British Beverage Giant Diageo to Market Cuban Rum

British beverage giant Diageo Plc signed a joint venture deal with state-run Cuba Ron SA on Monday to market Santiago de Cuba Rum, in defiance of U.S. efforts to dissuade investment in Cuba.

The new 50-50 venture, Ron Santiago SA, will have exclusive international rights to the premium brand, considered the best by local residents along with Havana Club, which is marketed by French firm Pernod Ricard under a similar arrangement signed in the 1990s.

The agreement comes at a time when the United States is ramping up sanctions on Cuba and trying to thwart foreign investment there.

The Trump administration in May allowed Title III of the 1996 Helms Burton Act to take effect, enabling U.S. citizens to bring lawsuits against foreign companies profiting from property taken from them after Cuba’s 1959 revolution. It had been suspended by President Donald Trump’s predecessors. The Santiago distillery and related properties were reportedly nationalized.

Cuban rum is banned in the United States, but popular throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

"Cuban rum represents 9% of retail sales of premium rum worldwide," a news release from the new company said.

Regarding the implementation of the long-dormant section of the Helms-Burton Act, Luca Cesarano, general director of the new joint venture, said he was confident the company would not be affected.

Cesarano said a subsidiary of Diageo with no ties to the United States was the partner and no company personnel who work with or in the United States were involved in the project or would be in the future.

"Neither the subsidiary of Diageo which is the partner, nor the venture, will interact with any Diageo entity or person that interacts with the United States," he said at a Havana news conference.

  • Published in Cuba

President of the UN General Assembly to Travel to UK

President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, traveled to the United Kingdom this Sunday to begin an official visit at the invitation of the non-governmental organization YMCA.

According to her spokeswoman, Monica Grayley, Espinosa will give the opening speech on Monday to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the YMCA, expected to be attended by some 5,000 young people from more than 100 countries.

The representative of the largest United Nations agency will speak about one of the priorities of her mandate: Youth, Peace and Security, and also about the future of work, climate change and Sustainable Development Goals, among other issues.

She will also hold bilateral meetings with YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee and YMCA President Patricia Pelton.

Espinosa will hold other meetings to discuss the upcoming high-level week of the Assembly, the revitalization of the Assembly's work, climate change, gender equality, sustainable development and action to address hate speech.

On Tuesday, August 6, she will travel to Buckinghamshire for the opening of the United Nations Study Centre at Buckingham University, the first of its kind in the UK.

She will meet with representatives of academia, civil society and women's groups, and participate in a panel discussion hosted by the United Nations Association in the United Kingdom.

She will also visit Westminster Central Hall, where the General Assembly held its first meetings in 1946.

Espinosa will conclude her visit to the United Kingdom on August 7.

  • Published in World

Boris Johnson chosen as next British prime minister

In a long-anticipated move, Boris Johnson has been selected as the new leader of the British Conservative Party and thus, the new prime minister of the UK. He will officially succeed outgoing PM Theresa May on Wednesday.

Johnson won with 66.4 percent of the vote (92,153) to Hunt's 33.6 percent (46,656). 139,318 votes were cast by Tory members with a turnout of 87.4 percent. 

Conservative grassroots members had been voting by post for the past two and a half weeks. Johnson saw off his challenger Jeremy Hunt and was revealed as the new PM at midday local time in London. 

Delivering his impassioned victory speech, the new prime minister claimed that there will be people who "question the wisdom" of him becoming leader. 

He revealed that he had read in the Financial Times on Tuesday morning that no incoming leader had ever faced such a daunting set of circumstances, with Brexit casting a shadow over British politics.

Addressing the packed auditorium in London, he declared: "Well I look at you this morning and ask do you look daunted? Do you feel daunted? I don't think you do."

Johnson also added a new letter to his campaign slogan - Deliver, Unite, Defeat with an E for Energise - rebranding it from the DUD to the DUDE strategy.

Also on rt.com Boris Johnson’s ‘can-do spirit’ and mystery tech won’t solve the Brexit border problem...

A former mayor of London and former British foreign secretary, Johnson was the clear favorite from the moment Theresa May announced she would be stepping down, following her failure to secure a Brexit deal with the EU. 

A staunch Brexiteer, Johnson won the backing of over 50 percent of MPs in the first stage of the leadership race, marking him as the likely successor to lead Brexit-era Britain into the final chapter of the EU divorce saga which began with the 2016 referendum.

Theresa May chaired her final cabinet meeting Tuesday morning and will tender her official resignation to the Queen on Wednesday afternoon, immediately after her final Prime Minister’s Questions. Johnson will attend an audience at Buckingham Palace shortly afterwards before being sworn in. 

Johnson is expected to issue a slew of changes in his cabinet in the coming days as he prepares to take up the mantle of Brexit negotiations.

Also on rt.com If we can put a man on the Moon, we can solve Brexit – Boris Johnson...

 

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Iran says it has arrested CIA spies; UK to unveil response to ship crisis

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA and sentenced some of them to death, an announcement President Donald Trump dismissed as “totally false” amid an escalating international crisis over tankers in the Gulf.

The Iranian announcement came hours before Britain was due to unveil its response to Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker, a move that has escalated a three-month confrontation that nearly drew the United States and Iran into a shooting war.

“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot-down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!” tweeted Trump.

Iranian state television published images it said showed CIA officers who had been in touch with the suspected spies. The Ministry of Intelligence said the 17 spies had been arrested in the 12 months to March 2019. Some had been sentenced to death, according to another report.

Such announcements are not unusual in Iran and are often made for domestic consumption. But the timing suggested a hardening of the Iranian position as the Gulf crisis escalates.

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May led a meeting of her government’s COBR emergency committee to respond to Friday’s capture of the Stena Impero tanker by Iranian commandoes who abseiled onto its deck from helicopters in the Strait of Hormuz.

British ministers were expected to unveil their plans in a speech to parliament later on Monday. Regional experts say London has few good options to exert leverage over Iran at a time when Washington has already imposed the maximum possible economic sanctions, banning Iran’s global oil exports.

But the incident may prompt Britain and other countries to be more forthcoming as Washington has asked its reluctant allies to provide more ships to help secure the Gulf.

Asked on Fox News about any possible U.S. role over the seized tanker, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said pointedly: “The responsibility ... falls to the United Kingdom to take care of their ships.”

Confrontation between the United States and Iran has spiraled since last year when President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement signed by his predecessor Barack Obama which guaranteed Iran access to world trade in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

In May this year Washington closed loopholes in sanctions, effectively barring all countries from buying Iranian oil.

Since then, Iran has stepped up its nuclear activity beyond limits in the deal and Washington has accused Tehran of attacking ships in the Gulf. In June, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone, Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes, only to abort them minutes before impact, the closest the United States has come to bombing Iran in their 40 year history of animosity.

Last week the United States said it had shot down an Iranian drone, which Tehran denied.

Washington’s major European allies Britain, France and Germany opposed Trump’s decision to quit the nuclear deal and have tried to remain neutral. But Britain was drawn more directly into the confrontation on July 4 when its Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, accused of violating European sanctions on Syria.

Iran repeatedly threatened to retaliate for that incident and has made little secret that its capture of the Stena Impero two weeks later was intended as a retaliatory move. It says the ship is being held over safety concerns and the 23-member crew, including 18 Indians and no British citizens, are safe.

As Britain weighed its next step, a recording emerged on Sunday of Britain’s only warship in the Gulf radioing in vain to try to persuade Iranian forces not to board Stena Impero. That showed the difficulty a mid-sized naval power would have in protecting ships in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, the most important waterway of the global oil trade.

The United States, which has an aircraft carrier and several other warships in the area as part of its Fifth Fleet based in Iran, has been trying to enlist other countries to join an international task force to protect shipping.

The United States has been struggling to win its allies’ support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran, six sources familiar with the matter said.

  • Published in World

UK vows 'robust' action if Iran doesn't release British-flagged oil tanker

Britain reiterated warnings Saturday that it would take "robust" action if Iran did not release a UK-flagged oil tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz, the latest confrontation in a tense standoff unfolding in the important shipping route.

The vessel captured by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday is now at the center of a widening crisis between Iran and Western powers, as Tehran fights to free itself from the crippling effects of US economic sanctions and reset nuclear talks.

But there could be serious consequences for the Islamic Republic's aggression toward the UK -- one of three European powers that have sought to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal even after the United States dropped out.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the incident showed "worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior," adding that the UK's response would be "considered, but robust."

The UK convened an emergency meeting of national security officials late Friday evening to respond. It has warned ships connected to the country's shipping industry to "stay out of the area" in the interim.

Iranian media reported Saturday that the ship, the Stena Impero, was captured following an accident with a fishing boat and was being held for "violating international regulations." A second British-owned ship, the Liberian-flagged MV Mesdar, was briefly held by Iran but then released.

Iran's actions in the Strait came just hours after authorities in Gibraltar agreed to extend the detention of an Iranian oil tanker in its custody for 30 days. That ship, the Grace 1, was seized by British authorities on July 4, accused of attempting to transport oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to Britain's warnings on Saturday with one of his own.
"Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int'l maritime rules," Zarif said on Twitter. "UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US."

Observers had expected Iran to respond to the Grace 1's seizure, and the UK raised the security level for British ships in the Persian Gulf just last week.

"They're (Iran) doing this either in response to the seizing of Grace 1 by Royal Marines and its holding in Gibraltar ... or they may be doing it to widen the tension in the Gulf now because they want to bring this conflict and this state of affairs, which is damaging to Iran, to a head," said British lawmaker Bob Seely, a member of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee.

An increase in tensions in the Strait of Hormuz could have dire economic and security consequences.

Around 24% of global oil production passes through the narrow passage, and it's the only way to ship oil out of the Persian Gulf. The US Energy Information Administration calls the Strait of Hormuz one of the "world's most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit."

Richard Meade, the managing editor of the influential shipping industry publication Lloyds List, said the Stena Impero's seizure is "probably the highest level security threat that we have seen in the region since the late 80s."

Iran's "dangerous strategy"

The tanker looks set to become a pawn in the mounting stalemate between Iran and the US, as well as its allies.

"This is classic Iranian escalatory behavior designed to show it can also push back," Sanam Vakil, senior research fellow at Chatham House in London, told CNN.

But the gamble could come at a steep cost for Iran at a time when it is looking for an opening to renew nuclear talks.

"The dangerous strategy for Iran is that this could push the UK closer to the United States and result in greater coordination between the two allies," Vakil said.

The UK has worked to safeguard the landmark agreement while appeasing Washington, a balancing act that has become increasingly difficult as Iran raises the stakes in the Gulf.

France and Germany, the other two European signatories of the nuclear deal, have condemned Iran's seizure of the Stena Impero, calling on the Islamic Republic to release the vessel.

In a statement, a spokesperson for France's Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs said it has been following developments with concern: "Such action is detrimental to the necessary de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf region. We strongly condemn it and express our full solidarity with the United Kingdom."

The German Foreign Office echoed the remarks, saying that Iran's action "exacerbates an already strained situation."

"Another regional escalation would be very dangerous. It would also undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis," a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.

No Britons on board

Though the Stena Impero is registered in the UK, there were no Britons on board when it was seized.

The 23-man crew was made up of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Philippines nationals, according to a statement from the ship's owner -- Sweden-based Stena Bulk -- and operator, Scotland-based Northern Marine Management.

The statement from the two companies said their ship was first approached at "by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter" in the Strait of Hormuz in international waters at about 4 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET).

More than six hours later, the ship was "no longer under the control of its crew" and "uncontactable."

The Stena Impero has since been taken to Iran's Bandar Abbas Port, Iran's Fars news agency reported. The crew will be held on board until an investigation into the accident ends, according to Fars.

Its seizure marks the latest in series of accelerating maritime incidents in the Gulf region between Iranian, UK and US military forces.

Speaking to reporters Friday, US President Donald Trump said the US does not have many tankers in the region but that the country does have a robust military presence there.

On Thursday, the US Navy destroyed an Iranian drone using electronic jamming equipment in the Strait of Hormuz, a US defense official told CNN. The crew of the USS Boxer took defensive action against the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle after it came close to the US naval ship, the official said.

  • Published in World

Tehran Condemns UK’s Abidance by US’ Anti-Iran Policies

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi one again denounced the UK’s seizure of an oil tanker of his country in the Strait of Gibraltar, adding that the move showed that London is following Washington’s policies of increasing tension against Tehran.

Mousavi said that the UK’s seizure of Iran-operated oil tanker in the strait of Gibraltar on July 4 was in line with the hostile policies of the US against the Islamic Republic.

“We have told the British authorities that their move would increase tensions and is in line with those hostile policies of the US,” he said.

“From the first day the oil tanker was seized, Iran started taking legal and diplomatic measures. We summoned the UK ambassador twice and he appeared at the Iranian foreign ministry for several other meetings to provide some explanations,” he added.

“We have given the case to a lawyer who is currently taking legal and judiciary procedures,” Mousavi informed.

“Signatories to the JCPOA as well as other countries have done their best to preserve the deal,” Mousavi said, regarding the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “Iran’s next step, within the two-month deadline to Europe, is planned and will be implemented.”

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the western officials' "worthless" claims that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Zarif said that the claims were aimed at creating tensions, adding that the British government’s claim is "worthless", and such claims were nothing new.

Zarif also pointed to the IRGC statement which dismissed the claim, saying that "they are seeking to cover up their weaknesses with such claims".

The IRGC Navy deployed in the Persian Gulf rejected Pentagon’s claims that its forces attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC naval forces responsible for controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf rejected the Western media claims citing the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) that five Iranian fast boats attempted to capture a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf but they failed as the British Royal Navy frigate (HMS Montrose) interfered.

"Naval patrols of the Guards Corps in the Persian Gulf continue vigilantly, precisely and strongly based on regular procedures and missions, and during the last 24 hours, there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including the British ones,” a statement by the IRGC Fifth Zone said on Thursday.

"If an order to seize foreign vessels is received, the IRGC naval forces controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf are able to carry out their mission in its geographical zone immediately, firmly and rapidly," it added.

Analysts believe that the US claims are aimed at counteracts criticism of Britain for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Last Thursday morning, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed an Iran-operated supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar, seizing the 300,000-tonne Grace 1 based on the accusation that it was carrying oil to Syria in possible violation of the European Union’s sanctions on the war-torn Arab country.

According to Gibraltar authorities, the 28 crewmembers, who are nationals of India, Pakistan and Ukraine, are currently staying aboard the tanker, along with local police and customs officers boarding the vessel for a period of a probe.

Iran has condemned the move as “maritime piracy” and summoned Britain’s ambassador in protest. It has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell stated on Friday that Madrid was planning to lodge a formal complaint against the UK and was studying the circumstances and looking at how the incident is affecting its sovereignty.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has announced the seizure was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

However, the British-claimed overseas territory rejected the claim, saying that Gibraltar had acted independently.

Gibraltar’s position comes as a British foreign office spokesman had welcomed the move on Thursday, describing it as a “firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime”.

The seizure of the Panama-registered Grace 1 came as the US pledged to cut Iran’s oil exports to “zero” as part of the sanctions that it has reinstated after leaving a landmark multilateral 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, and many analysts take London’s move as an indicator that the UK is not committed to the nuclear agreement and is much on the side of Washington in Trump anti-Iran maximum pressure campaign.

  • Published in World

Donald Trump Calls British Ambassador To US "A Very Stupid Guy"

Washington: President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the British ambassador to the United States "a very stupid guy," one day after declaring he would cut contact with the diplomat following a leak of cables describing Trump as "inept."

"I don't know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool," Trump wrote in a series of early morning tweets doubling down on British envoy Kim Darroch.

"The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy," Trump added.

London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the release of confidential cables from Darroch, which in addition to describing Trump as inept also called his White House "uniquely dysfunctional."

The US president's early morning wrath was not solely reserved for Darroch, however. Trump also doubled down in attacking British Prime Minister Theresa May regarding Brexit, saying she "went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster!"

kko62328Kim Darroch also called Trump's White House "uniquely dysfunctional."

Trump said Darroch should "speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled."

The release of the British cables came just a month after a state visit by Trump that included a 41-gun salute welcome at Buckingham Palace and a banquet dinner with the queen.

Trump concluded his tweets by demanding that someone tell Darroch "the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far and they are both only getting bigger, better and stronger.....Thank you, Mr. President!"

The leaked cables threaten to complicate London's efforts to strike a new trade agreement with the United States, to mitigate potential damage from Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

May's government, meanwhile, has reiterated its "full support" for its ambassador to Washington.

  • Published in World

Iran’s ‘duty’ to seize British tanker if UK fails to release captured ship – senior official at IRGC

Tehran should seize a British tanker if the UK does not release the oil supertanker captured by Royal Marines near Gibraltar, a senior official in Tehran has said.

On Thursday, British marines and Gibraltar police seized the Panama-flagged tanker off the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The vessel is owned by a Singaporean company.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. According to Madrid, which considers the waters off Gibraltar to be its own, the British captured the ship at the request of the US. Officials in Washington, meanwhile, welcomed the seizure of the vessel, saying that it was carrying Iranian oil.

Also on rt.com ‘Playing part in anti-Tehran policy?’ UK marines seize ship with alleged Iranian crude for Syria....

Later in the day, Iran summoned the British ambassador and slammed the seizure of the vessel as “a destructive step” and “a form of piracy.” Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, Abbas Mousavi argued that the sanctions against Syria are illegal under international law and Iran does not recognize them.

On Friday, Major General Mohsen Rezaee of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is also the secretary of the influential Expediency Discernment Council, tweeted that Iran should be ready for counter measures.

Should Britain refuse to release the ship, it is the authorities’ “duty to seize a British oil tanker,” he argued.

Also on rt.com Tehran time travel? US accuses Iran of violating nuclear deal 'even before its existence'....

The detained vessel had a 28-person crew, mostly Indians, but also some Pakistanis and Ukrainians. They are being interviewed as witnesses, not criminal suspects, Gibraltarian officials said. The authorities are currently working to establish the nature of the cargo and its destination.

Ali Rizk, a Middle East-based journalist and writer, told RT that, by seizing the tanker, Britain may have wanted to side with Washington by “playing its part in anti-Iranian policy.”

  • Published in World
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