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US, China to Begin Third Round of Trade, Economic Talks

February 19, 2019 by · Comments Off on US, China to Begin Third Round of Trade, Economic Talks 

Negotiators from China and the United States will resume talks this week to resolve the ongoing trade war between the world’s biggest economies. The White House says a third round of negotiations will take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington between lower-level deputies before moving on to senior-level talks beginning Thursday. The statement said the talks will focus on “achieving needed structural changes in China that affect trade” between the United States and China. Washington has long complained that Beijing forces U.S. companies to transfer their technology advances to Chinese firms, and that it limits access to China’s vast market. The Trump administration has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to compel China to changes its trading practices, prompting Beijing to retaliate with its own tariff increases on $110 billion of U.S. exports. The trade talks are the result of an agreement in December between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop the tit-for-tat tariff conflict for 90 days starting on New Year’s Day.

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White House Defends Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

February 18, 2019 by · Comments Off on White House Defends Trump’s National Emergency Declaration 

The White House is defending President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border as multiple states prepare to file legal challenges and Democrats in Congress plan to vote their disapproval. “He could choose to ignore this crisis, but he chose not to,” Trump adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner, told Fox News Sunday. Miller assailed former Republican President George W. Bush for what he called an “astonishing betrayal” of the U.S. nearly two decades ago when four times as many immigrants were illegally entering the United States as now. But Miller said the “bottom line” is that “you cannot conceive of a strong nation without a secure border.” He said Trump’s action is “defending our own borders.” He illegal immigration “is a threat in our country.” Miller said Trump’s actions were justified under a 1976 law giving presidents authority to declare national emergencies, although none of the 59 declared since then has involved instances when a president has attempted to override congressional refusal to approve funding for a specific proposal.

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Rouhani Says Iran Ready to Improve Ties With Gulf States

February 17, 2019 by · Comments Off on Rouhani Says Iran Ready to Improve Ties With Gulf States 

Iran is ready to work with all of its neighbors to secure peace in the Middle East in the face of U.S. and Israeli aggression, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, in his latest attempt to weaken ties between regional rival Saudi Arabia and America. Iran and Saudi Arabia have been fighting proxy wars for years, backing opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen. But pressure is building on Tehran after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions. Saudi Arabia welcomed the move. “Iran is ready to work with regional states to preserve security in the Middle East,” Rouhani said in a public speech in the southern Hormozgan province, broadcast live on state TV. “We want to establish brotherly ties with all countries of the region … Iran has never started any aggression in the region.”

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Iran: Female Defendant Not in Court as Others Tried for Spying

February 14, 2019 by · Comments Off on Iran: Female Defendant Not in Court as Others Tried for Spying 

Iran says a female member of a group of eight conservationists on trial for spying has been absent from the courtroom this week as a prosecutor continued reading charges that rights activists say are bogus. Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that the female defendant was absent from the third and fourth sessions of the closed-door trial, held in Tehran on Tuesday and Wednesday. The report did not name the defendant or cite a reason for her absence. But it said a prosecutor continued reading a more than 300-page-long indictment to the other seven defendants and would complete the process later. An Iran researcher for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Tara Sepehri Far, told VOA Persian that her sources named the absent defendant as Niloufar Bayani. Another U.S.-based group, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), has said much of the indictment is based on forced confessions from Bayani. CHRI has quoted its own source as saying Bayani interrupted the trial’s opening Jan. 30 session several times, accusing investigators of extracting confessions from her under mental and physical duress, and saying she has since retracted those statements.

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Fewer Feel the Love This Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2019 by · Comments Off on Fewer Feel the Love This Valentine’s Day 

Fewer Americans appear to be celebrating Valentine’s Day now as opposed to a decade ago. The National Retail Federation says that 10 years ago, more than 60 percent of adults planned to celebrate the day that’s dedicated to love, but that number has dropped to just over half in 2019. Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated every Feb. 14, is a day when people show their affection for another person or people by gifting them with cards, flowers, sweets or some other expression of love or appreciation. In 2009, 72 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 said they expected to celebrate Valentine’s Day, while 65 percent of people ages 35 to 54 planned to mark the day with their sweetheart. Today, just over half of people in those age brackets — between 52 and 53 percent — plan to do something for Valentine’s.

Iran ‘Has the Formula’ for Nuclear Bombs, Says Hardline Cleric

February 12, 2019 by · Comments Off on Iran ‘Has the Formula’ for Nuclear Bombs, Says Hardline Cleric 

The Friday Prayer Imam of Tehran and influential conservative cleric Ahmad Khatami has said that Iran “has the formula for building a nuclear bomb.”
 IRNA reports that during a mourning ceremony in Mashhad on February 9 Khatami has announced, “Iran never had the intention to build an atomic bomb. Of course we have the formula but we do not want to use weapons of mass destruction.” Iranian officials have always denied any move toward building nuclear weapons. On this occasion, Khatami did not elaborate about Tehran having “the formula.” Khatami is seen in Iran as a staunch supporter of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who usually repeats or echoes his hardline positions. Three years ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano reported that prior to 2003 and until 2009 Iran did engage in activities toward developing the know-how for nuclear explosions.

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Iran’s Revolution: Political Quake Still Shaking Middle East

February 10, 2019 by · Comments Off on Iran’s Revolution: Political Quake Still Shaking Middle East 

The victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran was an earthquake that upended the political order in the Middle East, and the aftershocks are still being felt 40 years later. When Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted the shah’s last government in February 1979 it was a moment that for many was completely “unthinkable, unexpected”, said Clement Therme, a researcher on Iran at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The victory was an immense surprise for the Middle East and the world,” Therme told AFP. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had been a seen as a pillar of stability and bulwark of U.S. influence in a region where Cold War tensions were playing out with the Soviet Union. But the tumult of the revolution soon ended that spectacularly. “One of the founding events for the foreign policy of the new regime was the taking hostage of American diplomats,” said Therme.

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Health of Iranian-Swedish Doctor Jailed in Iran is Failing, Wife Says

February 8, 2019 by · Comments Off on Health of Iranian-Swedish Doctor Jailed in Iran is Failing, Wife Says 

The wife of an Iranian Swedish doctor sentenced to death in Iran for collaborating with a hostile government has provided new details of how her husband’s health has worsened sharply in detention. In a Wednesday phone interview with VOA Persian from her home in Sweden, Vida Mehran Nia said her husband, Ahmad Reza Jalali, a detainee at Tehran’s Evin prison, recently underwent a botched surgery for a hernia, began suffering from anemia, and has lost a lot of weight. Iranian authorities arrested Jalali, a disaster medicine specialist who had been working at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, as he visited Iran’s capital at the University of Tehran’s invitation in April 2016.A court sentenced him to death in October 2017 for “collaborating with a hostile government,” a sentence that Iran’s Supreme Court upheld two months later, but that also remains under review as his lawyer repeatedly has tried to appeal it.

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Iranian Lawyers Condemn Tehran’s Jailing of Colleague, Demand Release

February 6, 2019 by · Comments Off on Iranian Lawyers Condemn Tehran’s Jailing of Colleague, Demand Release 

A group of Iranian lawyers has condemned Iran’s government for imprisoning a fellow lawyer convicted of slandering a former official and demanded that their colleague be released. In an open letter to the Iranian people dated Monday and shared with VOA Persian by lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz, he and 18 other lawyers said Sunday’s jailing of their counterpart, Mostafa Tork Hamedani, at Tehran’s Evin Prison violates Iran’s international commitments to the principles of a fair trial. An Iranian appeals court sentenced Hamedani last month to six months in prison with lashes, according to state-controlled news agency ISNA. Hamedani’s own lawyer, Peyman Haj Mahmoud Attar, told ISNA that his client had been convicted of slandering Saeed Mortazavi, a former Iranian prosecutor and former head of Iran’s Social Security Organization (SSO). Hamedani is the latest Iranian lawyer to be jailed by Iranian authorities after having taken on politically sensitive cases. He represented several SSO workers in a 2016 trial in which they accused Mortazavi of corruption while he led the state body from 2011 to 2013. Mortazavi was convicted in that trial and sentenced to 135 lashes for wasting public funds.

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Iran Detains Conservationist as 8 Others Tried in Court

February 5, 2019 by · Comments Off on Iran Detains Conservationist as 8 Others Tried in Court 

Iran has detained another environmentalist who worked for the same Iranian conservation organization as eight activists who went on trial in Tehran last week after spending a year in detention. A reliable source in Iran told VOA Persian that Iranian authorities detained Pouria Sepahvand of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation on Saturday. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) confirmed Sepahvand’s arrest in a Monday tweet and said he had been taken to an unknown location. Sepahvand’s arrest came on the same day that eight of his colleagues appeared in a Tehran court for a second closed-door session of their trial, whose first session was held on January 30. Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency has referred to the defendants, who include six men and two women, as “individuals accused of spying on the country’s military installations.”

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