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Iran to develop centrifuges for faster uranium enrichment
DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday said it would take another step away from a 2015 nuclear deal by starting to develop centrifuges to speed up its uranium enrichment but it also gave European powers two more months to try to save the multilateral pact.
Separately, the United States refused to ease its economic sanctions on Iran, imposed fresh ones designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil and rebuffed, but did not rule out, a French plan to give Tehran a $15 billion credit line.
The moves suggested Iran, the United States and the major European powers may be leaving the door open for diplomacy to try resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear program even as they largely stuck to entrenched positions.
The friction has intensified since U.S. President Donald Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 international accord under which Iran had agreed to rein in its atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Washington has since renewed and intensified its sanctions, slashing Iran's crude oil sales by more than 80%.
Trump again said he was open to the possibility of meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani but made clear he had no intention of easing sanctions.
"That's not happening," he said. "That won't be happening."
In a televised address, Rouhani said Iran from Friday will begin developing centrifuges to speed up the enrichment of uranium, which can produce fuel for power plants or for atomic bombs, as the next step in reducing its nuclear commitments.
Under the accord, Iran was allowed to keep restricted quantities of first-generation centrifuges at two nuclear plants. The successful development of more advanced centrifuges would enable it to produce material for a potential nuclear bomb several times faster.
"From Friday, we will witness research and development on different kinds of centrifuges and new centrifuges and also whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way," Rouhani said. "All limitations on our Research and Development will be lifted on Friday."
Iran says it is only enriching uranium to fuel nuclear power plants, but the United States has long suspected the program ultimately aims to produce weapons.
Since Washington's withdrawal from the pact Tehran has made two other moves in violation of the deal, although Iran says it still aims to save the agreement.
Rouhani had threatened to take further measures by Sept. 5 unless France and the other European signatories of the pact did more to protect Iran from the impact of the U.S. penalties, which have drastically reduced Iran's foreign oil sales.
"It is unlikely that we will reach a result with Europe by today or tomorrow ... Europe will have another two months to fulfill its commitments," Rouhani said, according to state TV.
But Rouhani also said Iran's new measures will be "peaceful, under surveillance of the U.N. nuclear watchdog and reversible" if European powers keep their promises.
A French diplomatic source voiced regret at Iran's planned centrifuge development.
"It's not helpful," said the source. "We knew it wouldn't be ... a bed of roses," he said, adding France would keep looking for a solution despite the cool U.S. reception.
Iranian officials, meanwhile, appeared to give a guarded welcome to a French proposal to save the pact by offering Iran about $15 billion in credit lines until the end of the year if Tehran returned to full compliance.
The United States was cool to the idea but did not categorically reject it.
"We did sanctions today. There will be more sanctions coming. We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers," Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters.
Washington on Wednesday blacklisted what it called an "oil for terror" network of firms, ships and people it suspects are directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) with supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The United States also issued a new international shipping advisory about IRGC's use of "deceptive practices" to violate U.S. sanctions and warned those who do business with blacklisted entities that they may suffer U.S. sanctions.
Washington also offered a reward of up to $15 million for information that disrupts the IRGC's financial operations and its elite paramilitary and espionage arm, the Quds Force.
The steps intensified the U.S. campaign to eliminate Iran's oil exports as a way to pressure it to restrict its nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for regional proxies.
In a possible olive branch to the West, Sweden said Iran had released seven of the 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized earlier this summer.
The IRGC detained the Swedish-owned Stena Impero on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Dubai newsroom and by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Jonathan Landay and Roberta Rampton in Washington, Jonathan Saul in London, John Irish in Paris and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm; Editing by Grant McCool)
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.