US, Iran set for first meeting on nuclear deal at UN: diplomats

The meeting next Wednesday of the so-called E3+3 (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States) and Iran comes as President Donald Trump is weighing whether to quit the historic 2015 agreement.


European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will chair the talks, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, diplomats said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to touch on the fate of the nuclear deal in his UN address on Wednesday, a day after Trump will deliver his first speech to the 193-nation assembly. 

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The US on Thursday waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran but slapped new ones on 11 companies and individuals accused of engaging in cyber attacks against US banks.

Trump is due to decide before October 15 whether Iran has breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, and critics fear he may abandon an accord they think prevents Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking during a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, 12 September 2017.AAP

Under the nuclear deal, Iran surrendered much of its enriched uranium, dismantled a reactor and submitted nuclear sites to UN inspection, while Washington and Europe lifted some sanctions.

On a visit to the United States in July, Zarif complained that he had yet to discuss the agreement with Tillerson and that the administration was sending “contradictory signals” about the fate of the landmark agreement.

“There are no communications between myself and Secretary Tillerson,” Zarif said. 

“It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The possibilities for engagement… have always been open.”

Explainer: How will the government’s reforms change the Australian media landscape?

The Turnbull government’s media reforms passed the Senate on Thursday night, overturning laws to prevent media consolidation that have been in place since the 1980s.


It’s a mixed bag of reforms. The government made several changes to convince crucial crossbenchers, including Nick Xenophon’s bloc, to vote in favour of the bill.

0:00 Government announces media reform package Share Government announces media reform package

Here is what’s about to change:

Big media companies can get bigger

The key reforms in the package were all to do with media ownership rules.

They were originally designed to stop any one media company growing too large and restricting the diversity of voices.

But especially in more recent years, big media companies like Fairfax have lobbied the government to relax the laws as they struggle with falling ad revenue.

The reforms would remove the so-called ‘two out of three’ rule, which prevented a media company from operating a TV station, radio station and a newspaper in the same market.

The rule is currently preventing some big potential mergers, like Nine Entertainment (which owns a TV station) with Fairfax media (which owns newspapers like The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, along with radio stations 2GB and 3AW).

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The rule was also preventing a joint bid from Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch to purchase the troubled Ten Network. The free-to-air channel has since been sold to American network CBS, but Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon are challenging the sale in the NSW Supreme Court.

The change also removes the 75 per cent reach rule.

This rule prevented any TV network from broadcasting to a licence area with a combined population of more

than three-quarters of Australians.

It has stopped big metro TV stations like Seven, Nine and Ten from buying up the regional broadcasters like Prime, WIN and Southern Cross. Those deals would now be legal.

The government and big media companies argued the old rules were outdated, with their origins in a pre-digital age. The reforms would, for instance, allow Fairfax and Nine to combine their stakes in the digital streaming service Stan, taking their ownership to 100 per cent.

Labor and the Greens opposed the change. They said it would lead to a less diverse, more consolidated media market with less choice for consumers.

The union representing journalists, the MEAA, also warned further consolidation would mean more cost-cutting in the long run and less jobs for its members.

Related readingNick Xenophon’s deal for a $60 million ‘innovation fund’

After months of negotiation and delay, the government secured the support of Nick Xenophon’s three senators on the crossbench to finally pass the laws. (One Nation also offered its support – see below.) 

Senator Xenophon was able to secure an amendment in return to establish a $60 million fund, designed to improve media diversity.

It’s a one-off cash splash, with $50 million to be spent over the course of three years on grants for small publishers.

Companies that want to apply will need to be Australian-owned, ruling out foreign-owned players like The Guardian. They will also need to be the right size – with an annual turnover of more than $300,000 but less than $30 million, ruling out the big corporations like Fairfax and News Corporation.

They can apply for grants to update equipment and software, develop mobile apps and train their staff. The government said publishers would not be allowed to spend grant money on salaries.

The remaining money will go to journalism cadetships, mostly for publishers in regional areas.

Publishers will be allowed to apply for up to $40,000 per cadet to help pay their wages. There will be 100 cadetship places each year for two years. At least 80 per year will be reserved for rural publishers.

There will also be a limited number of scholarships for regional students who want to study journalism. 

Inquiry into impact of Google and Facebook

The Xenophon deal will also include an inquiry into the rise of Facebook and Google and the impact they are having on advertising revenue.

Senator Xenophon has repeatedly said the two companies were making huge profits by selling ads on the content of local publishers, who were not being fairly rewarded.

The inquiry would likely be conducted by the consumer rights regulator, the ACCC, which would then produce a report.

One Nation’s deal on the ABC and SBS

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation announced last month that it too had done a deal with the government in exchange for its support. 

The One Nation proposal focuses on the two public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS. It would change the ABC’s charter to include the requirement it be “fair” and “balanced”, on top of the existing requirement to be “impartial” and “accurate”.

The ABC and SBS would also be forced to disclose the salaries of its highest-paid staff. There would also be an inquiry to determine whether the public broadcasters were competing too aggressively with commercial media outlets.

The One Nation reforms were not part of the bill that passed on Thursday and will need to be debated separately in the future. Communications minister Mitch Fifield said the agreement with Pauline Hanson “absolutely stands and it will continue to stand.”

Nick Xenophon has warned his team would likely oppose the One Nation plan. 

Tough talk from US on Iran while extending some sanctions relief

The Trump administration is being coy about whether the United States will preserve a 2015 deal with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, saw Iran consent to halting its development of nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of sanctions by Western nations.

US President Donald Trump has frequently criticised the deal, made by his predecessor Barack Obama, as bad for the country’s national safety.

Now, ahead of a United Nations meeting next week, Mr Trump was blunt.

“We are not going to stand for what they are doing to this country. They have violated so many different elements but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal, and you’ll see what we’ll be doing in October.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been meeting Britain’s foreign minister, Boris Johnson, in London.

Mr Tillerson says in deciding whether or not to renew the deal, countries must look at more than just Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

He says other actions Iran is engaging in should have a bearing on the decision.

“Through their actions to prop up the Assad regime (Syrian President Bashar Assad), to engage in malicious activities in the region including cyber activity, aggressively developing ballistic missiles, and all of this is in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, thereby threatening – not ensuring, but threatening – the security of those in the region, as well as the United States itself. So we have to consider the totality of Iran’s activities.”

Cyber-restrictions, meanwhile, are to be placed on several Iranian individuals and entities.

This is allegedly due to their involvement in either malicious cyber-activities, or Tehran’s nuclear program.

But the US has also agreed to extend the waiving of some sanctions on Iran’s government.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the move doesn’t hold any hidden meaning.

“Waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the JCPOA, nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behaviour. Again, no decisions have been made on the final JCPOA, we still have some time for that.”

Every 90 days officials must report to Congress on Iran’s adherence to the deal.

The next deadline is in mid-October.

Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN’s nuclear body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says Iran is playing by the rules.

“The nuclear related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented. We will continue to implement the additional protocol in Iran, including carrying out complimentary accesses to sites and other locations, as we do in other countries with additional protocols.”

Iran has threatened to restore its nuclear program should any party to the deal fail to honour its terms.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says that includes the US.

“Any country that fails to fulfil its commitments for any reason must pay a heavy price for failing to honour its commitments. This can be the US or any other country.”


IOC chooses Ban Ki-moon to oversee ethics reform

A day after basking in the goodwill generated by the historic announcement of Paris and Los Angeles as hosts for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics, it was time for the IOC to focus on the less-enviable task of restoring its tarnished reputation.


After a string of corruption claims involving senior members, the IOC has come under pressure from its own delegates at its meeting in Lima, Peru.

Members voted to elect a new commissioner to oversee IOC ethics.

And it was left to IOC President Thomas Bach to reveal the outcome.

“I am happy to announce the result of the election of the chair for the IOC ethics commission. Yes 74, no 4. Mr Ban Ki-moon, elected president of the IOC ethics commission.”

Secretary-General of the United Nations for almost a decade until his retirement last year, Ban Ki-moon will bring a high international profile to the role.

The 73 year-old succeeds Senegal’s Youssoupha Ndiaye and says he will use his experience at the UN to bring cultural change to the IOC.

“I believe that ethics is essential to the success of any organisation, that is why I did everything possible to strengthen the culture of ethics at the United Nations. And I project transparency and accountability in every way I could.”

And there is a list of cases he will need to focus on immediately.

Head of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and former IOC member Carlos Nuzman is being investigated for corruption in an alleged votes-for-cash scheme to get the Games to Brazil.

Mr Nuzman is still an IOC honorary member and denies any wrongdoing.

But he’s not the only senior figure in the spotlight that has sparked claims the IOC’s been slow to act.

It was only this week Ireland’s former Olympic chief Pat Hickey resigned from the organisation’s executive board after becoming embroiled in a ticket-selling scandal at last year’s Rio Games.

The 72 year-old Mr Hickey also denies the charges.

Another fellow IOC member, Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, has been referenced in United States Court documents as being involved in a bribery case at world soccer’s governing body, FIFA.

Ban Ki-Moon says it’s vital the IOC is respected around the world.

“What is important is that in principle I will work very closely with the IOC members and other sports organisations to make the IOC has the trust and confidence of the international community and I will do my best to enhance accountability and transparency of this great organisation so that we can enjoy trust and confidence from the people around the world.”

One of the biggest issues he faces is the Russian doping scandal.

A World Anti-Doping Agency commission in 2015 found that more than 1,000 Russian competitors in more than 30 sports were involved in a conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over a period of five years.

While banned from international athletics competition, Russia controversially escaped a blanket ban at last year’s Rio Olympics.

But now a group of the world’s leading national anti-doping organisations is calling for the country to be excluded from next year’s South Korean Winter Games over the alleged state-sponsored doping.

Russia, in response, accuses the anti-doping agencies of fuelling hysteria.

It all comes as the French celebrate the awarding of host city honours to Paris in 2024.

73 year-old Helene is one of those relishing the prospect …

“I’m very happy, it’s a victory for France. We’re not going to complain, we’ve been waiting for it for a long time. I’m very happy, yes. Even if I’m not too involved in sport, I still watch it on television. Yes, I’m very happy.”

….showing that, despite the controversies, the Olympics still have the ability to spark excitement and pride among nations.


Trump repeats his criticism that Antifa protesters at Charlottesville rally were ‘bad dudes’

The US President has repeated that he thought there were “bad dudes” among the people who assembled to oppose a white nationalist protest in Virginia.


He was speaking on Thursday, a day after the Senate’s lone black Republican spoke with him about blaming “many sides” for the violence and death around a Confederate statue.

Mr Trump met with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina on Wednesday at the White House, where he explained his comment, and why he said there were “very fine people” among the nationalists and neo-Nazis protesting the possible removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.


Senator Scott said he told the president that there was no comparison.

“We had three or four centuries of rape, murder and death brought at the hands of the (Ku Klux Klan) and those who believe in a superior race,” Senator Scott told reporters following the meeting at the Capitol.

“I wanted to make sure we were clear on the delineation between who’s on which side in the history of the nation.”

But the day after the meeting, Mr Trump reiterated that he thought some of the protesters who opposed the white supremacists were “bad dudes” and people were beginning to agree with him.

“You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that’s what I said,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One Thursday while returning from viewing hurricane damage in Florida.

“In fact a lot of people have actually written ‘gee, Trump might have a point,”‘ the president added.

Senator Scott is not one of them.

Statement from our office on the President’s comments this afternoon: pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/p6ZU9USuxy

— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) September 14, 2017

He bluntly criticised Trump for assigning blame in a way that put white supremacist protesters on equal footing with counterdemonstrators who turned out for the August 12 protests, sparked by Charlottesville officials’ decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The lastest remarks, Senator Scott said, compromised Mr Trump’s moral authority as president.