Iran’s largest navy warship has sunk in the Gulf of Oman after catching fire. Iranian media did not give an explanation for the fire but said it had started at 2.25am local time on Wednesday. It happened in an area where there have been accusations of attacks on ships owned by arch-enemies Iran and Israel.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter fired about 30 warning shots after Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats came close to U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Department said Monday. The U.S. last week intercepted thousands of weapons from Iran in the North Arabian Sea that were bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Last month, there were two tense incidents in the Persian Gulf between U.S. and Iranian vessels.
The first secretary at the Swiss embassy in Tehran was found dead on Tuesday after falling from a high-rise building where she lived in the north of the city, a spokesman for emergency services was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies. Switzerland has represented U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran since Washington and Tehran cut ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The United States on Sunday denied a report by Iran’s state television that the arch-foes had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7 billion frozen Iranian oil funds under U.S. sanctions in other countries. Iranian state television said on Sunday that Tehran would free four Americans accused of spying in exchange for four Iranians held in the United States and the release of the frozen Iranian funds.
Iran says it will increase its enrichment of uranium to 60% purity – its highest figure ever – bringing it closer to the levels needed for a nuclear weapon. It comes after an “attack” at the Natanz nuclear facility in the country which Iran has blamed on Israel as an act of sabotage. France says it is co-ordinating a response to Iran’s latest move with world powers, adding that it was a “serious” development.
Iran on Monday accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging its key Natanz nuclear site and vowed revenge for an attack that appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war. Iran’s semi-official Nournews website said the person who caused an electricity outage in one of the production halls at the underground uranium enrichment plant had been identified. Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of “nuclear terrorism.”
Iran has made 55 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20% – the point at which it is highly enriched – indicating quicker production than the 10 kg a month rate required by an Iranian law that created the process in January. The disclosure comes a day after Tehran and Washington held what they described as “constructive” indirect talks in Vienna on Tuesday aimed at finding ways to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Iran and the major powers in the agreement to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons said Friday they are ready to welcome the return of the United States. The chair of the group including the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran said that the participants “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”
Iran on Sunday ruled out holding an informal meeting with the United States and other major powers to discuss ways to salvage the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal, insisting Washington must first lift all its unilateral sanctions. The United States said it was disappointed but remained ready to “re-engage in meaningful diplomacy” and would consult with the other major powers to seek a way forward.
Iran and the global nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, have agreed to temporary measures to offset Iran’s decision to restrict access to inspectors. It would enable the agency to retain the “necessary degree of monitoring and verification work”, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said, without going into detail. It comes ahead of a deadline set by Iran to stop intrusive checks of sites unless US sanctions are lifted.