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Kuwait, UK concerned on escalation

IRAN WARNS OF NEW STEPS … EU TO CONSULT PARTNERS

Kuwait National Guard signs Memorandum with British Def. Ministry. Major General Jamal Dhiab during the signing ceremony

LONDON, July 4, (Agencies): The visiting Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al- Jarallah on Thursday said escalation in the Arabian Gulf between the United States of America and Iran constitutes a “source of concern for Kuwait and the United Kingdom.”

Al-Jarallah, speaking to KUNA as he emerged from a meeting with the UK Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa Andrew Murrison, noted that the latter has recently visited Tehran in a bid to defuse the tension in the region. He affirmed Kuwait’s support for the British diplomatic efforts in this respect, hoping that they would result in ridding the region of any conflicts that may threaten international peace and security.

He added that the meeting with the secretary constituted an opportunity to coordinate on some universal issues particularly with consideration to Kuwait’s current status as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

For his part, Murrison affirmed London’s commitment to the security in the Gulf particularly amid the current jitters. Murrison added that the memo inked earlier for cooperation in military training is part of the approach to secure the region in general.

The European Union says it’s in contact with signatories of the Iran nuclear agreement and will discuss with them what steps to take should the country ramp up uranium enrichment this weekend. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran will increase its enrichment of uranium to “any amount that we want” beginning on Sunday, ramping up pressure on European nations to save the faltering nuclear deal from the damage inflicted by US sanctions.

Iran announced Monday that it had already breached the pact’s limitations on stockpiles of low-enriched uranium. A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini — a guarantor of the 2015 pact — said Thursday that “we’ve called on Iran to reverse these steps and to refrain from further measures that would undermine the nuclear agreement.”

Iran’s intelligence minister has said Tehran and Washington could hold talks only if the United States ended its sanctions and Iran’s top authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave his approval, state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday. “Holding talks with America can be reviewed by Iran only If (US President Donald) Trump lifts the sanctions and our supreme leader gives permission to hold such talks,” Mahmoud Alavi said late on Wednesday.

“Americans were scared of Iran’s military power, that is the reason behind their decision to abort the decision to attack Iran.” Trump said last month that he had aborted a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an unmanned US drone over the Strait of Hormuz on June 20 because it could have killed 150 people, and signalled that he was open to talks with Tehran. Tehran said the surveillance drone had been shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile in Iranian airspace, while Washington said it had been in international airspace.

Tension has spiked between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump quit a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six powers and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the pact in return for Tehran curbing its sensitive nuclear work. Under the deal, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67 percent fissile material, well below the 20 percent it was reaching before the deal, and the roughly 90 percent suitable for a nuclear weapon. In reaction to US sanctions, which have notably targeted its main foreign revenue stream in the shape of crude oil exports, Iran said in May that it would scale back its commitments to the deal.

In its first major breach of the nuclear pact, Tehran said on Monday that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted. It said on Wednesday that it would boost its uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the cap set in the agreement. Trump responded: “Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before.” But in defiance of that warning, Tehran said it would stick to its plan to further scale back its nuclear commitments.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he is willing to mediate between the United States and Iran to ease tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. In comments published Thursday, Erdogan said he had discussed the issue of a possible mediation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting. Erdogan says Abe asked the Turkish leader whether Turkey and Japan could act together, to which Erdogan responded that he would be willing to meet with Iran’s leaders.

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