– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: Six world powers and Iran negotiated past a March 31 deadline into the wee hours of Wednesday, struggling to conclude an outline accord on Tehran’s nuclear program in the face of a U.S. threat to abandon the talks.
With Iran asserting its “nuclear rights”, the talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne entered a seventh day, bogged down this time on the issues of nuclear research, the lifting of U.N. sanctions and their restoration if Iran breached the agreement.
Officials cautioned that any accord would be fragile and incomplete, but the U.S. State Department gave the go-ahead for talks to go past a self-imposed midnight deadline.
“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday,” acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “There are several difficult issues still remaining.”
The six powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – aim to stop Iran from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for easing international sanctions that are crippling its economy.
The outline political accord is meant to lay the foundation for a final settlement of the long-running nuclear dispute by June 30 – another self-imposed deadline, but one that Western powers have said they do not want to extend.
A senior Iranian negotiator said Tehran was willing to negotiate until the deadlock was resolved.
“Iran does not want a nuclear deal just for the sake of having a deal, and a final deal should guarantee the Iranian nation’s nuclear rights,” the negotiator, Hamid Baidinejad, told reporters.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in Washington that U.S. negotiators would not wait until June 30 to walk away from the talks if they could not reach a preliminary political agreement.
“If we’re not able to reach a political agreement, then we’re not going to wait … until June 30 to walk away,” he said.
A German delegation source said “it remains an open question whether we will succeed”, adding that it was “too early to think about stopping the clock, (though that) may perhaps prove necessary”.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Lausanne that “we are moving forward, but it’s complicated.”
Disagreements on enrichment research and the pace of lifting sanctions threatened to scupper a deal that could end the 12-year-old standoff and reduce the risk of another Middle East war. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
For days officials have been trying to agree on a brief document of several pages outlining headline numbers to form the basis of a future agreement. Parts of any understanding reached by the parties will likely remain confidential, though they will likely issue a statement if a deal is reached.
It is possible they would not agree on anything. “We are preparing for both scenarios,” a Western diplomat said.
Speaking in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande said it would be better to have no deal than a bad deal.
An agreement would almost certainly lift sanctions only in stages, deferring even a partial return of Iranian crude exports until at least 2016.
Sanctions have halved Iran’s oil exports to just over 1 million barrels per day since 2012 when oil and financial sanctions hit Iran. Brent crude dropped toward $55 a barrel on Tuesday as negotiations proceeded.
Officials from both sides said the main sticking points were the removal of the U.N. sanctions, their reversibility and Iranian demands for the right to unfettered research and development into advanced nuclear centrifuges after the first 10 years of the agreement expires.
Officials said Iran was still demanding the lifting of all U.N. sanctions and that they not be automatically reinstated without further negotiations. Officials have said Britain, France and the United States want any removal of U.N. sanctions to be automatically reversible, but the Russians dislike this because it would weaken their veto power over the deal.
The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work. Their goal is to find a way to ensure that for at least the next 10 years Iran is at least one year away from being able to produce enough fissile material for an atomic weapon.
Iran said the main issue was lifting sanctions quickly. “There will be no agreement if the sanctions issue cannot be resolved,” Majid Takhteravanchi, an Iranian negotiator, told Iran’s Pars news agency.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he believed there was a good chance of success “if none of the parties raise the stakes at the last minute”.
The U.S. Congress has warned it will consider imposing new sanctions on Iran if there is no agreement this week, giving a sense of urgency to the talks.
U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any sanctions moves by the Republican-dominated Congress.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s concern that an agreement would fall short of guaranteeing its safety.
The framework agreement would leave Iran with the capability to develop a nuclear weapon in under a year, said Netanyahu, whose country is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.
— Phuket Gazette Editors
Italian busted in Australia smuggling heroin
An 49-year-old Italian has been charged with drug smuggling after arriving at Perth Airport from Chiang Mai. He allegedly had about 300 grams of heroin, worth about 135,000 Australian dollars, hidden inside his body.
After trace technology during a baggage examination showed positive for narcotics, Australian Border Force officers referred him to the Australian Federal Police for an internal exam.
The man was taken to hospital where 63 pellets of heroin were allegedly found in his stomach. X-Rays also revealed three more pellets of heroin had been internally inserted into his rectum.
Photo: Australian Border Force
He was charged with importing a controlled drug and faces 25 years in prison.
A spokeman for the Australian Border Forcesaid the ABF is fully aware of the lengths people are willing to go to bring drugs into Australia.
“They not only risk lengthy jail time, but are playing Russian roulette with their own lives and health,” he said.
“Smuggling drugs internally is an incredibly stupid endeavour. Furthermore there is a risk that stomach acid will eat through the wrapping of the heroin, consequently risking a fatal drug overdose,” according to federal police.
Brexit latest – Five possible scenarios
Britain’s three year Brexit saga, the UK’s most challenging and debilitating political debacle in decades, has taken another dramatic twist with the outcome still difficult to predict. In a landmark vote, MPs finally backed an EU divorce deal – only moments later rejecting British PM Boris Johnson’s rushed timetable to turn it into law ahead of the country’s scheduled October 31 departure date.
The decision makes that deadline almost impossible to meet, but it does not kill the deal – the first that has got a majority in parliament.
Here are some possible scenarios ahead…
A technical extension
Legislation passed last month stated that unless MPs backed a divorce deal by October 19, Johnson must write to EU leaders asking for Brexit to be postponed for three months to January 31, 2020. The PM reluctantly sent the letter last Saturday, and EU leaders are still considering their response.
European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday, following the drama in Westminster, that he was now recommending they accept the request. Johnson had earlier told lawmakers who had just defied his bid to fast-track his deal through parliament that he would “pause” the ratification process while the EU decides on an extension.
Although he insisted Britain should still leave on October 31, he may have little choice but to accept a short “technical” delay to allow for a new parliamentary timetable to pass the legislation in the coming weeks.
Despite Johnson being adamant he will not delay Brexit for months, the EU may also offer Britain the option of a longer extension – which opposition MPs argue the premier would be compelled by law to accept. European leaders could claim a longer delay is necessary to give the country enough time to resolve the issue.
Legislation of this type would normally take months and must be approved again by the House of Commons as well as by the upper House of Lords. There is a real risk MPs could try to hijack its passage and attach various amendments, for example to make approval subject to negotiating a future customs union with the bloc or even to hold a new referendum.
A longer delay could also allow for a general election.
A crash and burn exit
The default legal position is that Britain leaves the EU on October 31 unless the other 27 member states agree to a delay.
Business and markets across Europe fear the shock of a sudden Brexit that even the government’s own assessment says would cause economic damage, raising the chances that the EU will offer an extension.
Despite EU leaders claiming they would never cause a no-deal Brexit, their decision to offer a delay must be unanimous and any one of the 27 member states could block such a move. In that highly unlikely scenario, Britain would crash out of the bloc at the end of next week.
Another general election
Johnson warned MPs ahead of the votes yesterday that he would pull his Brexit deal legislation and try to hold a general election if they rejected his timetable – although he did not repeat the threat afterwards.
Riding high in the polls, he has already unsuccessfully tried twice to get an early election to win back a majority in parliament, and seemed buoyed by having secured MPs’ initial approval for his new Brexit deal. But he needs the support of the main opposition Labour Party for an election to be called and it has so far resisted.
Labour says it would back an election when the threat of a “no deal” Brexit is off the table.
Labour says any deal should be subject to a new referendum, and has promised to call one if it takes office. Some MPs may try to force the issue during the passage of the Brexit deal legislation, although it is far from clear that they have the numbers to succeed.
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women
Hair extensions have become an essential part of the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with estimated annual sales of 250 million to over 1 billion USD. Based on a 2018 Research and Markets report, the global hair, wigs and extension market is expected to surpass 10 billion USD by 2023.
Raw human hair has significant commercial value: it’s a coveted commodity to be processed into hair extensions and wigs. According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair exports in 2017 was 126 million USD. Asia exported 72.4 million USD, accounting for 58 percent of the global trade.
In India, the Tirupati Balaji temple earns 10 percent of its income through auctioning hair donated by devotees, raking in a profit of 25 million to 40 million USD annually.
There are three categories for collected hair: Remy, non-Remy and virgin hair. Remy is usually obtained from temple donations and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is a lower grade, collected from individuals, and is typically broken or short. Virgin hairhas never been chemically treated.
In Southeast Asia, long hair is esteemed as a mark of beauty with deep religious and social meaning, especially in Buddhist countries. While most brands opt to acquire hair from India where it’s donated for religious reasons, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people whose poverty makes them easy prey. Hair extensions in the US can cost 500 to 2000 USD, but the owner of the hair usually receives only a fraction of that. For example, Nguyen Thi Thuy of Vietnam says the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is 70,000 Vietnamese dong, or 3 USD. Pheng Sreyvy from Cambodia fared slightly better at 15 USD for her locks.
According to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, women don’t know how to bargain over the price of hair. “They decided to sell their hair because they are poor, and they don’t know where to sell their hair for international market price,” a spokeswoman said.
The high value of human hair has made hair-theft muggings a recurrent problem in some countries, and some companies have resorted to chemical processing or a mixture of human and goat hair.
Increased awareness of exploitation has prompted many companies to collect hair from more transparent and ethical sources. While the human hair trade has provided many communities with income and opportunities, practices that exploit and deprive women of opportunities continue.
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