Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity

Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity
President Hassan Rouhani (L) sitting in the cockpit of the ‘Kowsar’ domestic fighter jet, at the National Defense Industry exhibition in the capital Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 02 September 2018

Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity

Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity

DUBAI: Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying on Saturday.
News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.
State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against “foreign threats” including its arch foe, the United States.
Tehran is furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.
Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. They say the country’s missile program is solely for defense purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity ... and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.
Speaking to Tehran-based foreign military attaches, Ahadi said international sanctions had not hampered the development of Iran’s arms industry.
“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defense industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.
He also defended Iran’s role in conflicts in Iraq and Syria: “If Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq had not stopped Islamic State, today the map of the region would be different and the world would face a terrible challenge.”
Separately, the head of the Defense Ministry’s naval industries said Iran was developing a water jet propulsion system that would be ready by next March and a military commander said the air force planned to adopt Iran’s new Kowsar fighter plane after successful tests, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.
The exercises by the Basij militia, which are led by the elite Revolutionary Guards, come ahead of massive annual rallies planned for later this month to mark the start of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
“The motto of these war games is unity ... and to declare that, when it comes to adversity and threats from foreigners, we all join to defend the (Islamic Republic’s) system,” Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar was quoted as saying by IRNA. 
Meanwhile, Iran on Saturday rejected a Reuters report that Tehran has moved missiles to Iraq, saying it aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbors, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned” by the reports that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to quickly form a new government after a May 12 parliamentary election.
“Such false and ridiculous news have no purpose other than affecting Iran’s foreign relations, especially with its neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according to IRNA.
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there.
“This news is solely aimed at creating fears in the countries of the region,” Qassemi added.
Pompeo, in his tweet on the reports of the transfer of the missiles, said, “If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231.”
He was referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which underpinned the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iraq and six world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal earlier this year and his administration is currently reimposing sanctions against Tehran.
Earlier, Pompeo spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi “to reaffirm US support for Iraq’s efforts to form a modern, nationalist Iraqi government,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Pompeo emphasized the importance of safeguarding Iraq’s sovereignty during this critical time, she said.
He also spoke to Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to discuss political developments and relations between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in north Iraq, Nauert added.
Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
It would also embarrass France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite the new US sanctions against Tehran.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 27 min 49 sec ago

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 08 May 2021

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.


US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
Updated 53 min 33 sec ago

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
  • US State Department: Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations"

WASHINGTON: The United States called Friday for de-escalation in annexed east Jerusalem, and warned against carrying out a threatened eviction of Palestinian families that has sent tensions soaring.
"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem... which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan."
He said Washington was calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to "act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence."
And he warned it was "critical" to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation — such as "evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism."
An earlier State Department statement said Washington was concerned in particular about the "potential eviction of Palestinian families in Silwan neighborhood and Sheikh Jarrah," two areas of east Jerusalem where tensions have been running high.
It noted that some Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations."
The comments came as more than 160 people were wounded after Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.
Earlier Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said.
The unrest came on Al-Quds Day — named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem — an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.
The nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel "not a country, but a terrorist base," and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was "everyone's duty."


Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
Somali opposition soldiers pose for a photograph in Mogadishu as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
  • Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three

MOGADISHU: Opposition fighters withdrew from the Somali capital on Friday, ending a tense standoff with pro-government troops after a dispute over delayed elections triggered the country’s worst political violence in years.
Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.
Under a deal reached by the warring sides this week, opposition troops began leaving their positions in the capital, and key roads sealed off with sandbags and machine guns were opened once more.
“We are sending our forces back to the frontline position to defend the country and its people,” said Mahad Salad, an opposition lawmaker, at a camp outside Mogadishu where troops assembled after pulling out of the city.
Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule.
But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three.
The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohammed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks.
“These forces came to the rescue of the people, and have taught a new lesson which will be remembered in future. They refused a dictatorship, and have forced the democratic governance process to continue,” opposition lawmaker Salad said.

FASTFACT

Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.

Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms.
Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohammed relaunched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote.
The international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon, and warned the political infighting distracted from the fight against Al-Shabab, the militants who control swathes of countryside.
Maj.-Gen. Ali Araye Osoble told opposition troops outside the capital that it was time to return to duty.
“I order that you return to your positions and fulfil your commitments in the fight against Al-Shabab,” the opposition commander said.


Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
People wearing protective face masks walk in Tunis, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, April 29, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2021

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
  • Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed

TUNIS: Tunisia ordered a partial lockdown from Sunday for the week-long Eid Al-Fitr holidays, warning that any further increase in coronavirus infections could overwhelm specialist care facilities.
Announcing the measure on Friday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history.”
Mosques, markets and nonessential businesses will be closed under the new restrictions, which come as Muslims mark the end of the month of Ramadan, said Mechichi.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” Mechichi said, adding that medics were stretched to the limit, with around 100 people a day dying of COVID-19.
More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, an unprecedented number that has required medics to set up field hospitals, and the North African country is struggling to meet the demand for oxygen.
Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed.
Tunisians are encouraged to leave their homes only for what is strictly necessary, government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane said.
The Mediterranean country, with a population of around 12 million, has recorded more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 11,200 deaths.
Tunisia’s economy has lurched from one crisis to another since the country’s 2011 revolution, with GDP estimated to have contracted by a record 8.2 percent last year.
Mechichi had said several times in recent weeks that Tunisia is unable to afford to repeat the restrictions put in place in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.