The Chief of Staff of Iran’s President in a telephone conversation with Azerbaijan’s deputy prime minister has denied that his country is assisting neighboring Armenia, after reports in social media claimed trucks were moving toward the border.
Hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region flared up on September 26 and heavy fighting has been going on since. Iran has a large Azeri-speaking population, but it has traditionally had close relations with Azerbaijan’s adversary Armenia. In the current fighting, Iran is trying to appear neutral, calling for a ceasefire and negotiations.
President Hassan Rouhani’s top aide Mhamoud Vaezi told the Azerbaijani official Shahin Mostafaev that the rumors about Iran providing assistance “are totally baseless and aim to harm good relations between Iran and Azerbaijan.”
Iran’s foreign ministry also denied social media reports on September 29. The spokes man of the ministry said, “The transit of trucks and non-military commodities between Iran and its neighboring countries has always been going on, and the trucks that have been mentioned are operating solely within this framework,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran closely monitors and controls the transit of commodities to other countries and will never allow the Iranian territory to be used for the transit of arms and ammunition.”
Vaezi also stressed that Iran has always recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and consider “the end of occupation” of Azerbaijani territory necessary for regional peace.
Armenian forces pushed Azerbaijani government forces out of the largely Armenia-populated Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent in the early 1990s and have been demanding self determination.
Journalists In Iran Are Suing Health Spokesman For Calling Critics 'Jerks'
Ali Mojtahedzadeh, a lawyer in Iran said Friday that a group of reporters are suing Kianoush Jahanpour, the spokesman of the health ministry, for insulting critics by using a Persian word that can be roughly translated as “jerk” or “jackass”.
Jahanpour in a tweet used the insult describing those who questioned the high price of a Covid-19 vaccine developed in Iran. The remark immediately was picked up by social media users and hundreds of people began attacking the health ministry official. But Jahanpour did not apologize and claimed that by developing a local vaccine the health ministry has upset “vaccine importers’ mafia”.
Mojtabahzadeh told the Iranian Labour News Agency Friday that plaintiffs will lodge a complaint with the special media court next week. He added that if Jahanpout thinks there is a vaccine mafia in the country, he should have reported it to authorities and if he did not, he broke the law.
The government has so far failed in its vaccination program, by not acting to import sufficient doses. A little over one percent of Iranians have been fully vaccinated, while many countries in the region are far advanced in the vaccination programs. An Iranian vaccine that has been rushed through approval is said to cost at least double the price of Western vaccines.
Serious Differences Persist In Iran Nuclear Talks - US Official
WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) - There are serious differences in talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and if they cannot be bridged in the foreseeable future, Washington will need to rethink its approach, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.
"This process is not going to be open forever," the senior U.S. official told reporters. "We do have differences and if we can't bridge them in the foreseeable future, I think we are going to have to regroup and figure out how we ... move ahead."
The sixth round of indirect talks adjourned on Sunday, two days after hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian judiciary chief who is subject to U.S. sanctions, was elected president of the Islamic Republic. Raisi is due to take office in August.
The U.S. official, who spoke to reporters on condition he not be named, said the U.S. delegation expected to return to Vienna for a seventh round of talks in the not-too-distant future but that he did not know when.
Iran struck a deal with major powers in 2015 to curb its uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear arms, in return for the lifting of U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions.
Then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Tehran to start violating some of the nuclear limits in 2019 while sticking to its position that it had no nuclear weapons ambitions. U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking to revive the agreement.
Paper Reports Ministry Ignored Warning On Domestic Vaccine Safety
Farid Najafi, head of research and technology at Iran’s health ministry, wrote on June 8 to the minister warning against “the hasty” approval of COVIran Barekat domestic Covid-19 vaccine, Hamshahri newspaper reported Thursday. Najafi’s letter was sent a week before health minister Saeed Namaki announced June 15 an emergency-use authorization of the vaccine.
Najafi asked that the vaccine’s phase-two trial results be presented “in full and based on standard procedure” and be judged “by an elected and independent scientific committee.” He proposed that a medical ethics committee, independent of the ministry, should offer its opinion on the vaccine’s safety before appropriate bodies made any decisions.
In recent days there have been many claims on social media over the high price of the domestically produced vaccine compared to Western-made vaccines. The health ministry spokesman Thursday dismissed such complaints without giving costs. COVIran has been developed partly by a charity linked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Iran failed to purchase Western vaccines before Khamenei banned American and British vaccines in January, and Iran has subsequently lagged behind many regional neighbors in its vaccination program. The health ministry reported Thursday that 1.06 million Iranians had received two vaccine doses, which is around 1.26 percent of the 84-million population. John Hopkins University currently cites a figure of 955,000 (which it calculates to be 1.15 percent) as “fully vaccinated.”
Khamenei To Receive Newly Introduced Iranian COVID Vaccine
The personal doctor of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has announced that he will be getting the first dose of Iran’s COVIran Barekat vaccine soon, a website linked with Khamenei’s office said. Dr. Alireza Marandi said that with the approval of the first domestically produced vaccine Khamenei insists to receive the COVIran shot.
On January 8, Khamenei in a speech banned the purchase of American and British vaccines saying he did not trust the motives of these two countries.
Other officials persistently claimed that United States sanctions were preventing Iran from purchasing vaccines. But Iran's Central Bank Governor on December 24 had confirmed that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had issued a second license for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization (WHO) but said Iran did not go through with the transaction the first time for fear of US courts confiscating the money.
Since then, Iran has barely vaccinated 3 percent of its population, mainly with Chinese and Russian vaccines, while the pandemic is still raging in the country, with thousands of cases and more than 100 deaths every day.
Iran was the second country after China that was hit by the coronavirus epidemic in February 2020. Khamenei lived in seclusion for 12 months, and all his speeches were delivered via television in the absence of an audience. That changed in February 2021 when Khamenei began contacts with audiences and officials, leading to speculations that he had received one of the Western vaccines he had banned.
Blinken To Meet Israel's New Foreign Minister Sunday In Rome
BERLIN (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Israel’s new Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Italy over the weekend, a senior State Department official and Israel’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
They said the meeting would take place on Sunday in Rome but neither side offered any details about the agenda, which is likely to focus on Israel's concerns about a possible U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal and Israel's security more broadly.
It will be their first meeting since Lapid assumed his position after longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted. The discussion comes as Israel’s new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett seeks to mend relations with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.
The leaders have inherited a relationship that is at once imperiled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history and an engrained recognition that they need each other.
Bennett’s government says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel that former President Donald Trump attempted to turn into a Republican monopoly. Biden, meanwhile, is trying to pursue a more balanced approach on the Palestinian conflict and Iran by restoring ties with the Palestinians and entering into indirect negotiations on the nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from.
The relationship is critical to both countries. Israel has long regarded the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing while the U.S. counts on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.
Two Political Prisoners Who Demanded Khamenei's Resignation Beaten In Jail
Two political prisoners who were arrested two years ago for demanding the resignation of Iran’s supreme leader have been beaten in prison in recent days, a human rights monitoring group reported Thursday.
Mohammad Hossein Sepehri and Kamal Jafari-Yazdi are kept in Mashhad’s Vakil Abad prison since 2019 after they co-signed an open letter with 12 other dissidents demanding the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and an overhaul of the country’s constitution.
Hrana human rights website, based abroad, and monitoring the situation of political prisoners in Iran reported that the two dissidents were beaten on June 20 and 21.
Hrana said that after Jafari-Yazdi’s beating on June 20, when he and Sepehri were outside their cells in the courtyard of the prison, the chief guard of their wing confiscated their personal belongings and when they complained, the guard using foul language also beat Sepehri.
The fourteen signatories of the letter in June 2019 are well-known writers, journalists and some former supporters of the Islamic Republic. They were all arrested in the weeks following the publication of their letter and several are still in prison. Four of the prisoners have received heavy prison terms by Revolutionary Courts, accused of insulting “sanctities” and other chrges.
Iran To Decide Whether To Extend Monitoring Deal With IAEA
Iran will decide whether to extend its monitoring deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after its expiry on June 24, Iranian state TV's news website quoted presidential chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi as saying on Wednesday.
"It has been decided that after the expiration of the agreement's deadline, Iran's Supreme National Security Council (will) decide about the agreement's extension at its first meeting," Vaezi said, according to the website.
Iran and the United States have been holding indirect talks since April to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA that former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran. Iran has been demanding the lifting of those sanctions and has gradually accelerated it nuclear program as a means of pressure. One of these measures was the decision in February to reduce monitoring cooperation with the IAEA.
But Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog reached a three-month accord in late February - which was extended on May 24 for a month - to cushion the blow of Tehran's decision to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA by ending extra monitoring measures introduced by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
More Workers Join The General Strike Of Petrochemical Sector In Iran
As workers from ten more petrochemical plants joined a nationwide strike of refinery and power generation employees in Iran, Tehran refinery officials threatened to fire 700 strikers.
On Wednesday, regular employees of Abadan refinery in the southeast, contract workers of a refinery in the north, and other companies in south-central Iran, in Esfahan and workers of a power plant in Ahvaz and elsewhere joined the general strike announced yesterday.
The strike began with workers from half a dozen large petrochemical concerns and spread to other companies and plants later Tuesday, with more joining on Wednesday.
Videos and reports indicate that officials of Tehran refinery where a major fire broke out a few weeks ago, distributed discharge forms among hundreds of workers as a threat to fire them from their jobs.
Workers are demanding higher pay amid a 50-percent inflation in the country, where food prices have risen even faster. In some companies even the current low wages have not been paid on time. Most industries in Iran are either directly or indirectly owned by the state or by people close to those who run the country.
The strike movement is dubbed “Campaign 1400”, referring to the current Iranian calendar year 1400. Presidential elections last Friday witnessed the lowest turnout ever in the Islamic Republic’s 42-year history. A movement to boycott the election was seen as having had an impact on voters who are disillusioned by the government’s record both with managing the economy and with use of force against those who protest or demand change.