Cairo, July 8 (AP/UNB) — The power-sharing agreement reached between Sudan's military and pro-democracy protesters last week came after the United States and its Arab allies applied intense pressure on both sides amid fears a prolonged crisis could tip the country into civil war, activists and officials said.
The agreement, which raised hopes of a democratic transition following the military overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April, was announced days after the protesters held mass marches through Khartoum and other areas.
But those familiar with the negotiations say the main breakthrough happened at a secret meeting the day before the protests, when diplomats from the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pressed the two sides to accept proposals from the African Union and Ethiopia.
"It was a tense but crucial meeting. It melted the ice," a leading activist said on condition of anonymity to discuss the back-room negotiations. "The meeting was the cornerstone of Friday's deal."
The two sides agreed on a jointly run sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader will head the council for the first 21 months followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into security forces' deadly crackdown on the protests last month — though it's unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the internet after a weekslong blackout.
Much could still go wrong, and last month's violence erupted at a similarly hopeful moment. But for now the deal appears to be on track, with the two sides expected to formally sign it this week.
Two leading activists, a Sudanese military official and two Egyptian officials described intense U.S. efforts to force a deal after veteran diplomat Donald Booth was appointed special envoy in mid-June. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks.
State Department officials declined to comment on U.S. efforts to broker the deal, saying only that Washington welcomes the agreement and commends the AU and Ethiopia for their mediation efforts.
The Arab officials said the U.S. not only ramped up pressure on the military, but also on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which supported the military's overthrow of al-Bashir and sided with the generals when the protesters remained in the streets.
Two Egyptian officials with direct knowledge of Booth's meetings in Cairo last month said the U.S. urged President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to back the AU and Ethiopian proposal and "pressure" Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling military council, to respond positively.
"We received a direct message from the White House: Facilitate a deal between the military and the protesters," one of the officials said.
They said the same message was conveyed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, close U.S. allies that had pledged billions of dollars in aid to the military after al-Bashir's overthrow.
The two Arab nations were seen as having major influence over Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who has sent Sudanese forces to aid their war in Yemen. Dagalo, known by the nickname "Hemedti," is seen by many as the most powerful figure on the military council, and his paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led last month's violent dispersal of the protesters' main sit-in.
The Sudanese military official says the generals received the same message.
"The Americans demanded a deal as soon as possible. Their message was clear: power-sharing in return for guarantees that nobody from the council will be tried," he said, referring to the June 3 crackdown. Protesters say security forces killed at least 128 people, while authorities put the death toll at 61, including some security personnel.
The crackdown left protesters in a precarious position, and raised fears that Sudan could share the fate of Syria, Yemen and Libya, which spiraled into civil war after their own popular uprisings.
The U.S. and its allies also put pressure on the protesters, who are represented by a coalition known as the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change. The activists say the U.S. and Arab countries reached out to individual factions, which then threatened to negotiate separately with the military. Protest leaders gave in when it appeared the coalition was at risk of fracturing.
The efforts culminated in a secret meeting on July 29 at the home of a Sudanese businessman that was attended by protest leaders as well as Burhan and Dagalo.
Officials from the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also attended, in a show of unity that pushed the two sides together. By the end of the over three-hour-long meeting, the two sides had agreed to thrash out an agreement within days.
Protest leaders went ahead with the rallies the following day, saying they needed time to prepare people for the agreement, and tens of thousands took to the streets in another show of popular support for a transition to civilian rule. Five days later, on July 5, the two sides announced that they had reached a power-sharing deal.
London, July 8 (AP/UNB) — Britain's ambassador to the United States described the Trump administration as "diplomatically clumsy and inept" and said he doubted it would become "substantially more normal," according to a leaked diplomatic cable published Sunday.
The memo was one of several leaked documents published by the Mail on Sunday in which Ambassador Kim Darroch made highly negative statements about the government of Britain's closest ally.
"We don't really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept," Darroch wrote in one memo.
Asked about the leaked cables Sunday, President Donald Trump told reporters that Darroch "has not served the U.K. well."
The United States and the U.K. enjoy what each describe as a "special relationship" that has held strong since World War II. But the ambassador communicated deep unease with Trump's foreign policies, which have broken with Britain's on key issues such as climate change and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Britain's Foreign Office did not challenge the authenticity of the leaked documents, which covered the period of 2017 to the present. It called the leak "mischievous behavior" and said the public expects diplomats to provide honest assessments of the politics in the countries where they are posted.
The Foreign Office said the leaks would not harm the productive relationship between the British government and the Trump White House. A formal investigation of the leak may be set in motion in the coming days.
The British Embassy in Washington informed the White House on Friday that the memos would be published over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter, and the two sides were in touch throughout the weekend. The person familiar with the matter was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity.
The State Department declined to comment on the ambassador's comments.
It is customary for senior British diplomats posted overseas to file straightforward memos to senior ministers and security services analysts back home so that political trends and possible threats to British interests can be gauged, but it is unusual for a large number of them to be made public.
Justice Secretary David Gauke called the leak "disgraceful" but said Britain "should expect our ambassadors to tell the truth, as they see it."
The memos also characterized Trump's policy on Iran as "incoherent, chaotic." Trump has frustrated European allies by withdrawing the United States from a complex deal designed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons and has seemed in recent weeks to be on the verge of armed conflict with Iran.
The ambassador said he did not believe Trump's public explanation for calling off a planned military strike against Iran last month because of concern about possible civilian casualties. He said it is more likely the strike was cancelled at the last minute because Trump felt it would be a liability in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Darroch said there are doubts about whether the White House "will ever look competent" and that the only way to communicate with the president is by being simple and blunt.
He said that while Trump had been "dazzled" by British pageantry on a state visit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in June, the successful visit would not lead to a fundamental shift in Trump's priorities.
"This is still the land of America First," he wrote.
Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the contents of the leaked cables were not surprising or troublesome but that he was concerned such a large cache of embassy documents had been made available to the newspaper.
"I'm not remotely concerned by what the ambassador said," Rifkind said. "He was doing his job properly and for the most part, I agreed with his comments."
Since the memos and telegrams dated back only to 2017, "not that many people will have had access to all the documents and that might help them trace who was responsible," he said.
Darroch's views may lead to some awkwardness, especially since Trump said shortly after his election in 2016 that Brexiteer Nigel Farage would make an excellent British ambassador to the United States.
Trump has not hesitated to inject himself into Britain's political fray, repeatedly criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit negotiating strategy and praising both Farage and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a strong contender to become the next prime minister.
Greece, July 8 (AP/UNB) — Golden Dawn, the far-right, anti-immigrant party that had shocked Greek politics by evolving from a marginal, violent neo-Nazi group into Greece's third-largest party during the country's economic crisis, was knocked out of Parliament in Sunday's national election.
With nearly 95 percent of precincts reporting, Golden Dawn had 2.95% of the votes, just under the 3 percent threshold needed to be represented in Parliament.
The government's official pollster declared that the party had no chance to enter Parliament, and party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos admitted as much when he declared in a fiery concession speech that "Golden Dawn is not finished."
Golden Dawn had 18 lawmakers in the outgoing 300-member Parliament, having won 6.99% of the votes in the last national election, in September 2015.
"We are sending a message to our enemies and so-called friends: Golden Dawn is not finished; get over it. The fight for nationalism continues. We return where we became strong: on the streets and squares, in a tough struggle against Bolshevism and the coming savage capitalism," Mihaloliakos told a crowd of supporters.
He attacked both the outgoing prime minister, leftist Alexis Tsipras, and his incoming successor, conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mihaloliakos ended his speech with his customary "Hail victory!" — a direct reference to the Nazis' "Sieg heil" salutation.
Founded in 1985, Golden Dawn was known for years as a collection of violent youths obsessed with military bearing and ready to attack political opponents and then increasingly migrants, as Greece became a destination for the latter.
Golden Dawn's appeal long remained insignificant, polling just 0.29% in the October 2009 election. But as Greece's economic crisis unfolded, the party achieved a breakthrough in 2010 municipal elections, getting its first elected officials and scoring best in neighborhoods with a heavy migrant presence.
It won its first seats in Parliament in 2012, and in four successive national elections held from 2012 to 2015 it got around 7% of the votes. Its high point came in the 2014 European elections, when it polled 9.39% to become Greece's third-largest party — a position it retained national elections held in January and September 2015.
Golden Dawn's weakening become apparent in May's European election, when it got only 4.87% and slipped into fifth place among Greece's parties. A new party on the far right, Greek Solution, less extreme and apparently less menacing, may have siphoned away rightist support. It is projected to have 10 seats in the new Parliament.
Golden Dawn also faces potential legal problems. A trial at which one member is accused of murdering an activist musician in September 2013 and several prominent party officials, including Mihaloliakos, face charges of operating a criminal organization is wrapping up and any convictions would hit the party hard.
Still, many doubt Golden Dawn will shrink back to its previous marginal status. In the European elections, the party's share of the vote among 17- to 24-year-olds was about 13%.
Some recent statements by prominent party leader Ilias Kasidiaris, until recently also a lawmaker and a candidate for mayor of Athens in May, indicate that Golden Dawn may seek to rebrand itself as a less extreme organization, aligned with European euroskeptic or alt-right forces. He has expressed admiration for Italy's anti-immigrant deputy premier, Mateo Salvini, and spoken favorably of the largely euroskeptic Eastern European "Visegrad countries" — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia.
Iran, July 8(AP/UNB) — Iran increased its uranium enrichment Sunday beyond the limit allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, inching its program closer toward weapons-grade levels while calling for a diplomatic solution to a crisis heightening tensions with the US
Iran's move, coupled with earlier abandoning the deal's limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile, intensifies pressure on Europe to find any effective way around US sanctions that block Tehran's oil sales abroad.
But the future of the accord that President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US from a year ago remains in question. While Iran's recent measures could be easily reversed, Europe has struggled to respond, even after getting a 60-day warning that the increase was coming.
Meanwhile, experts fear a miscalculation in the crisis could explode into open conflict, as Trump already has nearly bombed Iran over Tehran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone.
Trump warned Tehran on Sunday that "Iran better be careful." He didn't elaborate on what actions the U.S. might consider, but Trump told reporters: "Iran's doing a lot of bad things."
International reaction to Iran's decision came swiftly, with Britain warning Iran to "immediately stop and reverse all activities" violating the deal, Germany saying it is "extremely concerned," and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime critic of the accord, urging world powers to impose so-called "snapback sanctions" on Tehran.
The European Union said parties to the deal are discussing a possible emergency meeting after Iran's announcement, with EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic saying the bloc is "extremely concerned" about the move.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: "Iran's latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions. Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran's nuclear program. Iran's regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world."
At a news conference, Iranian officials said the new level of uranium enrichment would be reached later in the day, but did not provide the percentage they planned to hit. Under the nuclear deal, the cap for enrichment was set at 3.67%, a percentage closely monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.
"Within hours, the technical tasks will be done and enrichment above 3.67% will begin," Iran nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said. "We predict that the IAEA measurements early tomorrow morning will show that we have gone beyond 3.67%."
The IAEA said it was aware of Iran's comments and "inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify the announced development."
Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made remarks in a video Saturday about Iran's need for 5% enrichment. Bushehr, Iran's only nuclear power plant, is now running on imported fuel from Russia that's enriched to around 5%.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini outlining the steps it had taken, said Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister. Discussions with European powers are continuing and ministerial-level talks are planned later this month, he said.
"We will give another 60-day period, and then we will resume the reduction of our commitments," Araghchi said, without elaborating.
On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in a phone call that he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume the dialogue between Iran and Western partners. It wasn't clear if July 15 carried any importance. The US has called for a special IAEA meeting for Wednesday to discuss Iran.
Kamalvandi stressed that Iran will continue to use only slower, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to increase enrichment, as well as keep the number of centrifuges in use under the 5,060-limit set by the nuclear deal. Iran has the technical ability to build and operate advanced centrifuges that work faster but is barred from doing so under the deal.
"For the enrichment we are using the same machines with some more pressure and some special technical work," he said. "So we don't have an increase in the number of centrifuges for this purpose."
But Kamalvandi stressed that Iran is able to continue enrichment "at any speed, any amount and any level."
Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The decision to ramp up uranium enrichment came less than a week after Iran acknowledged breaking the deal's 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Experts warn higher enrichment and a growing stockpile narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.
The steps taken so far by Iran show it is more interested in applying political pressure than moving toward a nuclear weapon, said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. He said Iran would need at least 1,050 kilograms (2,315 pounds) of low-enriched uranium to make the core of a single nuclear bomb, then would have to enrich it to 90%.
"Iran is not racing toward the bomb as some allege but these are calibrated moves," Kimball told The Associated Press. However, "if Iran and the United States remain on the current course, the agreement is indeed in jeopardy."
Netanyahu urged the international community to punish Iran for its decision.
"It is a very, very dangerous step," he said. "I'm asking you, not to provoke but out of joint knowledge of history and what happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward things that are very dangerous to us all. Take the steps that you promised. Enact the sanctions."
However, Kimball cautioned against that.
"Iran is clearly not going to enter negotiations for a new deal if these sanctions are in place," he said. "This a self-made, Trump administration crisis because it has been taking drastic measures to dismantle the (deal) without a viable Plan B."
Beijing, June 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to sit down with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in the Japanese city of Osaka, igniting a flicker of hope to bring the China-U.S. trade talks back on track.
The meeting arrives at a time when Washington's trade offensive against China is not only poisoning one of the world's most important bilateral relationships, but also risking throttling the already frail global economic recovery. Its significance is thus too great to miss.
When the two presidents met each other at last year's G20 summit in Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires, they reached an important consensus to pause the trade confrontation and resume talks. Since then, negotiating teams on both sides have held seven rounds of consultations in search for an early settlement.
However, China's utmost sincerity demonstrated over the months seems to have only prompted some trade hawks in Washington to press for their luck.
Following its failure to coerce Beijing into swallowing a deal with unequal terms, a disappointed and enraged Washington returned to its tactic of tariffs by raising additional levies on 200 billion U.S. dollars' worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, and threatening a new round of tariff hikes on another 300 billion dollars' worth of goods.
Some ultra-conservative U.S. decision-makers, who have for many years seen in China a "threat" to Washington's sole superpower status, have tried to extend the trade campaign into a broader operation to shut China out and contain its rise.
As a result, Washington is cracking down on Chinese high-tech companies including telecom equipment provider Huawei, while many Chinese students seeking to study in the United States are facing more restrictions like months-long visa delay.
Thanks to Washington's relentless efforts, the two countries, which should have celebrated the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year, are seeing their relations slipping down the path to a possible all-out confrontation.
Despite Washington's "in-your-face" style of maximum pressure strategy, China has been steadfastly consistent in its position. It has always been committed to settling trade frictions via dialogue and consultation and safeguarding its legitimate and sovereign rights at the same time.
Beijing, as it has on various occasions reaffirmed, does not want a trade war, but is not afraid of one, and will fight to the end if necessary.
Last week, Xi had a telephone conversation with Trump at the request of the U.S. leader, saying that he stands ready to meet Trump in Osaka to exchange views on fundamental issues concerning the development of China-U.S. relations.
Xi's words reflect an alarming fact that the two countries are facing a challenge to the fundamentals of their relationship. The upcoming Xi-Trump meeting provides a unique opportunity for the two sides to find new common ground in easing trade tensions and bring the troubled ties back onto the right track.
If the two sides can reach an agreement to pick up the talks, the United States needs to place itself on an equal footing with China, and accommodate China's legitimate concerns on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in order to seek win-win results in the future negotiations.
Just one day ahead of the Osaka G20 summit, some U.S. politician again threatened to slap punitive levies on imported Chinese goods. Such cheap tactics to bring China down to its knees with pressure will get nowhere.
For more than a year, Washington's spoils in its tariff campaign have so far only seen rising daily costs for ordinary American consumers, growing rejections from U.S. farmers, industry workers and business leaders, roller-coaster rides in U.S. stock markets, as well as China's increasingly stronger determination to defend its rights.
The trade fight between the world's two largest economies has already hit hard the global market and dented investors' confidence worldwide. The latest World Trade Outlook Indicator reading of 96.3 remains at the weakest level since 2010, signaling continued falling trade growth in the first half of 2019, according to the World Trade Organization.
Trade wars produce no winner. In his latest telephone talk with Xi, Trump said he believes the entire world hopes to see the United States and China reach an agreement. To get an agreement, Washington's hardliners need to know that Beijing will neither surrender to their pressure, nor permit Washington to deprive Chinese people of their rights to pursue a better life.
And for the agreement to be sustainable, Washington's China policy should be rational. A rising China is not seeking to grab global hegemony. It will continue to work with nations around the world, including the United States, to boost common development and build a community with a shared future for mankind.
The past 40 years of China-U.S. relationship have proved that when the two countries work together, they both win and the world gains as well. But when they fight each other, all are poised to lose.
China and the United States, as two major economies in the international community, bear special responsibility for the wider world.
Therefore, the two sides, just as what Xi said during his meeting with The Elders delegation this April in Beijing, need to manage their differences, expand cooperation and jointly promote bilateral relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability so as to provide more stable and expectable factors to the world.