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  1. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Tehran, Iran, December 10, 2017. AFP/Handout via Iranian Presidency TEHRAN: Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, wrapping up a visit in which he pushed for the release of imprisoned dual nationals. A key focus of Johnson's visit had been the case of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving five years for taking part in mass protests in 2009, which she denies. She was due in court on Sunday for fresh charges of "spreading propaganda", but her husband announced that the appearance had been cancelled at the last minute. "Nazanin's case was not held today in the wake of the foreign secretary's visit. This is undoubtedly a good sign," Richard Ratcliffe wrote in an email to reporters. UK's Johnson in Iran talks to lobby for jailed aid worker Talks with Zarif were 'constructive', Johnson?s office said, despite differences between the two countries He said Johnson met with her family in Iran and raised the issue at every meeting with the Iranians. The foreign secretary took flak from Iranian officials for not doing more to build on the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015. "Relations between the two countries have not matched the potential expected in the post-JCPOA (nuclear deal) atmosphere," Rouhani told Johnson, according to a statement from his office. Ali Larijani ? the powerful parliament speaker who met with Johnson on Saturday ? voiced similar criticism, saying other European countries had put in "much more effort". "You haven't even solved the banking problems of the Iranian embassy in London," Larijani said, according to the IRNA news agency. The British foreign office said the two sides had discussed "the full range of regional and bilateral issues, including banking matters and our concerns about the consular cases of dual nationals". "It has been a worthwhile visit and we leave with a sense that both sides want to keep up the momentum to resolve the difficult issues," it said in a statement. The Zaghari-Ratcliffe case has become a top priority for Johnson after he mistakenly said last month that she had been training journalists in Iran ? a "slip of the tongue" used by the Iranian authorities to help justify the new charges. Iran has been frustrated that the nuclear deal ? which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear programme ? has not produced the expected windfall in trade deals mainly due to continuing US sanctions. Banking restrictions have also complicated long-running efforts to return an estimated 450 million pounds ($600 million) owed by Britain from a military contract cancelled due to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Richard Ratcliffe has claimed his wife is a pawn in Iran's efforts to extract the historic debt.
  2. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 9, 2017. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS DUBAI: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson flew to Tehran on Saturday to seek the release of a jailed British-Iranian aid worker. The Foreign Office said Johnson spoke ?frankly? with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif about ?consular cases of dual nationals? such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who Britain says was visiting family on holiday when she was jailed by Iran for attempting to overthrow the government. The case has taken on domestic political importance in Britain, especially since Johnson said last month that Zaghari-Ratcliffe trained journalists, which her employer denies. Johnson later apologized. Opponents have called for him to resign if his comments lead to her serving longer in prison. Johnson is also expected to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday to discuss bilateral and regional issues, a Foreign Office official said, during just the third visit by a British foreign minister to Iran in the last 14 years. Talks with Zarif were ?constructive?, Johnson?s office said, despite differences between the two countries. ?They both spoke frankly about the obstacles in the relationship, including the Foreign Secretary?s concerns about the consular cases of British-Iranian dual nationals,? a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in a statement. The two-day visit takes place against a complex backdrop of historical, regional and bilateral tensions. Johnson stressed Britain?s support for Iran?s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in the meeting, the spokeswoman said. International sanctions against Iran have only recently been lifted as part of the multilateral nuclear deal to curb Tehran?s disputed uranium enrichment program. That deal is under threat after US President Donald Trump decided to decertify Iran?s compliance with its terms. Johnson told Zarif he believed the deal should be fully implemented. Johnson also met Ali Shamkhani ? the secretary of Iran?s Supreme National Security Council ? and parliament speaker Ali Larijani during the first day of his two-day visit, Iran?s state news agency IRNA reported. The Foreign Office statement did not mention Zaghari-Ratcliffe by name, although Johnson has vowed to leave ?no stone unturned? in Britain?s efforts to free her. A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, she was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is not the only dual national being held in Iran but has become the most high-profile case. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News. It says Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told she will appear in court on December 10, her husband Richard has said. The visit is a test of Johnson?s ability to navigate a political landscape littered with potential pitfalls. Iran?s 1979 Revolution turned it into a pariah state for most of the West and many Middle Eastern neighbours. Britain has voiced its continued support for the nuclear deal but is one of a number of Western powers voicing concerns about Tehran?s ?destabilizing? influence in the region.
  3. TEHRAN: Britain's foreign minister visited Iran on Saturday to press for the release of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe amid accusations at home that one of his gaffes has seriously harmed her case. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson held talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif also expected to focus on a 2015 landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers whose future has been thrown into doubt by US President Donald Trump. Johnson did not speak to reporters before heading into the meeting, but earlier released a statement saying: "I will stress my grave concerns about our dual national consular cases and press for their release where there are humanitarian grounds to do so." Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen, was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016, after visiting relatives with her young daughter. Iranian authorities accused her of links to mass protests in 2009, which she denies, and sentenced her to five years in jail for sedition. They do not recognise dual nationality. Last month, they filed additional charges of "spreading propaganda" and will present her in court again on Sunday. Her case has become highly politicised, especially after a "slip of the tongue" by Johnson last month when he stated that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists in Iran, which has been used by the Iranian authorities to help justify the new charges. Husband Richard Ratcliffe, who had lobbied to join Johnson on the visit, has raised concerns about his wife's mental health, citing the mounting toll of her prolonged incarceration in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Johnson is on a three-day trip to the region, stopping in Oman on Friday and moving on to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. It is the first visit of a foreign secretary to Iran since 2015 when the nuclear deal was signed. It unfolds amid mass protests across the Muslim world over Trump´s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. "Iran is a significant country in a strategically important, but volatile and unstable, region which matters to the UK's security and prosperity," Johnson said. "While our relationship with Iran has improved significantly since 2011, it is not straightforward and on many issues we will not agree." Britain severed diplomatic relations in 2011 after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran in response to sanctions over the nuclear dispute. The embassy was reopened in 2015 and full relations restored last year.
  4. French President Emmanuel Macron walks between Lebanon´s Prime Minister Saad Hariri and UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed as they arrive to attend the Lebanon International Support Group meeting in Paris. -AFP1 PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron led calls Friday for countries to stop meddling in Lebanon at an international meeting aimed at preventing the fragile nation becoming a pawn in the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the eight-nation talks in Paris with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose shock resignation last month - which he has since withdrawn - sparked fears of a new Middle East crisis. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, Italy and Egypt, sent representatives to Paris to show support for Lebanon. Hariri's surprise resignation announcement from Riyadh last month sent tremors through Lebanon, with many suspecting the Saudis of forcing him out to trigger a showdown with the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia Hezbollah. Opening the meeting, Macron said it was "essential that all of the parties in Lebanon and regional actors respect the cardinal principle of non-interference" in other countries. Speaking afterwards, Tillerson urged US ally Saudi Arabia to be "more measured" in its dealings with its neighbours, including Lebanon. Citing the Saudi blockade of Qatar, its bombing campaign in Yemen and Lebanon, he said: "We would encourage them to be a bit more measured, a bit more thoughtful, in those actions, to fully consider the consequences." The talks on Lebanon came as the region was roiled by a new crisis, with US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel´s capital sparking a "day of rage" by Palestinians. Hariri and Macron both emphasised their opposition to Trump's announcement, which will eventually involve moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. "It complicates the peace process even more (between Israel and the Palestinians) and creates a new challenge to regional security," Hariri said. Macron added: "None of the region's problems will be resolved by unilateral decisions or the strongest imposing their will." Proxy battleground Hariri´s resignation announcement plunged Lebanon - long a proxy battleground for bigger neighbours - into its worst crisis in years. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of using armed proxies such as Hezbollah to advance its interests, from Lebanon to Yemen, Syria and Iraq. In his resignation statement, Hariri accused Tehran and Hezbollah -- which has ministers in the Lebanese government - of destabilising the country and region. But he eventually returned home and agreed to stay on as premier after securing an agreement from Hezbollah that Lebanon should keep out of regional conflicts. Hariri remained in Riyadh for two weeks after his resignation, fuelling speculation that he was being held hostage. A Lebanese source close to the premier told AFP that Riyadh threatened Lebanon with economic sanctions unless he stepped down. Macron intervened, hosting Hariri to Paris for talks, after which he returned home to a hero´s welcome. Power play backfires "Lebanon's stability is not only crucial for its inhabitants but for the entire region," Macron said, praising the small multifaith country as a model of pluralism in the Middle East. Hariri said the fragile stability in his country "appeared like a small miracle" given the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. "The desire of all in Lebanon is to save our democracy," he said. Friday's meeting ended with plans for three follow-up conferences: one in Paris on boosting investment in Lebanon; another in Rome on building up Lebanon´s army; and a third in Brussels on helping Lebanon cope with the strain of sheltering 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Riyadh´s power play in Lebanon backfired, with the various Lebanese factions coming together this week to avoid a political breakdown. "Lebanon will respect this principle of keeping its distance (from trouble beyond its borders). You will see," Hariri vowed Friday. At a press conference with Tillerson, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the principle "applied to all, both inside and outside (Lebanon)."
  5. TEHRAN: Two Iranian hikers were killed in an avalanche in western Iran and seven others are still missing and hope of finding them alive are fading, media reported on Friday. The hikers were among a group of 14 men and women from the city of Mashhad and a local guide who were trapped by the avalanche on Thursday on Oshtorankooh mountain, Tasnim news agency said. They were heading back from Oshtorankooh, one of the highest ranges in Zagros mountains and known as the Iranian Alps because of its high peaks which are snow-capped all year round. "Efforts are still underway to locate the seven missing hikers -- three women and four men," Reza Ariayi, head of a crisis management committee in western Lorestan province, told Tasnim. Ariayi said the missing "most probably" have died because of the freezing temperatures. Six hikers were found alive by the rescue teams, he said. The hikers were trying to reach a shelter when the avalanche struck, state news agency IRNA quoted Sarem Rezayi, director of the Red Crescent in Lorestan province, as saying. Oshtorankooh has numerous peaks with the highest, San Baran, at more than 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) above sea level.
  6. PARIS: Major powers will try to shore up Lebanon?s stability on Friday by pushing Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop interfering in its politics, and urging Hezbollah to rein in its regional activities, diplomats said. Lebanon plunged into crisis on Nov. 4 when Saad al-Hariri resigned as prime minister while he was in Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and criticizing the Saudis? regional arch-rival Iran along with its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. After international pressure and negotiations between Lebanese political factions, he rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and his coalition government, which includes Hezbollah, reaffirmed a state policy of staying out of conflicts in Arab states. The International Lebanon Support Group (GIS), a body that includes the five members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - meets in Paris on Friday to try to reinforce Hariri?s hand to prevent a new escalation. ?At a moment of great international tension ... we need to send the message of sovereignty, stability and security to all the Lebanese sides, its partners and those who have an influence in the country,? said a senior French diplomat, whose country played a key role in helping Hariri return to Beirut. ?We need to de-escalate the situation in the region and believe the effort needs to start with Lebanon because it?s a country where all actors can compromise and through that show a path to negotiations elsewhere,? he said. Saudi concern over the influence wielded by Iran and Hezbollah in other Arab states had been widely seen as the root cause of the crisis, which raised fears for Lebanon?s economic and political stability. The Lebanese policy of ?dissociation? was declared in 2012 to keep the deeply divided state out of regional conflicts such as the civil war in neighboring Syria. Despite the policy, Hezbollah is heavily involved there, sending thousands of fighters to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ?The keyword of the final declaration will be to support the disassociation policy,? a second French diplomat said. He said that while the diplomatic language for the final declaration would not single out any party, the message was that Saudi Arabia and Iran should not influence Lebanese politics and that Hezbollah should rein in its regional activities. ?Friday?s meeting isn?t anti-Saudi or anti-Iranian, it?s pro-Lebanon,? he said. Highlighting the difficulties of upholding such a policy, Hezbollah backed calls on Thursday for a new Palestinian uprising in reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump?s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel?s capital. Those attending Friday?s meeting are also set to back efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army and set up an investment conference for Lebanon once legislative elections take place. ?Work needs to be done to consolidate Lebanon?s institutions starting with the army because for the disassociation policy to work Lebanon must be able to protect its own borders and not have a militia doing so,? the second diplomat said.
  7. A general view of an oil dock is seen from a ship at the port of Kalantari ? 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of the Strait of Hormuz ? in Chabahar, Iran, January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/Files DUBAI: Iran opened on Sunday a $1-billion extension of its southeastern Chabahar port which Tehran hopes will help the country become a key transit route to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia, competing with a nearby Pakistani port. President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the expansion, carried out with an investment of $1 billion including $235 million from India ? which has more than tripled the port?s capacity to 8.5 million tonnes a year, state television reported. India has committed $500 million to the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman which is Iran?s closest to the Indian Ocean and would allow it to bypass rival Pakistan. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the US administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran. In October, India sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar, located about 140 kilometres (88 miles) from Pakistan?s Gwadar port, which is being developed with Chinese help.
  8. Iran inaugurated a long-awaited new port at Chabahar in the southeast Sunday, which it is hoped will be a major new trade hub linking India and Africa with Central Asia. Photo: AFP TEHRAN: Iran inaugurated a long-awaited new port at Chabahar in the southeast Sunday, which it is hoped will be a major new trade hub linking India and Africa with Central Asia. The first three shipments of Indian wheat to Afghanistan were unloaded in the morning, according to the Iranian ports organisation. "Through this port, goods will be delivered to neighbouring countries at cheaper prices and in a shorter time," President Hassan Rouhani said at the port, in a speech carried by the state broadcaster. The project was first conceived in 2003 and has so far cost around $1 billion, with India providing $235 million of the financing as it seeks routes that bypass regional rival Pakistan. The port has been under construction for a decade by Khatam al-Anbia, the giant conglomerate owned by the elite Revolutionary Guards. It can accommodate giant ships up to a dry weight of 120,000 tonnes, with further stages of development due to expand the port over the next 14 years. "Chabahar will soon become an important commercial hub for Iran," Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said at the ceremony. Iran has a broader vision of linking the Indian Ocean port with a railway through Zahedan on the Pakistani border up to Mashhad in the northeast. But the project, aimed at facilitating trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, has been slow to get off the ground. Rouhani also underlined the importance of Chabahar as Iran?s only port outside the Gulf, and therefore outside an area that is often the locus of tensions with the US Navy and Iran?s regional rivals.
  9. USGS/MANILA BULLETIN TEHRAN: Three earthquakes hit eastern Iran in quick succession early Friday, the first a fairly strong magnitude 6.0 tremor that struck at a shallow depth close to the populous city of Kerman, the US Geological Survey said. It was followed by two less powerful 5.0 and 5.1 aftershocks in the same area, the survey said. "For the moment, no deaths have been reported but there has been destruction in several villages," Hossein-Ali Mehrabizadeh, an official with the crisis unit in Kerman, told state television. With the tremors hitting around 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Kerman, USGS modelling predicted a low chance of widespread loss to life or property. But residents of the city came out into the street as the quake struck, and motorists were seen rushing to stock up on petrol, according to local media. Kerman´s crisis centre was activated, and rescue teams from the Red Cross and local authorities headed to affected areas for preliminary evaluations, a local official told state television. The University of Tehran´s seismology centre gave slightly different figures, announcing an earthquake of 6.1, followed by aftershocks of 5.1 and 4. The latest tremors come just over two weeks after a 7.3 quake killed more than 500 people in western Kermanshah province, close to the border with neighbouring Iraq. Iran sits on top of where two major tectonic plates meet and sees frequent seismic activity. Friday´s quake hit around 200 kilometres northwest of the ancient city of Bam, which was decimated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2003 that killed at least 31,000 people. In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble. Iran has experienced at least two other major disasters in recent years -- one in 2005 that killed more than 600 people and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.
  10. ISLAMABAD: Two Pakistani Navy (PN) ships, PNS Dehshat and PNS Rahnaward, made a port call to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, said a statement released by the PN. The port visit, scheduled from November 20 to 24, is the second visit by PN ship within a span of a year. Rahnaward, a tall training ship and Dehshat, a fast attack craft-missile docked into port under the command of Commander 10th Patrol Craft Squadron Captain Khalid Pervez. "The visit was aimed to promote peace and' security in the region, enhance maritime collaboration and open new avenues of bilateral cooperation between the two friendly regional navies," said the PN statement. During the visit, the PN delegation held meetings with the naval and military leadership of Iran on matters of mutual interest. A reception dinner was also hosted during the visit by Capt Pervez onboard PNS Rahnaward which was attended by Ambassador of Pakistan Asif Durrani, senior Iranian military and civil officials along with military attaches from China, Poland, Germany and Japan. The visit of the PN flotilla to Iran demonstrates strengthening of cordial relations between Pakistan and Iran based on mutual respect, shared history and culture, added the statement.
  11. The deputy head of Iran?s Revolutionary Guards warned Europe that if it threatens Tehran, the Guards will increase the range of missiles to above 2,000 kilometres, the Fars news agency reported on Saturday. France has called for an ?uncompromising? dialogue with Iran about its ballistic missile programme and a possible negotiation over the issue separate from Tehran?s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is defensive and not negotiable. ?If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000 kilometres, it?s not due to lack of technology. ... We are following a strategic doctrine,? Brigadier General Hossein Salami said, according to Fars. ?So far we have felt that Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles,? he added. The head of Iran?s Revolutionary Guards military force, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said last month that Iran?s 2,000-kilometre missile range could cover ?most of American interest and forces? within the region, so Iran did not need to extend it. Jafari said the ballistic missile range was based on the limits set by the country?s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the head of armed forces. Iran has one of the Middle East?s largest missile programmes and some of its precision-guided missiles have the range to strike Israel. ?POLITICAL AND SPIRITUAL? SUPPORT The United States accused Iran this month of supplying Yemen?s Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Tehran accountable for violating two U.N. Security Council resolutions. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with missiles and weapons. ?Yemen is in total blockade. How could we have given them any missile?? Salami said, according to the Fars report on Saturday. ?If Iran can send a missile to Yemen, it shows the incapability of (the Saudi coalition). But we have not given them missiles.? Salami said the Houthis managed to increase the range and precision of their missiles in a ?scientific breakthrough.? Jafari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, said on Thursday that Iran only provides ?advisory and spiritual? assistances to the Houthis. Iran long denied sending fighters to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against the rebels, and said the Revolutionary Guards? presence on the ground was advisory In what seemed to be a correction of Jafari?s comments, Salami said on Saturday that Iran?s support for the Houthis was ?political and spiritual.? The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate a UN resolution that calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The United States says Iran?s missile programme is a breach of international law because the missiles could carry nuclear warheads in the future. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its nuclear programme is for civilian uses only.
  12. DUBAI: Saudi Arabia?s powerful Crown Prince called the Supreme Leader of Iran ?the new Hitler of the Middle East? in an interview with the New York Times published on Thursday, sharply escalating the war of words between the arch-rivals. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran back rival sides in wars and political crises throughout the region. Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister in the US-allied oil giant kingdom, suggested the Islamic Republic?s alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted. ?But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn?t work. We don?t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,? the paper quoted him as saying.
  13. File Women weightlifters from Iran will be allowed to compete internationally for the first time, the president of the country?s weightlifting federation said on Thursday. In a sign of changing attitudes, Saudi Arabia also confirmed the setting up of a women?s programme, opening the way to the country also fielding a national women?s team six years after the sport?s governing body allowed the wearing of the hijab, in competition. Iran has one of the world?s strongest weightlifting cultures and its men have won seven Olympic gold medals this century. Ali Moradi, president of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation, said, ?We have established the Iran Weightlifting Federation Women?s Committee and we have talented female athletes. ?They have high capacity like men athletes, and I hope that, wearing special clothes for Muslim athletes, they will be able to take part in international championships in the near future.? Attila Adamfi, director general of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), said: ?This is good news, and it?s very significant in Iran, where weightlifting is at the highest level for men, and zero level for women.? Mohammed Alharbi, president of the Saudi Arabia Weightlifting Federation, also confirmed that a new women?s programme had been set up. Iran and Saudi Arabia are the biggest Islamic nations yet to compete in female weightlifting. Both countries field men?s teams at the IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California, starting next week, and are expected to announce more details there. Moradi has invited the United States to Iran for the Fajr Cup, an international invitation competition for men, in Ahvaz in March. He has also asked the US to send a women?s delegation. The United States men?s team will compete in Ahvaz, and the Americans are also planning to send female lifters, coaches and technical officials. The American women will train Iranian coaches and technical officials. A head-to-head friendly women?s international between Iran and the United States may take place. ?Everything is agreed in principle and we are working on the details,? said Phil Andrews, chief executive of USA Weightlifting. ?Despite the political differences between our countries we have always enjoyed a very good relationship with the Iranian Weightlifting Federation. ?Anything we can do to help, we are more than willing to do so.? Those political differences and visa restrictions have made it very difficult for Iranians to travel to the United States. Visas for Iran?s all-male team for the World Championships were delayed and only finally approved on Thursday, said Andrews. Kianoush Rostami, the Olympic champion and world record holder at 85kg, was initially rejected for entry, only receiving a visa on his second application. Adamfi said, ?To have Iran and USA women lifting together would be great, it would show that sport is above politics.? Women were barred from weightlifting until 1983. After a change to the IWF?s rules, women began competing at the World Championships from 1987 and at the Olympic Games from 2000.
  14. Russia´s President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad meet with Russia´s top military officers in Sochi. :AFP SOCHI: President Vladimir Putin said the Russian army had "saved Syria as a state" after meeting with leader Bashar al-Assad, as the Syrian government forces take an upper hand over militants and Daesh. Monday's talks came during an announced "working visit" by Assad to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, ahead of a summit between Putin and the leaders of Turkey and Iran on Wednesday aimed at re-booting the Syrian peace process. "As for our joint work in the fight against terrorism in Syria, this military operation is coming to an end," Putin said, according to a transcript published on the Kremlin´s website. The Russian leader praised Assad and predicted terrorism would suffer an "inevitable" defeat in the country. "Thanks to the Russian army, Syria has been saved as a state. Much has been done to stabilise the situation in Syria," the transcript said. "It is in our interest to advance the political process... we don´t want to look back and we are ready for dialogue with all those who want to come up with a political settlement," Assad said in translated comments. Putin said he would consult world leaders on his talks with Assad, including with US president Donald Trump in a telephone call expected on Tuesday. The Russian army's Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, told Russian news agencies that "despite the fact that there remains a raft of unresolved problems" the military stage "is coming to its logical conclusion". Putin will Wednesday host Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's Hassan Rouhani for the first in a series of summits on the peace process, ahead of parallel UN-led talks in Geneva set for November 28. The meeting - the first such three-way summit between the trio - comes as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran cooperate with increasing intensity on ending the over six-year civil war in Syria that has left 330,000 dead and millions homeless. The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran, which are key Assad backers. "Assad's visit...shows that there was a need to relay the Syrian leadership's position on a future settlement to the Kremlin, and that (Assad) was interested in the forthcoming summit with the presidents of Iran and Turkey," said Russian political analyst Azhdar Kurtov. "It is unlikely this was just another demonstration of the Kremlin´s political loyalty to Assad," he told AFP. "The open-war phase in the Syria conflict will soon be over and the question of a political solution will become more pressing than before." Russia, Iran and Turkey have backed negotiations in the Kazakh capital Astana that have brought together the representatives of the opposition and the regime seven times this year. 'Relaunch direct negotiations' The talks led to the creation of four so-called "de-escalation zones" that produced a drop in violence, but sporadic fighting and bombardment has continued. Moscow is now seeking to steer the process in a political direction. The Sochi summit will help to "relaunch direct negotiations between the Syrian government and the range of the opposition", said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Moscow's military intervention in Syria from 2015 is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. Since then the Syrian army has reclaimed the ancient city of Palmyra from Daesh and driven militants out of their northern bastion Aleppo. This week regime forces also ousted the Daesh from its last urban stronghold in the country, Albu Kamal. Assad's fate Previous attempts to end the war have stalled over the question of the fate of Assad. But Turkey is showing greater flexibility, even if it remains unlikely that it will officially accept the prospect of the Syrian president remaining in power, said Timur Akhmetov, a Turkey expert at the Russian International Affairs Council. "For now, to keep a say in the future political negotiations is more important for Turkey than to have Assad departed from power," he told AFP. Different factions of the Syrian opposition will meet from Wednesday in Riyadh in talks hosted by Saudi Arabia. The aim of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee is to reach consensus on a strategy for talks in Geneva, which will focus on a new constitution for Syria and fresh elections.
  15. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, centre right, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, left, meet with foreign ministers at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, November 19, 2017. Photo: AP1 CAIRO: Saudi Arabia warned Sunday that it would not stand idly by in the face of Iranian "aggression", as Bahrain said the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement was "in total control" of Lebanon. The foreign ministers of both Gulf states spoke at an extraordinary general meeting of the Arab League at its Cairo headquarters, called by Riyadh. The Arab League meeting comes as tensions soar between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, including over League member Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades stood on opposing sides of conflicts in the Middle East including in Syria and Yemen. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir warned Iran that Riyadh will not stand idle in the face of Iranian "aggression". Saudi Arabia "will not hesitate to defend its national security to keep its people safe", Jubeir said in opening remarks at the meeting. "I trust the League?s council will take on its responsibility and take a decision regarding Iranian violations of Arab security," he said ahead of Sunday?s talks. Bahrain?s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon was "in total control" of the country. "Iran?s biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm," he said. He added that Hezbollah "does not just carry out operations inside the borders of (Lebanon), it also crosses its borders to all of our nations", making it "a threat to Arab national security". He called on countries "where Hezbollah is a partner in government to carry their responsibility". Hezbollah a ?terrorist party? "The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation... is under the total control of this terrorist party," Sheikh Khalid said. Riyadh called the ministerial meeting to discuss "violations" by Iran after a missile was intercepted near Riyadh in a November 4 attack claimed by Huthi rebels in Yemen. The ministers were also due to discuss a pipeline fire in Bahrain on November 10, accusing Iran of responsibility. Saudi Arabia?s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has accused Tehran of "direct military aggression" against the kingdom by supplying the Yemen rebels with ballistic missiles, but Tehran has denied any involvement. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates supported the Saudi request for the extraordinary meeting, which was also approved by Djibouti, the current chair of the pan-Arab bloc, according to a memorandum seen by AFP. Saudi-Iranian tensions have escalated over Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri?s shock resignation, also on November 4, in a statement from Riyadh in which he cited Iran?s "grip" on his country and threats to his life. Lebanon?s foreign minister did not attend Sunday?s session, but Beirut?s permanent representative was present. For more than a decade, Lebanon?s political class has been largely split between allegedly Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies, and a Saudi-supported coalition led by Hariri. In Syria, Hezbollah has fought to defend the government of President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran.
  16. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates supported the Saudi request, which was also approved by Djibouti, the current chair of the pan-Arab bloc. Photo: Al Arabiya file The Arab League is holding an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss ?violations? committed by Iran in the region, Al Arabiya reported. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates supported the Saudi request to hold the meeting, which was also approved by Djibouti, the current chair of the pan-Arab bloc. The Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said that Iran seeks to be a ?dangerous dagger? in the region, especially toward Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. Gheit also confirmed that a recent missile launched by Houthi militias targeting Saudi Arabia was Iranian-made. ?Ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have amounted to 76 rockets, all Iranian-made, and therefore we affirm our full solidarity with Saudi Arabia in everything it takes to protect its national security,? he said during the emergency meeting held on Sunday. Tensions have been rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudi request was based on a missile the kingdom says its air defenses intercepted near Riyadh after being fired from Yemen on November 4, according to a memo. In its request for the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, Saudi Arabia referred to those two incidents ?in addition to the violations committed by Iran in the Arab region, which undermines security and peace, not only in the Arab region, but around the globe,? according to the memo.
  17. [embed_video1 url= style=center] ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) C-130 aircraft airlifted relief goods to Iran on Sunday. The aircraft carried more than 12 tons of relief goods dispatched by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan for the humanitarian relief assistance of Iran's earthquake victims. The relief goods include 165 tents, 1050 blankets, 200 tarpaulins, 200 plastic mats, perishable items, and other supplies. The PAF C-130 aircraft landed back today (Sunday) at the PAF Nur Khan airbase after delivering the goods. Iran has only accepted aid from Pakistan after it was hit by the deadliest earthquake in more than a decade earlier on November 13. Strong earthquake hits Iraq and Iran, killing more than 450 The quake rocked a border area 30 kilometres southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan Iran?s English-language Press TV had said that more than 450 people were killed and 7,000 were injured when the magnitude 7.3 earthquake jolted the country on Sunday. The quake was felt in several provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah. More than 300 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab county in that province, about 15 km (10 miles) from the Iraq border. Iranian state television had said the quake had caused heavy damage in some villages where houses were made of earthen bricks. The quake also triggered landslides that hindered rescue efforts, officials told state television. Relief workers had said that while much aid had been pledged, there was an immediate need for blankets, children?s clothes, medicine and large cans to store drinking water. TV aired footage of some people weeping next to corpses shrouded in blankets.
  18. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends an interview with Reuters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 16, 2017. Photo: Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabia?s Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said on Thursday the kingdom?s actions in the Middle East were a response to what he called Iranian aggression and hinted at future action against Lebanon?s Hezbollah. Long-standing arch-rivals Riyadh and Tehran are waging a contest for power on several fronts across the region, notably in Yemen and Lebanon. ?(The Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying: ?Enough is enough. We?re not going to let you do this anymore?,? Jubeir told Reuters in an interview. He said Saudi Arabia was consulting its allies about what leverage to use against Lebanese group Hezbollah ? an Iranian ally ? to end its dominance in the small Mediterranean nation and 'intervention' in other countries. ?We will make the decision when the time comes,? he said, declining to detail what options were under consideration. Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon last week of declaring war against it because of acts by Hezbollah, which is both a militant and political organisation represented in Lebanon?s parliament and government. Jubeir said Hezbollah, which he described as a subsidiary of Iran?s Revolutionary Guard ?doing Iran?s bidding?, must disarm for Lebanon to stabilise. ?Wherever we see a problem, we see Hezbollah act as an arm or agent of Iran and this has to come to an end,? he said. Jubeir said Iran had harboured terrorists, assassinated diplomats and interfered in other countries? affairs ? charges Tehran denies. ?If you want us to deal with you as a good neighbour, act like one. But if you continue to act in an aggressive manner, we will push back,? he said. Lebanon Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power less than three years ago, Riyadh has struck a more aggressive posture towards Iran, launching a war in Yemen, leading a boycott of neighbouring Qatar in part for allegedly cosying up to Tehran, and ratcheting up its rhetoric against Hezbollah. Saad al-Hariri, a Saudi ally, resigned as Lebanon?s prime minister on November 4, citing an assassination plot and accusing Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the region. Lebanese officials say Hariri had come under pressure from Riyadh, which they accuse of holding him captive despite his denials. Hariri said on Thursday he would visit Paris ?very soon? and is expected to then return to Lebanon. Jubeir repeated Saudi denials that Riyadh had forced Hariri to resign or held him against his will. ?He?s a free man, he can do whatever he wants,? Jubeir said. Asked if Saudi wanted Hariri to withdraw his resignation, Jubeir said: ?That is his decision to make.? Saudi?s top diplomat said reigning in Hezbollah was the priority and the ?facade? that the group needed to hold on to its weapons should be exposed. ?If they are to support the resistance, what are they doing in Syria fighting on behalf of the regime alongside the Iranian militias?? he said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling rebels backed in part by Saudi Arabia. ?If they are there to protect Lebanon, what are they doing in Yemen?? Yemen Saudi Arabia is backing Yemen?s internationally recognised government against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in a two and a half-year-old war. The kingdom has been criticised for killing civilians in airstrikes there and blocking humanitarian aid. Jubeir accused the Houthis, who control much of the country?s north, of besieging civilian areas and preventing supplies from coming in or out. A military coalition led by the kingdom has enforced a near-blockade on Yemen, which aid agencies say has contributed to unleashing famine and disease in the already impoverished country. It closed all air, land, and sea access on November 6 following the interception of a missile fired towards Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has since said that aid can go through ?liberated ports? but not Houthi-controlled Hodeidah, the conduit for the vast bulk of imports into Yemen. Jubeir said the ports of Aden, Mokha and Midi along with Aden airport had resumed operations. The heads of three UN agencies on Thursday warned ?untold thousands? would die if the blockade stayed in place. Jubeir also said domestic anti-corruption investigations which have netted senior Saudi princes, officials and businessmen in the past two weeks were ongoing. He rejected as ?nonsense? criticisms the campaign fell foul of the law. ?Those who are guilty are likely to be referred to the courts and they will have fair, transparent trials,? he said.
  19. Russian President Vladimir Putin will next week host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria. Photo: AFP file ANKARA: Russian President Vladimir Putin will next week host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria, officials from Turkey and Russia said Thursday. With the violence in Syria diminishing but still no political solution in sight, the three presidents will meet at Putin?s official residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on November 22. The meeting ?the first such three-way summit between the trio ?comes as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran cooperate with increasing intensity on ending the more than six-year civil war in Syria. They are sponsoring peace talks in Kazakh capital Astana and also implementing a plan for de-escalation zones in key flashpoint areas of Syria. Turkey?s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the three leaders would discuss progress in reducing the violence in Syria and ensuring humanitarian aid goes to those in need. Describing Iran, Russia and Turkey as the three ?guarantor? countries, he said the talks would look at what they could do for a lasting political solution in Syria. Confirming the summit, Putin?s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was just these three countries who were the ?guarantors of the process of political settlement and stability and security that we see now in Syria?. There was no immediate comment from Tehran. ?Six meetings in one year? The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran. Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow?s military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad?s ouster in a conflict that has left more than 330,000 dead. But Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria. In recent months, Turkey has markedly toned down its criticism of the Assad regime and focused on opposing Syrian Kurdish militia seen by Ankara as a terror group. According to the Anadolu news agency, Putin and Erdogan have already met five times this year and spoken by telephone 13 times. Erdogan last met Putin for talks in Sochi only days ago on November 13, agreeing on the need to boost elements for a lasting settlement. Turkey earlier this month said Russia had decided to postpone a planned Syria peace conference with all parties after Ankara objected to the potential inclusion of Kurdish forces. Moscow denied this was the case, saying a date for the conference had never been set. Peskov told reporters in Moscow that the date for the ?Congress of Syrian National Dialogue? had still yet to be fixed.
  20. A Iranian precision-guided ballistic missile is launched as it is tested at an undisclosed location on October 11, 2015. ? Reuters FILE PARIS: France said on Wednesday it wanted an ?uncompromising? dialogue with Iran about its ballistic missile program and a possible negotiation over the issue separate from Tehran?s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Paris has already suggested that new European sanctions against Iran could be discussed over its missile tests, something EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini seemed to dismiss on Tuesday, keen not to raise risks to the hard-won deal that curbed Iran?s disputed nuclear activity. On Sunday, Iran rejected a call by French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on its missiles, saying they were defensive in nature and had nothing to do with its nuclear energy work. ?France is concerned about the continued pace of the Iranian missile program, which does not conform with (UN) Security Council Resolution 2231 and which is a source of destabilisation and insecurity for the region,? Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters in a daily briefing. Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear deal, calls on Iran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs, including launches using such technology. It stops short of explicitly barring such activity. ?France wishes to examine all the diplomatic options: a frank and uncompromising political dialogue with Iran; investigations by the UN General Secretariat; if necessary, new European sanctions against Iranian entities or individuals involved in the ballistic program; and finally opening a negotiation on the subject,? she said. President Donald Trump, who has resumed a confrontational US approach to Iran in contrast with predecessor Barack Obama?s policy of detente, has said Iranian missile activity should be curbed and wants to punish Tehran over its role in Yemen and Syria. Trump has also dealt a blow to Iran?s nuclear deal - agreed with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States under Obama - by decertifying Iranian compliance with its terms, contradicting the findings of UN nuclear inspectors. The US Congress now has until mid-December to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that had been lifted in exchange for limiting its nuclear program in ways meant to prevent it from developing an atomic bomb. But the EU, which normally coordinates closely with Washington on international sanctions, has been lobbying hard to keep the nuclear pact alive, saying it should be kept separate from missile and regional security matters. France?s tougher line on the missile issue appears to reflect a concern that Iran might eventually try to arm a missile cone with a nuclear bomb, should it ever build one. Tehran has repeatedly denied any intent to do so. Romatet-Espagne reiterated the view that the nuclear deal should be kept separate, but said the ballistic missile issue was being discussed with fellow EU governments and Mogherini?s foreign service. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian had been due to visit Tehran before the end of the month, although that has now been pushed back to later in the year due to a busy schedule, a diplomatic source said. Any EU-wide sanctions action requires the unanimity of all 28 member states but there is no consensus on new punitive steps against Iran, a fact made clear by Mogherini on Monday. ?We didn?t discuss, not today, not last week [and] I don?t foresee any discussion also in the future, further sanctions from the EU side on Iran,? she said, alluding to Macron?s remarks, after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
  21. Apartment blocks in the Iranian town of Sarpol-e Zahab are left devastated by the November 12, 2017 earthquake that killed hundreds of people and left tens of thousands homeless. Photo: AFP file1 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered aid to the victims of the weekend's deadly earthquake in Iran insisting enmity between the two governments does not prevent humanitarian sympathy. The offer, made in a video conference with the Jewish Federations of North America, was largely rhetorical. Iran does not recognise the Jewish state and Israeli media reported that the offer was swiftly turned down through the International Committee of the Red Cross. But it comes as many of the tens of thousands left homeless by the quake have vented anger at the Islamic regime for what they say has been the slow response of the charitable foundations set up after the revolution of 1979. "I saw these heartbreaking images of men and women and children buried under the rubble," Netanyahu told the meeting in Los Angeles. "A few hours ago, I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster. "I've said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred." More than 400 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless by the quake that struck on the Iran-Iraq border late on Sunday. Tens of thousands of Jews of Iranian ancestry have played a prominent role in the state of Israel, counting among their number a former president, a former army chief and several former government ministers.
  22. Exhausted and exposed to freezing cold, survivors of a weekend earthquake in western Iran begged authorities for food and shelter on Tuesday, saying aid was slow to reach them. Iranian officials called off rescue operations earlier in the day on the grounds that there was little chance of finding more survivors from the quake, which killed at least 530 people and injured thousands of others. It was Iran?s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade. Survivors, many left homeless by Sunday?s 7.3 magnitude quake that struck villages and towns in Kermansheh province along the mountainous border with Iraq, struggled through another bleak day on Tuesday in need of food, water and shelter. Iran has so far declined offers of foreign assistance to deal with the aftermath of the tremor, which officials said damaged 30,000 homes and completely destroyed two villages. ?We are hungry. We are cold. We are homeless. We are alone in this world,? a weeping Maryam Ahang, who lost 10 members of her family in the hardest hit town of Sarpol-e Zahab, told Reuters by telephone. ?My home is now a pile of mud and broken tiles. I slept in the park last night. It is cold and I am scared.? Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged state agencies on Tuesday to speed up aid efforts. President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to the stricken region, promising to resolve ?the problems in the shortest time?. Thousands of people huddled in makeshift camps while many others chose to spend another cold night in the open because they feared more tremors after some 230 aftershocks. In some areas, no building was left standing and those that were had been deserted for fear they could come crashing down at any moment. Houses in impoverished Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mudbrick that can quickly crumble and collapse in a strong quake. State television aired footage of weeping villagers carrying away bodies wrapped in bloodied blankets and bed sheets and scrabbling with their bare hands through rubble in search of friends and relatives. ?It was my cousin?s birthday ... All the relatives were 50 people. But now almost all are dead,? Reza, who refused to give his full name, told Reuters from Sarpol-e Zahab town. He lost 34 members of his family on Sunday. ?We spent two nights in the cold. Where is the aid?? On the Iraq side of the frontier, nine people were killed and over 550 injured, all in the northern Kurdish provinces. LACK OF WATER, ELECTRICITY, ROADS BLOCKED Television showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake. But by Tuesday morning Iranian officials said there was no longer any likelihood of finding survivors and called off the search. Hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Hundreds of critically injured were dispatched to hospitals in Tehran. Iran?s Red Crescent said emergency shelter had been provided for thousands of homeless people but a lack of electricity and water, as well as blocked roads, hindered aid supply efforts. ?People in some villages are still in dire need of food, water and shelter,? said Faramraz Akbari, governor of Qasr-e Shirin county in Kermanshah province. State TV showed dozens of green and white tents dotting Sarpol-e Zahab, many containing two or three families. Groups clustered around bonfires trying to warm themselves. ?It is cold. My children are freezing. We have water and food but no tent. The quake did not kill us but the cold weather will kill us,? a woman in her 30s said. The mayor of the city of Ezgeleh said 80 percent of its buildings had collapsed. Survivors desperately needed tents with elderly people and babies as young as a one-year-old sleeping in the cold for two straight nights. ?People are hungry and thirsty,? a local man told ISNA news agency. ?There is no electricity. Last night I cried when I saw children with no food or shelter.? Some people were angry that among the collapsed buildings were homes built under an affordable housing scheme initiated in 2011 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani has repeatedly criticized the project for damaging the economy. ?The people should build their own houses. They build better houses than those built under projects and schemes,? Rouhani said in Kermanshah, state TV reported. ?I promise you, those responsible will be punished.? Iran is crisscrossed by major geological fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6 quake in 2003 that reduced the historic southeastern city of Bam to dust and killed some 31,000 people.
  23. People react as they run following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran. REUTERS ANKARA: Iran said on Tuesday that rescue operations have ended in areas hit by a powerful weekend earthquake that killed at least 450 people and injured thousands of others, state television reported. ?The rescue operations in the (western) Kermanshah province have ended,? Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran?s Emergency Medical Services, said on state TV. Sunday?s 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck villages and towns in the mountainous area of Kermanshah province that borders Iraq while many people were at home asleep. At least 14 provinces in Iran were affected. State television said thousands were huddling in makeshift camps while many others spent a second night in the open for fear of more tremors to come after some 193 aftershocks. A man walks past a damaged building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniya Governorate, Iraq, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/ A homeless young woman in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the hardest-hit towns, told state TV that her family was exposed to the night chill because of lack of tents. ?It is a very cold night... we need help. We need everything. The authorities should speed up their help,? she said. Iran?s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences on Monday and called on government agencies to do all they could to help those affected. Iranian police, the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia forces were dispatched to affected areas on Sunday night. President Hassan Rouhani will visit the area on Tuesday, state TV said. Television showed footage of rescue workers frantically combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake. But Iranian officials said the chances of finding any more survivors were extremely low. Bitter cold Hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Hundreds of critically injured people were dispatched to hospitals in Tehran. Iran?s Red Crescent said emergency shelters had been given to thousands of homeless people, but lack of water and electricity as well as blocked roads in some areas hindered aid supply efforts. Local authorities said traffic chaos on roads, caused by people from nearby provinces who were rushing to help, further hampered the flow of aid to quake-hit areas. ?People in some villages are still in dire need of food, water and shelter,? governor of Qasr-e Shirin Faramarz Akbari told state television. More than 30,000 houses in the area were damaged and at least two villages were completely destroyed, Iranian authorities said. Houses in Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mudbrick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake. Photographs posted on Iranian news websites showed rescue workers digging people out of collapsed buildings, cars smashed beneath rubble and rescue dogs trying to find signs of life under the twisted remains of collapsed buildings. ?More people will die because of cold. My family lives in a village near Sarpol-e Zahab. I cannot even go there. I don?t know whether they are dead or alive,? Rojan Meshkat, 38, in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj told Reuters by telephone. Iran is crisscrossed by major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6 magnitude quake in 2003 that reduced the historic southeastern city of Bam to dust and killed some 31,000 people. The quake, centered in Penjwin in Iraq?s Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, killed at least six people in Iraq and injured more than 68 others. In northern Iraq?s Kurdish districts, seven were killed and 325 wounded.
  24. VIENNA: Iran remains in compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, a UN watchdog report showed Monday, four weeks after US President Donald Trump refused to certify the agreement. The quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency update confirmed that key parameters of Iran's nuclear programme remained within the limits of the accord with major powers. The restricted report, seen by AFP, said Iran "has not enriched" uranium above low levels and that its stockpile of enriched uranium was under the agreed limit of 300 kilogrammes. Uranium when "enriched" to high purities can be used in a nuclear weapon. At low purities, it can be used for peaceful applications such as power generation, Iran's stated aim. The new IAEA report said that the number of enrichment centrifuges installed at Iran's Natanz site remained below the upper limit of 5,060 during the reporting period. The volume of heavy water - a reactor coolant - remained below the agreed maximum of 130 tonnes throughout the past three months and on November 6 was 114.4 tonnes. Iran has gone above that ceiling twice since the deal came into force in January 2016. Iran removed and rendered inoperable the core of the Arak reactor -- which could, in theory, have given Iran weapons-grade plutonium, before the accord entered into force The IAEA assessment showed that, aside from on heavy water, a relatively minor breach, Tehran has complied with the deal since its entry into force in January 2016. However, on October 13 US President Donald Trump refused to certify the deal, saying it was not in the US national interest and leaving the accord´s fate up to Congress. The decision gave the Republican-controlled Congress 60 days - which run out in mid-December - to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic republic. Trump warned that the agreement would be "terminated" at any time if US lawmakers and the other signatories fail to address its "many serious flaws". According to Trump, these include "sunset clauses" that see key provisions expire in 10-15 years, "insufficient enforcement" and a "near total silence" on Iran´s ballistic missile programme.
  25. DUBAI: Gulf kingdom Bahrain has accused Iran of being behind a pipeline fire that temporarily halted oil supplies from Saudi Arabia, but Tehran rejected the allegation as "childish". On Saturday, Bahrain's foreign minister blamed Iran for the fire near the capital Manama, which was brought under control after it was discovered earlier in the day. "The attempt to blow up the Saudi-Bahraini pipeline is a dangerous escalation on Iran´s part that aims to terrorise citizens and to harm the world oil industry," Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa wrote on Twitter. A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry on Sunday rejected the accusations. "Obviously, the only thing Bahraini officials have learned to do after each incident in the emirate is to accuse Iran," Bahram Ghassemi said. "The era of childish accusations and lies is over," he said, adding Iran wanted "the stability and security of its neighbours". Bahrain relies on the Abu Safa field, which it shares with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, for much of its oil, pumped in via a 230,000-barrel-per-day pipeline. National oil company Bapco on Sunday said it had fixed the pipeline, which would allow oil to flow back into the country. Emergency services brought the blaze under control after it was discovered early Saturday, Bahrain´s interior ministry said, and evacuated homes in the nearby village of Buri, 15 kilometres (10 miles) south of Manama. The ministry blamed a "terrorist act" for the fire. "It is an act of sabotage, a serious terrorist act aimed at harming the interests of the nation and endangering the population," it said on Twitter. Bahrain has seen sporadic violence since the repression in 2011 of a protest movement demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Authorities have since tightened their grip on dissent, jailing hundreds of protesters and stripping a string of high-profile activists and clerics of citizenship. Bahrain is home to the US Navy´s Fifth Fleet and a British army base is currently under construction.