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Found 34 results

  1. According to Asif Ali Durrani, the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project will be completed within the next two years. Photo: prideofpakistan.com TEHRAN: Pakistan?s Ambassador to Iran, Asif Ali Durrani, in an interview with Iranian Student?s News Agency (ISNA), said that China Pakistan Economic Corridor will benefit both Gwadar and Chabahar ports. When asked about the Gwadar and Chabahar ports, Durrani commented that both the ports complement each other and that the goal of the China-Pakistan corridor is to promote regional trade in South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. He also said that Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project will be completed within the next two years. The project was halted due to the sanctions imposed on Iran, preventing investment in the region, but since sanctions had been lifted the work is in progress. Durrani stressed that Pakistan will refrain from taking sides in a dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to Durrani, Pakistan wants ?unity and peace? among Muslim countries and seeks to fight terrorism and extremist activities. He hopes that the neighbouring countries will resolve their problems through negotiations. ?It was in this spirit that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Iran last year with the view to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We sincerely hope that the two brotherly countries would be able to resolve their outstanding differences through dialogue.? He further said, ?We do not take sides on issues which may cause disunity between brothers. Our participation in the alliance is consistent with our policy of achieving unity among the Muslim countries.? He remarked that an agreement had been made between President Rouhani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve economic relations and increase bilateral trade by $5 billion in the next five years. According to statistics issued by the Iranian government, bilateral trade had seen a surge of 28% in 2016-17.
  2. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Reuters WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia's new crown prince and likely next king shares US President Donald Trump's hawkish view of Iran, but a more confrontational approach toward Tehran carries a risk of escalation in an unstable region, current and former US officials said. Iran will almost certainly respond to a more aggressive posture by the United States and its chief Sunni Arab ally in battlefields where Riyadh and Tehran are engaged in a regional tussle for influence. Saudi King Salman made his son Mohammed bin Salman next in line to the throne on Wednesday, handing the 31-year-old sweeping powers, in a succession shake-up. Prince Mohammed, widely referred to as "MbS," has ruled out any dialogue with arch rival Iran and pledged to protect his conservative kingdom from what he called Tehran's efforts to dominate the Muslim world. In the first meeting between Trump and MbS at the White House in March, the two leaders noted the importance of "confronting Iran's destabilising regional activities." But that could have unintended consequences, said some current and former US administration officials. The greatest danger for the Trump administration, a longtime US government expert on Middle East affairs said, was for the United States to be dragged deeper into the sectarian conflict playing out across the Middle East, a danger that could be compounded by Trump?s delegation of responsibility for military decisions to the Pentagon. If the administration gives US commanders greater authority to respond to Iranian air and naval provocations in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, things could easily spiral out of control, the official said. US-backed forces fighting in Syria are also in close proximity with Iranian-backed forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. US military jets twice this month shot down Iranian-made drones threatening US and coalition forces in southeastern Syria. The United States also supports the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen through refueling, logistics and limited intelligence assistance. "If we were to witness an incident at sea between an Iranian and a US vessel in the Gulf, at a time of immense distrust and zero communication, how likely is it that the confrontation would be defused rather than exacerbated?" said Rob Malley, vice president for policy at the International Crisis Group. "If there's a more bellicose attitude towards Iran, Iran is likely to respond," said Malley, a former senior adviser on Middle East affairs under President Barack Obama. Eric Pelofsky, who dealt with Middle East issues at the White House under Obama, said the administration had "laboured pretty hard to avoid a direct clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the high seas," in part because it would expand the Yemen conflict and there were questions "about what the outcome of such an encounter might be." But Luke Coffey, director of the Foreign Policy Center at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, doubted Iran would retaliate in a major way. "Iran has very limited ability or options to retaliate against US forces in the region without suffering an overwhelming US response," Coffey said. "I think Tehran knows this so they will stick to low-level tactics like harassing US ships in the Gulf. This will be just enough to be annoying but not enough to be considered 'retaliating,'" he said. Close relationship MbS was the driving force behind the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen against Iran-allied Houthi rebels, launched in March 2015. He also appears to have orchestrated this month's breach with neighbour Qatar, which was accused by Riyadh and three other Arab states of cozying up to Iran, funding terrorism or fomenting regional instability. Qatar denies the allegations. "There?s a danger that his foreign policy instincts, that do tend to be aggressive, especially toward Iran, but also toward Sunni extremism, might end up distracting from what he wants to get done economically," said a former Obama administration official, referring to "Vision 2030," MbS's signature economic and social reform agenda. Malley, who has met MbS, said his attitude toward Iran "stems from his strongly felt conviction that for too long the kingdom has been a punching bag, a passive witness to Iranian action, true or assumed, in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's own eastern province." "His view is that Saudi Arabia absorbed those blows and now there's no reason to absorb them anymore," Malley said. That dovetails neatly with Trump who has said Iran promotes evil and is a key source of funding and support for militant groups. MbS has also developed a close relationship with Trump's influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who at 36 is close in age to him. MbS's "desire to confront or even defeat Iran has appeal in the White House, where the crown prince has done an admirable job forging a relationship with the Kushners, who are of his generation," said the US official. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had dinner with MbS when the US president visited Riyadh last month, the first stop on Trump's maiden international visit. Another senior administration official told Reuters that while Washington did not have advance warning of MbS's promotion, it could see it coming. "This is why the president has tried to foster good relations with him," the official said.
  3. TEHRAN: Iran has targeted militants in Syria with missiles in retaliation for deadly attacks in Tehran. Late Sunday, the elite Revolutionary Guards launched six missiles from western Iran into Syria´s mostly Daesh held Deir Ezzor province, hitting their command base, the Guards said. The strike was "revenge" for twin attacks in Tehran on June 7 that killed 17 people in the first Daesh claimed attacks inside Iran, a Guards spokesman added. As well as punishing "terrorists", it was intended to show that Iran is capable of projecting military power across the region, officials and experts said. Sunday´s strike was the first known missile attack launched from Iran into foreign territory since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. "The missile attacks were only a small part of Iran´s punitive power against terrorists and enemies," Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif said Monday. "International and regional supporters of the terrorists must realise the warning message of the missile operation." Iran has long accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of backing "terrorists". US President Donald Trump meanwhile accuses Iran of backing terrorism, a charge it denies and has threatened to tear up a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.
  4. QUETTA: A mortar shell fired from Iran landed in the Prom area of Panjgur District in Balochistan early Sunday morning. Officials of the district administration said on Monday that no loss of life or damage was reported in the incident. They informed that a strong protest has been lodged with the Iranian border officials, and that a flag-meeting has been called on Tuesday (tomorrow) to resolve the matter as this is the third such violation in recent weeks. Five mortar shells fired from Iran land in Chaghai No casualties reported, according to security officials On May 27, a man was killed in mortar shelling from the Iranian side of the border in Panjgur. The district commissioner had informed that a mortar shell landed on a vehicle, instantly killing one man inside and causing extensive damage nearby. A ?strong protest? as well as a ?flag meeting? was called then too. A week prior to that, five mortar shells fired from Iran landed in the Chaghai area of the province. No casualties were reported in the incident.
  5. Photo: File Iran and China began a joint naval exercise in the Gulf on Sunday, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The military drill comes at a time of heightened tension between the Iranian and US military in the Gulf and is likely to be a cause of concern for Washington. In recent months, the US navy has accused the Iranian navy of sending fast-attack boats to harass warships as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz. An Iranian destroyer and two Chinese destroyers are among the vessels that will participate in the exercise, which will take place in the eastern portion of the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman, according to IRNA. Some 700 Iranian navy personnel will be participating in the drill. Two Chinese warships docked at Iran's Bandar Abbas port to take part in a joint naval exercise in the Gulf for the first time in 2014.
  6. TEHRAN: Iran on Friday condemned new sanctions adopted by the US Senate and vowed to respond with "reciprocal and adequate measures". Tehran "will take reciprocal and adequate measures to guarantee its national interests", foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said, quoted by ISNA news agency. He did not elaborate. The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions on Iran for its alleged "continued support of terrorism" and the bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for approval. The new restrictions impose mandatory sanctions on people involved with the Islamic republic´s ballistic missile programme and those that transact with them. It also applies terrorism-related sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and re-enforces aspects of the arms embargo on Iran. Ghassemi retorted that the measure against Iran´s ballistic missile programme was "totally illegal and illegitimate". "Iran´s armed forces will continue to defend the country´s security and interests," the foreign ministry spokesman said. "Iran´s ballistic programme is totally legitimate." There continues to be strong resistance in Washington to the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers, with many lawmakers still unhappy with the deal.
  7. Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi were on target as Iran confirmed their spot in the 2018 World Cup finals with a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Monday. It was Iran's sixth win from eight matches in Group A which took the table-toppers to 20 points, while South Korea are second on 13 ahead of their match against Qatar on Tuesday. Iran are still unbeaten in the third stage of qualifying and amazingly have not conceded a single goal during the campaign, thus underlining their credentials as one of Asia's football giants. On Monday, they recorded their second win over Uzbekistan on the road to Russia, with Rostov forward Azmoun first finding the net in the 23rd minute with a right-footed shot from the left of the box following a through ball from Alireza Jahanbaksh. Iran were clearly the dominant side in front of their home fans and could have easily emerged winners with an even more impressive scoreline but for some lacklustre finishing. In the 48th minute Taremi drew a foul from Akmal Shorakhmedov, but Masoud Shojaei fired the resulting penalty high over the crossbar. The Uzbeks struggled for momentum and failed to break down the famed Iranian defence, eventually conceding their second goal of the match in the 88th minute with Taremi finishing from Azmoun's pass. Iran have played in the World Cup finals four times in the past ? in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 ? while Uzbekistan are still seeking their first ever qualification. Samvel Babayan's men, who have 12 points from eight matches, are not yet out of contention for an automatic place but will have to win their remaining two matches and hope other results go in their favour. Iran join hosts Russia and five-time champions Brazil in securing a place for the tournament which runs from June 14 to July 15, 2018.
  8. TEHRAN: Iran has tracked down and killed several suspected militants including the alleged mastermind of twin attacks in Tehran last week, a security official and a minister have said. Dozens of suspects have been arrested since the attacks on Wednesday killed 17 people in the first assault in Iran to be claimed by the Daesh militant group. Police late Sunday killed four Daesh suspects in the southern province of Hormozgan, the ISNA news agency on Monday reported police chief Azizollah Maleki as saying. "Two of the killed criminals were foreign nationals... while the identity of other members is being investigated," Maleki said, adding that weapons and a Daesh flag were seized during the raid. Iran has said five Iranians, who had joined Daesh and travelled to its Iraq and Syria bastions, carried out Wednesday´s attacks on the parliament and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Late Saturday, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said the alleged mastermind behind the attacks had been tracked down and killed outside the country. "The mastermind who controlled the team... who had fled outside the country... paid the price for his crimes, with the cooperation of intelligence services of allied countries," Alavi told state television, without providing further details. At least 41 Daesh suspects have been arrested since the attacks, according to Alavi, who said Iran has dismantled suspected militant cells with increasing frequency in recent months. In the entire year to March 2017 "we dismantled 45 cells, while in the past two-and-a-half months alone we have dismantled more than 25 terrorist cells," he said. Officials have reported the arrests of suspected Daesh members in and around Tehran, as well as in the country´s centre, southern governorates, and western provinces near the Iraqi border.
  9. Smoke is seen during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS Iran said its security forces on Saturday killed the mastermind of a twin attack on Tehran that left 17 people dead this week, as security was tightened around the country to prevent other possible plots. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings and gun attacks on parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on Wednesday. "The mastermind and main commander of terrorist attacks on the parliament and Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini was killed today by the security forces," intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. Alavi said that in the last month the intelligence ministry had identified and crushed "a terrorist team" almost every day but had not publicised it to avoiding spreading fear among the public. Iranian authorities have also arrested seven people it suspects of helping militants involved in attacks, a judiciary official said on Saturday. Ahmad Fazelian, a provincial judiciary official, said the seven, suspected of "providing support for the terrorist team", were detained in Fardis, about 50 kilometres west of Tehran, the judiciary's online news agency Mizan reported. On Friday, authorities announced the arrests of 41 suspects in connection with the twin Tehran attacks. Separately, the head of the judiciary in Fars province said seven people were detained in the southern Larestan area for possible ties to Daesh, Iran's ISNA news agency reported on Saturday. Tehran police said the car the attackers used on Wednesday was discovered on Saturday in the city centre. "The terrorists first went by car to the mausoleum and after dropping two of them off, went to the city centre to attack parliament," the police said in a statement published on state media.
  10. Iran's foreign minister on Thursday rejected Donald Trump's condolences for the deadly attacks in Tehran. Photo: Reuters/file Iran's foreign minister on Thursday rejected Donald Trump's condolences for deadly attacks in Tehran, calling the US president's words repugnant. Trump had said he prayed for the victims of Wednesday's attacks that were claimed by Daesh, but added that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account: "Repugnant White House statement .... Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship." Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in Tehran, killing at least 13 people in an unprecedented assault that Iran's Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia. However, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
  11. geo_embedgallery TEHRAN: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in Tehran on Wednesday, killing at least 13 people in an unprecedented assault that Iran's Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia. Daesh claimed responsibility and threatened more attacks against Iran's majority population, seen by the hardline militants as heretics. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: "Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland. Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy." He did not explicitly blame any country but the tweet appeared to refer to comments made by Saudi Arabia?s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, in May, saying that Riyadh would bring "the battle" for regional influence to Iran. Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in the Tehran attacks, but the assault further fuels tensions between Riyadh and Tehran as they vie for control of the Gulf and influence in the wider Islamic world. It comes days after Riyadh and other Muslim powers cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups. They were the first attacks claimed by Daesh inside the tightly controlled Muslim country, one of the powers leading the fight against IS forces in nearby Iraq and Syria. The deputy head of Iran's National Security Council, Reza Seifollhai, told state TV late on Wednesday that the attackers were people from Iran who had joined Daesh. Iranian police said they had arrested five suspects Armed men launched two attacks in Iran's capital on Wednesday morning, killing a guard at the parliament and wounding several people in the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. Photo: Iranian news agency Mizan Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "These fireworks have no effect on Iran. They will soon be eliminated." "They are too small to affect the will of the Iranian nation and its officials," state TV quoted him saying. The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused Riyadh of being behind the attacks and vowed to seek revenge. "This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the US president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Daesh has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack," a Guards statement said. Trump said in a statement that he prayed for the victims of the attacks but added that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." The US State Department and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres both condemned the attacks. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said he did not know who was responsible for the attacks and said there was no evidence Saudi extremists were involved. DRESSED AS WOMEN Attackers dressed as women burst through parliament's main entrance, deputy interior minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the Tasnim news agency. One of them detonated a suicide vest, he said. Police helicopters circled over parliament, with snipers on its rooftop. Within five hours, four attackers were dead and the incident was over, Iranian media said. "I was inside the parliament when shooting happened. Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly," said one journalist at the scene. Soon after the assault on parliament began, a bomber detonated a suicide vest near the shrine of the Islamic Republic's revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, a few kilometres south of the city, Zolfaghari said. A second attacker was shot dead, he said. The shrine is a main destination for tourists and religious pilgrims. "The terrorists had explosives strapped to them and suddenly started to shoot around," said the shrine's overseer, Mohammadali Ansari. By late evening, deputy interior minister Zolfaghari put the death toll at 13, with 43 wounded. The Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested another "terrorist team" planning a third attack. The National Security Council's Seifollhai said Iran had foiled 58 similar attacks, without specifying a time period. REGIONAL ANIMOSITY The attacks follow several weeks of heightened rhetorical animosity between Riyadh and Tehran. In unusually blunt remarks on May 2, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Saudi defence minister and a son of King Salman, said he would protect his country from what he called Iranian efforts to dominate the Muslim world. Any struggle for influence between the Muslim kingdom and the revolutionary theocracy ought to take place "inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia," he said without elaborating. The next day Iran accused Saudi Arabia of seeking tension in the region, saying the prince had made "destructive" comments and it was proof that Riyadh supported terrorism. The attacks could also exacerbate tensions in Iran between newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who positions himself as a reformer, and his rivals among hardline clergy and the Revolutionary Guards. But Rouhani said Iran would be more united and more determined in the fight against regional terrorism and violence. "We will prove once again that we will crush the enemies' plots with more unity and more strength," he said. In an appeal for unity, Rouhani?s chief of staff, Hamid Aboutalebi, took to Twitter to praise the security services. "Applause to the power and firmness of our revolutionary guards, Basij (volunteer militia), police and security forces," he wrote. However, two senior government officials, who asked not to be named, said the attacks might prompt a blame game. "They (hardliners) are very angry and will use every opportunity to grow in strength to isolate Rouhani," said one. The other said the attacks would push Iran towards "a harsher regional policy". Militant attacks are rare in Tehran and other major cities although two militant groups, Jaish al-Adl and Jundallah, have been waging a deadly insurgency, mostly in remote areas, for almost a decade. Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province, in the southeast on the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Balouch minority and has long been a hotbed of insurgents fighting the republic. Last year Iranian authorities said they had foiled a plot by militants to bomb targets in Tehran and other cities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
  12. LONDON: A man opened fire in the Iranian parliament on Wednesday and injured a guard, a witness told Reuters. "A person entered Iranian parliament today and started shooting at the guards. He shot one of the guards in the leg and ran away," two semi official agencies, Fars and Mehr, reported on their telegram feeds. The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that a guard was hit in the leg, and two members of the public were also injured. The identity and the motivation of the assailant was still unclear, Tasnim said. The witness told Reuters that security forces had massed inside and outside parliament, and that the incident was now over.
  13. Injured police officer being taken towards an ambulance outside Iran Parliament where armed men opened fire.Photo:Twitter/Iran news agency TEHRAN: Armed men launched two attacks in Iran's capital on Wednesday morning, killing a guard at the parliament and wounding several people in the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in southern Tehran, state media reported. Lawmaker Elias Hazrati said three assailants, one with a pistol and two with AK-47 assault rifles, raided parliament, according the state television website. ISNA news agency quoted a member of the parliament as saying that all the parliament doors were shut and one of the assailants was surrounded by the security forces. In a separate incident, an armed man opened fire at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini and wounded a number of people, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. ISNA quoted an unnamed source saying that the attacker at the mausoleum had blown himself up. The identity and the motivation of the assailant was still unclear, Tasnim said. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the Islamic revolution in 1979.
  14. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/ec260a4feb7fd785f7f442eb7d223d22.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9Ni83LzIwMTcgODowNTo1OSBBTSZoYXNoX3ZhbHVlPUZvbDE0bnFMbnRYL01mYXFhbldrSUE9PSZ2YWxpZG1pbnV0ZXM9NjAmaWQ9MQ== style=center] Attackers raided Iran?s parliament and opened fire at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini a few kilometres south of the capital on Wednesday morning, in near simultaneous assaults that killed up to seven people, media reported. Tasmin news agency said there were unconfirmed reports that the attackers had taken four hostages inside the parliament building. geo_embedgallery Three assailants, one with a pistol and two with AK-47 assault rifles, carried out the attack in central Tehran, lawmaker Elias Hazrati told state television. Another lawmaker said one of the assailants was surrounded by security forces and all the doors to the building had been closed, ISNA news agency reported. The attackers killed seven people and wounded several others, Tasmin said. Armed men launched two attacks in Iran's capital on Wednesday morning, killing a guard at the parliament and wounding several people in the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. Photo: Iranian news agency Mizan "I was inside the parliament when shooting happened. Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly," said one journalist at the scene, who asked not to be named. Around half an hour later, an attacker opened fire at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, injuring several members of the public, Iran's English-language Press TV said. State news agency IRNA quoted an official at the mausoleum as saying the attacker had set off a suicide bomb after shooting at people. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the Islamic revolution in 1979. Iranian TV said parliament had resumed, and broadcast footage of what it said was the opening session proceeding normally.
  15. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/b5962b4965114c435c47124d676fe139.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9Ni83LzIwMTcgODo1NjoxMCBBTSZoYXNoX3ZhbHVlPWhFYko2RUdzSFB5dm5ZT0d4TURSY0E9PSZ2YWxpZG1pbnV0ZXM9NjAmaWQ9MQ== style=center] Attackers raided Iran's parliament and set off a suicide bomb at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing up to seven people in a twin assault at the heart of the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested a "terrorist team" planning a third attack, without giving further details. geo_embedgallery Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement. The attacks, targeting parliament and the shrine of the Republic's revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, took place less than a month after the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate. Three assailants, one with a pistol and two with AK-47 assault rifles, attacked the parliament building in central Tehran, lawmaker Elias Hazrati told state television. Iran's state broadcaster IRIB reported that one attacker detonated a suicide vest there, though some other news agencies said the explosion might have been caused by grenades thrown by the assailants. Armed men launched two attacks in Iran's capital on Wednesday morning, killing a guard at the parliament and wounding several people in the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. Photo: Iranian news agency Mizan Tasmin news agency said there were unconfirmed reports the attackers had taken four hostages inside the parliament building. Up to seven people died and several others were wounded, it added. About half an hour later, attackers opened fire at the mausoleum a few kilometers south of the city, wounding several members of the public, Iran's English-language Press TV said. One attacker detonated a suicide vest, one was killed by security forces and other assailants were arrested, the Governor of Tehran was quoted as saying by IRIB. "The atmosphere is tense. It is a blow to Rouhani. How can four armed men enter the parliament, where a very tight security has always been in place," said a senior official, who asked not to be named. Rouhani retained power with a landslide victory over candidates supported by the hardline clergy and the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the country's most powerful security force in charge of ensuring national security. Iranian TV said parliament had resumed, and broadcast footage of what it said was the opening session proceeding normally. Daesh claims responsibility for attacks Daesh claimed responsibility for attacks on Iran's parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's shrine on Wednesday, the group's state news agency AMAQ said. "Fighters from [Daesh] attacked Khomeini's shrine and the Iranian parliament in Tehran," the news agency said. Another terrorist plot foiled The head of the anti-terrorism department in the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said they foiled a third terrorist plot and have arrested "a terrorist team", state broadcaster IRIB reported. Iran's intelligence ministry has also asked people to avoid public transport, according to IRIB.
  16. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/5d7a2721f23d9beeb23d64224bb39cf1.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9Ni81LzIwMTcgOToyNzo1NSBBTSZoYXNoX3ZhbHVlPWt0cG1YczhMRW1JU2R3NDRER2VJUHc9PSZ2YWxpZG1pbnV0ZXM9NjAmaWQ9MQ== style=center] Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world. Iran?long at odds with Saudi Arabia?immediately blamed US President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh. Gulf Arab states and Egypt have already long resented Qatar's support for extremists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which they regard as a dangerous political enemy. The coordinated move, with Yemen and Libya's eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC. Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. Major airlines announce end to Qatar-bound flights Doha responds in kind by banning all flights to Saudi Arabia Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups?some backed by regional arch-rival Iran?and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera. "(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," Saudi state news agency SPA said. It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain. Iran saw America pulling the strings. "What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in a reference to Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Trump and other US officials participated in a traditional sword dance during the trip in which he called on Muslim countries to stand united against religious extremists and singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. Qatar Airways retaliate, suspend flights to Saudia Arabia Qatar denounces 'unjustified' cut of Gulf ties, read a statement US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Sydney on Monday that the spat would not affect the fight against religious militants and that Washington has encouraged its Gulf allies to resolve their differences. A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Fallout The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Ethihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carrier Flydubai said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice. Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia. Qatar's stock market index sank 7.5 percent with some of the market's top blue chips hardest hit. The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled. The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large US military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. Defeating terrorism our mutual goal, Trump says in Saudi summit The session was earlier addressed by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia 'Lies, fabrications': Qatar Qatar said on Monday it was facing a campaign of lies and fabrications aimed at putting the Gulf Arab state under guardianship, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with it. "The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said. It added that, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it was committed to its charter, respected the sovereignty of other states and did not interfere in their affairs. Pakistan to stay away from conflict Pakistan has no immediate plans to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Monday. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nafees Zakria The country "has no such plans," the spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, said, following the severing of ties with Qatar by Islamabad's key ally, Saudi Arabia, and three other Middle East nations. "At the moment there is nothing on Qatar issue, (we) will issue a statement if some development takes place," Zakaria said. Pakistan in recent years has been caught between the feud between its ally Saudi Arabia and neighbour Iran. FIFA World Cup 2022 in 'danger' The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled. A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large US military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. Warships of the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, in May 2007. Photo: Reuters Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the US-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar's land borders and air space were closed for any length of time "it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery" of the World Cup. Arab Spring Qatar has used its media and political clout to support long-repressed groups during the 2011 pro-democracy "Arab Spring" uprisings in several Arab countries. Muslim Brotherhood parties allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected president. The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with the new government's allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar's policy "threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation." Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate - a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas. Iran says decision not help resolve Middle East crisis A senior Iranian official said on Monday the decision by some Gulf Arab states and Egypt to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar would not help end the crisis in the Middle East. "The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders ... is not a way to resolve crisis ... As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted on Monday.
  17. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/5d7a2721f23d9beeb23d64224bb39cf1.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9Ni81LzIwMTcgOToyNzo1NSBBTSZoYXNoX3ZhbHVlPWt0cG1YczhMRW1JU2R3NDRER2VJUHc9PSZ2YWxpZG1pbnV0ZXM9NjAmaWQ9MQ== style=center] The Arab world's strongest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday over alleged support for extremists and Iran, re-opening a festering wound two weeks after US President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined in later. Iran?long at odds with Saudi Arabia?immediately blamed US President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh. Gulf Arab states and Egypt have already long resented Qatar's support for extremists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which they regard as a dangerous political enemy. The coordinated move, with Yemen and Libya's eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC. Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. Major airlines announce end to Qatar-bound flights Doha responds in kind by banning all flights to Saudi Arabia Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups?some backed by regional arch-rival Iran?and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera. "(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," Saudi state news agency SPA said. It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain. Iran saw America pulling the strings. "What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in a reference to Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Trump and other US officials participated in a traditional sword dance during the trip in which he called on Muslim countries to stand united against religious extremists and singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. Qatar Airways retaliate, suspend flights to Saudia Arabia Qatar denounces 'unjustified' cut of Gulf ties, read a statement US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Sydney on Monday that the spat would not affect the fight against religious militants and that Washington has encouraged its Gulf allies to resolve their differences. A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Fallout The economic fallout loomed immediately, as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Ethihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carrier Flydubai said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice. Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia. Qatar's stock market index sank 7.5 percent with some of the market's top blue chips hardest hit. The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled. The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large US military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. Defeating terrorism our mutual goal, Trump says in Saudi summit The session was earlier addressed by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia 'Lies, fabrications': Qatar Qatar said on Monday it was facing a campaign of lies and fabrications aimed at putting the Gulf Arab state under guardianship, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with it. "The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said. It added that, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it was committed to its charter, respected the sovereignty of other states and did not interfere in their affairs. Pakistan to stay away from conflict Pakistan has no immediate plans to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Monday. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nafees Zakria The country "has no such plans," the spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, said, following the severing of ties with Qatar by Islamabad's key ally, Saudi Arabia, and three other Middle East nations. "At the moment there is nothing on Qatar issue, (we) will issue a statement if some development takes place," Zakaria said. Pakistan in recent years has been caught between the feud between its ally Saudi Arabia and neighbour Iran. FIFA World Cup 2022 in 'danger' The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled. A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large US military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. Warships of the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, in May 2007. Photo: Reuters Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the US-based Baker Institute, said if Qatar's land borders and air space were closed for any length of time "it would wreak havoc on the timeline and delivery" of the World Cup. Arab Spring Qatar has used its media and political clout to support long-repressed groups during the 2011 pro-democracy "Arab Spring" uprisings in several Arab countries. Muslim Brotherhood parties allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected president. The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with the new government's allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, said on its state news agency that Qatar's policy "threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation." Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate - a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas. Iran says decision not help resolve Middle East crisis A senior Iranian official said on Monday the decision by some Gulf Arab states and Egypt to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar would not help end the crisis in the Middle East. "The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders ... is not a way to resolve crisis ... As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted on Monday.
  18. WASHINGTON: The CIA has named the hardline chief of its hunt for Osama bin Laden and head of its lethal drone program to lead Iran operations, the New York Times reported Friday. The choice of Michael D?Andrea to run the Central Intelligence Agency?s spying on Iran is the newest sign of the Trump administration?s turn to tougher stance against the country, the Times said, quoting intelligence community sources. Although officially under cover and not acknowledged by the CIA, D?Andrea, a convert to Islam who is around 60 years old, has been a key figure in the fight against extremists groups. He was chief of the agency?s Counter-Terrorism Center during the 2000s, in which he oversaw the hunt for Al-Qaeda head bin Laden. He also led the Obama administration?s controversial "targeted killing" program using drones that left thousands of militants and civilians dead, mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His identity was publicly exposed by the Times in 2015 in the wake of a drone attack on a suspected militant house in Pakistan that killed two Western hostages, an American and an Italian, whose presence in the house had not been known. That led to his being moved out of the Counter-Terrorism Center that year, according to various news reports at the time. The choice of D?Andrea to run the CIA?s Iran operations was made by Mike Pompeo, who took a hard line against Iran and the Iran nuclear deal as a Republican congressman before President Donald Trump appointed him to be CIA director in January. Pompeo and D?Andrea could be key to administration attempts to ensure Iran is sticking to its commitments under the nuclear deal, or find violations that would support Trump?s campaign pledge to tear up the agreement. The report Friday also comes after Trump?s trip to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago. The CIA declined to comment on the Times report.
  19. ISLAMABAD: National Security Adviser, Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua Friday said Pakistan attaches great importance to ties with Iran and is committed to overcoming all obstacles to maintain the bond between the two neighbouring countries. The NSA was speaking to Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran, Mehdi Honardoost, who called on him here and discussed matters pertaining to enhancement of bilateral relations and issues of security and border management. The adviser stressed that this is a time for two countries to come further closer instead of drifting away from each other. Both sides agreed to boost up level of cooperation in multiple areas to strengthen bilateral relations. The ambassador raised an issue Iran is facing about interaction between the banking sectors of the two countries, which is a huge obstacle in enhancing the volume of bilateral trade. Nasser Janjua ensured the ambassador that concerned authorities would be sensitised to take adequate measures to facilitate trade with Iran through better banking interactions. The two sides also agreed to improve border management through better coordination and cooperation.
  20. NEW YORK: People surveyed on five continents mistakenly think wealthy Western countries are welcoming most refugees as the world grapples with its worst migration crisis in decades, a survey showed on Thursday. With more people than ever fleeing home since World War Two, most respondents thought the United States, France and Germany accepted the largest number of refugees over the last decade, the survey by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative (AHI) found. However, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey welcomed most refugees and asylum seekers over that time period ? some 10 million people, according to data by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) cited as part of the findings. The United States and Germany took in some 3.5 million people, according to AHI. The study cited no figure for France because it did not rank among the top 15 nations to have admitted refugees and asylum seekers over the last decade. The survey of some 6,500 adults polled in 12 countries in February and March comes as more than 65 million people have been driven from their homes by war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, according to UNHCR. Salpi Ghazarin, a social scientist at the University of Southern California associated with AHI, said the mistaken perception that wealthy countries led the pack in welcoming refugees suggested expectations they should do more. ?The natural assumption would be that the countries with the most capacity would be the ones stepping forward and doing something,? she said. In a sign of ?humanitarian morass worldwide,? the Yerevan, Armenia-based charity also said its poll had found only a third of respondents were willing to welcome more refugees. Survey respondents lived in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Armenia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Russia and Turkey. Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order capping the total number of refugees allowed in the United States to 50,000 this year. Europeans have for their part signalled resentment over the surge of refugees in their countries, including in Germany, which has accepted more refugees than any other country in Europe.
  21. ISLAMABAD: Defence analyst Lieutenant General (retired) Amjad Shoaib, on Wednesday, slammed the Indian media?s claims about the ex-serviceman stating that RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested from Iran. In an article published on the India Today website, the publication claimed that ?an ex-ISI official has admitted that Kulbhushan Jadhav was captured in Iran.? Puncturing Pakistan's claim that it arrested Kulbhushan Jadhav on its own soil, Amjad Shoaib ? an ex-ISI official and a retired Lieutenant General ? has admitted that the ex-Indian Navy officer [Jadhav] was captured in Iran, India Today said in its article published on May 24. Rubbishing the Indian media?s assertions, Lt Gen Shoaib said on Geo News: ?The video [circulated on the Indian media] is doctored. I have countless recorded interviews with many television channels including Geo News, where I have clearly said that Jadhav was operating from [Iranian port city of] Chabahar but was apprehended in Balochistan.? ?The outlet should have checked with me,? he said, adding that, ?India Today did not contact me in this regard.? The former general, while talking to Geo News, disclosed that the word ?operated? from his recorded interview was snipped out from the video that was being circulated in the Indian media. ?They [Indian army] do such disgraceful things and don?t understand that these tactics won?t help them,? he said, adding that the unedited versions of his interviews with the Pakistani media are readily available on the internet. Lt Gen (retd) Shoaib also recollected an incident where a recorded video of his with a statement on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was doctored by the Indian media.
  22. RIYADH: Saudi Arabia´s King Salman on Sunday accused regional rival Iran of exporting extremist movements to the world and vowed to eliminate Daesh. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/2c8a90198843420e36e8f524141418d7.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9NS8yMS8yMDE3IDU6MDA6MjEgUE0maGFzaF92YWx1ZT02Ukc1TmJ4Nm40YzB6cENITUNmUmd3PT0mdmFsaWRtaW51dGVzPTYwJmlkPTE= style=center] "The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the Khomeini revolution" in 1979, King Salman said in a speech to leaders including US President Donald Trump. "We did not know terrorism and extremism until the Khomeini revolution reared its head," he said. Saudi Arabia was also determined to "eliminate Daesh", the king said of the extremist organisation. The Saudi leader´s speech came minutes before a highly anticipated address by Trump, who arrived in the kingdom on Saturday on his first foreign tour since taking office. The United States and Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced an arms deal worth almost $110 billion, described as the largest in US history. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the deal was aimed at countering "malign Iranian influence".
  23. QUETTA: Five mortar shells fired from Iran landed in Balochistan?s Chaghai area on Sunday, Pakistani security officials said. Officials added that no casualties were reported in the incident. Last month, Ten Iranian border guards were killed by militants said to be operating from Pakistan. Iran said that Jaishal Adl militants had shot the guards with long-range guns, fired from inside Pakistan. Later, the head of the Iranian armed forces warned Islamabad that Tehran would hit bases inside Pakistan if the government does not confront militants who carry out cross-border attacks. The situation was later resolved via dialogue and the rhetoric subsided.
  24. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani casts his vote in Tehran on May 19, 2017 - TIMA via REUTERS President Hassan Rouhani has an unassailable lead in Iran's presidential election, an Iranian official source told Reuters on Saturday, citing an early unofficial tally, and is on course to defeat his hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi. "It's over, Rouhani is the winner," the source said on condition of anonymity. Rouhani had won 21.6 million votes, compared to 14 million for Raisi, with 37 million votes counted, the source added. There were about four million more votes still to be tallied, the source said. More than 40 million ballots were cast, the interior ministry said, indicating a turnout of about 70 percent in Friday's vote, roughly similar to the showing in 2013 elections when Rouhani swept into office in a landslide victory State television said the official early results would be announced soon. The Instagram account of Rouhani ally, former president Mohammad Khatami, showed a picture of Rouhani making a victory sign and ran the slogan "Hope prevailed over isolation". Rouhani's chief of staff Hamid Aboutalebi tweeted that Rouhani had won 60 percent of the vote. He cited no evidence. The big turnout appeared to have favored Rouhani, whose backers' main worry has been apathy among reformist-leaning voters disappointed with the slow pace of change. Rouhani, 68, who took office promising to open Iran to the world and give its citizens more freedom at home, faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Raisi, a protege of supreme leader Ali Khamenei. The election is important "for Iran's future role in the region and the world", Rouhani, who struck a deal with world powers two years ago to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most economic sanctions, said after voting. Raisi, 56, has accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and has traveled to poor areas, speaking at rallies pledging more welfare benefits and jobs. He is believed to have the backing of the powerful Revolutionary Guards security force, as well as the tacit support of Khamenei, whose powers outrank those of the elected president but who normally steers clear of day-to-day politics. "I respect the outcome of the vote of the people and the result will be respected by me and all the people," Raisi said after voting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. However, Raisi later appeared at the Ministry of Interior in Tehran on Friday and complained of a shortage of ballot sheets at many polling stations, according to Fars. More ballot sheets were subsequently sent out, the agency reported. In the last election, Rouhani won more than three times as many votes as his closest challenger. But this time the outcome might be much closer, as other conservative rivals have backed out and thrown their support behind Raisi. The Guards and other hardliners hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to safeguard economic and political power they see as jeopardized by the lifting of sanctions and opening of the country to foreign investment. During weeks of campaigning, the two main candidates exchanged accusations of corruption and brutality in unprecedentedly hostile television debates. Both deny the other's accusations. Rouhani has urged the Guards not to meddle in the vote, a warning that reflects the political tension. Suspicions that the Guards and the Basij militia under their control falsified voting results in favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to eight months of nationwide protests in 2009, which were violently suppressed. An electoral employee checks documents before closing vote in Tehran - TIMA via REUTERS Stark choice For ordinary Iranians, the election presents a stark choice between competing visions of the country. Rouhani, known for decades as a mild-mannered establishment insider rather than a gung-ho reformer, has taken on the mantle of the reform camp in recent weeks, with fiery campaign speeches that attacked the human rights records of his opponents. "I voted for Rouhani to prevent Raisi's victory. I don't want a hardliner to be my president," said Ziba Ghomeyshi in Tehran. "I waited in the line for five hours to cast my vote." Many pro-reform voters are still lukewarm Rouhani supporters, disappointed with his failure to make broader changes during his first term. But they are anxious to keep out Raisi, who they see as representing the security state at its most fearsome: in the 1980s he was one of four judges who sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death. "I am on my way to vote for Rouhani. I like his detente policy with the world. I know he is not a reformist, but who cares? What matters is that he is not Raisi," employee Yousef Ghaemi, 43, said by phone in the western city of Kermanshah. For conservatives, the election represents a chance to restore the values of the 1979 revolution, which requires elected officials to be subordinate to the Shi'ite Muslim clergy and supreme leader. "I cast my vote already - I voted for Raisi because he is a follower of Imam Khamenei. He will not confront the leader if elected. He will protect our Islamic identity," said Mehran Fardoust, 36, a shopkeeper near the Imam Reza Shrine in the holy city of Mashhad, Raisi's home town. Despite the removal of nuclear-related sanctions in 2016, lingering unilateral U.S. sanctions that target Iran's record on human rights and terrorism have kept foreign companies wary of investing, limiting the economic benefits so far. Raisi has focused his campaign on the economy, visiting rural areas and villages and promising housing, jobs and more welfare benefits, a message which could have resonated with millions of poor voters angry at the Tehran elite. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two, presumably Rouhani and Raisi, will face each other a second time in a run-off in a week.
  25. Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani chant slogans during a campaign rally in Zanjan on May 16, 2017 - AFP TEHRAN: Iranians head to the polls Friday for a vote that has become a referendum on President Hassan Rouhani's policy of opening up to the world and efforts to rebuild the stagnant economy. He faces stiff competition from hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who has positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a much tougher line with the West. Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, has sought to frame the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and "extremism". He has pushed the boundaries over the past fortnight, criticising the continued arrest of reformist leaders and activists, and calling on security agencies not to interfere in the vote. Raisi says he will stick by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, that saw curbs to Iran's atomic programme in exchange for sanctions relief, but he points to the continued economic slump as proof that Rouhani's diplomatic efforts have failed. "Instead of using the capable hands of our youths to resolve problems, they are putting our economy in the hands of foreigners," Raisi said at a final rally in the holy city of Mashhad on Wednesday. Rouhani responded by calling on voters to keep hardliners away from Iran's delicate diplomatic levers. "One wrong decision by the president can mean war and a correct decision can mean peace," he said at his own Mashhad rally. The election comes at a tense moment in US-Iran relations. Rouhani gained a reprieve on Wednesday when the administration of US President Donald Trump agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now. But Trump has launched a 90-day review of the accord that could see it abandoned, and is visiting Iran's bitter regional rival Saudi Arabia this weekend. Supporters of presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi outside a campaign rally in Tehran on May 16, 2017 - AFP Economic slump Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a massive turnout was needed to show the continued popularity of the Islamic regime. "Faced with the enemy, the people should show their determination and calm," he said this week. Despite the global implications, it is the economy that has dominated the campaign. Rouhani has brought inflation down from around 40 percent when he took over in 2013, but prices are still rising by nine percent a year. Oil sales have rebounded since the nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, but growth in the rest of the economy has been limited, leaving unemployment at 12.5 percent overall, and almost 30 percent for young people. Rouhani has vowed to work towards the removal of remaining US sanctions that are stifling trade and investment deals with Europe and Asia, but he is unlikely to receive much assistance from Trump. Raisi has instead promised to triple cash hand-outs to the poor, hoping to pick up voters that once supported hardline populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Having proved too independent for the conservative establishment, Ahmadinejad was dramatically barred from standing by the Guardian Council last month as it disqualified all but six of the 1,636 people who signed up for the election. The presidential race has since narrowed to a two-horse race as the other candidates either pulled out or called on their supporters to back Rouhani or Raisi. Iranians will also be voting Friday for their local councils, with reformists particularly hoping to undo the conservatives' narrow majority in Tehran.