Raeisi, Putin discuss joint vaccine production, hope to meet soon
Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi discussed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the continuation of cooperation between the two countries in the production of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
In a phone conversation on Tuesday, the two sides also expressed hope to meet in the near future, IRNA reported.
Raeisi said Iran pursues expansion of cooperation with Russia in all fields.
He also stressed the necessity of continued collaboration between the two countries in the fight against the coronavirus, including in the field of vaccine production, noting that such cooperation is required to continue at full strength until the complete eradication of the pandemic.
The Russian president noted that he is in quarantine due to a probable contraction of COVID-19, calling for arrangements for a future meeting with his Iranian counterpart at the earliest opportunity.
Commenting on the two sides’ cooperation in the battle against the virus and also joint vaccine production, Putin emphasized the importance of continuing such efforts.
Iran has already imported several consignments of COVID-19 vaccines, including batches of Russian Sputnik V doses. Russia has launched a production line for manufacturing the vaccine in Iran.
Iran’s COVID casualties
Iran’s Health Ministry announced in a statement on Tuesday that the country’s daily COVID-19 deaths and infections reached 408 and 22,329, respectively, in the past 24 hours.
The statement added the total COVID-19 death toll and infections since the beginning of the outbreak in the country in late February 2020 stand at 115,167 and 5,340,656, respectively.
It added that 7,123 COVID-19 patients are in critical condition, and of the newly-detected cases, 3,436 individuals have been hospitalized.
The ministry said 4,627,027 COVID-19 patients have so far either recovered from the disease or have been discharged from hospitals.
The statement added that 30,445,641 coronavirus diagnostic tests have so far been carried out in the country, and 37,866,551 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, of which 1,229,203 doses were given to people during the 24-hour period to Tuesday.
The Health Ministry said 168 cities in the country are coded red (very high-risk), while 209 are in the orange zone (high-risk).
The number of the country’s yellow (medium-risk) cities is 71, according to the ministry.
Iran 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, seeing a resurgence in deaths and infections.
Iran’s four-month trade with SCO countries tops $9.8b: IRICA
Iran traded 15.76 million tons of goods, worth $9.82 billion, with the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) during the first four month of the current Persian calendar year (started March 21), according to the latest report by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA).
Exports to the eight SCO countries hit 13.37 million tons, worth $5.64 billion, during the period, eghtesadonline.com reported.
China accounted for the highest volume of imports from Iran among SCO states with 9.89 million tons, valued at $4.36 billion.
India, with 1.73 million tons worth $495.07 million, and Pakistan, with 910,531 tons worth $341.39 million, were the other major destinations of the Iranian goods and products in that period.
Meanwhile, imports from SCO stood at 2.39 million tons worth $4.18 billion during the same period.
Top three SCO exporters to Iran were China with 1.02 million tons worth $3.13 billion, India with 408,205 tons worth $440.86 million, and Russia with 754,848 tons worth $429.78 million.
Major exported goods included liquefied gas, polyethylene, semi-finished steel products, methanol, gasoline, steel ingots, liquid propane, bitumen and copper cathode.
Iran’s non-oil trade with SCO members stood at 47.93 million tons worth $25.63 billion in the previous Persian year.
Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi is scheduled to fly to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to participate at the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit on September 16-17.
The SCO leaders are expected to decide on the admission of Iran to the organization, according to Special Envoy of the Russian President for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyor Khakimov.
“The accession process is not a one-time step. There is a certain procedure stipulated in the SCO documents,” Russian news agency TASS quoted him saying last Thursday.
“We expect that in Dushanbe, the Council of Heads of State will make a decision on the commencement of Iran’s admission to the SCO, which means the launching of the negotiation process to agree on the documents according to which Iran will accede to the legal and contractual framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
Khakimov recalled that the accession process for India and Pakistan had taken about two years.
“Generally, this cannot be done faster, because the documents are approved by the countries’ heads and the SCO summit takes place in the format of annual meetings. So, the beginning of the admission procedure means that the talks can be launched in the near future after such a decision is made,” he added.
Gov’t sets target to double non-oil exports income
The Iranian Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade has devised a new plan to double the country’s annual income from the export of non-oil products, the government announced on Tuesday.
During a meeting of the government’s Economic Coordination Headquarters, President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi and his economic team discussed the modification of trade and currency policies and ways to boost non-oil exports.
According to a plan formulated by the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade, a target was set to increase the annual income from the export of non-oil commodities, from $35 billion to $70 billion, Tasnim News Agency reported.
The initiative spells out how the income could rise with a reform of the export regulations and structures, the high-tech and knowledge-based products’ bigger share in exports, and stronger support for border markets.
Speaking at the meeting, Raeisi called on the Industry Ministry and Agriculture Ministry to look for short-, mid- and long-term plans in order to settle the problems affecting the livelihoods of the people.
The president also urged the cabinet ministries to coordinate strategies and publicize their “transformation plans” prepared in cooperation with experts and economic activists.
In an address in February 2020, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei stressed the need to stop the Iranian economy’s dependence on oil, saying, “I saw in reports that they (in the West) recommend preventing Iran from achieving a non-oil economy. Among themselves, it is said that they should not let Iran experience a non-oil economy. They recommend that they should develop a secret means – if they don’t want to remove the sanctions – to find a way to prevent Iran from becoming completely independent of oil exports because, if Iran becomes independent, it will develop a non-oil economy.”
AEOI chief visits projects at Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Isfahan atomic site
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) traveled to the southern province of Hormuzgan where he inspected new projects under construction at Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.
Mohammad Eslami visited the second and third units of the facility on Tuesday and underlined the need to accelerate their construction, Tasnim News Agency reported.
The Bushehr plant started operating in 2011 and reached full capacity the following year, but Iran and Russia agreed to expand it.
They signed a number of documents in November 2014 for the construction of up to eight new nuclear power plants at the site and expand cooperation in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy, Press TV
In November 2017, Iran began building two more nuclear reactors in a joint project with Russia’s Rosatom energy firm in Bushehr.
The country’s aim is to build 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity to meet its growing electricity demand and save more oil for exports.
According to ISNA, Eslami and his entourage later flew to Isfahan to pay a visit to the nuclear facility in the central city.
He took a tour of various parts of the Isfahan nuclear site, including the zero-power reactor, the miniature neutron source reactor and the light water subcritical reactor.
US much to blame for Afghanistan’s instability, insecurity: Iran FM
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the United States is to blame for a major part of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan.
The top diplomat made the remarks in his address to a virtual conference on Afghanistan that was being hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Today, all of us are faced with new circumstances and a new challenge in Afghanistan,” Amir-Abdollahian said, according to Press TV.
“An important part of the factor that has driven instability, insecurity, and the current disorderly situation in Afghanistan is rooted in the United States’ trial-and-error-ridden policies and mistakes in Afghanistan,” he added.
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Putin condemns foreign troops in Syria in Assad meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the presence of foreign troops in Syria without the approval of Damascus or a UN mandate, during an unannounced meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Moscow, the Kremlin said Tuesday.
“The main problem, in my view, is that foreign armed forces remain in certain regions of the country without the approval of the United Nations and without your permission,” Putin told Assad during their meeting in Moscow on Monday, for the first time since 2015, according to a Kremlin statement.
The two presidents also met in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2017.
Putin hailed Russia and Syria’s “joint efforts” in the conflict, saying their militaries had returned the vast majority of Syrian territory to government control, AFP reported.
“Terrorists have suffered very serious significant damage, and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 percent of the country’s territory,” Putin told Assad.
Russia has been a key ally of Syria throughout the foreign-backed conflict that erupted in 2011.
Russia’s military assistance in 2015 at Assad’s request helped turn the tide of the war in favour of the Syrian government and Moscow maintains military bases in the country.
Turkish troops control swathes of land along Turkey’s southern border after seizing them from Syrian Kurdish militants during a decade-old conflict.
Turkish soldiers have also been deployed at monitoring points around the last major militant bastion of Idlib in the northwest of the country.
A US-led coalition is also based in the northeast of the country.
Iranian advisers and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah are also present at the request of Damascus and have helped the Syrian Army.
The Syrian president told Putin it was a “great honor” to meet with him in Moscow and praised military cooperation and work on “the return of refugees who were forced to leave their homes and leave their homeland”.
The Syrian presidency said the two leaders were joined in their talks by Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
In a statement, it said the two sides discussed the importance of reaching political agreements “between Syrians and without any foreign interference”.
Putin said he hoped Assad would continue “dialogue with your political opponents”.
“Only the consolidation of all forces in Syria will allow the country to get back on its feet,” he said.
The Syrian presidency added that Putin and Assad had discussed “economic cooperation,” while the Russian president praised his country’s deliveries of coronavirus vaccines.
GOP congressmen ask Blinken to resign over Afghanistan evacuation
Three different Republican congressmen told Secretary of State Antony Blinken to his face on Monday that he should resign over his handling of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
During a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in which Blinken testified, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for allowing the Taliban to take over Afghanistan and turning it into a “safe haven for murderous terrorists,” Fox News reported.
Wilson also blasted the administration for the crisis at the U.S. southern border, which he said allows individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list “to enter American neighborhoods as lone wolf suicide bombers to murder as many Americans as possible.”
“In American history, American families have never been at a greater risk of attack at home than today,” Wilson told Blinken. “The global war on terrorism is not over, it has been moved from abroad to American homes. As the grateful father of an Afghanistan veteran, I especially see your actions as indefensible.”
Wilson slammed the administration for pulling U.S. troops out of Bagram Air Base, which was handed back to the Afghan government on July 1 before it was overtaken by the Taliban on Aug. 15. He said that decision was directly responsible for the Aug. 26 suicide bombing attack in Kabul.
“Your bizarre abandoning of Bagram Airfield led directly to 13 Marines murdered at Kabul,” he said. “You should resign.”
The attack by Daesh terrorists killed 11 U.S. marines, one army soldier, and one navy corpsman.
Blinken didn’t respond to Wilson’s call for resignation but thanked him for expressing appreciation at the beginning of his statement for the U.S. Foreign Service diplomats all over the world that serve under the State Department.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., also called on Blinken to resign.
“We have an administration that does not know how to confront an adversary, understanding that they do not respect weakness, they only respect strength,” he said. “And it is so greatly unfortunate, the consequences, and I believe that you, sir, should resign. That would be leadership.”
Later in the hearing, Republican Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett also called on Blinken to resign.
Blinken defended Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and pushed back on accusations that the State Department should have done more to help Americans and at-risk Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the previous administration for lacking a plan, according to AFP.
He repeatedly noted that Republican former president Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, and defended the Biden administration’s failure to renegotiate the deal, insisting that threats from the hardline group to resume killing Americans were a security threat.
“There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining,” Blinken said.
“We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Blinken said, referring to the Trump administration’s agreement to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1.