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No ammunition moved through Russia-Ukraine border – OSCE monitors

RT | August 19, 2014

OSCE observers stationed at two Russian border checkpoints, the Ukrainian counterparts of which are controlled by the Ukrainian military, have not witnessed any movements of weapons across the border.

The monitors did witness young people “dressed in military style” moving across the border into Ukraine, Paul Picard, acting chief observer of the OSCE Mission, told journalists. However, all of them were unarmed.

There were also no instances of military vehicles crossing the border in some two weeks which the observers spent at Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints, he added.

He added that the OSCE did its part in assisting the international effort to check a Russian humanitarian aid convoy before it would be allowed into Ukraine, but said the organization has little impact here, because the progress with the convoy depends on Russian and Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The presence of the observers on the Russian side of the border was part of an agreement aimed at deescalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine. They were invited amid Kiev’s claims that Russia supplies arms and military vehicles to the armed militia fighting against the Ukrainian troops in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

The monitors were supposed to be deployed after a ceasefire by Kiev, but Moscow agreed to host them unconditionally as a gesture of goodwill.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Red Cross to help Russian aid convoy into Ukraine

The BRICS Post | August 14, 2014

A day after Ukraine’s government said it would not permit the Russian humanitarian aid convoy to enter its territory, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would hold talks in Kiev and Moscow to help Russian aid reach residents trapped by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had said on Wednesday Ukraine would only accept humanitarian aid from the Red Cross.

A Reuters report quoted Anastasia Isyuk, an ICRC spokesperson on Thursday as saying a senior official will travel to Kiev and Moscow for talks.

Laurent Corbaz, head of ICRC Operations for Europe and Central Asia, who will leave Geneva today said “the delivery of aid should not be politicized”.

“The question of border crossing procedures and customs clearance (for the aid convoy) still have to be clarified between the two sides,” Isyuk said.

Kremlin aid Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the Russian aid convoy with 280 trucks was continuing to move through Russia towards Ukrainian borders.

The Russian aid consisted of food items like cereals, sugar, infant food, medical drugs, sleeping bags and power generators and was meant for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.

The UN says more than 2000 people have been killed since Kiev launched its crackdown against pro-Russia rebels.

Meanwhile, a Deutsche Welle report said on Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel intends to continue the talks on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite the sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Several rounds of US and EU sanctions have already targeted Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors, punishing Moscow for its alleged support to rebels in eastern Ukraine.

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Three Finnish icebreakers for Russia’s oil and gas operations in the Arctic

MercoPress | August 13, 2014

Finland-based Arctech Helsinki Shipyard has been contracted to build three icebreaking stand-by vessels for Russian shipping company Sovcomflot, for a total cost of 380 million dollars.

The contract for the three 95 meters long vessels sums 380 million dollars and should be delivered by 2017 The contract for the three 95 meters long vessels sums 380 million dollars and should be delivered by 2017

The vessels will perform operations in the north-east Sakhalin offshore region oil and gas field for Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC).

The icebreakers are capable of carrying out rescue operations and recovery of oil spills, while they can also be used for moving cargo for low flashpoint fuels.

While designing the vessels will start immediately, the company hopes to deliver them between September 2016 and March 2017.

The 95m-long and 22m-wide vessels will be based on Aker Arctic concept Aker ARC 121 and will be fitted with four diesel generator engines, to generate total power of about 20,000kW. They will have a propulsion power of 13,000kW.

Arctech and Sovcomflot signed a contract in April, which included a larger platform supply vessel under the icebreaking vessels series, which would function efficiently in extreme weather conditions.

Arctech Helsinki Shipyard managing director Esko Mustamäki said: “We are extremely satisfied to receive an order of three arctic offshore vessels from Sovcomflot.

”This remarkable order of three vessels brings a lot of work to our shipyard and to the whole maritime cluster. We will also strengthen our organization considerably.”

The vessels will be used in ice management and ice breaking in extremely low temperatures of up to -35C°.

Equipped to navigate in 1.5m-thick ice, the vessels will be fit for emergency evacuation, firefighting operations and helicopter operations, as well as for diving support as they will comprise a moon pool.

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

OSCE: No Russian violations on Ukrainian border

RT | August 7, 2014

The OSCE monitoring mission on the Russian-Ukrainian border has registered no violations of international law by the Russian side during its week-long stay at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints, mission head Paul Picard said.

During his press conference, Picard was asked to comment on Western claims that Russia is shelling Ukrainian territory and has starting deployment troops to the country.

“In these two border crossings we haven’t seen such happenings,” he replied.

The observers were assessing two checkpoints – Gukovo and Donetsk – on the border with Ukraine’s Lugansk Region, which are separated from each other by around 30km.

Gukovo checkpoint is currently closed from the Ukrainian side, but traffic at the Donetsk border crossing is “high,” Picard stressed.

“About 80 percent of traffic comes from Ukraine to Russia. We heard from people that there’s a queue of hundreds of car and a kilometer of people standing in line to the checkpoint,” he said.

According to Picard, the people – who are trying to cross the Russian border from Ukraine – have their children and huge bags with them, and don’t look remotely like tourists.

The observer also confirmed that several Ukrainian shells have landed on the Russian territory during the last week.

“There was fighting on Ukrainian side south of [Gukovo] border crossing point and… two shells fell on the territory of the border crossing and two fell in the field,” he said.

Picard thanked the Russian border guards for “providing required security measures” for the OSCE mission.

He said there are currently eight OSCE employees working at Gukovo and Donetsk, but the arrival of the rest of the group is expected on Friday.

In all, there’ll be 15 observers, a head observer and three administrative staff, which will allow the mission “to work 24/7,” Picard said.

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Over 400 Ukrainian troops cross into Russia for refuge

RT | August 4, 2014

More than 400 Ukrainian troops have been allowed to cross into Russia after requesting sanctuary. It’s the largest, but not the first, case of desertion into Russia by Ukrainian soldiers involved in Kiev’s military crackdown in the east of the country.

According to the Rostov Region’s border guard spokesman Vasily Malaev, a total of 438 soldiers, including 164 Ukrainian border guards, have been allowed into Russia on Sunday night.

One of the Ukrainians was seriously injured on his arrival in Russia. He was taken to the hospital for surgery, the officials added.

The other Ukrainian soldiers have been housed in a tent camp deployed near the checkpoint via which they entered Russian territory. The Russian border guards are providing them with food and bedding.

Footage taken by the Russian media at the scene showed the Ukrainian soldiers being handed ration packs and resting in their temporary shelter. Those who agreed to speak on camera said they were relieved to be in safety for the first time in weeks.

“We were given an order to leave our positions and go to Russia trough a corridor. We were told it would be safe. Of course they, I would say, made us go fast from behind,” one of the soldiers, a BMP driver who would not reveal his name or even show his face on camera, said.

“It was so bad back there. Hot, and so many deaths and bad things,” another one, Dmitry, said. “Folks can rest here. They gave us a chance to wash, gave us new clothes. We are thankful.”

“We have been in those fields for more than six months and are very tired,” he added.

Another one, Yaroslav, said he wishes to go back to his family in Ukraine.

“I want to do something peaceful. My contract expired four months ago,” he explained.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian anti-government militia reported that it was in negotiations with a large contingent of Ukrainian troops they encircled in Lugansk region on a possible surrender. The negotiations were being hampered by the troops’ intention to destroy some 70 armored vehicles in their possession before laying down arms, which the militia wanted to capture intact.

The Gukovo border checkpoint, through which the Ukrainian troops crossed into the Russian territory, is located on Russia’s border with the Lugansk Region of Ukraine, indicating that these are the same troops that were negotiating with the militia. If so, it was not immediately clear whether the vehicles they had were really destroyed.

OSCE monitors and journos come under shelling from Ukraine at Russian border

The flow of deserters from the ranks of Ukrainian Army and National Guard seems to be increasing amid the escalating violence in Donets and Lugansk Regions, where Kiev is fighting against armed anti-government militias.

In late July 41 Ukrainian troops fled to Russia to escape fighting in eastern Ukraine. They are now being prosecuted in Ukraine for deserting in the heat of battle.

Several Ukrainian units have been reported to recently to be cut off from supply lines after attempted offensive operations, which brought them behind the militia-controlled territories and close to the Russian border.

The Ukrainian troops, while far superior to the militia in terms of heavy weapons, suffer from poor logistics. Many soldiers complain about lacking even basic supplies like food and water on the frontline. The situation is aggravated by cases of apparent negligence from the command, with units being supplied with faulty equipment, coming under friendly fire and simply left behind while retreating from militia counter-attacks.

A YouTube video allegedly shows a Ukrainian soldier explaining how he has to catch and cook snakes because his unit receives no rations.

Kiev’s National Guard unit mutiny: ‘We’ve been discarded like trash’

This causes serious morale problems in the army, with more critical voices saying the Ukraine de facto has no infantry troops and has no other way to fight but by leveling militia-held cities to the ground with artillery and air strikes.

There is a growing resistance to the military campaign among Ukrainian population, with several cases of mass protests against the latest mobilization drive, as mothers and wives of conscripts took to the streets to demand that their loved once not be drafted into the army.

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: We will shelter injured and orphaned Palestinian children

MEMO | August 1, 2014

Venezuela has setup orphanages to shelter Palestinian children who have been injured or who have lost their parents in the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, President Nicolás Maduro announced yesterday.

In a fiery speech delivered on the occasion of the end of the General Assembly of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Maduro pointed out that contact has already been made with Palestinian families who would be adopting children.

Maduro said he decided to establish a shelter under the name of the late president Hugo Chavez to host Palestinian children injured in the war, and boys and girls that have become orphans. “We will bring them to Venezuela,” he told a cheering audience.

“We will welcome them with love, and in coordination with the Palestinian government. We will find these little girls and boys Venezuelan parents,” he said.

Maduro called for an end to the Israeli “genocide” against Palestinians.

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Chile, El Salvador, Peru Recall Israel Envoys in Protest of Gaza Offensive

Al-Manar | July 30, 2014

Chile, El Salvador and Peru have announced they are recalling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv in consultation to protest the Israeli assault on the besieged strip of Gaza.

The moves come on the heels of Brazil and Ecuador, who announced last week that they were recalling their envoys.

“Given the escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza, the Government of Chile, in coordination with others in our region, has decided to call in consultation Santiago Ambassador of Chile in Tel Aviv, Jorge Montero,” the Chilean foreign ministry in Santiago said in a statement.

“Chile notes with great concern and dismay that such military operations, which at this stage of development are subject to a collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza do not respect fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.”

The Chilean foreign ministry emphasized the more than 1,000 Palestinians killed, including women and children during Operation Protective Edge, which continued for a 22nd day on Tuesday. The statement also noted Israel’s attacks “on schools and hospitals.”

“The scale and intensity of Israeli operations in Gaza violate the principle of proportionality in the use of force, an essential requirement to justify self-defense,” the statement added, referring to rocket fire by the resistance movements in the coastal territory.

El Salvador Ambassador in the Zionist entity Susana Edith Gun was also recalled for “urgent consultations” on Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry of the Central American country said that El Salvador President Sanchez Ceren gave these instructions “over serious escalation of violence and Israel’s bombings in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.”

A similar statement was also published by the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, condemning Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Venezuela and Bolivia that cut their ties with Tel Aviv over Israel’s 2009 war on Gaza have also strongly condemned Israel’s actions.

Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela were among the 29 countries that voted in favor of a probe by the UN Human Rights Council into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

International teams find ‘no violations’ by Russia along Ukrainian border

RT | July 27, 2014

Inspectors who came to check the state of Russian troops along the Ukrainian borders have found no violations, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said. This came as a response to the US alleging 15,000 Russian troops have amassed in the area.

“It has come to our attention that new allegations by top US officials as to the alleged amassing of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border have been voiced,” the statement by the Defense Ministry read, following allegations by the US Permanent Representative to NATO, Douglas Lute, and State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf.

“The last four months have witnessed 18 separate inspections along the Ukrainian border with the Russian Federation, all in line with the Vienna Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna agreement of 2011.”

The statement goes on to list the international makeup of those inspections, which included representatives from the US, as well as NATO and Ukraine. The inspections also included flybys and visits to any military units that might have aroused suspicion.

“No instances of violations by Russia along the Ukrainian border had been registered by the inspectors,” adding that in spite of the above, “frequent action by the Ukrainian military taking place on the Russian border has hindered our own ability to perform similar inspections and flybys along our border.”

While no evidence of a Russian military buildup at Ukrainian border regions was registered, similar inspections in other regions, were they to be carried out, would undoubtedly find that the opposite is true for Ukrainian forces, who’ve had heavy equipment stationed there, firing regularly onto Russian settlements, the ministry states.

“Their actions have already led to casualties on our side,” the statement concludes.

Just on Friday, Ukraine’s army fired at least 45 mortar shells at targets located inside the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia’s border officials said. The barrage destroyed houses and forced an evacuation of civilians. Ukrainian officials denied responsibility, and say that it is Russia that has been using its artillery to support anti-Kiev militants in the Donetsk region across the border.

Shells from artillery fights in Ukraine have frequently landed on Russian territory since the beginning of summer. Earlier this week, a temporary refugee camp for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict was relocated further from the border, after several mortars landed nearby.

July 27, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Putin: Taskforce at Malaysia MH17 crash site not enough, full-scale international team needed

RT | July 20, 2014

The tragic Malaysian MH17 flight crash must not be politicised and the international experts on the scene should be able to carry out their work in complete safety, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

“There are already representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk working there, as well as representatives of the emergencies ministry of Ukraine and others. But this is not enough,” Putin said officially commenting on the tragic event on Sunday.

“This task force is not enough,” Putin emphasized. “We need more, we need a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of ICAO, the relevant international commission.”

“We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia will also do everything in its power to help shift the Ukrainian conflict from a military phase into a political discussion.

“We need to do everything to provide its [ICAO commission’s] safety, to provide the humanitarian corridors necessary for its work,” Putin added.

“In the meantime, nobody should and has no right to use this tragedy to achieve their ‘narrowly selfish’ political goals,” Putin stated.

“We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and sit down at the negotiating table,” the President reminded. “I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”

In the meantime, Russia has introduced its own draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an impartial investigation of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin said.

‘Yes, we did it,” Churkin told reported answering the question about Russia’s draft. “Just to show what we are talking about. The difference is that in our draft it is absolutely clear it is indeed an impartial international investigation under the under the guidance of ICAO.”

According to the latest figures from the Donetsk authorities, 247 out of 298 bodies have been recovered from the crash site. OSCE confirmed that a train with bodies of the victims is being stationed at a railway station in Torez and is set to depart for Donetsk. The bodies are being kept in especially refrigerated cars.

A team of ISCE experts and four Ukrainian forensics analysts are the only experts who have so far reached the area and are working on the investigation. A team of 12 Malaysian experts is yet to arrive at the crash site. Experts from other European nations, including the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK are en route to Donetsk.

The OSCE team has claimed that the black boxes have not been recovered, yet Aleksandr Boroday, the republic’s prime minister, told reporters that DPR might potentially be in possession of the MH17 black boxes. “What we have is just some components of the plane. We are not experts; we think that they may be black boxes but we’re not sure.”

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Putin: Thorough investigation of Malaysian airliner tragedy in Ukraine required

RT | July 18, 2014

The crash of a Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine must be investigated thoroughly and objectively, Russian President Putin said in a statement. The tragedy underlines the urgent need for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in Ukraine.

Putin’s statement came after he contacted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to express condolences over the deaths of his fellow citizens in the disaster.

The majority of the passengers of the ill-fated flight, which was apparently shot down over the war zone in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, were from the Netherlands.

Earlier the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), a Russia-based international body tasked with investigation of all civil aircraft incidents in most former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, called for the formation of an international investigative group under the aegis of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN body, to investigate the incident.

The IAC said such a group should be handed over MH17 flight recorders, which are currently being recovered in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region.

So far two flight recorders from the plane have been reportedly recovered in the region currently controlled by the militia forces. Some militia officials said they intended to hand them over to Moscow because they didn’t trust Kiev to properly investigate the incident.

The probe into the loss of the Boeing-777 is bound to be a politically loaded one. There was no official confirmation that the plane was shot down rather than crashed from a different cause, but the parties involved are already trading blame for the tragedy.

Both the Ukrainian military and the militias fighting against Kiev denied shooting at the plane and stated that they had no capability to take down an aircraft flying 10,000 meters high.

Some politicians and Western media are pointing fingers at Russia, alleging that it is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines plane’s loss. They claim Moscow could have provided a missile launcher, which the Ukrainian militia used to take down the plane.

Kiev in the past few days accused the Russian military of several direct attacks in its territory, including an airstrike, which militia reported as conducted by the Ukrainian military, and a downing of a Ukrainian military plane, which militia claimed was their doing. The Russian military called the accusations absurd.

Hours after the crash of the Boeing 777 was reported, Kiev published what it called intercepted communications between militia officers and their Russian handler to apparently discuss the take-down of a civilian aircraft by the militia. The militia labeled the recording “an amateurish fake.”

There were almost 300 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers. In addition to Dutch travelers and Malaysian crew, there were Australians, Indonesians and citizens of several other countries. Nobody survived the crash.

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Zarif and Kerry Signal Momentum on Nuclear Pact

By Gareth Porter | IPS | July 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — As the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme approach the July 20 deadline, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have signaled through their carefully worded statements that they are now moving toward agreement on the two most crucial issues in the talks: the level of Iranian enrichment capability to be allowed and the duration of the agreement.

Their statements after two days of meetings Sunday and Monday suggest that both Kerry and Zarif now see a basis for an agreement that would freeze Iran’s enrichment capacity at somewhere around its present level of 10,000 operational centrifuges for a period of years.

They also indicated that the two sides have not yet agreed on how many years the agreement would last, but that the bargaining on that question has already begun.

The tone and content of Kerry’s statements in particular contrasts sharply with remarks by a senior U.S. official shortly before Kerry’s arrival in Vienna on July 12, which accused Iran of failing to move from “unworkable and inadequate positions that would not in fact assure us that their programme is exclusively peaceful.”

Zarif’s comments to New York Times correspondent David E. Sanger suggested movement toward an accord on the two key issues of the level of enrichment capacity and the duration of the agreement.

“I can try to work out an agreement where we would maintain our current levels,” Zarif was quoted as saying.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that a diplomat involved in the talks had said Iran had proposed freezing the number of centrifuges at 9, 400 – roughly the same number that have actually been operating.

Iran has another 9,000 centrifuges that were installed but never hooked up or operated, suggesting that Iran intended to trade them off for concessions from the P5+1 in eventual negotiations even before Hassan Rouhani became president last year.

The Times story reported that Zarif also “signaled that he had some room to negotiate on how long the freeze would last because Iran has an agreement with Russia to provide fuel for its Bushehr nuclear plant for the next seven years.”

“We want to produce only what we need,” Zarif said. “Since our reactor doesn’t need fuel for another seven years we don’t have to kill ourselves for it. We have time.”

Zarif’s latitude for negotiating on the expiration date may be wider than has been assumed because Iran is pursuing a possible deal with Russia on cooperation in fuel fabrication, according to a document on Iran’s nuclear energy needs recently released by the government.

Such an agreement could eliminate the need to begin replacing Russian fuel immediately after the expiration of the present contract.

In his press conference Tuesday, Kerry refused to address the question of specific numbers of centrifuges discussed with Zariff. Nevertheless, he said, “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 that are currently part of their programme is too many.”

By referring to the 19,000 figure rather than to the 10,000 operative centrifuges, Kerry was leaving the door open to a deal that would cut half of Iran’s total centrifuge capacity.

As recently as June, Obama administration officials were leaking to the press a demand that Iran would have to accept a cut in the number of centrifuges to between 2,000 and 4,000.

The rationale for that demand was that Iran’s existing level of centrifuges would allow it the capability to achieve a “breakout” to sufficient weapons-grade uranium to build a single nuclear weapon in only two to three months, and that Washington was insisting on lengthening that “breakout timeline” to six to 12 months.

But the administration is well aware that another way to achieve that objective is to reduce Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpile to close to zero.

Zarif explained to the Times correspondent the Iranian proposal, which was part of the negotiating draft, to guarantee that no breakout capability would exist even with the current level of Iranian enrichment.

Sanger reported that Zarif had “combined his proposal of a freeze with an offer to take the nuclear fuel produced by its 9,000 or so working centrifuges and convert it to an oxide form, a way station to being made into nuclear fuel rods.”

Zarif reportedly said Iran would “guarantee, during the agreement, not to build the facility needed to convert the oxide back into a gas, the step that would have to precede any effort to enrich it to 90 percent purity, which is what is generally considered bomb-grade.”

The foreign minister claimed that his proposal would lengthen the “breakout timeline” to more than a year, according to Sanger. As described by Zarif to IPS in early June, the plan is designed to assure that no low enriched uranium would be available for weapons-grade enrichment for the duration of the agreement.

Sanger reported that American officials are “doubtful” that it would accomplish that objective but offered no explanation and did not quote any official. That suggests that Sanger was relying on what U.S. officials had said about the “breakout” issue before the Kerry-Zarif negotiations.

Kerry did not address the issue of duration of the agreement in his press conference remarks. But a U.S. official was quoted in a July 12 Reuters story as declining to give a specific number but as saying that the United States wanted it to be “in the double digits”.

In earlier briefings for the news media, U.S. officials had indicated that the United States wanted the agreement to last 20 years.

Before the Kerry-Zarif meetings, the senior U.S official briefing journalists July 12 had criticised Ali Khamenei’s July 7 speech referring to Iran’s need for the equivalent of 190,000 first generation centrifuges. The official had said that the number would be “far beyond their current programme” and that the U.S. had said the existing capacity needed to be cut instead.

That suggested that Iran was insisting on getting approval for that increased capacity in the agreement.

In his news conference, however, Kerry clearly suggested that Khamenei’s citation of the 190,000 figure is not a deal-breaker. “[I]t reflects a long-term perception of what they currently have in their minds with respect to nuclear plants to provide power,” Kerry said. “[I]t was framed what way, I believe, in the speech,” he added.

Kerry was implying that Khamenei’s vision of industrial scale enrichment would not fall within the time frame of the agreement, presumably on the basis of his talks with Zarif.

That answer suggests that Kerry is now considering an Iranian proposal on the duration of the agreement that would put off the beginning of Iran’s buildup to industrial level enrichment to a point close to or within the “double digit” period of years demanded by the United States.

Once the difference between the proposed duration of the two sides has been reduced to a very few years, both sides may well conclude that the difference is not important enough to sacrifice the advantages of reaching agreement.

The Obama administration is still assessing whether to request an extension of the talks beyond Sunday’s deadline, but it may not take long to wrap up an agreement once the decision to reach compromise on the two key issues is made.

When Sanger of the Times asked Zarif whether agreement could be reached by the July 20 deadline, the foreign minister replied, “We can do that by this evening.”

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

US labs close after mishandling highly infectious pathogens

RT | July 13, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention have closed two labs after it was found they had made dangerous mistakes when transporting pathogens like anthrax. The CDC’s director has called the errors “unacceptable” and potentially deadly.

In response to a series of laboratory blunders, the CDC announced the closure of two labs on Friday. The organization has also placed a temporary ban on the transportation of dangerous pathogens for high-security labs.

A report carried out by the CDC revealed that over the past 10 years disease labs have mishandled potentially deadly pathogens.

“These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior,” said CDS Director Tom Frieden to press on Friday. “They should never have happened. I’m upset, I’m angry, I’ve lost sleep over this, and I’m working on it until the issue is resolved.”

Frieden added that the staff involved had knowingly disregarded laboratory protocol and would be disciplined accordingly.

The latest incident this year happened in June when as many as 75 CDC employees were exposed to a live strain of anthrax in Atlanta, after failing to deactivate the deadly bacteria according to lab protocol.

The potentially infectious samples of the pathogen were then sent out to other laboratories ill-equipped to deal with them. Staff members also handled the samples, which should have been deactivated without following correct safety procedures.

The previous incident, which was disclosed on Friday, happened in May when a sample of non-pathogenic avian influenza was accidentally cross-contaminated with a potentially lethal kind of flu (H5N1). No lab workers were exposed to the pathogen, but it was shipped to a lab administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Frieden said the most distressing aspect of the latter case was that although it happened in May, the CDC only found out about it this week.

The CDC says that there have been no reported infections after the two incidents and all workers involved had been offered vaccines and antibiotics.

The latest revelations followed an announcement that two of six vials of smallpox discovered in a research center in Washington contained live strains of the virus. It is thought to be the first time unaccounted traces of smallpox have been found in the US after the disease’s declared eradication in the 80s.

Frieden argues that the latest findings are a sign that the world needs to minimize the number of labs that deal with dangerous pathogens.

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

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