Minister: US pressure on Iran, Venezuela making oil market fragile
Iran’s oil minister said on Sunday that US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and tensions in Libya have made the supply-demand balance in the global oil market fragile; he warned of consequences for increasing pressure on Tehran.
“Oil prices are increasing every day. That shows the market is worried,” Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Tasnim News Agency.
Oil prices have risen more than 30 percent this year on the back of supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and US sanctions on oil exporters, Iran and Venezuela, plus escalating conflict in OPEC member, Libya.
“Venezuela is in trouble. Russia is also under sanctions. Libya is in turmoil. Part of US oil production has stopped. These show the supply-demand balance is very fragile,” Zanganeh said.
“If they [the Americans] decide to increase pressure on Iran, the fragility will increase in an unpredictable way,” he added.
Zanganeh said one of the consequences of pressure on Iran is a rise in fuel prices in the United States.
“Trump must choose whether to add more pressure on Iran or keep fuel prices low at gas stations in America,” Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Shana.
The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers.
US President Donald Trump aims to eventually halt Iran’s oil exports, choking off Tehran’s main source of revenue.
OPEC and its allies meet in June to decide whether to continue withholding supply.
Though OPEC member, Saudi Arabia, is considered keen to keep cutting output, sources within the group have said it could raise output as of July if disruptions continue elsewhere.
The producer group’s supply cuts have been aimed largely at offsetting record crude production in the United States.
Larijani lauds Italy’s sensitivity about region’s security
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani praised sensitivity of Italian government regarding the restoration of peace and security in the region.
During a meeting with visiting President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Italy’s Senate Vito Rosario Petrocelli, Larijani pointed to the new crises in the region, saying that “While the issue of Daesh has not yet been resolved, new crises such as immigration have been created [in the region].”
The Iranian official also referred to importance of recent developments in Libya, Sudan and Algeria which have been the scene of armed clashes and protests in recent weeks.
The Italian official expressed concern about the ongoing crisis in Libya, saying that it will have damaging consequences and will lead to new wave of immigration to the European countries.
Petrocelli also highlighted Iran’s constructive role in resolving the crisis in Syria, saying that, “We are aware that if Iran did not have presence in Syria, we have not seen the return of thousands of Syrian families to their country”.
Petrocelli also pointed to relations with Iran, saying that “Italian Parliament is vehemently interested in boosting and enhancing bilateral ties with other countries such as Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He said that Italian Parliament and government are stressing multilateralism and avoiding unilateralism in the world, adding that a small group of countries should not be decision-makers for all the countries of the world.
During the meeting, Larijani underlined that Iran attaches great importance to its relationship with Italian government.
Larijani also thanked the Italian government for expressing sympathy with flood-hit Iranians and dispatching humanitarian aid.
Since March 19, many of Iranian cities have been hit by severe floods which have so far claimed the lives of at least 76 people.
Interior minister: Iran floods caused billions in damage
Floods unleased by heavy rain across Iran in recent weeks have caused an estimated $8.3 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and agricultural land, state media cited ministers as telling lawmakers on Sunday.
The flooding, which began on March 19, has killed 76 people, forced more than 220,000 people into emergency shelters, and left aid agencies struggling to cope. The Armed Forces have been deployed to help those affected.
“The recent floods are unprecedented... 25 provinces and more than 4,400 villages have been affected,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in Parliament.
Fazli said the floods had caused around 350 trillion rials ($8.3 billion) worth of damage.
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Zarif raps Europe for delaying INSTEX launch
Iran once again complained about a delay by European partners in the 2015 nuclear deal to make operational a non-dollar direct payment channel with Tehran, saying they now have “no excuse” for further postponement of the project.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks on the sidelines of a ceremony to launch the ministry’s Economic Diplomacy website in Tehran on Sunday, Press TV reported.
The Europeans, Zarif said, introduced the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) as “a preliminary measure” – as part of their multiple commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – following Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
In order to begin honoring their commitments, the Europeans were required to set up INSTEX, he explained.
An Iranian structure parallel to INSTEX, called the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), was launched just last week, Zarif said, noting that the European signatories have no longer any excuse to delay the start of their job.
He also stressed that the European partners are “lagging behind” in fulfilling their commitments and “should not believe that the Islamic Republic will [continue to wait] for them.”
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Sudan Foreign Ministry urges global backing for army rulers
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday urged the international community to back the country’s new military rulers to help “democratic transition”.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking forward to the international community to understand the situation and to support the transitional military council ... in order to achieve the Sudanese goal of democratic transition,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The steps taken by the army on Thursday, April 11, take the side of the people for the sake of freedom, peace and justice,” the ministry said, echoing the catch-cry of the months-long protest movement that led to the ousting of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.
The chief of the military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is “committed to having a complete civilian government and the role of the council will be to maintain the sovereignty of the country,” the military said.
Burhan was also committed to an independent judiciary and to preparing the environment for political parties and civil society to build themselves up “in order to have a peaceful transition of power,” the ministry said.
Burhan took the oath as chief of the military council after his predecessor stepped down a day after ousting Bashir.
Tens of thousands of people have been camped outside the army headquarters since April 6 demanding both the deposing of Bashir and the transition to civilian rule.
In remarks broadcast on state TV, Burhan said Saturday the council has invited “all spectrums of Sudanese people for dialogue.”
He said he was lifting the nighttime curfew imposed Thursday, which was to last for a month, and declared the immediate release of all those detained and tried during the wave of unrest that began in December.
Bashir imposed a state of emergency in February, banning unauthorized public gatherings and granting sweeping powers to the police in an effort to quash the protests. Dozens of people were killed in clashes between police and protesters, and hundreds were tried before emergency courts.
Meanwhile, organizers of the protests called on the military to “immediately and unconditionally” hand power to a transitional civilian government that would rule for four years.
The political parties and movements behind the four months of protests said in a joint statement that they will remain in the streets until their demands are met. They said the handover to civilian rule would be the “first step toward the fall of the regime”.
The military overthrew al-Bashir on Thursday, ending his nearly 30-year reign and placing him under house arrest in the capital, Khartoum. The protesters fear that the military, which is dominated by al-Bashir appointees, will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed him.
Saudi Araba and the United Arab Emirates meanwhile issued statements in support of Sudan’s transitional military council.
AFP and AP contributed to this story.
Over 120 killed, 560 wounded in Libya fighting: WHO
Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people and wounded 561 since strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive earlier this month to take the Libyan capital, the World Health Organization said Sunday.
WHO’s Libya account said on Twitter the organization was sending medical supplies and more staff to Tripoli, and denounced “repeated attacks on health care workers, vehicles” during the fighting which erupted on April 4, AFP reported.
Haftar’s forces, which control swathes of the country’s east, have defied international calls to halt their battle against fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.
The United Nations’ office for humanitarian affairs said more than 13,500 people had been displaced by the clashes, while more than 900 residents are living in shelters.
“Three medical personnel have been killed and five ambulances have been incapacitated by shrapnel,” OCHA said in a Saturday statement.
As well as fighting on the ground, the two sides have launched daily air raids and accuse each other of targeting civilians.
The north African country has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, which has led to the creation of a bewildering array of militias all seeking to take control. Haftar backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the UN-backed unity government led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Democrats demand Trump tax returns by April 23
Democratic lawmakers on Saturday gave the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a final deadline of April 23 to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration was diligently considering.
“I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the committee. Those concerns lack merit,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig after an initial April 10 deadline lapsed, AFP reported.
On Wednesday, Mnuchin said the Treasury was handling the request and that a deadline set for that date would be missed, citing possible constitutional issues raised by the Democratic request.
But on Saturday, he said the administration would respond by the latest target date.
“I’m sure we’ll respond by that deadline, not going to make a commitment prematurely whether we’ll be able to conclude a legal review by that deadline,” Mnuchin said. “We have people working on it diligently.”
Calling Neal’s new deadline an “arbitrary” date, Mnuchin said the Democrats’ request could set “enormous precedent in potentially weaponizing the IRS.”
Trump argues that he cannot release his tax returns because they are being audited, but the IRS has said this is no impediment to their release.
“It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the Committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information,” Neal said.
“Concerns about what the Committee may do with the tax returns and return information are baseless.”
Neal gave the government until 5:00 p.m. (2100 GMT) on April 23 to hand over the tax records.
“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal wrote.
‘Redemption’ as Hamilton wins 1,000th race in China
Lewis Hamilton said that he “redeemed” himself with a lightning start to win the 1,000th Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday in a blustery Shanghai.
Hamilton started from second on the grid but grabbed the lead from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on the first corner and romped to a victory which gave him the world championship lead, AFP reported.
The title-holder from Britain finished more than 6.5 seconds ahead of Bottas in the third Mercedes one-two in as many races this season, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third.
Max Verstappen of Red Bull was fourth and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari was fifth.
Sixth was Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman earning a bonus point for clocking the quickest lap, one minute 34.742 seconds, in windy and hazy conditions.
Hamilton, for whom this was a sixth Chinese Grand Prix win and 75th overall, said that it was “a little bit of a struggle this weekend for me”.
The five-time world champion wrestled with his car in qualifying but said that “a shift in driving style enabled me to unlock a bit more the potential of the car”.
“The start was obviously great, which was really the decisive moment of the race. After that it was fairly straightforward.”
The 34-year-old, who now leads the Finn Bottas by six points in the standings, said that he has had problems with his starts down the years.
“The first few races have been very difficult for me off the line so it’s nice to finally redeem myself and rectify that,” he added.
Bottas, who pipped Hamilton to pole by just 0.023 seconds, was always playing catchup after laboring out of the blocks.
“I lost it on the start, honestly, shame about the start, I got some wheel spin on the start line,” he said.
Talented 21-year-old Leclerc pulled off the same trick at the expense of teammate Vettel, darting into third, but the German ultimately prevailed in the battle of the Ferraris.
Mercedes “were too quick right from the start”, said Vettel, who climbed atop the podium for the first time in 2019.
There was more early drama when Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat tangled with both McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, earning the Russian a drive-through penalty.
On lap 11, four-time world champion Vettel leapfrogged back in front of Monaco’s Leclerc into third following radio orders from Ferrari telling the youngster to let him pass.
“We do our job, stay focused,” Leclerc – agonizingly denied victory last time out in Bahrain after his Ferrari lost power – was informed on team radio after he briefly protested.
Back at the front, Hamilton began pulling away, establishing a more than five-second gap on Bottas with a third of the race gone.
With Hamilton – winner in Bahrain two weeks ago – serene up top, the real battles unfolded behind him.
Vettel, under pressure after a number of unforced errors going back to last season, went wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen after both pitted for fresh tires.
Vettel, Bottas and then Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, who missed qualifying after a nasty crash in final practice, all exchanged fastest laps.
The Thai-Briton Albon was named “driver of the day” after battling from the pits and into the points.
On lap 38 of the 56 it was Leclerc and Bottas who had a skirmish in the compelling battle for second.
Leclerc then pitted and was momentarily held up by a comparatively sluggish change of tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified eighth for Renault, saw his race come to an early conclusion after the team retired his faltering car.
Norris and Kvyat were also forced out before the end.
The fourth race of the season takes place on the streets of Baku, in Azerbaijan, in a fortnight.
Tehran gearing up for 37th FIff as cultural-tourism event
Art & Culture Desk
Tehran is gearing up for welcoming national and international guests for this year’s Fajr International Film Festival (FIff).
Urban Events manager of the 37th FIff, Vahid Qassemi, said urban plans are underway to ensure that the festival is introduced as a brand and a cultural-tourism event, fajriff.com reported.
According to Qassemi, the cinematic subject crops up annually in the spring, when the capital city is in the spotlight; so it makes sense to give a new facelift and a new aspect to Tehran because there is a lot everywhere in the city during the annual film festival.
Qassemi added that there are some festivals held in Tehran which, despite having a brand, they accompany no change throughout the city, and attract no cultural tourists.
In this festival, however, the ground is paved to involve urban events as well, he said, such as hanging posters on walls and erecting billboards in the main squares.
He explained: “At least 40 billboards have been prepared for the purpose. Posters and signs will also be put up around the main theaters screening this year’s films. There will be clusters of cinematic stalls in and around the main venues to make sure that other tourism and cultural events are also intermingled with this year’s main event.”
Qassemi added that other cultural programs will include musical events, landscape paintings, artifacts, street film photo exhibitions and posters depicting classic film quotes and dialogues.
All these programs will be organized in collaboration with the Tehran Municipality.
Presided over by Iranian film writer and director Reza Mirkarimi, the 37th edition of the festival will be held in Tehran from April 18 to 26.
UK gov’t to resume cross-party Brexit talks this week
The British government will resume talks with the main opposition Labour Party this week on how to resolve the deadlock over Brexit, a senior minister said Sunday.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s effective deputy, David Lidington, said they wanted to be able to “take stock” of any progress when parliament returns from its Easter break on April 23, AFP reported.
“What we have agreed is a program of meetings this week on particular subjects with the ministers and shadow ministers concerned getting together,” he told the BBC.
They would discuss environmental standards and workers’ rights after Brexit as well as the future security relationship with the EU.
“Then we would hope to take stock of where we are as soon as parliament gets back after the Easter recess,” he said.
“But I don’t think that this question can be allowed to drag out for much longer.”
May was forced to ask fellow EU leaders last week to postpone Brexit for a second time, from April 12 to October 31.
She has been unable to persuade MPs to back the withdrawal terms she has struck with Brussels, but is also unwilling to take Britain out of the EU with no deal at all.
She is still hoping Brexit can happen in time to avoid Britain taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23.
May met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on April 3 and there have been further lower-level talks since then over Labour’s demand for a close future relationship with the EU.
Lidington said there must be “compromise on both sides”, adding that if no agreement could be reached, they would put a series of Brexit options to parliament to decide.