Leader: Iran against holding independence referendum in parts of Iraq
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of safeguarding Iraq’s territorial integrity, saying, “As a neighbor, the Islamic Republic of Iran is against certain murmurs about the holding of a referendum for the separation of a section of Iraq.”
Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran on Tuesday, Press TV reported.
Officials in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region have decided to hold an independence referendum on September 25.
The move has drawn criticism from Baghdad and international bodies, including the United Nations and the European Union (EU).
EU has cautioned political parties in Iraq’s Kurdistan region against holding the referendum, saying that “unilateral steps must be avoided, and that all open questions must be resolved through consensual positions” based on Iraq’s Constitution.
The United Nations has also said it will not be “engaged in any way or form” in the process surrounding the independence referendum in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
US against Iraq’s independence
The Leader also warned against placing trust in the United States, saying Washington is against Iraq’s independence and unity.
“Vigilance is required against the Americans and they should not be trusted at all because the US and its puppets oppose Iraq’s independence, identity and unity,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader hailed the unity and coherence among all Iraqi political and faith movements in their fight against Daesh terrorists and said the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, are important and a power element for the country.
Ayatollah Khamenei added that the US is against Hashd al-Sha’abi because “they [Americans] want Iraq to lose its key element of strength.”
“Do not trust the Americans”
“Do not trust the Americans at all because they seek an opportunity to strike their blow,” the Leader said.
Ayatollah Khamenei warned that any emergence of division and conflict among Iraqis would pave the way for Washington to harm Iraq, stressing the importance of preventing the presence of US forces in Iraq under the pretext of training.
The Leader further emphasized that the US and some of its allies in the region do not seek the destruction and eradication of Daesh as the terrorist group has been created through their support.
Ayatollah Khamenei expressed hope that the Iraqi government would manage to solve the problems it faces and said, “The Iraqi government must be strengthened in every way and all political and faith movements in Iraq are duty-bound to support the sitting government.”
The Leader also said Iran and Iraq must further expand relations in various fields, urging the two sides to remove the obstacles in the way of bolstering their cooperation.
Praising Tehran aid
The Iraqi prime minister commended Iran’s support for his country in the fight against Daesh.
Abadi said all Iraqi political and religious groups are united in the battle against Daesh until its full eradication.
He added that Baghdad needs Tehran’s aid during the fight against Daesh and after the elimination of the Takfiris – a time for Iraq’s stability, peace and construction.
Earlier in the day, the Iraqi premier held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
During the meeting, President Rouhani described the terrorist operations across the Middle East as part of Israel’s agenda, warning that anti-terror campaigns in the region should not divert attention from the Palestinian crisis.
“Fighting against terrorism should not overshadow the issue of Al-Quds and the threat of the Zionist regime in the region,” he said.
Elsewhere, Rouhani congratulated the Iraqi government and nation over the liberation of Mosul from the hands of Daesh terrorists, saying, “The liberation of Mosul is a symbol of putting an end to terrorism; it is a victory celebration for Iran, Iraq, Syria and all the regional countries fighting the grave issue of terrorism.”
The president also underlined the importance of safeguarding the territorial integrity of all regional countries and denounced any measure aimed at undermining the unity and sovereignty of Iraq as “unacceptable.”
The Iranian chief executive also called for the expansion of Iran-Iraq ties in all areas.
Abadi called for the promotion of Tehran-Baghdad relations in all spheres, particularly in fighting terrorism.
He noted that Daesh terrorists know no boundaries and urged all countries to cooperate in fighting against such a common threat.
Abadi’s visit to Iran comes as Iraqi government forces continue more territorial gains in the militant-held Old City of Mosul as they continue their operations to push Daesh terrorists out of their last urban stronghold in the Arab country.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi prime minister also held talks with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
Heading a delegation, Abadi arrived in Tehran on the second leg of a three-nation tour after a key trip to Saudi Arabia. At the end of his two-day visit to Tehran, the Iraqi premier will set off for Kuwait to meet with the country’s senior officials.
Crude steel production records over 13% rise in five months
Domestic Economy Desk
Iran produced 8.159 million tons of crude steel in the first five months of 2017, indicating a 13.08-percent rise compared with the figure for the same period of 2016, which was 7.215 million tons.
According to statistics released by World Steel Association (WSA), China topped the list of crude steel producers in the period with 346.833 million tons.
Japan, India and the United States with 43.936 million tons, 41.822 million tons and 33.978 million tons respectively were listed in second, third and fourth places, the report said.
In May, Iran produced 1.79 million tons of crude steel, which is 3.17 percent higher than the figure for April, which was 1.635 million tons.
Global steel production in May amounted to 143.325 million tons, showing an increase of 0.89 percent compared with the figure for April which was 142.06 million tons.
WSA is the international trade body of the iron and steel industry. The association represents approximately 170 steel producers, including 17 of the world’s 20 largest steel companies, national and regional steel industry associations and steel research institutes.
Its members account for around 85 percent of world steel production.
Rouhani urges unity against Zionism, terrorism
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday urged unity among Muslim nations in the face of the Zionist regime of Israel and terrorism.
“Unity in the Muslim world needs to be fortified in order to contain Zionism and terrorism in the region,” President Rouhani said, adding that rifts among Muslim countries only serves the Israeli interests, IRNA reported.
He further censured Israel for supporting terrorism, saying the regime is, either covertly or overtly, complicit in almost all crises gripping the Middle East.
“Today, it happens rarely for Zionists not to have a hand, either behind the scenes or openly, in rifts among regional countries,” Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting.
Wounded terrorists receive treatment in Israeli hospitals, he said, adding that the Tel Aviv regime arms terrorists and bombs the region in favor of them.
“It is clear that they (Israelis) support terrorism in the region,” President Rouhani said. “Undoubtedly, the split between regional countries and the Muslim world, such as the ones between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and Turkey eventually benefits global Zionism and usurping Israel.”
He noted that the Islamic Republic would not allow terrorism to spread in the region, warning the terrorists and their masters against attempts to drag the scourge into Iran.
He was referring to remarks by Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who said last month that Riyadh would work to move “the battle” to Iran.
Fight against terror
Rouhani referred to Iran’s recent retaliatory missile strike on Daesh terrorists in Syria and said fighting terrorism is a decision made by the whole Iranian nation.
On Sunday, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired six medium-range ground-to-ground ballistic missiles at the Daesh-held Syria town of Deir ez-Zor in retaliation for the recent deadly terror attacks in the capital, Tehran.
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Iran blames high US output for falling oil prices
Iran blamed a recent rise in US oil production for the plunge in global prices of crude oil.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters on Wednesday that the US had increased its oil production by 900,000 barrels per day. This, he said, was way beyond what the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had estimated, Press TV reported.
Zanganeh said he was already discussing the role of high US oil production in the decline of prices. However, he said it would be difficult to prepare the member states for any collective action on such issues.
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Saudi king ousts nephew, names son as first heir
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, placing him first-in-line to the throne and removing a figure well-known to Washington from the line of succession.
The monarch stripped Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from his title as crown prince and from his powerful position as the country’s interior minister overseeing security. The announcements were made in a series of royal decrees, AP reported.
The all-but-certain takeover of the throne by Mohammed bin Salman awards near absolute powers to a prince who has led a war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.
The prince already oversees a vast portfolio as defense minister and is spearheading economic reforms. He has pushed reforms that have opened the deeply conservative country to entertainment and greater foreign investments as part of an effort to overhaul the economy, including plans to list a percentage of the state-run oil giant Aramco.
The young prince was little known to Saudis and outsiders before Salman became king in January 2015. He had previously been in charge of his father’s royal court when Salman was the crown prince.
The Saudi monarch quickly awarded his son expansive powers and named him deputy crown prince two years ago to the surprise of many within the royal family who are more senior and more experienced than Mohammed bin Salman, also known by his initials MBS.
The appointment of such a young royal as the immediate heir to the throne essentially sets Saudi policy for decades and removes the challenge of uncertainty. Saudi Arabia’s stock market was up by more than 3.5 percent in midday trading.
Another young prince also ascended to power on Wednesday. Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, 33, was named the new interior minister tasked with counterterrorism efforts and domestic security. His father is the governor of Saudi Arabia’s vast Eastern Province, home to much of the country’s oil wealth and most of its minority Shias. He previously served as an adviser to the interior and defense ministries.
The new interior minister is Mohammed bin Nayef’s nephew, while Mohammed bin Salman is the former crown prince’s cousin. All hail from the powerful Sudairi branch of the royal family.
The royal decree issued Wednesday stated that “a majority” of senior royal members — 31 out of 34 — from the so-called Allegiance Council supports the recasting of the line of succession.
The Allegiance Council is a body made up of the sons and prominent grandsons of the late King Abdul-Aziz, the founder of the Saudi state. They gather in secret and vote to pick the king and crown prince from among themselves.
After the decrees were announced, Saudi TV aired footage of the new crown prince kissing Mohammed bin Nayef’s hand and kneeling before him. Mohammed bin Nayef is heard telling him: “I will rest now, and God help you.”
Iraqi forces tighten noose around Daesh in Mosul
US-backed Iraqi forces on Wednesday began a push toward the mosque in Mosul where Daesh declared a self-styled caliphate three years ago, military officials said.
The Iraqi forces had encircled the terror group’s stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, where the mosque is located, on Tuesday, they said.
The Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were 200 to 300 meters away from the medieval Grand al-Nuri Mosque, an Iraqi military statement said, Reuters reported.
Iraqi officials have privately expressed the hope that the mosque could be captured by Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The first day of the Eid falls this year on June 25 or 26.
The battle for the Old City is becoming the deadliest in the eight-month-old offensive to capture Mosul, Daesh’s de facto capital in Iraq.
More than 100,000 civilians, of whom half are children, are trapped in its old fragile houses with little food, water, medicine, no electricity and limited access to clinics.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday that sick and wounded civilians escaping through Daesh lines were dying in “high numbers”.
“We are trying to keep families inside their houses and, after we secure their block, we will evacuate them through safe routes,” said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior CTS commander in Mosul.
The terrorists are moving stealthily in the Old City’s maze of alleyways and narrow streets, through holes dug between houses, fighting back the advancing troops with sniper and mortar fire, booby traps and suicide bombers.
They have also covered many streets with sheets of cloth to obstruct air surveillance, making it difficult for the advancing troops to hit them without a risk to civilians.
“We are attacking simultaneously from different fronts to divide them into smaller groups easier to fight,” said an officer from the Federal Police, another force taking part in the assault on the Old City.
The Iraqi Army estimates the number of Daesh terrorists at no more than 300, down from nearly 6,000 in the city when the battle of Mosul started on Oct. 17.
The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate” even though Daesh would continue to control territory west and south of the city, the largest they came to control in both Iraq and Syria.
The Iraqi government initially hoped to take Mosul by the end of 2016, but the campaign took longer as terrorists reinforced positions in civilian areas to fight back.
The terrorists are also retreating in Syria, mainly in the face of a US-backed Kurdish-led coalition. Its capital there, Raqqa, is under siege.
About 850,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war population of Mosul, have fled, seeking refuge with relatives or in camps, according to aid groups.
Key Macron ally quits French government
French Justice Minister Francois Bayrou, a key ally of President Emmanuel Macron, told AFP on Wednesday he was quitting the government as his party battles a funding scandal.
The move means Macron, who has pledged to clean up French politics after a series of scandals, loses a centrist partner as he seeks to pull together a government to push forward his ambitious pro-business reform agenda, AFP reported.
Bayrou’s small centrist MoDem party was in an alliance with Macron’s 14-month-old Republic on the Move (REM) movement, and Bayrou was one of three MoDem ministers in the cabinet named by the president last month.
The trio of MoDem ministers are now all set to leave.
Macron hopes to complete a partial reshuffle of his month-old government later Wednesday following a parliamentary election at the weekend that gave him and MoDem a commanding majority.
But with Macron’s REM party alone winning 308 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, it does not need the support of MoDem, which took 42 seats, to push legislation through parliament.
“I have taken a decision not to be part of the next government,” Bayrou said, adding that he would hold a press conference at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Macron has promised that his presidency will usher in an era of new, cleaner politics after a series of scandals involving ministers under his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.
Observers say that pledge makes it difficult for the president to keep MoDem in his government because the party is facing allegations it broke European Parliament rules by using funds to pay parliamentary assistants who are actually based in France.
Another key MoDem figure, Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard, announced on Tuesday she was resigning because she could not remain in the cabinet with a potential investigation hanging over the party.
MoDem’s third representative in the government, European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez, is also set to quit, a party source said.
Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said Bayrou’s decision to quit was a “personal choice” which “simplifies the situation”. The opposition Republicans seized on the resignations, calling them “a political scandal” and “a major government crisis”.
Bayrou, who ran three times for president, has dismissed the allegations, saying there had “never been” fake jobs among his party’s European Parliament staff.
Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation this month into the funding claims that first emerged in the Canard Enchaine newspaper.
Yesterday, June 21, marked the anniversary of Iran’s historic victory over the USA at the 1998 World Cup in France as the 2-1 result was the Asian side’s first and to date, only, triumph in the history of the competition.
On this occasion, the AFC official website took a look at the historic game which forever will be remembered by all Iranian football fans:
The FIFA World Cup France 1998 is remembered for many things: Zinedine Zidane cementing his place amongst the all-time greats, Ronaldo’s pre-final meltdown and David Beckham’s dismissal against Argentina that was followed by scathing criticism in his homeland.
Yet 19 years ago, on June 21 1998, the Islamic Republic of Iran went head-to-head with the USA for the first time ever in a match that carried arguably as much significance as any during the four-week competition.
Having first appeared at the FIFA World Cup in 1978 in Argentina, Iran would have to wait a further 20 years to progress to the tournament again – and it did so the hard way.
After coming second to Saudi Arabia in their qualifying group, the Iranians then lost 3-2 after extra time to Japan in the continental playoff to leave the Asians facing a two-legged encounter with Australia for the right to advance to the competition.
A 1-1 draw in the first leg at Azadi Stadium of Tehran in front of well over 100,000 spectators was then followed by a sensational 2-2 score line in Melbourne as Iran secured its place on away goals.
The USA was appearing in its third successive World Cup – having hosted the tournament four years earlier – but it was the first time the two nations had been represented at the same competition.
And as fate would have it, a match billed as the most politically charged in World Cup history and described as “the mother of all games” by the US Soccer Federation would take place in Lyon as Iran was paired with the USA in Group F alongside powerhouse Germany and Yugoslavia.
Fresh from reaching the last 16 on home soil at the 1994 edition of the tournament, and with a number of players now plying their trade in Europe, the USA had seen its reputation grow in recent years.
The trio of Ali Daei, Karim Baqeri and Khodadad Azizi, meanwhile, all played their club football in Germany, but elsewhere the Iranians remained somewhat of an unknown quantity.
Iran kicked off its World Cup just over 20 years to the day since its last fixture in the competition but, after running a star-studded Yugoslavia side close, lost 1-0 in the opening game in Saint-Etienne.
The USA would begin its campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Germany in Paris to mean both teams went into the clash in Lyon needing a win in order to maintain their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.
Just under 40,000 turned out for the crunch encounter at Stade de Gerland to witness Hamid Estili give the Iranians the lead five minutes before the interval with a superb header from 15 meters after being picked out by Javad Zarincheh from the right.
Then, with 10 minutes to play, Iran’s all-time leading scorer Daei slotted through to a surging Mehdi Mahdavikia, who kept his cool to toe-poke past Kasey Keller in the American goal and spark joyous celebrations among Iranian players and fans.
Brian McBride pulled a goal back with three minutes to play to ensure a nervy finish but Iran managed to hold on to wrap up its first and to date only World Cup win and, in turn, eliminate the USA after just two games.
What happened next?
With Germany and Yugoslavia drawing 2-2 in their second match of the competition, Iran went into its final fixture with the Germans knowing only a win would guarantee progression to the next round.
It was a tough task but Jalal Talebi’s team performed admirably in the first half in Montpellier by keeping its more illustrious opponent at bay to go in level at the interval. Germany’s superiority shone through after the restart, though, as Oliver Bierhoff opened the scoring on 50 minutes before Jurgen Klinsmann made it two soon after.
Iran’s exit was confirmed following the 2-0 defeat, but the Iranian players returned home with the heads held high having secured their finest result on the global stage.
Although there were legitimate concerns about a game between countries who’d endured a fraught political relationship over the previous two decades, the match was said to have done far more good than bad.
The Iranian players took white roses – a symbol of peace in their homeland – on to the pitch to present to their opponents, before the two teams then posed for photographs prior to kickoff.
Having now secured the progression to the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 with a highly regarded team, the next aim for modern-day Iran will be to add to that famous first win and create a new chapter of history for Team Melli.
Iran’s ‘Versailles Palace’ eventually registered as National Heritage Site
Iran’s top cultural heritage body finally gave the green light for registration of the Sabet Pasal Mansion, commonly known as the ‘Versailles Palace of Iran’, as a National Heritage Site following growing controversy over the imminent destruction of the architectural masterpiece.
Eventually on June 21, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Zahra Ahmadipour directed Tehran’s governor general to inscribe the Sabet Pasal Mansion in the Iranian capital on the list of National Heritage Sites, ifpnews.com reported.
The order was issued following many ups and downs and considerable controversy.
The registration of the mansion, located in Tehran, is aimed at preventing the demolition of the mansion by its private owner, who wants to build a high-rise to replace the architectural masterpiece.
Following the registration of the mansion as a national heritage site, no development will be allowed in the building’s precincts.
Earlier, Mehdi Chamran, the outgoing chairman of Tehran City Council, had said the building “is of no cultural value” and supported a proposal to construct a mosque in its place as well as a commercial center “to cover the expenses of the mosque”.
Sabet Pasal Mansion, also known as the ‘Stone Palace’ or ‘Iran’s Versailles Palace’, is Tehran’s largest historical house. It was built in the second Pahlavi period in an area of over 11,500 square meters, modelled after Petit Trianon Chatêau on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.
It belonged to wealthy Iranian businessman Habibollah Sabet, known as Sabet Pasal, but was seized by Mostazafan Foundation after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is currently owned by Ali Ansari, the managing director of Ayandeh Bank.
Brussels attacker identified as Moroccan with nail bomb
Belgium said on Wednesday a Moroccan man carried out a foiled terrorist attack with a nail bomb at a busy Brussels train station, the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Europe.
The 36-year-old man, identified only as O.Z, shouted and tried to detonate a suitcase in a group of passengers at Brussels Central station before a soldier shot him dead on Tuesday, AFP reported.
The suspect, from the largely immigrant Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek which has been linked to a number of previous attacks, was not known to police for terrorism offences.
“It could have been much worse,” Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told a news conference. “It is clear that he wanted to cause more damage than he did.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said a “terrorist attack has been prevented” in the city that hosts the EU and NATO headquarters.
But he said that while security would be stepped up, the country’s terror alert level would be kept stable. “We are not allowing ourselves to be intimidated by terrorists,” he added.
The blast came a day after a man mowed down Muslims near a mosque in London, and a suspected radical on a terror watch list rammed a car laden with weapons into a police vehicle in Paris.
Brussels has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Zavantem Airport and the Maalbeek metro station near the EU quarter in March 2016, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds more. The Daesh terror group claimed the attacks, which were carried out by the same Brussels-based cell behind the November 2015 suicide bombings and shootings in Paris which left 130 people dead. In Tuesday’s incident, the man failed to cause any casualties.
He entered the station and twice approached a group of around 10 passengers, the second time standing in the middle of them, prosecutors said.
“He grabbed his suitcase while shouting and causing a partial explosion. Fortunately nobody was hurt,” Van Der Sypt said.
A soldier opened fire and hit the individual several times.
The man, who died instantly, was not wearing a suicide belt, contrary to some Belgian media reports, he said.
Belgium would keep its terror alert level at three on a scale of four, Michel said after chairing a meeting with his national security council.
Events in Brussels including a concert by rock band Coldplay were set to continue, although authorities said there would be extra security and warned people not to bring backpacks.