Seoul Says Iran's Funds To Be Unblocked Through Consultations With US | Page 2 | Iran International

Seoul Says Iran's Funds To Be Unblocked Through Consultations With US

Iran’s funds blocked in South Korea will be released after consultations with the United States, Seoul has announced Tuesday according to Korea Times. South Korean banks have blocked an estimated $7 billion of Iranian funds from oil exports that were not possible to be transferred du to US sanctions against Tehran.

"Our government has been in talks with Iran about ways to use the frozen assets, and the Iran side has expressed its consent to the proposals we have made," the foreign ministry was quoted as saying without providing further details of the proposals.

The chairman of Iran’s central bank Abdolnaser Hemmati announced on Monday that he had reached an agreement with Korea’s ambassador in Tehran Ryu Jeong-hyun on “methods of transferring and using” the funds for “intended purposes.” He did not say how much of the $7 billion of Iran’s frozen funds were affected but his reference to “intended purposes” suggests the funds would be used for specific categories.

South Korea once supplied Iran with a limited quantity of medical needs and further humanitarian supplies night be the purpose of any deal made between Tehran and Seoul.

Tehran, desperate for cash, has been putting a lot of pressure on Seoul to have the money released but during former President Donald Trump’s administration no agreement was reached.

Two weeks before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Iran seized a South Korean vessel in the Persian Gulf “on environmental grounds,” although many detected an attempt to force Seoul to negotiate over the blocked funds. South Korea’s official news agency has reported that Iran is demanding the immediate unfreezing of $1 billion.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Has COVID, Recovering At Home- Report

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi has contracted the coronavirus and is in quarantine t his home, Ruydad 24 news website reported on Monday.

The report says that 66-year-old Alavi tested positive for the virus one week ago, but his health is “good” and he is awaiting the end of his quarantine period. In February Alavi’s father passed away from Covid.

Many Islamic Republic military, judicial and other officials contracted the coronavirus and at least a dozen prominent officials and politicians have died. Iran was the second country after China where the Covid epidemic started in February 2020.

So far, government’s official figures say 2.26 million people contracted the virus and more than 67,000 have died. Iran is currently experiencing its fourth Covid surge, with around 400 daily deaths in recent days.

Reports last week said that an influential conservative cleric and ardent supporter of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, has also contracted the coronavirus. There are no updates about his health condition.

Mahmoud Alavi, Iran's intelligence minister in Hassan Rouhani's cabinet. FILE


Ahmadinejad Wants Iran Security Chiefs Charged Over Natanz Attack

Security chiefs should be prosecuted for negligence over the April 11 sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told supporters in a gathering on Sunday [April 18]. “The nation gives you 400-500 trillion rials (around $2 billion) a year to watch these [facilities],” he said, blaming intelligence and security services for what he said was billions of dollars in damage.

Ahmadinejad, who has truned into a frequent critic, expressed disappointment at a lack of action in response to the attack, which was widely attributed to Israel. “It seems nothing has happened,” he said. “No one is subject to accountability and no reports are issued.”

The strike, focused on the power grid, has been variously attributed to a cyberattack and a large bomb smuggled into the complex. According to some Iranian officials the damage was extensive, while the New York Times quoted US intelligence that it had set back Iran’s nuclear program by six to nine months. Yet within days, Iran began at Natanz the process of uranium enrichment to 60 percent, the highest level the program has reached.

Six days after the incident, Iran’s security agencies named a suspect, Reza Karimi, and said they had informed Interpol as he had fled the country. The international policing organization has not commented, and online searches have found no evidence of an Interpol warrant.

Ahmadinejad ridiculed these efforts. “Tasteless and repetitive schemes,” he said. “They announce that they have identified someone, but he has escaped.”

Ahmadinejad also raised the killing of protesters by security forces in November 2019, demanding the prosecution of those responsible. “You, yourselves say you have killed 231 people, and nobody should be tried, there should not be any follow-up?”

Iran Always Welcomes Dialogue With Riyadh, Foreign Ministry Says


DUBAI, April 19 (Reuters) - Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday that Tehran always welcomed dialogue with Saudi Arabia, but he did not confirm nor deny direct talks this month between the arch-rivals.

The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 and have been engaged in several proxy wars in the region as they vie for influence.

A senior Iranian official and two regional sources had told Reuters that Saudi and Iranian officials held discussions in Iraq in a bid to ease tensions as Washington works to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and end the Yemen war.

The Financial Times first reported the meeting.

"We have seen media reports about talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, although the reports sometimes had contradictory quotes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference.

"What is important is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always welcomed dialogue with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and considers it in the interest of the people of the two countries, as well as peace and stability in the region," he added.

Saudi authorities have not responded to a Reuters request for comment on the talks.

One of the sources said the meeting, arranged by Iraq's prime minister who visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, had focused on Yemen, where a military coalition led by Riyadh has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Sunni power Saudi Arabia had opposed the inernational nuclear accord with Shi'ite Iran for not tackling Tehran's missiles programme and regional behaviour.

It has called for a stronger deal this time around at talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the United States and Iran back into compliance with the pact, which then U.S. President Donald Trump quit in 2018. Tehran breached several nuclear restrictions after Trump reimposed sanctions.

Rockets Hit Iraqi Airbase Where US Trainers Are Stationed

BAGHDAD (AP) — Multiple rockets hit an Iraqi airbase just north of the capital Baghdad Sunday, wounding two Iraqi security forces, an Iraqi military commander said.

In comments to Iraq's official news agency, Maj. Gen. Diaa Mohsen, commander of the Balad airbase, said at least two rockets exploded inside the base, which houses U.S. trainers. The attack comes days after an explosives-laden drone targeted U.S.-led coalition forces near a northern Iraq airport, causing a large fire and damage to a building.

Mohsen said the attack resulted in the injury of two security forces, one of them in serious condition and the other only slightly. There was no material damage inside the base from the attack, he added.

The incident was the latest in a string of attacks that have targeted mostly American installations in Iraq in recent weeks. There was no immediate responsibility claim, but U.S. officials have previously blamed Iran-backed Iraqi militia factions for such attacks.

American forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of Iraq to help battle the Islamic State group after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country. In late 2020, U.S. troop levels in Iraq were reduced to 2,500 after withdrawals based on orders from the Trump administration.

Calls grew for further U.S. troop withdrawals after a U.S.-directed drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad in January 2020.

Last month, a base in western Iraq housing U.S.-led coalition troops and contractors was hit by 10 rockets. One contractor was killed.

Protesting Retirees In Iran Say They Will Not Vote in June

Retirees in several Iranian cities on Sunday protested against what they said is corruption and broken promises to adjust their pensions to be in par with the country’s high rate of inflation.

Images published on social media show large gatherings outside government buildings in Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, and Ahvaz, in what has become weekly protests. They chanted slogans against inflation and rising prices. Wages and pensions have increased only marginally after three years of close to 40 percent annual inflation.

While labor representatives say the minimum subsistence monthly income is $400, workers and retirees receive much less than $200 a month. The government with a big budget deficit has refused to respond to demands of higher pay.

Protesters also chanted slogans against the upcoming presidential elections in June, saying they will not vote. Observers have been saying in the media that a majority of Iranians will likely not vote, having become disillusioned after repeated promises of change and reforms for years.

Retirees protest in Tehran demanding higher pensions. April 18, 2021

Iran 'Strongly Concerned' About Recent Attacks In Iraq

The spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran Saeed Khatibzadeh expressed strong concerns about the recent explosions in Iraq and said the Islamic Republic condemns any action against Iraq’s sovereignty and stability.

He emphasized that “some are trying to spread unsafety and create a crisis in order to prevent any constructive effort in the region.” Khatibzadeh did not elaborate on his comments.

In an explosion on Thursday in a market in Baghdad at least four were killed and 17 were injured. Earlier on Thursday, US Forces stationed in an area in Erbil international airport were targeted in a drone strike, and a Turkish military base in the Bashiqa area in the north of Iraq.

This is the second round of rocket attacks in Erbil in the past two months. There were similar attacks on Erbil in February targeting the US-led international coalition against ISIS.

After those attacks, the security office of the Kurdistan autonomous zone announced the arrest of a senior member of the Iran-backed Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia in connection to the attack. The arrested individual had confessed that the rockets used in the attacks were made in Iran.

In recent months Iran-backed militia groups across Iraq have increased their activities with dozens of attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone near the US embassy.


Israel Will Do 'Whatever It Takes' To Prevent Iran Nukes, Top Diplomat Says

Israel will do "whatever it takes" to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday amid talks in Vienna to revice the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement with world powers.

Speaking after a summit with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts and a senior representative from the UAE in Paphos, Cyprus, Ashkenazi said discussions centred around possibilities for building on prosperity and stability in the region.

"We also took time to discuss challenges that Iran and Hezbollah and other extremists pose to the stability of the Middle East and to the regional peace," he said. "We will do whatever it takes to prevent this extremist ... success and definitely, to prevent this regime from having nuclear weapons." 

An act of sabotage at Iran's main uranium enrichment site in Natanz April 11 led to a reported explosion and fire, destroying an unknown number of centrifuge machines, amid negotatiation in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Iran has blamed Israel for the incident but the Israeli government has remained silent, while the media widely reported the country's secret service, the Mossad to have been behind that act.

The Vienna negotiations reconvened on Thursday with the participation of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, three European signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, and Russia and China, the other two participants in the nuclear deal. The United States which withdrew from the agreement in 2018, is participating indirectly in the talks.

Reporting by Reuters

Top Ukraine Official Says Iran 'Intentionally' Shot Down Airliner Last Year

Ukrainian officials have said they believe Iran intentionally shot down the Ukrainian Airlines flight PS-752 intentionally in January 2020, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported on April 15.

Oleksey Danilov, Secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, who has been involved in the investigation of the disaster and had travelled to Iran and met high-ranking Iranian officials, said in an interview that he believed Iran shot down the plane intentionally to prevent a cycle of military escalation with the United States.

The Trump Administration did not retaliate against the missile attack which injured dozens of American servicemen.

An Iranian air-defense battery fired two missiles at the passenger plane with 176 people abord as it was taking off form Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International airport on January 8, last year, hours after Iran had fired ballistic missile at US bases in Iraq and was expecting possible retaliation.

Three days after the tragedy, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards admitted their responsibility but insisted that it was a “human error”. Iran has failed to allow access to other countries in its investigation or share information. This, Danilov said was one important evidence that proves Iran is hiding the true nature of the incident.

“When they say this was accidental…I don’t buy that,” Danilov said, “It was intentional. This was a conscious attack.” The Ukrainian government has backed his assertions.

Danilov, who met his counterpart, Ali Shamkhani in Tehran last February, said his host did not completely deny his theory and only said that his political faction was not involved but there are different groups in Iran.

Amnesty International: Dual-Citizen's Life In Danger In Iranian Prison

Amnesty International warned on Thursday, April 15, that 66-year-old Iranian-German national Jamshid Sharmahd is in danger of execution, and in a letter to the chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raeesi, called for his release.

According to Amnesty International, it has been eight months since the "arbitrary arrest" of Jamshid Sharmahd, the director of Tondar opposition group by the Islamic Republic security forces, and during this whole time, he has been denied an independent attorney and fair legal procedure.

The news of the kidnapping of Sharmahd in Dubai and his transfer to Tehran by Islamic Republic agents was first released in August 2020. The Islamic Republic has accused Sharmahd of involvement in a bombing in Shiraz.

Immediately after the news of his arrest, the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Intelligence released videos of his coerced confessions in Iranian media including the state-TV (IRIB).

Amnesty also expressed concern about the location of Jamshid Sharmahd’s detainment and the fact that his family is unaware of his condition. The report goes on to say that Sharmahd is suffering from diabetes, chronic heart problems, and Parkinson’s, and requires daily medicine. But the family is unaware if he has access to medicine and medical treatment.

After the arrests of several Iranian-German citizens by the Islamic Republic last year, the German Foreign Ministry asked dual citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Iran.

The Islamic Republic uses the arrest of foreign nationals and dual citizens for espionage and acts against national security to put pressure on Western powers in negotiations.


Iran Says Russia Will Deliver 60 Million Doses Of Sputnik V Vaccines

Iran has reached a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of Sputnik V Covid vaccines, the government news website IRNA reported Thursday.

The reported quoted Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, as saying the contract has been “signed and finalized” and Iran will receive the vaccines by the end of the year. The purchase will cover the vaccination of 30 million people.

Far less than one percent of Iranians have been inoculated so far, with small consignments of Russian and Chinese vaccines. Other regional countries such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel are well ahead in mass-vaccination of their populations.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in early January, saying he does not trust Westerners. A fourth wave of infections has hit the country after New Year holidays and travels in March.

Despite the ban, COVAX, an international collaboration to deliver the vaccine equitably across the world, delivered its first shipment to Iran on Monday from the Netherlands, containing 700,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

Iran reported 321 Covid deaths on Thursday, more than triple the death rate a month ago. The country was the first to be hit with the pandemic in February 2020 and so far, has experienced the worst impact in the region.

On Saturday, Iran began a 10-day lockdown as. authorities ordered most shops closed and offices restricted to one-third capacity in cities declared as “red zones" with the highest infection rates.

The capital Tehran and 250 other cities and towns across the country have been declared red zones.