Iran, Germany seal diesel locomotive deal
Iran signed a deal with Germany to cooperate on the production of 50 diesel locomotives for use in the Iranian rail network.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said the deal was signed during a visit to Tehran by Germany’s Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Alexander Dobrindt.
Akhoundi said that the locomotives will be jointly produced by Germany’s engineering giant Siemens and Iran Power Projects Management Company (MAPNA), according to IRNA.
Noting that Iran currently has 165 diesel locomotives, he added that the railway system needs an extra 150 locomotives.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Akhoundi said that Iran was also in talks with Germany on investing in Tabriz, Ahvaz and Chabahar airports.
He added that the two countries would soon set up working groups to pursue this.
The Iranian minister further underlined that Iran welcomed the participation of German companies in a key project to construct Iranshahr Terminal in Imam Khomeini International Airport with a passenger capacity of 25 million per year.
Dobrindt said that Berlin was interested in expanding cooperation with Iran in the transportation sector.
He added that several German airports, including Munich and Frankfurt, were particularly interested in projects to develop airports in Iran.
The remarks by Akhoundi and Dobrindt followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Iran and Germany to boost cooperation in various areas of the transportation industry.
Syria victories, result of Damascus-Tehran coordination
Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said the victories earned on the battlefields in Syria are the result of political and field coordination between Tehran and Damascus as well as efforts by the Syrian Army and resistance forces.
Jahangiri made the remark at a Tuesday press conference with Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis, who has traveled to the Iranian capital, Tehran, at the head of a delegation, Press TV reported.
“It is certain that Syria’s victories are owed to the gallantry and steadfastness of the Syrian people, army, the fighters of the resistance axis, and also the result of coordination on the field as well as political coordination between the country and Iran,” the Iranian official said.
“As the government and people of Iran, we have supported and assisted the Syrian people and legitimate government” in the face of terrorism, he added.
Last month, Syria retook its northwestern city of Aleppo from terrorist groups in the biggest blow to the outfits and their foreign supporters since militancy began in the country in 2011.
The victory was followed by the establishment of a cease-fire in the city, which was later expanded to the entire country. Iran and Russia coordinated efforts and talked to Turkey, which represented the militants, contributing to the achievements as a result.
Jahangiri said Damascus and the Syrian people had stood by the Iranian government and people during Iraq’s 1980-88 war on the Islamic Republic.
The Syrian official said Iran and Syria were together in the fight against terrorism.
Nuclear deal debunked anti-Iran claims
Compiled from Dispatches
President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the historic deal over Iran’s nuclear program and its implementation has belied claims that the country is seeking weapons of mass destruction and demonstrated the honesty and sincerity of the Islamic Republic.
Rouhani made the remarks in a press conference attended by some 200 Iranian and foreign reporters in Tehran on Tuesday on the first anniversary of the implementation of the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China plus Germany – signed the JCPOA on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.
Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.
Prior to the signing of the JCPOA, Iran had repeatedly asserted that it was not after development of weapons of mass destruction and its nuclear program was exclusively for peaceful purposes, Rouhani said, adding that the agreement was a moral victory for Iran, because it proved the country’s honesty and showed that what had been claimed against the Islamic Republic was merely baseless allegations and lies.
Those making such claims were speaking unjustly and unjustifiably and they should be ashamed of themselves now, he said.
“Very few pundits believed that the issue of PMD (Possible Military Dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program) would be resolved, and the International [Atomic Energy] Agency would admit that Iran’s outstanding issues had ended,” the president said.
Great national achievement
Describing the JCPOA as “a great national achievement,” Rouhani said, “The closure of this dossier amounted to a moral victory for the great Iranian nation.”
Rouhani stressed that all nuclear-related sanctions against the Islamic Republic have been removed after implementation of the JCPOA started, adding that there are no more bans in the gas, oil and transport sectors.
He added, however, that the US, given its hostility toward the Islamic Republic, has been creating obstacles in the banking transactions between Tehran and the rest of the world.
Rouhani said Iran “is standing with great might and powerfully against” the violations of the JCPOA, adding, however, that “we have not acted and will not act hastily, because national interests are a principle for us and we will always bear in mind these interests.”
Elsewhere, the president said Iran is witnessing a 7.4-percent economic growth, exceeding his pledge of five percent for the year.
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May says Britain will leave EU single market
Britain will leave the EU’s single market when it exits the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday, putting an end to speculation that London might try to seek a “soft Brexit”.
In a long-awaited speech in which she sought to define the country’s future as a player that aims to trade freely far beyond Europe, May said the final exit deal would be put to parliament for a vote, Reuters reported.
That promise helped revive the pound on currency markets. Sterling , which has traded at the lowest levels against the US dollar for more than three decades, rose during May’s speech hitting a day high.
May said she would seek an equal partnership with the EU but that she would not adopt models already used by other countries that have free trade agreements with the bloc.
Her statement that Britain would leave the single market was by far the clearest indication she has ever given of her plans for the future, after months of criticism that she was not being sufficiently transparent.
“I want to be clear: What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” May told an audience of foreign diplomats and Britain’s own Brexit negotiating team at a mansion house in London.
“Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it though a new comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement. That agreement may take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas,” May said.
Her announcement that she will put the final Brexit deal to a vote in both houses of parliament comes ahead of a court decision on whether she has the power to start the process of withdrawing without parliamentary approval.
She has said she plans to launch the two-year exit negotiation process by the end of March.
Britons’ vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge number of questions about immigration, the future rights of the many EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom, whether exporters will keep tariff-free access to the single European market and British-based banks will be able to serve continental clients.
The Brexit talks, expected to be one of the most complicated negotiations in post-World War Two European history, could decide the fate of her premiership, the UK and the future shape of the European Union that Britain leaves behind.
Global ship insurers to resume near full coverage for Iran oil
Global shipping insurers have devised a way to ensure nearly full coverage for Iranian oil exports from next month after striking a deal to provide cover without involving US-domiciled reinsurers, officials in Tokyo and London said.
Restrictions on US firms handling Iranian goods had greatly limited the number of reinsurers, but the new arrangements — which essentially allow reinsurance of ships without the involvement of US firms — should boost the number of eligible shipments, Reuters reported.
That will provide a boon to Iran, which is trying to raise oil exports after most sanctions were lifted last year, though banking restrictions that remain in place that could cap any major rise in exports.
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Istanbul nightclub attacker captured
A 34-year-old Uzbek man suspected of killing 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve confessed to the massacre on Tuesday, hours after his capture in a police raid.
Authorities detained Abdulgadir Masharipov, who spent 17 days on the run after the attack claimed by the Daesh terror group, along with three women and an Iraqi man during a massive police operation in Istanbul, AFP reported.
“The terrorist confessed his crime,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters, saying the suspect’s fingerprints matched those of the attacker and confirming he is an Uzbek national.
“He was trained in Afghanistan and can speak four languages. He’s a well-trained terrorist,” added the governor, saying Masharipov is believed to have first entered Turkey in January 2016.
Police also confiscated $197,000, two firearms and clips during the raid on an apartment, he added.
Local media published a picture of the detained man with blood on his face and T-shirt, his neck gripped by a policeman.
The operation to capture the suspected terrorist involved some 2,000 police officers, the Istanbul governor said.
The suspect had apparently slipped into the night following the attack on the glamorous Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus, while police tightened borders to prevent him escaping.
But he was hiding in the working-class, densely populated western districts of Istanbul. Days of police tracking eventually traced him to an apartment in the residential Esenyurt district.
An Iraqi man was also detained with him, as well as three women, one Egyptian citizen and two others from African states, Sahin said.
Daesh took responsibility for the bloodbath, the first time it has ever openly claimed a major attack in Turkey.
It had previously been blamed for several strikes in Turkey, including the triple suicide bombings at Istanbul airport in June.
“It is clear that the attack was carried out on behalf of Daesh,” Sahin said, adding that the other four suspects were likely linked to the terrorists.
Capturing the suspect alive will be seen as a major victory for the Turkish security forces and he may be able to shed light on the existence of other Daesh cells in the city.
Images released by police during the manhunt were taken from a chilling silent video the suspect purportedly took on Istanbul’s Taksim Square with a selfie stick, before carrying out the carnage.
Of the 39 killed in the Reina attack, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco who had been hoping to celebrate a special New Year.
Iraqi troops take historic site in Mosul destroyed by Daesh
Iraqi forces captured the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, after driving Daesh group terrorists from a new neighborhood in eastern Mosul, a spokesman said on Tuesday, and the UN said that nearly 150,000 people have been displaced since the operation started in mid-October.
The mosque was among dozens of historical and heritage sites destroyed by Daesh terrorists after their June 2014 onslaught, forcing Iraqi security forces to withdraw and seizing areas in northern and western Iraq, AP reported.
The site is believed to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale in stories from both the Bible and the Holy Qur’an. It was built on an archaeological site dating back to the 8th century B.C. and attracted religious pilgrims from multiple faiths around the world.
Special forces spokesman Sabah al-Numan told The Associated Press that security forces found only the fences alongside the ruins.
Deeper into districts in eastern Mosul
Iraqi special forces pushed deeper into Daesh-held districts in eastern Mosul on Tuesday, and army units battled the terrorists inside a military base in the north of the city, Reuters quoted military officials as saying.
Iraqi troops have seized large areas along the Tigris River, which bisects Mosul from north to south.
Capture of the entire east bank, which military officials say is imminent, will allow the army, special forces, and elite police units to begin attacks on the city’s west, still fully held by the terrorists.
Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces pushed into the Eastern Nineveh and Souq al-Ghanam districts, which are flanked by areas held by Iraqi troops, Numan said.
The special forces have now taken control of the Andalus and Shurta neighborhoods, where they were fighting on Monday, the spokesman told a Reuters reporter in Mosul.
“Roughly all the eastern axes for which CTS is responsible will be completed and we will announce the liberation of the entire eastern side,” he said, but did not specify when.
Meanwhile, the UN said in a statement issued late Monday that the massive Iraqi military operation to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh has left more than 148,000 people homeless. Nearly 12,500 people were forced to flee their homes just over the past week, the UN said.
The statement also said that the fighting over Iraq’s second-largest city continues to inflict relatively high civilian casualties, with more than 1,500 wounded taken to hospitals in the nearby city of Irbil for trauma care. Daesh members have repeatedly targeted civilians trying to flee neighborhoods still under terrorist control.
More than a million people were estimated to still be living in Mosul in October, when Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the country’s second largest city from Daesh.
IPC names Iran’s Javanmardi among Ones to Watch for 2017
Iran’s para-shooter Sareh Javanmardi was named among Ones to Watch for 2017 by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
IPC has so far announced its Ones to Watch athletes for 2017 in badminton, swimming and wheelchair fencing, paralympic.org reported.
She claimed two gold medals at the P2 (women’s 10m air pistol SH1) and P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1) at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Javanmardi is the first ever Iranian woman to snatch gold in Paralympic Games’ shooting competition.
Selected in partnership with the World Shooting Para Sport, the Ones to Watch athletes are individuals who have the potential to make the headlines in shooting during the next Paralympic cycle ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
With one eye on the next Paralympic Games, many of this year’s Ones to Watch are young athletes who will develop between now and Tokyo 2020. Others are Paralympic and world medalists looking to stay at the top of their game.
Until January 19, the IPC will announce Ones to Watch athletes in two sports each day.
Around 230 athletes from 22 sports will be named Ones to Watch for 2017 in an effort to make it easier for the public and media to understand which athletes to look out for.
Achaemenid walls discovered in Iran’s south
Archeological excavations in the southern province of Fars led to discovery of walls belonging to the Achaemenid era.
According to the Research Institute of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the walls extend for over 20 kilometers in the town of Mashhad-e Morghab. A number of other historical sites were also discovered.
Some 300 graves from various historical eras, water structures of the Achaemenid era, historical remains dating back to the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras and settlement areas, historical stone mines and the like were also found.
The head of the archeological team in Mashhad-e Morghab District of Khorrambid, Hamidreza Karami said that in addition to Kamin and Sarpiran plains, Morghab plain was linked to Pasargadae.
He noted, “These areas can be considered the most important sites in different periods of history and had been studied during the registration process of Pasargadae as a world heritage site.”
The archeologist said that in view of the comprehensive objectives pursued by the archeology groups at the site, the field study of Pasargadae world heritage site is underway in cooperation with skilled experts.
He pointed to the dispersion of the Achaemenid vestiges such as dams, canals and mines is directly linked to the ancient city of Pasargadae whose expanse ranges from Chamian (Shahidabad) in the city of Khorrambid to Sivand Valley in the south of Pasargadae and Kamin plain.
Underlining the importance of the site under study in view of the findings from this era and the periods before and after it, he said the relics have been identified in the historical-cultural area such as the Achaemenid wall.
He pointed out that nearly 300 graves dating back to the historical era, water structures from the Achaemenid era, including several dams and close to 80 kilometer of irrigation canals in Tang-e Hana region, Qaderabad Alafi, Pakouh Pasargadae, Sarpiran and Kamin plains have been identified in the Tang-e Bolaghi and the southern mountains of Sarpiran site.
Karami noted that works from the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras and settlement zones dating back to the pre-historic and Islamic eras as well as discovery of historical stone mines within the precincts of Pasargadae are only part of the works and cultural records that have so far been identified.
Head of the archeological team of Mashhad-e Morghab district further said that with regard to the expansion of the area under study it is predicted that the program will continue up to the end of this winter.
Pasargadae and Mashhad-e Morghab District are located in a mountainous region to the north of Fars Province, he said adding the area contains several plains between the mountains which are connected with each other through some valleys and mountain passes whose average altitude is 1,850m above the sea-level.
Syria talks meant to ‘consolidate’ cease-fire
Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital next week are aimed at consolidating the frail truce in the war-torn country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.
“One of the objectives of the meeting in Astana is first of all to consolidate the cease-fire,” Lavrov said of the talks due to begin on January 23.
Lavrov said the talks would also serve as an opportunity to involve militant commanders in “the political process” to end bloodshed, AFP reported.
“Those who wish to join must have the possibility to do so.”
Organized by Turkey, Russia and Iran, the Astana meeting is the latest bid to put an end to the conflict raging since March 2011.
US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has been invited but has not yet officially responded.
Lavrov said Tuesday it was “right to invite representatives of the UN and the new US administration” but did not say whether the incoming Trump administration had confirmed its attendance. Syria armed groups said Monday they would attend.
The talks come a month after the Syrian government took full control of the country’s second city of Aleppo in its biggest victory in more than four years of fighting.
Russia and Turkey last month brokered a cease-fire in Syria but without the involvement of the United States, a negotiator in previous truces.
The truce went into effect on December 30 and has brought calm to much of Syria although fighting continues in some regions. The cease-fire excludes the Daesh terror group and Nusra Front.
If the Astana meetings are successful, they could bode well for a new round of UN-hosted political negotiations on the conflict set for next month in Geneva.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and over half of the population displaced in nearly six years of deadly fighting in Syria. Millions have also fled the country.