Diplomats


 Iran struck a historic deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the agreement, which commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

It builds on the momentum of the public dialogue opened during September’s annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and moderate-leaning Rouhani, who was elected in June.

The package includes freezing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms.

Obama hailed the pact’s provisions, which include curbs on Iran’s enrichment and other projects that could be used to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.

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“Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” he told reporters in Washington.

For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran’s leaders view the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of its insistence at nuclear self-sufficiency.

Giving up too much on the enrichment program would have likely brought a storm of protest by Iranian hard-liners, who were already uneasy over the marathon nuclear talks and Rouhani’s outreach to Washington.

In a nationally broadcast speech, Rouhani said the accord recognizes Iran’s “nuclear rights” even if that precise language was kept from the final document because of Western resistance.

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“No matter what interpretations are given, Iran’s right to enrichment has been recognized,” said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists killed in slayings in recent years that Iran has blamed on Israel and allies.

Saying “trust is a two-way street,” Rouhani insisted that talks on a comprehensive agreement should start immediately.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country’s delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an “opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons.”

But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal, a “historic mistake.”

Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself. That is a reference to possible military action against Iran.

Netanyahu has said the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and threaten Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer reducing the threat of war.

“Agreement in Geneva,” he tweeted. “First step makes world safer. More work now.”

The deal marks a milestone between the two countries, which broke diplomatic ties 34 years ago when Iran’s Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations between the two countries had been frigid to hostile.

Although the deal lowered tensions between the two countries, friction points remain — notably Iran’s support of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States also has said Iran supports terrorism throughout the region and commits widespread human rights violations.

The Geneva negotiations followed secret face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran over the past year, The Associated Press has learned. The discussions, held in the Persian Gulf nation of Oman and elsewhere, were kept hidden even from America’s closest allies, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago.

A White House statement said the deal limits Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

The statement also said the accord curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran ability to “produce weapons-grade plutonium” from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

The statement also said Iran’s nuclear program will be subject to “increased transparency and intrusive monitoring.”

“Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community’s concerns,” said the statement.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran’s enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and more than 10,000 operating. The machines have produced tons of low-enriched uranium, which can be turned into weapons grade material.

Iran also has stockpiled almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

In return for Iran’s nuclear curbs, the White House statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

Kerry said the relief offered would give Iran access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. Approximately $1.5 billion more would come from imports of gold and other precious metals, petrochemical exports and Iran’s auto sector, as well as easier access to “humanitarian transactions.”

“The core sanctions architecture … remains firmly in place through these six months, including with respect to oil and financial services,” Kerry said. He said those sanctions will result in more than $25 billion in lost oil revenues over six months.

Those conditions are being highlighted by the U.S. administration in its efforts to demonstrate that Iran is still in pain. The administration has urged Congress to hold off on any new sanctions and give the accord a chance to prove its worth.

But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed “serious concerns,” saying the United States was “relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” while allowing Tehran to “keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capacity.”

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Obama hailed the deal as putting “substantial limitations” on a nuclear program that the United States and its allies fear could be turned to nuclear weapons use.

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

Iran’s currency, the rial, got a small boost after news of the deal, strengthening to about 29,000 rials against the U.S. dollar, compared with about 29,950 in recent days.

 

By  John Heilprin and Jamey Keaten. Geneva/ AP, Nov.24, 2013

Associated Press writers George Jahn and Deb Riechmann in Geneva, Julie Pace in Washington, Robert H. Reid in Berlin and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report. 

Nearly 50 years after an assassin killed President John F. Kennedy, his daughter was triumphantly received as America’s ambassador to Japan in the country that made her dad a hero. Caroline Kennedy arrived at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo Tuesday in an ornate, horse-drawn carriage — befitting the Princess of Camelot’s role as American royalty — to present her credentials to Emperor Akihito.

Caroline Kennedy

 

Meanwhile, back at home, images of her standing stoically at her father’s funeral were being replayed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death this week.

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Kennedy, 55, is the first female US envoy to Japan, America’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Dallas Arrival

Though it was a Japanese destroyer that sank John Kennedy’s PT-109 boat during World War II, JFK as president wanted to heal the rift between the two countries and “be the first sitting president to make a state visit to Japan,” Caroline Kennedy had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

45th Anniversary of JFK Assassination

“That symbolizes so much more than just a normal diplomatic relationship,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week at a state dinner in honor of the new ambassador.

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“This is a symbol of reconciliation, a symbol of possibilities, a symbol of people who know how to put the past behind them and look to the future and build a future together.”

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Caroline Kennedy was appointed ambassador after helping President Obama’s re-election campaign.

“Honored to present my credentials to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. What a memorable day!” Kennedy tweeted later, sharing a photo of her alighting from the carriage at the palace’s Pine Hall.

In a meeting with reporters, Kennedy described the ceremony as “wonderful.”

“I am honored to serve my country,” she said.

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The appointment was a soft landing after her failed attempt to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate after Clinton became Obama’s secretary of state.

Despite critics who said Kennedy doesn’t have the gravitas to follow in the footsteps of other former US ambassadors to Japan, including Walter Mondale and Tom Foley, she has said she is well aware of the responsibilities.

“This appointment has a special significance as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of my father’s presidency,” she told a Senate committee in September before being confirmed for the post.

“I am conscious of my responsibility to uphold the ideals he represented — a deep commitment to public service, a more just America and a more peaceful world.”

Kennedy was one of several new world diplomats to meet with the emperor, but the only one whose arrival was broadcast on national TV.

Kennedy handed the emperor a letter from Obama with her credentials, along with a letter of resignation from her predecessor, John Roos, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The emperor usually receives about 40 new ambassadors each year.

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Thousands of Japanese lined the streets of Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the new ambassador as she waved from the century-old carriage.

Japan is also home to the Navy’s 7th Fleet and 50,000 American troops.

Kennedy is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this week.

 

Text by Leonard Greene and Post Wires, November 20, 2013

 European Union embassies in the North Korea will remain open for business, despite a proposal from Pyongyang for them to evacuate staff over mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the UK’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Diplomats Staying Put, EU Tells North Korea

“The EU does not share the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) views on the current situation and does not recognize the nature of threat as described,” the EU statement read.

North Korea proposed on Tuesday that foreign embassies evacuate, saying it could not guarantee their safety after April 10.

There have been no evacuations, however.

The North Korean proposal came shortly after the isolated north-east Asian country threatened to launch nuclear attacks on both the US mainland and American military bases in the region.

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Pyongyang could carry out a test firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile at any time.

 

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The North Korean threats came as US and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises, some of them near the maritime border between the two Koreas. The United States responded by deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and B-2 and B-52 bombers to the region.

Analysts say North Korea is unlikely to launch a full-scale attack on either US forces or South Korea, but concerns persist that rising tensions could spark hostilities.

 © RIA Novosti ,Moscow, April 10, 2013)

Family and friends said Anne Smedinghoff had chafed at the restrictions that American diplomats can face in Afghanistan, where the excitement and passion for foreign service are often dampened by lives circumscribed by blast walls and checkpoints and fortified compounds.

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(Anne Smedinghoff, 25, died in a bomb attack Saturday while delivering donated books to a new school in Zabul Province.)

 

Ms. Smedinghoff joined the Foreign Service three years ago, straight out of Johns Hopkins University, and moved to Kabul in July. Being locked in the embassy compound, though it kept her largely safe from suicide bombers and rocket attacks, was not for her, her family and friends said. She longed to be out among Afghans, helping to ease the tumult of their lives.

On Saturday, Ms. Smedinghoff, 25, got her chance. She joined a delegation accompanying the governor of Zabul Province to inaugurate a new school in Qalat, the provincial capital. She was to help deliver donated books.

At 11 a.m., a suicide car bomber detonated explosives that ripped into the convoy, killing Ms. Smedinghoff and four other Americans — a civilian and three soldiers — in the deadliest day for Americans in Afghanistan this year. The names of the other four victims had not been released Sunday night.

The attack reverberated from Afghanistan to Ms. Smedinghoff’s family home in the Chicago suburb of River Forest, Ill. In her honor, friends and relatives this weekend replaced their profile photos on Facebook with a picture of a black ribbon embossed with the State Department seal.

For Ms. Smedinghoff, the Foreign Service was a calling, her parents, Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff, said in a statement. Afghanistan was her second deployment, an assignment for which she had volunteered after a tour in Caracas, Venezuela. She died, her parents said, doing a job she thought must be done.

“She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war,” they said. “We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world.”

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois issued a statement on Sunday praising Ms. Smedinghoff for having lived a “purposeful life.”

“Only 25 years old, this brave young woman knew social justice was her calling, and selflessly lost her life while serving others in a war-torn country,” the governor said. “She was devoted to protecting America and improving the lives of others.”

Ms. Smedinghoff was the first American diplomat to be killed on the job since Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed last Sept. 11 in an attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Sam Hopkins, a lawyer and a friend of Ms. Smedinghoff’s from her college days, described her as a “very focused very disciplined and very calm” woman who had breezed through a panoply of examinations to enter the Foreign Service at an unusually young age. On her first posting to Caracas, he said, she expressed strong desire to leave the embassy compound and plunge into the city’s gritty, often dangerous streets.

“She said she wanted to get a car and drive around,” Mr. Hopkins said. “She had no fear.”

As a public diplomacy officer, Ms. Smedinghoff was on the front lines of an effort to move Afghanistan beyond its decades-long struggle with war and oppression to a place where women might walk openly in the streets and where children, including young girls, might go to school.

It is a job fraught with dangers and frustrations that have been compounded as the United States, along with its NATO allies, has shrunk its military footprint. Bases have been scaled back and ground and air transports reduced, meaning less security for development work.

With most American and NATO troops preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the prospects for continued civilian aid of the kind Ms. Smedinghoff was helping to provide are now in doubt.

Yet in an emotional homage on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry held up Ms. Smedinghoff’s work as an example of the importance of the continued American effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the face of “cowardice” and “nihilism.”

“A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of the students that she had never met, but whom she felt compelled to help,” Mr. Kerry said in Istanbul, where he is on a diplomatic trip. “And she was met by cowardly terrorists determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers.”

By , Published: April 7, 2013

Correction: April 9, 2013

An article on Monday about the death of Anne Smedinghoff, a young American diplomat in Afghanistan, misstated the number of diplomats killed along with Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Three others died, not four.