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Iran, P5+1 aim to finish n-talks on July 7: Kerry

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Vienna: Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers aimed to finish the latest round of nuclear talks “in the timeframe” that all parties have set out, said US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna.

“That’s our goal,” Kerry said on Sunday, two days ahead of the July 7 deadline, while adding that the US would “put every bit of pressure possible on it to try to do so”.

After meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday afternoon, Kerry told reporters that “it is now time to see whether or not we are able to close an agreement”, with his foreign minister colleagues returning back to Vienna.

However, despite genuine progress made in the past few days, Kerry said: “We are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues.”

Kerry also told reporters that while he completely agrees with Zarif that Iran and world powers “have never been closer” to a deal, the negotiation could go either way at this point.

“We want a good agreement. Only a good agreement. We are not gonna shave anywhere at the margins just to get an agreement,” Kerry said, adding that “we’re not there yet, I emphasise that.”

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also said on Thursday: “We’re moving forward, but we’re not there yet.”

Zarif said on Friday in a video on YouTube that despite some remaining differences, Iran and its counterparts “have never been closer to a lasting outcome”.

China remains optimistic. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday that a comprehensive Iranian nuclear deal is very likely to be reached after intensive meetings between Iran and six world powers.

“The possibility of reaching a deal is very high, and a deal should be agreed,” Wang told reporters.

Despite the optimism, gaps remain in some areas of the talks, especially on the pace and timing of sanction relief.

Earlier, reports said that Iran may change tack on the Lausanne framework, raising concern of a possible setback in the talks.

Iran and five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) missed the previously set self-imposed June 30 deadline for a comprehensive deal. Both sides agreed to extend the deadline to July 7.

All parties have been negotiating over the past 16 months to reach a long-term deal over Tehran’s disputed atomic plan.

In a successful deal, Iran would suspend some sensitive nuclear activities, and in return, Western states would partially relieve some sanctions imposed on Tehran.

(IANS)

 

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Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Hold Meeting To Counter Trafficking of Opiate

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts.

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An Afghan man works on a poppy field in Jalalabad province. VOA

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.

War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, though the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted in its latest survey the opium cultivation decreased by 20 percent in 2018 due to a severe drought and reduced prices.

The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran.

Need for more initiatives 

Afghan, Pakistan and Iranian counternarcotics officials concluded their two-day UNODC-facilitated interaction Wednesday in Islamabad, where delegates underscored the need for more efforts against the massive flow of illicit drugs.

Participants at the “Triangular Initiative” meeting called for timely sharing of information and conducting simultaneously interdiction operations along their shared largely porous borders.

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In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

The forum was established in 2007 with a mission to promote regional cooperation to reduce the poppy cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs in the region and beyond.

Officials acknowledged that despite Afghanistan’s political tensions with Pakistan and Iran anti-drugs cooperation largely continues.

Renewed attitude 

Cesar Guedes, UNODC representative in Pakistan, noted the three countries attended the Islamabad meeting with “a revived attitude and role”, raising prospects for more effective counternarcotics efforts in 2019.

“More needs to be done because the level of [Afghan opium] production has also increased. They need really to coordinate closer in their joint efforts,” he told VOA

Guedes also called for increased international assistance, saying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran alone cannot curb the menace of drugs.

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FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

“This has to be done in the framework of shared responsibility. All the countries, producers, consumers and transit need to join the effort,” he said.

Despite many challenges facing the government, the head of the Afghan delegation said authorities have taken significant steps to eradicate drug trafficking.

US assistance 
Director General for Policy Planing at the Afghan Ministry of Narcotics, Mohammad Osman Frotan, said 89 percent of poppy cultivation this year has taken place in the Afghan provinces most hit by insurgent activities. He said counternarcotics authorities during 2018 have seized more than 433 tons of different types of drugs, and arrested and prosecuted almost 4,000 suspects.

Also Read: Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blamed insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth. (VOA)