Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Tuesday that “no negotiation on any level will happen between officials of the Islamic Republic and the U.S.,’’ unless the U.S, “repents”.
“If the U.S. takes back its words and repents and returns to the nuclear deal, which they have violated, they can take part in the meetings of signatories to this agreement with Iran.
“Otherwise, no negotiation on any level will happen between officials of the Islamic Republic and the U.S., neither in New York nor anywhere else,’’ Khamenei said on state television.
His remarks referred to speculation over a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, which begins this week.
Trump on Monday did not rule out a meeting, saying that he had “no meeting scheduled’’ with the Iranian president but “I know they want to meet’’.
The remarks by Khamenei come after Trump said he believes Iran is likely behind the attacks on key Saudi oil refineries at the weekend that sent oil prices soaring.
Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde
Iranian fuel reaches Venezuelan stations as prices set to rise
Fuel shipped from Iran began arriving at Venezuela’s gasoline stations on Saturday, just hours before President Nicolas Maduro announced higher prices at the pump that are set to end more than two decades of almost-free gasoline.
As authorities in the country with the world’s cheapest gasoline got ready to expand retail sales under a system combining subsidies and international prices, the fifth cargo of an Iranian flotilla approached the Caribbean Sea and is expected to reach Venezuelan waters on Sunday, according to Refinitiv Eikon.
Of 1,800 stations in Venezuela, about 240 have remained working since Maduro announced coronavirus-related lockdown measures in March, which included restrictions on fuel sales due to very low inventories.
More than 1,500 stations nationwide are expected to work in the coming days under the new system.
The new system includes monthly quotas for vehicles and motorcycles, automated sales and monitoring equipment.
Despite the price increases, it will cost about $1 to fill a whole tank of a vehicle under the subsidy.
After reaching the quotas, drivers will have to pay internationally indexed prices.
The remaining 200 stations will be supplied by independent companies, so drivers buying at those sites will be charged $0.50 per litre of gasoline and will have to pay in foreign currency.
Lines of drivers began forming at stations on Saturday in cities including Maracay, Valencia and Caracas in anticipation of the gasoline distribution.
Gasoline has been heavily subsidised in Venezuela, which, coupled with hyperinflation in recent years, has made it almost free, but acute scarcity has recently encouraged a black market that has forced people to pay at least $2 per litre.
Venezuela’s refineries, which can produce more than 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of fuel, have worked at less than 20 per cent of their capacity in 2020 mainly due to power outages and lack of spare parts.
As the U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA have also limited the sources and types of products Venezuela can import, Maduro’s socialist administration this year turned to Iran for refining parts and fuel.
The supply has been criticised by the U.S. as both nations are under sanctions.
“Venezuela has the right to buy in the world whatever it wants to buy,’’ Maduro said.
“Fortunately, Venezuela has more friends than what people can imagine.’’
Washington has warned governments, seaports, shipping firms and insurers that they could face sanctions if they aid the Iranian supply, the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said on Friday.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, said his government will use Abrams’ comments as proof in an international case against sanctions.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
3 Iranian border guards killed in clashes with “terrorists” in NW Iran: report
Three Iranian border guards were killed on Friday by gunmen in Iran’s northwestern province of West Azerbaijan bordering Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Press TV reported.
The guards were killed in the clashes erupted at a border post near the city of Sardasht, according to the report.
In the gunfight, an unidentified number of the assailants were also killed, it added.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
U.S. to end sanctions waivers on Iranian nuclear projects
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday announced the end of the sanctions waivers on several Iranian civilian nuclear projects as the latest effort to pressure Tehran.
Pompeo said in a statement that the measure applies to Iran’s Arak reactor conversion, the provision of enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor, and the export of Iran’s spent and scrap research reactor fuel.
Multiple foreign companies have been working at these civilian projects to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
“The sanctions waiver covering these activities will end following a final, 60-day wind-down period allowing companies and entities involved in these activities to cease their operations,” said the statement.
According to the statement, the Trump administration extended a 90-day waiver covering ongoing international support to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1, as a means “to ensure safety of operations.”
“We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can modify this waiver at any time,” Pompeo added.
Pompeo on the same day also announced the designation of two Iranians working for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Analysts said ending the sanctions waivers is counterproductive. “Another bad move. Trump and Pompeo are trying to goad Iran into abandoning all nuclear constraints,” tweeted Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear issue expert and former state department official.
The Trump administration withdrew Washington from the Iranian 2015 landmark nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran. Tehran, however, dismissed U.S. calls and vowed resistance against the pressures.
Iranian president urges parliament’s cooperation to overcome problems
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday called for cooperation of the new Iranian parliament with his administration to overcome the existing problems.
Addressing the opening session of Iran’s new parliament, Rouhani said that the government is “seeking cooperation with the parliament at this tough year.”
Cooperation between the two major institutions of the Islamic establishment will help defeat U.S. sanctions and contain the novel coronavirus, he said.
Iran’s new parliament for the next four years kicked off on Wednesday.
The 11th parliamentary elections of the Islamic republic were held on February 21.
The Iranian parliament has 290 members who are elected by the people for four-year terms.
Spotlight: Iran’s tankers’ cross into Venezuela waters “defies” U.S. sanctions: Iranian expert
An Iranian expert says the arrival of Iran’s fuel tankers to the Venezuelan shores has defied U.S. sanction pressures against Tehran and Caracas.
The deal between Iran and Venezuela which came amid unprecedented U.S. sanctions on both states is primarily a “humiliation’ of U.S. policies, Foad Izadi, a professor at the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran, said in an interview on Sunday.
On Sunday, the first vessel of Iranian five-tanker flotilla loaded with gasoline crossed into the Venezuelan territorial waters, escorted by the the Venezuelan navy. On Monday, two other tankers entered the Caribbean Sea and are heading to the Latin American country’s refinery ports.
Squeezed under economic pressures, both Iran and Venezuela struggle to evade the impacts of embargos by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Islamic republic has a surplus of oil and gasoline, due to a significant drop in its exports pursuant to the sanctions and global economic setback caused by novel coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Venezuela is in dire need of fuel because of its aged refinery facilities and inefficient energy management, which has made it rely on its imports.
Under these circumstances, Tehran and Caracas made a “win-win deal,” according to Izadi, at the end of last year, and the Iranian-flagged vessels left the southern ports of the country in mid-March to the Caribbean shores.
Last week, the White House announced that President Nicolas Maduro was using gold from central bank reserves to pay Iran, and the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.
However, Iranians warned the United States against any move which may cause trouble for the Venezuela-bound Iranian fuel vessels.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that “if Americans create problems for our oil tankers in the Caribbean waters or in other parts of the world, we will reciprocally create problems for them.”
In the meantime, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the naval forces of the country would escort the Iranian tankers “to welcome them … and their solidarity” with Venezuela amid the U.S. sanctions.
Izadi said that “the successful measure by Iran (to supply its petrol to Venezuela) would ultimately result in the failure of U.S. sanction mechanism.”
“This also shows that the U.S. ‘maximum pressure campaign’ has been seriously challenged by the Islamic republic,” he said, adding that Tehran could maintain this “pragmatic win-win” policy.
Iran’s “successful” move will serve as an example for other countries who are under the duress of the United States, he added.
Iran warns U.S. off threats against Iranian Venezuela-bound fuel tankers
The Iranian defense minister on Wednesday warned the United States off any threats against the Iranian oil tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela.
Any threats for the tankers will trigger Iran’s harsh response, Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by official IRNA news agency.
Causing any insecurity to the oil tankers and maritime trade routes is in violation of the international law and will draw reaction of international institutions and countries, said Hatami.
“Our policy is also clear, and we won’t tolerate any disturbance for our tankers,” he noted.
Ali Rabiee, spokesman for Iran’s government, said on Monday that Iran was ready for the worst-case scenario over U.S. threats against the shipment of Iranian fuel to Venezuela.
The remarks by the Iranian officials came after the White House announced last week that the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.
Iranian Parliament approves law creating virtual Embassy in Jerusalem– Reports
The Iranian parliament has approved a law that will permit the creation of a virtual embassy in Jerusalem as part of measures to counter Israel, domestic media reported on Monday.
According to the state-run Mehr news agency, the parliament approved the motions, which are aimed at countering Israeli aggression against Palestine, which were put forward by the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.
Among the proposals, parliament signed off on the creation of a virtual embassy to Palestine, which will be based in the city of Jerusalem, the agency reported.
Iran will also provide greater support to the Palestinian people, forbid those associated with Israeli companies, groups, and non-governmental organisations from participating at domestic and international expos, and prohibit the use of Israeli software in Iran, the agency reported.
All Iranian nationals will also be banned from traveling to the “occupied lands of Palestine,” as quoted by the agency.
The motions follow in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel this past week.
Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Prime Minister Benny Gantz to discuss Iran’s so-called destabilising behaviour in the Middle East.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)
Iranian soccer clubs ask foreign players to return to Iran for competitions
Iran super league soccer clubs have asked their foreign players to return to the country as soon as possible as the authorities have hinted for the resumption of the competitions after over two months of hiatus over COVID-19 outbreak, Tehran Times daily reported on Sunday.
The country officially suspended the matches on March 11, and many foreigners from the Iranian teams traveled to their home countries.
But the situation in the country is getting better and the government has taken some steps to restart sports events around the country.
On Saturday, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “the soccer leagues will restart after the holy month of Ramadan but the competitions must be played behind closed doors.”
Rouhani said that the competition will resume under the terms of a strict health protocol.
Iranian Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi also said earlier that “we can finish the current season in six weeks. The teams will have three weeks to prepare for the competition.”
“The season would resume under the terms of a strict health protocol. The matches will be held behind closed doors but we will see a real football onto the field. Players must also avoid goal celebrations,” said Harirchi.
However, due to the travel restrictions imposed on international flights by the governments, foreigners playing in the Iranian clubs may face difficulties in returning to the country.
Iranian schools to reopen on May 16
The Iranian Ministry of Education announced Tuesday that all the country’s schools will reopen as of May 16, after almost three months of closure in the wake of novel coronavirus outbreak.
Iranian Education Minister Mohsen Haji Mirzaee said that the teachers and school staff will be available at schools in the working hours, according to Tasnim news agency.
It is not obligatory for the students to attend the schools, but they can partake in classes to ask their questions and get prepared for the exams, Haji Mirzaee was quoted as as saying.
The schools can also run the final exams as of next week as soon as the students’ problems with the lessons are addressed, Haji Mirzaee noted.
All schools across the country have received the health protocols and instructions from the health ministry and will be obligated to observe the health rules when the students return to classes, he said.
On Tuesday, Iran announced a total of 110,767 confirmed cases, of whom 6,733 have died.
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