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Tehran open to talks with Washington: Iran Foreign Policy Adviser

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Tehran, May 13 (IANS/DPA) Iran has shown itself to be open to direct talks with the US and appears to be ready for a change of course in its policy towards its arch-enemy.

“The Americans describe diplomacy as the best option… We are of the same view and are also ready to return to negotiations,” Kamal Kharazi, foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Sunday, according to state news agency ISNA.

According to Kharazi, Iran should also be prepared to resume the nuclear negotiations broken off under then-US president Donald Trump.

“Then we could also talk about a nuclear-free region (in the Middle East),” said the country’s high-ranking adviser and former foreign minister.

The arch-conservative government of President Ebrahim Raisi has until now vehemently and consistently rejected direct contact with the US, which it frequently refers to as the “Great Satan,” since coming to power in Iran in 2021.

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According to the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, diplomatic contact with the US only takes place via third countries such as Qatar and Oman and, in some cases, via the European Union. Kharazi’s statements, therefore, indicate a change of course on the part of the Islamic Republic.

However, official representatives of the government have not yet made a statement.

As recently as Thursday, Kharazi had threatened both the US and Israel with a revision of Iran’s nuclear doctrine. Although he justified this again, he added that Iran still does not want to build or use nuclear weapons.

–IANS/DPA

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Israel rejects order by UN court to 'immediately' halt Rafah assault

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Tel Aviv/Amsterdam, May 25 (IANS/DPA) In a move rejected by Israeli officials, the UN’s top court on Friday ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory was “disastrous”.

The ruling read aloud by Judge Nawaf Salam at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague was in response to an urgent application submitted by South Africa.

South Africa justified its application to the ICJ by arguing that the court’s previous measures in connection with the Gaza war were inadequate.

Israel rejected Friday’s ruling. “The charges of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice in the Hague are false, outrageous and morally repugnant,” the head of the National Security Council and the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a joint statement.

“Following the horrific attack against the citizens of Israel on October 7, 2023, Israel embarked upon a defensive and just war to eliminate Hamas and to secure the release of our hostages,” the statement continued.

“Israel is acting based on its right to defend its territory and its citizens, consistent with its moral values and in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law.”

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“Israel has not and will not conduct military actions in the Rafah area which may inflict on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The statement vowed that Israel “will continue its efforts to enable humanitarian assistance and will act, in full compliance with the law, to reduce as much as possible harm caused to the civilian population in Gaza.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was discussing the decision with key Cabinet ministers, according to Israeli media reports.

South Africa has previously demanded measures against Israel several times in summary proceedings. This is part of the genocide lawsuit that the country filed with the court in December.

In two emergency rulings, the UN judges had obliged Israel to do everything possible to prevent genocide and to allow humanitarian aid.

The Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement welcomed the ruling. In a statement published on Friday, Hamas called on the international community and the United Nations to exert pressure on Israel.

A member of the Hamas politburo emphasized that without international pressure, the court’s decision would have no effect.

Egypt and Jordan also welcomed the ICJ’s ruling and urged the UN Security Council to put pressure on Israel to end its operation.

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The Palestinian Authority called for increased international pressure on Israel following the ICJ decision.

The international community should force Israel to implement the decision, it said in a statement published in Ramallah on Friday. The authority believes that the court’s decision confirms the view that Israel is committing war crimes.

South Africa on Friday also welcomed the ICJ’s decision. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) called the decision a confirmation of the principles of justice, human rights and the rule of law.

However, in an echo of the words of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “We will not be completely free until the people of Palestine are free.”

With its decision, the highest court of the United Nations partially complied with demands made by South Africa in an urgent appeal.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said decisions of the ICJ were “binding” and he “trusts that the parties will duly comply with the order from the court,” his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said.

“In accordance with the Statute of the Court, the Secretary-General will also promptly transmit the notice of the provisional measures ordered by the court to the Security Council,” he said.

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While the top UN court’s rulings are binding, it has no means of forcing compliance. It can, however, call on the UN Security Council to act.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, on Friday, US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“Secretary Blinken and Minister Gantz discussed the latest efforts to achieve a ceasefire as part of a deal to release hostages and to prevent the conflict from expanding across the region,” Miller said.

Blinken reiterated that talks between Israel and Egypt must be concluded in order to reopen the Rafah border crossing as soon as possible, Miller said.

He also stressed the “urgent need” to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in Gaza and to de-escalate the situation in the West Bank.

Hamas gunmen killed some 1,200 people in Israel on October 7. Israel responded with a devastating aerial and ground campaign that, according to Hamas-run health authorities, has killed more than 35,000 people in the territory.

Israel has vowed to keep up its military operations until Hamas has been completely eliminated in Gaza.

–IANS/DPA

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UN Security Council adopts resolution on protection of humanitarian personnel

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United Nations, May 25 (IANS) The Security Council has adopted a resolution that calls on all states to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and UN and associated personnel.

Resolution 2730, adopted on Friday, won the support of 14 of the 15 members of the council. Russia abstained, Xinhua news agency reported.

The resolution also calls on all states and parties to armed conflict to respect and to ensure respect for applicable international humanitarian law in all circumstances.

It demands that all parties to armed conflict fully comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including their obligations related to the respect and protection of humanitarian personnel and UN and associated personnel.

It strongly condemns attacks and all forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, threats, and intimidation, against humanitarian personnel and UN and associated personnel and their premises and assets.

It, in particular, urges parties to armed conflict to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities and refrain from attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

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It calls on all parties to armed conflict to end immediately and definitively any indiscriminate use of explosive devices in violation of international humanitarian law, and stresses the need to take appropriate measures to mitigate this danger effectively.

The resolution strongly condemns the unlawful denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival. It urges all parties to armed conflict to allow and facilitate full, safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access to all civilians in need, and to promote the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel and UN and associated personnel and the safety and security of their premises and assets.

The resolution condemns disinformation, information manipulation, and incitement to violence against humanitarian personnel and their premises and assets, and expresses concern over the impact of misinformation on such personnel.

It urges states to conduct full, prompt, impartial and effective investigations within their jurisdiction of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed against humanitarian personnel and their premises and assets and where appropriate, take action against those responsible in accordance with domestic and international law.

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It further urges states to prosecute persons allegedly responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and to cooperate with domestic, regional and international courts and tribunals.

–IANS

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German Chancellor calls on climate activists to end their hunger strike

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Berlin, May 25 (IANS/DPA) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called on the climate activists taking part in a hunger strike in Berlin to end it.

“It is my greatest wish that the action be stopped,” Scholz said on Friday at the Democracy Festival in Berlin. “I think it is a mistake to use violence against others, but violence against oneself is also a mistake.”

Scholz added: “Violence against oneself is not good for democracy. And that’s why I’m asking for this campaign to be cancelled.”

Two participants in the “Starve until you are honest” campaign have since called off their hunger strike, while others are continuing despite the risks to their health.

They are living in a camp near the Federal Economy Ministry in Berlin. According to their own statements, the climate activists want to persuade Scholz to make a government statement on the excessive concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the urgency of changing course.

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Scholz made it clear at the citizens’ dialogue at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Germany’s constitution or Basic Law, that he attends similar events every week.

People could ask him any question and he would answer them. “In a society where it is so easy to talk to the federal chancellor, you don’t have to go on a hunger strike to get that done.”

–IANS/DPA

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Man suspected of spying for Russia arrested in Romania

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Budapest, May 25 (IANS/DPA) A Romanian man has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia for the past two years, prosecutors in Bucharest said on Friday.

His suspected Russian contact, a diplomat, was expelled.

Since 2022, the Romanian man had been “collecting information of a military nature and taking photographs of military combat equipment and the movement of personnel in the border area with Ukraine,” the statement said.

The man is suspected of spying on Romanian or NATO military positions located in the vicinity of the city of Tulcea, it continued.

Tulcea is located on the Danube Delta, about 7 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. There are transport connections to Ukraine from there.

The suspect had transmitted this data to the Russian embassy in the Romanian capital Bucharest, the public prosecutor’s office added.

The Russian diplomat was declared persona non grata in connection with the espionage case at the suggestion of the Romanian domestic intelligence service (SRI), intelligence officials announced.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest also confirmed the Russian’s expulsion, but did not state the exact reason for the move.

As is usual in such cases, it only noted a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

An investigating judge has ordered that the suspected spy, who is a Romanian citizen, be remanded in custody for an initial period of 30 days.

The investigation was conducted by a special unit of the Romanian public prosecutor’s office, which is responsible for organized crime and terrorism, in collaboration with the country’s domestic intelligence service, NATO’s intelligence service and Romania’s army.

Following searches of the suspect’s home, several pieces of evidence were identified and seized, investigators said.

He had tried to submit his candidature for the local elections planned for June, but without success.

–IANS/DPA

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Hezbollah leader threatens 'surprise' attacks against Israel

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Beirut, May 25 (IANS) Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to launch “surprise” attacks against Israel after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has “surprising” military plans for Lebanon.

“You must expect surprises from our resistance,” the Hezbollah leader said during a televised speech on Friday.

Nasrallah also claimed that “the resistance” is well-prepared for any surprising attacks from Israel, saying they have “studied all hypotheses and scenarios”, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a meeting with several Israeli generals on Thursday, Netanyahu said Israel has “detailed, important, and even surprising plans for the North,” namely the country’s northern neighbour Lebanon.

“We are constantly in action on the northern front,” Netanyahu said, adding Israel has “eliminated hundreds” of Hezbollah members.

Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on Oct. 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel the day before. Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

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–IANS

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