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Iran accuses US of ‘unacceptable’ escalation in tensions » Capital News

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, Tokyo, Japan, May 15 – Iran accused the United States Thursday of an “unacceptable” escalation of tensions and said Tehran was showing “maximum restraint” despite Washington’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal with world powers.

Tensions were already high after President Donald Trump walked away a year ago from the accord, which eased international sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

But tensions have ratcheted up, with the US deploying an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran.

“The escalation by the United States is unacceptable,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Tokyo, where he is holding talks with Japanese officials.

Factfile on Iran’s military strength, based on data analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute © AFP / Gal ROMA

“We exercise maximum restraint… in spite of the fact that the United States withdrew from JCPOA last May,” Zarif said earlier, referring to the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He added that Tehran remains “committed” to the deal, and said continuing assessments showed Iran was in compliance with the multilateral agreement.

Later, Zarif told reporters there was “no possibility” of negotiations with the United States to reduce spiralling tensions, describing US pressure as an “act of suicide”.

Zarif’s comments came after the US on Wednesday ordered non-emergency staff evacuated from its Baghdad embassy due to an alleged “imminent” threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.

Two major pro-Iran armed groups in Iraq rejected suggestions the embassy personnel were at risk.

Nasr al-Shomari, a military commander for the Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba, told AFP the claim was “a pretext” by Washington to create “an uproar” in Iraq.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) says Tehran is exercising “maximum restraint” © AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI

But the move added to growing fears that the long-time rivals could be on course for conflict despite both sides stressing they have no desire for war.

Trump, however, predicted Iran would “soon” want to negotiate.

“I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” the president tweeted.

He also blasted media reports of White House turmoil over Iran, saying “there is no infighting whatsoever. Different opinions are expressed and I make a final and decisive decision.”

Zarif late Thursday dismissed Trump’s prediction of talks, telling reporters: “I don’t know why President Trump is confident.”

Opponents of Trump say hardliners led by national security advisor John Bolton, who has long advocated toppling the Iranian government, are pushing the country into war.

According to Iranian state media, Zarif is set to visit China on Friday for discussions on “regional and international issues” including the 2015 nuclear deal with global powers.

– ‘Imminent threat’ –

Despite international scepticism, the US government has been pointing to increasing threats from Iran, a long-time enemy and also a rival of US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says “there is not going to be any war” with the United States © KHAMENEI.IR/AFP / HO

Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the threat came from Iraqi militia “commanded and controlled” by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“It is directly linked to Iran, multiple threat streams directly linked to Iran,” said one official.

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“This is an imminent threat to our personnel,” said a second official.

Washington says it has received intelligence on possible attacks by Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, possibly targeting US bases in Iraq or Syria.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday insisted the showdown with the United States was a mere test of resolve.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington does not “seek a war with Iran” © POOL/AFP/File / Pavel Golovkin

“This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war. Neither we nor them (the US) seek war,” he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed that sentiment, saying in Sochi, Russia: “We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”

World powers have rushed to urge calm and US allies continued to show scepticism over Washington’s alarm bells.

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Four tankers anchored off the Emirati port of Fujairah were hit by “sabotage attacks” © Emirati National Media Council/AFP/File / HANDOUT

But UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had recently met with Pompeo and shared “the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran”.

“As always we work closely with the US,” he tweeted.

Britain’s defence ministry meanwhile said Wednesday that they have “long been clear about our concerns over Iran’s destabilizing behaviour in the region” — while still not confirming any new imminent danger.

Some observers speculate Tehran is seeking to retaliate over Washington’s decision in April to put Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on a terrorism blacklist — a move designed to stymie their activities across the Middle East.

But since the first US warning on May 5, the only incident has been a still-mysterious “attack” Monday on tankers anchored off Fujairah, an Emirati port located at the strategically crucial entrance to the Gulf.

One or more vessels incurred light hull damage, but what caused the damage and who was behind it remains unknown.


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Health ministry has criminals, Kagwe admits

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BERNADINE MUTANU

By BERNADINE MUTANU
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Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe Wednesday admitted that his ministry has criminals.

This is after an employee reportedly obtained personal protective equipment and Covid-19 testing kits valued at millions of shillings after forging tender documents.

“This building called Afya House has some very good people. It has some very committed people. It has people who work hard in very difficult circumstances, but this building here, has its fair share of criminals,” Mr Kagwe told journalists after briefing the country on the Covid-19 situation Wednesday.

The CS said the matter, alongside others involving officials at the ministry, is being handled by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

“Like a marketplace, there are a few mad cases here. We will unearth them as we move on,” he said.

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He told Kenyans to be wary of officials at the ministry “who are capable of awarding tenders for the supply of blood”.

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“It will be those mafisi that will tell you that you can do a deal with them to supply computers, personal protective equipment, pens and even blood. We know they are in here,” he said.

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Tunisia reopens cafes, restaurants as pandemic winds down

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XINHUA

By XINHUA
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After a lockdown of more than two months, Tunisia on Tuesday conditionally reopened cafes and restaurants as part of its partial lifting of the anti-coronavirus restrictions.

Under the government’s decision, customers have to take away with the ordered drinks and meals without staying in the cafes and restaurants, in order to avoid gatherings.

These conditions will continue to be applied until June 4, after which cafes and restaurants will resume their activities normally.

On May 21, Lobna Jribi, Tunisian minister in charge of major national projects, announced new measures to revive the economy.

Jribi told a press briefing that 75 percent of activities in the industry, services and construction sectors, which were previously closed to curb the spread of Covid-19, will resume activity on May 26.

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The gradual opening of the economy remains dependent on compliance with the preventive measures, including wearing masks, social distancing and hand hygiene.

As of Monday night, Tunisia reported no new Covid-19 case. So far, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country remained at 1,051.

The Tunisian government has imposed strict confinement measures shortly after the announcement of the first coronavirus case on March 2.

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Kindiki turns down new Senate appointment

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ALEX NJERU

By ALEX NJERU
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Immediate former Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki has turned down a new appointment to serve in the Senate Justice committee.

In a press statement, Prof Kindiki said he now wants to focus on serving Kenyans as the senator of Tharaka-Nithi County.

He said he was not interested of the new House responsibility that he came to know of through the press.

“I have learnt through the press that the Jubilee Party has recommended me to serve in another capacity in the Senate.

“I respectfully decline the offer. Henceforth, I want to focus on serving the people of Kenya as the Senator for Tharaka-Nithi County,” wrote Prof Kindiki.

The senator was ousted as Senate deputy speaker last week on accusations of being disloyal to the party and being disrespectful to President Uhuru Kenyatta who is also the party leader.

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Other senators affected by the changes announced by Senate Majority Leader Kang’ata Irungu (Murang’a) are Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Christopher Lang’at (Bomet), John Kinyua (Laikipia) and Linturi Mithika (Meru).

Cherargei was removed as chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, Kinyua from Devolution, Langat from Education and Mithika was removed from the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee.

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