making France the first country to legislate in such a way.



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