Iran’s Rouhani: Talks possible if U.S. returns to 2015 nuclear deal

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – If the United States wants an agreement with Iran, it must first come back to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers that Washington abandoned two years ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.

“Washington’s maximum pressure policy on Iran has failed 100%…If Washington wants an agreement with us, then they should apologize for exiting the deal and return to it,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.

Long-tense relations between the two adversaries have almost come to blows since 2018 when U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the deal reached by his predecessor Barack Obama and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

In response to what Washington calls its “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran to negotiate a new deal, Tehran has breached key limits on nuclear activity imposed by the 2015 accord, under which the Islamic Republic accepted curbs on its uranium enrichment program in return for relief from sanctions.

Trump has pledged to strike a new deal – under which he would seek stricter limits on enrichment, an end to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and involvement in various Middle East conflicts – within weeks if he wins re-election in November.

“Trump has been talking a lot … The next president, whether it is Trump or someone else, must adopt a different approach towards Iran,” Rouhani said.

In response to U.S. sanctions, Tehran has breached key limits on nuclear activity imposed by the 2015 accord.

Last week the United States moved to reinstate global U.N. sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo, arguing Tehran was in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal even though Washington itself abandoned that agreement two years ago.

Council members France, Britain and Germany (E3), which along with Russia and China remain in the accord, have dismissed the move as void given Washington’s departure from the deal and said it was harming efforts to restrain Iran’s nuclear activity.

But France’s foreign minister, echoing the stance of Britain and Germany, told his Iranian counterpart that Paris was worried about the impact of the arms embargo expiring in October.

“The minister reiterated our concern about Iran’s destabilizing activities and the consequences of the expiration of the…embargo on conventional arms, and told him of the E3’s determination to seek solutions preserving security and regional stability,” ministry deputy spokesman Francois Delmas said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Iran’s arch-enemy in the Middle East, urged Britain to join the U.S. bid to reimpose U.N. sanctions during a visit by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to Jerusalem.

“Look at Iran’s aggression today, without a nuclear weapon. What a huge danger Iran would be to the entire world if it did get a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu told Raab, according to a statement released by the premier’s office.

Iran has repeatedly denied seeking nuclear weapons.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, John Irish in Paris and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Iran could have nuclear weapon within one to two years: French minister

Iran could have nuclear weapon within one to two years: French minister
PARIS (Reuters) – Iran could have nuclear weapons in one to two years if the country carries on violating the 2015 nuclear accord, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

“If they continue with unravelling the Vienna agreement, then yes, within a fairly short period of time, between one and two years, they could have access to a nuclear weapon, which is not an option”, Le Drian said on RTL radio.

EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to seek ways to guide the United States and Iran away from confrontation, knowing that a miscalculation on either side could leave the bloc facing a war and a serious nuclear proliferation crisis on its doorstep.

(Reporting by John Irish, Dominique Vidalon and Marine Pennetier; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

North Korea says may reconsider steps to build trust with U.S.: KCNA

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday its patience has limits and it could reverse steps to build trust with the United States, as it criticized a U.N. Security Council call for it to cease its weapons programs and denounced a U.S. missile test.

The five European members of the U.N. Security Council met on Tuesday to urge North Korea “to take concrete steps” towards giving up its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

That call came days after North Korea said it test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, in what was the most provocative action by North Korea since it resumed dialogue with the United States in 2018.

North Korea, as part of its efforts to sustain that dialogue, which has included three meetings between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump, has stopped testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman, in a statement reported by its state KCNA news agency, raised questions about that restraint.

“There is a limit to our patience and there is no law that anything we have refrained from so far will continue indefinitely,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman also denounced what he said was the U.N. Security Council’s unfair taking up of the issue of North Korea’s self-defense.

“The fact … is prompting us to reconsider the crucial pre-emptive steps we have taken to build trust with the U.S.”

The spokesman did not elaborate on what pre-emptive steps he was referring to, but North Korean state media and officials have referred to the halting of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, and the return of remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War, as good-faith gestures to the United States, which it says have not been reciprocated.

The North Korean spokesman also referred to a U.S. Air Force test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile this month.

The U.S. test was “clearly carried out in order to pressure us”, the North Korean spokesman said.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Robert Birsel)

Pompeo says North Korea talks have not resumed as quickly as hoped: CBS

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has not returned to the negotiation table with North Korea as quickly as it had hoped, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday, but he added that Washington knew there would be ‘bumps on the road’ in the denuclearization talks.

Speaking in an interview with CBS, Pompeo said Washington was concerned about North Korea’s firing of short-range missiles. “I wish they would not,” he said, referring to the tests.

The latest of the missile tests by North Korea was carried out on Friday as Pyongyang fired two more short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast.

The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators over the future of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Those denuclearization talks have been stalled despite a commitment to revive them that was made at a June 30 meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We haven’t gotten back to the table as quickly as we hoped but we’ve been pretty clear all along, we knew there would be bumps along the way,” Pompeo said.

He added that Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, was in the region on Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not elaborate on the details of his trip. The State Department said last week that Biegun would travel to Japan and Seoul this week.

(The story was refiled to fix a typographical error in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)

War with Iran is the mother of all wars: Iran president

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and with deputies and Senior directors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran, August 6, 2019. Official President website/Handout via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) – War with Iran is the mother of all wars, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday in a speech broadcast live on state TV, warning once again that shipping might not be safe in the Strait of Hormuz oil waterway.

Tensions have risen between Iran and the West since last year when the United States pulled out of an international agreement which curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

“Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said at the Foreign Ministry in a speech which also praised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the United States imposed sanctions on him on July 31.

If the United States wants to have negotiations with Iran then it must lift all sanctions, Rouhani said, noting that Iran must be allowed to export oil.

Fuelling fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions, the Guards seized British tanker Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz in July for alleged marine violations, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

“A strait for a strait. It can’t be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us,” Rouhani said.

Approximately one-fifth of the world’s oil traffic passes through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The Guards seized an Iraqi oil tanker in the Gulf on Wednesday which they said was smuggling fuel and detained seven crewmen, Iran’s state media reported.

(Story corrects date of Iraqi ship’s seizure)

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Alison Williams)

Putin to Trump: We’ll develop new nuclear missiles if you do

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia August 5, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that Moscow would start developing short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles if the United States started doing the same after the demise of a landmark arms control treaty.

The U.S. formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

Putin on Monday ordered the defense and foreign ministries and Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service to closely monitor any steps the U.S. takes to develop, produce or deploy missiles banned under the defunct treaty.

“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said in a statement.

U.S. officials have said the United States is months away from the first flight tests of an American intermediate-range missile that would serve as a counter to the Russians. Any deployment would be years away, they have said.

Putin issued his warning after holding a meeting with Russia’s Security Council to discuss the U.S. move, which Moscow had argued against for months, warning it would undermine a key pillar of international arms control.

Putin said Russia’s arsenal of air and sea-launched missiles combined with its work on developing hypersonic missiles meant it was well placed to offset any threat emanating from the United States for now.

But he said it was essential for Moscow and Washington, the world’s largest nuclear powers, to resume arms control talks to prevent what he described as an “unfettered” arms race breaking out.

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said.

Officials from President Donald Trump’s administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Russia has deployed “multiple battalions” of a cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the defunct pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets”.

Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range put it outside the treaty and rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile, the Novator 9M729, known as the SSC-8 by the NATO Western military alliance.

(Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Ed Osmond)

Iran intends to restart activities at Arak heavy water nuclear reactor: ISNA news agency

The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told lawmakers on Sunday that Iran will restart activities at the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, the ISNA news agency reported.

ISNA cited a member of parliament who attended the meeting. Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and re-introduced sanctions on Tehran.

The remaining signatories have tried to hold the nuclear deal together, an increasingly difficult task as tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared in recent weeks.

On July 3, President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would increase its uranium enrichment levels and start to revive its Arak heavy-water reactor after July 7 if the nations in the nuclear pact did not protect trade with Iran promised under the deal but blocked by the U.S. sanctions.

The reduction of commitments can be reversed, Iranian officials have said, if the remaining signatories to the deal uphold their promises.

Western powers have said Iran’s nuclear ambitions must be curbed due to their concerns that Tehran intends to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.

The meeting on Sunday of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal’s formal name, will be chaired by the EU foreign policy service’s Secretary General Helga Schmid.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

North Korea says nuclear talks at risk if U.S.-South Korea exercises go ahead

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stand at the demarcation line in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The United States’ pattern of “unilaterally reneging on its commitments” is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.

U.S. President Donald Trump revitalized efforts to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons last month when he arranged a spur-of-the-moment meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the border between the two Koreas.

Trump said they had agreed to resume so-called working-level talks, stalled since their second summit in February collapsed. The negotiations are expected in coming weeks.

But a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman cast doubt on that, saying the United States and South Korea were pressing ahead with exercises called Dong Maeng this summer, which he called a “rehearsal of war”.

“We will formulate our decision on the opening of the DPRK-U.S. working-level talks, while keeping watch over the U.S. move hereafter,” the spokesman said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The exercises are expected in August.

North Korea has for years denounced military exercises between the United States and South Korea, but in recent months has increased its criticism as talks with Washington and Seoul stalled.

“It is crystal clear that it is an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack,” the North Korean spokesman said in a separate statement, adding that Trump had reaffirmed at last month’s meeting with Kim that the exercises would be halted.

Trump, in his first meeting with Kim in Singapore in June last year, said he would stop exercises after the two leaders agreed to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to improve ties.

While the main annual South Korean-U.S. exercises have been stopped, they still hold smaller drills.

“Readiness remains the number one priority for USFK,” said Jacqueline Leeker, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). “As a matter of standard operating procedure, and in order to preserve space for diplomacy to work, we do not discuss any planned training or exercises publicly.”

She said U.S. and South Korean troops continued to train together but had adjusted the size, scope, number and timing of exercises in order to “harmonize” training programs with diplomatic efforts.

An official at South Korea’s ministry of defense said it did not have immediate comment, but Seoul officials have previously said the drills are defensive in nature.

Since the Singapore summit, North Korea has not tested any nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missiles, though it tested new short-range missiles in May.

The United States’ decision to forge ahead with drills less than a month after Trump and Kim last met is “clearly a breach” of the two leaders’ agreements made in Singapore last year, and is an “an undisguised pressure” on North Korea, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

“With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S. as well,” he said.

A North Korean nuclear envoy who steered the talks ahead of the failed February summit is alive, a South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday, contradicting a South Korean news report that he had been executed.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Additional reporting by Josh Smith.; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

Iran supreme leader says he has no intention to make or use nuclear weapons

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, Iran June 13, 2019. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – Iran has no intention of making or using nuclear weapons, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying on Thursday by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Khamenei’s comment, a reiteration of Iran’s stance, comes at a time of increased U.S.-Iranian tension, a year after Washington abandoned an agreement between Iran and world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international financial sanctions.

“Supreme Leader Khamenei made a comment that the country will not and should not make, hold or use nuclear weapons, and that it has no such intentions,” Abe told reporters in Tehran following a meeting with Khamenei.

“Today, I met Supreme Leader Khamenei and heard his belief in peace. I regard this highly as a major progress toward this region’s peace and stability,” said Abe, the first-ever Japanese prime minister to hold talks with Khamenei.

Abe’s comment was broadcast on Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

On Wednesday, Abe warned of unintended clashes in the crisis-hit Middle East after meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Abe was visiting Iran to help ease rising tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

Japan is in a unique position to act as a mediator as the U.S. ally has long maintained close ties with Iran.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Iran’s Khamenei: Tehran will not abandon its missile program

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on television after voting in a presidential election in Tehran, June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz//File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be “deceived” by U.S. President Donald Trump’ss offer of negotiations and would not give up its missile program.

Iran and the United States have been drawn into a starker confrontation in the past month, a year after Washington pulled out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.

Trump has condemned the nuclear deal, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, as flawed for not being permanent and for not covering Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in conflicts around the Middle East. He has called on Iran to come to negotiating table to reach a new deal.

Trump said last week that Iran “has a chance to be a great country, with the same leadership. We’re not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear. We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”

Reacting to those comments, Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state television: “The U.S. president recently said Iran can achieve development with its current leaders. That means they do not seek regime change … But this political trick will not deceive Iranian officials and the Iranian nation.”

“In the missile program, they know we have reached a point of deterrence and stability. They want to deprive us from it, but they will never succeed,” Khamenei said, speaking at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Khamenei said U.S. sanctions have created hardship for Iranians and called on the government to make improving economic conditions its top priority.

President Hassan Rouhani, who has taken a softer stance, suggested last week that Iran might be willing to hold talks if the United States showed it respect and lifted sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States was prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions about its nuclear program. Iran dismissed the offer as “word-play”.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Gareth Jones and Frances Kerry)