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Trump, Macron call for 'new' nuclear deal with Iran

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron called for a “new” deal with Iran Tuesday, looking beyond disagreements over a landmark nuclear accord that still hangs in the balance.
Trump laid transatlantic divisions bare during a visit by the French president, pillorying a three-year old agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The US leader described the deal as “insane” and “ridiculous,” despite European pleas for him not to walk away.

Instead, Trump eyed a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe, deal,” said Trump, stressing that any new accord would have to be built on “solid foundations.”

“They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria,” said Trump. “No matter where you go in the Middle East, you see the fingerprints of Iran behind problems.”

Macron admitted after meeting Trump that he did not know whether the US president would walk away from the nuclear deal when a May 12 decision deadline comes up.

“I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us,” Macron told a joint press conference with Trump at his side.

Putting on a brave face, he said he wished “for now to work on a new deal with Iran” of which the nuclear accord could be one part.

Neither Trump nor Macron indicated whether Iran would get something in return for concessions on its ballistic programs, activities in the Middle East or extending nuclear controls beyond 2025.

Trump — true to his background in reality TV — teased his looming decision.

“This is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal, it’s a bad structure. It’s falling down,” the US leader said. “We’re going to see what happens on the 12th.”

Trump’s European allies have repeatedly tried to persuade him not to abandon the 2015 deal, which gave Iran massive sanctions relief and the guarantee of a civilian nuclear program in return for limiting enrichment that could produce weapons grade fuel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will renew those calls when she visits Washington on Friday.

Iran, meanwhile, has warned it will ramp up enrichment if Trump walks away from the accord, prompting a blunt warning from the US leader.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before. And you can mark it down,” he said.

For months American and European officials have been working behind the scenes trying to find a compromise on Iran that allows the mercurial US president to claim a public victory, while keeping the deal intact.

More hawkish American officials accuse Europeans — particularly Germany — of putting business interests ahead of security, and of opposing a tougher stance against Iran to safeguard investments in the Islamic Republic.

That charge is sharply rejected by European officials, who are increasingly frustrated at spending time dealing with Trump’s complaints rather than tackling Iran’s behavior.

The disagreement threatens to plunge transatlantic relations to their lowest point since the Iraq War.

Trump’s comments on Iran contrasts markedly with the exuberant welcome he gave the French leader.

Tuesday morning both men waxed lyrical about shared heroes of yore — from the Marquis de Lafayette to Alexis de Tocqueville — as they listened to strains of “La Marseillaise” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Later, the Trumps rolled out the red carpet for the Macrons once more at a lavish state dinner — of which the US first lady was said to have fine-tuned every last detail, from gold tableware to white floral centerpieces, for star guests including Apple CEO Tim Cook and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Melania Trump dazzled in a sequined Chanel dress of black Chantilly lace, while Brigitte Macron stepped out in a long-sleeved creamy white gown with gold lattice detailing by Louis Vuitton.

“May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger, and may our sacred liberty never die,” Trump said in his toast to the Macrons.

In turn, the French leader spoke at length of “how deep, how strong, and how intense the relationship is between our two countries,” and marveled at the unforeseen rapport he has forged with Trump.

“I got to know you, you got to know me. We both know that none of us easily changes our minds, but we will work together, and we have this ability to listen to one another,” he said.

The key question is whether Macron can translate that privileged relationship into concrete results — as he also pushes for a permanent exemption for Europe from US steel and aluminum tariffs.

Earlier in the Oval Office, Trump offered a striking — and slightly awkward — sign of their much-vaunted intimacy.

“We have a very special relationship, in fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off,” Trump said, swiping something off Macron’s jacket. “We have to make him perfect — he is perfect.”

Trump, Macron call for 'new' nuclear deal with Iran

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron called for a “new” deal with Iran Tuesday, looking beyond disagreements over a landmark nuclear accord that still hangs in the balance.
Trump laid transatlantic divisions bare during a visit by the French president, pillorying a three-year old agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The US leader described the deal as “insane” and “ridiculous,” despite European pleas for him not to walk away.

Instead, Trump eyed a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe, deal,” said Trump, stressing that any new accord would have to be built on “solid foundations.”

“They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria,” said Trump. “No matter where you go in the Middle East, you see the fingerprints of Iran behind problems.”

Macron admitted after meeting Trump that he did not know whether the US president would walk away from the nuclear deal when a May 12 decision deadline comes up.

“I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us,” Macron told a joint press conference with Trump at his side.

Putting on a brave face, he said he wished “for now to work on a new deal with Iran” of which the nuclear accord could be one part.

Neither Trump nor Macron indicated whether Iran would get something in return for concessions on its ballistic programs, activities in the Middle East or extending nuclear controls beyond 2025.

Trump — true to his background in reality TV — teased his looming decision.

“This is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal, it’s a bad structure. It’s falling down,” the US leader said. “We’re going to see what happens on the 12th.”

Trump’s European allies have repeatedly tried to persuade him not to abandon the 2015 deal, which gave Iran massive sanctions relief and the guarantee of a civilian nuclear program in return for limiting enrichment that could produce weapons grade fuel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will renew those calls when she visits Washington on Friday.

Iran, meanwhile, has warned it will ramp up enrichment if Trump walks away from the accord, prompting a blunt warning from the US leader.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before. And you can mark it down,” he said.

For months American and European officials have been working behind the scenes trying to find a compromise on Iran that allows the mercurial US president to claim a public victory, while keeping the deal intact.

More hawkish American officials accuse Europeans — particularly Germany — of putting business interests ahead of security, and of opposing a tougher stance against Iran to safeguard investments in the Islamic Republic.

That charge is sharply rejected by European officials, who are increasingly frustrated at spending time dealing with Trump’s complaints rather than tackling Iran’s behavior.

The disagreement threatens to plunge transatlantic relations to their lowest point since the Iraq War.

Trump’s comments on Iran contrasts markedly with the exuberant welcome he gave the French leader.

Tuesday morning both men waxed lyrical about shared heroes of yore — from the Marquis de Lafayette to Alexis de Tocqueville — as they listened to strains of “La Marseillaise” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Later, the Trumps rolled out the red carpet for the Macrons once more at a lavish state dinner — of which the US first lady was said to have fine-tuned every last detail, from gold tableware to white floral centerpieces, for star guests including Apple CEO Tim Cook and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Melania Trump dazzled in a sequined Chanel dress of black Chantilly lace, while Brigitte Macron stepped out in a long-sleeved creamy white gown with gold lattice detailing by Louis Vuitton.

“May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger, and may our sacred liberty never die,” Trump said in his toast to the Macrons.

In turn, the French leader spoke at length of “how deep, how strong, and how intense the relationship is between our two countries,” and marveled at the unforeseen rapport he has forged with Trump.

“I got to know you, you got to know me. We both know that none of us easily changes our minds, but we will work together, and we have this ability to listen to one another,” he said.

The key question is whether Macron can translate that privileged relationship into concrete results — as he also pushes for a permanent exemption for Europe from US steel and aluminum tariffs.

Earlier in the Oval Office, Trump offered a striking — and slightly awkward — sign of their much-vaunted intimacy.

“We have a very special relationship, in fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off,” Trump said, swiping something off Macron’s jacket. “We have to make him perfect — he is perfect.”

US-China trade fight reaches top American court in antitrust case

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump‘s trade fight with China moved inside the white marble walls of the US Supreme Court on Tuesday, where lawyers for both countries faced off over whether Chinese companies can be held liable for violating US antitrust laws.

The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by two American companies of a lower court ruling that threw out claims of price fixing against two Chinese vitamin C manufacturers based on submissions by China’s government explaining that nation’s regulations.

The arguments provided both countries an opportunity to air their differences over an aspect of their trade relationship. The Supreme Court took the unusual step on April 13 of granting China the ability to present arguments even though it is not an official party in the case. Typically, only the US government is reserved that privilege.

The world’s two economic superpowers are engaged in an escalating trade fight. The United States, accusing China of unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property, has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese industrial and other imports. China has threatened comparable retaliation against US exports if Washington pushes ahead with the tariffs.

None of the heated rhetoric over tariffs trickled into Tuesday’s arguments, which remained respectful. The lawyer representing China, Carter Phillips, urged the justices to defer to China’s explanation about Chinese regulations. A US Justice Department lawyer said that such deference comes with limits.

Chris Froome named in Sky team for Giro

Team Sky have named Britain’s Chris Froome in their team for the Giro d’Italia starting next month despite the ongoing investigation into his adverse doping test.

Mummified body found in Iran could be father of last shah

DUBAI (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES): A mummified body discovered near the site of a former royal mausoleum in Iran may be the remains of the late Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty and the father of the country’s last shah.
The recent find of the gauze-wrapped body — and the speculation it triggered — puts new hurdles in the way of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to fully erase the country’s dynastic past, which includes the jack-hammered destruction of the autocrat’s tomb immediately after the 1979 revolution.

Yet, as disaffection and economic problems grow ahead of the Islamic Revolution’s 40th anniversary, mystique around Iran’s age of monarchies persists even with its own history of abuses.

Reza Shah’s grandson, the US-based exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, already tweeted about it as forensic experts in Iran try to determine whose body they found.

Construction workers discovered the mummified remains while working at the Shiite shrine of Abdul Azim, whose minarets once rose behind Reza Shah’s own mausoleum. A digger pulling away dirt and debris uncovered the body, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Pictures of the body, as well as construction workers posing with it, quickly ricocheted across social media in Iran.

A spokesman for the shrine dismissed the idea of a mummy being found there. However, Hassan Khalilabadi, the head of Tehran City Council’s cultural heritage and tourism committee, was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency on Monday that it’s “possible” the mummy is the body of Reza Shah.

Authorities say they’ll need to conduct DNA tests to confirm whose body it is.

State television has yet to report on the find, likely due to complications that mentioning the Pahlavis can entail.

State media typically refer to the Persian dynasties, including the Pahlavis, as “despotic,” focusing on the abuses of the monarchy’s feared SAVAK intelligence agency and their once-lavish lifestyles.

Reza Shah’s own rise gave birth to modern Iran itself, then still called Persia until he ordered foreign diplomats to cease using the name. He came to power in 1925, ruling as an absolute autocrat who used taxes and the country’s burgeoning oil revenues to rapidly modernize the nation.

His decisions echo today, particularly his 1936 decree banning women from wearing long, flowing black robes known as chadors. He ordered men to wear Western clothes and bring their wives to public functions with their hair uncovered, borrowing from the secularization of Turkey’s first President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a contemporary.

The ban became a source of humiliation for some pious Muslim women in the country. Shiite clerics, angry over his secular beliefs, purges and mass arrests of opponents, held grudges that would foment the coming revolution. Controversies over the chador and hijab persist in Iran today .

Iran’s strong trade ties with Germany, Reza Shah’s push for neutrality amid the coming of World War II and Western fears over its oil supplies falling to the Nazis ultimately sparked a Russian-British invasion of the country in 1941. Reza Shah abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, at the insistence of the occupying British forces.

Reza Shah ended up in South Africa, dying there in 1944. His body was taken to Cairo, mummified and held for years before returning to Iran. A grand mausoleum near Tehran held his body for years, which then-President Richard Nixon visited in 1972.

After 1979, however, Islamists viewed the mausoleum as an affront.

Iranian cleric Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, who ordered the executions of hundreds after the revolution, led a mob of supporters who used sledgehammers, jack hammers and other tools to demolish the mausoleum.

Khalkhali later would write in his memoirs that he believed the shah’s family took Reza Shah’s body when they fled the country. The shah’s family, however, maintained the body remained in Iran. His son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was buried in Cairo after dying of cancer in 1980.

Today, Iran’s youth remain fascinated by the time before the revolution. Television period pieces have focused on the Pahlavi dynasty, including the recent state TV series “The Enigma of the Shah,” the most expensive series ever produced to air in the country. While incorporating romances or mobsters into the tales, all shows uniformly criticize the royal court.

Reza Shah’s grandson, Reza Pahlavi, has seen his profile rise following the election of President Donald Trump, who appears to hold the future of the Iran nuclear deal in the balance. From exile, the crown prince has agitated for an end to Iran’s theocracy — though gauging national sentiment about restoring the monarchy remains impossible.

Pahlavi took to Twitter on Monday night to tell Iranian officials he is watching what they will do next with the body.

“I warn the responsible authorities not to hide anything,” he wrote.

Egypt former anti-corruption chief gets 5-year jail term

CAIRO: An Egyptian military court Tuesday sentenced a former anti-corruption chief, Hisham Geneina, to five years in jail after he said a presidential candidate had secret documents allegedly damaging to the army, his lawyer said.
“The verdict is five years, and we’re doing the appeal (procedure) now,” lawyer Ali Taha said.

The military detained Geneina in February accusing him of “spreading news that harms the armed forces” following an interview he gave to Huffpost Arabi, the Arabic version of the US news site.

Taha said he was convicted on the same charge.

Geneina had been a top campaign aide to General Sami Anan, a former armed forces chief of staff whom the military also detained after he announced he would stand in last month’s presidential election against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who swept to victory for a second term.

Geneina had said Anan allegedly possessed documents on “political events and crises that Egyptian society has passed through” since the 2011 uprising which toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

He said the documents were being held at a “secure” location abroad and could be released if Anan was harmed.

Moataz Wadnan, the journalist who conducted the interview, was also arrested.

Geneina, a qualified judge, was sacked by Sisi as head of the Central Auditing Authority in 2016 after he was accused of exaggerating the cost of corruption in Egypt.

Egypt former anti-corruption chief gets 5-year jail term

CAIRO: An Egyptian military court Tuesday sentenced a former anti-corruption chief, Hisham Geneina, to five years in jail after he said a presidential candidate had secret documents allegedly damaging to the army, his lawyer said.
“The verdict is five years, and we’re doing the appeal (procedure) now,” lawyer Ali Taha said.

The military detained Geneina in February accusing him of “spreading news that harms the armed forces” following an interview he gave to Huffpost Arabi, the Arabic version of the US news site.

Taha said he was convicted on the same charge.

Geneina had been a top campaign aide to General Sami Anan, a former armed forces chief of staff whom the military also detained after he announced he would stand in last month’s presidential election against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who swept to victory for a second term.

Geneina had said Anan allegedly possessed documents on “political events and crises that Egyptian society has passed through” since the 2011 uprising which toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

He said the documents were being held at a “secure” location abroad and could be released if Anan was harmed.

Moataz Wadnan, the journalist who conducted the interview, was also arrested.

Geneina, a qualified judge, was sacked by Sisi as head of the Central Auditing Authority in 2016 after he was accused of exaggerating the cost of corruption in Egypt.

Taiwan to stage live-fire drill simulating China 'invasion'

TAIPEI: Taiwan will practice thwarting a Chinese “invasion” in annual live fire drills in June, simulating surprise coastal assaults to reflect increased military threats from Beijing, officials said Tuesday.
China’s growing military is increasingly flexing its muscles and held live-fire drills last week in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland from Taiwan — following weeks of naval manoeuvres in the area.

Chinese officials said their drills were to safeguard Beijing’s territorial sovereignty, a major priority for President Xi Jinping.

Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland and Beijing still sees it as a renegade province to be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary.

Cross-strait relations have steadily deteriorated since 2016 when President Tsai Ing-wen took office, largely because she refuses to accept that Taiwan is part of “one China”, and because Beijing is deeply suspicious of her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Taiwan’s five-day drill, codenamed “Han Kuang”, which means “Han Glory”, will start from June 4.

“Simply put, the main goal of the drill is to make any Chinese communist military mission to invade Taiwan fail,” defence ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told reporters.

“It simulates this year’s situation and we are taking into consideration China’s air and naval movements in the region,” he added.

This year’s drill will enlist the coastguard and National Airborne Service Corps, which handles rescue flights, for the first time for “comprehensive defence”, Chen said.

Civilian drones will also participate in the drill for the first time to conduct surveillance and mark targets, while civilian telecom service providers will assist in maintaining communication and control, the ministry said.

“It’s not just soldiers’ duties to protect the country. Everyone has the responsibility since our defence budget is limited,” Chen said.

Taipei dismissed China’s military exercises in the Taiwan Strait last week as “routine” after expected large-scale naval manoeuvres failed to materialise and called it the “cheapest way of verbal intimidation and sabre-rattling”.

Chinese state media reported Tuesday that a flotilla of Chinese naval vessels held a “live combat drill” in the East China Sea, the latest show of force in disputed waters that have riled neighbours.

Earlier this month Chinese president Xi inspected the convoy as it conducted exercises in the disputed South China Sea.

The flotilla then held two separate drills last week in waters on either side of Taiwan, infuriating the government in Taipei.

Chinese tech giants, govt under fire for 'men only' job ads

BEIJING: Top Chinese tech firms and some government departments have been singled out in a report that says discriminatory hiring practices based on gender are widespread in China and are linked to a shrinking proportion of women in the labour force.
Job ads posted by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd were among those that deterred female applicants or objectified women, said Human Rights Watch in a report released on Monday.

In many of the adverts, prospective employers boasted of “beautiful girls” at their workplace as a selling point for new employees, while others included specific height, appearance and temperament requirements for women that were unrelated to the roles.

“We have investigated these incidents and are making immediate changes. We are sorry they occurred and we will take swift action to ensure they do not happen again,” Tencent said in a statement.

An Alibaba spokeswoman said the company “will conduct stricter reviews of the recruiting advertisements to ensure compliance with our policy.”

A Baidu spokeswoman said the postings were “isolated instances”.

The report comes amid a larger Chinese movement against gender-based discrimination and harassment, buoyed by the global #MeToo movement, which has since been heavily censored online in the country.

The #MeToo movement began last year as victims of discrimination and sexual harassment took to social media to share their stories under the hashtag #MeToo. Silicon Valley firms have since been accused of discriminatory behaviour, turning the focus on tech worldwide.

Human Rights Watch, which analysed 36,000 Chinese job advertisements largely posted since 2013, also criticized adverts for government roles, construction workers and kindergarten teachers.

It said that so far in 2018, 19 percent of the Chinese civil service job adverts it reviewed were “men only” or at least said men were preferred. Only one job posting this year listed a preference for a female candidate, it said.

Reuters sent a fax seeking comment to the Ministry of Public Security, a bureau mentioned in the report, but did not receive a response.

Some firms looked to avoid scrutiny of their practices, including using code words to show a male preference, Human Rights Watch said. One used the Chinese word for south, “nan”, which in Chinese has the same pronunciation as the word for “man”, it said.

It added discriminatory hiring behaviour was a key issue behind the relatively low numbers of women in the workforce and growing gender disparity over urban pay.

Chinese laws ban discrimination based on gender, but “enforcement is low and Chinese authorities rarely proactively investigate companies that repeatedly violate relevant laws,” Human Rights Watch said in the report.

The country’s #MeToo movement has, however, been gaining momentum on university campuses since late last year, and several schools have cut ties with professors amid claims of harassment and assault dating back decades.

The Human Rights Watch report received a muted response on Chinese social media on Tuesday, with almost no posts commenting on the issue on popular microblog platforms such as Alibaba-backed Weibo or Tencent’s mobile chat app WeChat.

Chinese social media firms are often required to censor civil rights discussions, including previous Human Rights Watch findings and posts related to the #MeToo movement.


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