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Iran agrees to return to nuclear deal talks by end of November deputy FM RT World News



Tehran has agreed to return to the negotiating table in Vienna after months of stalled talks with world powers on its nuclear program. The decision was announced by Iran’s deputy foreign minister, but no date was set.

“We agree to start negotiations before the end of November,” Ali Bagheri Khani, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and the nation’s chief negotiator in Vienna, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday, adding that the exact date would be announced next week.

He made the statement after meeting the EU’s political director, Enrique Mora, the chief coordinator of the negotiations. Bagheri also praised the meeting as a “very serious and constructive dialogue” on “essential” elements for what he called successful talks.

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Iran has not boycotted return to nuclear negotiations, West must first fulfil its obligations Tehran spokesman

Mora talked to his Iranian counterparts in Tehran in mid-October, and this week the Iranian delegation met with the EU mediators in Brussels. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that Tehran would “evaluate” the results of the Brussels talks before setting a date for the Vienna discussions to resume.

Talks on reviving the 2015 deal on the Iranian nuclear program, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), stalled in June amid Iran’s presidential elections and the formation of a new government. Since then, the western governments party to the talks have repeatedly accused Tehran of being reluctant to return to the table – something Iran has denied.

Earlier in October, the spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Parliament, Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, rejected accusations that Tehran was “boycotting” the talks. He also said that the “ball is in the court of Western countries.”

Iran has repeatedly accused the western nations of failing to fulfill their commitments under the deal, and has maintained that sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic should be lifted first before it adheres to its end of the bargain.

Tehran’s demands have been met with opposition by some parties to the deal. In early October, Germany said Iran cannot set any new preconditions for resuming the talks. “If here new conditions are being set by Iran for talks to be resumed, then we reject that,” a German foreign ministry spokesman said at that time.

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US warns Iran Nuclear Deal talks are in ‘critical phase’ but claims window for diplomacy ‘is never going to be closed’

The deal was initially signed between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the EU, the UK and the US. Former American president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and the White House then imposed a new set of embargoes on Tehran, which responded by resuming the enrichment of uranium beyond levels permitted under the JCPOA agreement.

The Biden administration has expressed a strong interest in restoring the agreement and engaged in indirect talks with Tehran in Vienna. However, it has so far rejected Iran’s demand for lifting the sanctions as a prerequisite for talks to proceed.

America’s special representative for Iran, Robert Malley, also warned that Washington has “other options” in its arsenal in case Iran pushes on with its nuclear advancements. He added, though, that the Biden administration still prefers diplomacy.

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Change is possible: Honduras prepares for critical election | Elections News



Tegucigalpa, Honduras Amid widespread fear of fraud and ensuing social unrest, Hondurans are preparing to vote in a tense presidential election that could end 12 years of rule for the conservative National Party, which has governed since a 2009 coup.

The National Partys time in office has been marked by corruption, alleged involvement in drug trafficking, and increased militarisation, spurring mass migration to the United States. The coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November 2020 sunk the country deeper into a sociopolitical crisis.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who could face extradition to the US on drug trafficking charges after he was named as a co-conspirator in a case against his brother, may have the most at stake, although he is not up for re-election.

His partys candidate, current Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Tito Asfura, is trailing by 17 percent behind former first lady Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Libre Party, according to an October poll by the Honduran Center of Studies for Democracy (CESPAD).

The elections on Sunday during which voters will also elect congress members, mayors, and members of the Central American Parliament mark a turning point for Honduras as two opposing political visions battle for dominance, said Joaquin Mejia, a researcher with the Honduran Team for Research, Investigation and Communication (ERIC-SJ).

The first represented by Asfura is the continuity of the regime, Mejia told Al Jazeera, while the second would mark a first step towards national dialogue to begin to reconstruct the country.

Nasry Asfura, the presidential candidate of the National Party, is trailing Xiomara Castro by 17 percent, according to an October poll [Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters]

New election, old faces

Castro is making her third presidential run as candidate for the Libre Party, founded by her husband Manuel Mel Zelaya, who was removed from office in the 2009 coup.

Polling at 38 percent according to the CESPAD poll, she pulled ahead in the race after making an alliance in October with opposition candidate and former TV host Salvador Nasralla. Prior to that pact, polls showed Asfura with a slight lead.

What Honduras needs right now is symbols, said Mejia. The fact that theyve managed to form this alliance has sent a symbolic message to the population in the sense that they feel a change is possible.

Castro has promised to bring back social programmes, decriminalise abortion in three cases, and ban special economic zones. Many voters see her candidacy as a continuation of her husbands presidency, although she also has a respectable political trajectory of her own, leading a massive protest movement.

Things are going to improve with Xiomara because we saw it with the presidency of Mel Zelaya, said 58-year-old subsistence farmer Blanca Rodriguez at a rally November 19 for Castro in rural Intibuca. She cited social programmes that helped rural Hondurans as her reason for voting for Castro.

Others believe she will end government corruption and impunity, and restore democratic institutions that have been debilitated during 12 years of National Party rule. With Xiomara, were going to rescue the rule of law, said 67-year old retiree Isidro Luna, another rally participant.

But Castros record is also tainted. An allegation that Zelaya accepted a bribe from a drug trafficker also surfaced in the US case against Hernandezs brother.

Xiomara Castro is presidential candidate for the left-wing Libre Party [File: Yoseph Amaya/Reuters]

With the people

About 21 percent of voters surveyed by CESPAD in October said they would vote for National Party candidate Asfura, whose campaign has tried to portray him as a reliable leader by playing on his nickname Papi a la Orden Papi at your service.

His ads emphasise that he is different and with the people.

Hes the only one who convinces me because, with the others, everything is just promises, said 59-year-old Julio Figueroa, an unemployed voter from Tegucigalpa, who cited public works projects in the capital as proof that Asfura is qualified. Hes a hardworking person, Figueroa added.

Asfura faces an investigation by the countrys special anti-corruption prosecution unit into alleged embezzlement of $1m in government funds in 2017 and 2018 as Tegucigalpa mayor. Yet this may not influence Honduran voters, many of whom are deciding to vote based on which candidate they hate less, according to Julio Raudales, vice-rector for international relations at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.

More than 60 percent of Hondurans surveyed by CESPAD said they disapproved of Hernandezs presidency and a rejection of the current government is driving some voters towards Castro, explained Raudales. At the same time, some voters reject Castro over concerns her left-wing policies are too communist and will turn the country into Cuba or Venezuela a fear that her opponents have used to attack her.

A third candidate, Yani Rosenthal from the Liberal Party, who previously served three years in US prison for laundering drug money, is trailing behind both Castro and Asfura with just 3 percent.

Its not wanting to vote for Tito [Asfura] that makes someone vote for him, but rather that someone hates Mel Zelaya, said Raudales. For others, theyre going to vote for Xiomara [Castro] so Juan Orlando [Hernandez] doesnt get away with anything.

Fears of fraud

Despite a wide lead for Castro, Honduran voters and analysts fear the election results will be manipulated. About 70 percent of Honduran voters said they believed the elections would be fraudulent to some degree, according to the CESPAD poll.

Everything seems to indicate that she will win, Raudales said. But the National Party has the power and it has the possibility of committing fraud, which would be terrible for the country.

This fear of fraud and distrust in the political system could lead to low voter turnout. Despite compulsory voting in Honduras, only 60 percent of Hondurans said they planned to cast a ballot in the October CESPAD poll.

Twenty-year-old street vendor Evelyn Vasquez said days before the election that she did not plan on voting. I dont trust any of them [the candidates] because they are all thieves, Vasquez said.

Fraud allegations marred the 2017 presidential elections, leading to mass protests. The Organization of American States (OAS) ordered new elections, but Hernandez ultimately was declared the winner. International observers, including the OAS and European Union, will be monitoring the elections again this year.

In a statement on November 23 denouncing irregularities in the electoral process, the National Party said it was committed to transparent and peaceful elections and accused the Libre Party of engaging in a hate campaign to generate fear.

In 2018, the countrys three main parties the National Party, Libre, and the Liberal Party had agreed to a set of electoral reforms meant to increase fairness and transparency in the process. The changes included modifications to the electoral body, a new voting registry to prevent fraud, and measures to ensure independent vote observation tables.

But analysts have said the odds are still stacked in favour of the National Party. Using state resources to campaign, bussing voters from remote, rural areas to the polls, and stacking vote observation tables with loyalists are just some ways the National Party can manipulate the results, said Mejia.

Its a bit naive to think that the same people who carried out the coup, who committed grave human rights abuses and electoral fraud and violated the constitution to stay in power, today have converted into democrats and are going to easily accept losing power with all the implications that it carries, said Mejia.

Meanwhile, voters, such as Rodriguez from Intibuca, say they will be on alert on election day. Theyve committed fraud, she said. But weve woken up, and if they do it again the people are going to rise up.

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Europe’s First Case Of New Covid Variant Detected In Belgium





Europe's First Case Of New Covid Variant Detected In Belgium

The infected person tested positive on November 22 (Representational)


  • New variant detected in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad
  • “As precaution” Europe is stopping flights from southern Africa: Minister
  • “So, total precaution but don’t panic,” health minister said


Belgium said Friday it has detected the first announced case in Europe of the new Covid-19 variant, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad.

“We have a case that is now confirmed of this variant,” B.1.1.529, first detected in southern Africa, Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a media conference.

The infected person tested positive on November 22 and had not had Covid-19 before, he added, without giving further details.

A leading Belgian virologist, Marc Van Ranst, tweeted that the person had returned from Egypt on November 11.

Vandebroucke said: “It must be repeated that this is a suspect variant — we don’t know if it is a very dangerous variant.”

He noted, however, that “as a precaution” Europe was stopping flights from southern Africa.

“So, total precaution but don’t panic,” he said, adding that Belgium’s Covid-19 risk assessment group was analysing the situation.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Oil crashes as coronavirus strain threatens demand recovery | Oil and Gas News



The emergence of the new strain represents the biggest threat to the recovery in global oil consumption.

Oil prices crashed more than 10% as a new coronavirus strain sparked fears that renewed lockdowns will threaten a global recovery in demand.

West Texas Intermediate crude tumbled below the $70-a-barrel level on Friday for the first time since late September, while the global benchmark price, Brent, slumped to less than $75.

The downward spiral in prices comes three days after a U.S.-led effort by top consuming nations to release stockpiled crude in an attempt to tame surging energy inflation. Next weeks OPEC+ meeting will now take on an even greater significance, as the producer group led by Saudi Arabia and Russia must decide whether to continue ratcheting up supply or pause the increases in response to the latest market volatility. OPEC+ is leaning towardabandoninga plan for a modest production hike scheduled for January when it meets on Dec. 1 to 2, according to delegates.

The identification of the new Covid variant has already prompted the U.S., the European Union and the U.K. to restrict air travel and triggered a selloff across financial markets, even as researchers have yet to determine whether its more transmissible or lethal than previous strains.

The development apparently wrong-footed many in the oil market who had been comforted by low inventory levels and demand that had rebounded to 2019 levels, said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth Management.

It was a lack of downside that had us continuing to think nothing bad could happen, she said. No one was thinking we could get a variant that were not familiar with and it could have meaningful impact.

The price plunge marks a dramatic change in market sentiment. Crude hit multiyear highs in recent months amid an energy crisis in Europe and China that had also sparked rallies in prices for coal and natural gas. Some traders and analysts predicted oil could reach $100 a barrel or more.

High gasoline retail prices prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to seek ways to ease the pressure on consumers, leading to Tuesdaysannouncementthat the U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with China, Japan, India, South Korea and the U.K. also set to tap inventories. Still, oil rose on the day that the move was confirmed, suggesting traders had already priced in the new supply, or that they were underwhelmed by the supply response.

OPEC+ had warned previously it would reconsider a potential output increase if other nations went ahead with a reserve release. UBS Group AG said Friday that OPEC+ could choose to pause its current planned output hike of 400,000 barrels a day, or even cut production.


  • West Texas Intermediate for January fell $10.24, or 13.1%, from Wednesdays close to settle at $68.15 a barrel in New York. The decline was the largest since April 2020.
  • There was no settlement Thursday due to the Thanksgiving holiday and all transactions will be booked Friday
  • Brent for January settlement tumbled $9.50 to settle at $72.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange

Fridays oil selloff was likely exacerbated by a lack of trading activity during the U.S. holiday period, coming a day after Thanksgiving, and as the New York market closed early.

Its a sign the market got carried away from itself and that we still remain very vulnerable to Covid-19, said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital LLC.

Aside from the headline prices, crude traders also watched several other notable shifts in the market. WTI crude futures closed below its 200-day and 100-day moving averages, signs of technical weakness. The extreme pressure on the U.S. benchmark meant its discount to Brent expanded, reaching the widest since May 2020.

The picture wasnt much brighter in oil-product markets, the part of the oil complex most directly affected by end-user demand.Dieselplunged, particularly in Asia, as the market began to price in a potential renewed hit to economic growth.

This is a huge overreaction in terms of the market, Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. said in a Bloomberg Television interview. This is the market pricing in the worst possible scenarios.

Other key news:

Chinas ambiguity on whether it will join the U.S.-led coordinated release of oil reserves is aimed at a domestic audience to show Beijing isnt following Washington, according to government officials involved in the discussions.

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