Seoul Says Iran's Funds To Be Unblocked Through Consultations With US | Iran International

Seoul Says Iran's Funds To Be Unblocked Through Consultations With US

Iran’s funds blocked in South Korea will be released after consultations with the United States, Seoul has announced Tuesday according to Korea Times. South Korean banks have blocked an estimated $7 billion of Iranian funds from oil exports that were not possible to be transferred du to US sanctions against Tehran.

"Our government has been in talks with Iran about ways to use the frozen assets, and the Iran side has expressed its consent to the proposals we have made," the foreign ministry was quoted as saying without providing further details of the proposals.

The chairman of Iran’s central bank Abdolnaser Hemmati announced on Monday that he had reached an agreement with Korea’s ambassador in Tehran Ryu Jeong-hyun on “methods of transferring and using” the funds for “intended purposes.” He did not say how much of the $7 billion of Iran’s frozen funds were affected but his reference to “intended purposes” suggests the funds would be used for specific categories.

South Korea once supplied Iran with a limited quantity of medical needs and further humanitarian supplies night be the purpose of any deal made between Tehran and Seoul.

Tehran, desperate for cash, has been putting a lot of pressure on Seoul to have the money released but during former President Donald Trump’s administration no agreement was reached.

Two weeks before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Iran seized a South Korean vessel in the Persian Gulf “on environmental grounds,” although many detected an attempt to force Seoul to negotiate over the blocked funds. South Korea’s official news agency has reported that Iran is demanding the immediate unfreezing of $1 billion.

US Navy Ship Fires 30 Warning Shots After Encounter With Iranian Vessels

A US Coast Guard ship fired about 30 warning shots after 13 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and other American Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the warning shots were fired after the Iranian fast boats came as close as 150 yards (450 feet) of six US military vessels that were escorting the guided-missile submarine Georgia.

"It's significant... and they were acting very aggressively," he said, adding that the number of Iranian vessels was more than in the recent past.

The US coast guard cutter fired the warning shots from a .50 caliber machine gun before the Iranian vessels left, Kirby said.

The US Navy announced on April 27 that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a warship had engaged in dangerous maneuvers around US Navy vessels in the southern Persian Gulf earlier in April, the first such incident in at least a year.

That incident happened four days before Iran was set to start talks in Vienna with the participating countries of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, or the 2015 nuclear deal. In addition, indirect talks were scheduled between Iran and the United States in the same venue.

Reporting by Reuters

EU's Borrell Says Iran Nuclear Talks Moving To Crucial Stage

BRUSSELS, May 10 (Reuters) - Negotiations in Vienna between world powers and Iran are moving into a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be critical to saving their 2015 nuclear deal, the European Union's top diplomat said on Monday.

U.S. officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its limits on uranium enrichment about a year later.

"I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks, (until) end of the month," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing the talks, told a news conference in Brussels.

"But a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter into a phase of nonstop (talks) in Vienna," he said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The crux of the 2015 agreement was that Iran committed to rein in its uranium enrichment program to make it harder to obtain the fissile material for a nuclear weapon, in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.

Tehran denies having nuclear weapons ambitions.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the negotiations as tough and laborious, but added that all participants were conducting them in a constructive atmosphere.

"However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons," Maas said in Brussels.

Afghan Lawmaker Accuses Iran Of Role In Bloody School Bombing

Remarks by a member of Afghanistan’s parliament Monday accusing Iran of a behind the scenes role in a school bombing on May 8 led to disruptions in the legislature.

Shahpur Hassanzoy representing Logar province told a session of parliament that Iran had a direct role in the bombing and said, “Iran’s spies are present in Afghanistan’s parliament and defend Iran’s actions”.

The bombing of a girl’s school in a Shiite area in Kabul has killed 85 people, Afghan officials told CNN on Monday.

Hassanzoy, who belongs to the Sunni Pashtun ethnic group, did not present any proof for his accusations, but his remarks led to protests by some other members of parliament. A member of parliament from the Shiite community called Hassanzoy’s remarks pouring “salt on the wound”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned the terror attack and blamed the Islamic State group for the violence. The Afghan government has blamed on the Taliban. The religious armed insurgents have attacked many schools before, but they have denied any role in the latest incident.

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack in the strongest terms, saying, “Groups of people belonging to darkness and ignorance try to keep our children away from science and progress with such attacks.”

 

German FM Minister Says Time Is Of Essence In Nuclear Talks With Iran

Time is of the essence in the Vienna negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, adding talks were lengthy but conducted in a good atmosphere.

US officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and imposed crippling oil export sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating its terms about a year later.

“The negotiations are tough and laborious but all participants are conducting the talks in a constructive atmosphere,” Maas said on the margins of a meeting with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.

One of the main issues is which sanctions the United States will lift in exchange for Iran returning to its obligations in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. Iran has been breaking its obligations step-by-step demanding the US lift sanctions. 

“However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons,” he added.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran might agree to extend a temporary agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, due to expire May 21, over inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear facilities. Khatibzadeh said this could be done if talks with world powers in Vienna were on “the right path.”

Reporting by Reuters

Iran Calls On Muslim World To Stand Up To Israel

Iran on Monday called on the Muslim world to respond to the "savagery" and "cruelty" of Israel against Palestinians, following the escalation of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in Tehran that Iran expresses "solidarity with  the oppressed people of Palestine."

Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday, the latest in a series of confrontations that is pushing the contested city to the brink of eruption.  

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

At least 215 Palestinians were hurt in the violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, including 153 who were hospitalized, Palestinian medics said.

Four of the injured were in serious condition. Police said nine officers were hurt, including one who was hospitalized.

Monday's confrontation was the latest in the sacred compound after days of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional ground zero of the conflict.

Hundreds of Palestinians and about two dozen police officers have been hurt over the past few days.

Iran Confirms Talks With Saudi Arabia, Promises Best Efforts

Iran's foreign ministry confirmed publicly for the first time on Monday that it is in talks with its regional arch rival Saudi Arabia, saying it would do what it could to resolve issues between them.

"De-escalation of tensions between the two Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf region is in the interest of both nations and the region," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a televised weekly news conference.

Iran was waiting for the outcome of the talks, he said: "We welcome resolving of the issues that have existed between the two countries ... We will use our best efforts in this regard."

Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry, last week told Reuters that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran were aimed at reducing regional tensions. He said it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds”.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a rivalry and proxy conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq. The two countries cut diplomatic ties in 2016. Middle East officials and sources said last month that they had held two rounds of talks.

The arrival of President Joe Biden in the United States has altered the diplomatic calculus across the Middle East. Washington aims to restart a nuclear deal with Iran that Biden's predecessor Donald Trump abandoned, and has called for Saudi Arabia to end a war against Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi forces.

Some sources told Reuters last month that Tehran had promised to use its influence to halt Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, in return asking Riyadh to support the nuclear talks.

Reporting by Reuters

Protesters Attack Iranian Consulate In Iraq After Killing Of Activist

BAGHDAD (AP) — Protesters set fire to trailers belonging to Iran's consulate in Karbala on Sunday amid widespread anger over the killing of a prominent activist in the Iraqi city. 

Ehab Wazni, who was active in the organization of anti-government protests that swept Iraq in October 2019, was shot overnight outside his home by unknown assailants. 

His death sparked daylong protests in Karbala that saw demonstrators block roads and bridges with burning tires. Then Sunday night, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Iranian consulate, burning tires in front of the building and setting fire to several trailers parked outside, according to police officials and videos posted online.

Similar scenes played out in November 2019 during protests in Baghdad and Iraq's majority-Shiite provinces in the south, with protesters on at least one occasion scaling concrete barriers ringing the Iranian consulate in Karbala to bring down Iran's flag and replace it with the Iraqi flag. 

The popular protests that began in October 2019 and lasted for months were directed at a postwar political system and a class of elite leaders that Iraqis accuse of pillaging Iraq's wealth while the country grows poorer. But protesters have also directed their rage at neighboring Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shiite militias tied to it.

The protests in Karbala, Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq often turned violent, with security forces opening fire and protesters torching government buildings and headquarters of Iran-backed militias. Hundreds were killed, including the assassination of activists. 

The protests have been largely dormant since the coronavirus pandemic.

Families Of Iran Prison Massacre Victims Ask UN To Stop Cemetery Destruction

A group of families whose loved ones were executed in Iranian prisons in 1988 have appealed to the United Nations to prevent the destruction of a cemetery in Tehran where many victims of the prison massacre have been buried.

In a letter to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the families asked for immediate action to stop the systematic destruction of graves in Khavaran Cemetery. The letter is also addressed to UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Rehman Javaid and Ahmad Shahid, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Iranian social media users launched an online campaign in early May to alert the public of attempts by the government to destroy Khavaran.

Around 3,500 political detainees, mostly young people, were killed in prisons by a high-level decision and their bodies were buried in unknown graves, some in Khavaran cemetery.

The authorities have dug new graves and pressure the persecuted members of the Baha’i sect to bury their dead in the cemetery, in an apparent attempt to make other remains disappear.

The families appealed to the UN officials to use “all the means at their disposal” to prevent the destruction of Khavaran, which they said is an existing evidence showing a serious crime and a part of collective memory.

They added that the graves in the cemetery can help identify victims and shed light on the truth and help families attain justice.

 

 

In a letter to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the families asked for immediate action to stop the systematic destruction of graves in Khavaran Cemetery. The letter is also addressed to UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Rehman Javaid and Ahmad Shahid, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Iranian social media users launched an online campaign in early May to alert the public of attempts by the government to destroy Khavaran.

Around 3,500 political detainees, mostly young people, were killed in prisons by a high-level decision and their bodies were buried in unknown graves, some in Khavaran cemetery.

The authorities have dug new graves and pressure the persecuted members of the Baha’i sect to bury their dead in the cemetery, in an apparent attempt to make other remains disappear.

The families appealed to the UN officials to use “all the means at their disposal” to prevent the destruction of Khavaran, which they said is an existing evidence showing a serious crime and a part of collective memory.

They added that the graves in the cemetery can help identify victims and shed light on the truth and help families attain justice.

 

Fire Breaks Out On Tanker Near Syrian Coast

AMMAN/CAIRO, May 9 (Reuters) - A small fire occurred in one of the engines of a tanker off the coast of Syria's Mediterranean port of Banias, state media said.

The fire was extinguished by the crew quickly with no casualties, it said.

"The technical fault took place in one of the engines of the oil tanker near the coast...it caused a small fire and a plume of smoke," state media said.

Local radio station FM Sham earlier said an explosion had hit a tanker during maintenance works after it had caught fire a few days earlier while offloading its oil cargo.

Last month, Syria's oil ministry said firefighters put out a fire on an oil tanker off the Banias refinery after a suspected attack by a drone coming from the direction of Lebanese waters.

Banias houses a refinery which, along with another in Homs, covers a significant part of the country's demand for diesel, heating fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products, according to industry experts.

Syria has grown more dependent on Iranian oil shipments in recent years but tightening Western sanctions on Iran, Syria and their allies, as well as a foreign currency crunch, have made it more difficult to get enough supplies.

Iran Denies Reports Of Sending Syrian Mercenaries To Yemen

The Islamic republic embassy in Ankara has denied reports that Tehran has sent Syrian fighters to Yemen to fight alongside Houthi forces in the war-torn country.

In a tweet on Saturday, the embassy “categorically” denied a report by Anadolu News Agency from May 7 that said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had dispatched around 120 Syrian mercenaries to Yemen. Turkish sources said the fighters will receive up to $500 a month to assist the Houthis who have been receiving weapons and backing from Tehran.

The embassy said that such reports are the result of lack of knowledge about military realities, without elaborating.

The Turkish report said after a week of training in Sanaa the Syrian fighters were sent to the fronts. After a trial period, more forces might be dispatched from Syria.

The Biden Administration that delisted the Houthis from a terrorist designation has been making attempts to establish a ceasefire in Yemen, but the Iran-backed group has refused various attempts to agree to a reduction of hostilities.

The war in Yemen has left more than 130,000 dead and millions on the verge of famine, with regional countries entangled in the conflict that has turned not a serious proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

US Navy Seizes Weapons Aboard Vessel In Arabian Sea

The US Navy announced Sunday it seized an arms shipment hidden aboard a vessel in the Arabian Sea, the latest-such interdiction by sailors amid the long-running war in Yemen.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons aboard what the Navy described as a stateless dhow, a traditional Persian Gulf sailing ship, in an operation that began Thursday in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea.

The weapons seized included Chinese-made, Kalashnikov-style assault rifles, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The Navy did not identify where it believed the shipment originated.

However, the assortment of arms aboard the dhows mirrored other shipments interdicted by the US and allied forces in the region that later were described to be heading to Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for control of the country since 2015.

Last year the US seized a similar shipment headed to Yemen and another one to Venezuela. Iran has been supporting the Houthis with arms and other assistance since they began an assault on the government in 2014. The assistance intensified after Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015.

UN investigations have shown some of the heavy weapons, such as an assortment of missiles, used by the Houthis have hallmarks of Iranian design and production.

Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into poorly controlled ports over years of conflict.

Photo showing weapons seized by US Navy in Arabia Sea. May 8, 2021