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E.U. threatens firms that stop doing business with Iran over Trump sanctions

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JOBS REPORT: U.S. payrolls jump by 266,000, smashing expectations

….As Iván Duque: Colombia’s new president sworn into office***

European firms that stop doing business with Iran because of reimposed U.S. sanctions could in turn be sanctioned by the E.U., a special adviser to the 28-country bloc’s top diplomat has warned.

“If E.U. companies abide by U.S. secondary sanctions they will, in turn, be sanctioned by the E.U.,” Nathalie Tocci, an aide to E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, told Britain’s BBC Radio 4 on Monday night.

She characterized the measures as an attempt to “protect European companies.”

Tocci said the move was “necessary in order to signal, diplomatically, to the Iranians that Europeans are serious” about trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal.

Hours earlier, the U.S. announced it was reintroducing sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The Trump administration’s decision to walk away from the landmark 2015 Iran pact signed by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Russia, France, China and the U.K. — as well as Germany and the European Union, dismayed and angered longtime U.S. allies and vital trading partners.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson traveled to the U.S. aiming to convince President Donald Trump not to ditch the deal, saying it was working and the only way to halt a regional arms race.

Nevertheless, Trump went ahead and announced on May 8 that the U.S. was withdrawing from what he called the “decaying and rotten” agreement.

Mogherini told reporters Tuesday that the E.U. was doing its “best to keep Iran in the deal, to keep Iran benefiting from the economic benefits that the agreement brings to the people of Iran.”

Tocci, the adviser, conceded that potential E.U. sanctions as part of the so-called blocking statute that came into effect on Tuesday were “politically and symbolically” an important step. The European measures are aimed at allowing firms to recover damages from bodies that enforce American sanctions, and ban companies from complying with the sanctions without E.U. permission.

In 2016, the European Union exported more than 8.2 billion euros ($9.7 billion) worth of goods to Iran, while importing almost 5.5 billion euros ($6.5 billion) from there, according to the European Commission. This is dwarfed by the $1.1 trillion the E.U.-U.S. trade represented in the same year.

Virtually all multinational firms do business or banking in the U.S., leaving European companies vulnerable to American sanctions punishing those operating in and with Iran.

Trump doubled down on his stance on Iran early Tuesday.

At midnight Monday, the U.S. began targeting oil-rich Iran’s automotive industry and civil aviation sector, as well as trade in gold and other metals in a set of punitive measures that had been eased under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump has called for a wholesale overhaul of Iranian regional policies, such as an end to its military support for the Syrian government and regional militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The 2015 pact did not curb these actions, one reason Trump has called the agreement “the worst deal ever.”

International inspectors say Iran has been complying with the deal to curtail its nuclear program.

The U.S. is preparing to reimpose the remainder of sanctions lifted as part of the agreement, and target Iran’s oil sector and central bank in early November.

America has also pressured allies to stop importing oil from Iran before the November deadline. Top buyers of Iranian oil include China, India, Turkey and South Korea.

The effects on Iran of Washington’s hardening stance have been stark, with Iran’s rial currency losing two-thirds of its value in six months.

Within hours of the White House announcement on Monday, international firms announced steps to avoid U.S. sanctions.

On Tuesday, German car manufacturing giant Daimler said it had suspended its activities in Iran.

“We will continue to closely monitor the political developments, especially in connection with the future of the nuclear agreement,” the company said in a statement.

Daimler’s announcement came after U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell in May warned that firms that continued to do business in Iran would face consequences.

“U.S. sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” he tweeted.

In June, auto manufacturer PSA — which makes Peugeot vehicles — began taking steps to suspend its joint-venture activities in Iran while rival Renault has said it will adhere to the U.S. sanctions.

French oil giant Total has said it would quit a multibillion-dollar gas project if it cannot secure a waiver from the sanctions — a request the French government says had been rejected.

In the meantime, Colombia’s newly-elected President Iván Duque took office on Tuesday, pledging to unite the country and improve economic growth.

The conservative political newcomer was elected in June after a divisive election campaign where he saw off left-wing rival Gustavo Petro.

In his inaugural address, the former lawyer pledged changes to tackle corruption and invigorate the economy.

The leader has also vowed to change the peace deal with the Farc rebel group.

The outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos has urged Mr Duque to respect the deal, which was negotiated in 2016 to bring an end to the country’s brutal five-decade civil conflict.

The Farc, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is now a political party known as the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force. A number of its members took up seats in parliament last month as part of the terms which guarantee it political representation.

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Mr Duque has said he remains committed to Colombia’s peace process, but says that it is too lenient on former guerrilla fighters accused of war crimes.

“We will deploy corrective measures to ensure that the victims get the truth, proportional justice, reparations and no repetitions of the past,” the new president said in his address on Tuesday.

Mr Duque also spoke about the need to heal the country after a divisive election campaign earlier this year.

The Centro Democrático (Democratic Centre) party candidate beat opponent Gustavo Petro by 12 points in June – winning the run-off election with 54% of the final vote.

“I want to govern Colombia with unbreakable values and principles, overcoming the divisions of left and right, overcoming with popular dialogue the prickly feelings that invite social fracture, I want to govern Colombia with a spirit to build, never to destroy,” President Duque said in his address.

His political platform is considered business-friendly after he pledged to cut taxes and boost investment in Colombia’s economy.

Mr Duque, who at 42 is the youngest elected Colombian president ever, was handpicked as party leader by founder Álvaro Uribe Velez, who himself was president from 2002 to 2010.

Mr Uribe remains active in politics, but resigned from his senate seat in Julyto face a bribery and fraud investigation in the Supreme Court.

Mr Duque’s running mate, Marta Lucía Ramirez, has become the country’s first ever female vice-president.

The new president assumes power at a time of heightened tension with neighbours Venezuela. Earlier this week President Nicolas Maduro accused the outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of being responsible for an apparent attempt to assassinate him at a military event in Caracas.

The allegation was described as “baseless” by Bogota.

 

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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