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Japan marks fifth anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster

Gorkha Post



TOKYO — Japan has paused to mark five years since an offshore earthquake spawned a monster tsunami that left about 18,500 people dead and sparked the worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.

Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other participants at a national ceremony in Tokyo bowed their heads as did many residents across the affected region at 2:46pm (local time) — the exact moment on March 11, 2011, the magnitude 9.0 quake struck under the Pacific Ocean.

“Whenever I go to affected areas, I feel that the disaster is ongoing,” Mr Abe said at the memorial event, acknowledging the enormity of the task that remains even five years on.

“But step by step, reconstruction is steadily making progress.”

The massive earthquake unleashed a giant wall of water that swallowed schools and entire neighbourhoods, with unforgettable images spreading around the world of panicked residents fleeing to higher ground and vehicles and ships bobbing in the swirling waters of flooded towns.

The waves also swamped power supplies at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing reactor meltdowns that released radiation in the most dangerous nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and which continues to leave some areas uninhabitable.

“I hope people will remember us, that lives of evacuees are still difficult in many ways, including financially,” Kazuko Nihei, 39, said at a memorial event in a Tokyo park.

“This event is for recalling the disaster and cooperation among us,” said Nihei, who evacuated to Tokyo from Fukushima with her two daughters and now leads self-help group for mothers from the region.

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The situation remains volatile in Fukushima prefecture, where the nuclear plant suffered explosions that spread radioactive material into the surrounding countryside and ocean.

The nuclear crisis forced tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes, farms and fishing boats and at one point even led to discussions about possibly evacuating the capital area and its 30 million people.


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Britain, France and Germany propose new sanctions on Iran

Gorkha Post



BRUSSELS — Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran,according to a document seen by the Reuters news agency.

On March 16, Reuters reported the move would be aimed at satisfying demands made by US President Donald Trump and keeping him ‘committed’ to the 2015 nuclear pact that Tehran signed with world powers and from which Trump has threatened to withdraw.

All 28 members must agree to any such sanctions,according to EU rules.

The document, citing specifically Iran’s ballistic-missile tests and its role in supporting Syria’s government in the seven-year-old civil war against Western-backed rebels, said, “We will…be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles”.

The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord signed by world powers that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing US.President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad.

Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories on Jan. 12. It said they must agree to ‘fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal’ which was sealed under his predecessor Barack Obama or he would refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran. US sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh ‘waivers’ to suspend them on May 12.

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The steps would go beyond what a U.S. State Department cable seen by Reuters last month outlined as a path to satisfy Trump: simply committing to improving the nuclear deal.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss the proposal at a closed-door meeting on Monday in Brussels, diplomats said.

Analysts say the nuclear agreement, touted at the time as a breakthrough reducing the risk of a devastating wider war in the Middle East, could collapse if Washington pulls out.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck a defiant note towards Washington on Friday.

“If the United States makes the mistake of pulling out of the JCPOA, it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,” Iranian state television quoted Zarif as saying. The JCPOA is the formal name of the nuclear deal.

Zarif did not refer to the possibility of new EU sanctions.

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