UN weapons inspectors from the IAEA are continuing to be blocked by the Iranian government from examining their enrichment facilities, where Western politicians believe to be laboratories for compiling fissile materials for a nuclear weapon. With the deadline for the deal to lift sanctions coming once again at the end of November, prospects are not looking especially good for either side to obtain a compromise. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there has been almost no progress in resolving the outstanding allegations of weapons development, despite almost a year of negotiations with the government.
The IAEA last year set up a list of 12 areas of concern that would need to be addressed before the agency would be able to offer its stamp of approval on Iran’s program, and Mr. Amano said that there has only been progress in one of these 12 areas so far. Currently, the IAEA is seeking access to Iranian nuclear scientists who are believed to be involved in weapons research. Additionally, access is demanded at the Parchin facility where inspectors believe that weapons development research took place.
Despite the IAEA’s despondency, the US State Department and the foreign ministries of the other P5+1 powers did not respond to his speech in Washington on Friday. US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif on November 9 to have bilateral negotiations on the subject, where Amano’s concerns will likely be directly addressed.
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- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has begun to distribute leaflets in northwestern Pakistan, and some five Pakistani Taliban commanders and three Afghan Taliban groups have pledged their support for the militant, self-proclaimed “caliphate.” Pro-ISIS slogans have been seen in major cities of both countries, including around Kabul University, but most experts agree that no IS presence has yet been established in the region. With IS becoming the major inspirational force behind refreshed calls for jihad, efforts are being directed at stemming the dissemination of IS’s message.
- An expert in the International Labor Organization, the UN’s international labor watchdog group, said that the Uzbek government has made some progress in improving conditions and reducing mandatory labor requirements for children, which has been a source of international uproar in recent months. The expert is Harri Taliga, who said that the goal of the global initiative is to eradicate the use of child labor in its cotton fields.
- Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and VKontakte have been blocked once again in Tajikistan this month after October 30. In the past, Tajik government censors have blocked access to these websites, but later unblocked them, despite constant denial of any involvement or citation of technical problems as the source of the problem. Last month both sites were blocked as a result of “anti-government activities” being prominent on both sites.
- Tethys Petroleum, a British exploration and production firm focused on Central Asian energy reserves, has just commenced a “seismic acquisition program” which will identify the location of the first well to be drilled in Tajikistan. Tethys has partnered with French Total and Chinese CNPC, operating in a consortium named the Bokhtar Operating Company in a bid to take control of the Tajik oil market. Tethys hopes to have the first well completed by the end of 2015.
- Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, has alleged that the Russian government is still spying on him, despite having left his post. He told an audience on Friday that he believed that Russian agents were tapping his telephone and that of his wife – when an employee at his wife’s nonprofit called her cell phone and a Russian voice answered it. McFaul has returned to Stanford University, where he has become a professor in the political science department. McFaul helped formulate the “reset” policy with President Obama.
- Despite the lack of economic growth, Russia is set to reverse is negative demography trends, particularly in overall population, looking to record a rate of 0.5 per 1,000 in 2014, which is the best rate since 1991. Excluding Crimea, the rates are even more positive, with the number of births and deaths remaining relatively constant in the past few years, as Crimea’s population of aging retirees makes Russian fertility and mortality rates appear far worse than they would be otherwise.