CDC reports 1,678 coronavirus cases, death tally of 41

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday reported 1,678 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 414 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 5 to 41.

The agency said the cases had been reported by 46 states and the District of Columbia, up from its previous report of 42 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on March 12.

The CDC tally includes 49 cases among people repatriated from Japan and Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began.

The figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea

North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea
SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. report calling North Korea a sponsor of terrorism shows a “hostile policy” that prevents progress in denuclearization talks, the isolated nation said on Tuesday, as a senior U.S. diplomat was set to arrive in the neighboring South.

North Korea accused the United States of failing to show flexibility after a breakdown last month in the first talks between their officials since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to reopen negotiations.

“The channel of dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude,” North Korean state news agency KCNA said, citing a Foreign Ministry official, and using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

It said a U.S. State Department report on terrorism “proves once again” that U.S. rejection of North Korea indicated “a hostile policy”.

The agency was referring to “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018”, issued last week, which reaffirmed North Korea’s re-designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Tuesday’s statement came ahead of a visit to Seoul by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell, who is expected to discuss the stalled talks with North Korea, as well as the South’s decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

“I look forward to productive meetings with your government so we can reaffirm the security alliance as the cornerstone of the peace and security here in the region,” Stilwell told reporters late on Tuesday upon arrival at Incheon airport.

U.S. officials did not describe Stilwell’s agenda in detail, but said he would discuss the strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and cooperation across foreign policies.

Washington has urged South Korea to rethink a decision to end an intelligence-sharing agreement scrapped in an escalating political and economic dispute with Japan.

On Tuesday, Kim In-chul, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said there was no change in its stance not to renew the intelligence-sharing pact, however.

The top U.S. negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea, James DeHart, was also set to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said.

In April, North Korean leader Kim said the country would give Washington until the end of the year to be “more flexible” in denuclearization talks, but state media have since given only vague warnings about what will happen if the deadline expires.

The United States and North Korea could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said on Monday after a briefing by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; additional reporting by Daewoung Kim and Chaeyoun Won; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

U.S. ground troops will not enforce Syria safe zone: defense secretary

U.S. ground troops will not enforce Syria safe zone: defense secretary
By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States “is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Friday said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, insisting that a planned “safe zone” will extend much further than U.S. officials said was covered under a fragile ceasefire deal.

The truce, announced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia pull out of the Turkish “safe zone.”

The deal was aimed at easing a crisis that saw President Donald Trump order a hasty and unexpected U.S. retreat, which his critics say amounted to abandoning loyal Kurdish allies that fought for years alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State.

“No U.S. ground forces will participate in the enforcement of the safe zone, however we will remain in communication with both Turkey and the SDF,” Esper told reporters, referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

He will be traveling to the Middle East and Brussels in the coming days to discuss issues including the future of counter-Islamic State campaign.

Esper said he had spoken with his Turkish counterpart on Friday and reiterated that Ankara must adhere to the ceasefire deal and ensure safety of people in areas controlled by Turkish forces.

“Protecting religious and ethnic minorities in the region continues to be a focus for the administration. This ceasefire is a much needed step in protecting those vulnerable populations,” Esper said.

He added that he reminded Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar of Turkey’s responsibility for maintaining security of the Islamic State prisoners in areas affected by Turkey’s incursion.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States would continue aerial surveillance in northeastern Syria to monitor prisons holding alleged Islamic State militants.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman)

The Fed will soon cut U.S. interest rates. What will it mean for your wallet?

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jason Lange

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A decision by the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates may do little at this point to cut some of the costs that matter to many U.S. consumers.

From mortgages to credit cards, banks and other lenders may resist offering substantially lower rates to consumers, analysts said, even if the central bank makes a widely expected cut to its policy rate, currently targeted between 2.25% and 2.50%.

For one thing, some borrowing costs are already low and markets have already priced in expectations the Fed would support the economy. Mortgage rates have also dropped, with rates on the average 30-year U.S. home loan falling under 4.1%, near a 22-month low, more than half a point below the average since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“If we drive down into the mid-3.7%, mid-3.8% range, you’re talking about historic affordability from a purchasing power standpoint,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American Financial Corp, which provides insurance related to real estate transactions. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room here in the first place. I think we established five or six years ago that a mortgage rate around 3.5% or 3.6% is a floor. That’s about as low as you can go.”

That low mortgage level was when the Fed’s rates were near zero and the central bank was buying mortgage bonds in the aftermath of the financial crisis to drive longer-term rates even lower – a far cry from where policy is now.

At the same time, one of the Fed’s main goals in cutting rates is to bring inflation up to the 2% level policymakers consider healthy, and maybe even higher to make up for long periods of missing that target. If the Fed succeeds, longer-term bonds most sensitive to inflation could fall in price, causing their yields to rise. Because U.S. mortgages are benchmarked to those longer-term bonds, rates could rise again.

For many consumers, the obstacle to buying a house has not been mortgage rates, but stricter lending standards that reduced access to mortgages in the first place. Big price increases and limited supply have also made housing less affordable. Lower rates could make housing even more out of reach by spurring demand, driving prices even higher.

Financing for new cars might be a different story, though, especially given the large role of automakers themselves in the car loan business. Those businesses have an incentive to increase lending to support the auto market.

Savers, meanwhile, have been rewarded in recent months for shopping around for higher-yielding savings accounts and certificates of deposit. Thanks to increased competition, some online banks have been pushing yields up for those products even with the expected rate cut.

That could change if the Fed is embarking on a prolonged series of rate cuts, as some investors are betting. But the biggest factor could still be overall competition between financial institutions for savers’ money, said Morningstar Inc analyst Eric Compton.

Consumers, however, are in a much better place than they have been in years, by some measures. They have higher take-home pay, lower debt and better credit scores than during the financial crisis. “You’ve got consumers that are pretty healthy, savings rates are pretty good,” said Neal Van Zutphen, president of Intrinsic Wealth Counsel Inc, a financial planner. “They’re taking advantage of this anticipatory drop in rates.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York and Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Bowing to U.S. demands, U.N. to remove phrase seen as code for abortion on sexual violence in conflict

Amal Clooney and Nadia Murad listen to Denis Mukwege speaking at the United Nations Security Council during a meeting about sexual violence in conflict in New York, New York, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A U.S. threat to veto U.N. Security Council action on sexual violence in conflict was averted on Tuesday after a long-agreed phrase was removed because President Donald Trump’s administration sees it as code for abortion, diplomats said.

A German-drafted resolution was adopted after a reference was cut referring to the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

The U.S. veto threat was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.

Pence was not involved in directing U.S. diplomats during the negotiations, a White House aide said, but added that the adopted text “ended up in a place that is closer in line with the White House’s priorities.”

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen did not speak after the council vote.

After the vote French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the 15-member body: “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict – and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant – should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.

The text adopted on Tuesday simply reaffirms the council’s commitment to the 2009 and 2013 resolutions. A reference to the work of the International Criminal Court in fighting the most serious crimes against women and girls was also watered-down to win over Washington, which is not a member of the institution.

RUSSIA, CHINA ABSTAIN

Before the vote, Cohen told the Security Council: “None of us can turn our backs on this issue.”

“It requires the engagement of all member states and of the United Nations to support the efforts of those fighting to protect women, provide accountability, and support survivors,” Cohen said.

Thirteen council members voted in favor of the resolution, while Russia and China abstained over a number of concerns – including a German push for expanded U.N. monitoring of sexual violence in conflict – and even circulated their own rival draft text, which they did not put to a vote.

“Please do not even try to paint us as opponents of the fight against sexual violence in conflict. Our stance on this issue remains firm and unyielding, this scourge has to be eliminated,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

The council voted after hearing briefings from Nobel Peace Prize winners Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who was held as a sex slave by Islamic State militants, Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who treats rape victims, Libyan rights activist Inas Miloud, and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

The Trump administration cut U.S. funding in 2017 for the U.N. Population Fund because it “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” The United Nations said that was an inaccurate perception.

In 2018 the administration unsuccessfully tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign last month during the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington’; Editing by Susan Thomas and Howard Goller)

Facebook removes fake accounts tied to Iran that lured over 1 million followers

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at the Facebook logo on an iPad in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration/File Photo

By Christopher Bing and Munsif Vengattil

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Friday it had deleted accounts originating in Iran that attracted more than 1 million U.S. and British followers, its latest effort to combat disinformation activity on its platform.

Social media companies are struggling to stop attempts by people inside and outside the United States to spread false information on their platforms with goals ranging from destabilizing elections by stoking hardline positions to supporting propaganda campaigns.

The fake Facebook accounts originating in Iran mostly targeted American liberals, according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a think tank that works with Facebook to study propaganda online.

Facebook said it removed 82 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that represented themselves as being American or British citizens, then posted on “politically charged” topics such as race relations, opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump and immigration, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post.

In total, the removed accounts attracted more than 1 million followers. The Iran-linked posts were amplified through less than $100 in advertising on Facebook and Instagram, Facebook said.

While the accounts originated in Iran, it was unclear if they were linked to the Tehran government, according to Facebook, which shared the information with researchers, other technology companies and the British and U.S. governments.

The Iranian U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The action follows takedowns in August by Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc of hundreds of accounts linked to Iranian propaganda.

The latest operation was more sophisticated in some instances, making it difficult to identify, Gleicher said during a press conference phone call on Friday.

Although most of accounts and pages had existed only since earlier this year, they attracted more followers than the accounts removed in August, some of which dated back to 2013. The previously suspended Iranian accounts and pages garnered roughly 983,000 followers before being removed.

“It looks like the intention was to embed in highly active and engaged communities by posting inflammatory content, and then insert messaging on Saudi and Israel which amplified the Iranian government’s narrative,” said Ben Nimmo, an information defense fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.

“Most of the posts concerned divisive issues in the U.S., and posted a liberal or progressive viewpoint, especially on race relations and police violence,” Nimmo said.

Social media companies have increasingly targeted foreign interference on their platforms following criticism that they did not do enough to detect, halt and disclose Russian efforts to use their platforms to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Iran and Russia have denied allegations that they have used social media platforms to launch disinformation campaigns.

(Reporting by Chris Bing in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengalaru, additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in London and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas)

‘Russia in the doldrums?’: new U.S. sanctions to weigh on recovery

By Jack Stubbs and Polina Nikolskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) – An escalation in U.S. sanctions against Moscow risks derailing a fragile recovery in Russia’s economy, which had just begun to take hold after the Kremlin’s last confrontation with the West in 2014, analysts and investors said on Monday.

The United States imposed major new sanctions against Russia on Friday, striking at senior Russian officials and some of the country’s biggest companies in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other “malign activity”.

“One gets the impression that since 2014 we have been convinced that sanctions are painless for our economy,” said Kirill Tremasov, head of research at Loko-Invest and former director of the Russian Economy Ministry’s forecasting department.

“This is completely groundless. What happened on Friday opens a new stage in relations with Western countries. We have found ourselves in a new reality. And it is very, very serious.”

Analysts and investors in Moscow said the sanctions could consign Russia to years of low growth, frustrating government efforts to stimulate a rebound from a two-year downturn brought on by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

Putin was re-elected for his fourth presidential term in March with a huge majority, but is under increasing pressure to meet voters’ expectations of better growth and assuage concerns about falling living standards.

SLOW-GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

After two years of contraction, Russian GDP returned to growth of 1.5 percent last year on the back of higher oil prices, still short of a government target of 2 percent.

Chris Weafer, a senior partner at economic and political consultancy Macro Advisory, said he still saw Russia’s economy growing by 1.8 percent this year, with oil prices above $60 a barrel.

“But the big question, of course, is ‘How long does Russia stay in this low-growth environment?’ That’s where the impact of sanctions happens,” he said.

“We all know that the economy needs to grow at a faster pace over the course of the next (presidential) term, it needs to get stronger – and sanctions and the impact on foreign direct investment, that’s where it comes in,” he said. “2018 is the year of Russia in the doldrums.”

The latest round of U.S. sanctions represents the biggest escalation in Western action against Russia since Washington and the European Union first targeted oligarchs close to Putin and their businesses over the Ukraine crisis in 2014.

Investors said the inclusion of people who are not traditionally seen as part of Putin’s inner circle showed that any Russian company or business leader could now be targeted.

Russia’s rouble suffered its biggest daily fall in over three years on Monday and stocks in major Russian companies also slid, as investors reacted to the new sanctions. State-owned Sberbank, often seen as a barometer of the wider economy, fell 17 percent in Moscow and aluminum giant Rusal <0486.HK> lost over half its value in Hong Kong after its main owner Oleg Deripaska was named on the sanctions list.

TIGHTER MONEY

The increased uncertainty and risk will make it harder for Russian companies to borrow abroad and reduce the amount of inward investment, said Tim Ash at BlueBay Asset Management.

“Unless there is a move to de-escalation, you have to assume that financing conditions around Russia will get even tighter,” he said. “Long-term, that’s going to be bad for growth and mean even more stagnation in the Russian economy.”

Natalia Orlova, head economist at Alfa Bank, said the central bank might now take more time over interest rate cuts that could boost growth: “Based on economic logic … it seems to me that it is dangerous to hurry with a rate cut in such uncertain conditions.”

Loko-Invest’s Kirill Tremasov said the biggest danger of the new sanctions might be in scaring foreign investors off Russian OFZ treasury bonds, popular in the West because of their high yields.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year OFZ rose as high as 7.32 percent on Monday as the price of the bond fell. It had stood at around 7.05 percent last week.

Foreigners’ holdings of OFZ bonds stood at nearly $40 billion, or 33.9 percent of all OFZ bonds as of Feb. 1, the last period for which data was available.

“For foreign investors, this is a very, very serious signal … and now there could be some OFZ outflows,” Tremasov said. “This will be reflected in the growth of interest rates in the economy.”

(Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

U.S. national intelligence director says North Korea ‘decision time’ near

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo, and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats wait to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

By Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said on Tuesday time is running out for the United States to act on the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programs.

“Decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond to this,” Coats said during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Our goal is a peaceful settlement. We are using maximum pressure on North Korea in various ways.”

Coats told the Senate panel’s annual hearing on “Worldwide Threats,” with testimony from leaders of major U.S. intelligence agencies, that he expected more missile tests from North Korea this year.

“In the wake of accelerated missile testing since 2016, North Korea is likely to press ahead with more tests in 2018, and its Foreign Minister said that (North Korean leader) Kim (Jong Un) may be considering conducting an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

He said Pyongyang’s repeated statements that nuclear weapons are the basis for its survival suggest government leaders there “do not intend to negotiate them away.”

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein asked whether U.S. intelligence has looked into what it might take to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, but Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo declined to discuss the subject during a public hearing.

Feinstein said she had participated in a classified briefing recently on North Korea and described it as “difficult and harsh.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrea Ricci)

Pentagon puts countering China, Russia at center of U.S. defense strategy

: Three F/A-18E Super Hornets fly in formation over the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups along with ships from the Republic of Korea Navy as they transit the Western Pacific, November 12, 2017.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military has put countering China and Russia at the heart of a new national defense strategy unveiled on Friday, the latest sign of shifting American priorities after more than a decade and a half of focusing on the fight against Islamist militants.

The strategy document, the first of its kind since at least 2014, sets priorities for the U.S. Defense Department that are expected to be reflected in future defense spending requests. The Pentagon released an unclassified, 11-page version of the document on Friday.

The so-called “National Defense Strategy” represents the latest sign of hardening resolve by President Donald Trump’s administration to address challenges from Russia and China, despite Trump’s calls for improved ties with Moscow and Beijing.

“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” the document said.

Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, said at a briefing with reporters that Russia was far more brazen than China in its use of military power.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and intervened militarily in Syria to support its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Still, Moscow was limited by its economic resources, Colby said.

China, on the other hand, was described as economically and militarily ascendant by the document. It has embarked on far-reaching military modernization that Colby said was in “deep contravention to our interests.”

“This strategy really represents a fundamental shift to say, look, we have to get back, in a sense, to the basics of the potential for war and this strategy says the focus will be on prioritizing preparedness for war, in particular major power war,” he added.

The document also listed North Korea among the Pentagon’s top priorities, citing the need to focus U.S. missile defenses against the threat from Pyongyang, which beyond its nuclear weapons has also amassed an arsenal of biological, chemical, and conventional arms.

It said that while state actors would have to be countered, non-state actors like Islamist militants would continue to pose a threat.

The document said that international alliances would be critical for the U.S. military, by far the world’s best-resourced. But it also stressed a need for burden-sharing, an apparent nod to Trump’s public criticism of allies who he says unfairly take advantage of U.S. security guarantees.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. and Iran argue over inspections at nuclear watchdog meeting

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry attends the opening of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 18, 2017.

By Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) – The United States and Iran quarreled over how Tehran’s nuclear activities should be policed at a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Monday, in a row sparked last month by Washington’s call for wider inspections.

Key U.S. allies are worried by the possibility of Washington pulling out of a 2015 landmark nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions against it being lifted.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley last month called for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect a wider range of sites in Iran, including military ones, to verify it is not breaching its nuclear deal with world powers. Her remarks were rejected by a furious Tehran.

“We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal,” U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the IAEA General Conference, an annual meeting of the agency’s member states that began on Monday.

He did not say whether he thought the deal was currently weakly enforced.

“The United States … strongly encourages the IAEA to exercise its full authorities to verify Iran’s adherence to each and every nuclear-related commitment under the JCPOA,” Perry added, referring to the deal by its official name — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Perry was speaking shortly after the General Conference formally approved the appointment of Yukiya Amano, a 70-year-old career diplomat from Japan, to a third term as IAEA director general.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the accord “the worst deal ever negotiated” and has until mid-October to make a decision that could lead to Washington reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the meeting in Vienna that Washington had made “a host of unjustifiable peculiar demands with regard to the verification of our strictly peaceful nuclear program”.

“We remain confident that the (IAEA) will resist such unacceptable demands and continue to execute the agency’s … role with strict objectivity, fairness and impartiality,” he said. Salehi also criticized what he called “the American administration’s overtly hostile attitude”

The IAEA has the authority to request access to facilities in Iran, including military ones, if there are new and credible indications of banned nuclear activities there, but diplomats say Washington has yet to provide such indications.

Amano often describes his agency’s work as technical rather than political and has declined to comment on Haley’s remarks about inspections. In a speech on Monday, however, he defended the deal as an important step forward.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Amano said. “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

 

(Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)