Iran designates U.S. defence force as terrorist organisation
The development comes a week after the U.S. angered Tehran by putting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) force on a list of foreign terrorist groups.
Lawmakers defended the IRGC – a paramilitary organisation commanded by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – as an integral part of Iran, according to the IRIB report.
President Donald Trump announced the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation on April 8 in a White House statement that called the corps the Iranian government’s “primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”
The designation recognises not only that the IRGC, part of Iran’s military, is a state sponsor of terrorism, but that it “actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a “central tool of statecraft,” he said.
In response, Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani said the IRGC had been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, including against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The IRGC has fought alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria since the start of that country’s conflict in 2011.
In 2018, Trump imposed a range of sanctions on Iran after he withdrew from the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal.
Similarly, Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Zarif met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in Damascus, where they denounced the recent U.S. decision to recognise the Israeli annexation of the occupied Golan Heights.
Zarif, who was on a one-day visit, said U.S. President Donald Trump’s pronouncement on Golan was of a piece with the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and the terrorist designation against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“It indicates the failure of Washington’s policies in the region and the weakness of the American administration,” the Syrian state news agency SANA quoted Zarif as saying.
Israel seized the strategic Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Israel annexed the territory in 1981, although this move has not been recognised internationally.
Iran is a major ally of al-Assad and the Revolutionary Guards has been fighting alongside Syrian government troops since 2011.
Al-Assad, for his part, stressed that the “misguided” U.S. policies “can be seen as one of the major destabilising factors in the region.”
On Feb. 25, al-Assad travelled to Iran on an official visit, a rare trip abroad since Syria’s multi-sided civil war began with anti-government protests in 2011.
On the same day, Zarif made headlines in February when he suddenly resigned.
Reports at the time indicated that his resignation was in protest over being left out of meetings with al-Assad in Tehran.
Iran’s border guards seize over 2 tonnes of illicit drugs
The border guards commander of Iran’s Police announced Saturday that his forces have seized 2,275 kg of different kinds of illicit drugs in the southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province, official IRNA news agency reported.
Brigadier-General Ahmad Ali Goudarzi said that in the “successful” operation, police seized two vehicles in which 2,200 kg of opium and 75 kg of hashish were placed.
The report did not mention the time of the operation.
Iran has being suffering from drug trafficking given its location at the crossroads of international drug smuggling from Afghanistan, the world‘s top opium producer, to Europe.
Over the past few decades, Iran’s eastern and southeastern borders have seen deadly clashes between Iranian security forces and armed drug smugglers.
Iran released United States prisoner on “humanitarian purposes”: Iranian ministry
Michael White, a United States veteran who had entered Iran two years ago, was arrested and convicted of espionage, the managing director of the anti-espionage department at Iran’s Intelligence Ministry was quoted as saying.
White was released on Thursday and was finally expelled from Iran “because of deterioration of his illness and on compassionate grounds” after serving some two years in prison, he said.
“Certain United States officials … were seeking to take advantage of a possible death of White due to his chronic disease and fulfill their political objectives,” he said, adding that “the release of American convict prevented the United States from using the opportunity for an ‘inhumane behavior’ against Iran.”
The United States released on Thursday one Iranian scientist, Majid Taheri, who had been in the United States jail for “violating United States sanctions against Iran.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Iran has always welcomed the “humanitarian efforts that help release of Iranian hostages in the United States and elsewhere.”
However, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Friday dismissed speculation that the release of Iranian scientists jailed in the United States and Iran‘s move to free White from prison have been the result of negotiations between Tehran and Washington, according to Tasnim news agency.
Iran reports 2,269 new COVID-19 cases, 169,425 in total
Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the Health Ministry, said during his daily update on Saturday that 75 people died overnight, taking the total fatalities over the virus to 8,209.
So far, 132,038 have recovered and 2,578 remain in critical condition, said Jahanpur.
Iran announced its first cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 19.
In mid-February, at the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Iran lit up the Tehran Azadi (Liberty) Tower to show its solidarity with China, and donated 3 million masks to China. In return, China has delivered several shipments of medical supplies to Iran.
United States said diplomatic door with Iran remains open
The door is still open for a wider negotiation with Iran, United States Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Friday.
United States President Donald Trump “has had the door open to diplomacy for many years,” Hook replied to a journalist a day after Iran freed United States citizen Michael White. “We would like to see the (Iranian) regime meet our diplomacy with diplomacy.”
Hook noted as well that United States-Iranian contacts have so far been limited to mutual release of prisoners, not concerned issues like Iran’s nuclear program.
However, he reiterated that the United States will stick to its policy of harsh economic sanctions on Iran, designed to force the Middle East country back to the so-called negotiating table over the Iranian nuclear program.
Trump withdrew Washington from the multilateral Iranian nuclear accord in 2018 and resumed unilateral sanctions on Tehran.
Iraq signs 2-year deal to continue importing electricity from Iran
Iraq has signed a two-year contract to extend the import of electricity from neighboring Iran, the Ministry of Electricity said Friday.
According to the agreement, Iraq will continue to import electricity from Iran for the remaining period of 2020 and 2021, said Ahmed al-Abadi, the ministry’s spokesman, in a statement.
Earlier, Iranian Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian said an Iranian delegation signed on Wednesday in Baghdad an agreement with Iraqi Electricity Ministry to extend exporting electricity to Iraq.
Baghdad paid Tehran about 400 million United States dollars, which is half of Iraq’s due debts to Iran for electricity supplies, he added.
Iraq has been importing electricity for some years and fuel for some power stations from Iran which has been under United States sanctions.
However, Washington periodically excluded Iraq from the sanctions as the country has been suffering acute power shortage since 2003.
Iran confirms FM’s meeting with former United States envoy over prisoner’s release
Iran on Friday confirmed the country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s talks with Bill Richardson, the former United States envoy to the United Nations, over the release of a United States prisoner in the Iranian jail, according to official IRNA news agency.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Friday that the meeting between Zarif and Richardson was held months ago.
On Thursday, Iran released Michael White, a United States Navy veteran, who was detained nearly two years ago in Iran for security reasons.
On the same day, the United States released one Iranian scientist, Majid Taheri, who had been in the United States jail for “violating United States sanctions against Iran.”
On Wednesday, another Iranian scientist, Sirous Asgari, held by the American authorities was returned to Iran.
Iran, however, denied that Asgari has been released as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.
Mousavi said that Asgari was released after being acquitted of charges.
Iran urges lifting of Western sanctions on Syria
Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday called for lifting Western sanctions on Syria, according to the ministry’s website.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed the renewal of European sanctions on Syria and recent introduction of new financial bans against the country as “unlawful and inhuman.”
“Most of sanctions’ negative consequences and harms will be borne by the ordinary people and citizens of Syria,” he said.
“Iran expresses solidarity with the resilient nation and government of Syria and calls for the lifting of all anti-human sanctions against Damascus so that the Syrians can meet their basic needs and repair the damage caused by Western-backed terrorist attacks against the country’s infrastructure,” said Mousavi.
Iran reports 2,886 new COVID-19 cases, 167,156 in total
During his daily briefing, Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said out of the new cases in the past 24 hours, 527 were hospitalized.
The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 8,134 Iranians, up by 63 in the past 24 hours.
So far, 129,741 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals and 2,573 remain in critical condition.
Iran’s health officials have urged the people to wear facemasks in public place, particularly in the public transport means.
Iran announced its first cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 19.
Iranian cargo ship sinks off Iraqi coast, 2 die
An Iranian cargo ship sank off the Iraqi coast on Thursday night, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) announced on Friday.nnnn”The ship, which was carrying ceramic and constructional materials to Iraq’s Umm Qasr Port and had left (Iran’s southwestern port city of) Khorramshahr on Tuesday, sank last night in the Khor Abdullah maritime canal,” Nourollah Asadi, the director-general of Iran’s Bushehr Province’ Ports and Maritime Department, was quoted as saying by Tehran Times daily on Friday.nnnnIn the incident, two crew members died, four were rescued, and some others are missing, Nader Pasandeh, the PMO director for marine safety, told semi-official Mehr news agency on Friday.nnnnOperations are underway to find the missing crew, he said. n
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