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US may reimpose sanctions on Iran: Official

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Washington, Jan 12: The US is planning to reimpose sanctions on Iran, an official said ahead of President Donald Trump’s decision on sanctions relief on Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“I am expecting new sanctions on Iran. We continue to look at them. We’ve rolled them out,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Thursday at a White House briefing.

Mnuchin’s remarks came as the world was waiting for Trump to decide if he would reimpose sanctions on Iran, a move that might endanger the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

Trump’s decision was expected to be made at a Thursday meeting, Xinhua quoted US State Department spokesperson Stephen Goldstein as saying.

“I’m not sure when the announcement will be, whether it will be tonight, or whether it will be tomorrow. But we do expect a decision to be made later today,” Goldstein told reporters.

In a telephone conversation with Trump on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated “the determination of France to support the strict implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and the importance of it being respected by all signatories,” said the Elysee Palace.

In July 2015, after a decade of strenuous negotiations, Iran and six major countries — China, Russia, Britain, France, the US and Germany, struck a final agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, in which the West promised to relieve sanctions on Tehran in exchange for a halt in Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

However, as one of the most significant diplomatic legacies of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the hard-won nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been running the gauntlet of Trump on his campaign trail and since he became president.

In October, Trump announced that he had decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the pact.

His move triggered a 60-day window for Congress to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Reimposing sanctions would mean violating the Iran nuclear deal on the US side.

The Congress did not come up with any resolution, thus passing the ball back to Trump, who should decide on Friday if he would like to waive energy sanctions on Iran.

Despite the Iran nuclear deal, the US has kept on slapping separate sanctions on Iran, accusing the country of having a ballistic missiles program as well as human rights abuses.

IANS

India

Nepal bans use of Indian currency notes

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India Rupee

New Delhi, Dec 14: The Nepal government has declared the use of Indian currency notes of Rs 2,000, Rs 500 and Rs 200 denominations illegal in the country.

So, the government has decided to ban the use of high denomination Indian currency notes and use only Rs 100 notes in the country now onwards, according to a report in the Kathmandu Post.

The decision was announced by Nepal government’s spokesperson and Minister for Information and Communications Gokul Prasad Baskota.

The decision, which will affect middle and low-income Indian tourists, was taken at the last Cabinet meeting, said Gokul Baskota.

The Nepal government has urged the people of its country to refrain from keeping or carrying Indian bank notes higher than Rs 100 notes as it has not legalised the India bank notes of denomination Rs 200, Rs 500 and Rs 2000, the report said.

When the Indian government introduced the new denominations in the months following demonetisation in 2016, the Nepal government did not make any announcement on the status of the new currency notes. The new denominations were being used freely in Nepal over the last two years, but the latest decision will affect Nepalese labourers working in India, as well as Indian tourists frequently visiting Nepal.

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Kim Jong-un face mask stirs controversy

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kim jong un nuke masks
Thousands of controversial "nuke masks" have been sold in South Korea. (Image Credit-5149/Instagram)

Seoul, Dec 14: A South Korean fashion and cosmetics firm has stirred controversy with a facial mask featuring Kim Jong-un prompting many stores to pull the product of the shelves.

The so-called “nuke masks” were created by 5149, a South Korean fashion and cosmetics company. It said it has sold more than 25,000 “unification moisture nuclear masks” since June, the BBC reported.

Many South Korean stores, though, halted the sales amid a public backlash and concerns over the masks’ legality.

In South Korea, it is illegal to speak favourably of the North Korean government, though the law is rarely enforced.

Dozens of Koreans have posted pictures of themselves on social media with the masks, which cost 4,000 won, the BBC said.

Propaganda-style slogans claim the masks contain mineral water from Mount Paektu, the sacred, active volcano, which is the birthplace of Dangun, founder of the first Korean kingdom more than 4,000 years ago, according to Korean mythology.

“Personally, I don’t like merchandise promoting a certain political agenda,” Irene Kim, a South Korean skincare expert, told the South China Morning Post.

“A few years ago, North Korea was the largest threat to our country… Kim Jong-un was seen as a dictator and a tyrant who would stop at nothing to disrupt world peace, now he’s become the face of a popular face mask,” she added.

The North Korean leader and his regime have been criticised by the UN for “systematic, widespread” human rights abuses.

Both North and South Korea are still technically at war, but leaders from both countries attended talks this year over denuclearisation.

In an interview with the New York Times, 5149 CEO Kwak Hyeon-ju said she wanted the masks to celebrate the “once in a lifetime” Korean summits held earlier this year.

Kim has led North Korea since the death of its former dictator, his father Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

The country’s communist regime has been criticised by the UN and human rights groups for “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”.

IANS

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America

Bomb Threats Across United States – reports

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crime

Law enforcement authorities around the United States were reponding to a wave of bomb threats, many of them sent by email NBC reported.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma City police told NBC News that individuals in and around that city have gotten 10 to 13 specific email bomb threats, with specific addresses.

Bronx Science said it evacuated its building at 11 a.m. after it received a bomb threat by phone. The school said students were “currently well supervised at neighboring schools.”

The New York police department confirmed it received a call about the threat and responded to the school. The department later tweeteed it was monitoring “multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city.”

Nearly a dozen threats were received at businesses throughout South Florida, including in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. At least three others were reported in Orlando.

Massachusetts State Police are investigating after multiple bombs threats were allegedly mailed to “numerous businesses in the state.” Authorities said the MSP Fusion Center is tracking the activity.

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