Iran, Tajikistan discuss financial issues of power plant project
Delegations from Iran and Tajikistan met in Tehran for talks about the financial issues surrounding Sangtudeh-2 hydroelectric power plant, a project carried out by Iran in Tajikistan.
The 13th meeting of Iran-Tajikistan Joint Commission of Economic Cooperation opened in Tehran on Monday, attended by Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian and Tajikistan’s Minister of Energy and Water Resources Usmonali Usmonzoda, reported Tasnim News Agency.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, the Tajik minister said one of the most successful projects that Iranian companies have carried out in Tajikistan in recent years has been the construction of Sangtudeh-2 hydroelectric power plant.
Usmonzoda said the 220-megawatt power plant has come on stream and plays a major role in supplying the Central Asian country’s power demands in the wintertime.
He also noted that a series of financial issues relating to the power plant project and the purchase of electricity by Tajikistan was discussed in the joint commission of economic cooperation on Monday.
Praising Iranian companies for involvement in multiple projects in Tajikistan, Usmonzoda said Iran has also embarked on a project to construct a hydroelectric power plant at Tajikistan’s Rogun Dam.
In June, the top diplomats of Iran and Tajikistan met in Tehran to explore avenues for the enhancement of relations between the two countries in various fields.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his visiting Tajik counterpart Sirodjidin Mukhriddin weighed plans to broaden the political and parliamentary cooperation between the two nations, strengthen friendship groups, enhance economic interaction in the water, electricity and transportation sectors, hold political and consular consultations, expand cultural and international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and combat extremism and terrorism.
Flu epidemic claims dozens of lives in Iran: Health Ministry
A senior Iranian Health Ministry official said that an ongoing influenza epidemic has claimed the lives of 56 people since its outbreak more than a couple of months ago.
“Due to the influenza, 273 individuals have been hospitalized and 19 have lost their lives” in the past week alone, said Alireza Raisi, the deputy health minister as reported by Press TV.
The health deputy added that all of the disease’s victims have so far been among aged individuals or people which had been suffering from underlying disorders.
“As the Health Ministry had previously announced, not all individuals need to be vaccinated for the disease and only people with underlying disorders such as diabetes, lung disease and pregnant women are advised to do so,” Raisi said.
“This wave will continue for another two weeks during which it may even become more widespread, but it will diminish afterwards,” he added.
According to Iranian health officials, two different strains of flu, H1N1 and H3N2, are currently spreading across the country in an epidemic which has appeared two weeks earlier than the annual flu season.
Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, head of the Iranian Health Ministry’s center for infectious diseases, says that his ministry has been preparing for the outbreak and has stockpiled needed medical and specifically vaccine supplies to deal with the outbreak.
Davoud Yadegari, a medical expert in Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, says deaths related to influenza happen regularly ever year in the country.
He added, however, that “it seems deaths are higher this year due to different reasons such as genetic mutations in the virus and an early decrease in temperature”.
In 2009, a major swine flu pandemic affected major parts of the world which may have led to the death of as many as half a million people worldwide.
The World Health Organization declared the end of the epidemic in late 2010.
France slams US for forcing own weapons on NATO allies
France’s defense chief blasted the US for trying to force its NATO allies into purchasing American arms and equipment above anything else, days after President Emmanuel Macron held Washington to blame for the Western military bloc’s “brain death.”
In remarks to French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday, Florence Parly renewed her criticism of US attempts to force the Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter jet — the most advanced and expensive aircraft in America’s arsenal — on its NATO partners, Press TV reported.
The defense minister said the NATO charter includes Article 5 — which obliges member states to defend each other — rather than “Article F-35,” under which members would be required to buy US military products.
A number of US partners in NATO, including Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are already in possession of F-35s, while Washington is considering selling the fighter jets to Greece, Romania, Spain, and Poland.
Turkey was, however, kicked out of NATO’s F-35 joint strike fighter program after it resisted US pressure and bought S-400 missile defense systems from Washington’s rival, Russia.
The French minister further criticized the Europeans for relying too much on US-led NATO, saying the military bloc cannot guarantee the sovereignty of the European states.
“Today, Europe does not yet have the military tools to live up to what it is as an economic and political power. NATO will never be the tool of our sovereignty. It is up to the Europeans to build their own sovereignty. It will not happen in a snap of fingers,” she told the newspaper.
Parly said that NATO allies should not choose between NATO and Europe, but the two must rather complement each other.
The minister had in March slammed Washington for pressing NATO members to “buy American.”
Her new criticism followed Macron’s sharp rebuke of what he views as the US’s waning commitment to NATO.
Macron said there were clear signs that the US under President Donald Trump was “turning its back on us” and that NATO was suffering “brain death.”
The president had earlier called for a new “strategic relationship” with Russia.
Macron had also called for a “real European army,” saying Europe had to defend itself in a “more sovereign way” and without depending “only on the United States.”
Iran stands atop WKF Karate 1 Premier League
A total of 30 medals gave Iran a top-spot finish at the 2019 World Karate Federation (WKF) Karate 1 Premier League.
The Iranian karatekas collected seven gold, ten silvers and 13 bronzes in the seven-round competitions which kicked off last January.
Following Iran in the overall standings, Kazakhstan stood second with 16 medals – including six golds – with Japan finishing third with 13 medals (five golds).
The three-day final round of the competitions in Madrid, Spain, saw Iranians finish their 2019 campaign with two golds and a couple of bronzes.
Sajjad Ganjzadeh, representing the country in the men’s +84kg weight class, outpowered Dnylson Jacquet of France 4-0 in the final for Iran’s last gold in this year’s competitions.
Saleh Abazari, having been beaten by Jacquet in the semis, overcame Mehdi Ashouri in an all-Iranian battle to take the joint-bronze of the class – alongside Croatian Andjelo Kvesic.
Amir Mehdizadeh had opened Iran’s gold account, overcoming Turkey’s Abdurrahim Ozer Omer in the men’s -67kg final.
In the women’s contests, Hamideh Abbas-Ali, having suffered a fourth-round defeat against Eleni Chatziliadou, had to settle for a joint-bronze in the +68kg class after beating Japanese Ayaka Saito.
Maria Torres Garcia grabbed the other bronze while Chatziliadou was beaten by Kazakhstan’s Sofya Berultseva in the final.
Chennai festival to host four Iranian films
The 17th edition of the Chennai International Film Festival, slated for December 12-19, will host four Iranian films.
According to the preliminary list of participating films, ‘The Charcoal (Kömür),’ directed by Esmaeil Monsef; ‘The Warden,’ by Nima Javidi; ‘Just 6.5,’ by Saeid Roustayi; and ‘Zero Floor,’ by Ebrahim Ebrahimian will be screened during the festival, ISNA reported.
‘Charcoal’ narrates the story of Gheirat, who makes charcoals in a border village in Iran’s northwestern province of Azarbaijan. His son Yashar, who is in prison, comes home on furlough for his sister’s wedding. But the sudden disappearance of Yashar throws Gheirat’s life into a major challenge.
Directed by Nima Javidi, ‘The Warden’ tells the story of an Iranian prison warden who is assigned to transfer prisoners to a new building during the 1960s.
‘Just 6.5’ is about a police squad, under the leadership of Samad, who has been assigned to arrest Nasser Khakzad.
Ebrahimian’s film narrates the story of Vahid, who comes to Tehran to stop the surgery of his four-year-old son, Soheil, but discovers that he has passed away during the surgery. Vahid blames his ex-wife, Fahimeh, for the death of Soheil, and believes that her selfish decision got his son killed. Soheil’s death is a new chapter in the relationship between Vahid and Fahimeh, expressing all that had gone unsaid.
The Indian festival is dedicated to presenting the best of international and Indian films to the cinema-loving city of Chennai.
Putin, Xi launch ‘historic’ Russian gas pipeline to China
Russia and China on Monday launched a giant gas pipeline linking the countries for the first time, one of three major projects aimed at cementing Moscow’s role as the world’s top gas exporter.
Presiding by video link-up over an elaborate televised ceremony, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hailed the “Power of Siberia” pipeline as a symbol of cooperation, AFP reported.
“Today is remarkable, a truly historic event not only for the global energy market, but first of all for us and for you, for Russia and China,” Putin said.
Xi said the project served as a model of cooperation.
“China-Russia relations are entering a new era,” Xi said. “Everyone worked hard.”
The ceremony featured hard-hatted gas workers and videos showing the pipeline’s difficult path from remote areas of eastern Siberia to Blagoveshchensk on the Chinese border.
Workers burst into applause and celebratory music played as the CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, speaking from the Amur region, ordered a valve opened for the gas to flow across the border.
The 3,000-kilometre (1,850-mile) pipeline – which Putin has called “the world’s biggest construction project” – will supply China with 38 billion cubic meters (1.3 trillion cubic feet) of gas annually when fully operational in 2025.
Russia and China signed the 30-year, $400 billion construction deal in 2014 – Gazprom’s biggest ever contract.
The pipeline is part of Russia efforts to develop ties with Asia – in particular top energy importer China – amid longstanding tensions with the West.
Gazprom stressed that the pipeline ran through “swampy, mountainous, seismically active, permafrost and rocky areas with extreme environmental conditions”.
Temperatures along the route plunge to below minus 60 degrees Celsius in Yakutia and below minus 40 C in the Russian Far East’s Amur Region.
Work has also been completed on the first road bridge between Russia and China, further linking the two neighbors.
The bridge, which is to open next year, will connect the city of Blagoveshchensk and the northern Chinese city of Heihe.
VP: Iran still selling oil despite US sanctions
Iran is still selling its oil despite US sanctions on the country’s exports, First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said on Monday, adding that Washington’s “maximum pressure” on Tehran has failed.
“Despite America’s pressure ... and its imposed sanctions on our oil exports, we still continue to sell our oil by using other means ... when even friendly countries have stopped purchasing our crude fearing America’s penalties,” Jahangiri said.
Relations between the two foes reached crisis point last year after US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which Tehran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
Washington has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force Iran to negotiate to reach a wider deal. Tehran has rejected talks unless Washington returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.
“They have failed to bring our oil exports to zero as planned,” Jahangiri said.
He hailed Iran’s petrochemical and metal industries for overcoming US sanctions and continuing exporting their commodities.
“Iran’s economy stood firm on its own feet with two years of resistance and the efforts of its exporters and got over the psychological shocks the Americans gave to the country through their economic war,” Jahangiri said.
Jahangiri, however, warned against threats posed by the US and its regional allies and called for unity.
“Today, Iran is in danger. The Americans, the Saudis and the Zionists (Israelis) are seeking to bring down Iran. The only way to deal with them is unity,” he said.
“We need national solidarity more than ever so that the country can pass through this difficult time.”
Reuters contributed to this story.
Oman’s top diplomat visits Iran after US trip
Zarif: Iran supports efforts to ease regional tensions
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voiced support on Monday for de-escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region as he hosted his counterpart from traditional mediator Oman for talks in Tehran.
The visit by Oman’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawicame a week after he held a meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It is the second time since late July that bin Alawi has been sent to Iran by the sultanate.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Zarif, in talks with bin Alawi, had “emphasized the necessity of reducing tensions in the region”.
He also said Iran was ready to enter talks with all regional nations.
Zarif said Iran was serious about a plan – dubbed the Hormuz Peace Endeavour – which Tehran earlier put forward to reduce regional tensions.
President Hassan Rouhani announced the peace plan at the UN General Assembly in September, calling on Arab nations in the Persian Gulf, including Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, to join it.
In a tweet, the Omani Foreign Ministry said that bin Alawi and Zarif had “discussed bilateral relations and regional issues”.
According to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, bin Alawi said the situation in the region makes dialogue and mutual understanding necessary more than ever.
“In this regard, holding a comprehensive and inclusive conference with the participation of all countries with an interest can be helpful,” he said.
The Omani minister’s trip to Iran comes a week after he met Pompeo during an official visit to the United States.
The US State Department said at the time that Pompeo thanked him for “Oman’s cooperation on security and counterterrorism issues”.
Long-fraught relations between Tehran and Washington plunged to a new low last year when the US unilaterally withdrew from an international accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The arch-foes came to the brink of a military confrontation in June when Iran downed an American spy drone and US President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before canceling them at the last minute.
Need for regional coalitions
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council also met with bin Akawi. Ali Shamkhani said the security of the Middle East can be guaranteed only through the establishment of regional coalitions free from any form of foreign interference.
“Only those coalitions, which are free from influence and interference of foreigners, can solve problems, restore security [to the region] and last [for a long time],” Shamkhani said.
The Iranian official’s remarks were clear reference to the failure of the United States in forming a so-called coalition comprising regional and extra-regional states to allegedly protect security of shipping in the Persian Gulf.
On November 7, the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), a US-led military coalition in the Persian Gulf, officially launched its operations supposedly seeking to protect shipping lanes near Iranian territorial waters.
The US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain announced that the IMSC, formerly known as Operational Sentinel, had opened its command center in the country.
Shamkhani said, “A country that is not committed to any of its obligations, whether in connection with Iran or in exchanges with other countries, cannot be trusted.”
Those countries, which have played a leading role in creating tension and insecurity in the region and caused chaos by waging different wars and spreading terrorism, have never been after stability and security in the Persian Gulf and only seek to serve their own interests and plunder the region, the senior Iranian official warned.
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EU’s new foreign policy chief: Bloc trying to save JCPOA
The European Union’s new foreign policy chief said the bloc is doing anything to keep the Iran nuclear deal up and running.
Josep Borrell told Spain’s leading newspaper El País on Sunday that the EU is “grasping at straws” in an effort to salvage the nuclear agreement because the bloc has “the greatest interest” in the survival of the pact.
Borrell, who took over from Federica Mogherini on December 1, urged Iran to stick to the unraveling deal.
“We call on the Iranian authorities to do what they can to keep the pact alive,” he said.
The 72-year-old Spanish diplomat warned that it would be a “big mistake” if Iran does something that can “kill” the agreement.
“We tell our Iranian friends that it is best for them not to let the agreement die,” he said.
The 2015 nuclear accord has been at risk since last year when the United States unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing sanctions on Iran.
The three European countries still party to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — as well as the EU have been trying to rescue it but their efforts have so far borne little fruit.
In May, one year after the US pullout, Iran began retaliating by scaling back its commitments to the deal — known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Since then, Iran has taken four steps back from the accord.
The latest was on November 4 when its engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into mothballed enrichment centrifuges at the underground Fordo plant south of Tehran.
Following the latest step, the European parties and the EU said Iran’s decision to resume activities at Fordo was “inconsistent” with the nuclear deal and warned the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism could be triggered if Iran continued down that path.
It covers various stages that could take several months to unfold, but the issue could eventually end up before the UN Security Council, which could decide to reimpose sanctions.
The five-nation commission overseeing the Iran nuclear deal is set to meet in Vienna on December 6, with fears growing that it could collapse. The joint commission is made up of the three European nations and the deal’s other remaining parties, China and Russia.
Iran warned Sunday it will “seriously reconsider” its commitments to the UN atomic watchdog if European parties trigger the dispute mechanism.
“If they use the trigger (mechanism), Iran would be forced to seriously reconsider some of its commitments to” the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
AFP contributed to this story.