US, North Korea Resume Talks After Nuclear Test

People watch a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on October 2, 2019. Jung Yeon-je / AFP


North Korean and US officials on Saturday gathered for new nuclear talks in Stockholm after months of deadlock and Pyongyang’s defiant test of a sea-launched ballistic missile this week.

North Korea’s Kim Myong Gil and Stephen Biegun, the special envoy of US President Donald Trump, are part of the teams at the talks.

The two were to meet at a heavily guarded venue on an island off Stockholm, several hundred metres from the North Korean embassy, an AFP correspondent said.

The first cars with tinted windows started arriving just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

“I am encouraged that US and (North Korean) working level delegations are currently in Sweden to hold talks,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Lindh tweeted.

“Dialogue needed to reach denuclearization and peaceful solution.”

Similar-level talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament were held in Stockholm in March 2018 and then in January this year.

North Korea frequently couples diplomatic overtures with military moves as a way of maintaining pressure on negotiating partners, analysts say, and many believe this weapons system gives it added leverage.

Pyongyang tested what it called a “super-large” rocket on Wednesday just hours after it said it was willing to resume working-level talks with Washington.

Kim Myong Gil said he was “optimistic” about the talks, speaking in Beijing on his way to the Swedish capital.

Washington has been eagerly awaiting a resumption of the dialogue, which has virtually stalled after a Hanoi meeting in late February between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea claimed to have entered a new phase in its defence capability with Wednesday’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile — the most provocative since Pyongyang began a dialogue with Washington in 2018.

The Pentagon said Thursday the missile seems to have been launched from a “sea-based platform” and not a submarine.

Trump has said he sees no problem with a string of short-range rocket tests conducted previously by North Korea, while insisting his personal ties with the North’s leader remain good.

‘New phase’ 

Photos carried by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a black and white missile emerging from the water and appearing to shoot into the sky.

The images also showed a small towing vessel next to the missile, which analysts said indicates the test was conducted from a submersible barge rather than an actual submarine, and that the system was in its early stages.

“The new-type ballistic missile was fired in vertical mode” in the waters off Wonsan Bay, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, identifying the weapon as a Pukguksong-3 and saying it “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat.”

The United Nations Security Council meanwhile is expected to hold closed-door talks early next week on the latest test, diplomats said.

Those talks were requested by Britain, France and Germany, as the European powers push for the world body to keep up pressure on Pyongyang which is under heavy US and UN sanctions over its weapons program.

North Korea is banned from ballistic missile launches by Security Council resolutions.

It is also under three sets of UN sanctions adopted in 2017 in an effort to force it to give up its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes. They limit North Korea’s oil imports and impose bans linked to its exports of coal, fish and textiles.

Since the US-North Korea talks began, Russia and China have been calling for the UN to start lifting sanctions so as to create momentum towards the North’s denuclearisation. But the United States has refused.


Italy’s President Begins Talks To Solve Political Crisis

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella addresses journalists after a meeting with Italy’s prime ministerial candidate Giuseppe Conte on May 27, 2018 at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome.  Vincenzo PINTO / AFP


Italy’s president began talks with political leaders on Wednesday in a bid to form a new coalition, as a proposed alliance between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and opposition centre-left Democratic Party appeared to gain traction.

President Sergio Mattarella met with Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati as two days of talks kicked off following the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the disintegration of Italy’s anti-immigrant government.

Political manoeuvring to form a new coalition has already started with Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti saying that party members were “united” in making a deal with Five Star (M5S).

Mattarella will consider whether a stable coalition is possible.

If not he will consider a short-term technocratic government or a snap election, just 14 months after Conte took the helm of the doomed alliance between the far-right League and M5S.

Conte quit on Tuesday after lashing out at Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who tried to bring down the government to force a snap election looking to take advantage of a surge in popularity for his League party.

“It is irresponsible to initiate a government crisis. It shows personal and party interests,” Conte said in his scathing attack on Salvini in the Senate before resigning.

 ‘Dark clouds’ –

The move left the eurozone’s third largest economy in a political vacuum following a year of nationalist, a populist government which angered many other European leaders with its demonisation of migrants and attempts to flout EU budget rules.

Investors appeared to believe the crisis would be short-lived with the much-watched spread — the gap between German and Italian bond yields — shrinking, indicating the markets do not deem significant risk at this stage.

“If they manage to form a new government, it would be welcomed with some caution by other EU leaders who might see it as an opportunity to avoid a showdown over Italy’s budget in the next few months,” said the director of Future Europe Initiative, Benjamin Haddad.

Italy needs to approve a budget in the next few months or could face an automatic rise in value-added tax that would hit the least well-off Italian families the hardest and likely plunge the country into recession.

Mattarella began consultations on a new government at 1400 GMT.

The PD and M5S have been at each other’s throats for years — but an alliance would see Salvini kicked out of government, a powerful motive for compromise.

After a PD party meeting on Wednesday, leader Zingaretti said lawmakers would form an alliance dependent on five conditions.

They include a radical shift in Italy’s zero-tolerance policy on migrants crossing the Mediterranean, pro-European policies and a focus on improving living standards.

The PD wants to work with M5S to deliver “a sharable, achievable program by a large parliamentary majority,” Zingaretti said.

Mattarella will give PD and M5S until early next week at the latest to hammer out a coalition agreement, according to media reports.

“The head of state sees dark clouds coming, with Italy already on the threshold of recession and the markets in turmoil,” said Virman Cusenza from the right-leaning newspaper Messaggero.

 ‘Back to Europe’ 

Italy’s economy has been caught in a slow or no-growth trap throughout this century.

The country’s debt ratio — 132 per cent of gross domestic product — is the second-biggest in the eurozone after Greece, and youth unemployment is currently above 30 per cent.

In a bid to get a PD-M5S alliance off the ground — a grouping previously almost unthinkable — former PD premier Matteo Renzi has said he will not participate.

Many in the anti-establishment M5S view him as elitist.

“Populists are effective in election campaigns but a catastrophe once in government! We must bring Italy back to Europe with France and Germany,” Renzi tweeted on Wednesday, calling for a pro-EU coalition.

As Mattarella examines his options, a new government is theoretically possible as soon as Friday.

With signs that a PD-M5S deal was possible, Salvini mocked his former coalition allies saying: “In a week they have gone from the League to Renzi”.


President Calls For ‘Serious Talks’ With Taliban In Afghanistan

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani speaks during a press conference at Presidential Palace in Kabul. AFP

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Monday the Taliban should “enter serious talks” with his government, after the insurgents and Washington both touted progress during unprecedented negotiations in Qatar last week. 

The Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, branding them “puppets”.

But a months-long diplomatic push by the United States to broker talks culminated in six days of meetings between Washington and the insurgents in Doha, igniting hopes of a breakthrough more than 17 years after the US invasion.

Both the Taliban and the US touted “progress” over the weekend, and the New York Times cited Washington’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday as saying they have formed “a draft of a framework”, though he warned details need to be fleshed out and major sticking points remain.

The points of contention include a ceasefire, a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the Taliban’s ongoing refusal to speak to Kabul.

Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the talks and warned that any deal between the US and the Taliban would require Kabul’s endorsement.

“I call on the Taliban to… show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans’ demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government,” Ghani said in a nationally televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul.

US President Donald Trump’s clear eagerness to end America’s longest war has also weighed heavy on the discussions, and Ghani warned against rushing into a deal, citing violence in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

“We want peace, we want it fast but we want it with a plan,” he continued.

“We should not forget that the victims of this war are Afghans … No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely. No Afghan wants to face suicide attacks in hospitals, schools, the mosques, and parks.”

Civilians continue to pay a terrible price for the Taliban insurgency, with some estimates showing the Afghan conflict overtook Syria to become the deadliest in the world in 2018.

 Talks continue 

Ghani has called for talks before and outlined a peace plan last year which included a ceasefire and bringing the insurgents into mainstream politics.

They did not reply, though in June they did agree to a three-day ceasefire — the first of the entire conflict, prompting an outpouring of joyful celebrations as Taliban fighters posed for selfies and shared ice cream cones with civilians.

Khalilzad — who has been leading the negotiations — arrived in Afghanistan late Sunday to update officials including Ghani on the progress made.

He reassured the Afghans the talks in Qatar remain geared towards bringing the insurgents to the table with Kabul, according to a statement released by Ghani’s office.

“My role is to facilitate,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying in the statement.

The palace said Khalilzad also confirmed that no agreement had been made on a withdrawal, adding that any such decision would be coordinated with Kabul.

The Taliban have insisted foreign troops must pull out. NATO’s combat troops left Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but thousands remain in training, support and counter-terrorism roles.

The US has the largest contingent, roughly 14,000 troops. Trump has already said he wants to pull half of them out, according to US officials.

On Saturday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that until a withdrawal timetable is decided progress on other issues is “impossible”.

Khalilzad also confirmed there had been no agreement on the issue of a new ceasefire, according to the palace statement.

There was headway on one topic, Khalilzad told the New York Times.

The Taliban have “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” he was quoted as saying.

The Islamists’ harbouring of Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden were the rationale behind the US invasion, weeks after the jihadist group carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

The Islamic State group is also a potent, growing force in Afghanistan, where it is fighting a fierce turf war with the Taliban and has claimed responsibility for many devastating attacks, especially in Kabul.

The Taliban and US officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced.

Afghans have expressed tentative hopes about the talks tempered by fears of an American exit.

Afghan security forces are already taking staggering losses, with 45,000 killed since late 2014, and morale is low. There are fears that a US withdrawal without a deal in place could see the military fracture along ethnic lines, plunging the country further into civil war.

The government, meanwhile, is also facing a presidential election scheduled for July — the middle of the Taliban’s traditional fighting season, with fears the poll could unleash a wave of deadly violence as militants seek to disrupt the vote.


Trump Denies Hiding Detail Of Putin Talks

US President Donald Trump (C) shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin next to US First Lady Melania Trump (L) ahead a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. 
Aleksey NIKOLSKYI / Sputnik / AFP


President Donald Trump has rejected a Washington Post report that he has refused to share details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin with top US government officials.

Trump, in a telephone interview late Saturday with Fox News, dismissed as “ridiculous” the Post story that alleged he went to great lengths to hide the content of his talks with Putin, even confiscating the notes of his interpreter and ordering that person to not discuss what was said.

Trump said he had “a great conversation” with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018.

When asked why not release details of the nearly two-hour conversation, Trump said: “I would, I don’t with care.

“I mean, I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries… We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things … I’m not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn’t care less. I mean, it’s so ridiculous.”

He added: “Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is up for grabs.”

According to the Post, there is no detailed record of Trump’s personal talks with Putin at five locations over the past two years.

The newspaper quotes unnamed current and former government officials as sources for the story.

Trump also told Fox when asked about Putin that “no collusion” has been found between his 2016 campaign and Russia, that he was a better candidate than Democrat Hillary Clinton, that the US economy “is the strongest in the world,” and that The Washington Post is “basically the lobbyist for Amazon,” as both are owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.

A national security threat? 

Trump also took aim at an earlier story in The New York Times stating that the FBI launched a previously undisclosed counterintelligence investigation to determine whether he posed a national security threat, at the same time that it opened a criminal probe into possible obstruction of justice.

The FBI investigation was later folded into the broader probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collaboration by the Trump campaign.

Fox asked if he had ever worked for Russia. “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said, without directly answering the question.

He slammed the Times story as “the most insulting article I’ve ever had written and if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.”

No evidence has publicly emerged that Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian officials, the Times said.

The FBI had been suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, but it held off on opening a probe until the president sacked Comey, who refused to roll back the Russia investigation, the Times said.

Mueller has indicted 33 people in the probe and convicted some of the president’s close associates.

Trump’s ex-national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Moscow ties.

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been sentenced to three years in prison for multiple crimes, including felony violations of campaign finance laws that prosecutors allege were carried out under Trump’s direction.

And Trump’s former presidential campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been convicted in one case brought by Mueller and pleaded guilty in another, over financial crimes related to his work in Ukraine before the 2016 campaign, and for witness tampering.


US To Host Global Summit On Iran, Says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during an event for PEPFAR(President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) at the US Department of State November 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP


The United States is organizing an international summit in Poland next month, focusing on Iran’s Middle Eastern influence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News.

Pompeo made the announcement in an interview with the network during a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran’s influence could grow.

“We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo told Fox.

They will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence,” the top US diplomat said.

The event will take place on February 13 and 14.


North Korea’s Kim Vows More Summits With South Next Year

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) and North Korean General Kim Yong Chol (L), who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs for North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, talking with a South Korean delegation (not pictured) during their meeting in Pyongyang.  AFP


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to meet the South’s President Moon Jae-in “frequently” next year to discuss denuclearisation of the peninsula in a rare letter sent to Seoul, Moon’s office said Sunday. 

The leader of the isolated North met with Moon three times this year — twice at the border truce village of Panmunjom and once in the North’s capital Pyongyang — as a reconciliatory push gathered pace.

During Moon’s visit to Pyongyang in September, Kim promised to pay a return visit to the South’s capital Seoul “at the earliest date,” sparking speculation he may visit by the end of this year.

But the much-anticipated trip has not yet materialised, which left the young ruler feeling “much regret,” according to Kim’s letter sent to mark the end of the year, Moon’s spokesman said.

The North’s leader “expressed a strong determination to visit Seoul while watching the future situation,” Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters.

Kim Jong Un also “expressed an intention to meet with Moon frequently in 2019” to pursue peace and “solve the issue of denuclearising the peninsula together,” the spokesman said.

The official did not elaborate on how the letter was delivered.

Moon welcomed the latest message, saying Kim had also expressed “active intention to carry out agreements” made in his previous summits with the US and the South, without elaborating further.

“I welcome chairman Kim’s intention to solve together the issue of denuclearisation…by meeting frequently even next year,” Moon said in a statement.

The two neighbours technically remain at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty.

Moon — a dovish former human rights lawyer — has advocated dialogue to push the impoverished but nuclear-armed North toward denuclearisation.

Cross-border ties improved markedly in 2018 as Kim made a series of reconciliatory gestures — including a historic summit with US President Donald Trump in June in Singapore.

But progress in pushing the North to give up its atomic arsenal has stalled as Washington and Pyongyang accuse each other of dragging their feet and acting in bad faith.

Critics say North Korea has made no concrete commitments and is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons, while Washington’s policy of maintaining pressure through isolation and sanctions has left Pyongyang seething.

Trump said last week that he was “looking forward” to his second summit with Kim, which the US says may take place early next year.


Russia Regrets Trump’s Decision To Cancel Putin Talks

Vladimir Putin                                                          Donald Trump


US President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit was regrettable, the Kremlin said.

“We regret the US administration’s decision to cancel the meeting,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

“This means that discussion of important issues on the international and bilateral agenda will be postponed indefinitely.”

Putin, he said, “is ready to have contacts with his American counterpart.”

Trump on Thursday scrapped the meeting over Moscow’s seizure at the weekend of three Ukrainian ships and continued detention of a group of Ukrainian sailors.

The two had been set for bilateral talks on Saturday at the G20 in Buenos Aires.


Spain’s PM Sanchez Repeats Brexit Veto Threat After May Talks

Leader of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a debate on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018.
PHOTO: Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP


Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez maintained his threat to scupper Britain’s draft deal to exit the European Union following a meeting with UK counterpart Theresa May on Thursday.

“After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter after arriving for a historic state visit to Cuba.

Madrid is seeking a guaranteed veto on post-Brexit relations between the EU and Gibraltar, the British enclave on Spain’s southern tip.

Spain wants to retain what it sees as its right to negotiate the future of Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis, which would give it an effective veto.

An original clause in the draft deal stipulated that after the UK left the bloc, any agreement between Britain and the EU could only apply to Gibraltar if it had previously been negotiated on a bilateral basis with Spain.

However, that clause has since disappeared from the final draft.

Although the legal service of the EU Council has tried to reassure Spain that the current text does not preclude this, Madrid wants that veto power clearly spelt out.

May is due to sign a treaty with EU leaders to leave the bloc on Sunday, but Spain holds the power to prevent that from happening.

“The negotiations are now at a critical moment, and all our efforts must be focused on working with our European partners to bring this process to a final conclusion,” May told Britain’s parliament, defending her draft deal.

Gibraltar is a tiny 2.6 square mile (6.8 square kilometre) territory that is home to about 30,000 people.

It was ceded to the British crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of the Spanish Succession with a more general agreement to preserve the balance of power in Europe.

Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar’s chief minister accused Spain of being heavy-handed.

“Spain does not need a veto to get us to a table,” Fabian Picardo told the local parliament.

The euro zone’s fourth-largest economy “does not need a whip to get the smallest economy in Europe to sit around the table with it and have a meaningful discussion about cooperation,” he added.


Yemen Govt To Resume Talks With Rebels

Yemen President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi


Yemen’s government said Thursday it was ready to re-start peace talks with Huthi rebels, as international pressure to end the years-long conflict intensifies.

The United Nations said a day earlier it aimed to relaunch the talks within a month after a previous attempt collapsed in September when the rebels refused to attend.

“The Republic of Yemen welcomes all efforts to restore peace,” a government statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency said.

“The government of Yemen is ready to immediately launch talks on the process of confidence-building, primarily the release of all detainees and prisoners, as well as those who have been abducted or subject to enforced disappearance,” it said.

The United States this week called for an immediate end to the hostilities in Yemen, where Washington backs a Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside the government against the Iran-backed Huthis.

In September, the Huthis refused to travel to Geneva for planned peace talks, accusing the UN of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to the Yemeni capital Sanaa and to secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.

Previous talks broke down in 2016 when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait between the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rebels failed to yield a deal.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes, in an implicit acknowledgment that the Saudi-led coalition was involved in the bombing of civilians.

Both the Huthis and Saudi Arabia along with its allies stand accused of transgressions that could amount to war crimes.

The coalition has been blacklisted by the UN for the maiming and killing of children in a country where 14 million people now face starvation.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is the target of the longest drone war in US history.

In 2012, the US expanded a covert war against the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington categorises as the radical group’s most dangerous branch.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after the Huthis seized Sanaa.

Rights groups say the toll could be as high as 50,000.


Talks With Trump Would Be ‘Humiliation’ – Iran

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani                                                                                ATTA KENARE / AFP


Scepticism was rife in Iran on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump offered talks, with one lawmaker saying negotiations would be a “humiliation”.

The country’s top leaders did not give an immediate response to Trump’s statement a day earlier that he would meet them “any time” without preconditions.

But several public figures said it was impossible to imagine negotiations with Washington after it tore up the 2015 nuclear deal in May.

“With the contemptuous statements (Trump) addressed to Iran, the idea of negotiating is inconceivable. It would be a humiliation,” said Ali Motahari, deputy speaker of parliament, according to the conservative Fars News.

“America is not trustworthy. After it arrogantly and unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement, how can it be trusted?” added Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, according to Fars.

The US is set to start reimposing full sanctions on Iran from August 6 — a move that has already contributed to a major currency crisis with the rial losing two-thirds of its value in six months.

Only last week, Trump fired off an all-caps tirade at his counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Twitter, warning of untold “suffering” if Iran continued to threaten the US.

Many in Iran are therefore suspicious of his latest volte-face.

“We cannot negotiate with someone who violates international commitments, threatens to destroy countries, and constantly changes his position,” said analyst Mohammad Marandi, of the University of Tehran, who was part of the nuclear negotiating team.

Some officials remained more receptive.

“Negotiations with the United States must not be a taboo,” said Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, in an interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“Trump understands that he does not have the capacity to wage war with Iran, but due to historic mistrust, diplomatic ties have been destroyed,” said Falahatpisheh, adding that this left no choice but to work towards reducing tensions.

Motahari added that hardliners, who have long opposed any rapprochement with the US, share the blame for the collapse of the nuclear deal.

“If the whole Iranian system had worked to implement this agreement, today we would be witnessing the presence of European companies in Iran and their investments, and even Trump would not be able to withdraw so easily from the deal,” he said.

“But from the start one part of the system did not want the agreement to work.”

‘Maybe an opportunity’ 

On the streets of Tehran, meanwhile, the focus remained resolutely on Iran’s domestic economic difficulties.

“All of us believe that Trump is the enemy of Iran and Iranian people. But now maybe Trump wants to give the Iranian people an opportunity and, God willing, it could be a way to get past our disastrous situation,” added Hushiar, an office manager in her 50s.

Many Iranians find it hard to believe that the man who is trying to destroy their economy, and has banned them from flying to the US, can be trusted.

“If they are honest in their words that they want to have negotiations with us without any preconditions, at least they should stay in the JCPOA (nuclear deal) or they should let us get the benefits of European trade,” said Morteza Mehdian, a software engineer in his 20s.

“But the reality is this man is a liar and we cannot trust his word.”

For now, this is also the official line, with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying earlier this month that talking to Trump would be “useless”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on Monday said “there is no possibility for talks”, ahead of Trump’s statement.

“Washington reveals its untrustworthy nature day by day,” Ghasemi said, according to the conservative-aligned Mehr news agency.

The Trump administration says its “maximum pressure campaign” is designed to force Iran into a new deal that goes beyond limiting its nuclear programme and includes curbs to its regional behaviour and missile programme.


Trump Confirms Talks With Senior North Korean Official

US President, Donald Trump                                                                                                           Credit: AFP


President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that a senior North Korean official is en route to New York as part of preparations for a planned summit with leader Kim Jong Un.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!” Trump wrote in a tweet.

General Kim Yong Chol landed at Beijing airport on Tuesday and will continue on to New York the following day after talks with Chinese officials, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported earlier, quoting diplomatic sources.

The trip is part of a flurry of diplomacy as preparations gather pace for the on-again, off-again summit between Trump and North Korea’s leader, scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12.


AC Milan declares interest in Van Persie

In search of a replacement for former AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Italian giant AC Milan decided to plunge into the race to capture Gunners striker Robin Van Persie who is presently being sought after by Serie A champions Juventus, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly confident that Van Persie will choose Old Trafford, but the lure of San Siro could turn the Dutchman’s head, despite Milan recently losing their Serie A crown to a resurgent Juventus.

It is however obvious that the Arsenal captain will be leaving the club this summer as AC Milan has been seen as the probable club to whisk the striker away as Milan’s vice-president, Adriano Galliani, is now looking to lodge a bid for the Premier League’s top scorer from last season.

The Rossoneri are desperate for another stunning signing following the €62million deal that took Ibrahimovic and Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva to Qatar backed Paris Saint-Germain this week.

Van Persie is said to be available at around £25million and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would obviously prefer he moved abroad if a transfer is inevitable.