US exit from Iran nuclear deal could trigger instability, Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the U.S. exit from the Iranian nuclear deal could trigger dangerous instability and raise new threats for Israel if Tehran resumes a full-fledged nuclear program.

"We can't sort things out with North Korea. Do we want another problem on the same scale?" Putin asked at a business forum.

The Russian leader said the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations. "What should it be punished for, then?" Putin asked.

President Donald Trump's administration has demanded that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.

"If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning," Putin said. "It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust."

While Israel hailed the U.S. withdrawal, Putin warned that the move could eventually hurt Israeli security if the deal completely falls apart.

"Would it be better for Israel if Iran opts out of the deal or is pushed out of it?" he asked. "In that case, its nuclear activities would become totally non-transparent. What kind of risks will it entail?"

The Iran deal was the first time Russia, France, Germany and others had agreed on a major international issue since relations between Russia and the West chilled over Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Moscow's hopes for better ties with Washington under Trump have fizzled amid investigations into alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Speaking at the panel, Putin again denied any meddling in the U.S. election in 2016.

While criticizing the U.S. policy on Iran, Putin had some warm words for Trump and held out hope for holding a summit with him.

"We certainly can't be happy with the level and nature of Russia-U.S. relations," Putin said. "We are ready for dialogue. It long has become overdue."

He also suggested that Trump might have won a few points domestically by exiting the Iran deal. "He fulfilled his campaign promises and in that sense he might have won in terms of domestic politics," Putin said.

The Russian leader also engaged in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying with a smile that Russia could help protect Europe if its rift with the U.S. widens over Iran.

"Don't you worry, we will help ensure your security," Putin said. Macron responded on a serious note that France and its allies could stand for themselves.

In his speech at the forum and during talks with Putin on Thursday, Macron called for closer ties between France and Russia despite their differences.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the forum and called for closer cooperation with Russia.

The presence of Macron and Abe and their statements in favor of cooperation with Moscow were important for Putin, indicating that the U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia face increasing obstacles.

The U.S. and its allies have hit Russia with several waves of sanctions that badly hurt its economy.

Putin sharply criticized the sanctions, saying they signal "not just erosion but the dismantling of a system of multilateral cooperation that took decades to build."

In a later meeting with top editors of international news agencies, Putin said he would observe constitutional term limits that would prevent him from running for a new term in 2024. However, some observers have suggested he might seek to have the constitution changed.

On tensions with Britain over allegations that Russia was behind the March poisoning of a Russian former spy in Britain, Putin said there should "either be a joint, full-value, objective investigation or simply stop talking about this subject because it doesn't lead to anything except worsening relations."

Russia has repeatedly demanded that Britain let it take part in investigating the case.

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Putin, Macron: N. Korea threatening peace & safety, direct talks needed

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have agreed on the importance of defusing the Korean peninsula stand-off through diplomacy, urging all parties to engage in direct talks.

 
FILE PHOTO © KCNA

The two leaders compared opinions on the Korean Peninsula crisis during telephone talks on Friday.

They are unanimous that further escalation on the Korean Peninsula cannot be allowed and that its consequences could be irremediable. They “agreed on the importance of untangling this extremely complicated issue solely through political and diplomatic means, through resuming direct talks,” the Kremlin’s press service said.

The two leaders condemned North Korea’s “provocative actions,” which blatantly violate the disarmament resolutions of the UN Security Council.

UN Security Council Resolution 2375, adopted on September 11, was an “adequate response of the international community to Pyongyang’s reckless actions,” both Putin and Macron stressed.

The Resolution tightened sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, conducted earlier this month.

The new sanctions put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on sales of refined petroleum products to North Korea, crude oil export levels are capped at the average for the past 12 months, and the country’s textile exports are banned.

North Korea, however, has responded to the sanctions with aggressive rhetoric and a new ballistic missile test. The projectile flew over Japan and crashed into the Pacific Ocean some 2,000 km east of the island of Hokkaido.

 
FILE PHOTO  TV screen showing news about North Korea's missile launch in Tokyo, Japan © Kim Kyung-Hoon

Following the new test, South Korea threatened to destroy the North “beyond recovery,” if it continues its “provocations,” according to President Moon Jae-in, who warned, however, of the new threats Pyongyang might pose.

“President Moon ordered officials to closely analyze and prepare for new possible North Korean threats like EMP [electro-magnetic pulse] and biochemical attacks,” presidential spokesperson Park Su-hyun told reporters.

The new test has elicited a stern reaction from the international community. UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the test, promising to discuss it with the UN General Assembly next week.

“The Secretary-General calls on the DPRK leadership to cease further testing, comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions, and allow space to explore the resumption of sincere dialogue on denuclearisation,” Guterres’ spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was “outraged” by the new test, but said pressure must be put on China so that in turn it pressures Pyongyang.

“The prime minister is outraged by North Korea's continued reckless provocation and she strongly condemns the regime's illegal tests,” Reuters cited May’s spokesman as saying.

Our key focus now is continuing to press China to keep up the pressure on North Korea to change course.”

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Trump: Russia probe is greatest witch hunt of a politician in US history

US President Donald Trump says he is the victim of the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history,” in an apparent reference to the investigation regarding the president’s alleged ties with Russia.

@realDonaldTrump This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!

He went on to speak about “illegal acts” that took place during Hillary Clinton’s campaign and throughout the Obama administration, noting that there was “never a special councel (sic) appointed.”

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller. © Jonathan Ernst

It comes just one day after the US Justice Department named former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Trump’s tweets follow similar words from the president on Wednesday, in which he said that no politician “has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers during the investigation, according to AP.

Trump reiterated his innocence on Wednesday, saying in a statement that a “thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”

Trump is also facing allegations that he leaked highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the US capital last week.

That claim has been denied by both Washington and Moscow, with Russian President Vladimir Putin offering on Wednesday to release the records of the meeting, while accusing the US of developing “political schizophrenia.”

@RT_America 'No evidence Russia influencing voter tallies in...50 states' - US ex-intel chief http://on.rt.com/8b32 

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a report claiming that Trump had “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister [Sergey Lavrov] and ambassador in a White House meeting,” allegedly related to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

While Trump has said the “facts” discussed included terrorism and airline flight safety, which he had an “absolute right” to discuss with Russia, Lavrov on Thursday was also asked to comment on the matter.

We do not comment on gossip, but we do read [US] newspapers,” Lavrov told the media in Cyprus. “If I remember rightly, around a month-and-a-half or two months ago, the Trump administration decided to ban passengers from seven Middle Eastern countries from carrying any electronic devices on board... I don't understand where the secret is.

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Putin Briefs Saudi King on Al-Assad Meeting

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin briefed on Wednesday the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud about the outcome of his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who made a lightning visit to Moscow.

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Putin: All countries should respect Ukraine’s sovereignty

The sovereignty of all states, including Ukraine, should be respected, Russian President Vladimir Putin told CBS’s ‘60 Minutes,’ stressing that he knows “for sure” that the US was involved in the ouster of President Yanukovich in 2014.
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Russia, Egypt Favor Joint Anti-Terrorist Front

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi on Wednesday that Russia and Egypt are in favor of creating an anti-terrorist front that would include Syria.

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