Global economic outlook ‘somewhat less dire’ than expected: IMF

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The global economic outlook is not quite as dark as expected even just three months ago, a top International Monetary Fund official said on Thursday, citing better-than-anticipated economic data from China and other advanced economies.

However, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters the overall global outlook remained challenging as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on many economic sectors.

The situation remained “precarious” in many developing countries and emerging markets other than China, he said, noting that the IMF was also concerned about rising debt levels.

The IMF is due to release its latest World Economic Outlook on Oct. 13. In June, it slashed its 2020 global output forecasts further, forecasting the global economy would shrink by 4.9%, compared with a 3.0% contraction predicted in April.

Rice gave no fresh numbers, but said recent data from China and other advanced economies was better than expected.

“Recent incoming data suggests that the outlook may be somewhat less dire than at the time of the WEO update on June 24, with parts of the global economy beginning to turn the corner,” he told a regular briefing.

There were also signs that global trade was slowly beginning to recover after widespread lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of the virus, Rice said.

“But I would emphasize that we are not out of the woods, and the outlook remains very challenging, especially for many emerging markets and developing countries, other than China,” he said, noting that many of those countries faced continued weakness in domestic demand, lower export demand, shrinking remittances and declines in tourism.

“Taken together, we are very concerned that this crisis will reverse the gains in poverty reduction that have been made in recent years, and roll back progress that has been made toward the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, referring to ambitious goals set out by the United Nations five years ago to end poverty and inequality.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Russia’s Putin wants stronger WHO, proposes conference on coronavirus vaccine

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the World Health Organization should be strengthened to coordinate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and proposed a high-level conference on vaccine cooperation.

“We are proposing to hold an online high-level conference shortly for countries interested in cooperation in the development of anti-coronavirus vaccines,” Putin said.

“We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all states and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine which has proved reliable, safe, and effective, to other countries,” he said.

Russia was the first country to grant regulatory approval for a novel coronavirus vaccine, and did so before large-scale trials were complete, stirring concern among scientists and doctors about the safety and efficacy of the shot.

Several countries are now considering adopting emergency measures that would fast-track approval of a vaccine in a similar way, however.

Putin took a veiled swipe at the United States, saying that removing “illegitimate sanctions” would help the world recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“In general, freeing the world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be of great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment,” he said.

Putin also proposed that leading space powers sign a binding agreement that would ban “the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force against outer space objects.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Andrew Osborne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O’Brien)

At U.N., Trump demands action against China over virus, Xi urges cooperation

By Michelle Nichols and Steve Holland

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump used the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to attack China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the world body “must hold China accountable” for its actions related to the outbreak.

By contrast, China’s President Xi Jinping struck a conciliatory tone in his pre-recorded virtual address to the General Assembly, calling for enhanced cooperation over the pandemic and stressing that China had no intention of fighting “either a Cold War or a hot one” with any other country.

The leaders of the world’s two largest economies laid out their competing visions as relations have plunged to their worst level in decades against the backdrop of the pandemic, with coronavirus tensions aggravating trade and technology disputes.

Trump, facing a November re-election battle with the United States dealing with the world’s highest official number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus, focused his speech on attacking China.

Trump accused Beijing of allowing people to leave China in the early stages of the outbreak to infect the world while shutting down domestic travel.

“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world, China,” he said in remarks taped on Monday at the White House and delivered remotely to the General Assembly due to the pandemic.

“The Chinese government, and the World Health Organization – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” he said.

“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”

The president promised to distribute a vaccine and said: “We will defeat the virus, and we will end the pandemic.”

In introducing Xi’s remarks, China’s U.N. ambassador Zhang Jun said China “resolutely rejects the baseless accusations against China.”

“The world is at a crossroads. At this moment, the world needs more solidarity and cooperation, but not confrontation,” he said.

‘GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER’

In his address, in what appeared to be an implicit rebuke to Trump, Xi called for a global response to the coronavirus and giving a leading role to the World Health Organization, which the U.S. president has announced plans to leave.

“Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get through this together,” he said. “We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organization and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic. Any attempt of politicizing the issue, or stigmatization, must be rejected.”

The death toll from the spread of the coronavirus in the United States surpassed 200,000 on Monday, by far the highest official number of any country.

Trump also attacked China’s record on the environment, but leveled no direct criticism at Beijing over human rights.

The president, a frequent critic of the United Nations, said that if it was to be effective, it must focus on “the real problems of the world” like “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world was “moving in a very dangerous direction” with U.S.-China tensions.

“We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” he told the assembly. “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities.

“A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Steve Holland, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom; Writing by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Howard Goller)

Trump to tell U.N. it ‘must hold China accountable for their actions’ on virus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will tell the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday it “must hold China accountable for their actions” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chinese government, and the World Health Organization – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” Trump will say, according to excerpts released ahead of delivery.

“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” he will say.

Trump taped his speech on Monday at the White House for delivery remotely to the General Assembly, which convened virtually this week.

The president promised to distribute a vaccine and said: “We will defeat the virus, we will defeat the virus, and we will end the pandemic” and enter a new era of prosperity, cooperation and peace.

Trump, a frequent critic of the United Nations, also said in the excerpts that if the UN is to be effective, it must focus on “the real problems of the world” like “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

U.N.’s Guterres calls for $35 billion more for WHO COVID-19 program

ZURICH (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for $35 billion more, including $15 billion in the next three months, for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “ACT Accelerator” program to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.

Some $3 billion has been contributed so far, Guterres told an online event on Thursday, calling it “seed funding” that was less than 10% of what the WHO wants for the program, formally called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

Financial support has, so far, lagged goals, as nations or governments including the European Union, Britain, Japan and the United States reach bilateral deals for vaccines, prompting Guterres and WHO General Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to plead to nations to contribute.

“We now need $35 billion more to go from ‘start up’ to ‘scale up and impact’,” Guterres said in online remarks at a meeting of a council formed to help the ACT Accelerator gain traction. “There is real urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of $15 billion over the next three months, beginning immediately, we will lose the window of opportunity.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged backing, having in August already promised 400 million euros ($474 million) to the COVAX vaccine portion of the program.

“It is difficult to find a more compelling investment case. The European Commission will remain deeply and entirely committed to the success of the ACT Accelerator,” von der Leyen said. “The world needs it, we all need it.”

Tedros renewed calls for scaling up COVID-19 clinical trials. AstraZeneca this week suspended late-stage trials on its potential vaccine after an illness in a participant in Britain. Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said on Thursday if safety reviewers allow a restart, the company should still know by year’s end if its vaccine works.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)

Two killed as violence spills from Mexico protest against water flow to U.S.

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

LA BOQUILLA DAM, Mexico (Reuters) – Two people died in a gunfight with Mexico’s military police near a protest at a dam that diverts water to the United States, the National Guard said on Wednesday, as tensions rose between protesters and officials in the drought-hit region.

Mexicans in the northern border state of Chihuahua, angry at the water being funneled across the border, on Tuesday evening hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at security troops, eventually occupying the La Boquilla dam and closing the sluice gates.

The violence, which Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called “regrettable,” comes amid plans to divert additional water to the United States due to the so-called ‘water debt’ Mexico has accumulated as part of a 1944 bilateral treaty that regulates water sharing between the neighbors.

The National Guard said on Twitter that some of its agents from La Boquilla on Tuesday night detained three people found with tear gas and a firearm ammunition magazine, and took them for processing to the city of Delicias.

There, the National Guard unit was shot at and “repelled the aggression,” according to the statement. One person died at the scene and another from their injuries later in hospital, it said.

Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Peniche told reporters that investigators called to the scene found a car hit by at least three bullets. Inside the vehicle, a woman had been killed by gunfire while a man was injured. Local police told investigators that the National Guard had left the scene shortly before, Peniche said.

News channel Milenio named the two killed as Jessica Silva and Jaime Torres, a couple who worked in agriculture and who had protested at La Boquilla.

A Reuters witness said groups of residents in towns surrounding the La Boquilla dam clashed with National Guard troops earlier on Tuesday after they refused to turn off the dam floodgates.

The residents lobbed Molotov cocktails, rocks and sticks at the security forces, who were clad in riot gear and retaliated with tear gas, the witness said and images show. Eventually, the protesters stormed the dam premises and shut the floodgates themselves.

When asked about the situation at his regular news conference on Wednesday, Lopez Obrador said the National Guard had been “prudent” to withdraw to avoid inflaming tensions.

He did not mention the deaths, which the National Guard reported on Twitter after the briefing.

Lopez Obrador has sought to assuage concerns of Mexican farmers and voters about water rights, while protecting delicate relations with the United States.

He has also warned that Mexico could face sanctions if it did not divert water, after building up a deficit in recent years by receiving more water than it has given back.

(Additional reporting and writing by Drazen Jorgic and Daina Beth Solomon, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Locked out by COVID, refugees’ lives on hold

By Edward McAllister

DAKAR (Reuters) – When Michelle Alfaro left her office at the United Nations in Geneva on March 13, her job finding homes for the world’s most vulnerable refugees was under control.

Four days later, the new coronavirus had knocked it into chaos. Governments across the world announced border closures, lockdowns and flight cancellations. The United Nations was forced to suspend the program.

“Everything collapsed that week,” said Alfaro, who manages resettlements for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

Millions of people have been thrown into limbo by the new coronavirus. Those Alfaro works with had been promised escape from war, violence, conflict or persecution. After submitting to a review process that can take years, and winning a chance to make new lives in countries such as the United States and Canada, thousands suddenly learned – often by phone – their flights would no longer take off.

Ubah Mohamed was one of them. A 23-year-old Somalian, she ran away from her husband after he tried to force her to join the Islamist group al Shabaab, militants who would later kill her father. She was due to fly to the United Kingdom on March 24.

“I didn’t know where I was going,” she said of her five-year ordeal as a refugee. “I was just going. I had no control.”

In the first half of 2020, refugee resettlements fell 69% from 2019 levels to just over 10,000, U.N. data show. The program resumed in June, but at a much slower pace.

The pandemic has hit as attitudes to immigrants have been hardening, loosening another thread in increasingly frayed international efforts to maintain global solidarity.

Nationalism, fear of infection, economic worries and ageing voters’ resistance to change are undermining a long-established post-war consensus that people at risk of persecution, abuse or violence deserve to be sheltered.

The British government this month asked the armed forces to help deal with a rise in the number of boats carrying migrants from France. In Greece, the government has rebuffed thousands of migrants from Turkey this year and stiffened patrols to stop refugees arriving by boat. The European Union has pumped billions of dollars into African states in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants to its southern shores.

The United States rehouses the largest share of refugees in the program, which in recent years has accounted for the majority of U.S. refugee intake. Arrivals under the program have more than halved under President Donald Trump, who came to power in 2017 on an anti-immigration platform and is running for re-election promising more of the same. America accepted one-third of the refugees resettled by the United Nations last year, but is cutting its intake.

The United States stopped taking refugees from March 19 until July 29 because of travel restrictions, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. As a result, the country resettled fewer than 3,000 people under the U.N. program in the first half of 2020, compared with over 21,000 during the whole of last year, the data show.

Even before COVID-19, the United Nations says it struggled to raise funds and find new homes for the 1.4 million people it estimates need immediate help.

“It has been an especially difficult year for refugees,” said Alfaro, the resettlement officer. “Every single resettlement country we have has been affected – no one is left unscathed.”

NO CONTROL

Mohamed, the 23-year-old Somalian, is stranded 2,000 miles south of Geneva in a refugee camp on a sandy plain outside Niger’s capital Niamey. The mother of two, who shelters in a small tent-like structure in the U.N.’s Hamdallaye camp, was told by UNHCR officials just days before leaving that her flight was off.

“I was so excited to go,” she said in a phone interview with Reuters. “I live in a tent. If I can live in a home in a safe place, I will be satisfied.”

Her journey started in 2015, on a bus to the coastal city of Bosaso, after her father told her the safest thing she could do would be to get away from her husband and leave her children behind.

A man offered her a place on a boat across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen – a common route for Somalians seeking refuge from conflict over the decades. By accepting, she unwittingly entered a network of migrant smugglers that would rob, rape and sell her from Yemen to Sudan to Libya.

Just days into her journey, she said she called her father to let him know where she was. Her step-mother answered the phone and told her the militants had killed him for helping her escape.

In southern Libya, a smuggler raped her repeatedly. She miscarried his child in the spring of 2016. He discarded her and she continued north.

Later that year, at a halfway house for migrants in northern Libya, another smuggler beat her when she told him she did not have enough money for her travel.

Crossing the Sahara Desert from Sudan to Libya in an open-back pick-up truck in 2016, sipping water that tasted of petrol, her mind was flooded with thoughts of her children. She thinks they are with family.

“I don’t know where they are,” she said. “I am a mother, and I cannot be with them. All I can do is cry.”

She married a fellow Somalian refugee in northern Libya in 2017. The smugglers’ network funneled them towards Europe. They were separated just before she boarded an overcrowded dinghy which broke down and drifted on the Mediterranean for days.

There, the Libyan Coast Guard picked her up and handed her over to the U.N. refugee agency and she was reunited with her husband at a migrant detention centre a few days later. The U.N. flew them from Tripoli to Niamey and moved them into the camp in March 2019, where the resettlement assessment began.

“I wanted to forget everything I had been through,” she said.

She said she has not received any information about when she will leave for the United Kingdom. It has suspended resettlements indefinitely because of flight restrictions and limits to its own visa application services during the pandemic, a Home Office spokeswoman told Reuters. It wants to be sure that resuming arrivals does not pose a public health risk.

“We are not in a position to resume arrivals in the immediate short term,” she said.

The United Nations said it does not comment on specific cases.

CAJOLING COUNTRIES

Alfaro’s employer, UNHCR, has been resettling refugees since the 1950’s when it found new homes for 170,000 who escaped the Hungarian Revolution. Over the past 25 years, it says it has helped one million people out of the world’s trouble spots including Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Myanmar. Dozens of countries receive refugees under the program.

The UNHCR identifies those most in need through interviews and refers them to a receiving country, which conducts its own assessments. Another U.N. agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), makes the travel arrangements.

When COVID-19 hit, receiving countries evacuated embassy staff, so U.N. officials could no longer reach them to help organize departures or process new referrals. Several countries told the United Nations they were suspending all or part of their refugee intake.

Local officials, confined by lockdowns, have been unavailable to stamp exit visas. House-bound U.N. field staff can’t interview applicants. Officials from receiving countries have been unable to reach applicants for face-to-face interviews because of travel restrictions.

In March, Alfaro’s days disappeared on long conference calls and briefings as she tried to persuade governments to keep their borders open to emergency cases, and to accept online interviews for new referrals.

A few hundred critical cases were resettled during the suspension, Alfaro said; some countries have agreed to video interviews. But others, including the United States, still require them to be conducted in person. The United States has taken in refugees at a far slower pace than pre-COVID levels, the State Department spokesperson said: There are still “few or no flights available” from many of the countries who send them.

Staff at the IOM have been scouring airline booking systems for ways to get emergency cases moving, even during the suspension. Flights would appear and then be cancelled.

In all, the agency cancelled 11,000 plane tickets because of the pandemic, said Rana Jaber, its head of resettlements, who worked with refugees in Iraq from 2015 to 2017.

“I felt like I was in Iraq again,” she said. “My lord, my brains were fried.”

SPACES LOST

Because of the slowdown in interviews, global referrals dropped from 40,000 to 20,000 in the first half of the year, the U.N. data show. This means a backlog of tens of thousands of people is building, and there’s a risk these places will be lost indefinitely.

Now refugees are falling victim to COVID-19. In Iraq, Alfaro said the UNHCR is looking after a “significant number” of refugees with urgent medical needs who are unable to be resettled because of travel restrictions. At least two people have died of COVID-19 while awaiting the move.

In Uganda, COVID-19 has spread through slums of the capital Kampala where many who await resettlement are housed in crowded accommodations with no running water or electricity, aid workers said.

The U.N. has resettled about 2,100 refugees since resuming flights – way below the average pace of previous years, said the IOM’s Jaber. Cancellations continue.

“Some are opening up, but not everyone is back online – maybe not until next year,” said Alfaro. “We don’t know how many spaces we’re going to lose.”

There have been bright spots. An Eritrean couple with a young baby were the first refugees to be resettled to Europe since flights were stopped in March, UNHCR said on Twitter on Aug. 14.

Just hours after a vast explosion devastated much of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Aug. 4, IOM staff were back at work. The ancient city holds hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Syria’s civil war.

That night, IOM got 30 of them on a flight out, said IOM’s Jaber. In total, 61 were relocated that week.

“There are challenges still,” she said. “We are back, it is slower, (but) it is working.”

(Reporting By Edward McAllister; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

U.S. rejects U.N. rights panel upholding access to abortions during pandemic

An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday hit back at a U.N. women’s rights panel that said some U.S. states limited access to abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic, rejecting its interference and the notion of “an assumed right to abortion”.

“The United States is disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right,” the U.S. mission in Geneva said in a release posted on Twitter.

“This is a perversion of the human rights system and the founding principles of the United Nations,” it said, citing an Aug. 11 letter it sent to the U.N. experts responding to the “spurious allegations”.

The U.N. working group on discrimination against women and girls said on May 27 that some U.S. states “appear to be “manipulating the COVID-19 crisis to curb access to essential abortion care”.

The panel of five independent U.N. experts said that states including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee had issued COVID-19 emergency orders suspending procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary to restrict access to abortion.

“This situation is also the latest example illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country,” Elizabeth Broderick, panel vice-chair, said at the time.

The U.S. statement cited allegations of forced abortions and sterilizations in China’s western region of Xinjiang and urged the panel to focus on “actual human rights abuses”.

A lack of comment on such issues was “one of the reasons that the United States and others increasingly see the U.N.’s human rights system as utterly broken”.

U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election in November, works closely with evangelical Christians and puts their causes of restricting abortion and preserving gun ownership at the top of his policy agenda.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Iraq is open for U.S. business, prime minister says; Trump eyes oil prospects

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday said U.S. companies were involved in many prospects in Iraq’s oil business, as Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi declared his country open for American business and investment.

Trump told reporters before a meeting with the Iraqi leader that the U.S. military had very few troops in Iraq and looked forward to the day when it did not have to be there, but would help the country if neighboring Iran should do anything.

Al-Kadhimi took office in April, becoming the third Iraq head of state in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of deadly protests in the country, which has been exhausted by decades of sanctions, war, corruption and economic challenges.

The meeting comes amid a new spike in tensions between the United States and Iran after Washington said it would move to reinstate all U.S. sanctions on Iran at the United Nations.

Washington is pushing to extend a U.N.-imposed arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

Five U.S. firms, including Chevron Corp, signed agreements on Wednesday with the Iraqi government aimed at boosting Iraq’s energy independence from Iran.

The U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement that Honeywell International Inc, Baker Hughes Co, General Electric Co, Stellar Energy and Chevron signed commercial agreements worth as much as $8 billion with the Iraqi ministers of oil and electricity.

The agreements were signed following a meeting of the Iraqi ministers with U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, as well as a roundtable in Washington on Wednesday with the Iraqi prime minister and the U.S. energy industry.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; writing by Andrea Shalal; editing by Diane Craft and Dan Grebler)

Pompeo likely to visit U.N. on Thursday in pursuit of sanctions on Iran: diplomats

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will likely travel to New York on Thursday to seek a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran and meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, diplomats and a U.N. official said.

To trigger a return of the sanctions, the United States will submit a complaint to the 15-member U.N. Security Council about Iran’s non-compliance with the nuclear deal, even though Washington quit the accord in 2018.

Pompeo will likely meet with Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani, the Security Council president for August, to submit the complaint, diplomats said. Pompeo is also due to meet with Guterres, a U.N. official said.

In response to what the United States calls its “maximum pressure” campaign – a bid to get Iran to negotiate a new deal – Tehran has breached several central limits of the 2015 deal, including on its stock of enriched uranium.

But diplomats say the sanctions snapback process will be tough and messy as Russia, China and other countries on the Security Council challenge the legality of the U.S. move given that Washington itself is no longer complying with what Trump called the “worst deal ever” and has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

The United States had threatened to use the sanctions snapback provision in the nuclear deal after it lost a bid in the Security Council on Friday to extend an arms embargo on Tehran, which is due to expire in October.

Once Washington submits its complaint about Iran to the Security Council, the body has 30 days to adopt a resolution to extend sanctions relief for Tehran or else the measures will automatically snapback. Any attempt to extend the sanctions relief would be vetoed by the United States.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)