Iran president predicts US will eventually rejoin nuclear deal
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Iran president predicts US will eventually rejoin nuclear deal

Rouhani says UNGA reveals extent of Trump’s isolation, pledges Tehran’s continued commitment to 2015 accord

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in New York on September 26, 2018,on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.  (AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in New York on September 26, 2018,on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON)
  • Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (L), British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron are seen September 26, 2018 on the second day of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)
    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (L), British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron are seen September 26, 2018 on the second day of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)
  • UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres (L) listens to US President Donald Trump as he opens the UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)
    UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres (L) listens to US President Donald Trump as he opens the UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)
  • US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.  (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)
    US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)
  • : Lebanese President Michel Aoun shows a timeline of the growth in number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2018 in New York City. ( John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)
    : Lebanese President Michel Aoun shows a timeline of the growth in number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2018 in New York City. ( John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Thousands of people gather for the priestly benediction at the Western Wall, 26 September 2018 (Police Spokesman's Unit)
    Thousands of people gather for the priestly benediction at the Western Wall, 26 September 2018 (Police Spokesman's Unit)
  • Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a thumbs up as he addresses delegates on the final day of the Labour party conference in Liverpool on September 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF)
    Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a thumbs up as he addresses delegates on the final day of the Labour party conference in Liverpool on September 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

US pulling some defense systems out of Mideast — report

The US is redeploying four air-defense missile systems from the Middle East, refocusing its attention from Iran to other global threats such as China and Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has ordered the military to pull out four Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, which are also capable of intercepting incoming missiles, from allies in the region, the report says, citing several senior US military officials.

Egyptian monk found dead in desert monastery

Egypt’s Coptic church says prosecutors are investigating the death of a monk who had until recently served in a monastery northwest of Cairo where the abbot was killed in July.

In a brief statement Wednesday, the church says the cause of monk Zeinoun al-Maqari’s death, at the al-Muharraq monastery in southern Egypt, remained unknown.

It says he was transferred there following the July death of Bishop Epiphanius, abbot of St. Macarious monastery. That suggested al-Maqari may have been involved in a now-publicized disciplinary dispute between Epiphanius and several monks at St. Macarious.

Epiphanius’ killing has shaken Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and the one that introduced monasticism to the faith.

Two monks are on trial in connection with his death.

— AP

Israeli tourists stranded in northern India rescued

A group of Israeli tourists stranded in a northern Indian town for several days due to poor weather were recused late last night, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

According to the reports, the eight Israeli tourists were on a trek through Manali when they got caught in an unseasonably severe snowstorm that blocked all the roads in the area.

The Israelis were recused via helicopter by the Indian military. Two of them are being treated for altitude sickness, according to reports.

2 held in Denmark suspected of buying drones for IS

Danish authorities arrest two people under Denmark’s anti-terror laws on suspicion of buying drones bound for the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Copenhagen police and Denmark’s security service, known as PET, carried out the arrests. Police say the suspects are believed to be part of a network.

In a brief joint statement, police and PET say a series of raids were also carried out in greater Copenhagen.

The suspects will face a judge Thursday, and prosecutors are expected to demand they be held in pre-trial detention. Prosecutors say the hearing should be held behind closed doors because of the ongoing investigation.

No other details were available.

It was unclear whether the case was linked to the arrests in Denmark a year ago of a 28-year-old man for allegedly shipping drones, drone components and infrared cameras for the Islamic State group via Turkey.

— AP

Far-right German party’s plans for Jewish faction criticized

A Jewish student group says it will protest the far-right Alternative for Germany’s plans to found a Jewish section within the party.

Jewish Students Union of Germany leader Dalia Grinfeld says that the party known as AfD, “isn’t getting a kosher certificate from us” because it is one of the biggest threats to Jewish life in Germany.

The group plans to demonstrate in Offenbach next month, when the party launches its “Jews in the AfD” section.

Despite repeatedly downplaying of the horrors of the Holocaust, the party has acquired some Jewish members drawn to its rhetoric against Muslim immigrants.

Jewish AfD member Dimitri Schulz told German news agency dpa, “the AfD is the only party in Germany that makes anti-Semitism by Muslims a topic.”

— AP

Corbyn says Labour ‘against anti-Semitism in all forms,’ tells Jews ‘we are your ally’

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges that Labour has faced a tough summer grappling with the issue of anti-Semitism.

In his speech to the annual Labour conference being held in Liverpool, Corbyn elaborates:

“Ours is the Party of equality for all — the party that has pioneered every progressive initiative to root out racism from our society.”

But, he says, “being anti-racist means we must listen to those communities suffering discrimination and abuse.”

He says: “The Jewish people have suffered a long and terrible history of persecution and genocide. I was humbled to see a memorial to that suffering two years ago, when I visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin. The row over antisemitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party. But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it.”

He then issues a promise to Britain’s Jews: “I say this to all in the Jewish community: This party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms. We are your ally.

“And the next Labour government,” he vows, “will guarantee whatever support necessary to ensure the security of Jewish community centers and places of worship, as we will for any other community experiencing hateful behavior and physical attacks. We will work with Jewish communities to eradicate anti-Semitism, both from our party and wider society. And with your help I will fight for that with every breath I possess.

“Anti-racism is integral to our very being. It’s part of who you all are, and it’s part of who I am,” he says.

He proceeds to use the issue to attack the Conservative government:

“We won’t accept it when we’re attacked by Tory hypocrites who accuse us of anti-Semitism one day, then endorse Viktor Orban’s hard right government the next. Or when they say we are racist, while they work to create a hostile environment for all migrant communities.”

Court remands drunk driver in Tel Aviv hit-and-run that left teen seriously injured

The driver in a hit-and-run in Tel Aviv earlier this week that left a 16-year-old in critical condition is remanded into custody for five days.

The driver, a soccer player for a team in Israel’s top league, was found to have blood alcohol content five times the legal limit.

The driver hit the 16-year-old and his friend while they were riding on an electric bicycle on the city’s northern Rokach Boulevard early Monday morning. The 16-year-old was taken to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, where he underwent surgery and is being treated for serious head injuries.

Trump takes a turn leading UN Security Council

More world leaders are stepping up to the podium at the UN General Assembly, but the lion’s share of the day’s attention will be down the hall where US President Donald Trump will be chairing the Security Council.

It’ll be Trump’s first experience in leading a session of the UN’s most powerful body, where the US currently holds the rotating presidency. It’s using that perch to double down on criticism of Iran.

While today’s meeting of the council will be addressing the issue of nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Trump himself has left little doubt that it’ll be another chance to target Tehran.

— AP

Corbyn: If elected, Labour will immediately recognize Palestinian state

Jeremy Corbyn says his party will immediately recognize a Palestinian state if his opposition party wins the next elections.

In a speech at the annual Labour conference, Corbyn protests “the ongoing denial of justice and rights to the Palestinian people” and says Labour is “united in condemning the shooting of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli forces and the passing of Israel’s discriminatory Nation-State Law.”

“The continuing occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage,” he says, adding that Labour backs a two-state solution to the conflict.

“But a quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords we are no closer to justice or peace and the Palestinian tragedy continues, while the outside world stands by,” Corbyn says.

“As my great Israeli friend Uri Avnery who died this year put it: ‘What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples.’ And in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality, we will recognize a Palestinian state as soon as we take office,” he says.

Iran says Trump ‘main culprit’ of oil price hikes

US President Donald Trump is the “main culprit” to blame for a recent surge in oil prices, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh says.

“The main culprit of the price hikes … and the destabilization of the market is Mr Trump and his disruptive and illegal policies,” Zanganeh says on state television, after the US president hit out at OPEC accusing it of “ripping off the rest of the world.”

— AFP

Russia denies it rejected Israeli offer to send delegation after plane was downed

The Kremlin is denying a recent Israeli report that Russian officials rebuffed Jerusalem officials who offered to dispatch a high-level government representative to Moscow following the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli airstrike last week.

“This is not true. The newspaper provides incorrect information,” press secretary Dmitry Peskov tells journalists, according to Russia’s state-run news outlet Sputnik. “From the very beginning, there was a proposal by the Israeli prime minister to send a military delegation headed by the commander of the air force, which was done.”

Israel sought to send a delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, along with air force officials, the Haaretz newspaper reported late yesterday.

Tens of thousands flock to the Western Wall for priestly blessing

Tens of thousands of Jews gather at Jerusalem’s Western Wall for a special “priestly blessing”at one of Judaism’s holiest sites, during the weeklong holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of the Tabernacles, which in antiquity was a time of pilgrimage.

The ceremony sees male descendants of the Kohanic priestly caste gathering to recite a benediction. It is performed daily by devout Jews at synagogues throughout Israel, while mass blessings at the Western Wall take place on the festivals of Passover and Sukkot.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which oversees the holy site, estimated that 100,000 people attended two ceremonies in the morning.

They included US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is a Jew and a member of the priestly caste.

“It’s my opportunity to bless the people of Israel,” he tells reporters ahead of the services.

Friedman also uses the opportunity to praise US President Donald Trump’s “excellent” speech on yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly.

“I thought he laid out a very clear vision,” he says. “It’s consistent with what he’s been saying since he’s been the president about how he thinks the United States relates with the rest of the world.”

— with AFP

May presses Iran president over detained NGO worker

Britain’s prime minister raises the case of a detained British-Iranian charity worker with the Iranian president.

British officials say Theresa May expressed her concerns about the case directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during meetings Tuesday at the United Nations in New York.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested during a vacation with her toddler daughter in April 2016.

Iranian authorities accuse her of plotting against the government. Her family denies this, saying she was in Iran to visit family.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also pressed Iranian officials for quick action to win her freedom.

“I again pressed for Nazanin’s swift release,” Hunt said in a statement. “She deserves to be back at home with her family.”

Many leaders are gathered in New York for the UN General Assembly.

— AP

Netanyahu meets with Pompeo ahead of talks with Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Netanyahu and Trump are expected to discuss Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself in Syria and to deliver advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as the US administration’s sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The White House’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal is also expected to be on the agenda.

Trump emphatically backs two-state solution, hopes for a deal in his first term

US President Donald Trump says the US is “with Israel 100%,” following a closed door meeting with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Trump, with the prime minister alongside him, says Netanyahu thanked him for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year. He says the move “I guess was controversial, but it’s turned out to be very positive in many ways.”

He also says that he is “very much in favor of what Israel is doing as far as their defense is concerned. They’re aggressive, and they have no choice be to be aggressive. It’s a very difficult part of the world.”

“We are here, we are with Israel 100%,” he adds.

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

Hebrew-language media says the two leaders met behind closed doors at Netanyahu’s request.

Says Trump: “We took probably the biggest chip off the table. Israel got the first chip and it’s a big one.”

Asked whether the Palestinians will come back to the negotiating table, Trump says: “Absolutely. 100%”

He adds: “We were paying them $500 million a year. Now we pay nothing a year. For years we were abused by the Palestinian leadership, and that’s stopped. [The money] will come back. They will be coming back to the table, and they want to.”

Asked whether he backs a two-state deal, Trump is explicit: “I like the two state solution. That’s what I think works best. I don’t even have to speak to anybody, that’s my feeling. [He motions to Netanyahu.] You may have a different feeling, I don’t think so, but that’s mine.” [Netanyahu does not respond.]

He adds: “I want a plan that’s solid, understood by both sides, really semi-agreed by both sides before we present. I would say two-three-four months.”

He says he aims to reach a deal in his first term in office, because he’ll focus on other issues in his second term.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for ‘strong’ stance on Iran

Netanyahu thanks Trump for his “strong” position on Iran, and says the renewed US sanctions will “cut the cash machine of Iran and its campaign of carnage and conquest in the Middle East.”

The prime minister also thanks Trump for his “extraordinary support” of Israel, notably at the UN, and says with his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this year “you’ve changed history and you’ve touched our hearts.”

Israel will “continue to do what is necessary” to defend itself, as it must, he says, against Iranian aggression in Syria, in Lebanon, and elsewhere, knowing that it has full American support.

“I think… the American-Israeli alliance has never been stronger; it’s stronger than ever before under your leadership,” he says.

He says that, with Trump, the common interests of security, prosperity and peace with Israel’s neighbors and the region can be advanced.

Trump vague on Israel-Russia crisis, though he indicates he may speak to Putin

Trump declines to answer in any detail a number of questions from reporters about current tensions between Israel and Russia, following the downing last week of a Russian military aircraft by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Russia has blamed Israel for the incident and promised to supply Syria with S-300 missile defense systems within two weeks.

Trump says he will speak to Russia’s Vladimir Putin if needed, at the appropriate time.

— Raphael Ahren

Guatemalan president says embassy to stay in Jerusalem

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales says that his country is committed to keeping its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem, after moving it from Tel Aviv earlier this year.

Walking into his meeting with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Morales tells Israeli reporters that he will “of course” keep his country’s embassy in Jerusalem.

Guatemala was the first country to follow the US in moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Paraguay followed suit, but the country’s new president recently said he would relocate the embassy back to Tel Aviv.

— Raphael Ahren

WATCH: Trump chairs UN Security Council meeting

US President Donald Trump is chairing a UN Security Council Briefing on the nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at the annual General Assembly.

Its Trump’s first time leading a session of the UN’s most powerful body, where the US currently holds the rotating presidency. It’s using that perch to double down on criticism of Iran.

Trump says Iran ‘leading sponsor of terror,’ urges united front against Tehran

Trump opens the Security Council session on nuclear nonproliferation by doubling down on his criticism of Iran, saying the Islamic Republic cannot be allowed to be acquire nuclear weapons.

The US president says Iran “is the world’s leading sponsor of terror,” and urges the international community to unite against the Tehran regime.

“This regime must never be allowed to possess nuclear weapons.”

Trump at UN hits out at Russia, Iran for ‘Syrian regime’s butchery’

Trump at the Security Council meeting takes aim at Russia and Iran for backing President Bashar Assad’s brutal war in Syria.

“The Syrian regime’s butchery is enabled by Russia and Iran,” Trump tells the meeting, which he is chairing for the first time.

But he also thanks the countries for slowing the military offensive on Idlib at his request, and warns them that “the world will be watching.”

Trump accuses China of election meddling

Trump tells the UN Security Council that China is interfering in the US midterm elections, saying Beijing “doesn’t want me to win” in November.

The president offers no details about the claim except to say that China opposes his trade policy.

Opposition leader hails Trump for backing 2-state solution

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni praises Trump’s comments in support of a two-state solution after he met Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“I welcome Trump’s remarks and the two things that he said about Israel: the steadfast US support for Israeli security, and its support for the two-state solution.”

“Both of these things are important for our future,” she says.

PA envoy expelled from Washington slams Trump after remarks on 2 states

A senior Palestinian Authority official rejects US President Donald Trump’s comments in support of a two-state solution, saying his White House’s policies were destroying hopes of peace.

Dr. Husam Zomlot, a senior political advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the PLO mission to the US. (Courtesy)

“Their words go against their actions and their action is absolutely clear [and] is destroying the possibility of the two-state solution,” Husam Zomlot, head of the recently closed Palestinian mission in Washington, tells AFP.

He adds that Trump’s comments alone were not enough to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

— AFP

Israel arrests Palestinians suspected of planting explosive near settlement

Border Police announce the arrest of two Palestinians who are suspected of planting an explosive device outside an Israeli outpost in the West Bank earlier this month.

The explosive placed outside the Adei Ad detonated while residents were celebrating the first night of the Rosh Hashanah holiday on September 9, causing no injuries.

Police and the Shin Bet security service arrested the two 18-year-olds from the village of al-Mughayyir early this morning.

— Jacob Magid

Trump: Iran ‘aggression has only increased’ since nuclear deal

Trump accuses Iran of stepping up its “aggression” after signing a nuclear accord in 2015, saying Tehran took advantage of a lifting of sanctions to fund a missile program.

“In the years since the deal was signed, Iran’s aggression only increased,” Trump says in a speech at the United Nations Security Council.

“The regime used new funds from the deal to support terrorism, build nuclear capable missiles, and foment chaos,” he says.

The United States has been steadily reimposing sanctions against Iran in recent months and Trump says more are on the way.

“All US nuclear-related sanctions will be in full force by early November,” he says.

— AFP

Bennett hits back at Trump, says Palestinian statehood ‘a disaster for Israel’

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett hits back at statements made by US President Donald Trump endorsing the two-state solution.

Education Minister Nafatli Bennett in the West Bank on June 11, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

“The president of the United States is a true friend of Israel. However, it is must be emphasized that as long as the Jewish Home Party is part of Israel’s government, there will not be a Palestinian state, which would be a disaster for Israel,” Bennett says on Twitter.

— Raoul Wootliff

Swedish foreign minister defends Iran nuclear deal at UN

In a direct response to Trump, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom says “patriotism” isn’t the solution to Tehran’s nuclear program. And she says her country will be standing by the European Union’s support for the Iran nuclear deal that Trump has abandoned.

Trump told the UN General Assembly yesterday that “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Wallstrom asks hypothetically, “What’s the alternative to the Iran deal?”

In her words, “We have tried sanctions over the years. We tried isolation, and it only gave the most conservative forces in Iran more power,” she says.

Wallstrom says the EU is working on how to set up a financial facility that will help companies do business with Iran following the U.S. imposition of sanctions.

— AP

Lebanon president complains to UN of double standard in treatment of Israel, Palestinians

The president of Lebanon is accusing the international community of a double standard when dealing with the Middle East.

In his address to world leaders at the UN, President Michel Aoun criticizes the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and the capital of Israel while cutting aid to Palestinians.

Aoun says that “history has taught us that injustice leads to war … Absence of justice can lead to violence and terrorism.”

He added that, “Unfortunately, international political approaches to the Middle East still lack justice and there are double standards in this regard. The Palestinian question is an example of that.”

— AP

Abbas aide says path to peace requires 2 states, after Trump declares support

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman says that “the path to peace” requires the two-state solution, including a Palestinian state along 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the official PA news site Wafa.

His remarks come shortly after US President Donald Trump announced his support for the two-state solution on the sidelines of the UN.

Abu Rudeinah adds that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement requires “the resolution of all final status issues in accordance with international resolutions.”

— Adam Rasgon

Netanyahu says meeting with Trump was ‘excellent’

Netanyahu says his meeting with Trump earlier today was “excellent,” and thanks the US president for his “tremendous” support for Israel.

New accuser says she witnessed sexual abuse by Kavanaugh

A new woman is claiming to have witnessed sexually abusive behavior by Brett Kavanaugh and says she was gang-raped at a party in the early 1980s attended by the Supreme Court nominee.

Julie Swetnick says in a statement released by her lawyer that the events took place at parties she attended while a high school student in suburban Maryland.

She says she saw Kavanaugh behave as a “mean drunk” at such parties and witnessed him “engage in highly inappropriate conduct” that included the “fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent.”

“I observed Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively at many of these parties and engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior towards girls, including pressing girls against him without their consent, ‘grinding’ against girls, and attempting to remove or shift girls’ clothing to expose private body parts,” Swetnick says.

“I likewise observed him be verbally abusive towards girls by making crude sexual comments to them that were designed to demean, humiliate and embarrass them,” she says.

Swetnick says Kavanaugh’s claim of “innocence” and lack of sexual activity in high school was “absolutely false and a lie.”

Swetnick, who has worked extensively for the US federal government, also says she was drugged and gang-raped at a party in approximately 1982 at which Kavanaugh was present.

She did not claim that Kavanaugh took part or was aware of her rape but she claimed that he and other boys in his circle engaged in similar behavior.

— AFP

Netanayhu says Trump agreed to all his requests on Syria at UN meeting

Netanyahu says he obtained several guarantees from Trump regarding Israel’s ongoing operations against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.

“I received what I asked for,” the prime minister tells reporters after the meeting that took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “I came with specific points and I got them.”

He declined to specify what he asked the US president for.

Netanyahu says they also discussed the downing of the Russian spy plane last week by Syrian air defense during an Israeli air strike, an incident that has led to diplomatic tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow.

“We have a goal, and it is as follows: On the one hand, to maintain the security coordination with Russia, and secondly, to allow Israel to defend itself against” the threats emanating from Iran’s effort to establish military bases in Syria to attack Israel,” he says.

“The greatest threat to Israel doesn’t not come from Syria, nor does it come from Lebanon or from what Iran does in Syria, or even from what Iran does inside Iran, he says. “Rather, Israel’s number one worry continues to be the Islamic Republic’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.”

“Iran wants to create nuclear weapons with the declared goal to destroy us,” Netanyahu says, adding that the issue was discussed at great length with Trump in their meeting.

— Raphael Ahren

PM breaks silence on Keyes, defends conduct of US envoy

In his first public statement to the allegations against his spokesperson David Keyes, Netanyahu defends the conduct of US Ambassador Ron Dermer, who is accused of failing to pass on warnings of Keyes’s alleged sexual misconduct to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I’m sure Ambassador Dermer acted entirely properly and appropriately. The matter is currently being probed by the Civil Service Commission, and we will let the investigation take its course,” Netanyahu tells reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

Sitting next to Dermer at a briefing, Netanyahu did not directly address the allegations against Keyes.

Keyes, who is on an open-ended leave, did not accompany the prime minister to New York for the General Assembly.

— Raphael Ahren

May: Nuclear deal still the best way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May says that an internationally brokered accord with Iran remained the best way to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons despite Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 agreement.

“It remains the best means of preventing Iran developing a nuclear weapon and we are committed to preserving the JCPOA as long as Iran continues to abide by its obligations in full,” May says at a meeting of the UN Security Council chaired by US President Donald Trump.

— AFP

Yemen urges pressure on Iran to end meddling

Yemen’s president is calling on the international community to put pressure on Iran to stop its meddling in the internal affairs of his country.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi tells the UN General Assembly in New York that Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group have been supporting Yemen’s Shiite rebels, known as Houthis.

He says Iran has been financing and providing Houthis with “weapons, missiles, and experts.”

Iran has repeatedly denied such accusations.

He also blames the rebels for the failure of the UN-led peace talks.

The civil war that started in March 2015 pits Iran-backed Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s internationally recognized government.

The war has left at least 10,000 people dead and has devastated impoverished Yemen, turning it into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

— AP

Kavanaugh condemns ‘last minute smears’ ahead of crunch hearing

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh once more rejects allegations he sexually abused women as “last-minute smears” that were “false and uncorroborated.”

In a statement prepared for a crunch Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the judge again denies the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford — who will testify at tomorrow’s hearing about her claim Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were teenagers.

“Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired,” he adds. “These are last-minute smears, pure and simple.”

Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate, has also accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her during a party in the 1980s.

It was unclear whether Kavanaugh’s testimony was written before or after a third woman came forward Wednesday saying she witnessed him behave abusively towards women, and was gang-raped at a party he attended in the early 1980s.

— AFP

At UN, Iran’s Zarif slams renewed US sanctions as act of ‘vengeance’

Iran’s foreign minister is calling the reimposition of US sanctions that followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran an act of “unprecedented vengeance.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif makes the comments at a side meeting on eliminating nuclear weapons at the UN General Assembly.

Zarif issues a statement calling the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal “unlawful and unjustified.” He also criticizes Trump for pushing for even more modern nuclear weapons.

— AP

China rejects Trump charge of election meddling

China’s foreign minister says his country doesn’t interfere in any other nation’s internal affairs. His comments come at a UN Security Council meeting after President Donald Trump accused the Chinese of “attempting to interfere” in the November elections in the US.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi also says he refuses to accept any “unwarranted accusations” against China.

While chairing his first Security Council meeting, Trump made a point of saying in front of world leaders that “regrettably” his government found that China was trying to interfere. Trump says it’s because he’s the “first president ever” to challenge China on trade.

Wang looked on, stone-faced, as Trump made his statement.

China’s longstanding policy is noninterference in other nations’ internal affairs — and it is quick to cite that policy when any other nation criticizes it over anything from politics to human rights.

— AP

Gaza arson balloons spark 7 fires in southern Israel today

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish seven fires in southern Israel that were sparked by incendiary balloons that were flown over the order from the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

— Jacob Magid

Abbas meets Erdogan on sidelines of UN General Assembly

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier today, and updated him on “the destructive American decisions for the peace process,” according to the official PA news site Wafa.

Abbas and Erdogan are both attending the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

US President Donald Trump’s administration recently cut more than $200 million in aid for projects in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; ended all American funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN-body tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees; and closed the PLO representative office in Washington, DC.

During the meeting, Abbas thanked his Turkish counterpart for his “firm support” for the Palestinian issue and expressed his appreciation for aid Turkey provides.

— Adam Rasgon

Islamic State threatens more attacks against Iran

The Islamic State jihadist group is threatening to carry out new attacks in Iran, days after it claimed a deadly shooting at a military parade in the country’s southwest.

Iran is “flimsier than a spider’s web, and with God’s help, what comes will be worse and more bitter,” the group said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Iranian authorities have blamed “jihadist separatists” for the assault Saturday in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, which killed 24 people including a four-year-old child and other civilians.

Iranian officials initially blamed Arab separatists, who they claimed were behind previous unrest, for the attack, saying they were backed by Gulf Arab allies of the United States.

But IS was also quick to claim responsibility and later posted a video of men it said were the attackers.

In a three-minute audio recording released today, the Sunni jihadist group’s spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir says Iran “had not recovered from the fearful shock, which God willing will not be the last.”

— AFP

Kulanu MK Azaria drops out of Jerusalem mayoral race

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria announces her withdrawal from the Jerusalem mayoral race, and throws her support behind the believed frontrunner, Likud’s Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

“I’m proud of the historic opportunity to be a woman candidate for mayor [of Jerusalem] and break that glass ceiling,” she says at a press conference in the capital Wednesday evening. “I’m withdrawing my candidacy out of a sense of responsibility for Jerusalem.”

Russia says Iran deal needed to deter North Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is warning that dismantling the Iran nuclear accord would threaten global efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear program.

Lavrov and others defended the 2015 Iran deal at a UN Security Council meeting Wednesday on non-proliferation that was chaired by US President Donald Trump.

Trump pulled the US out of the accord, arguing it wasn’t tough enough on Iran, and has begun imposing new sanctions.

Lavrov said dismantling the accord would unleash new tensions in the Middle East and “be counterproductive for the efforts underway now to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. These efforts are something we welcome and support.”

He says Russia is working with China and European partners on ways to preserve the Iran deal despite the US pullout.

— AP

Iran president says US will eventually rejoin nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani predicts the United States will eventually rejoin an international nuclear deal, saying talks this week at the United Nations showed his counterpart Donald Trump’s isolation.

“The United States of America one day, sooner or later, will come back. This cannot be continued,” Rouhani tells a news conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

— AFP

Salisbury spy poisoning suspect identified as Russian colonel

The investigative group Bellingcat says it has identified one of the two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain as a highly-decorated colonel of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Bellingcat says the suspect, whose passport name was Ruslan Boshirov, is in fact Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, who in 2014 was awarded Russia’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia.

Britain has charged Boshirov and another suspect, Alexander Petrov, with trying to kill Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury. Britain has said the attack received approval “at a senior level of the Russian state,” an accusation Moscow has fiercely denied.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on Bellingcat’s latest claim.

— AP

PM boycotts UNESCO’s anti-Semitism event citing agency’s Israel bias

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday harshly criticized the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, making it plain that Israel not reconsider its decision last year to withdraw from the organization.

Netanyahu, who is currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, is boycotting a UNESCO-sponsored event on anti-Semitism over what he says is the agency’s bias against Israel.

“While I commend all efforts to combat anti-Semitism, I have decided not to participate in this week’s UNESCO conference on antisemitism due to the organization’s persistent and egregious bias against Israel,” Netanyahu’s says.

“Since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only 2 resolutions condemning all other countries combined. This is simply outrageous,” he adds.

— Raphael Ahren

Rouhani: Iran will remain in nuclear deal as long as country benefits

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says his government will stay in the 2015 agreement as long as the country under which Tehran sharply scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

“Until such time that we keep reaping the benefits of that agreement for our nation and people, we shall remain in the agreement,” he says at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“Should the situation change, we have other paths and other solutions that we can embark upon,” he says.

Rouhani downplays the sharp words from the US administration, including a warning yesterday by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, that Iran would have “hell to pay” if it crosses the United States.

“During the past 40 years we have been subjected to that type of language many times,” Rouhani says.

“In this American administration, unfortunately, the language has been said to be somewhat unique and they speak with a different style, presumably because they are new to politics,” he says.

— AFP

Delek-Noble announces $500m deal to allow Israeli gas exports to Egypt

Noble Energy and its Israeli partner Delek, along with Egyptian East Gas Company, announces that it has bought 39 percent of a disused pipeline connecting the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon with the north Sinai, a deal that will enable the export of Israel’s natural gas to Egypt.

The consortium paid $518 million for the interest in the East Mediterranean Gas Company pipeline.

An aerial view of the Israeli ‘Tamar’ gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon. Noble Energy and Delek are the main partners in the oil field, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The mainly undersea pipeline will be used to transport natural gas from the Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs to Egypt from as early as 2019, allowing a 10-year $15 billion deal signed in February with Egypt’s Dolphinus to move forward, Delek says in a statement.

It will be the first time Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, imports gas from its neighbor.

— with AP

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