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Iran violates nuclear deal with advanced centrifuges

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Iran has begun injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges in violation of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran made the remarks in a news conference broadcast on live television. He spoke from a podium with advanced centrifuges arranged next to him.

Iran already has breached the stockpile and enrichment level limits set by the deal, while stressing it could quickly revert back to the terms of the accord, if Europe delivers the sanctions relief promised in return for curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

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Kamalvandi warned that Europe had little time left to save the deal. President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord over a year ago before imposing crippling trade sanctions on Iran.

“As far as the other side does not implement their commitments, they should not expect Iran to fulfill its commitments,” Kamalvandi said.

Kamalvandi said Iran had the ability to go beyond 20% enrichment of uranium. Analysts say 20% is just a short technical step away from 90% enrichment, which is weapons-grade level.

Kamalvandi warned several times in his comments that Iran was rapidly approaching a point that would mean a full withdrawal from the deal.

‘Stockpile quickly increasing’

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“Our stockpile is quickly increasing, we hope they will come to their senses,” he said.

However, he stressed that Iran would allow U.N. inspectors to continue to monitor sites in the country. A top official from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have risen in recent months that have seen mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East.

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Also on Saturday, satellite images showed a once-detained Iranian oil tanker pursued by the U.S. appears to be off the coast of Syria, where Tehran reportedly promised the vessel would not go when authorities in Gibraltar agreed to release it several weeks ago.

The tanker Adrian Darya-1, formerly known as the Grace-1, turned off its Automatic Identification System late Monday, leading to speculation it would be heading to Syria. Other Iranian oil tankers have similarly turned off their tracking beacons in the area, with analysts saying they believe crude oil ends up in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad’s government.

Images obtained by The Associated Press early Saturday from Maxar Technologies appeared to show the vessel off Syria’s coast, some 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) off shore under intermittent cloud cover.

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2.1 million barrels of crude oil

Iranian and Syrian officials have not acknowledged the vessel’s presence there. There was no immediate report in Iranian state media about the ship, though authorities earlier said the 2.1 million barrels of crude oil onboard had been sold to an unnamed buyer.

The oil on board would be worth about $130 million on the global market, but it remains unclear who would buy the oil as they’d face the threat of U.S. sanctions.

The new images matched a black-and-white image earlier tweeted by John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser.

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“Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to #Syria is in denial,” Bolton tweeted. “We can talk, but #Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!”

U.S. prosecutors in federal court allege the Adrian Darya’s owner is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Wednesday, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on an oil shipping network it alleged had ties to the Guard and offered up to $15 million for anyone with information that disrupts its paramilitary operations.

Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, also has reportedly emailed or texted captains of Iranian oil tankers, trying to scare them into not delivering their cargo.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration issued on Saturday a new warning to shippers about a potential threat off the coast of Yemen in the southern Red Sea.

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“A maritime threat has been reported in the Red Sea in the vicinity of Yemen,” the warning read. “The nature of the event is potential increased hostilities that threaten maritime security.”

Large areas of war-torn Yemen are held by the country’s Houthi rebels, which are allied to Iran. Shipping in the Red Sea has been targeted previously by rebel attacks. On Wednesday, a warning went out after two small boats followed one ship in the region, but there’s been no other information about a new threat there.

Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said the Navy remained ready to maintain the safety of shippers in the region. He declined to specifically discuss the warning. The U.S. military’s Central Command did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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Impeachment hearing explodes with applause as Jackie Speier highlights Trump’s daily lies

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Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway on Thursday argued that it was not illegal for Republicans to "out" the White House whistleblower.

Conway cited a Washington Post "fact-check" that gave "Three Pinocchios" to the claim that the whistleblower has a statutory right to anonymity.

Following his time, Ambassador Gordon Sondland was questioned by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).

During Speier's questioning, she was interrupted by Conaway, who brought up The Post giving "Three Pinocchios."

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Adam Schiff buries one of the GOP’s remaining anti-impeachment talking points

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Wednesday took a hammer to one of the Republican Party's few remaining talking points aimed at undermining the House impeachment inquiry.

Throughout the testimony of European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, Republicans kept saying that there couldn't be any kind of extortion scheme on President Donald Trump's part because Ukraine got its military aid without publicly announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Schiff, however, showed why this argument simply doesn't hold up.

"My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words, 'Ambassador Sondland, I am bribing the Ukrainian president,' that there's no evidence of bribery!" he said.

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Chris Wallace fact-checks his own Fox News colleagues after their denials of Trump’s quid pro quo

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As US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland gave his testimony in the House impeachment hearings this Wednesday, Fox News contributor Ken Starr acknowledged that Sondland's testimony all but guarantees that articles of impeachment will be drawn up against President Trump. He also posited that Trump "gave himself enough cover" regarding Sondland's September 9 conversation with Trump where he said the President allegedly said, "I want nothing, I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo."

"Well, I think that Ken Starr and [Fox News contributor] Andy McCarthy are very good lawyers," Wallace said. "And like any good lawyers they can parse this, phrase this any way they want, but as a reporter it seems to me that we have to go to what the headline is today, and the headline is that Gordon Sondland, one of the three amigos, perhaps the one who had the most direct contact with Donald Trump, says in his opening statement, 'Was there a quid pro quo with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting? The answer is yes.'"

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