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Middle East conference: Pence urges EU to quit Iran nuclear deal | USA News

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Vice President Mike Pence has accused Washington’s European allies of trying to break US sanctions against Tehran and called on them to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

At a Middle East conference organised by the United States in Poland, Pence slammed the European Union for remaining party to the agreement after the Trump administration withdrew from it last year and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.

“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence said.

Last month, Germany, France and Britain launched a financial tool to help European firms with legitimate business interests in Iran avoid US sanctions.

Pence said the scheme set up by the EU to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.

France and Germany declined to send their top diplomats to the foreign minister-level meeting, while Iran has denounced the gathering as an American anti-Iran “circus” aimed at “demonising” it.

‘New era of cooperation’

Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a “new era of cooperation” in resolving Middle East challenges and said no country could afford to remain on the sidelines.

“The United States seeks a new era of cooperation between all of our countries on how to confront these issues,” Pompeo told foreign ministers and other officials from more than 60 countries in Warsaw on Thursday.

He refrained from directly criticising Iran, instead including it in a list of regional challenges ranging from Syria and Yemen to Palestinian-Israeli peace.

“None of the region’s challenges will solve themselves. We must work together for security,” he said. “No country can afford to remain on the sidelines.”

Reporting from Warsaw, Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said that while many nations agreed that ending the wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the Israel-Palestine peace plan, were important, a number of questions remained over the efficacy of the conference, as Russia, China, the Palestinians and Houthis, were not in attendance.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is taking part in the Warsaw conference where he will speak behind closed doors on the contours of a US peace proposal to be presented after Israeli elections in April.

‘Normalises occupation’

The Palestinian government is not attending and has called the conference an “American conspiracy”. It is refusing US mediation after Trump in 2017 recognised bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Thursday, a Palestinian official said that the conference lacked credibility as it aimed to “normalise” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“By fully siding with the Israeli government, (the Americans) have tried to normalise the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, wrote in a column published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“The Warsaw conference is part of this context,” he wrote.

“A peace process cannot be turned into an attempt to obtain amnesty for war crimes or to make one of the parties surrender its basic rights under the UN charter.”

The conference is widely viewed as a US-led effort to isolate Tehran, a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration. 

Iran was not invited to the meeting, despite being a “key player” in the region, Ahelbarra explained.

“We’re back to square one where it is all about Iran,” he added.

The European allies of Washington have voiced concern that the conference would turn into an Iran-bashing session and increase tensions with Tehran. The European Union’s top diplomats stayed away from it.

Last year, the US unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, but European countries have continued to support the multilateral agreement as the best way to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme.

Earlier on Thursday, in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo said peace and stability in the Middle East could not be achieved without confronting Iran.

Iran says its ballistic missile programme is defensive and a deterrent only, and that it has deployed forces to Syria and Iraq only after the invitation of governments of those countries.

‘Warsaw circus’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a news briefing on Wednesday in Tehran that the two-day Warsaw meeting was “dead on arrival”.

The conference came as 20 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard were killed in a suicide attack in the southeast of the country on Wednesday.

Zarif described the meeting as the “Warsaw Circus”, and said it was “no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day” the talks began in the Polish capital.

The Warsaw meeting brought together Israel and some Gulf Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s prime minister, who met the Omani foreign minister on the sidelines on Wednesday, called the conference a “historical turning point” in tackling the threat from Iran.

“I think this marks a change, an important understanding of what threatens our future, what we have to do to secure it and the possibilities of cooperation that extend beyond security to every realm of life for the peoples of the Middle East,” said Netanyahu, who faces an election on April 9.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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