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Obama defends Iran n-deal, calls it best alternative

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Washington: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the Iran nuclear agreement was the best way to avoid a nuclear arms race and more wars in the Middle East, urging Congress to approve the n-deal.

“Without a deal, there would be no limits to Iran’s nuclear programme and Iran could move close to a nuclear bomb,” Obama said during a press conference held at the White House. “Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

While stressing that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear weapons programmes, Obama defended the deal “is our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon”.

Negotiations_about_Iranian_Nuclear_Program_-_the_Ministers_of_Foreign_Affairs_and_Other_Officials_of_the_P5+1_and_Ministers_of_Foreign_Affairs_of_Iran_and_EU_in_Lausanne

Obama announced on Tuesday that a comprehensive long-term Iran nuclear deal has been reached between Iran and six world major countries, claiming it will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and makes US and the world “safer and more secure”.

The agreement is seen as a political triumph for Obama.

Republican lawmakers and US ally Israel, however, blasted the deal vehemently. Critics said Obama abandoned many of his goals set for the negotiations and made too much concessions to Tehran in striking such a deal.

“I’m hearing a lot of talking points being repeated,” Obama said. “What I haven’t heard is what is your preferred alternative?” He scolded the critics of deal, including Republicans in Congress and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for ignoring the facts of the deal.

“My hope is that everyone in Congress also evaluates this agreement based on the facts,” Obama said. “Not on politics. Not on posturing. Not on the fact that this is a deal that I bring to Congress, as opposed to a Republican president. Not based on lobbying.”

Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to approve the deal and threatened to veto any vote against it.

“I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from the deal, but on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and the representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal,” Obama said.

“I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interests of the United States and our allies, so I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”

US Congress has 60 days to review and vote on the Iran nuclear agreement. (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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Opium
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.

oPIUM CULTIVATION
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.

opium
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)