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26
Oct

Airlines get ready for new U.S. security rules from Thursday

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By David Shepardson and Jamie Freed | Reuters

WASHINGTON/TAIPEI (Reuters) - New security measures including stricter passenger screening take effect on Thursday on all U.S.-bound flights to comply with government requirements aimed at responding to threats of hidden explosives, airlines said.

Airlines contacted by Reuters said the new measures could include short security interviews with passengers at check-in or the boarding gate, sparking concerns over flight delays and extended processing time.

They will affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,100 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.

U.S. Transportation Security Administration officials are giving some airlines or airports additional time to comply with the new interviews as long the U.S. government has approved security plans by Thursday.

“TSA will continue to work closely with our aviation partners and verify that all security enhancements are accurately implemented,” TSA spokeswoman Lucy Martinez said in a statement Wednesday.

The United States announced the new rules in June to end its restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to concerns that explosives could be hidden in electronic devices.

Those restrictions were lifted in July, but the Trump administration said it could reimpose measures on a case by case basis if airlines and airports did not boost security.

European and U.S. officials said at the time that airlines had 120 days to comply with the measures, including increased passenger screening. The 120-day deadline is Thursday. Airlines had until late July to expand explosive trace detection testing.

“We see this as a big issue for China Airlines,” Steve Chang, senior vice president of the Taiwanese firm told reporters on Wednesday, adding the airline was trying to consult with the American Institute in the country over the issue.

Korean Airlines, South Korea’s flagship carrier, also said it had a lot of concerns with the new measures.

“We are asking customers to show up at the airport early ... It’s just inconvenient for the passengers,” President and Chief Operating Officer Walter Cho told Reuters in Taipei.

Lufthansa Group said on Tuesday the measures would be in place by Thursday and travelers could face short interviews at check-in or at the gate.

Economy passengers on Lufthansa’s Swiss airline have been asked to check in at least 90 minutes before departure.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it would suspend in-town check-in and self bag-drop services for passengers booked on direct flights to the United States. The airline said passengers would also have short security interviews and it has advised travelers to arrive three hours before departure.

Singapore Airlines Ltd said the security checks could include inspections of personal electronic devices as well as security questioning during check-in and boarding.

Airlines for America, a U.S. trade group, said the changes “are complex security measures” but praised U.S. officials for giving airlines flexibility in meeting the new rules.

Rouhani spoke days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted for new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program, part of an effort to clamp down on Tehran without immediately moving to undermine an international nuclear agreement.

He also meet the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Tehran, who again vouched for Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord that curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, which has drawn fire from U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We have built, are building and will continue to build missiles, and this violates no international agreements,” Rouhani said in a speech in parliament.

The United States has already imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate a U.N. resolution, that calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says it has no plans to build nuclear-capable missiles.

Rouhani also criticized the United States over Trump’s refusal this month to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord on Iran’s nuclear program, even though international inspectors say it is.

“You are disregarding past negotiations and agreements approved by the U.N. Security council and expect others to negotiate with you?” Rouhani said.

“Because of the behavior it has adopted, America should forget any future talks and agreement with other countries,” Rouhani added, referring to unnamed countries in East Asia, an apparent reference to North Korea.

IAEA HEAD VISITS

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), met Rouhani, President of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, an IAEA statement said.

“Director General Amano reiterated that the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran are being implemented, and that the JCPOA represents a clear gain from a verification point of view,” it said, using an abbreviation for the 2015 accord.

“For the future, he stressed the importance of full implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments in order to make the JCPOA sustainable.”

Trump’s decision not to certify Iranian compliance with the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers means Congress now has less than 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the agreement that Amano’s agency is in charge of policing.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Tehran will stick to the agreement as long as the other signatories do, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out, as Trump has threatened to do.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has pressed the IAEA to seek access to Iranian military bases to ensure that they are not concealing activities banned by the nuclear deal.

Asked whether Amano had made any requests for new inspections, Salehi said after meeting Amano: “He has no request in this area,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

Salehi said Iran could resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in four days, but did not want the Iran deal to fall apart.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday that he could not imagine the United States ever accepting a nuclear North Korea, and stressed during a week-long trip to Asia that diplomacy was America’s preferred course.