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Iran to speed up underground uranium enrichment plant

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2020)

Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a UN nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on US President-elect Joe Biden, Reuters reported.

The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.

Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers says Tehran can only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are less efficient, at the underground plant and that those are the only machines with which Iran may accumulate enriched uranium, Reuters reported.

Iran recently moved one cascade of 174 IR-2m machines underground at Natanz and is enriching with it. It already planned to install two more cascades of other advanced models there, in addition to the 5,060 IR-1 machines that have been enriching for years in the plant built for more than 50,000.

“In a letter dated 2 December 2020, Iran informed the Agency that the operator of the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz ‘intends to start installation of three cascades of IR-2m centrifuge machines’ at FEP,” the IAEA’s report to its member states said.

Iran has breached many of the deal’s core restrictions on its nuclear activities in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and his reimposition of crippling economic sanctions. Tehran says its breaches can quickly be reversed if Washington’s moves are undone, Reuters reported.

Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said he will bring the United States back into the deal if Iran resumes full compliance with its nuclear restrictions. That raises the prospect of a standoff over who should move first.

The IAEA’s last quarterly report on Iran last month showed Tehran had stockpiled 12 times the 202.8 kg of enriched uranium it is allowed to have under the deal, more than 2.4 tonnes.

Reuters reported that US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003, the year its secret construction of Natanz was revealed by an opposition group in exile.

The deal is aimed at keeping Iran at arm’s length from being able to produce a nuclear bomb but Iran says it has never tried to.

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World leaders call for peace, stability in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

On day 2 of the UN General Assembly, world leaders called for peace and stability in Afghanistan and voiced their concerns about attacks being launched from Afghanistan.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in his address to the general assembly that the international community needs to work with Afghanistan’s neighbors in order to prevent instability in the region.

“Regarding Afghanistan, we’ll have to start working with neighbouring countries in this new context to face the humanitarian crisis and prevent more instability in the region.

“We cannot lower our guard in the face of a terrorist menace (Daesh) that is real and that already has delivered a heavy blow in the midst of the evacuation operations.

“Afghanistan cannot turn into a shelter for terrorists. Spain is firmly committed to find maximum international security,” said Sanchez.

Leaders attending the 76th General Assembly, also called for achievements made over the past 20 years to be preserved.

“As the UN Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, it makes me sad that the progress seen during the past two decades in Afghanistan could be reverted so quickly,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia.

Indonesia, which has the highest Muslim population of any country in the world, called on the international community to support the call for rights for women and minorities and for stability in Afghanistan.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversification of vaccine production centers across the world.

“We must be stern in fighting intolerance, conflicts, terrorism and war. Peace in diversity and the protection of women’s and minority rights must be upheld. Concerns on the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence and the political crisis in Myanmar must be our common agenda,” said Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia.

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Acting foreign minister upbeat about future trade and diplomatic relations

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi says he is working to build strong economic ties with regional nations and countries around the world.

Speaking at a ceremony to introduce the new acting minister of commerce and industry, Nooruddin Aziz, Muttaqi said he is focused on developing the country’s economic sector.

Muttaqi also said that Afghanistan’s economic relations with regional countries would soon be regulated, which would have a positive impact on trade.

“We have selected a minister from the private sector for the ministry of commerce and industry so as to ensure the smooth running of the private sector and economic activities. We hope that the private sector will also play an active role in the country’s economy,” Muttaqi said at the ceremony.

Aziz meanwhile said he will also work to expand economic ties with all countries, both regionally and globally, in order to get Afghanistan to a point where it is financially self-sufficient.

“We strive to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient and economic-free country and to maintain relations with regional and neighboring countries; also the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and a number of other countries,” said Aziz.

Private sector representatives said they will support the new ministers and work with them to grow the country’s economy.

“Security is crucial for economic development and the fight against corruption. So far the (security) problem has been solved. We will expand our activities,” said Khan Jan Alkozai, Vice President of Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries.

“Unless we speed up our efforts to develop industry and domestic production in the country, economic growth may not be possible. We call on the Islamic Emirate to make efforts to develop domestic production,” said Sherbaz Kaminzada, head of the chamber of mines and industries.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have assured members of the private sector that the security of domestic investors will be maintained and that more opportunities for economic development will be provided.

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Afghanistan faces severe medicine shortage amid Forex restrictions

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

Afghanistan is now faced with medicine shortage due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks.

Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

However, the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors were disrupted in the lead-up to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, and normal operations are yet to resume.

Worse still, wholesalers have been unable to complete transactions due to the limited operation of banks.

“Yes, since the takeover, banks are closed [for international transactions]. As the banks are closed, we can’t transfer payments to suppliers. If we don’t transfer money to the suppliers legally, they will not be able to deliver us the medicine and prices will definitely rise. When demand is high, and supply is low, the prices naturally go up. We are facing a shortage in supply of essential medicine,” said Rohullah Alokozay, President of GPS Pharma, Reuters reported.

Officials said the number of visitors at government hospitals has increased since the change of regime. The good news is that international donors have increased their focus towards government hospitals.

“In fact, we have even more visiting patients. Fortunately, we got more attention from UNICEF and the WHO, especially, towards our hospital which is a children’s hospital. They didn’t have enough focus in the last few years, but in the last month they increased our medical supply,” said Noor ul Haq Yousufzai, president of Indira Gandhi Institute for Children’s Health.

In fact, the government hospitals didn’t have enough medical facilities in the past three to four years due to lengthy procurement processes and the problem of corruption.

Government hospitals were not able to provide medicines to patients despite the continued funding in the previous regime.

“On one hand, prices have increased, while on the other hand, the people have become poorer. This has affected the doctors, patients and the society. Even in the former regime, patients used to buy their medicine at the market. We used to prescribe the medicine. Patients were not provided even with a single pill from the hospital,” said Dr. M. Fayaz Safi, Head of Medical Doctors’ Association in Afghanistan.

Many of the problems in the health sector have been left over from the previous regime. Wahid Majrooh, former acting minister of public health in the previous government said the former Afghan authorities had tried to solve the issues in coordination with stakeholders, but efforts were unsuccessful.

“And it led us to having few or no supplies, and most of our health facilities including essential medicine, fuel, oxygen, staff salary. We have been trying to work with different stakeholders to see if we can fulfil the urgent needs, but we haven’t been able to do it successfully,” said Majrooh.

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