Beirut, Jul 15 (AP/UNB) — A local official in Syria's Raqqa says workers have so far unearthed 313 bodies from a mass grave discovered last month near the northern city.
Yasser al-Khamees who leads a team of first responders says among the bodies found are those belonging to civilians, including women and children, as well as people believed to have been shot dead by IS militants.
The mass grave was discovered in mid-June on the southern edges of Raqqa. The city was the de facto capital of the Islamic State group's so-called Islamic caliphate, which spanned territories in Syria and Iraq.
U.S.-backed Syrian forces retook the city from IS in 2014 after gruesome battles that killed thousands and left the city in ruins.
Several other mass graves have previously been discovered in and around Raqqa.
Brussels, Jul 15 (AP/UNB) — British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that even if the window to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal is quickly closing, he still holds out some hope that the agreement can be salvaged.
Hunt said ahead of a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday that Iran would still be "a good year away" from developing a nuclear weapon, allowing for more time to make sure the nuclear deal can be preserved.
Hunt says the deal "isn't dead yet and we are totally committed" to keeping the region denuclearized.
A senior German official insists Iran must fulfill the terms of the nuclear deal to realize hopes of better economic ties with the outside world.
Iran, which is suffering from U.S. sanctions re-imposed after Washington withdrew from the deal last year, recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set by the 2015 deal.
It says these moves can be reversed if given enough economic incentives. European powers still on board the deal are setting up a barter-type system known as INSTEX to trade with Tehran.
Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister, said as he arrived at a meeting in Brussels on Monday: "We want to uphold our part of the agreement."
He added that INSTEX "makes economic cooperation possible, but it is necessary for Iran to keep to the commitments it made. It must stay true to the agreement, otherwise this all makes no sense."
European Union nations are looking to deescalate tension in the Persian Gulf area and call on Iran to stick to the 2015 nuclear deal despite the pullout of the United States and the re-imposition of sanctions.
Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said on Monday that "it is still not too late, but Iran really has to stick to its obligations."
At their regular monthly meeting, the EU foreign minister will also look to drum up further support for its barter-type system to trade with Tehran and get around possible U.S. sanctions. Ten nations are already on board.
Iran has said it needs improved economic ties with Europe since the United States has re-imposed harsh sanctions on Tehran's oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.
Tehran, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) — Iran's president said Wednesday that Britain will face "repercussions" over the seizure of an Iranian supertanker last week that authorities in Gibraltar suspect was breaching European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Hassan Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as calling the seizure "mean and wrong" during a Cabinet meeting. "You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions," he warned the British government, calling for the "full security" of international shipping lanes.
The tanker's detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the U.S. and Iran grow over the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal, from which President Donald Trump withdrew last year. In recent weeks, Iran has begun to openly breach limits on uranium enrichment set by the deal in order to pressure European signatories to salvage it.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meanwhile denied the supertanker belonged to Iran, saying whoever owned the oil shipment and the vessel could pursue the case through legal avenues. Iran had earlier summoned the British ambassador over what it called the "illegal interception" of the ship.
The latest U.S.-Iranian tensions date back to last year, when Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord and restored heavy sanctions on Iran, including its oil industry, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent the currency plummeting.
In the nuclear deal with world powers negotiated by the Obama administration, Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. It has offered to return to the agreement, but Trump has long rejected the deal, saying it was too generous to Tehran and did not address its involvement in regional conflicts.
In May, the United States dispatched a carrier group, bombers and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf region in response to alleged Iranian threats. The U.S. has accused Iran of involvement in the bombing of oil tankers in the Gulf and says it shot down an American drone in international airspace. Iran denies any involvement in the attacks on the tankers and says the drone had veered into its airspace.
Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which is under Western sanctions linked to attacks on civilians during the country's civil war.
Tehran, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) — Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency is reporting that Kurdish militants have killed three members of the elite Revolutionary Guard in the country's northwest.
The Tuesday report said armed members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party also wounded a Guard member after they opened fire on a Guard vehicle in an ambush in a village near the Iran-Iraq border town of Piranshahr, some 700 kilometers (450 miles) west of the capital Tehran.
It said authorities are investigating the shooting.
The area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists as well as militants linked to the extremist Islamic State group. Earlier this month, two Guard members were killed in a shootout in which two gunmen were also killed.
Iran's eastern borders have also been the scene of occasional clashes between Baluch militants.
Dubai, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) — Bahrain has recorded temperatures that make the month of June the hottest ever experienced in the Arab Gulf country in more than a century.
Summers in the Arabian Peninsula are consistently hot and humid, with people bunkering indoors for the better part of at least five months. The Bahrain News Agency's report on Tuesday, however, shows temperatures are soaring even higher.
Bahrain's Meteorological Directorate says the average temperature in June was 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit), about 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the long-term normal for that month.
The report said June had the highest average temperatures for that month since 1902, with 20 days recording temperatures exceeding 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The hottest day clocked in at 45.3 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). Humidity levels were on average about 40%.