Reuters reported Monday that the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano was increasing pressure on Iran to enhance transparency around its atomic program, after a September 7th IAEA report concluded that the Iranians were continuing to stonewall efforts to clarify the so-called "possible military dimensions" (PMDs) of their atomic program. Iran is obligated by binding United Nations Security Council resolutions to clarify international concerns regarding PMD-related activities, which range from military involvement in acquiring nuclear material to tests related to the development of nuclear warheads. The September 7th report noted that Iran had not only failed to enhance transparency around some of those activities, but had continued destroying relevant evidence and sites, and thereby "likely... further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification." Reuters assessed that Amano's Monday comments - which included a blunt call on Iran to "be as transparent as possible to clarify these issues" - were likely to "further complicate efforts by six world powers to negotiate a resolution to the wider, decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear work." They came as Washington and its allies seemingly struggled to calibrate their positions toward the Islamic republic amid preparations for a Western push against ISIS. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a statement on Monday boasting that the Obama administration had asked for help from Tehran, and had been rebuffed. Khamenei was explicit that "Secretary of State [John Kerry] personally asked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request." The New York Times subsequently conveyed statements from Kerry indicating that the White House remained open to working with the Iranians despite what the outlet described as "sarcastic criticism from Iran’s supreme leader." State Department spokesperson Marie Harf seemed to reverse that position at Monday's afternoon press conference, stating that "we do not want to coordinate with, we are not planning to coordinate with Iran in any way on Iraq, period... we are not coordinating with them."
Here’s some sweet news: The military conflict with Gaza won’t put a sting on honey availability in Israel. About 1,600 tons of honey is consumed by Israelis every Rosh Hashana to symbolize the hope of a sweet Jewish New Year ahead. And despite the sticky situation in the south, Israel’s annual Honey Festival began as planned on August 22 and runs through September 27 at apiaries across the country. Beekeepers are offering educational and fun activities for adults and children about honey production from bee to jar, as well as tastings of the different types of honey made domestically. Israeli Honey Board CEO Hertzel Avidor tells ISRAEL21c that this year’s season ended a little earlier than usual because of the dry winter, so beekeepers were finished collecting honey before the start of Operation Protective Edge. Unfortunately, the winter drought led to a yield of less than 3,000 tons. In a rainy year, Israel’s 100,000 commercial hives at about 450 apiaries from Beersheva to Metulla produce an average 3,500 tons of honey. To satisfy Israel’s sweet tooth for 4,000 tons per year, additional honey is imported. Avidor says the weather has been a much larger problem than the war, honey-wise. The largest concentration of apiaries is in the north due to its more conducive climate. Some Gaza-area apiaries, particularly Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and Kibbutz Erez, sustained damages – mainly from the heavy vehicles of the Israel Defense Forces rolling through. And because the IDF closed border areas to civilians, beekeepers weren’t able to go out and tend the hives as usual. Yad Mordechai in the south and kibbutzim Ein Harod and Dan in the north are Israel’s largest honey producers. About 10% of the honey blend sold under the Strauss Group’s best-selling Yad Mordechai brand comes from the kibbutz of the same name. “The other 90% comes from other beekeepers all over the country,” Avidor explains. Strauss spokeswoman Anat Confortes tells ISRAEL21c: “Tzuk Eitan [Protective Edge] has definitely made things more complicated, but there is no long-run effect for now. We are not expecting a honey shortage and the [Yad Mordechai] factory is working as usual in accordance with instructions from the Home Front Command.”A visit to the Yad Mordechai Strauss plant the day after the ceasefire confirmed that production is buzzing along, just two kilometers from Gaza. (via Israel21c)
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