Delta variant detected in Tehran: Official
The Indian variant of the coronavirus, also known as Delta, has spread in Tehran, said a deputy head of the Iranian capital’s Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus.
Speaking to IRNA on Monday, Dr. Nader Tavakoli, the deputy head of Tehran’s anti-coronavirus task force for treatment, added a number of cases have been detected in the capital who have been infected with Delta variant.
He noted that the patients’ clinical symptoms are indicative of their infection with the Indian strain.
The variant, first detected in India, has been circulating in many countries around the world.
The Delta variant has spread in different Iranian cities, particularly the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, where it has started the first massive wave of COVID-19 infections.
Commenting on the coronavirus spread in Sistan and Baluchestan, Alireza Shahraki, the director general of the Crisis Management Department of the Governor’s Office of the province, said the situation is still critical and all restrictions are in place.
In an order issued on Tuesday, Commander of the Iranian Army Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi urged the Army units to accelerate efforts to provide emergency relief to the residents of Sistan and Baluchestan province, where people are also facing drought.
The Iranian government has also allocated nearly $4 million in emergency funding to setting up two field hospitals in the provincial capital of Zahedan near the border with Pakistan to improve services provided to COVID patients.
In a decree issued on Monday, head of Iran’s Plan and Budget Organization, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, ordered the allocation of the fund to Zahedan University of Medical Sciences and Health Service for launching the two hospitals.
The hospitals will be dedicated to patients suffering from respiratory problems, Nobakht said.
On Thursday, Iraj Harirchi, the deputy health minister, said the ministry’s focus will be on controlling the new wave in Sistan and Baluchestan.
He added the ministry will spare no effort to this end, saying it will provide the people of the province with each and every required health and treatment facilities and equipment.
Harirchi gave the assurance that the province is faced with no shortage in terms of health and treatment facilities.
Iranian government authorities have warned that the Delta variant could cause a fifth wave of infections more than 15 months after the coronavirus pandemic hit Iran.
A nationwide vaccination campaign against the coronavirus is gaining momentum with the introduction of jabs produced inside Iran.
Health authorities said two homegrown vaccines approved for emergency use would roll out in a few days.
The Iranian Health Ministry announced in a statement on Tuesday that the country’s new COVID-19 deaths and infections reached 146 and 16,080, respectively, in 24 hours.
According to the statement, the total COVID-19 death toll and infections since the beginning of the outbreak in the country in late February 2020 stand at 85,095 and 3,286,923, respectively.
It added that 3,296 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition, and of the newly-detected cases, 1,733 individuals have been hospitalized.
The ministry said 2,953,586 COVID-19 patients have so far either recovered from the disease or have been discharged from hospitals.
It also announced that 24,119,858 coronavirus diagnostic tests have so far been carried out, and 6,515,385 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to people.
The Health Ministry said 92 cities in the country are coded red (very high-risk), while 183 are in the orange zone (high-risk).
Based on a decision by the National Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus, travel to and from these cities is prohibited.
The number of the country’s yellow (medium-risk) and blue (low-risk) cities are 173 and zero, respectively, according to the ministry.
President Rouhani inaugurates FTZ development projects
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated 62 development projects worth over $739.2 million in the country’s free trade and special economic zones on Tuesday.
He inaugurated the projects in West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Hormuzgan, Gilan, and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces via the videoconference call, IRNA reported.
Put into operation in Kish, Maku, Chabahar, Aras, and Anzali FTZs, the projects will provide direct jobs for about 2,388 people.
Speaking in the inauguration ceremony, Rouhani underlined the significant role of the country’s FTZs in the country’s economy.
“Free trade and special economic zones play an important role in the economy and employment, and in this government, great work has been done in these areas,” the president said.
He also pointed to the importance of Chabahar port, saying it has a strategic and important position which will be one of the most important ports in the country.
In June, Rouhani inaugurated 52 development projects worth over $14.7 billion in the country’s FTZs.
One of the most important projects that were inaugurated on June 21 in the Arvand Free Trade Zone, was the Shalamcheh-Basra railway.
Shalamcheh-Basra railway route which connects the southwestern Iranian city of Shalamcheh to Basra in neighboring Iraq is 32 kilometers long along which a 700-meter bridge is also constructed.
Iran: JCPOA policies won’t change under new gov’t
German FM confident over Vienna talks
France, Germany, China urge negotiators to seize opportunity
Iran said on Tuesday the policies it has been pursuing on the 2015 nuclear deal with major world powers are among the “fundamental positions” of the Islamic Establishment and thus will not undergo any change when the new government takes over in August.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the new government, to be led by President-elect Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, will abide by an agreement that may be reached in the Austrian capital Vienna on the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The remarks came after some Western officials spoke of what they see as a need to wait for the formation of a new administration in Tehran before finalizing an agreement in Vienna, Press TV wrote.
Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country is a signatory to the Iran deal, said the talks in Vienna “are arduous but nevertheless, they are making step-by-step progress”.
“Surely there will be now a decisive phase in which one has to await whether the newly-elected Iranian president will continue to support what we have negotiated, as there are things about which we have already agreed on. That is our expectation,” Mass added.
Khatibzadeh, however, clarified that Iran’s stance on the JCPOA and the necessity for the US to remove its sanctions “are among the positions of the Establishment and will not alter with a change of administration”.
“Therefore, if an agreement is reached, the administration of Mr. Raeisi will remain loyal to it, because adherence to commitments and promises has always been a principle for the Islamic Republic of Iran, contrary to the approach of some other parties,” said Khatibzadeh, referring to the US, which signed the deal under former president Barack Obama and stopped compliance under Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.
Since April, envoys from Iran and the remaining JCPOA parties — Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — have held talks in Vienna. A US delegation was also in the Austrian capital, but it did not attend the discussions because the United States is not a party to the nuclear accord.
The US left the Iran deal in May 2018 and reimposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the JCPOA had lifted. It also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights stipulated in Article 26 of the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories, and let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.
Now, the new US administration, under President Joe Biden, says it wants to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it is showing an overriding propensity for maintaining some of the sanctions as a tool of pressure.
Tehran insists that all sanctions should first be removed in a verifiable manner before the Islamic Republic reverses its remedial measures.
“The progress made in the Vienna talks is a reality acknowledged by all parties to the talks. However, there are still important issues that need to be decided mainly by the other sides, especially the United States. In fact, the finalization of an agreement to revive the JCPOA hinges on the other parties’ political will to take tough decisions,” Khatibzadeh said.
He said the Iranian delegation to the Vienna talks “seeks to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible and [secure] a removal of the oppressive sanctions against the Iranian nation. Nevertheless, we do not set any deadline for reaching an agreement that serves the Iranian nation’s interests and continue the talks until a favorable agreement is reached.”
“As it has been said many times, we are not in a hurry to reach an agreement, but we will not allow the negotiations to become erosive and drag on,” the spokesman added.
Maas said on Monday he was confident of reaching a deal to save the JCPOA “in the coming weeks”.
“We think [the talks] can reach their goal,” he told reporters in Madrid, according to AFP.
“I think we’ll get there in the coming weeks,” Maas added of the Iran talks that resumed in April in Vienna.
Window of opportunity
The leaders of France, Germany and China, after a three-way video call on Monday, called on all parties involved in the Vienna talks to seize a window of opportunity for an agreement, a French presidency source said, according to Reuters.
The source said that French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping had spoken for more than an hour.
Raeisi, Assad underline boosting Tehran-Damascus ties
Iran’s President-elect Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put strong emphasis on further enhancement of the brotherly countries’ bilateral relations, during a phone call on late Monday.
Assad made the call, congratulating Raeisi for wining Iran’s June 18 presidential elections, Syria’s SANA news agency reported.
Assad wished Raeisi success in his efforts to steer Iran during his tenure “toward further progress,” and to help the country “continue the march of achievements in all domains,” it said.
The two dignitaries affirmed strong interest and determination to continue boosting the bilateral ties in all fields and keep up the two sides’ “coordination and consultation regarding issues of mutual concern”.
Iran and Syria enjoy age-old fraternal relations and countless instances of commonality, according to Press TV.
The Islamic Republic has displayed an unwavering commitment to helping Syria preserve its independence and territorial integrity. The commitment saw Tehran rushing to Damascus’ help in 2011, when the country began to be overwhelmed by foreign-backed militancy and terrorism.
That year, Iran began lending military advisory assistance to the Syrian army and its allies in the face of the plight.
The support sustained throughout Syria’s struggle against the terrorist group of Daesh that launched a campaign of bloodshed and destruction against the Arab nation in 2014.
The assistance, together with Russia’s aerial support for the Syrian military’s advancements on the ground, defeated Daesh in late 2017.
Damascus has invariably expressed gratitude over the supportive stance by Tehran, which has also pledged to help Syria rebuild itself from the damage that has been caused by the foreign-backed violence.
The relations have sustained all-out pressure led by the United States.
Washington has been staging an illegal military presence in Syria for the past seven years. It has also taken both the countries under inhumane sanctions, and has been lobbying feverishly on the international stage to try to isolate the two regional allies.
Iran: Talks with Saudi Arabia progress but time needed to resolve disputes
Iran said that progress had been made in talks with Saudi Arabia but noted that some of their disputes are complex and may take time to resolve.
“Some progress has been achieved in these talks… In some cases, disputes may have complexities that take time to resolve,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference in Tehran on Tuesday.
The official-level talks began in the Iraqi capital Baghdad to restore relations that Saudi Arabia severed five years ago after protesters in Iran stormed its diplomatic missions following the execution of a Shia cleric in the Arab kingdom.
Facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the talks had remained secret until the Financial Times reported that a first meeting had been held in Baghdad on April 9.
Iran confirmed on May 10 that the talks had been held.
Rabiei said that Iran has begun talks with Saudi Arabia according to a policy that gives priority to neighbors.
“We still believe that dialogue, especially among the societies of the Muslim world, is the only decent solution in resolving differences,” he added, according to Tasnim News Agency.
Rabiei added that a series of issues of disagreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been mooted in a friendly manner and with goodwill in the talks that have been held so far.
The spokesman also said that Iran considers the negotiations and their continuation until minimizing the differences to be positive, and is prepared to press on with the talks seriously on the basis of mutual goodwill and fulfillment of interests.
Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said that his country is “open to dialogue with Iran”.
Farhan told the Italian daily La Repubblica that Riyadh and Tehran had “positive stances” during the meetings in Baghdad.
He expressed hope that the talks would open a new chapter in bilateral relations.
Russia to ‘respond harshly’ to any unfriendly US action, Lavrov says
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said any Washington attempt to hold talks with Moscow from “a position of strength” is doomed to failure and that Russia will respond harshly to any unfriendly step taken by the United States.
“Attempts to talk with us from a position of strength are doomed to failure from the beginning. We will respond harshly and decisively to unfriendly actions. One should interact honestly if Washington really wants stable and predictable, as they put it, relations,” Lavrov told the Indonesian Rakyat Merdeka newspaper when asked about the future of Moscow-Washington ties after a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in Geneva last month, Press TV reported.
Lavrov said that, immediately after the summit, US officials resumed their aggressive rhetoric toward Russia and continued to threaten to exert new pressure on Moscow if it failed to accept “the rules of the game” outlined in Geneva.
In the interview, which was published on Monday, ahead of Lavrov’s visit to Jakarta, the Russian foreign minister described the Putin-Biden summit as “frank and businesslike,” but stressed that Moscow had no illusions about its relations with Washington which, he said, must be based on mutual respect.
“We are satisfied that the sides, which made principled statements, showed a wish to understand each other. It should be considered that the key outcome is a modest but still a step forward toward restoring normal relations between our countries, which as we are strongly convinced, are impossible without mutual respect and taking into account each other’s interests,” he said.
Diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States deteriorated in March when Biden said he believed Putin is a “killer.” Moscow recalled its ambassador from Washington shortly afterwards.
More recently, tensions escalated over the Russian-speaking Donbass region of Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops and ethnic Russians have been fighting since 2014.
Even the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva last month did not seem to bring about a thaw in relations. Only days after the meeting, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States was preparing “another package of sanctions” on Russia over the recent jailing of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
Sullivan has also said that Washington would maintain sanctions against Russian companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, which Biden needs to confirm every 90 days.
Nord Stream 2, which would take gas from the Russian Arctic to Germany under the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Europe’s largest economy. The project has been beset by sanctions by the US and the EU states.
Washington has opposed the project saying it would increase Russia’s economic and political leverage over Europe. Moscow and Germany, however, say Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project. Berlin says it needs gas as it shuts coal and nuclear plants over environmental and safety concerns.
Record 67 athletes to represent Iran at Tokyo Olympics
Iran will participate at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics with a record number of 67 athletes, 11 of which will take part at the women’s competitions – also a milestone for the country.
Parisa Jahanfekrian was the last Iranian to be granted a universality quota by the International Weightlifting Federation for the women’s contests.
Tokyo Olympics – postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – will kick off in the Japanese capital on July 23.
Iranians will compete in 17 sports – the highest number ever – comprising basketball, volleyball, wrestling, shooting, fencing, athletics, taekwondo, karate, weightlifting, boxing, canoeing, rowing, table tennis, archery, swimming, badminton, and cycling.
All eyes will be on wrestling events for Iranian fans, where the country will be represented by a complete six-man squad at the freestyle contests, with five participating at the Greco-Roman competitions.
Freestyle wrestler Hassan Yazdani will be the most favorite for a gold medal in the Iranian squad.
In karate, four-time world champion Sajjad Ganjzadeh Hamideh will be among hopefuls for the Olympic glory, while Hamideh Abbas-Ali and Sara Bahmanyar will also be seeking a podium finish.
Iranian saber fencers, Mojtaba Abedini, Ali Pakdaman, Mohammad Rahbari, and Mohammad Fotouhi will be looking to build up on a good form in recent years and improve on Abedini’s last-four in Rio 2016.
The volleyball team, with high-profile Russian head coach Vladimir Alekno in charge, will also hope to emulate the quarterfinal finish four years ago.
Iran’s globetrotting animation ‘Malakout’ adds two UK awards to its assets
Arts & Culture Desk
Iranian animation ‘Malakout,’
directed by Farnoosh Abedi, received two awards at the Ignite Film Festival in Wiltshire, the UK.
It won the Best Animated Film and Best Sound Design awards at the UK festival and won 60 awards so far, IRNA wrote.
Sound recording and voice acting of the film is done by Soroush Abedi who has received 10 awards for this film.
The animation is about a piano player who tries to bring his wife back to life but the deal awakens the devil inside him.
‘Malakout’ has received several international awards including the best animated award at 2020 Horrorfest International in St. George, Utah, the US, the special awards of the 6th Wolves Independent International Film Festival (WIIFF) in Lithuania as well as the 18th biennial Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan.
Also, two of the recent best short film awards given to the animation were from the 2020 DaVinci International Film Festival (DIFF) in the US and the 14th Cryptshow Festival in Spain.
The animation is also the recipient of an honorary diploma at the Silk Road International Film Festival in Ireland, the Best Animation Award at the Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival 2020 in the UK, and two awards at the Florida Animation Festival of the US.
Iraqi commander vows to avenge deaths in US strike
The leader of an Iraqi resistance faction vowed to retaliate against America for the deaths of four of his men in a US airstrike along the Iraq-Syria border last month, saying it will be a military operation everyone will talk about.
Abu Alaa al-Walae, the commander of Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad hinted that its forces might use drones in future attacks.
“We want an operation that befits those martyrs,” he said referring to the four fighters killed in late June. “Even if it comes late, time is not important.”
“We want it to be an operation in which everyone says they have taken revenge on the Americans,” Walae said. “It will be a qualitative operation (that could come) from the air, the sea, along Iraq’s border, in the region or anywhere. It’s an open war.”
On June 27, U.S. Air Force planes carried out airstrikes near the Iraq-Syria border against what the Pentagon said were facilities used by groups to support drone strikes inside Iraq. Four fighters were killed.
The Popular Mobilization Units, an Iraqi state-sanctioned umbrella of resistance groups— including those targeted by the US strikes — said their men were on missions to prevent infiltration by the Daesh terror group and denied the presence of weapons warehouses.
U.S. troops in eastern Syria came under rocket fire the day after the airstrikes.
Walae, who was once held prisoner by U.S. troops in Iraq, boasted that his men were among the first to go to neighboring Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2012, a year after conflicts flared up there.
He said their first mission was to protect a Shia holy shrine south of the capital, Damascus. They later fought in different parts of Syria.