US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran
Brian Hook said Monday that Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2018

US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran
  • The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East
  • In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.

PARIS: The United States is still aiming to cut Iran's oil sales to zero and does not foresee the re-imposition of oil sanctions against Tehran on Nov. 4 as having a negative impact on the market as it is well-supplied and balanced, Washington's special envoy for Iran said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Brian Hook also said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred and that European efforts to create a special purpose vehicle for trade with Tehran would find no demand as more than 100 foreign firms had indicated they would be leaving the country.

Hook's statements came as an industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East, the latest sign that shipments are taking a major hit from looming US sanctions.
The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. No vessels are shown heading to Europe with Iranian crude.
However, an industry source who also tracks the exports estimated shipments at 1.5 million bpd, including vessels which are not showing on AIS satellite tracking, of which a 1 million-barrel tanker is going to Italy.
That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions. The figures also mark a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.
The expected loss of a sizeable amount of Iranian supply has helped drive a rally in oil prices, which on Oct. 3 hit their highest since late 2014 at $86.74 a barrel. Crude has since eased to $81 although analysts say the Iranian export drop remains supportive.
“It’s one of the reasons why prices are still above $80,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.
The October figures add to signs that buyers are sufficiently wary of the US sanctions to stop or scale back their Iranian crude dealings, and that exports are falling more steeply than some in the market expected.
For sure, definitive export data is hard to uncover. Tanker schedules are often adjusted, exports vary week by week and the tracking of tankers, while easier than in the past due to satellite information, remains both art and science.
In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.
While Washington has said it wants to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, Iran and Saudi Arabia say that is unlikely to happen. The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports.
India, a major buyer, has ordered Iranian oil for November.
Iran, which has pledged to block any OPEC supply increase that the country deems to be against its interests, says it has found new buyers for its oil and its crude output has fallen only slightly.
For September, Iran told OPEC its crude output dropped by 50,000 bpd to 3.76 million bpd, while consultants and government agencies that OPEC uses to monitor production reported a larger fall to 3.45 million bpd.
Indeed, Iran may not yet have cut production to match the rate of decline in its exports, as the country appears to be storing more oil on ships, as it did during sanctions that applied until the 2015 nuclear deal.


Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
Updated 55 min 5 sec ago

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
  • One dose or virus recovered must to attend events and enter establishments

JEDDAH: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased in the past 10 days with the arrival of the Aug. 1 deadline that means unvaccinated residents are prohibited from entering establishments.

The acceleration comes as residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments. Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time-slots to accommodate the growing numbers.
So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been delivered at a rate of 77 doses per hundred. More than 8.1 million so far have received two doses and more than 77.5 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million have been vaccinated so far.
More than 1.46 million of the Kingdom’s elderly have been vaccinated to date.
Health officials continue to urge residents to receive the vaccine, adhere to social distancing measures and take precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a Saudi research team has successfully developed the first Saudi vaccine against COVID-19 and is ready to carry out clinical trials after receiving the required approvals.

INNUMBERS

525,730 Total cases

506,089 Recoveries

8,237 Deaths

Led by Dr. Iman Almansour, the research team from the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC) at the Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam published the findings, “Immunogenicity of Multiple Doses of pDNA Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2,” in the  Pharmaceuticals Journal on MDPI, an open-access publishing website for academics.
On Saturday, 1,146 new cases were reported by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, raising the total number to 525,730.
Three regions reported numbers above the 100 case mark, Riyadh leading with 243 cases, the Eastern Province with 209 and Makkah with 196 cases. Jouf continues to be the region with the lowest count with only eight cases on Saturday.
There are currently 11,404 active cases, 1,377 of which are in critical care, a decline of 18 in the past 24 hours.
A total of 1,086 new recoveries were reported, raising the total number of recoveries to 506,089. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Riyadh led the cities with the highest recovery count as 232 recoveries were reported, Taif with 99 and Jeddah with 64 recoveries.
A total of 11 new fatalities due to complications from COVID-19 have been reported, raising the death tally to 8,237.
A total of 113,300 PCR tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to more than 25 million tests so far.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s control teams in Makkah region carried out 20,137 inspection tours in July on private sector enterprises, to ensure abidance by the precautionary and preventive measures against the coronavirus disease and compliance with nationalization and labor regulations.
During the inspections, 3,755 violations of labor regulations and precautionary measures were found, and 813 warnings issued.
The ministry urged owners of enterprises to abide by all precautionary measures at workplaces to curb the spread of the virus, and to abide by the ministry’s regulations to avoid incurring penalties.
Inspection tours will continue across businesses in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry addedd, calling on everyone in the region to report breaches and violations through its call center (19911) or its Ma3an lil Rasd app.


Beirut’s first public skatepark breathes life into ravaged city

Local organizations will help maintain and sustain the park. (Supplied)
Local organizations will help maintain and sustain the park. (Supplied)
Updated 6 min 37 sec ago

Beirut’s first public skatepark breathes life into ravaged city

Local organizations will help maintain and sustain the park. (Supplied)
  • Twelve months ago, an explosion in Beirut’s port rocked the capital. Over 200 people were killed after a warehouse inadequately housing highly flammable chemicals caught fire

DUBAI: Dany Sultan and Mike Ritchard have spent most of their adult life on skateboards.
While both young men embraced skating from a relatively young age, Lebanon has not always accepted them back. Up until now, the small Mediterranean country lacked a place to kickflip and grind; a place of inclusivity where people from different backgrounds could come together and work on their craft.
Instead, Sultan, 25 and Ritchard, 19, started most of their morning sessions scouting urban landscapes and public spaces in and around Beirut.
“We’d street skate anyplace that had a ledge, stairs or handrails,” Ritchard told Arab News.
For him and street skaters alike, run-ins with residents and security guards were common. Given the lack of a safe haven to skate, their discipline was viewed as a public nuisance.
“We’ve had a couple of issues with security guards and police,” Ritchard said, adding that he, along with some friends, were briefly detained late last year.
But being hard-wired with a high tolerance for fear and a sense of adventure helped them look past the altercations.
“For years we have reached out to municipalities to try and convince them to support (us) but we were always met with indifference and even resistance,” Sultan said.
Little did any of them know that a group of volunteers and donors would soon pave the way for the country’s first community skatepark in the heart of Beirut: Snoubar (Pine) Skatepark.
Twelve months ago, an explosion in Beirut’s port rocked the capital. Over 200 people were killed after a warehouse inadequately housing highly flammable chemicals caught fire.
As the tragedy made rounds across the globe, it caught the attention of INGO Make Life Skate Life (MLSL).
“My friend Arne Hillerns, who runs MLSL, reached out after seeing the blast on the news back in Brussels,” Esther Chang, a skater and yoga instructor currently based in Beirut, told Arab News. She, along with Arne and another local skater, put together a relief fund to support the local skaters with anything from hospital bills to rebuilding doors and windows, to even supporting a local skater’s tuition for a few semesters at university.
After also giving away over 80 skateboards with the support of skaters around the world, only one thing was left to do: Build an actual skatepark.
“There was still this dream of building a skatepark that the locals have had for decades,” Chang said.
Horsh Beirut, the Lebanese capital’s largest park and pine forest, would serve as the optimal location.
“We pitched the idea to Beirut’s municipality —  a free-of-charge and public skatepark in Beirut for youth — asked for some land, and to our surprise they offered it to us,” Chang said.

To turn the dream into reality, a massive crowdfunding campaign was launched alongside donations from corporate and individual sponsors.

Axel A., a visual artist based in Dubai, auctioned off a customized skateboard. Decathlon, the French sports retailer, committed thousands of dollars.

“There was funding from a variety of sources including individuals as well as corporate sponsors such as the Decathlon Foundation, Air France and CHPO,” Samantha Robinson, MLSL’s creative director, told Arab News.

The nonprofit has previously completed sustainable skateparks in India, Bolivia, Jordan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Nepal, Morocco and Iraq with free on-site skateboarding, safety equipment loan systems and lessons with partner organizations.

“Local NGO arcenciel will help maintain and sustain the park while another NGO, Just Childhood, will create a program for free skateboarding lessons for the local youth in the neighboring Shatila Palestinian refugee camp,” Chang added.

“When Arne from MLSL contacted us to help build the first public, free skatepark in Beirut we were so excited to be part of it,” Jean-Philippe Rode, a skateboarder and product manager for Decathlon Skateboarding in France, told Arab News.

After gaining the financial support of the Decathlon Foundation, which forked out €50,000 ($59,352) in June, volunteers from across the world traveled to Beirut to take part in the project, coming from as far as Colombia, the US and Costa Rica.

The park was designed and constructed through the help of over 50 volunteers and local skaters alongside professional skatepark builders, who did “extremely taxing physical labor in the blazing hot sun, through stomach illnesses, dehydration and fatigue,” Robinson and Chang noted.

“They have such an admirable dedication to spreading the love of skateboarding and helping build the skate community here in Lebanon,” Robinson added.

One such volunteer was Dave Eassa, a lifelong skateboarder, visual artist and cultural worker from Baltimore in the US.

While serving as an artist in residence at Al-Raseef 153, a new arts space that is a part of the 7Hills skatepark and organization in Amman, Jordan, Eassa caught wind of the project during a conversation with 7Hills’ director.

“After speaking with Mohammed Zakaria (director of 7Hills) and German skater Matze, I bought a plane ticket at the last minute and headed to Beirut for 8 days to help with whatever I could,” Eassa said.

Skateboarding, Chang explained, has many intrinsic qualities beyond the sport itself. It has come a long way, breaking out of the fringes where it was regarded as counter-cultural, and propelling itself into the limelight by making its debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

The skatepark, she said, will give youths a space to “gather, share ideas, and support each other in something they all have in common, skateboarding. No matter their age, gender, religion, they come together as skaters.”

Officially completed on Thursday, the park will give skaters like Sultan and Ritchard a place to safely spin down ramps and loop around a quarter pipe, away from any harassment.

The sense of community fostered during the build has been unmatched, the skaters said.

“It is truly a beautiful thing to see so many people coming together to volunteer their expertise, time and energy toward spreading the love of skateboarding,” Eassa said. 

“Skateboarding has saved so many of us, giving us purpose in our lives, and created lifelong bonds and friendships across the globe so naturally it makes sense that so many of us wanted to give back to the existing and future generations of Lebanese skateboarders,” he added.

For the past year, Lebanon’s has faced many social, political and economic problems. Skyrocketing unemployment, inflation and rising food insecurity are only the tip of the crisis.

“For many, skateboarding represents a positive outlet of energy and emotions, which proves to be priceless in such a troubled and distressed country. In truly trying times, it is such an important outlet, a place to leave all the issues of the world behind even just for a little.” Eassa said.

“In the midst of so much chaos, people came together to create something beautiful and for one another,” Chang, who is leaving Beirut after spending over two years there, said.

Yet Rode, like Chang, Eassa and the rest of the crew, will be back.

“There is no way you work on a skatepark and don’t skate it, so we’ll have to come back soon,” the 45-year-old skating aficionado said.


US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan

US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan
Updated 28 min 43 sec ago

US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan

US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan
  • Washington’s strategy to deploy the heavily armed planes a ‘worrying sign’

KABUL: A US B-52 bomber has pounded Taliban positions in Afghanistan’s western Herat province after the group gained ground near the area amid intense clashes with government forces, officials and lawmakers said on Saturday.

The strike took place on the outskirts of Herat city on Friday, with flights to and from the area suspended after increased violence near its airport.

“Unfortunately, all flights to Herat have been canceled due to the fighting and the information we have received suggest that a B-52 was used in the fighting yesterday (Friday) in Herat,” provincial lawmaker Habib Ur Rahman Pedram told Arab News.

No further details were given, such as the number of casualties or the scale of the attack.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan since May 1, when the Taliban launched a sweeping offensive as the US began its troop withdrawal after 20 years of occupation.

In recent weeks, the group has captured several districts and vital border crossings, with the Pentagon estimating that the group now control more than half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers.

The Taliban have reportedly captured two border crossings in Herat, the second largest city after Kabul, located near the border with Iran and Turkmenistan.

Friday’s attack by the US military marks the second time in less than two weeks that it has deployed the long-range, nuclear-capable plane against the Taliban from distant bases after US-led troops cut vital air support for overstretched Afghan forces.

A B-52 was also sighted in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of southern Helmand province, and the scene of intense fighting between Taliban and government forces, “but appeared to have not carried out any attack on Friday,” Helmand lawmaker Mirwais Khadem told Arab News.

According to security sources from the adjacent Kandahar province, the heavily armed plane hit a group of Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak bordering Pakistan two weeks ago as well, “killing scores of them.”

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid could not confirm whether the B-52 was used to attack the group across Afghanistan.

BACKGROUND

• In recent weeks, Taliban have captured several districts and vital border crossings, with the Pentagon estimating that the group now control more than half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers.

• The group has reportedly captured two border crossings in Herat, the second largest city after Kabul, located near the border with Iran and Turkmenistan.

But he told Arab News that the Taliban had “tightened the net on government forces around Herat city, in Lashkar Gah, and Kandahar city” in recent days.

Khadem confirmed Mujahid’s accounts, adding that the Taliban had taken over two districts within Lashkar Gah after “heavy fighting for successive days.”

“Government helicopters have hit the Taliban,” the lawmaker added. “People have been displaced and largely heading to Taliban-held areas as the situation in the city is not good.”

The US military in Afghanistan was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Saturday, while Afghan officials refused to discuss the decision to reinstate the B-52 to curb Taliban advances.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai told Arab News that “government forces had foiled Taliban’s attacks on the three cities and the enemy has suffered heavy losses.”

B-52 bombers played a crucial role in toppling the Taliban from power in late 2001, with the US using its bases in the Gulf to deploy the plane.

The strategy to deploy the B-52 appears to be a military necessity, as over-stretched Afghan troops are struggling to prevent the loss of more territory and provincial capitals to the Taliban and avoid the potential for renewed civil war without foreign forces to protect the Kabul government.

The clashes in Herat and Kandahar have forced tens of thousands of residents to flee to safer grounds, with government estimates placing the number of families displaced by the surge in violence since early May at more than 40,000.

During Friday’s fighting, the UN’s main compound in Herat came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, according to a statement from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable, and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.

The halt of flights to Herat and the reuse of the B-52 were “worrying signs of an escalation in insecurity” across Afghanistan, according to security analyst and retired colonel Mohammad Hassan.

“It is getting worse day by day here,” he told Arab News. “The cancelation of flights to Herat and the fact that America has back started using B-52 are not good signs. It will cause more panic among people at large and shows the precariousness of the situation.”


Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 29 min 47 sec ago

Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents

RIYADH: More than 12,000 violators of residency, work and border security systems have been arrested in the Kingdom in one week, according to an official report.
In the campaigns that took place in all regions of the Kingdom from July 22-28, there have been 12,642 offenders, including 4,180 for violating residency regulations, 991 for labor violations and 7,471 for border violations.
The report said that 266 people were arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom: 52 percent were Yemeni citizens, 44 percent were Ethiopians, and 4 percent were of other nationalities.
In addition, eight people were arrested for trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 12 were arrested for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.
The total number of violators who were subjected to procedures was 64,539, including 53,777 men and 10,762 women.
The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 3,352 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 5,308 were deported.

 


Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report
Updated 33 min 54 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report

Saudi Arabia’s economy likely to grow in 2021 and 2022, says report
  • Capital Economics' forecast a further evidence that the Saudi economic recovery has taken off in 2021

RIYADHH Saudi Arabia’s economy is poised to grow from 2.2 percent to 4.8 percent in 2021 and from 4.1 percent to 6.3 percent in 2022, said a Capital Economics report.

The new forecasts are further evidence that the Saudi economic recovery has taken off in 2021.

At the start of the year, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Finance said that it expected 3.2 percent growth this year — reversing the pandemic-driven downturn of 2020. The International Monetary Fund forecast just 2.1 percent growth two months ago.

The Saudi economy is expected to maintain growth in the second half of the year. The expansion is also backed by higher oil output amid an OPEC+ agreement.

The Kingdom’s finance, insurance, real estate, and business sectors are likely to expand by 9 percent annually and their relative share to overall economic activity will grow by 12.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the services sector is also likely to grow about 10 percent annually on average, implying that its relative gross domestic product (GDP) share will climb to almost 40 percent in 2030.