Deputy: Roads Ministry built 980km of railroad in three years
Domestic Economy Desk
The Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development constructed 980 kilometers of railroad during the past three years, with $4.28 million in investments, said a deputy minister.
Kheirollah Khademi, the deputy roads and urban development minister, added on Monday that the length of the country’s mainlines currently stands at 11,000 kilometers, IRNA reported.
Also the CEO of the ministry-affiliated Construction and Development of Transportation Infrastructures Company, Khademi noted that Iran’s railroad network, including the branch lines and double-track railways, is 14,000 kilometers long, saying his firm also plans to build 9,500 kilometers of new rail lines in the country, of which 3,300 kilometers, constituting 30 percent of the country’s tracks, are already under construction.
Khademi said his company prioritized construction of 980 kilometers of the planned 9,500 kilometers rail lines, which included rail links to Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and the capitals of five provinces of Hamedan (western Iran), Kermanshah (western Iran), West Azarbaijan (northwestern Iran), Gilan (northern Iran) and East Azarbaijan (northwestern Iran), and connected the five provincial capitals to the national network in the past three years in separate ceremonies attended by President Hassan Rouhani.
To connect the capital of East Azarbaijan Province to the national network through a new rail route, he added, construction of a railway connecting Mianeh, Boostan Abad and Tabriz in northwestern Iran was placed in the company’s agenda.
The railway from Mianeh to Boostan Abad has become operational, Khademi said, noting that construction of the remaining part of the railway to Tabriz, with a length of 44 kilometers, is expected to be completed by March 2021, if financial resources are allocated.
Iran VP orders urgent relief operations in flood-hit areas
Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri on Monday ordered aid organizations to mobilize all facilities to render services to flood-stricken people in the country’s south.
Jahangiri issued instructions after he was briefed on the latest situation in the provinces of Kerman, Sistan and Baluchestan and Hormozgan, IRNA reported.
The VP urged provincial governors to do their best to provide essential aid and to repair roads so that relief assistance could reach remote villages as well.
Sistan and Baluchestan Province was affected in the most severe way due to record rainfall in years, which started on Thursday.
Heavy rainfall has caused seasonal rivers to inundate towns, causing extensive damage to infrastructure and homes.
Morteza Salimi, the head of Rescue and Relief Organization of Iran, said one person has died and several others have been wounded while another person remains missing.
At least 1,248 people trapped in the floods were rescued in some 40 town and villages in Sistan and Baluchestan.
The unprecedented flash floods have hit 350 villages in recent days, damaging thousands of residential buildings.
Severe flooding in Sistan and Baluchestan caused damage to more than 20,000 residential buildings, Abbas-Ali Arjmandi, director-general of the provincial Crisis Management Center said on Sunday.
The flash floods also blocked rural roads leading to more than 500 villages and closed schools, Arjmandi said.
He added that heavy rains in southern areas of the province triggered flooding, which have also caused blackouts in several villages in the southeastern province.
Also, floods in Kerman Province blocked roads between 363 villages, Majid Saeidi, head of the provincial crisis management center said on Sunday.
In the southern province of Hormozgan, four villages were evacuated in the city of Jask on Saturday to prevent casualties.
On March 19, heavy downpours swept the country, with raging currents battering houses, washing away cars and killing scores of people countrywide.
The rainfalls eventually caused rivers to burst their banks triggering the worst flooding in decades in 25 of the country’s 31 provinces.
According to estimates, the deluges caused an estimated $2.9 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland. They affected 4,400 villages, damaged 14,000 kilometers of roads and destroyed more than 700 bridges.
Estimates by government agencies suggest that the floods have taken the lives of nearly 80 people and destroyed over 25,000 houses around the country.
Trump hints Senate should ditch impeachment altogether
President Donald Trump said the US Senate should simply dismiss the impeachment case against him, an extraordinary suggestion as the House prepares to transmit the charges to the chamber for the historic trial.
The Republican president is giving mixed messages ahead of the US House’s landmark vote that will launch the Senate proceedings in a matter of days, only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. Trump faces charges that he abused power by pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and then obstructed Congress, AP reported.
First Trump was suggesting his own ideas for trial witnesses, then he said almost the opposite Sunday by tweeting that the trial should not happen at all.
“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial” over charges he calls a hoax, Trump tweeted, “rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!”
The idea of dismissing the charges against Trump is as unusual as it is unlikely. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell signed on to an outlier proposal circulating last week among conservative senators, but he does not have enough support in the Republican-held chamber to actually do it. It would require a rare rules change similar to the approach McConnell used for Supreme Court confirmations.
‘Republicans will pay price’
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Sunday that senators will “pay a price” if they block new witness testimony with a trial that Americans perceive as a “cover-up” for Trump’s actions.
“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi told ABC’s “This Week.” “The senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable.”
She said, “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price.”
Voters are divided over impeachment largely along the nation’s deeply partisan lines and the trial is becoming a high-stakes undertaking at the start of a presidential election year.
A House vote to transmit the articles to the Senate will bring to a close a standoff between Pelosi and McConnell over the rules for the trial. The House voted to impeach Trump last month.
Yet ending one showdown merely starts another across the Capitol as the parties try to set the terms of debate over high crimes and misdemeanors.
Democrats want new testimony, particularly from former White House national security adviser John Bolton, who has indicated he will defy Trump’s orders and appear if subpoenaed.
Trump does not want his brash former aide to testify. Republican allies led by McConnell, R-Ky., are ready to deliver swift acquittal without new testimony.
Trump first said Sunday it is Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who should both testify, which would be unlikely.
Trump sent several tweets on Sunday criticizing Pelosi and the Democratic-led impeachment effort.
“This phony Impeachment Hoax should not even be allowed to proceed. Did NOTHING wrong. Just a partisan vote. Zero Republicans. Never happened before!” Trump said on Twitter, Reuters reported.
The president said he should not have to carry the “stigma” of impeachment because he’s done nothing wrong. Pelosi said the House vote last month means Trump will be “impeached forever” and “for life.”
McConnell is reluctant to enter a divisive Senate debate over witnesses that could split his party and prolong a trial that is already expected to consume weeks of floor time.
Federer ready, in good shape for Australian Open campaign
Roger Federer declared himself ready on Monday to kick off the new season at next week’s Australian Open despite having played no competitive matches since November.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner was scheduled to warm up for the year’s first major at the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia but withdrew to spend more time with his family, Reuters reported.
In contrast, his rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal were part of some closely-fought matches at the team event, which was played in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.
Federer, 38, said he was happy with his preparation at home.
“I’ve trained long and hard in the offseason and I didn’t have any setbacks, which is crucial,” Federer said at a promotional event in Melbourne.
“Last week I was asking myself ‘am I happy to go to Australia, or I should rather just stay here and stop packing immediately? Because I can.
“I could easily just stay home and I was like, ‘no, no, I’m really happy to go to Melbourne and kick off the season there’.
“I have kept myself in good shape, obviously I had an amazing team around me.”
A six-time winner at Melbourne Park, Federer won the Australian Open title in 2017 and 2018 but lost to Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round last year.
Djokovic went on to win a record seventh Australian Open title in 2019 and looks in perfect shape to add another after his ninth consecutive hard-court win over world number one Nadal on Sunday as Serbia was crowned champion at the ATP Cup.
Nadal has also shown no sign of trouble with his game or his fitness and the contenders at the Australian Open could again be the Big Three, who have shared the last 12 Grand Slam titles.
“I’m aware that at 38 I shouldn’t be the favorite, it should be someone probably in their 20s, but the three of us have been able to stay as the favorites which is great for us,” Federer said.
“Both guys are already showing great signs. I was watching a little bit of their ATP Cup match and thought that was a great match. Both guys, injury free, are always tough to beat.”
Federer also offered Australian Ash Barty some advice as she prepares to play her home Grand Slam as women’s world number one.
“What a year she’s had; it was a pleasure watching her play,” Federer said. “She can have a different mindset.
“It can relax you and you can really explore all of your potential and that’s what happened to me when I won my first major, and I broke through as world number one after that.
“I thought, ‘well now I’m the guy to beat and I prefer to be in this position rather than being a contender’. I hope that Ash is also going to see it that way.”
‘No room for two’
Meanwhile, Nadal called on tennis administrators to create one “big world team cup competition” instead of confusing fans by staging the ATP Cup and Davis Cup within two months of each other.
Nadal won the International Tennis Federation’s revamped Davis Cup competition with Spain in November before losing Sunday’s final Djokovic’s Serbia.
“I think it’s a great competition but ... I can’t change my mind that two world cups (within two months) is not real,” Nadal told reporters.
“We need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big world team cup competition, not two world cups.
“I think that’s a confusion for the spectators, and we need to be clear in our sport.”
Other top players, including Djokovic, have previously backed the merger of the two team events.
‘Joker’ and ‘Irishman’ lead Oscar nominees
The latest round of Oscar nominations was fully announced and ‘Joker’ leads this year’s pack with 11 nominations with ‘The Irishman’, ‘1917’, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ all following close behind with 10.
The film fans kept their fingers crossed that they would be better than the ones announced for the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
This year’s ceremony, which – once again – won’t have a presenter, is set to take place in Los Angeles on February 9. The nominations were announced by Issa Rae and John Cho, independent.co.uk reported.
Netflix was rewarded with more than 20 nominations, with some categories (like supporting actor) stacked three deep with contenders. ‘The Irishman,’ Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster opus, and ‘Marriage Story,’ Noah Baumbach’s navel-gazing portrait of divorce, both of which belong to Netflix, received nominations for best picture. Netflix also landed nominations for two animated films, a documentary and the Vatican succession drama ‘The Two Popes.’
According to The New York Times, the other takeaway may involve representation. Once again, the academy excluded women from the directing race. Black actors and actresses were also largely overlooked, with the British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo (‘Harriet’) as the sole nominee. The academy has mounted an effort to double female and minority membership, in large part by inviting in more film professionals from overseas. But even after four years of the initiative, the organization remains 68 percent male and 84 percent white.
The best-picture category can have as many as 10 or as few as five nominees, depending on how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spreads its support; this year there were nine: ‘1917’, ‘Ford v Ferrari’, ‘The Irishman’, ‘Jojo Rabbit’, ‘Joker’, ‘Little Women’, ‘Marriage Story’, ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’, and ‘Parasite.’
Over the last decade, the Academy Awards have become a bit superfluous, with a torrent of precursor ceremonies leaving fans (and honorees) exhausted and the contents of the envelopes unsurprising. The academy’s board of governors, alarmed by sharp declines in television ratings, decided in 2018 to move up this year’s ceremony. It will be held on February 9, two weeks earlier than the last go-round, a seemingly small truncation that nonetheless has the movie capital in a tizzy.
Rouhani urges collective efforts to de-escalate tensions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday called for collective efforts to stabilize the region and reduce tensions.
“In the current situation, we should all strive for peace and stability in the region and work together to reduce tensions,” Rouhani told Pakistan’s visiting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Tehran.
The president said “disagreement and division” in the Muslim world are “in no one’s interest”.
“We fully welcome Pakistan’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region,” he said.
The Iranian chief executive warned that the breakout of a regional conflict “could be very dangerous,” saying Iran does not seek to “ignite a war.”
“Iran, while fully prepared to defend its own interests, never seeks to ignite a war,” he said.
Rouhani stressed that “dialogue and close cooperation” among regional nations are in the interest of all.
He also expressed gratitude for Islamabad’s solidarity with Tehran regarding Washington’s assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani last week.
“The leaders of the United States and the Israel, along with leaders of terrorist groups around the world such as Daesh, were happy with the assassination of Soleimani,” Rouhani said.
“However, people who seek peace and security in the region were saddened [by the incident],” he added, calling on “all countries to firmly condemn Washington’s act of government terrorism”.
Qureshi said Pakistan believes the region cannot afford any more conflicts and that efforts should focus on preventing further escalation of tensions.
The Pakistani minister urged Rouhani to pursue diplomatic means to reduce tensions and resolve all issues amicably.
He also vowed that Islamabad will not allow his country’s borders to be used to threaten Iran and that Pakistan regards itself as “a partner in the peace and stability” of Tehran.
“We believe that the borders between the two countries are borders of peace and friendship,” he noted, adding that Islamabad was determined to deal with those seeking to create insecurity in the border areas.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have spiked in recent weeks after the US assassinated the top commander in a drone strike in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by targeting two US bases in Iraq.
Press TV contributed to this story.
Japan’s Abe warns conflict with Iran will impact entire world
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo warned that military confrontation with Iran will affect global peace and stability, as he visited the Middle East in the hope of easing tensions spiked by the recent US assassination of a top Iranian general.
His comments came at the start of a five-day Persian Gulf tour after Tehran responded to the US attack on Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani by launching a barrage of missiles at bases hosting American troops in Iraq last week, prompting fears of all-out war, AFP reported.
But as those concerns receded, the Japanese premier decided to go ahead with the visit and on Sunday discussed regional tensions during an hour-long meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in northwestern al-Ula Province, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Masato Ohtaka.
“Any military confrontation in the region that includes a country like Iran will have an impact not only on peace and stability in the region but the peace and stability of the whole world,” Abe said, according to Ohtaka.
Abe called “on all relevant countries to engage in diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions”, Ohtaka added.
The spokesman said the two leaders agreed on working closely on maritime security in the region and discussed Tokyo’s decision to send a destroyer for intelligence activities along with two P-3C patrol aircraft to the Middle East.
Japan, however, will not join a US-led coalition in the region.
Tokyo has walked a fine line in balancing its alliance with Washington and its longstanding relations and interests with Tehran.
Ohtaka said that Abe stressed the importance of a continuous and stable Saudi oil supply to Japan.
The prime minister’s tour will also include visits to the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Iran deems US expulsion from region as real revenge for its crime: VP
Iran deems US expulsion from region as real revenge for its crime: VP
Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri says the real revenge for the US criminal act in assassinating top Iranian general, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is the expulsion of all American forces from the West Asia region.
Jahangiri made the remarks in a Monday meeting with the visiting Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis in Tehran, adding, “Unwarranted interference of Western countries, the US in particular, is the cause of insecurity and instability in the region.”
“The United States has committed grave crimes across the region, especially in Iraq and Syria, through formation of such terrorist groups as Daesh,” he added.
A US drone carried out an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early on January 3, assassinating Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), as well as eight other people.
Jahangiri hailed the huge turnout of the Iranian nation in Soleimani’s funeral processions as an “unprecedented event in history” and said Iranians now hate the US moves more than ever before.
He emphasized that the Islamic Republic will continue to stand by the Syrian government and nation and go on with its support for the Arab state, saying, “Iran supports Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in order to establish stability and tranquility” in that country.
The Iranian first vice president expressed Tehran’s interest in developing economic relations with Syria and stressed the importance of implementing agreements signed between the two countries during his visit to Damascus.
He said Iran’s private sector is eager to play an active role in the reconstruction of Syria, expressing hope that positive steps would be taken this year in this regard.
During Jahangiri’s trip to Damascus in January 2019, Iran and Syria signed 11 agreements, including a “long-term strategic economic cooperation” deal, in a sign of changing winds in the Middle East which is shaping up to new realities.
The Syrian prime minister said at that time that his country and Iran signed a “unique” and “historic” agreement which includes industry, trade and agriculture, calling it “a message to the world on the reality of Syrian-Iranian cooperation.”
‘US plotting war in region’
The Syrian prime minister, for his part, said the assassination of top Iranian general showed that the US is hatching plots to impose war on regional countries, adding that the bitter event was the outcome of US acts of aggression in the region.
“Syria emphasizes the Islamic Republic’s right to defend itself against enemies’ acts of aggression and we declare our solidarity with our brethren in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khamis added.
He noted that regional nations would always remember Soleimani’s great efforts in his fight against terrorism.
Khamis said the US is incessantly planning to attack regional countries, noting, “We must maintain an adequate degree of readiness and boost our coordination and collaboration, because expansion of bilateral cooperation can play a deterrent role against the US plots.”
Syria is trying to resist the enemies’ plots through defensive, economic, military and diplomatic plans, the premier said, adding that his country will achieve final victory only through support of Iran and friendly countries in the region.
Khamis also said the assassinated Iranian general was posthumously awarded Syria’s highest medal of honor by the Arab country’s President Bashar al-Assad, which shows his high respect for Soleimani.
Shamkhani: US behind
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also met Khamis. He said insecurity will not end as long as the “terrorist forces” of the US are present in the region.
The senior official deplored the US targeted killing of Gen. Soleimani and said “(US President Donald) Trump and his stupid advisers thought that by assassinating the brave commander of the Resistance Front, they would cause the collapse of the front in the region.”
However, the move backfired and the blood of the martyr and his companions strengthened the Resistance Front and led to further hatred of the regional nations toward the US, he added.
“As long as the US’ terrorist forces are present in the West Asian region, this region will not achieve lasting stability, peace and security,” Shamkhani stated.
“The expulsion of evil US forces will undoubtedly take place through the unity of regional nations and governments,” he went on to say.
The Syrian prime minister, for his part, offered his condolences on the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani and said the noble objective of the martyr was to defend the oppressed against the US and the Zionist regime of Israel.
Press TV and Tasnim News Agency contributed to this story.
France, Russia want to safeguard Iran nuclear deal: Macron
want to safeguard Iran nuclear deal: Macron
France and Russia have a shared desire to safeguard Iran’s nuclear deal, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
Macron said in a statement he had a phone call on Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Sunday called on Iran to return to full compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and refrain from further actions.
“It is essential that Iran return to full compliance with its commitments under the agreement,” Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The Europeans’ call on Iran to fully comply with the nuclear deal stands in contrast to their failure to protect the Islamic Republic from unilateral US sanctions on Tehran after Washington abandoned the accord. Tehran has particularly been disappointed with the European trio’s failure to protect its business interests under the deal after the United States’ withdrawal. After patiently watching for more than a year and seeing no clear action from the other signatories of the nuclear deal, Iran invoked Articles 26 and 36 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to let go of some of the limitations put on its nuclear work. In their statement Sunday, the European leaders said the Iranian countermeasures “must be reversed”.
“We have made clear our regret and concern at the decision by the United States to withdraw from the JCPOA and to reimpose sanctions on Iran,” they said.
“We remain committed to the JCPOA and to preserving it; we urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the agreement and return to full compliance,” they added.
So far, Tehran has broken free of some limitations of the accord in five stages, the last of which came on January 5. The country has made it clear that it will reverse its measures as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield mutual trade from the US sanctions. While Europe appears reluctant to rock the boat in its relations with Iran, it has dangled the threat of triggering a mechanism that could result in UN sanctions being reimposed on Tehran. European diplomats have been cited as saying that unless Iran passes a certain threshold, the bloc will not push toward sanctions, but it is unclear what the Europeans’ breaking point would be.
In their Sunday statement, Europeans said they “remain ready to engage with Iran on this agenda in order to preserve the stability of the region”.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.