Japan: Ties, consultations with Iran important
Japan’s Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Mori Takeo said that relations and continuation of consultations with Tehran are of great importance for Tokyo.
The Japanese official made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran on Saturday, according to the Foreign Ministry’s official website.
The Iranian foreign minister welcomed continuation of consultations between the two countries over bilateral relations and regional issues.
He also pointed to good and constructive relations between the two Asian countries and a recent trip by Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to Tehran and his meetings with Iranian officials, including Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Abe’s visit to Tehran in June was the first by a Japanese prime minister in more than four decades.
During his visit, Japan’s premier, whose country is one of the main buyers of Iranian oil, tried to ease tensions between Iran and the United States which was triggered by Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and increased following the US military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
During the June meeting, Iran’s Leader told Japanese prime minister that it was pointless to reply to a message Abe had brought to Tehran from US President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in the future,” the Leader said.
Minister: Iran’s share of neighbors’ import basket should increase
Domestic Economy Desk
Iran currently has a two-percent share of imports by 15 neighboring states, which must increase to four percent, said the Iranian minister of industry, mine and trade.
In an address to a meeting in the western Iranian province of Hamadan on Saturday, Reza Rahmani added that expanding exports is among his ministry’s priorities in the year to March 2020, IRNA reported.
He noted that in the year to March 2020, the ministry pursues seven main goals to boost domestic production, adding that 10 plans have been drawn up as the subsidiaries of these major targets.
The minister stressed that any product whose production is domestically possible must be produced by the country’s state or private sector.
He stressed that Hamadan Province should play a more significant role in the country’s exports, putting the province’s overseas sales in the year to March 2019 at $1 billion. He noted that in the year to March 2019, Iran exported furniture valued at $64 million.
The minister noted that in the 12-month period to March 2019, Iran’s enemies sought to shut down Iranian production units through placing the country under economic pressure.
This came as, thanks to great efforts by Iranian officials, the enemies’ plots were foiled and “we managed to increase our production capacity.”
The enemies have been defeated in the economic war they waged on Iran and their sanctions have failed to produce the results they were seeking to achieve.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran in two phases.
Agent: Iran tanker to leave Gibraltar soon despite US warrant
The shipping agent for an oil tanker caught in a diplomatic standoff between Iran and the West said the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar in “24 to 48 hours,” despite a last-minute effort by the United States to seize it again.
Richard de la Rosa, the managing director of Astralship, said Saturday that logistical preparations are underway and that a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals is expected to take command of the ship, which is carrying 2.1 million tons of Iranian oil.
The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, which Iran has denied.
On Thursday a Gibraltar judge ordered the release of the vessel, rejecting a last-minute legal move by Washington demanding that the ship remain detained.
But on Friday, the US Justice Department issued a warrant for the seizure of the supertanker.
The Justice Department alleged the ship was part of a scheme “to unlawfully access the US financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,” which the US has designated a foreign terrorist organization.
“The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1,” the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release. “A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments.”
The warrant says the vessel and all the oil aboard are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as well as bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism statutes.
It also ordered the seizure of $995,000 in an account at an unnamed US bank associated with Paradise Global Trading LLC, which it called a shell company associated with businesses which act for the IRGC.
The supertanker shifted position on Friday, but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported that the vessel was unlikely to sail before today, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive that day.
A lawyer for the Grace 1’s current
captain also told the newspaper that his client had asked to be replaced.
The vessel had appeared to be moving and more smoke could be seen coming from the funnel than in recent days.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, said earlier that the tanker was free to leave as soon as it had organized its logistics.
The July 4 seizure came amid surging tensions in the Persian Gulf. The US – citing threats from Iran to American allies – expanded its military presence in the region with a new aircraft carrier task force, missile batteries and strategic bombers.
Iran called the detention of the Grace 1 an “illegal interception” staged by the United States, while Washington cheered it as “excellent news.”
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since US President Donald Trump withdrew last year from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, reimposing unilateral sanctions.
In the wake of Grace 1’s detention, on July 19 Iran seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran said the ship was in violation of “international maritime rules,” but the move was seen as retaliation for the Grace 1.
Continued on Page 2
Pakistan, India exchange fire after UN meet on Kashmir
India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.
The two neighbors regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between them and poisoned their relations since independence in 1947.
But the latest exchange follows India’s decision this month to rip up the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir, sparking protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighboring China.
“The exchange of fire is going on,” a senior Indian government official told AFP, calling it “heavy.”
One Indian soldier was reportedly killed. Pakistan made no immediate comment on the violence.
Late Friday, Pakistan and China succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir – behind closed doors – for the first time since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday hailed the gathering, saying that addressing the “suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”
New Delhi insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter.
“We don’t need international busybodies to try to tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people,” India’s UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin said after the meeting.
India on Saturday meanwhile gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir, imposed hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise August 5 gambit.
Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored Saturday in the restive Kashmir Valley, the local police chief said.
But mobiles and the Internet remained dead in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir state in a 30-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands.
Fearing an angry and potentially violent response, India also sent 10,000 extra troops to the area, severely restricted movement and arrested some 500 local politicians, activists, academics and others.
The state’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said Friday there would be a “gradual” restoration of phone lines over the weekend, with schools to resume classes in some areas next week.
Rival rallies as Hong Kong’s divisions deepen
Hong Kong activists kicked off a weekend of fresh rallies on Saturday following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week as thousands of pro-government supporters gathered in a park to condemn their opponents and support the police, a stark illustration of the polarization now coursing through the city.
Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis, with mainland China taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like”, AFP reported.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.
The images damaged a movement that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters.
China’s media seized on the violence, churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures and videos. State media also ran images of military personnel and armored personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, which analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.
Saturday’s rallies began with thousands of teachers marching through torrential rain in support of the largely youth-led protests.
In the afternoon thousands also marched through Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan, two harbor-side districts popular with mainland tourists.
“The government has yet to respond to a single demand and has escalated force through police to suppress the people’s voices,” a 25-year-old protester said.
But across the harbor at the rival rally, where a giant screen showed recent clashes with police, 60-year-old retiree Irene Man had a very different take as she rounded on protesters.
“Their acts are not human, they have all become monsters. They are rioters, with no reason, no thinking,” she said.
As evening fell, some hardcore protesters were facing off with police in the district of Mongkok, where multiple clashes have taken place in recent weeks. They blocked roads and shone laser pens at riot police who made occasional charges but the protesters kept dispersing and reforming.
Many protesters chanted that they were saving their energy for today’s rally on the main island.
Billed as a “rational, non-violent” protest, it is being organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that eschews confrontations with police and was the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets.
Businesses under pressure
The protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semiautonomous city.
Millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters.
Battles between police firing tear gas and rubber bullets – and hardcore protesters using rocks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots – have since become routine in an international finance hub once renowned for stability.
Beyond suspending the extradition bill, Beijing and city leader Carrie Lam have shown no desire to meet demands such as an inquiry into police violence, the complete withdrawal of the bill and an amnesty.
But protesters remain unbowed, despite the arrests of more than 700 people and 11 consecutive weekends of rallies that have won few concessions.
Beijing has turned the screws on Hong Kong’s businesses, pressuring them to toe the line and condemn the protesters.
On Friday, Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of CEO Rupert Hogg after the carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the protests.
On Saturday, the “Big Four” accountancy firms scrambled to distance themselves from an advert placed in a newspaper purportedly by employees saying they supported the protests.
China threatens Trump over F-16 sale to Taiwan
China on Friday threatened the US with unspecified “countermeasures” if it follows through with a planned sale of F-16s fighter jets to Taiwan – the first of what will likely be many repercussions for the US administration’s military support for Taiwan that Beijing views as part of its territory, usnews.com reported.
News of the planned sale emerged early Friday after the State Department informed Congress Thursday evening of the administration’s intent to sell 66 of the Fighting Falcon jets to Taiwan. Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees – which would need ultimately to approve the sale – issued statements of support shortly after.
China denounced the planned sale, one of the biggest yet by the United States to Taiwan. It warned of unspecified “countermeasures.”
The chairman and ranking member of the House committee called the sale “a strong message about the US commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific” against China.
Beijing, however, blasted the move, saying through its state news service it opposes the sale and has lodged complaints to its American counterparts.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged the US to stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan, otherwise, the Chinese side would “certainly take countermeasures,” Xinhua said.
The White House has been largely silent about the sale. It comes at a particularly consequential time in US-Chinese relations as a trade war looms with both sides threatening further economic punishments against the other.
Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help
provide it with the means to defend itself. It is the main arms supplier to Taiwan and there is broad support for this in Congress.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control and has repeatedly denounced US arms sales to the island.
Friday’s New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the Trump administration, which is engaged in a major trade war with China, was moving forward with the sale and said the State Department gave informal notification of the plan to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees on Thursday.
The paper said once those committees gave the go ahead, which would probably come within days or weeks, there would follow a formal notification to Congress, which would trigger a 30-day period for objections, Reuters reported.
The State Department and White House declined to comment.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said Beijing had made solemn representations to the United States over the planned sale.
Xinhua quoted Hua as saying that it was a serious violation of the “one-China principle,” under which Washington recognizes Beijing and not Taipei, and undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests.
After the United States approved sales of tanks and Raytheon Co.’s antiaircraft Stinger missiles to Taiwan in July, China said it was “ready to go to war” if people “try to split Taiwan from the country.”
Beijing said it would impose sanctions on US companies involved in any deals.
On Thursday, Taiwan unveiled its largest defense spending increase in more than a decade, to T$411.3 billion ($13.11 billion.)
Oceans wins fourth Asian futsal club title; Mes Sungun finishes second
Nagoya Oceans of Japan defeated Iran’s Mes Sungun Varzeqan 2-0 in the final to clinch a record-extending fourth AFC Futsal Club Championship title at the Bangkok Arena on Saturday.
Neto Antonio Hirata and Ryohei Ando were the Oceans’ scorers as the Japanese outfit dashed Mes Sungun’s bid to win back-to-back titles, the-afc.com reported.
The early stages were an evenly matched contest with both sides playing with extreme caution with neither side finding much room to create chances.
Oceans took the lead in the seventh minute through Hirata’s fine strike from inside the box with Soma Mizutani providing the assist.
A stunned Mes Sungun almost conceded another goal two minutes later when Mohammad Shajari lost possession in his own half which forced goalkeeper Alireza Samimi into making a save from Oceans’ Ryuta Hoshi and later the follow-up from Masaya Hashimoto.
The Iranian club wasted several chances after that with Alireza Askari Kohan sending his shot over the bar in the 15th minute and Farhad Fakhim firing his effort high in the 19th minute as Oceans took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Mes Sungun came back fighting in the second half and Mehdi Javid had the goalmouth in sight in the 22nd minute but the Oceans players were quick to snuff out the chance.
Oceans, however, slowly began to dominate with its fast-attacking transitions, which almost bore fruit in the 23rd minute but Samimi was equal to the challenge when he saved efforts from Pepita and then Ryohei Ando.
Oceans came close to finding the net at the half-hour mark but with only the goalkeeper to beat Tomoki Yoshikawa fired his effort wide.
The Japanese club’s persistence paid off in the 34th minute when Ando scored a volley following Yoshikawa’s corner to double the lead for Oceans.
Deploying a power-play game plan, the Iranian side desperately pushed for a goal in the remaining minutes but still failed to change the scoreline as the Japanese held on until the final whistle was blown.
Study proves Neanderthals’ existence near Iran’s Zagros Mountains
The results of international studies, published this week in the Journal of Human Evolution, proved that Neanderthals were roaming at the Iranian Zagros Mountains during the Middle Paleolithic Era.
The new study on a human tooth, discovered in 1999 in a cave called Wezmeh near Kermanshah, western Iran, shows that this tooth belongs to a Neanderthal child.
According to the National Museum of Iran, the results of the study by paleoanthropologists and archeologists at the museum, the University of Poitiers, the University of Bordeaux, Iran’s Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism, and the Bioarchaeology Laboratory of the University of Tehran confirmed the existence of Neanderthals in Iran, Tasnim News Agency reported.
Jebrael Nokandeh, the director of the National Museum of Iran said the published results definitely prove that Neanderthals lived in the Zagros region. He further said that given the importance of the results of this discovery, the tooth will soon be displayed in the Paleolithic Gallery of the Iranian museum.
According to Fereydoun Biglari, the head of the Paleolithic Department of the museum and co-author of the article, this premolar tooth belongs to a Neanderthal child who was between six and 10 years old at the time of death. He added that the tooth was discovered during the Islamabad Archeological Research Project, led by Kamyar Abdi, in the late 1990s. This human tooth has been studied several times since then using various methods.
In a recent study, Biglari said the specimen was re-analyzed by Roberto Macchiarelli and Clement Zanolli by X-ray micro-CT imaging that revealed the inner structure of the tooth, especially the enamel-dentine junction which aligns the tooth closely with Neanderthals and shows that it is distinct from modern humans. He added, therefore, this tooth is the ﬁrst direct evidence of the Neanderthal presence in the Iranian Zagros region.
Biglari said since the Neanderthals were extinct before 40,000 years ago, and the earliest dated animal remains from the Wezmeh Cave is about 70,000 years old, this individual lived in the region during that time period.
He said the significance of the finding is that according to research done so far, only one Middle Paleolithic human bone has been found in Iran, which comes from late 1940s excavations in Bisotun Cave near Kermanshah.
Biglari added that the human bone fragment from Bisotun is a forearm fragment that was found with Mousterian stone tools and animal fossil remains. This important fossil is held in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Comparison of its dimensions to those of Neanderthal and other specimens aligns it predominantly with the Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans. He also mentioned that the discovery of a canine tooth of a Neanderthal child at a shelter near Kermanshah was announced in the media last year, but as the results of its analysis are not yet published in academic journals, it is not possible to evaluate it.
In closing, Biglari said, as some researchers are not certain about the attribution of Bisotun fossil to Neanderthal, the tooth found in the Wezmeh Cave put an end to these debates, and therefore this new research placed Iran on the list of countries that Neanderthal human remains have been discovered.
Marjan Mashkour, an associate researcher of the National Museum of Iran and a research member of the Natural History Museum in Paris, who is a co-author of the article, said in addition to the Neanderthal tooth, large numbers of extinct animal fossils including cave lion, spotted hyena, rhinoceros and wild cattle, as well as other species such as leopards, wolves, foxes, wild horses, onager, boar, and deer have also been found in the cave.
She added that the cave was a carnivore den during the late Ice Age when predators carried herbivores’ carcasses into the cave. She added that these animal remains provided a wealth of new information about predators who roamed in the Islamabad Plain of western Zagros between 11,000 and 70,000 years ago, when Neanderthals and modern humans were present in the region.
10 Yemeni drones attack Saudi oilfield
Yemeni forces launched drone strikes on an oilfield affiliated to Saudi Aramco in the east of the kingdom.
Yemen’s Al-Masirah TV said Saturday oil facilities at Shaybah, which has the largest strategic oil reserve in Saudi Arabia, were targeted by 10 Yemeni drones.
The facilities attacked included a refinery and oil storage, the broadcaster said, citing Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Sare’e.
Shaybah, operated by state-oil company Saudi Aramco, is close to the United Arab Emirates border.
Sare’e said the operation was launched as part of “a legitimate deterrence for the aggression crimes and siege” against the Yemeni nation.
He renewed call on companies and civilians to stay away from all vital sites in Saudi Arabia, adding that Yemen’s bank of targets inside the kingdom “expands daily” and that the future attacks would be more painful to the enemy.
“Forces of aggression have no choice but to stop the war and lift the siege on the Yemeni people,” Sare’e said.
Aramco said the drone strikes sparked a fire in a gas plant but caused no casualties or disruption to production.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the latest attack was carried out at 0320 GMT by “booby-trapped drones.”
Yemeni fighters regularly target positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi war, which began in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country’s Riyadh-allied former government and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.
The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.
Press TV and AFP contributed to this story.