Two dead, many injured in multiple quakes in Iran

Images on social media showed people being rushed to hospitals, but suggested relatively light damage to infrastructure. (Photo: Social media)
Updated 26 August 2018
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Two dead, many injured in multiple quakes in Iran

  • Three earthquakes hit Iran, killing at least two and injuring many more
  • A crisis center had been set up, with hospitals and relief organizations placed on alert

Tehran: A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck western Iran near the border with Iraq early Sunday, killing two people and injuring more than 250.
The shallow quake hit 26 kilometers southwest of the city of Javanrud in Kermanshah province, the US Geological Survey said, near the site of a powerful quake last year that killed hundreds.
Kermanshah governor Houshang Bazvand told state broadcaster IRIB that two people were killed and 255 injured.
The head of the emergency department at Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Saeb Sharidari, said the two dead were a pregnant woman and a 70-year-old man who suffered a heart attack.
State news agency IRNA quoted local officials saying that electricity had been cut to 70 villages but that it was restored to at least 50 by dawn.
It added that there had been more than 65 aftershocks.
Bazvand said at least 500 buildings had been destroyed and would need to be completely rebuilt.
There were potential problems with drinking water due to damaged infrastructure in villages, but the local Red Crescent chief, Mohammad Reza Amirian, said it had not yet been necessary to distribute food and tents.
A crisis center was set up, with hospitals and relief organizations placed on alert.
But the local director of crisis management, Reza Mahmoudian, told the Mehr news agency that “the situation was under control” and no request for help had been sent to neighboring provinces.
There were reports that the quake was felt far across the border into Iraq.
Images on social media showed people being rushed to hospitals, but suggested relatively light damage to infrastructure.
Iran sits on top of two major tectonic plates and sees frequent seismic activity.
Kermanshah is still recovering from a devastating 7.3-magnitude quake that struck last November, killing 620 people in the province and another eight people in Iraq.
That quake left more than 12,000 people injured and damaged some 30,000 houses, leaving huge numbers homeless at the start of the cold season in the mountainous region.
Local officials said the estimated cost of reconstruction would be measured in the billions of dollars, at a time when Iran is struggling with a deepening economic downturn.
There was criticism that much of the new social housing built as part of a scheme championed by ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had failed to withstand the tremor.
President Hassan Rouhani said those responsible would be held to account.
Iran’s deadliest quake in recent years was a 6.6-magnitude tremor that struck the southeast in 2003, decimating the ancient mud-brick city of Bam and killing at least 31,000 people.
In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.


 


Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

Updated 51 sec ago
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Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

  • Veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi
  • Decision reached after extensive negotiations between pro and anti-Iran factions

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.

The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.

The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said. 

He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs. 

Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate. 

Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.

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READ MORE: Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker Al-Halbousi as speaker, breaking deadlock

Rival Iraqi factions make coalition deal and end Al-Abadi’s prime minister hopes

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Iran accused of hijacking Basra protests after a week of violence that shook Iraq

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Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.

Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.

At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.

Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.

The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.

The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.

Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.

Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.

The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.

The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.

“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”

 Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations. 

The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.

“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.

“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”

The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.

The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.

Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.

“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.