NIDC drilled 54 oil, gas wells in four months
Domestic Economy Desk
National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) drilled a total of 54 offshore and onshore oil and gas wells in the four-month period from mid-March to mid-July, 2017.
Hamidreza Khoshayand, deputy head of NIDC for drilling operations, further said that in this time-span, the company drilled one exploration, 22 development and appraisal and 31 workover wells, ISNA reported.
“Of this figure, 40 wells were located in the operational territory of National Iranian South Oil Company, four pertained to Iranian Offshore Oil Company, nine were drilled within the framework of production projects undertaken by Petroleum Engineering and Development Company and one was drilled at the order of National Iranian Oil Company’s Exploration Directorate.”
He pointed to reports presented by four NIDC directorates which said that the company has performed more than 96,000 meters of drilling operations during the four-month period.
Khoshayand noted that currently, NIDC owns 74 light, heavy and ultra-heavy onshore (71) and offshore (three) drilling rigs, adding more than 15 percent of the company’s rigs are currently operating in Iranian oilfields shared with neighboring states.
He said in this duration, round-the-clock efforts by NIDC staff and experts led to the completion of drilling operations of eight wells 143 days ahead of schedule, which is a significant achievement.
He said during March 21-July 22, 2017, drilling rigs NIDC’s No. 50 and No. 75 managed to finish their projects 16 days and 12 days, respectively, earlier than the deadline set by the employer.
Iran, Russia discuss construction of new units in Bushehr nuclear plant
A meeting on nuclear cooperation between Iran and Russia focused on construction of the second and third units of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in south of Iran, spokesman for Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi said.
He made the remarks after talks with Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev and the company’s Deputy Director General for International Relations Nikolai Spasskiy in Moscow on Tuesday, IRNA reported.
Tehran and Moscow enjoy good cooperation in the area of nuclear energy, Kamalvandi said, adding that the two sides intend to increase the pace of implementation of nuclear projects.
The AEOI official said his talks with the Russian officials focused on the construction of new units of the Bushehr plant, noting that preliminary steps have been taken and the process is going through on schedule.
“We don’t lag behind, but I think we are going to make shorter the time of implementation of the projects,” said Kamalvandi.
Referring to development of the plant’s first unit, the official said its operation did face long delay due to the Western sanctions against the country.
However, he noted, the country could resolve the problems and manage to launch the first unit.
On Iran’s achievements in the nuclear fuel cycle, the AEOI spokesman said the Islamic Republic masters the know-how on development of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Iran is self-sufficient in some parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, but in some other parts, the country needs international cooperation.
Iran’s only nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity, became officially operational and was connected to Iran’s national grid in September 2011.
The Russian-Iranian agreement on the civil use of nuclear energy, followed by a deal to construct Iran’s first nuclear power plant, dates back to 1992.
In 2014, the two countries signed an agreement on building two new nuclear reactors on the Bushehr site.
In November that year, Tehran and Moscow also struck a deal to build eight more nuclear power plants in Iran.
Rouhani: US sanctions will not go unanswered
Russia warns of retaliation
France: US sanctions at odds with international law
President Hassan Rouhani denounced the US House of Representatives’ approval of a draft law on fresh sanctions against Iran, saying the Islamic Republic will “definitely” give a proportionate response to the hostile move.
Speaking during the cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Rouhani said, the Iranian Parliament would adopt reciprocal measures in response to the US sanctions.
“And we will take any step that we deem necessary in line with the interests of our country, and we will continue our path without paying attention to their (Americans’) sanctions and policies,” said the Iranian chief executive, as reported by IRNA.
Iranian people, he added, are used to “US hostilities” and know well how to counter them.
Over the past 40 years, the Iranians have been subject to sanctions, pressures and false accusations by American politicians and propaganda apparatus, he added.
The US is not only hostile to Iran’s Islamic establishment, but also to the Iranian nation’s resistance, Rouhani noted, stressing that Washington cannot accept the country as a role model for independence in the region.
President Rouhani noted that the US has no alternative but to pursue peace and respect the Iranian nation’s rights and the Islamic Revolution and the establishment.
France’s Foreign Ministry said the new US sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea appeared at odds with international law due to their extra-territorial reach.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that French and European laws would need to be adjusted in response and added that discussions would be necessary at European Union level because of the potential impact on European citizens and firms.
Earlier in the day, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi also vowed a “decisive response” to the “hostile” move.
“The measure being taken by the US Congress and the new law being passed against Iran, Russia and North Korea is a blatant hostile act against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which will be met with a decisive response,” he said.
The remarks came a day after the House voted 419-3 for a bill that would levy new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.
The bill must pass the US Senate before it can be sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.
It targets North Korea and Iran over their ballistic missile programs as well as Russia concerning its alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections and the reintegration of the Black Sea Crimean Peninsula.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the sanctions bill “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe.”
Araqchi further said Iran has over the past years faced similar “hostile moves” by the US Congress and government, and that such an approach “is not particular to the current or former governments” in Washington.
The new bill is in fact a “conclusion of previous US sanctions in non-nuclear fields,” he said, adding, however, that it “could affect the successful implementation” of the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
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Iran ranks first in sponge iron production, 14th in steel globally
Iran currently ranks first in the world in direct-reduced iron (DRI), also known as sponge iron, production and 14th in steel production, said the managing director of National Iranian Steel Company (NISCO).
Abdol-Majid Sharifi further said Iran is now the world’s biggest producer of sponge iron, adding the country has produced 30 percent of the world’s annual DRI since 2015, ifpnews.com reported.
The NISCO CEO put Iran’s annual sponge iron production capacity at 19.5 million tons in 2013, adding the figure currently stands at 25.5 million tons.
He added with the completion of a number of new projects, currently under implementation, by October, Iran’s annual sponge iron output capacity is expected to reach 31.5 million tons by March 2018.
Iran, world’s 14th steel producer
He said in 2013, Iran’s annual steel production capacity stood at 22 million tons.
Currently, he added, the figure stands at 31 million tons thanks to efforts of the incumbent government which took office in 2013.
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Iran inks deal to purchase Russia’s Sukhoi
Representatives of Iran’s Defense Ministry have signed a contract with Russia for the purchase of several Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) passenger planes.
The contract was signed at a meeting between representatives of Russian and Iranian defense authorities at the MAKS Air Show in the city of Zhukovsky, near Moscow, Sputnik reported.
Russia signed contracts worth a total of $6.7 billion at the air show.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, co-chairman of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission, had said in April that the two countries have an agreement on supplying 12 SSJ100 planes and could sign a contract for another 30 jets in the future.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 is a modern fly-by-wire twin-engine regional jet with 108 (all economy) passenger seats. With development initiated in 2000, the airliner was designed and spearheaded by Sukhoi. On April 21, 2011, the Superjet 100 undertook its first commercial passenger flight.
Qatar says new terror list is ‘disappointing surprise’
Qatar has described a new blacklist released by Saudi Arabia and its allies as a “disappointing surprise”, saying it was doing all it could to fight extremism.
Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, Qatar’s communications director, said the decision by the four Arab states to add 18 groups and individuals allegedly linked to Doha to their “terrorist” list has no basis in fact, aljazeera.com reported.
“It comes as a disappointing surprise that the blockading countries are still pursuing this story as part of their smear campaign against Qatar,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
The move by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain on Tuesday came despite mounting international pressure to compromise in their weeks-old boycott of their fellow US ally.
The new names include nine entities in Yemen and Libya, and add to a previous blacklist of 59 individuals and 12 groups issued by the four states last month
Sheikh Saif said: “This latest list provides further evidence that the blockading countries are not committed to the fight against terrorism.
“All individuals with links to terrorism in Qatar have been prosecuted. We encourage the blockading countries to spend less time on drafting these fabricated lists and more time on implementing measures to counter the threat of extremism in their own countries.”
He added that Qatar constantly reviews its anti-terror laws to “remain on the front foot in the fight against extremism and terror financing”.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been boycotting Qatar since June 5 in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.
Accusing Qatar of financing terrorism, they sealed the emirate’s only land border, ordered its citizens to leave and closed their airspace and waters to Qatari flights and shipping.
They want Qatar to cut back ties with Iran, close down a Turkish military base in Qatar and shut the Al Jazeera TV channel, which they view as critical of their governments.
Qatar has dismissed the demands as a violation of its sovereignty and has received significant support from its ally Turkey.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who last week spent four days in the region trying to broker a settlement of the crisis, has voiced satisfaction with Qatar’s efforts to address any suspicion of terror funding.
But after talks with European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned that the four governments would accept no compromise in their dispute with Qatar.
“We cannot compromise with any form of terrorism, we cannot compromise or enter into any form of negotiations,” Shoukry told a news conference.
In Tuesday’s statement, the four countries accused Qatari, Kuwaiti and Yemeni nationals of helping raise funds for Al-Qaeda members.
Their blacklist now include three Yemeni charities, three Libyan media outlets, two armed groups and a religious foundation, some of which are already subject to US sanctions.
Iran U-23 side wins third in a row in Asian volleyball meet
Iran’s U-23 team claimed third successive victory at the 2017 Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship in Indonesia as the two-time Asian champion eased past Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-20, 30-28, 25-21).
Both sides went into the final Pool B fixture of the competition on the back of two previous straight-set victories over Iraq and Pakistan.
The top spot of the group was at stake and the Iranians rose up to the occasion to win third in a row and book their place in the last eight of the competition.
Chipping in 14 points, Amin Esmaeelnejad was once again Iran’s most valuable player as he was in the preceding game against Pakistan.
Iran’s coach Juan Manuel Cichello praised his young players’ efforts during the competition, saying, “We have a group of young and inexperienced players within our side, so it is a joyful achievement to qualify as the group winners,”
“We are going to play against China and Australia in the next round and there will be much to learn from those fixtures.” Cichello added.
Next for Iran is three group phase encounters against China, Australia and again Chinese Taipei at the quarterfinals.
Algerian festival official hails Iran presence as priceless
Art & Culture Desk
The Algerian secretary of the 10th International Arab Film Festival described Iran’s participation as an invaluable opportunity for his fellow countrymen.
Ibrahim Seddiqi added that Iranian director Jamal Shorjeh was appointed to select the actors of an Algerian film ‘Ahmed Bay’, praising the filmmaker for his cinematic skills, IRNA wrote.
The festival that kicked off in Oran, Algeria on July 25 and will run until July 31 is screening 31 Arab films in its main competition, including features, short movies and documentaries.
Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Mauritania are participating in the event, which is presenting movies depicting the Arab world’s realities. This year’s festival will honor Egyptian actor Ezzat El Alaily, Algerian actor Hassan bin Zrari, Algerian actress Nadia Talbi and Algerian director Moussa Haddad.
The festival will also pay tribute to late cineastes including Egyptian actress Karima Mokhtar, Algerian actor Hassan el-Hassani, Algerian writer Mouloud Mammeri and Palestinian critic Bashar Ibrahim.
The Oran-based annual event is the only major festival devoted exclusively to Arab films.
Standoff at Aqsa after metal detectors removed
A tense standoff was underway between Israel and Muslim worshippers at a Beit-ul-Moqaddas holy site Wednesday despite the removal of metal detectors, with concerns of major unrest later this week if a resolution is not found.
Muslims have refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed new security measures at the Haram al-Sharif compound, AFP reported.
The measures followed a gunfight that killed two Israeli policemen and three Palestinians and included metal detectors at entrances.
Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site, which houses the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Beit-ul-Moqaddas’ Old City and in the occupied West Bank, leaving five Palestinians dead.
A Palestinian also stabbed four Israelis in a settlement in the West Bank last week, killing three of them.
There are concerns the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday – which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa – will lead to serious clashes between protesters and Israeli forces.
Following intensive international diplomacy and warnings of the potential of wider unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors in the predawn hours of Tuesday.
Cameras installed in the wake of the attack on the police were also removed.
Railings installed at the site’s entrance before the metal detectors were removed have also remained in place.
The railings and suspicions over what new measures Israel is planning have led Palestinian and Muslim leaders to continue to call for a boycott of the site, and worshippers have heeded the call.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who announced a freeze on contacts with Israel last week over the dispute, said Tuesday the suspension would continue until the site was returned to the way it was before the crisis began.
Vatican cardinal faces Australian court on sex charges
Silent but defiant, Cardinal George Pell made his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse, vowing through his lawyer to fight the allegations that have rocked Rome and threatened the pope’s image as a crusader against abusive clergy. Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, is accused of sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria, making him the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis. Details of the charges have yet to be released to the public, though police have described them as “historical” sexual assault offenses — meaning crimes that occurred years ago, AP reported.
Pell has not yet entered a plea. But on Wednesday, his lawyer told the court that the 76-year-old cardinal plans to formally plead not guilty at a future court date.
“For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, I might indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has,” lawyer Robert Richter told the court. The hearing itself lasted just minutes and was remarkably routine. Yet the image of one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church standing before a cramped courtroom overflowing with reporters and spectators was anything but.
Though many clerics have faced allegations of sex abuse in recent years, Pell is by far the highest-ranking church official ever charged, and his case has shaken the Vatican.
After years of alleged cover-ups and silence from the church over its pedophilia scandal, abuse survivors and their advocates hailed the prosecution of Pell as a monumental shift in the way society is responding to the crisis.
The appearance in court of one of the church’s most esteemed officials was a long overdue acknowledgement of the suffering felt by so many victims of clergy abuse.
Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — the nation’s highest form of inquiry — revealed earlier this year that seven percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children in Australia over the past several decades.
In testimony to the commission last year, Pell conceded that he had made mistakes by often believing priests over those who said they had been abused. And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued abuse victims in his hometown of Ballarat.
But over the past year, the allegations against Pell moved beyond the way he had handled cases of clergy abuse to accusations that he, himself, had committed abuse. Australian detectives flew to the Vatican to interview him last year and last month, he was formally charged.
The cardinal is next expected in court on Oct. 6.