Iran’s quarterly steel export hits 128% growth
Iran exported 2.78 million tons of finished and semi-finished steel products during the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21), witnessing a 128 percent growth compared to the same period of last year.
According to IRNA, major steel companies in the country exported 916,236 tons of steel products in June, which indicates a 104 percent growth compared to June 2020.
Khouzestan Steel Company made the biggest contribution to the quarterly exports with the export of 523,321 tons of blooms, billets, and slabs, registering a 92 percent growth.
The company also had the highest figure in June with 182,134 tons of exported products.
Meanwhile, Esfahan Steel Company exported 315,844 tons of its products in the first three months, seeing a 75 percent growth, with Mobarakeh Steel Company recording a 325 percent growth as a result of 267,861 tons of exports.
Bloom, billets, slabs, wide sheets, alloy-engineering sections, sponge iron, and hot briquettes are the major steel products exported by Iranian steel companies.
Iran exported roughly nine million tons of steel products in last Iranian calendar year, resulting in a 13.1 percent decline compared to the preceding year.
Local experts believe the development plans of leading countries in steel production and easing of coronavirus restrictions will pose a threat to the exports market in Iran and a 15-million-ton target needs to be on the agenda within next four years.
Rouhani: Over seven million doses of COVID jabs administered
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said over seven million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have so far been given to the country’s people and another two million doses have been distributed, which will be administered gradually.
In an address to a Saturday meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus, Rouhani added close to 17 months have elapsed since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in late February 2021 and the virus has undergone several mutations during this period, IRNA reported.
First, it began its spread in the form of the Wuhan variant, then it was the UK strain and now, the Indian one, known as Delta, is the main variant infecting people across the country and globe, he said.
The Indian variant, Rouhani noted, which entered the country through the southern and eastern borders, has been spreading to the central provinces over the past few weeks.
He regretted that provincial reports show the number of hospitalizations has been increasing in certain provinces, such as Kerman (southeastern Iran), Mazandaran (northern Iran), Hormuzgan (southern Iran), Sistan and Baluchestan (southeastern Iran) and even Tehran.
The president added the pandemic has had negative impacts on the country’s transportation and tourism sectors and led to the closure of sport complexes, schools, universities, religious places and businesses.
Rouhani also said compliance with the health protocols has dropped to 48 percent, which is a very low figure as it must stand at between 85 percent and 90 percent.
He gave the assurance that up to seven million doses of COVID jabs will be imported in the coming days, saying a number of the doses of the homemade vaccines will also be available in a few days.
Rouhani added, close to 10 million doses of COVID vaccines are expected to be made available in the next two weeks, which would be administered in two to three weeks.
He expressed optimism that his administration would manage to vaccinate all people over 65 years of age and patients suffering from underlying conditions by the end of its term in office (August 3).
Rouhani said at present, people aged over 60 and 50 are receiving the jab in some provinces.
He expressed hope that the ground would be prepared for the reopening of schools and universities in the country in late September, following the inoculation of teachers and students.
In the meantime, Mohammad Mokhber, the head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), said his headquarters has produced three million doses of its COVID vaccine, known as COVIran Barekat, over the past month.
He added the doses are being delivered to the Health Ministry on a weekly basis, noting that close to 900,000 doses of the jab will be handed over to the ministry by Friday.
Rejecting social media rumors about the suspended production of the jab, he said on Saturday the vaccine’s production line has no problem and is operating round the clock.
The EIKO chief added another production line will be launched in the coming weeks, following which over two million doses of the vaccine will be delivered to the Health Ministry per week.
After the inauguration of the third production line by late August, the figure will reach six million doses per week, he said.
As promised, 50 million doses of the jab will be produced by late September, Mokhber gave the assurance.
The COVIran Barekat vaccine has gone through three phases of clinical trial, the last of which involved giving the jab to 20,000 people in the cities of Tehran (northern Iran), Bushehr (southern Iran), Shiraz (southern Iran), Karaj (northern Iran), Mashhad (northeastern Iran) and Isfahan (central Iran).
Iran on Thursday received more than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, said the secretary-general of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS).
Mohammad Hossein Qosian Moqaddam added the sixth batch of the COVID-19 vaccines, containing 1,142,800 doses, arrived at Imam Khomeini International Airport, Tasnim News Agency reported.
The arrival of this consignment increased the total number of foreign vaccines imported by the IRCS to more than seven million doses, he added.
Last month, Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that the country will become one of the world’s biggest producers of COVID vaccine by the end of the summer.
Iran has already granted emergency use authorization to the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, developed by Russia’s R-Pharm Group, and the AstraZeneca-SKBio, made in South Korea.
The Health Ministry announced in a statement on Saturday that the country’s daily COVID-19 deaths and infections reached 175 and 15,139, respectively, in the past 24 hours.
According to the statement, the total COVID-19 death toll and infections since the beginning of the outbreak in the country stand at 86,966 and 3,501,079, respectively.
It added that 4,237 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition, and of the newly-detected cases, 1,725 individuals have been hospitalized.
The ministry said 3,118,348 COVID-19 patients have so far either recovered from the disease or have been discharged from hospitals.
It also announced that 24,968,433 coronavirus diagnostic tests have so far been carried out in the country, and 8,143,406 doses of COVID vaccines have been administered.
The Health Ministry said 169 cities in the country are coded red (very high-risk), while 166 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 113 and zero, respectively, according to the ministry.
Zarif: US plots to assassinate leaders while accusing others of kidnapping
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the United States is involved in hatching assassination plots against the leaders of certain countries while accusing others of kidnapping operations to conceal its criminal acts.
Zarif made the comment in a tweet posted on Friday, which was accompanied by excerpts from the American media indicating the US involvement in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and plots for the ouster and targeted killing of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Press TV wrote.
He said the assassination plots against the aforementioned leaders are hatched by “US-affiliated gunmen” on American soil but the US administration “covers up its criminal ties” by accusing other countries of “a childishly conceived kidnapping operation.”
“US-affiliated gunmen hatch plots on US soil to assassinate leaders in Venezuela and Haiti while US government busily covers up its criminal ties by accusing others of a patently ridiculous, childishly conceived kidnapping operation,” the foreign minister said.
“Put your house in order before throwing bricks at others,” he added.
The top Iranian diplomat was referring to a recent US claim that the Iranian government plotted to kidnap an American-Iranian journalist based in the United States.
Late Tuesday, the US Justice Department leveled baseless accusations against four Iranian intelligence agents over planning to seize Masih Alinejad in her New York home and smuggle her to Iran.
The department claimed that the Iranian agents researched possible ways to move her out of the United States, including hiring a “military-style” speedboat to whisk her from Manhattan and transfer by sea to Venezuela.
Tehran categorically rejected the allegations as “baseless and absurd” and likened them to “Hollywood scenarios.”
The accusations came as the Pentagon was reported by The Washington Post on Thursday that suspects linked to the assassination of the Haitian president had received American military, raising fresh questions about Washington’s ties to Moise’s death.
The Pentagon said that some of the former Colombian servicemen arrested after last week’s assassination had been trained by the US military.
The 53-year-old Haitian president was killed in an armed attack at his private residence in the capital Port-au-Prince by a group of gunmen who spoke Spanish and English.
Police in Haiti said the assassination was carried out by a commando unit of 26 Colombian and two American mercenaries identified as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both from Florida.
Seventeen of the men were captured, including the two American citizens, and three others were killed and eight remain at large.
Moreover, the Venezuelan president has on several occasions accused the US government of plotting to oust him through the military invasion of the Latin American country and to assassinate him.
Earlier in the month, Maduro said the chief of US military’s Southern Command Craig Faller and CIA Director William Burns, who recently visited Colombia and Brazil, had come to finish “preparations” for a “violent plan” to assassinate him.
In 2019, Maduro also said the administration of former president Donald Trump planned to assassinate him and topple his government.
Iran plans first oil export from Gulf of Oman port next week
Iran plans to ship a cargo of oil from a port in the Gulf of Oman next week, its first crude export from outside the Persian Gulf and beyond the Strait of Hormuz.
“The first oil tanker arrived in the Jask region and we expect loading heavy crude to start Monday noon,” Vahid Maleki, the director of the Jask Oil Terminal, told IRNA on Saturday.
Maleki didn’t elaborate on the size of the cargo or its destination, but he said that the vessel has a capacity of 100 thousand tons.
He added that through the Jask Oil Terminal three products that include heavy crude oil, light crude oil and gas condensate will be exported.
The port, which receives oil through the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) Goreh-Jask pipeline stretching across Iran’s Persian Gulf northern coast, is expected to be able to export 350,000 barrels of oil per day in its first phase, Bloomberg wrote.
Most of Iran’s oil exports currently pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow shipping channel in the Persian Gulf.
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Pilgrims arrive in Mecca for second Hajj amid pandemic
Pilgrims began arriving in the holy city of Mecca on Saturday for the second downsized Hajj staged during the coronavirus pandemic, circling Islam’s holiest site in masks and on distanced paths.
Saudi Arabia is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part, seeking to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual, AFP wrote.
This year’s Hajj, with participants chosen through an online vetting system, is larger than the pared-down version staged in 2020 but drastically smaller than in normal times, stoking resentment among Muslims abroad who are barred once again.
After being loaded on buses and brought to Mecca’s Grand Mosque, pilgrims began performing the tawaf, the circumambulation of the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth, towards which Muslims around the world pray.
“Every three hours, 6,000 people enter to perform the tawaf of arrival,” Hajj Ministry spokesman Hisham al-Saeed said. “After each group leaves, a sterilisation process is carried out at the sanctuary.”
The Hajj, usually one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings with some 2.5 million people taking part in 2019, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.
It consists of a series of religious rites, formally starting on Sunday, which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, the Hajj Ministry said it was working on the “highest levels of health precautions” in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.
Chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through the vetting system, the event is confined to those who have been fully vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, according to the Hajj Ministry.
Pilgrims will be divided into groups of just 20 “to restrict any exposure to only those 20, limiting the spread of infection”, ministry undersecretary, Mohammad al-Bijawi, told official media.
Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 507,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths.
More than 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.
The Hajj went ahead last year on the smallest scale in modern history. Authorities initially said only 1,000 pilgrims would be allowed, although local media said up to 10,000 eventually took part.
No infections were reported as authorities set up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater for the pilgrims, who were taken to the religious sites in small batches.
In normal years, the pilgrimage packs large crowds into congested religious sites, but even this year’s downscaled events are seen as a potential mechanism for contagion.
“The biggest challenge of this Hajj season will be for it to pass off without any COVID-19 infections,” a doctor working at a hospital in Mecca said.
Worshippers were last year given amenity kits including sterilised pebbles for the “stoning of Satan” ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and the ihram, a traditional seamless white Hajj garment, made from a bacteria-resistant material.
President Diaz-Canel: US a ‘failed state’, not Cuba
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the United States, not Cuba, was a failed state, reacting to comments made the previous day by US President Joe Biden in the wake of unprecedented protests on the island.
Biden called the Communist-run country a “failed state” here that is “repressing their citizens”, dashing hopes he could lift crippling sanctions any time soon that have contributed to Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades, according to Reuters.
Biden, a Democrat, had vowed during his presidential campaign to ease some of the sanctions on Cuba tightened by his predecessor Donald Trump, a Republican.
“A failed state is that which, to please a reactionary and blackmailing minority, is capable of doing damage to 11 million humans,” Diaz-Canel wrote on Twitter here.
Cuban officials and many analysts charge that US policy on Cuba is driven by the anti-Communist Cuban-American community that has a strong influence on the swing state of Florida, not the interests of the Cuban people.
Cuba’s government has accused the United States of being behind the protests that erupted nationwide last Sunday by financing counterrevolutionaries to foment unrest.
“The United States has failed in its attempts to destroy Cuba despite spending billions of dollars in its attempts to do so,” Diaz-Canel said in his Twitter thread, also lambasting Washington over its high COVID-19 death toll, police violence, racism and “shameful record of wars”.
Thousands of Cubans staged the biggest anti-government protests in decades on Sunday, demonstrating against an economic crisis and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vietnam urged the United States to end its “hostile policy” and lift its longstanding trade embargo on Cuba, the Foreign Ministry said.
“The US needs to take concrete steps in the direction of normalizing relations with Cuba for the benefit of the two peoples, contributing to peace, stability and development in the region and the world,” ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.
Vietnam and Cuba are among the last five Communist-ruled countries in the world, along with China, Laos and North Korea. Washington has maintained a trade embargo against Cuba since the early 1960s, which authorities in Havana blame for some of the country’s economic problems.
Kabul, Taliban delegates begin talks in Qatar as clashes rage on
Senior negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban met for fresh peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha as Taliban militants escalated attacks on cities and villages and took over a vast swath of territory.
Among the high-ranking representatives from Kabul attending the Saturday talks were former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, with the spokesperson for the government’s negotiating team insisting that Kabul expects the two sides to reach a deal during the talks within a short time, Press TV reported.
“The high-level delegation is here to talk to both sides, guide them and support the (government) negotiating team in terms of speeding up the talks and have progress,” said Najia Anwari, the spokeswoman for Kabul’s negotiating team.
“We expect that it (will) speed the talks and... in a short time, both sides will reach a result and we will witness a durable and dignified peace in Afghanistan,” she added.
The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital but the talks have lost momentum as the insurgents have made battlefield gains.
Afghan forces clashed on Friday with Taliban militants in Spin Boldak region after launching an operation to retake the key southern border crossing with Pakistan.
The battle at the southern border follows weeks of intensifying fighting across Afghanistan, with the Taliban pressing multiple offensives and overrunning dozens of districts at a staggering rate.
Government troops also tightened their grip in the north and battled to recapture the stronghold of an infamous warlord.
A war of words has intensified between Kabul and Islamabad after the Afghan vice president accused the Pakistani military of providing “close air support to Taliban in certain areas.”
The speed and scale of recent Taliban attacks have caught many by surprise, with analysts saying the group intends to force the government to negotiate on the insurgents’ terms or suffer total military defeat.
Foreign troops had been engaged in Afghanistan for nearly two decades following the US-led military invasion of the country launched in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The foreign forces have largely withdrawn from the country after Washington announced plans to pull out its forces by the end of next month.