Wednesday June 26, 2019
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US Says Ready to Talk but Iran Dismisses the Offer as Wordplay

People think twice before they talk to the United States because they know what they agree to today may not hold tomorrow

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US, Iran, Petrochemicals
The United States on Friday imposed new sanctions on Iran targeting the country's petrochemical industry. Pixabay

The United States is willing to hold unconditional talks with Iran to ease tensions between the two countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday, but Tehran held out little hope for new negotiations.

“We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We are ready to sit down with them,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Switzerland. But the top U.S. diplomat added that “the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.”

He said the U.S. is “certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation.”

But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview on the ABC News network in the U.S., that new talks with Washington are “not very likely.”

US, Iran, Wordplay
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis attend a joint news conference at the medieval Castelgrande castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland, June 2, 2019. VOA

Zarif added, “Talking is the continuation of the process of pressure… this may work in a real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran.”

He called past talks with the United States, in which the U.S. agreed to the 2015 international pact to curb Tehran’s ambitions only to have President Donald Trump abrogate it, were “not very optimistic and does not provide an optimistic perspective for a future deal.”

He contended, “People think twice before they talk to the United States because they know what they agree to today may not hold tomorrow.”

Any possibility of talks between the two countries comes after a series of provocations. After pulling out of the international nuclear deal, Trump subsequently reimposed U.S. economic sanctions in an effort to end Iranian oil exports to the global market, a financial lifeline for the Islamic republic.

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The U.S. has often objected to Iranian missile tests and its military aggressions in the Middle East, while Iran has protested the crippling U.S. sanctions.

Pompeo last year listed 12 actions he said Iran must adopt before the U.S. would end the sanctions, including “stopping its support for proxy groups and halting its missile program.”

Pompeo also called on Iran to end uranium enrichment, never to pursue plutonium reprocessing and to close its heavy water reactor. He said Tehran also had to disclose all previous military dimensions of its nuclear program and to permanently and verifiably abandon such work.

Despite the U.S. protests against Tehran’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, says that Iran is continuing to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal. Even as Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have remained in the agreement.

US, Iran, Wordplay
The U.S. has often objected to Iranian missile tests and its military aggressions in the Middle East. VOA

In its latest quarterly report on Friday, the IAEA said Iran has stayed within key limitations spelled out in the agreement although its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing. Iran last month said it would boost its enrichment of uranium beyond levels imposed by the international agreement if it could not within 60 days find a way to protect itself from the U.S. sanctions.

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Pompeo on Saturday participated in the four-day gathering of European and North American elites, known as the Bilderburg Group. Some of the political, business, defense and intelligence officials at the gathering. (VOA)

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More Cases of Measles Reported in US, the Worst Outbreak in Over 25 Years

Nearly 30 states have reported cases, with outbreaks of over three cases ongoing in California

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Measles, US, Outbreak
A poster released by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is seen as experts answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders in Los Angeles, April 26, 2019. VOA

Thirty-three new cases of measles were reported last week, with 1,077 active cases total within the United States, according to health officials — the worst outbreak in over 25 years, when 2,126 cases were recorded in 1992.

Nearly 30 states have reported cases, with outbreaks of over three cases ongoing in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state. New York’s Rockland County declared a state of emergency in late May, over a outbreak in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Measles was declared eradicated within the U.S. in 2000, four decades after elimination was first announced as a goal. A disease is considered eliminated when a full year passes with no active transmissions. If the current outbreak isn’t under control by October 2019, the U.S. will lose its measles elimination status.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a press release last month. “Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations.”

Measles, US, Outbreak
Thirty-three new cases of measles were reported last week. Pixabay

According to the agency, most cases are being spread by unvaccinated school-age children. Communities with low rates of vaccination create pockets through which the disease can easily be spread.

“I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in the press release. “The greater danger is the disease the vaccination prevents.”

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Travel from countries where measles is common, especially Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, is also contributing to the U.S. outbreaks, according to the Associated Press. (VOA)