Raeisi urges continuation of vaccinating foreign nationals against COVID-19
Iran’s President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi stressed the need to continue vaccination of foreign nationals in the country against COVID-19.
Making the remark in an address to a Saturday meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting the Coronavirus, the president added some European countries have recently begun considering the move; whereas Iran started inoculating all foreign nationals from the very beginning in view of the humanitarian aspects of the issue, president.ir reported.
Raeisi noted that observing the health protocols, taking preventive measures and tightening supervision are the sole ways to stay safe in the face of a potential new wave of COVID-19 infections in the country.
Lauding efforts by all those involved in the fight against the pandemic in the country, particularly the medical staff, he emphasized reducing the number of infections and maintaining the favorable status quo are in need of greater attention and seriousness in observing the health protocols and implementing protective measures.
Raeisi said Iran must not face a lack of COVID vaccines, noting that in view of the rise in domestic production and imports, the required measures should be taken lest any shortage is experienced in this regard.
He once again called for tightening control over land, sea and air borders and greater seriousness in quarantining suspicious cases, urging for smart and precise supervision over reopening schools, offices and businesses.
The president warned against vaccinating children under 12 years of age unless sufficient scientific research has been conducted.
Since the outbreak, Iran has grappled with five waves of COVID-19 infections, one greater and deadlier
Until a few weeks ago, the country was grappling with a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, mainly sparked by the Delta variant, seeing record high daily deaths and cases of over 700 and 40,000, respectively. Although the fifth wave has subsided thanks to the increased pace of the public vaccination process, authorities constantly warn against the start of a new wave given the spread of the new strain of the coronavirus, known as Omicron, calling for full compliance with the health protocols.
Iran’s public vaccination has gained greater momentum over the past few months on the back of an increase in imports and domestic production. The country has produced a number of COVID jabs domestically and received several COVID-19 vaccine batches from Russia (Sputnik V), China (Sinopharm), Japan (AstraZeneca) and India (COVAXIN).
The Iranian Health Ministry announced in a Saturday statement that 19 provinces reported either zero or one daily COVID-19 fatality.
According to the ministry, the country’s daily COVID-19 fatalities and cases stood at 58 and 2,157, respectively.
The total COVID-19 death toll and cases since the beginning of the outbreak in the country in late February 2020 stand at 130,124 and 6,131,356.
It said 3,278 patients are in critical condition, and 649 new ones have been hospitalized.
According to the statement, 5,916,199 people have so far either recovered from the disease or have been discharged from hospitals, and 39,201,601 diagnostic tests have so far been carried out in the country.
The total number of administered vaccine doses stand at 107,143,157, of which 57,993,547 have been given to people as the first dose, and 47,929,171 as the second dose.
In addition, 1,220,439 have received their third dose. Over 275,562 doses were administered during Friday to Saturday.
Two cities in the country are currently coded red (very high-risk) in terms of the coronavirus spread, while nine cities are in the orange zone (high-risk). The number of yellow (medium-risk) and blue (low-risk) cities are 153 and 284, respectively.
US renews sanctions waiver for Iraq to import Iranian energy
The United States granted Iraq a 120-day extension to a sanctions waiver allowing the Arab country to import energy from neighboring Iran.
Speaking on Saturday, a spokesman for the US State Department said the new measure allows Iraq to import Iranian gas and electricity without facing penalties, Press TV reported.
The administration of former US president Donald Trump blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 following its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
It also put pressure on Iraq to make itself less dependent on Iran’s gas and electricity, but Iraqi leaders say the demand is a bar set too high given the country’s state of infrastructure which is still badly battered decades after the US invasion and sanctions and economic decline.
The US has been enlisting its companies and allies such as Saudi Arabia to replace Iran as Iraq’s source of energy.
Iraq buys gas and electricity from Iran to supply about a third of its power sector.
It currently owes more than $6 billion in arrears and is unable to pay back its debts due to illegal US sanctions against Iran.
Western and Iraqi sources recently told AFP that Washington has given the green light to Iraqi officials to release $2 billion in debts for gas imports to Iran through a Swiss bank account.
Baqeri Kani: Iran’s proposals for JCPOA ‘cannot be rejected’
China’s Wang: Progress should not be underestimated
Blinken: Withdrawal isolated US, not Iran
Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani said the draft proposals he submitted during talks with world powers aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal “cannot be rejected”.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera in the Austrian capital Vienna, Baqeri Kani said on Friday Iran would deliver a third proposal once the first two it handed over the previous day were accepted.
“Iran’s proposals to the world powers cannot be rejected. They are based on the provisions of the 2015 agreement,” he said, adding that all nuclear-related US sanctions must be removed immediately.
On Thursday, the lead negotiator said the two proposals were related to “the removal of sanctions” and “Iran’s nuclear steps”, both main issues facing the JCPOA.
“Now the other side must examine these documents and prepare itself to hold negotiations with Iran based on these documents,” he said.
Representatives of Iran and China, France, Russia, Britain plus Germany, the P4+1 group, convened Monday in Vienna for the seventh round of talks to restore the landmark accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the pact in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions against Iran, is only participating indirectly as Iran refuses to hold direct negotiations with it.
After the meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission on Friday, Baqeri Kani demanded a “logical response” from the P4+1 to the draft proposals.
The third proposal will be mainly on the verification process and the guarantees Iran is requesting from the world powers in order to revive the nuclear deal.
If successful, the talks will remove US sanctions while scaling back Iran’s nuclear activities to the terms of the JCPOA.
Diplomats are expected return to Vienna to resume talks next week.
China’s envoy Wang Qun said progress made during the negotiations this week should not be underestimated although “a breakthrough is far from being achieved”.
China hopes that each party’s consultation with their own governments during the adjournment of the talks will inject new political impetus into the negotiations, Wang said on Friday, according to Xinhua.
The talks helped other parties increase their understanding of the position of the new Iranian negotiating team, he explained.
China hopes all concerned parties will continue to work toward creating a good atmosphere for negotiations, Wang added.
China will continue to play a unique and constructive role, working with all parties for achieving results at an early date, he stressed.
US pullout consequences
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday accused Iran of not being serious about reviving the tattered deal.
Blinken threatened that the US would pursue “other options” if diplomacy failed.
He also blamed former US president Donald Trump, for unilaterally pulling the United States out of the JCPOA, isolating Washington.
“Ironically, the United States was isolated as a result of pulling out of the agreement, not Iran,” Blinken said.
Senior diplomats from the E3 group of Britain, France and Germany also expressed “disappointment” after analyzing Iran’s proposed changes to the draft text produced during the previous six rounds, which took place earlier this year, AFP reported.
“Our governments remain fully committed to a diplomatic way forward. But time is running out,” they said.
Biden says crafting plan for Russia-Ukraine crisis
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he is developing comprehensive initiatives to prevent any Russian invasion of Ukraine as US intelligence officials reportedly claimed that Moscow is planning to do so early next year.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he’s going to do,” Biden said on Friday night ahead of a video call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that is expected to take place within days.
“My expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters, according to Reuters.
“I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said of Russia’s demands.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of military buildup along their borders.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, citing intelligence reports, has said Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January. Russia has rejected the allegation.
Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukraine and the United States of destabilizing behavior and suggested Kiev might be preparing to launch its own offensive in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian forces have a foothold.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday the West was refusing to constructively consider proposals to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine and prevent dangerous incidents.
He warned NATO against turning countries neighboring Russia, i.e. Ukraine, into “bridgeheads of confrontation”, and said he hoped Russian proposals for a new security pact would be carefully considered.
Albania arrests MKO terror group members for drug smuggling, human trafficking: Report
Members of the anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK) have been arrested for drug smuggling, human trafficking, and money laundering, a report revealed.
Albania-based Exit News reported on Saturday that it has seen an official document that gives details of serious offenses involving MKO members, according to Press TV.
According to the document, bearing the signature and stamp of the director of the Criminal Police Department in the State Police, two members of the MKO, along with Albanian and Greek accomplices, have been arrested for direct involvement in human trafficking.
Members of the ill-famed MKO terrorist group enjoy freedom of activity in the U.S. and Europe and even hold big events attended by senior American, European and Saudi officials.
the MKO’s meetings have been attended by, among others, different U.S. officials such as former vice president Mike Pence, former senator John McCain, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, former national security adviser John Bolton and former senator Joe Lieberman, as well as former Saudi spy chief Prince Turki al-Faisal.
The cultish terrorist group was on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations until 2012. The European Union also removed the MKO from its list of terrorist organizations in 2009, seven years after blacklisting the outfit.
The report said that on July 11, 2021, police stopped a car carrying Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish citizens. Further investigations led to the arrest of the main gang members.
The same gang, it was discovered, had attempted to transfer some 400 MKO members from Albania to France.
On July 18, 2021, a consignment of drugs was seized by Albanian police, and two senior MKO officials – Narges Abrishamchi and Hassan Nayeb-Agha – were detained.
Exit News also said it was reported in the official document that they confessed to having played a pivotal role in organizing and transporting a shipment of drugs to Italy.
This pattern of criminality dates back to 2015, Exit News quoted an official source as saying, adding that the document and the source said information on the crimes had been handed over to the U.S. Embassy in Tirana.
After it was founded more than 50 years ago, the MKO launched a campaign of bombings and assassinations in Iran. Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist attacks over the past four decades, about 12,000 have fallen victim to the group’s acts of terror.
The MKO’s members fled Iran in 1986 for Iraq, where they enjoyed backing from former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. A few years ago, they were relocated from their Camp Ashraf in Iraq’s Diyala Province to Camp Hurriyet (Camp Liberty), a former U.S. military base in Baghdad, and were later sent to Albania.
The MKO has been heavily propagandized by the West as an “Iranian opposition group”.
Iran has on numerous occasions denounced Western countries’ hosting of the terrorist group, saying both the U.S. and Europe are accomplices in the MKO’s massacre of innocent Iranians.
Asian Youth Para Games: Iranians bag 29 medals on Day 3
The third day of the 2021 Asian Youth Para Games in Bahrain saw Iranians collect 29 medals, including 10 golds.
Iran dominated the first day of the athletics contests on Friday, grabbing 23 medals, while the country’s swimmers added six more to Iran’s tally.
Atena Mohammadi (F33), Abolfazl Kouhpeyma (F57), Mohammad-Ebrahim Pourtalaei (F34), and Ali-Asghar Abareqi (F56) walked away with four javelin throw golds, coupled with two shot put golds for Amir-Mohammad Mansourinejad (F37), and Mohammad Shah-Moradian (F46).
Meanwhile, Sakineh Zakeri, Ardalan Hosseinzadeh, Fatemeh Tarabian, Amir-Mehdi Abolhassani, Mohammad-Mehdi Rahmatian, and Mostafa Marian settled for six silvers across javelin throw and shot put events, with Taha Moshtaq, Mehdi Qorbani, and Negar Qorbani taking three bronzes.
Iranians also snatched three golds, four silvers, and a single bronze in the blinds and partially blinds competitions.
In swimming, Ali Hassanzadeh won the backstroke 100m gold in the S11 class with the best time of 1:35.37, with Amir-Mohammad Farkhondeh-zad (S13) and Mohammadreza Reihani (S12) also taking backstroke silver and bronze medals respectively. Abolfazl Zarif, meanwhile, won a 200m medley silver.
In the morning session, Ali Motallebi and Danial Mohsenian had opened the account for the country with two freestyle 400m silvers.
Some 700 athletes from 30 countries will be participating across nine events – athletics, taekwondo, swimming, badminton, boccia, goalball, powerlifting, table tennis, and wheelchair basketball – at the fourth edition of the Games, held under the motto: ‘Together. Rising. Stronger.’, in Manama until Monday.
The Iranian squad has been represented by 111 athletes at the Games.
Civilian killed, more injured in US drone strike in Syria’s Idlib
At least a civilian was killed and seven others injured in a US military drone strike in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, only a few days after Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin ordered a review into a 2019 US Syria bombings that killed dozens of civilians.
The Arabic-language Enab Baladi weekly newspaper reported that the air raid targeted a man riding a motorcycle near the village of Kafr Battikh, which lies in the southern Saraqib district of the province, on Friday, Press TV reported.
Seven members of a family, including three women and a child, were also injured while they were traveling in a car across the road.
Enab Baladi added that the US-made MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle struck the motorcycle with three missiles.
Hours later, United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said it would open an investigation into possible civilian casualties inflicted in the drone strike in Idlib, with Pentagon officials claiming the attack was meant to target a “senior Al-Qaeda leader.”
“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them,” Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for Central Command, said in a statement.
He added, “The possibility of a civilian casualty was immediately self-reported to US Central Command. We are initiating a full investigation of the allegations and will release the results when appropriate.”
Friday’s drone strike follows another attack on Idlib in September, which was also alleged to have killed a top terrorist operative. The US military claimed at the time that no civilians were killed in that attack.
Last month, The New York Times, citing anonymous sources and classified documents, published a report that said a previous American airstrike in March 2019 hit “a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank” near the town of Baghuz, and may have resulted in the Pentagon’s largest civilian casualty incident in Syria.
“Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, swallowing it in a shuddering blast. As the smoke cleared, a few people stumbled away in search of cover. Then a jet tracking them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, then another, killing most of the survivors,” the Times wrote.
Following the report, CENTCOM reluctantly admitted that it may have killed up to 80 people, including some civilians, though still argued that the slain women and children may have been working on behalf of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group at the time they were bombed.
The US military has stationed forces and equipment in eastern and northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists.
Damascus says the unlawful US deployment is meant to plunder the Arab country’s resources.
Former US president Donald Trump admitted on several occasions that American forces were in Syria for its oil.
After failing to oust the Syrian government with the help of its proxies and direct involvement in the conflict, the US government has now stepped up its economic war on the Arab country.
Iran’s Rostami wins world para powerlifting silver
Iran’s Rouhollah Rostami bagged a silver medal at the World Para Powerlifting Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Representing the country in the men’s up-to-80kg weight class, Rostami settled for a runner-up finish with a best lift of 230kg – equal with China’s Gu Xiaofei, who was handed the ultimate prize due to a lower body weight.
Egyptian Mohamed Elelfat snatched the bronze with 217kg.
This was a second major medal of the year for Rostami, after the Iranian powerlifter had claimed the gold at the Tokyo Paralympics in late August with 234kg – 19kg above silver medalist Gu, while Elelfat had also grabbed the bronze.
Rostami holds the world record of the class with 241kg – a feat he achieved during the Para Powerlifting World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, in May.
It was also a fourth world medal for the Iranian, having won the gold in 2019, as well as the 2014 and 2017 silvers.
Rostami’s compatriot Amir Jafari – a silver medalist in Tokyo – had also finished his campaign in Tbilisi with a second-spot finish in the men’s 65kg class.
Jafari lifted 193kg, trailing Algeria’s Hocine Bettir – bronze winner in August’s Games – by one kilogram.
The competition is one of the compulsory events to qualify for the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris.
Iran, China review cinematic cooperation
The joint capacities of Iranian and Chinese cinema were examined in a meeting attended by the President of the Iranian Academy of Arts Bahman Namvar-Motlaq and the Chinese Ambassador to Tehran Chang Hua.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Iran-China diplomatic relations, the meeting was held at the academy with Majid Majidi, the head of the cinema department of the Iranian academy, and Josie Howo, the cultural attaché of the Chinese Embassy also in attendance, IRNA wrote.
Namvar-Motlaq called Iran and China, as representatives of two great civilizations, adding that these two Oriental countries have historically been very influential in the fate of humanity and the world.
Regarding the principle of “common interests,” he said, “We must show our nations that there are mutual interests and if this concept is not transferred, these relations will not remain stable.”
Namvar-Motlaq expressed his happiness that an agreement was signed with China to expand cinematic cooperation.
Chang Hua considered the meeting a significant event in the history of Chinese-Iranian cinematic ties and expressed his satisfaction with his presence among Iranian cinematographers.
The Chinese envoy referred to the history of joint Chinese-Iranian film activities and recalled the second Chinese Film Week in which artists from the two countries talked to each other in face-to-face and online workshops and in the same program seven Chinese films were introduced to Iranian audiences.
Stating that the field of Chinese and Iranian cinema has a wide potential for cooperation, Chang Hua referred to the signing of a memorandum of cinematic cooperation between the National Cinema Administration of China and the Cinema Organization of Iran in the near future.
Majidi referred to the historical and cultural commonalities of the two countries, saying, “I began my cooperation with China in 2008, both in the fields of cinema and academia. There are very good capacities in the academic fields. Today, Iranian cinema is taught in major Chinese universities, and this indicates the capacity for collaboration, for intellectual, theoretical and cultural exchange.”
Saudi strikes on Yemen kill 16 civilians, including children
At least 16 civilians, including children, were killed in Saudi-led strikes in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, local media reported, as Saudi Arabia kept bombing its southern impoverished neighbor in defiance of international calls to end the bloody war.
The deadly attacks occurred on Friday evening, when Saudi-led warplanes targeted a gathering of civilians in Muqbana district of the province, Yemen’s Arabic-language Almasirah television network reported on Saturday.
It added that continued presence of the enemy warplanes in the skies of Muqbana and the possibility of other strikes prevented the paramedics to reach the crime scene to exhume the bodies of the victims and attending the wounded.
The airstrikes came as the Saudi-led forces and its mercenaries escalated their aggression in the western coastal region of Yemen, Press TV wrote.
Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and other key Western powers, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the former Riyadh-backed regime back to power and crushing the popular Ansarullah resistance movement which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.
The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and displacing millions more. The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.
An all-out blockade was also imposed on Yemen since the onset of the bloody war, pushing Yemen into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, including by hampering access to aid.
Despite heavily-armed Saudi Arabia’s continuous bombardment of the impoverished country, Yemeni armed forces and the Popular Committees have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi invaders and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.