Novak: Oil, gas contract potentials in Iran reach around $20b
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“Of course we were ready to sign the contract tonight but our Russian counterpart was in a hurry and had to go to the airport,” Zanganeh said adding that a number of Russian companies have already signed memorandums of understanding with Iranian companies.
He said that Russia will comply with an OPEC decision last November to cut production levels and will be reducing its oil output by 300,000 bpd.
Iran has named 29 companies from more than a dozen countries as being allowed to bid for oil and gas projects using the new, less restrictive contract model.
The firms include Shell, France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, Malaysia’s Petronas and Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil, as well as companies from China, Austria, Japan and other countries.
Russia’s Zarubezhneft signed an MoU for a feasibility study on two joint fields in the west of the country.
Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer, hopes to reach a decision on developing two new oilfields in Iran.
Araqchi: All nuclear-related sanctions lifted
Iran’s deputy foreign minster said that all sanctions related to the Iran’s nuclear program have been lifted, which was the main goal of 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1 group.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi made the remarks in a conference held in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Wednesday, IRNA reported.
He said that the main goal of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was the removal of anti-Iran sanctions and obstacles challenging the country’s economy.
However, the Iranian diplomat said some sanctions, which are not related to the country’s nuclear program, are still in place.
Removal of sanctions on the country’s oil industry was one of the main goals attained following the JCPOA, Araqchi said.
“Before the imposition of sanctions, Iran used to sell 2.5 million barrels of oil per day but under the sanctions the figure declined to one million barrels per day,” Araqchi said.
In the course of the previous year, implementation of the nuclear deal faced many hurdles, but we overcame them, he said.
Rouhani: Palestinian Intifada ‘manifestation of resistance’
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday called on Muslims nations to expend all their efforts to help resolve “the Palestinian issue” he called the most significant issue of the Islamic world.
Addressing the closing ceremony of the Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) in Tehran, Rouhani said the Palestinian issue has “pricked the international community’s conscience for 70 years” and revealed the “ineffectiveness of international organizations”.
He described the Palestinian Intifada as “the manifestation of resistance” against the Israeli occupation.
“The Palestinian Intifada is a kind of resistance for survival… It is the only remaining noble choice for a nation,” Rouhani stressed.
The president further warned about Israel’s “fear-mongering” against Palestinian resistance among Muslim and Arab nations.
Rouhani said the Israeli plot aims to turn nations supporting the Palestinian cause into allies opposing resistance.
The president urged vigilance among Muslim nations about such plots, calling on them to clarify their stance on “normalization of ties” with Israel. The annual event was held with the motto of “Together Supporting Palestine”.
Around 700 foreign guests from 80 countries and representatives of pro-Palestinian organizations took part in the conference.
Earlier in the day, Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani also spoke at the forum, underlining the importance of resistance against Israeli occupation.
He said if Muslims and all those fighting the suppression “are looking toward the West, specifically the United States, to help the Palestinian cause, they are mistaken. It will never happen”.
The only way Palestinians will achieve liberation “is by putting their trust in God and continuing resistance,” Larijani added.
The Tehran conference opened on Tuesday with an address by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Ayatollah Khamenei called the issue of Palestine the top priority of the Muslim world and all freedom seekers and urged all-out support for Palestinian resistance.
Intifada points to large-scale Palestinian protests against Israel’s 1967 occupation of their territories of the West Bank and East Beit-ul-Moqaddas.
US targets millions in sweeping deportation plan
The Trump administration issued tough new orders for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants, putting nearly all of the United States’ 11 million undocumented foreigners in its crosshairs.
The orders sent shivers through US immigrant communities, where millions of people who have spent years building families and livelihoods in the country, most of them from Mexico and Central America, were seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades, AFP wrote on Wednesday.
Rights groups labeled the move a “witch hunt,” warning that mass deportations would damage families with deep roots in the US and hurt the economy.
But John Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who issued the new orders in two memos, said they were necessary to address a problem that has “overwhelmed” government resources.
“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” he said in one of the memos.
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned the new guidelines will “harm national security and public safety”.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said he refused to turn the city’s police officers into immigration agents or its jails into “holding pens for deportation policy that will only undermine the inclusiveness that has helped make New York City the safest big city in the nation”.
The new rules make it easier for border patrol and immigration officers to quickly deport any illegal immigrants they find, with only a few exceptions, principally children.
The priority will remain undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, as well as anyone who has been charged or potentially faces criminal charges.
However, people deemed as low priority for deportation by the previous administration of Barack Obama – generally anyone not tied to a crime – are no longer protected.
“With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” the memos said.
“All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States.”
The memos followed up on President Donald Trump’s order, issued just after his January 20 inauguration, for authorities to crack down on illegal immigration by tightening enforcement and building a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,145-kilometer) US-Mexico frontier.
In the memos, Kelly ordered immediate action to begin planning the wall. He also ordered the hiring of 15,000 more officers for the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies.
The turn in policy follows years in which the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, sought to find a way with Congress to allow most of the long-term illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
But Trump campaigned for the White House on a promise to crack down on what he characterized as a source of widespread crime and a drag on the economy.
Indian men, women insurmountable obstacles to Iranians’ golds
Iran’s men and women snatched two silver medals in the fourth Rollball World Cup in Bangladesh, conceding defeats to Indian sides in the final matches.
On Wednesday, Iran’s men failed to pull of a victory against India losing 7-8 to its rival. Prior to men’s final, Iranian women were also beaten by India 4-6 in the final showdown to fail to collect gold, iranskating.ir reported.
The tournament started in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on February 17 and wrapped up on February 22, 2017.
Rollball is played on skates and between two teams of 12 players. Only six players out of the 12 are allowed to play on court at a time. A player can hold the ball in one hand or both hands, but must dribble the ball while carrying it.
The game was created by Indian sports teacher Raju Dabhade in Pune, India. Dabhade is now the secretary of the International Rollball Federation.
Iranian, Azerbaijani musicians to present joint concert
Art & Culture Desk
Iranian and Azerbaijani musicians will perform a joint concert in Tehran in the coming month.
An Azerbaijani musician Alim Hamza-oglu Qasimov will share the stage with Iranian composer, lyricist, vocalist Parvaz Homay, at Milad Tower Conference Center on March 9 -10, honaronline.ir reported.
The concert will be performed by Mastan Ensemble.
According to azernews.az, the performers will sing a duet in the concert.
Qasimov, the mugham master, is one of the world’s truly gifted singers, discovered the world of mugham as a child when he began singing for his own enjoyment.
Mugham, one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrasting with tasnif and ashugs.
Qasimov continues to play an important role in promoting Azerbaijani culture, especially mugham around the world.
He performed at Tehran’s Vahdat Hall and Niavaran Palace Complex in July 2003 and September 2006. Also Qasimov and his daughter Fargana Qasimova performed a concert with Tehran Wind Orchestra at Vahdat Hall in January 2015.
Qasimov was awarded the International Music Council-UNESCO Music Prize, one of the highest international accolades for music in 1999. For that achievement, he was quoted by the New York Times as simply one of the greatest singers alive, with a searing spontaneity that conjures passion and devotion, contemplation and incantation.
Homay is a vocalist in the Mastan Ensemble which he founded in 2005. His performances have been held at notable and sizable venues across the globe, including but not limited to Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Lincoln Center in New York, Strathmore Hall in the Washington DC area, and Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Canada.
Iran to sign oil contract to sell Russia 100,000 bpd
Iran announced on Tuesday it will begin selling 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Russia within the next 15 days for which the payment will be half in cash and half in goods and services.
Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh provided details about the deal following a meeting with visiting Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, ISNA reported.
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MP: Reformists will back Rouhani in presidential election
By Sadeq Dehqan
A senior reformist lawmaker has expressed the support of his fellow party members for incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming presidential election.
“Naturally, if Rouhani expresses his preparedness to run for president in the election, which will surely happen, we [reformists] should ‘coherently’ support him,” Mahmoud Sadeqi, the head of the Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, told Iran Daily in an exclusive interview.
Rouhani, who assumed office in August 2013 after winning the presidential election two months earlier, has not officially announced whether he will be a nominee in the next round of the elections scheduled for May this year.
Sadeqi described as ‘positive’ the Rouhani government’s performance during its four-year term. He, however, said the administration has not met all demands in the field of domestic policy. “The government is still far from reaching the desirable level in the field of domestic policy.”
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Houthi missile kills senior general in Yemeni Red Sea port
A ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi fighters on Wednesday killed a senior commander loyal to Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in a major blow to the US-backed Saudi-led coalition which has been bombing the country since March 2015.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed Seif al-Yafie, the deputy chief of staff of Hadi’s army, died after the missile hit his vehicle near the Red Sea port of Mokha, AP reported.
A total of seven officers were killed, including Yafie, and 25 were wounded, local sources said.
Yafie’s death was a major setback for an offensive launched by pro-Hadi forces in January to try to recapture Yemen’s 450 kilometer (280 miles) Red Sea coastline, which had previously been almost entirely in Houthis’ hands.
Mokha, a strategic Red Sea port, witnessed intense fighting between the Houthis and their allied forces and the Saudi-led coalition and pro-Hadi forces.
The Houthis had pushed back south and reached the eastern outskirts of Mokha, which Hadi forces had overrun on February 10.
The Hadi loyalists’ capture of Mokha was their biggest success in months.
After nearly two years of military support from the Saudi-led coalition, Hadi forces are largely restricted to the south and areas along the Saudi border.
The Houthis still hold the capital Sana’a and much of the central and northern highlands as well as the coast around Hodeida.
The conflict in Yemen has shown no let-up despite UN warnings of looming famine.
UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick warned on Tuesday that seven million Yemenis are close to starvation.
More than 11,400 people have been killed since the coalition war began.
Iraq forces poised for Mosul airport assault
Iraqi forces readied on Wednesday for an assault on Mosul airport after blitzing Daesh positions in a renewed offensive to retake the terror group’s emblematic stronghold.
Elite forces reinforced positions that were taken since a fresh push south of Mosul was launched on Sunday.
Iraqi forces have retaken a key checkpoint on the main Baghdad highway south of Mosul and the village of Abu Seif, a natural citadel overlooking the airport and the south of the city, AFP reported.
There were no major operations near Mosul on Wednesday, with Iraq’s new interior and defense ministers expected to visit the frontlines.
However Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitaries continued to battle terrorists further west, near the town of Tal Afar, which lies between Mosul and the Syrian border and is still held by Daesh.
The Hashd al-Shaabi said in a statement they blew up at least four car bombs in fighting near Ain al-Tallawi and killed several Daesh members.
The elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) that retook east Mosul and did most of the fighting since the offensive on the city was launched on October 17 have not yet been brought into action in the latest push.
The Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response units could also move in on the airport in the coming days, a key target before troops breach the city limits to face the terrorists in the narrow streets of Mosul’s west bank.
The fate of an estimated 750,000 civilians trapped in west Mosul was a major source of concern as Iraqi forces prepared for what many have predicted could be one of the bloodiest battles yet in the war on Daesh.
The health of many residents had been deteriorating for months under the rule of the “caliphate” which Daesh proclaimed nearly three years ago. Iraqi forces declared the full liberation of the city’s eastern side a month ago but the situation there has remained precarious, with the departure of CTS to the western front leaving a security vacuum.
Several attacks have already been carried out in liberated neighborhoods.
While more than 50,000 of the 220,000 people displaced during the first months of the offensive have returned to their homes, some people continued to flee from retaken areas for fear of Daesh reprisals.
South African court blocks ICC withdrawal bid
South Africa’s High Court blocked the government’s attempt to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the government would press ahead with withdrawing from the Hague-based tribunal, noting that the ruling was based largely on procedure – that the decision to pull out did not pass first through parliament, Reuters reported.
The ICC, which was launched in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Pretoria notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw in October, starting a year-long divorce period that would have made South Africa the first country to quit the court in October this year.
However, High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo told the government to tear up its withdrawal notice, saying it was “unconstitutional and invalid” because it had not passed through parliament.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which brought the court application, said the ruling was a reminder of South Africa’s departure under President Jacob Zuma from the international idealism that typified its foreign policy under Nelson Mandela.
“This is a victory for the rule of law and indeed for our country’s human rights-based foreign policy which Zuma and his cronies have tried so hard to depart from,” DA spokesman James Selfe said.
Pretoria announced its intention to leave in 2015 after the ICC criticized it for disregarding an order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused of genocide and war crimes. Bashir has denied the accusations.
The ICC has had to fight off allegations of pursuing a neocolonial agenda in Africa, where most of its investigations have been based.
Three African states – South Africa, Gambia and Burundi - last year signaled their intention to quit the ICC. Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, elected in December, said earlier this month that the tiny West African nation would remain in the ICC.