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Raisi says Iran ready for nuclear talks, but rejects Western ‘pressure’

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(Last Updated On: September 5, 2021)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday (September 4) Iran was ready to hold talks with world powers to revive its 2015 nuclear accord but not under Western “pressure”, adding Tehran was seeking negotiations leading to a lifting of U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported.

“I have already announced that we will have talks on our government’s agenda but not with … pressure,” Raisi said in a live interview with state television.

“Talks are on the agenda … We are seeking goal-oriented negotiations … so sanctions on the Iranian people are lifted,” Raisi said.

According to report France and Germany have urged Iran to return to negotiations after a break in talks following Iranian elections in June, with Paris demanding an immediate restart amid Western concerns over Tehran’s expanding atomic work.

Last month, France, Germany and Britain voiced concern about reports from the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirming Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20% fissile purity for the first time and lifted production capacity of uranium enriched to 60%, the report said.

Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, that it has informed the watchdog about its activities, and that its moves away from the 2015 deal would be reversed if the United States returned to the accord and lifted sanctions.

Raisi also said events in Afghanistan showed America was a disruptive influence around the world, Reuters reported.

“Afghanistan clearly showed within these two decades that the US presence has caused a lot of the rights of the Afghan people to be ignored. What has happened is against human rights, and this can be analysed by all,” he added.

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Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

Boxing star Manny Pacquiao said on Sunday he will run for president of the Philippines next year, after railing against corruption in government and what he calls President Rodrigo Duterte’s cozy relationship with China.

Pacquiao accepted the nomination of his political allies during the national assembly of the faction he leads in the ruling PDP-Laban Party, days after a rival faction nominated Duterte’s long-time aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as its presidential candidate.

That faction nominated Duterte for vice president, a move that critics called a cynical ploy by Duterte to retain power.

Go declined the nomination, but the rift between the Pacquiao and Duterte factions has escalated, Reuters reported.

“I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” Pacquiao, 42, a senator, said in a live-streamed speech during the assembly. “I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Pacquiao’s faction has not expressed support for Duterte’s vice-presidential bid. Duterte is prohibited by the constitution from running for a second six-year term as president.

One of the greatest boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions, Pacquiao was mum about his 26-year professional career.

Despite his popularity, Pacquiao trails the front-runners in opinion polls that have been topped consistently by Duterte’s daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Pacquiao, once a close ally of Duterte, had said more than 10 billion pesos ($200 million) in pandemic aid intended for poor families was unaccounted for, adding this was just one discovery in his planned corruption investigation.

His anti-corruption crusade comes as the Senate has opened an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment purchased under the government’s pandemic response programme.

Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government offices to prove that the boxer was not just politicking ahead of the election.

Pacquiao countered by warning of jail for corrupt government officials: “Your time is up!”

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Australia agrees on increased US air deployments in Australia

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Australia and the United States have reached new force posture agreements that will see greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday.

Speaking at a joint news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Dutton said the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.”

“This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia,” he said.

“We’ve also established combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities, including logistics and sustainment capability for our submarines and surface combatants in Australia.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed “major force posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.”

Dutton and Austin spoke a day after the United States and Britain said they would provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

China on Thursday denounced the new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain, and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said France was a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region and that Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger after the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom clinched the historic defense export contract to supply Australia with submarines.

The three countries announced on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.

France has reacted angrily to the loss of the deal, calling it a “stab in the back.”

Speaking at a news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Blinken said Washington had been in touch with its French counterparts before the announcement of the submarine deal.

In 2016 Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

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Ukraine, U.S. to hold joint military drills

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Ukraine and the United State will start joint military exercises in western Ukraine next week, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Thursday, days after Belarus and Russian staged large-scale drills that have concerned neighbouring countries, Reuters reported.

The “Zapad-2021” war games ran on Russia and Belarus’ western flanks, including sites close to the European Union’s borders, and alarmed Ukraine and some NATO countries.

Ukraine said the “RAPID TRIDENT – 2021” exercises would involve 6,000 troops from 15 countries – Ukraine, the United States and other NATO members – and would last till Oct. 1.

“The main goal is to prepare for joint actions as part of a multinational force during coalition operations,” it said in a statement.

According to the report Ukraine views the military exercises with Western partners as an important step on the path to NATO, believing that membership in the alliance would strengthen the country’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Kyiv’s relations with Moscow deteriorated in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region. The seven-year war with separatists killed more than 13,000 people.

Ukraine’s relations with Belarus also have worsened since Kyiv called the 2020 presidential election in Belarus neither free nor fair and condemned violence against protesters, Reuters reported.

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