President Rouhani inaugurates FTZ projects
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated 33 projects with a total value of 16.6 trillion rials (nearly $400 million) in the free trade and special economic zones across the country via a videoconference on Monday.
The 33 FTZ projects were based in the northwestern province of East Azarbaijan and the southern province of Hormuzgan, according to president.ir.
The projects put into operation in Aras, Kish, and Qeshm FTZs created job opportunities for over 1,040 people.
A sum of 20 large industrial and production projects with a total investment of 9.27 trillion rials (about $220 million) were among the projects that were put into operation in Aras FTZ in East Azarbaijan Province. These projects created jobs for 669 people in the said province.
Four major development projects worth 1.03 trillion rials (about $24.5 million) were also inaugurated in Kish Free Trade Zone to create job opportunities for over 78 people.
As for Qeshm FTZ, nine economic and infrastructure projects with 6.37 trillion rials (about $151.6 million) of investment were inaugurated to provide jobs for 302 people.
Over the past few years and especially since the reimposition of the US sanctions, the Iranian government has been taking serious measures for promoting domestic production and pushing the country’s economy towards self-sufficiency while cutting reliance on
Last year, the government began a program in which every week several projects would be inaugurated across the country to show that the country’s economy is still dynamic.
Iran’s participation in navy parade ‘great honor for us’: Russian commander
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said the participation of two Iranian ships in the annual parade celebrating the Day of the Russian Navy was a “great honor” for the forces under his command.
He made the remark on Monday in a meeting with Iran’s Navy Chief Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi in St. Petersburg, IRNA reported.
Iranian Navy destroyer Sahand and accompanying support vessel Makran arrived in St. Petersburg on Saturday to take part in the annual parade celebrating the Day of the Russian Navy, in honor of the 325th anniversary of the Russian fleet on the Neva River.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi attended the event upon an invitation by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The two vessels left the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas in May, went around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and continued north through the Baltic Sea.
Admiral Yevmenov added Iranian officers demonstrated very manifestly and well their capabilities and skills, noting that their moves and training methods are at a favorable level, which has been achieved in the light of endeavors by their commander.
The staff of the Iranian vessels showed their high level of martial preparedness and capabilities and that they can perform operations in different oceans at any point and any moment, he said.
Admiral Yevmenov invited the Iranian Navy to take part in other ceremonies in Russia in the future.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi said the Iranian ships’ participation in the annual parade is indicative of the depth of cooperation between Tehran and Moscow.
He added military cooperation can only play an effective role when it reaches such a high level; as it is then that it becomes a determining factor on a global scale.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi added the Iranian vessels did not anchor at even one port en route to Russia, traveling the entire distance directly.
Upon arrival in St. Petersburg on Saturday, he described as “a historic event” the sailing of the Iranian ships to the Gulf of Finland, the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea, according to Press TV.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi said that the two Iranian ships began their voyage a few months ago.
“In this long voyage, these ships entered the world’s strategic areas, something that is unprecedented,” he added.
The Gulf of Finland extends between Finland to the north and Estonia to the south, and St. Petersburg in Russia to the east, where the Neva River drains into it.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi said, “This success means the opening of the gates of the North Sea and Finland to the fleet of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army.”
Raeisi: Iran, reliable partner
President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi said Sunday that Iran has proved itself to be a reliable friend and partner, which wishes its neighbors well.
“Iran has proven that it is a trustworthy and reliable friend and partner,” Raeisi said in a meeting with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Tehran.
“Rest assured that Iran only wishes well for its neighbors,” the Iranian president-elect added, according to Press TV.
“Tehran attaches special importance to ties with Doha and relations with neighbors will be the priority of the next administration’s foreign policy,” Raeisi further said.
The Iranian and Qatari nations have religious bonds and are partners in the region, said the president-elect.
Raeisi emphasized that regional insecurity is rooted in foreign factors.
“The path to sustainable security and stability in the region goes through cooperation among regional countries on the basis of mutual political trust and practical rejection of foreign interference.”
The Qatari foreign minister said his country seeks to consolidate relations and cooperate with Iran to reinforce security in the region.
In separate phone calls with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said Saturday night and Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on Tuesday, the Iranian president-elect emphasized that dialogue with neighboring countries is top on the foreign policy agenda of his administration, which is to take office in less than two weeks.
In another meeting earlier on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his visiting Qatari counterpart discussed mutual relations and leading regional and international developments.
Iran urges regional cooperation on environmental issues
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called for collaboration among regional and neighboring countries to settle environmental problems.
In comments after inaugurating a number of projects via a videoconference in Tehran, Rouhani said his outgoing government’s activities have improved the country’s environmental situation compared to eight years ago, Tasnim News Agency reported.
Pointing to the tree-planting projects by his government for dealing with the issue of haze and dust particles in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, he said: “It does not mean that all problems have been solved, but we need to cooperate with regional countries, since a series of issues relate to the neighbors.”
Rouhani urged the neighboring states to act justly when it comes to using the river waters.
“When one country uses the entire rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates and the downstream country is deprived of them, its impacts are inflicted on us,” the president deplored.
He also bemoaned the fact that construction of dams in Afghanistan has reduced the flow of water into the Hamun Lake in southeastern Iran and caused environmental problems, stressing that action must be taken in international organizations and political and scientific measures should be adopted to settle the issue.
Iran and Afghanistan have disagreements over allocation of water from the Hirmand River, as both sides suffer from droughts and climate change.
In a move in violation of a 1973 treaty with Iran, Afghanistan has refused to supply its neighbor with share of water from Hirmand, which rises in Afghanistan and flows through eastern parts of Iran, according to Iran’s Energy Ministry.
According to the treaty, Afghanistan is committed to share waters of the Hirmand River with Iran and supply it with 26 cubic meters of Hirmand water per second or 850 million cubic meters per annum.
Mikati secures votes to be designated Lebanon’s PM
Lebanon’s billionaire businessman and two-time premier Najib Mikati earned enough support in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be nominated as the country’s new prime minister-designate.
Mikati secured 73 votes out of 118 members of parliament, becoming the third person within a year to try to form a government amid deepening political and economic turmoil.
The majority of votes came from all major political parties except the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, Beirut Today reported.
He last headed a government between 2011 and 2014. Mikati will be expected to deliver a lineup that satisfies political leaders jostling for cabinet shares and ministerial portfolios.
It could take months before an actual government is formed, but crisis-hit Lebanon, grappling with soaring poverty, a plummeting currency and shortages of basic items from medicine to fuel, can ill afford any delays.
The country has been without a fully functioning government since then-prime minister Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people last August. Diab stayed on in a caretaker capacity.
Earlier consultations between President Michel Aoun and parliamentary blocs aimed to find a replacement for Saad Hariri, who quit as PM-designate on July 15 after nine months of political horse-trading had failed to produce a new cabinet.
Afghan civilian deaths up to ‘unprecedented’ level: UN
Nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in May and June as fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces escalated, the highest number for those two months since records started in 2009, the United Nations said on Monday.
The UN’s Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report it had documented 5,183 civilian casualties between January and June, of which 1,659 were deaths. The number was up 47 percent from the same period last year, Reuters reported.
The figures underscored the dire situation for Afghan civilians as intense fighting picked up in May and June after U.S. President Joe Biden announced American troops would withdraw by September, bringing an end to 20 years of foreign military presence in the country.
“Of serious concern is the acute rise in the number of civilians killed and injured in the period from 1 May, with almost as many civilian casualties in the May-June period as recorded in the entire preceding four months,” UNAMA said in a statement.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” said, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons. “Unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed.”
Heavy clashes around the country have taken place in the past two months as the Taliban launches major offensives, taking rural districts, border crossings and surrounding provincial capitals, prompting Afghan and U.S. forces to carry out air strikes to try and push back the insurgents.
Negotiators have been meeting in Qatar’s capital of Doha in recent weeks but diplomats have cautioned there has been little substantive progress since peace talks began in September.
Tunisian president ousts gov’t in move critics call coup
Tunisia’s president dismissed the government and froze parliament on Sunday in a dramatic escalation of a political crisis that his opponents labelled a coup, calling their own supporters to come onto the streets in protest.
President Kais Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, in the biggest challenge yet to the democratic system Tunisia introduced in a 2011 revolution, Reuters reported.
Crowds of people quickly flooded the capital and other cities to support Saied, cheering and honking car horns in scenes that recalled the revolution, which triggered the a wave of protests that convulsed the Middle East.
As his supporters filled the central Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the epicentre of the 2011 revolution, Saied joined them in the street, state television pictures showed.
However, the extent of backing for Saied’s moves against a fragile government and divided parliament was not clear, as Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi called on Tunisians to come into the streets to stop what he called a coup.
Saied, in his televised statement announcing his move, had warned against any violent response.
“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he said in a statement carried on television.
Hours after the statement, military vehicles surrounded the parliament building as people nearby cheered and sang the national anthem, two witnesses said. Local media reported that the army had also surrounded the state television building.
Years of paralysis, corruption, declining state services and growing unemployment had already soured many Tunisians on their political system before the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the economy last year and coronavirus infection rates shot up this summer.
The leader of Karama party and former president Moncef Marzouki also called Saied’s move a coup.
Saied said in his statement that his actions were in line with Article 80 of the Constitution, and also cited the article to suspend the immunity of members of parliament.
“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said.
The president and the parliament were both elected in separate popular votes in 2019, while Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi took office last summer, replacing another short-lived government. The president has been enmeshed in political disputes with Mechichi for over a year, as the country grapples with an economic crisis, a looming fiscal crunch and a flailing response to the pandemic.
Under the Constitution, the president has direct responsibility only for foreign affairs and the military, but after a government debacle with walk-in vaccination centres last week, he told the army to take charge of the pandemic response.
Iran’s daily COVID infections exceed record-high 31,000: Ministry
Daily COVID infections in Iran during the 24-hour period to Monday surpassed 31,000, highest since the outbreak in the country in late February 2020, with the deaths standing at 322, announced the Health Ministry.
In a statement on Monday, the ministry put the country’s exact daily COVID-19 infections at 31,814, saying the total COVID-19 infections and death toll stand at 3,723,246 and 89,122, respectively.
It added that 4,982 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition, and of the newly-detected cases, 3,566 individuals have been hospitalized.
The ministry said 3,274,346 COVID-19 patients have so far either recovered from the disease or have been discharged from hospitals.
It also announced that 25,601,224 coronavirus diagnostic tests have so far been carried out in the country, and 10,668,549 doses of COVID vaccines have been administered.
The Health Ministry said 232 cities in the country are coded red (very high-risk), while 117 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 99 and zero, respectively, according to the ministry.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki issued an emergency directive on Monday to begin vaccination of people over 50 years of age in the southeastern province of Kerman against COVID-19, IRNA wrote.
The minister said the decision has been made in view of the impacts of the neighboring provinces on Kerman in terms of the coronavirus spread and given that the province’s daily COVID casualties have reached a peak.
The country has been grappling with a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since a few weeks ago mainly sparked by the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant, known as Delta.
Tehran Grand Bazaar and banks as well as all public and private organizations and offices in the Iranian capital were closed for six days, during July 20-25, in an effort to curb the pandemic in the province.
The same closures and COVID restrictions were enforced in the northern province of Alborz, neighboring Tehran.
US envoy for Iran: Trump’s maximum pressure ‘failed miserably’
Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, admitted on Sunday that the “maximum pressure” campaign pushed by former president Donald Trump against the Islamic Republic “failed miserably” and “hurt US interests”.
Speaking on a television show hosted by MSNBC journalist Mehdi Hasan, Malley said Iran’s nuclear program accelerated only after Trump launched his maximum pressure campaign.
Malley is Biden’s point man for Iran, tasked with reviving the 2015 nuclear accord that Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018. He was part of the US negotiating team that worked out the deal in 2015, Press TV wrote.
Asked whether the US should be the first to extend an olive branch and rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as Iran nuclear deal, the envoy moved the goalposts quickly.
“We said very clearly we are prepared to come back into the deal if they’re prepared to do their part,” Malley said, adding that the US “will lift sanctions” if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA.
Malley, who had been in Vienna as Iran and other remaining parties to the JCPOA engaged in negotiations to resurrect the dying deal, said the “ideas” were put on the table about removing sanctions that Trump had imposed on Iran “in violation of the deal”.
He also slammed the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Iran’s top commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, saying it “made America less safe”.
The show host referred to Trump’s recent remarks that he ordered the assassination because he was “under pressure” from his party senators before his impeachment trial.
He also cited a report that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had warned Trump not to strike the top Iranian commander, saying it would spark war.
“Don’t the Iranian government and the Iranian people have a right to be outraged by these revelations that the US killed Iran’s top general for domestic political purposes, that the US top general had to prevent the US president from starting a war with Iran for nakedly political reasons,” Hasan asked.
Milley, pushed on the back foot, agreed that the Trump administration’s move “invited more trouble rather than de-escalating tensions”
“The American people have a right to be outraged with the fact that a policy that was designed to keep America safe, by killing Qassem Soleimani, by imposing a maximum pressure campaign,” the envoy said in his response. “Three years on, the verdict is clear, America is less safe because Iran has a more expansive nuclear program and because it accelerated and intensified its regional activities.”
Gen. Soleimani, the celebrated anti-terror commander, was assassinated in a US airstrike near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020. It led to heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.