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White House Says U.S. Communicating With Iran Over Detained Americans

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WASHINGTON: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the United States had begun to communicate with Iran over the country’s detention of American citizens, calling the matter a “complete and utter outrage”.

Iran has arrested dozens of dual nationals, including several Americans, in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Rights activists accuse the country of trying to use the detentions to win concessions from other countries, though Tehran dismisses the charge.

Sullivan told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that it was a “significant priority” of President Joe Biden’s administration to get those Americans “safely back home.”

“We have begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue,” Sullivan said when asked if the administration had started hostage negotiations with Iran.

“We will not accept a long-term proposition where they continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner,” he said, calling it a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Following Sullivan’s remarks, an Iranian news website affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council cited a source as saying that any communication between Tehran and Washington about detained U.S. citizens had been conducted via the Swiss embassy, which handles U.S. interests, rather than through any direct contact.

Sullivan added that Biden was determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and that diplomacy was the best way to do that.

The United States said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to a 2015 accord abandoned by the Trump administration that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons while lifting most international sanctions.

“Iran has not yet responded,” Sullivan said.

The two countries have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the deal. Iran’s Foreign Ministry reiterated earlier on Sunday that the United States will not be able to rejoin the nuclear pact before it lifts sanctions. Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance.

Sullivan also told CBS that the United States will respond to the SolarWinds hack that hit several government agencies last year in “weeks, not months,” as the United States investigates the suspected Russian cyberattack.

He said the response will include a mix of tools seen and unseen, and it will not simply consist of sanctions.

“We will ensure that Russia understands where the United States draws the line on this kind of activity,” Sullivan said.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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Gujarat Congress chief and Leader of Opposition resign after poll debacle

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Taking responsibility for the embarrassing defeat in the recently concluded local body polls in Gujarat, Gujarat Congress chief Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani Gujarat Congress chief Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani have tendered their resignations. However, both will continue on their post until the party top leadership finds their suitable replacements.

The party has accepted the resignation of the two leaders and requested them to continue till the end of March, as the state assembly session is underway, a report published in DeshGujarat said.

Chavda had expressed shock at the results of the local body polls, claiming that the party was receiving a good response from the people. He even blamed the EVMs for the Congress party’s poll debacle.

“The election results are totally opposite to what our expectations were. We had received good responses from people during our campaigning but the results do not reflect it. People have raised doubts on EVMs and all these things should be probed,” Chavda said.

In December 2019, the Congress party had indicated that there would be an imminent change in the party leadership. However, with the local body polls slated to occur in late February, the decision to bring in new leadership was shelved until after the local elections. Following Congress’ disastrous performance in the local body elections and the subsequent resignation of the Gujarat Congress party chief, a change in the guard is inevitable.

Earlier last week, Gujarat Congress working President Hardik Patel expressed his displeasure over the functioning of the party. He had then alleged that the Congress party was not using him to his potential. The Patidar leader claimed Congress had not organised a single public meeting for him ahead of the local body elections.

Congress wiped out as BJP sweeps local body polls in Gujarat

The crisis facing the Congress party precipitated in the wake of the Gujarat local body polls. The BJP has won all 31 seats, a majority of 81 municipalities, and over 200 of the 230 talukas that had gone to the polls on February 28. The emphatic victory came a week after the saffron party swept all six municipal corporations.

This is in stark contrast to the 2015 local body polls when Congress had made impressive gains on the back of the Patidar agitation that had roiled the state. The BJP had then faced a thorough pasting in 24 of the 31 district panchayats, along with losing 138 of the total 228 taluka panchayats. The party had, however, maintained its semi-urban base intact by winning 45 of the 57 municipalities.

The Congress party, on the other hand, could win only 1,768 seats, three municipalities and a few taluka panchayat bodies. It failed to open its account in any district panchayat.

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