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Phuket Gazette World News: Iran sanctions lifted under nuclear peace deal

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Phuket Gazette World News: Iran sanctions lifted under nuclear peace deal | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear activity to take effect January 20
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A deal for Iran to freeze parts of its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief will take effect on January 20, giving world powers and Tehran six months to agree a complete end to a standoff that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned that the next stage in negotiations would be “very difficult” after Iran, Washington and the European Union announced the launch date for the interim deal struck in Geneva in November.

Iran will receive some easing of economic sanctions from January 20, including the suspension of restrictions on Iranian exports of petrochemicals, a senior U.S. official said.

The official said such immediate relief – which will hinge on U.N. inspectors confirming that Iran is curbing enrichment of uranium – would include imports for its auto manufacturing sector and trade in gold and other precious metals.

Shortly after the interim accord goes into force, an Iranian official said, the two sides will start negotiating a final settlement of their differences about activity the West suspects is aimed at obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran says its atomic energy programme is aimed purely at electricity generation and medical isotope production, although past Iranian attempts to hide sensitive nuclear activity from the U.N. nuclear watchdog raised international concerns.

The November 24 agreement appeared to halt a slide towards a major Middle East conflagration over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. But diplomats warn it will not be easy to carry out given deep mistrust characterising a decade-long dispute.

The Iranian official, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said the deal would allow Iran to stop complying if it saw its partners not living up to their own commitments.

“We don’t trust them,” he told state television, reflecting ingrained suspicions between Iran and the West that underlie what have been protracted negotiations.

President Barack Obama said he would veto any new sanctions passed by the U.S. Congress during talks on a long-term deal with Iran, but said Washington would be prepared to increase its sanctions if Iran fails to abide by the agreement.

“Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva … The Geneva deal will be implemented from January 20,” Marzieh Afkham of the Iranian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Tehran, the semi-official Mehr news agency said.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also confirmed the date, and said the sides would now ask the United Nations nuclear watchdog to verify the deal’s implementation.

“We will ask the IAEA to undertake the necessary nuclear-related monitoring and verification activities,” she said in a statement, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sensitive nuclear work

Ashton represents the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – in contacts with Iran related to its contested nuclear programme.

Senior officials from the EU and Iran met in Geneva on Thursday and Friday to iron out remaining practical questions related to the implementation of the November 24 deal, under which Iran agreed to scale back activity with the greatest, latent risk of “weaponisation” – higher-level uranium enrichment – in return for some relaxation of sanctions.

According to U.S. estimates, the overall sanctions relief provided to Iran under the deal is worth about $7 billion. Of this amount, $4.2 billion is in the form of access to currently blocked Iranian revenues held abroad.

“Access to a portion of these funds will be linked to Iran’s progress in completing the dilution process for 20 percent enriched uranium,” said the official. He was referring to Iran’s commitment to reduce half of its higher-enriched uranium stockpile to no more than 5 percent enriched uranium, the standard concentration for fuelling nuclear power plants.

“Iran will not have access to the final instalment of the $4.2 billion until the last day of the six-month period.”

The relief package would also entail allowing third-country purchases of Iranian oil to remain at current levels.

EU spokesman Michael Mann said on Friday that any agreements would need to be validated by the governments of Iran and the six powers.

The accord is designed to last six months and the parties aim to use the time to negotiate a final, broad settlement governing the overall scope of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Elaborating on the preliminary deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Araqchi told state television that each party’s commitments would be implemented “in one day”.

“After the first step is taken, then in a short period of time we will again start our contacts for resumption of negotiations for the implementation of the final step.”

He added: “We don’t trust them… Each step has been designed in a way that allows us to stop carrying out our commitments if we see the other party is not fulfilling its commitments.”

Higher-grade enrichment

Under the terms of the interim deal, Iran must limit its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity for a period of six months as the price for relaxation of some sanctions.

But Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, said on Saturday it would have no choice but to step up enrichment to the 60 percent threshold if a bill now moving through parliament is approved – even though it has no current need for such highly-enriched uranium.

The bill’s supporters say uranium refined to 60 percent concentration would be used to fuel nuclear-powered submarines. That would put Iran on the technical verge of 90 percent fissile concentration – enough for the core of a nuclear bomb.

The measure has received expressions of support from at least 218 of parliament’s 290 members and, if passed, could jeopardise progress toward a resolution of the nuclear dispute.

The Iranian parliament is much more hawkish on the issue than moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected overwhelmingly last June on a platform to ease Iran’s isolation by pursuing diplomatic solutions to disputes with big powers.

But some see the proposal, put forward last month, as a response to a bill introduced by hardline conservatives in the U.S. Senate that would impose stiffer sanctions on Iran, which Western diplomats fear would shatter nuclear diplomacy.

Raising an issue perhaps still in need of a final resolution, Araqchi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA news agency that Iran did not accept any restrictions on its nuclear research and development (R&D) work. “We do not see any limitation in our research and development activities in the framework of the Geneva accord,” he said.

Diplomats earlier this month said that the talks had hit a snag over research and development of a new model of advanced nuclear centrifuges that Iran says it has installed.

Such R&D would be aimed at improving the Islamic Republic’s existing centrifuge technology so it can enrich uranium faster and more efficiently, a prospect the West finds worrisome.

Centrifuges are machines that refine uranium for use as fuel in atomic power plants or, if purified to a high level, weapons. There was no immediate indication as to whether this issue remained a problem or had been to some extent resolved.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by CNN Travel. Thailand’s coconut milk and potato-based curry (add the meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also featuring. The hot and spicy shrimp soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

Massaman curry, 1st place: Emphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Tom Yum Kung, 8th place: This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

Som Tam/Papaya salad, 46th place: To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million Chinese who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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