Vienna, Jul 28 (AP/UNB) — Representatives from Europe, China and Russia, nations that are still committed to the Iran nuclear deal, plan to meet with Iran's representative in Vienna on Sunday to discuss how to salvage the unraveling accord.
The diplomats aim to examine issues linked to the implementation of the nuclear accord after Iran surpassed stockpile and enrichment limits set out in the deal.
Iran recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits in the 2015 nuclear deal, saying these moves can be reversed if the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union — come up with enough economic incentives to offset the U.S. sanctions that President Donald Trump reinstated after pulling his country from the nuclear accord.
Experts warn that higher enrichment and a growing stockpile narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material to make an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.
Last week, French authorities in a meeting with an Iranian envoy stressed the need for Tehran to quickly respect the 2015 nuclear accord it has breached and "make the needed gestures" to de-escalate mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
Iran has taken increasingly provocative actions against ships in the Gulf, including seizing a British tanker, and downing a U.S. drone.
The U.S. has expanded its military presence in the region and fears are growing of a wider conflict.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal last year unilaterally, saying he wanted to negotiate a better one.
Under the provisions of the accord, signatories provided Iran with economic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on the country's nuclear program, but the latest U.S. sanctions have highlighted the inability of the Europeans, as well as Russia and China, to keep up with their commitments.
Iran's recent moves — which it defends as permissible after the U.S. withdrawal — are seen as a way to force the others to openly confront the sanctions.
At the same time, Europe is under pressure from the U.S. to abandon the Iran nuclear accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA as the deal is formally known — entirely and it also is being squeezed by Iran to offset the ever-crippling effects of American economic sanctions.
That has left the Europeans' soft-power approach strained to its limits at a time of increasing tensions in the Middle East.
Johannesburg, July 26 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing visas to people from Congo while citing the Ebola outbreak there, even as the World Health Organization recommends against travel restrictions.
Some Muslims in Congo had planned to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia next month. A letter from the Saudi foreign ministry to Congo's embassy in Riyadh, obtained by The Associated Press and dated Wednesday, says the kingdom made the decision to protect pilgrims and others.
The letter refers to the WHO decision this month to declare the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo a global health emergency. More than 1,700 people have died in the year-long outbreak.
Saudi Arabia also suspended visas during West Africa's Ebola outbreak a few years ago.
The decision affects anyone coming from Congo, including non-citizens.
New Zealand, July 26(AP/UNB) — Aya Al-Umari says she feels like her brother will be accompanying her and will constantly be in her prayers when she travels to Mecca next month to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Al-Umari is one of 200 relatives and survivors from the Christchurch mosque shootings who are traveling to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman.
The Saudi ambassador to New Zealand on Friday said farewell to the pilgrims at the Al Noor mosque, one of two mosques where a gunman killed 51 people in March.
Al-Umari's 35-year-old brother Hussein was among those killed.
She says it's an honor that King Salman is sponsoring the trips, a fact reinforced in her visa documents stating she's traveling as a guest of the custodian of the two holy mosques.
Afghanistan, July 25 (AP/UNB) — Three bombings struck the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least 10 people including five women and one child, officials said.
The attacks occurred while the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, was visiting the capital to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to a statement from the president's office.
The morning's first attack in Kabul was carried out by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who blew himself up in front of a bus carrying Ministry of Mines employees, said Nasrat Rahim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
A suicide car bomb then struck in the capital's east, according to police officer Abdul Rahman, who said the bomber targeted international coalition forces.
The coalition told The Associated Press that its forces were not involved in the Kabul explosions.
The third blast was a smaller magnetic explosive device left near the scene of the bus attack, which caused no deaths, the Interior Ministry spokesman said.
At least 41 people were also wounded in the attacks in the capital, said Wahidullah Mayar, a spokesman for country's health ministry.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. The insurgents control around half the country and have continued to launch daily assaults, mainly targeting security forces, even while holding negotiations with the U.S. aimed at ending the 18-year war.
President Ghani's office issued a statement saying he and Dunford had met to discuss peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Separately, in the eastern Nangarhar province, a roadside bomb killed seven people and wounded four others who were traveling in a vehicle, said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Among the dead were six women and one child, Khogyani said, adding that they were on their way to attend a wedding party.
Beirut, Jul 22 (AP/UNB) — Multiple Airstrikes hit a busy market in a rebel-controlled town in northwestern Syria on Monday, killing at least 27 people and turning several buildings into piles of rubble, according to opposition activists and a war monitor. Shortly afterward, state media said rebels shelled a government-held village, killing seven.
The high death toll marked a sharp increase in the escalation between the two sides amid intense fighting. Government troops, backed by Russian air cover, try to push their way into the enclave near the Turkish border, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants and other jihadi groups.
Monday's airstrikes took place in the town of Maaret al-Numan and also wounded more than 30 people, according to the reports from the region, which has witnessed intensive airstrikes and bombardment almost every day for the past three months. The strikes came in several rounds and caused widespread destruction, burying several people under the rubble.
Hours after the airstrikes, paramedics were able to remove a little girl alive, rushing her to a nearby ambulance.
Syrian state news agency SANA said insurgents shelled the village of Jourin in the northern part of Hama province, killing seven civilians when a shell hit a moving car. State TV also reported that insurgents shelled the government-held town of Suqailabiyah, wounding four people, including a child, while a shell hit a university in the coastal city of Latakia, a government stronghold, without causing any casualties.
Idlib province and northern parts of the nearby Hama region, in the northwestern corner of Syria, are the last major rebel stronghold in the country outside the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrian government forces launched their offensive in Idlib province in late April. The fighting has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
But the troops have made little progress since the push started.
"It is one of the ugliest massacres carried out by Russian warplanes," said opposition activist Hadi Abdallah speaking on camera from the scene of the airstrike in Maaret al-Numan where destruction appeared widespread.
Syrian opposition activists said Russian warplanes carried out Monday's attack, but Russia's Defense Ministry dismissed the reports as a "hoax," adding that the Russian air force didn't "carry out any missions in that area in Syria." There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the fighting on the ground in Syria through a network of activists, said 27 people were killed, including two children, in the strike on Maaret al-Numan. It added that the number of casualties from Monday's airstrike was likely to rise due to the large number of wounded. The Thiqa news agency, an activist collective in northern Syria, also reported that the strike killed 27 people.
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said one of their colleagues was killed in a second airstrike that hit the market.
On Sunday, government bombing in Idlib killed at least 11 civilians according to the Observatory and first responders.
Despite the heavy bombardment, Assad's troops have been unable to make any significant advances against the rebels or jihadi groups in Idlib. Militant groups have hit back hard, killing an average of more than a dozen soldiers and allied militiamen per day in recent weeks.
The struggling campaign underscores the limits of Syria's and Russia's airpower and inability to achieve a definitive victory in the country's long-running civil war, now in its ninth year.
In neighboring Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would launch a new offensive into northern Syria if a so-called "safe zone" is not established and if threats against Turkey continue from the region.
Cavusoglu made the comments on Monday as a delegation led by U.S. Special Representative on Syria, James Jeffrey, was to hold talks in Ankara. The possible safe zone along the border with Turkey was expected to be on the agenda.
Turkey views Kurdish fighters who have fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State group as terrorists and wants the safe zone established to keep the fighters away from the border. It has recently been sending troop reinforcement to its border region.
Cavusoglu said Turkey would intervene "if there's no safe zone and if the terrorists are not cleared and continue to pose a threat."