President: Iran on verge of COVID-19 containment
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said the country was close to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak though he called on people still to stay alert.
Addressing a cabinet session on Wednesday, Rouhani praised the good cooperation of people in fighting the virus that led the country to pass the disease management and control stage, president.ir reported.
“We have been progressing at every step in the past three months... in fighting this dangerous virus and are nearly on the verge of curbing this disease,” he said.
He also hailed the medical society, saying the country has made great progress in the fight against COVID-19 thanks to the efforts the society has been making over the past months.
Iran would “even not have these problems” if health protocols “were more closely observed in some of the provinces that are currently in an unfavorable situation”, he said.
Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour put the total death toll from the coronavirus in Iran at 7,183, saying the disease has taken the lives of 64 patients over the past 24 hours, IRNA reported.
Speaking at a daily press conference, Jahanpour said 2,346 new infections were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 126,949.
More than 98,800 of those hospitalized had recovered and were discharged, while 2,673 were in critical condition.
The spokesperson also said zero deaths have been reported in 10 provinces during the past 24 hours, while eight other provinces have reported only one death from coronavirus infection each.
At least 24 of Iran’s 434 counties were “red” – the highest level on the country’s color-coded risk scale, according to Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi, AFP reported.
He said at a virus taskforce meeting broadcast on Tuesday that 218 counties were still deemed low-risk, which could drop to 183 since the virus had “started peaking” in some regions.
He added that most of the fatalities since Iran reported its first two deaths in February were above 70 years old, and that younger Iranians were in less danger.
Minister: Tourism facilities must be ready for providing services
Arts & Culture Desk
Iranian Tourism Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan said all tourism facilities in “white” or “low-risk” areas in the country need to be fully prepared to provide services to tourists.
Mounesan added that all hotels, recreational centers and tourism attractions across the country had registered on the Ministry of Health and Medical Education website and received health regulations for resuming their activities, according to IRNA.
“It is almost one week that the ministry has begun field surveys and has visited the country’s provinces and their accommodation centers,” he said, adding that tourist facilities are being regularly monitored.
Currently, a significant part of Iranians’ domestic trips is being carried out for pilgrimage and religious purposes and it is predicted that the number of these trips will increase as we approach the Eid al-Fitr holidays, he highlighted.
Eid al-Fitr (May 24) marks the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The Tourism Ministry announced all provinces are required to provide tourists with the best possible services in compliance with health protocols.
In coordination with the Iranian Hoteliers Association, all hotels have voiced their readiness to provide safe services.
According to Tasnim News Agency, Mounesan also announced on Tuesday that people in Iran can visit open-air places of recreation as well as hiking and mountaineering sites while observing the health protocols.
He said the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism places no more restrictions on those sites as long as visitors conform to health regulations, the Iranian government’s official website reported.
Mounesan also noted that he has asked the Interior Ministry to order the provincial officials, the police and security authorities to endorse the new decision and allow people to enjoy the ecotourism attractions and the open-air recreational centers, considering that the current situation in the country after the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent problems have mounted mental pressures on citizens.
Palestine’s iron resolve will spell end of Al-Quds occupation: Rouhani
Born through terror, Israel keeps sowing chaos in region: Foreign Ministry
President Hassan Rouhani praised Palestinians for standing firm against Israel’s occupation of their homeland, saying the nation’s “iron resolve” will lead to ultimate victory and drive the occupiers out of Al-Quds.
Speaking at Wednesday’s cabinet session in the run-up to the International Quds Day, Rouhani said that the Palestinian people have been subjected to Israeli acts of aggression for over 70 years, while the United States and other pro-Israel arrogant powers have been hatching plot after plot against the oppressed nation.
“However, we believe that the right will [eventually] overcome the wrong,” he said, according to Press TV. “Al-Quds will not remain under the occupation of usurpers, and Palestinians will sooner or later emerge victorious through their iron resolve despite all the new plots being hatched against them every day.”
The cause of liberating the holy city of Al-Quds from Israeli occupation would not be consigned to oblivion, the president asserted.
Every year on International Quds Day, millions of people hold rallies worldwide to reiterate their call for the liberation of Palestine and denounce Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinian people. It is a legacy of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini.
The occasion, which is commemorated every year on the last Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, is a show of support for Palestinians against Israel’s decades-long occupation and atrocities.
Rouhani further noted that standing up to oppressors and supporting the oppressed forms one of the pillars of Iran’s Islamic Revolution that liberated the country from a US-backed monarchy in 1979 and led to the Islamic Republic’s foundation.
The Islamic Republic will, under no circumstances, tolerate the campaign of oppression and aggression underway against Palestinians, he said.
“We are in a constant battle against the oppressors, something which is one of the principles of Islam,” Rouhani underlined.
Given the precautions that are being observed across the country in light of the new coronavirus outbreak, Iranians will be marking this year’s Quds Day by holding Friday prayers in areas that have been identified as “white zones.”
In other areas, people will be honoring the occasion through other means, including online commemorations, Rouhani said.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is also expected to deliver a speech on the occasion.
‘Terrorist regime in nature’
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday Israel is “a terrorist regime in nature” that “was born through terror.”
“The Zionist regime [of Israel] was born through terror, and since then has assassinated thousands of people from ordinary Palestinians to prominent Arab figures and Iranian scientists. A terrorist regime in nature, Israel still continues to sow seeds of chaos in our region,” the ministry said in a post on its English-language Twitter account.
It also underlined the importance of International Quds Day.
“The Zionist regime [of Israel] has a history of aggression, secret WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, occupations & unlawfulness. The Quds Day is a yearly reminder to the Muslim world that the Israeli regime’s occupation & aggressive actions have been an underlying factor in conflicts in our region,” the ministry tweeted.
Resistance spreading beyond region
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri also released a statement, saying that the “discourse of resistance” against US-backed Israeli atrocities has now spread beyond Palestine and throughout the region.
The Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) — the nation’s decades-old rebellion against Israeli occupation — has now gone far beyond the occupied territories and reached a “decisive stage,” the official said.
He said US President Donald Trump’s hugely-controversial scheme propagated as the “deal of the century” in addition to attempts by some Arab states to normalize ties with Israel have helped promote the Palestinian Intifada outside the occupied territories.
“International Zionism” is now bogged down “in a quagmire of incidents and problems” and knows well that it can no longer support the Israeli regime’s survival.
Baqeri referenced Ayatollah Khomeini’s “immortal motto” of “Israel’s elimination from the face of the world,” and expressed hope that the expulsion of the US from West Asia would initiate that process.
Iranian envoy: Daesh no longer a serious threat in Iraq
Iran-Iraq trade to resume soon after border reopening
By Sadeq Dehqan & Farzam Vanaki
Daesh is no longer considered a serious threat in Iraq, said the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Iraj Masjedi added now that the new Iraqi government and cabinet have been formed, the country’s armed forces will put in a stronger and more consistent performance in countering threats.
Commenting on certain movements in US military bases in Iraq, he said Americans are reorganizing their forces, whose continued presence in the Arab state has only caused problems for Washington and will fuel insecurity in the region.
Masjedi stressed that Hashd al-Shaabi volunteer forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), are regaining their vigor and reorganizing themselves.
He regretted that the US has adopted a strategy of opposing Hashd al-Shaabi, which is among the legal armed forces in Iraq.
Turning to efforts to curb the coronavirus spread in Iraq through implementation of wide-ranging protective measures, the ambassador said Iran and Iraq have cooperated in controlling the disease.
“Joint borders will soon reopen for the resumption of trade transactions on certain days of the week,” he added.
Full Text of the interview follows:
IRAN DAILY: Recently, new movements by Daesh have been detected in Iraq and the terrorist group has launched a number of attacks against Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Are these strikes indicative of Daesh’s revival and organizing its forces under a new leadership?
IRAJ MASJEDI: Daesh has carried out sporadic attacks in three to four parts of Iraq. We have detected the presence of Daesh elements in these regions. The Iraqi security forces and those of Hashd al-Shaabi have, however, successfully repelled the attacks. Some of these forces were, nevertheless, martyred during the conflicts, which also led to the killing of Daesh elements. Today, Iraq is in a relatively good situation in terms of security. The country’s security forces are in control of different parts of the Iraqi territory. Nonetheless, the threat of Daesh has not been eliminated completely, which calls for greater awareness. I believe that Daesh is no longer deemed a serious threat in Iraq. The Iraqis are capable of countering threats posed by the terrorist group through greater cognizance and organizing their forces better.
The Iraqi security and armed forces as well as those of Hashd al-Shaabi are well-organized. In addition, the formation of the new Iraqi government has improved the consistency of and coordination between the country’s armed and security forces, playing a significant role in improving their situation. The Iraqi forces can resolve problems stemming from Daesh’s presence in the country in a short period of time.
Recently, the Syrian media has published reports revealing that US forces have airlifted Daesh elements from north of the country to Iraq. It is said that the move has been aimed at reinforcing Daesh in Iraq. What is your take on this?
Daesh elements use the territorial connection between Iraq and Syria and the ground prepared by the two neighbors’ geopolitical locations to move between the two countries, as has been witnessed several times in the past.
Continued on Page 2
US intel report says Iran not looking to destabilize Afghanistan, contradicts Pompeo claims
Iran is not looking to destabilize Afghanistan, US military intelligence said, contradicting earlier statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo had claimed in January that Iran is “actively working to undermine the peace process.” But the Defense Intelligence Agency painted a much different picture for US government investigators supervising the war effort in Afghanistan, saying that Iranian goals match up with a recent US-Taliban peace deal, The National Interest wrote.
The DIA told the Lead Inspector General in a Tuesday report that Iran has not indicated that it will “actively oppose” the peace accords, which call for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
“Iran’s strategic objectives relating to Afghanistan continue to be maintaining a stable Afghan central government and security along Iran’s eastern border,” the Lead Inspector General wrote in a Tuesday report, summarizing the DIA’s statements.
“Iran’s objectives also include protecting Shia populations, eliminating [ISIS in Central Asia], opposing the US presence in the region, and securing Iranian economic interests.”
US forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February. US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad left for Afghanistan and Qatar on Sunday to push for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry had said in a March 1 statement that the US government “has no legal standing to sign a peace agreement or to determine the future of Afghanistan,” but also welcomed the withdrawal of US forces.
The DIA told the Lead Inspector General that “nothing in Iran’s March statements suggested Iran will actively oppose the deal, because it has previously voiced support for a US withdrawal from the region.”
Palestinian president ends security agreement with Israel, US
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to security cooperation with Israel and the United States, citing the imminent threat of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.
In a speech late Tuesday, Abbas said the annexation plans showed Israel was no longer abiding by peace accords between the two.
As such, he said, the Palestinian government was “absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings” with America and Israel and “of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones”, AFP reported.
A genuine end to security coordination could jeopardize the relative calm in the West Bank, where 2.7 million Palestinians and more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live.
Israel controls all access to the territory where Abbas’s government is based.
The declaration comes as international opposition to the Israeli plans of annexations in the occupied West Bank grows.
US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday became the latest high-profile figure to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, which makes up around 30 percent of the West Bank.
Palestinians say any annexation would put an end to their hopes of an independent state, the so-called two-state solution.
Netanyahu has been emboldened by the staunch support of US President Donald Trump, whose controversial peace plan released in January gave Israel US approval to annex swathes of the West Bank.
But Trump’s challenger in November’s presidential election, Biden, on Tuesday declared his opposition to annexation, saying it would undermine hopes for peace.
Under the coalition agreement Netanyahu signed with rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz, the two can bring annexation to cabinet for discussion from July 1.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace deal with Israel, warned last week annexation would put it on course for a “conflict” with his country.
Britain, Germany, and other European governments have also come out in firm opposition to the annexation plans.
Former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, Oded Eran, said Israel was wary of jeopardizing relations with the king.
Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partner Gantz is far less keen on annexation than the prime minister and could also hold it back, Eran said.