Trump, Pompeo bash ex-Secretary of State Kerry on Iran talksMATTHEW LEE ,•Pompeo bashes ex-Sec. of State Kerry on Iran talks WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has unloaded on his Obama-era predecessor John Kerry for „actively undermining” U.S. policy on Iran by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.In unusually blunt and caustic language, Pompeo said Friday that Kerry’s meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif were „unseemly and unprecedented” and „beyond inappropriate.” President Donald Trump had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding „illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people.”Pompeo said he would leave „legal determinations to others” but slammed Kerry as a former secretary of state for engaging with „the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and telling Iran to „wait out this administration.” He noted that just this week Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at U.S. diplomatic compounds in Iraq.”You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior,” an agitated Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. „It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged.”Kerry, who is promoting his new book „Every Day is Extra,” tweeted a response to Trump that referred to the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.”Mr. President, you should be more worried about Paul Manafort meeting with Robert Mueller than me meeting with Iran’s FM. But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that made the world safer, buy my new book,” said Kerry.He has been harshly critical of the president and his decision in May to withdraw from the Iran deal but denies „coaching” Tehran.In a statement, his spokesman, Matt Summers, said: „There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts. Secretary (Henry) Kissinger has done it for decades with Russia and China. What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics.”Pompeo also took to task former Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz and ex-Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman for joining Kerry at a meeting with Zarif and other Iranian officials earlier this year at a security conference in Munich — though Sherman said Friday she wasn’t with Kerry and Moniz when she met Zarif there. Along with Kerry, Moniz and Sherman played key roles in negotiating the 2015 agreement between Iran and several world powers that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.”I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.”Former secretaries of state — all of them, from either political party — ought not to be engaged in” this kind of activity, he said. „Actively undermining U.S. policy as a former secretary of state is literally unheard of.”Meetings between a private U.S. citizen and foreign official are not against the law and not necessarily inappropriate or a violation of federal regulations, but Trump, Pompeo and several GOP lawmakers say they are evidence Kerry and former Obama administration officials are trying to subvert Trump’s hard line on Iran.”John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people,” Trump tweeted late Thursday. „He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!”The law Trump invoked — the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA — requires registration and transparency by people or companies acting on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or individuals.But Josh Rosenstein, a partner with the Washington law firm Sandler Reiff and a specialist in lobbying compliance, said there are too many unanswered questions to know whether the law applies to Kerry’s interactions with Zarif. FARA’s provisions don’t extend to activities conducted entirely overseas, so where Kerry interacted with him matters. Also unclear is whether any Iranians specifically asked Kerry for advice.”The devil’s always in the details,” Rosenstein said. „Simply offering advice to a foreign government doesn’t make you a foreign agent.”When reports of Kerry’s ex-officio contacts with Zarif first surfaced in May, Trump tweeted similar thoughts. „John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations John, you are hurting your country!” he said on May 8. A day earlier, he tweeted: „The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”Trump and Pompeo’s criticism came after Kerry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that earlier reports of his meetings with Zarif were correct: They had met three or four times since Kerry left office but not since Pompeo took the job in April. One of those meetings took place in Oslo, Norway, and another in Munich, he said. A third is reported to have occurred at the United Nations headquarters, which is not technically on U.S. soil.Kerry told Hewitt that he was not coaching the Iranians on how to deal with the Trump administration.”That’s not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” he said in the interview. „What I have done is tried to elicit from him (Zarif) what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better.”_Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States has called an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council for Monday in response to what it says are efforts by some countries „to undermine and obstruct” sanctions against North Korea.
The U.S. Mission announced Friday evening that the meeting will „discuss the implementation and enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea.”
The mission didn’t name any countries, but U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Russia on Thursday of pressuring an independent panel of U.N. experts to alter a report on North Korea sanctions that included alleged violations „implicating Russian actors.”
Haley said the panel should release the original report, which cited „a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products” for North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions. It said some products allegedly were off-loaded from Russian ships, which were identified in the report.
A summary of the experts report obtained in early August by The Associated Press also said North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs. And it said North Korea is violating sanctions by transferring coal at sea and flouting an arms embargo and financial sanctions.
The Security Council initially imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and has made them tougher and tougher in response to further nuclear tests and an increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile program.
Haley said earlier this year that successively tough Security Council sanctions resolutions adopted unanimously had cut off all North Korean exports, 90 percent of its trade, and disbanded its pool of workers send abroad to earn hard currency.
Many diplomats and analysts credit the sanctions with helping promote the thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea as well as the June meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at which they agreed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But in July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused North Korea of „illegally smuggling” in refined petroleum products beyond the annual quota of 500,000 barrels allowed under U.N. sanctions.
U.S. documents sent to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea and obtained by AP cited 89 instances between Jan. 1 and May 30 in which North Korean tankers likely delivered refined products „illicitly procured” via transfers from other ships at sea.
The U.S. said Russia and China both informed the sanctions committee that they were supplying refined products to North Korea. China, which is North Korea’s closest ally, is responsible for more than 90 percent of the isolated country’s trade.
Pompeo said North Korea is also evading sanctions by smuggling coal by sea and across borders, by using cyber thefts and other criminal activities, and by keeping workers in some countries that he didn’t name.
All these activities are „generating significant revenues for the regime and they must be stopped,” he said.
At the time, Haley criticized „some friends who want to go around the rules,” and especially Russia and China for blocking the sanctions committee from demanding that all countries halt shipments of petroleum products to North Korea immediately.
After the experts’ report was released in August, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said he put a hold on its official release to all U.N. member nations „because we disagree with certain elements” that he refused to disclose.
Russia and China then blocked the U.N. from imposing sanctions on Russia-based entities and vessels sanctioned a week earlier by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Russian news agency TASS quoted Russia’s U.N. Mission as saying the proposed sanctions were „unjustified.”
The Security Council has remained united in imposing tougher and tougher sanctions on North Korea, though the differences over the experts’ report mark a serious dent in that unity.
U.N. diplomats familiar with discussions said Russia was angered that the panel used a lot of U.S. intelligence in the initial report that Moscow claimed was incorrect. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were private.
Haley expressed disappointment in the panel „for caving to Russian pressure and making changes to what should have been an independent report.” She called it „a stain” on the experts’ important work.
State Department Spent $52,700 On Curtains For UN Ambassador Residence
The New York Times reported that the State Department spent $52,701 last year on motorized curtains for the official residence of the ambassador to the United Nations, but the newspaper amended its article on Friday after it said the report created an “unfair impression” of current U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
At a time when the department was cutting its budget and freezing hiring, it purchased window coverings for the government residence in Manhattan including $29,900 for curtains and $22,801 for “electrical hardware and supplies” to open and close them automatically, according to the contract, first reported by the Times.
The Times’ original report indicated that the State Department spent the money specifically for Haley, but on Friday the newspaper walked back on the article, adding an editors’ note that said:
An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question. While Nikki R. Haley is the current ambassador to the United Nations, the decision on leasing the ambassador’s residence and purchasing the curtains was made during the Obama administration, according to current and former officials. The article should not have focused on Ms. Haley, nor should a picture of her have been used.
The curtains were installed in the First Avenue penthouse from March to August last year, but plans for the purchase were made in 2016, during the Obama administration, a State Department spokesman told the Times, who emphasized that Ambassador Haley had nothing to do with the decision.
While the curtains were being purchased and installed, Rex W. Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s first secretary of state, had imposed a hiring freeze, cut the department’s budget by 31 percent and was pushing out senior diplomats.
“How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs cannot be met and, on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?” Brett Bruen, a White House official in the Obama administration, asked in the Times article.
Patrick Kennedy, a top management official at the State Department during the Obama administration, defended the curtains. He told the Times the window coverings “would probably be used for years” and were needed for security and entertainment purposes.
Haley is the first U.N. ambassador to live in the official residence. Her predecessors stayed in the Waldorf Astoria hotel, but the State Department decided in 2016 to relocate the ambassador due to security concerns. The nearly 6,000-square-foot apartment was previously listed for rent at $58,000 a month, according to the Times.
The headline of this story has been amended to reflect updates to the New York Times article clarifying when and for whom the curtains were ordered.
The report had been blocked for publication by Russia last mon US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, blasted the panel for not doing enough to monitor sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, and “for caving to Russian pressure and making changes to what should have been an independent report”.
Ms Haley also demanded the bench release the original report, which she claimed Russia off-loaded oil in North Korea on a ship-to-ship transfer basis.
The report had been blocked for publication by Russia last month, with Moscow claiming it disagreed with its findings.
Russia then also blocked a US demand that two of the nation’s shipping companies and six of their vessels be sanctioned over oil shipments to North Korea.
Ms Haley said: “Russia can’t be allowed to edit and obstruct independent UN reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don’t like what they say.
“This is a dangerous precedent and a stain on the important work of the panel.” MsHaley called for the initial version of the report – dating from early August – to be published.
This followed news that the US sanctioned a Chinese technology firm and its Russian sister company following allegations both were being operated by North Korea and therefore providing revenue to Pyongyang.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disguising their true identities and hiding behind front companies, aliases, and third-party nationals.”
Ms Haley also demanded the bench release the original report
The US implemented sanctions to put mounting pressure on North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons programme.
They had previously demanded the same for their oil exports, but failed.
According to an anonymous UN diplomat, the Russia “obtained the removal of the main part of the paragraphs”, referring to the panel’s original report that had named the Russian ships and entities accused of breaking US sanctions.
The diplomat added: “The sanctions committee gave in.”