Iran’s Rouhani: Trump ‘Failed to Undermine Nuclear Deal’
Iran’s president said Sunday the United States had failed to undermine a nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, and hailed the accord as a “long-lasting victory” for Iran, state television reported.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday delivered an ultimatum to European signatories of the deal to fix the “terrible flaws” of the agreement with Iran, or the United States would pull out.
“The American administration has failed to undermine the nuclear deal … Trump, despite his repeated efforts, has failed to undermine the accord … The deal is a long-lasting victory for Iran,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech, broadcast live on state TV.
On Friday, Trump agreed to waive sanctions against Iran for the last time to give the United States and European allies a final chance to amend the pact.
Iran says the nuclear deal is not renegotiable and it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.
Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, in exchange for the lifting of most sanctions.
IS Offshoot Claims 2017 Niger Attack on US Forces
An Islamic State offshoot is claiming it carried out the October attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops and sparked questions about U.S. military involvement in West Africa’s vast Sahel region.
The Mauritanian Nouakchott News Agency reported Friday that Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi with the self-professed IS affiliate claimed responsibility for the October 4 ambush about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey. The news agency has carried messages from the affiliate before, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.
The U.S. Africa Command has been investigating the attack, which also wounded two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops. A final report is expected to be released this month.
A 12-member Army Special Forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers.
The Pentagon has declined to release details about the commando team’s exact mission. U.S. officials have said the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior IS member. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen.
Tip from villager
After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military thinks someone in the village may have tipped off the attackers.
The U.S. has approximately 800 troops in Niger, and U.S. Special Forces have been working with Niger’s forces in recent years, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists.
Multiple military efforts exist against extremist groups, including Boko Haram and al-Qaida affiliates, that roam the vast Sahel, the sprawling, largely barren zone south of the Sahara desert. The growing fight includes France’s largest overseas military operation, a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali and a five-nation regional force called the G5 Sahel that launched last year.
Officials have pointed out the danger and difficulty of hunting down an enemy in a region the size of Europe.
The Mauritanian news agency also reported that the extremists claimed responsibility for an attack Thursday on a French military convoy, and for a series of attacks in Niger and border areas with Mali and Burkina Faso.
Angry Reactions Continue to Trump’s Vulgar Immigration Remark
Reactions to President Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar slur to explain his opposition to Haitian and African migration to the United States were continuing to circulate Saturday.
Trump stunned lawmakers Thursday in a White House meeting on immigration when, according to multiple reports and confirmation from attendees, he asked, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?”
Ninety-five percent of Haitians are black, as are the vast majority of Africans.
Trump said the United States should allow in more people from places such as Norway, whose population is mostly white.
Trump took to Twitter on Friday to deny using the vulgar term, which is slang for an extremely dirty or shabby place and includes a synonym for excrement. He said his language was “tough,” but denied using the vulgarity.
Since then, reactions to his remark have continued to come via Twitter and statements to the media. Trump’s former presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, noted that Friday was the anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, from which the island has never fully recovered.
“The anniversary of the devastating earthquake 8 years ago is a day to remember the tragedy, honor the resilient people of Haiti, & affirm America’s commitment to helping our neighbors. Instead, we’re subjected to Trump’s ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him,” she tweeted Friday.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted Friday, “I hope our next president will rehire all the diplomats who have resigned over Trump’s racist words and harmful actions. We will need all the help we can get to repair the damage he is doing to our country’s international reputation and interests.”
‘No change in our dedication’
And the U.S. Embassy in South Africa tweeted Friday that “the U.S. deeply respects the people of Africa & values partnerships w/them. There has been no change in our dedication to partners & friends across the Continent.”
Also Friday, the U.N. human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, called the comments racist, but he added that the episode was “not just a story about vulgar language. It’s about opening the door wider to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy the lives of many people.”
The African Union said Friday that it was “frankly alarmed” by the president’s reported statement. AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told The Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”
“This is particularly surprising,” she added, “as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”
The U.S. State Department said Friday that American diplomats in Haiti and in Botswana had been summoned by government officials to discuss the remarks.
U.S. Republican Representative Mia Love of Utah, whose family came from Haiti, said the president’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”
Love called on Trump to apologize to the people of Haiti.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said in an interview, “It’s incomprehensible that these words came out of the mouth of the president of the United States of America, a country that was founded on being free from discrimination and treating people fairly and having people come here, the land of the free. … This is a president that has had a sordid, terrible history of making racist statements.”
Ros-Lehtinen also tweeted that Trump’s “calling #Haiti a ‘s**thole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”
‘Ashamed’ of Trump’s position
Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who in 2016 became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislative office in the United States, released a statement saying, “I am not ashamed of the country where I was born. I am not ashamed to call myself an American now. I am a proud immigrant, refugee, Minnesotan and a proud State Legislator.
“But make no mistake, I am ashamed, disturbed, and outraged that the leader of the United States can’t see beyond his own embarrassing privilege to embrace the diversity that has made this country great for generations.”
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said he wanted more details “regarding the president’s comments.”
“Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin,” Hatch added.
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, tweeted late Thursday, “My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.”
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, said in a tweet, “Immigrants from countries across the globe — including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa — have helped build this country. They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.”
U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views. It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again.’ ”
The White House released a statement Thursday that defended the president’s views, without referencing his specific comments.
“Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”
VOA correspondents Cindy Saine, Natalie Liu, Steve Herman and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.
Khan Says Meeting Trump as Pakistani PM Would Be ‘Bitter Pill’ to Swallow
Pakistani populist opposition politician Imran Khan, a harsh critic of the country’s partnership in the U.S.-led anti-terrorism war, said Saturday that should he become prime minister, he would meet with President Donald Trump but that it would be a “bitter pill” to swallow.
Khan heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party that has emerged as a major national political force in recent years. Observers think the cricket star-turned-politician could win the national election due later this year and become the country’s chief executive.
In speaking to reporters about his views on Pakistani foreign policy, Khan was asked whether he would be willing to sit down with Trump to try to mend relations between the two countries, Khan said the United States is a super power and every country would want to work with it.
“I will dread it, but I will have to swallow the bitter pill and meet him,” Khan said. “Whether we would be able to communicate, I am not so sure, but of course we, countries, have to work with the United States.”
Pakistan’s often troubled relations with the United States have plunged to new lows since Trump, in a New Year Day’s tweet, accused Islamabad of knowingly harboring insurgents battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He also suspended nearly $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.
Islamabad denied Trump’s assertions as “completely incomprehensible,” saying it was fighting an anti-terrorism war largely with its own resources and was not in need of U.S. aid.
Treated like ‘a doormat’
“You cannot insult a country of 200 million people by blaming, scapegoating them for the disaster in Afghanistan. It was very insulting of him [Trump], the way he treated Pakistan. … He has treated Pakistan like a doormat. I just don’t think that that was very fair,” Khan said.
The opposition leader has always been critical of Pakistan’s participation in the U.S.-led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. The politician reiterated Saturday the war was launched to punish the al-Qaida network for plotting 9/11 attacks on the U.S. from Afghan soil.
Khan said Pakistan had nothing to do with the violence. He insisted Pakistan should have supported the U.S. campaign against terrorism but it should not have deployed tens of thousands of troops to the country’s tribal regions on the Afghan border to fight its own people.
He said the policy is to be blamed for terrorist attacks that have killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis over the past decade while the national economy has suffered billions of dollars in losses.
Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas have long served as a hideout and training ground for Taliban insurgents battling international forces in Afghanistan. U.S. officials allege the lawlessness in the Pakistan border region is to be blamed for the Taliban resurgence, a charge that Pakistani officials deny.
Islamabad maintains Washington is scapegoating the country for U.S. failures in Afghanistan and dishonoring Pakistani sacrifices and contributions in the regional counterterrorism efforts.
Khan and his party spearheaded street protests and a subsequent legal battle that ousted Pakistan’s thrice-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office last July on corruption charges.
Trump Under Fire From Countries He Reportedly Deemed ‘S—holes’
The U.S. president is in hot water once again — this time on an international stage — following his reported use of a vulgarity that disparaged poorer nations during a discussion on immigration reform. Global leaders and citizens have been swift and unequivocal in their condemnation. VOA’s Ramon Taylor reports.
Trump Waives Iran Sanctions, Says It’s the Last Time
The White House on Friday decided to continue to waive sanctions on Iran that targeted its nuclear weapons program, preserving the 2015 deal between Tehran and six world powers. But Trump administration officials warn this is the last waiver the U.S. will issue. That means Washington could leave the deal within months, reports VOA’s Bill Gallo.
North Carolina GOP Asks Supreme Court to Block Redistricting Order
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to block enforcement of an order throwing out the state’s congressional map and directing a redraw almost immediately.
The lawmakers’ attorneys filed a motion with Chief Justice John Roberts seeking delay of the lower court judges’ directive that the General Assembly draw a replacement map by Jan. 24.
The three-judge panel that issued Tuesday’s ruling concluding the boundaries were an illegal partisan gerrymander also said it would hire a redistricting expert to make its own alternate map in case the GOP-controlled legislature doesn’t draw a map or draws lines that still look unlawful.
Wait for other decisions
In the emergency motion to the Supreme Court, GOP lawyer Paul Clement argued that requiring a redraw less than three weeks before candidate filing begins for the Feb. 12 midterm elections would create uncertainty among voters and potential candidates.
Clement also said it doesn’t make sense for North Carolina to redraw its 2016 maps before the Supreme Court resolves similar partisan gerrymandering cases from Maryland and Wisconsin, whose outcomes could affect the final result in North Carolina’s case.
Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments last fall in the Wisconsin case, which involved state legislative districts, and are expected to issue a ruling by early summer. The Supreme Court has never declared that the constitutional rights of voters can be violated by redistricting plans that entrench one party’s control to the detriment of the other party.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to force North Carolina to immediately remedy a purported partisan gerrymandering violation and commence its 2018 election cycle under a new court-imposed map before this court can even decide whether and under what circumstances such claims may be adjudicated,” Clement told Roberts, who receives appeals from North Carolina.
In a similar case in Pennsylvania, a divided three-judge panel Wednesday rejected partisan gerrymandering claims involving the state’s congressional districts.
‘Discriminatory partisan objective’
In North Carolina, the lower court panel determined that the Republican map, approved by the legislature in February 2016, was marked by “invidious partisanship” that violated the U.S. Constitution. The evidence showed the “plan achieved the General Assembly’s discriminatory partisan objective,” U.S. Circuit Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the case’s chief opinion.
At the time the maps were approved, Republican leaders said retaining the party’s 10-3 seat advantage in the state’s congressional delegation was one of its mapping criteria. The GOP won 10 seats in November 2016.
In his arguments on behalf of the GOP legislators who approved the maps, Clement wrote that the lower court “has used an entirely novel legal theory to hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections.”
The Republican lawyers had already asked the three-judge panel to order a delay of its decision by Thursday, but jumped to the Supreme Court on Friday when the judges didn’t act quickly.
Republicans have now requested a Supreme Court decision by Jan. 22. Late Friday, Roberts asked for a response by next Wednesday to the delay request from the election advocacy groups and Democratic voters who sued over the congressional map.
The advocates say voters have waited too long for legal boundaries and a new map is needed for 2018 elections. Republicans initially approved district maps in 2011, but another three-judge panel struck down two districts five years later, identifying them as illegal racial gerrymanders. That prompted the creation of a new map, the one now before the courts.
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