Pompeo says US offered to help Iran with coronavirus response

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, about the Trump administration’s policies on Iran, Iraq and the use of force. (AP)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Pompeo says US offered to help Iran with coronavirus response

  • The hearing meant to focus on Trump administration's dealings with Iran and Iraq, but centered on the coronavirus
  • Washington is watching to see if Iran may seek to play a spoiler role in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States has offered to help with the coronavirus response in Iran, where the outbreak has killed 34 people, and raised doubts about Tehran’s willingness to share information.
“We have made offers to the Islamic Republic of Iran to help,” Pompeo said in a hearing at House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Their health care infrastructure is not robust and to date, their willingness to share information about what’s really going on inside...Iran has not been robust and I am very concerned that....it is Iran that is not sharing information.”
The new coronavirus which emerged in Wuhan, China, in December has infected tens of thousands of people.
The Islamic Republic is the only country in the Gulf region that has reported deaths from the coronavirus, which has spread from China. 
Pompeo also warned Iran not to scuttle an upcoming agreement with the Taliban, accusing the US adversary of seeking to be a “spoiler.”
Pompeo confirmed that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban, who are scheduled to sign the landmark accord with the United States on Saturday.
“There is a history of Iran engaging in activity inside of Afghanistan to act as a spoiler,” Pompeo told the committee.
“We’ve seen just these last six days a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan and we are watching closely to see if the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to take even more active measure that undermine our efforts at peace and reconciliation,” he said.
He warned that Iran could increase risks for US troops, whose numbers are expected to be sharply scaled down under the Doha agreement.
Iran’s Shiite clerical regime has been historically opposed to the Taliban, which practices an austere form of Sunni Islam, and quietly backed the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban regime.
Iran was part of a coalition that backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and in 1998 amassed troops near the Afghan border after a Taliban assault on Iran’s consulate in Herat.
But Iran has increasingly been involved in proxy conflicts with the United States elsewhere, notably in Iraq.
Iran has been mostly cautious in its recent comments on Afghanistan.
But Foreign Minister Javad Zarif last year criticized the US talks with the Taliban, saying they only boosted the extremists and alienated the internationally backed government.
(With Reuters and AFP)


Sudan says Ethiopia denies filling the Renaissance dam reservoir

Updated 49 sec ago

Sudan says Ethiopia denies filling the Renaissance dam reservoir

  • Ethiopia’s charge d’affaires in Khartoum told a Sudanese official that his country had not closed the dam gates
  • Egypt asked Ethiopia for urgent clarification on whether it had started filling the reservoir on Wednesday

CAIRO: Ethiopia has told Sudan that news reports that it had started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir on the Blue Nile were incorrect, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Ethiopia’s charge d’affaires in Khartoum also told a senior Sudanese Foreign Ministry official in a meeting that his country had not closed the dam gates, the statement added.
Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said on Wednesday in televised comments, of which a transcript was given to Reuters by his office, that “the construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand.”
“The filling of the dam doesn’t need to wait until the completion of the dam,” he added.
However, the Sudanese statement quoted the Ethiopian envoy as saying that the minister “did not make the comments attributed to him yesterday about starting the process of filling the dam.”
Addis Ababa is committed to continuing African Union- sponsored talks with Sudan and Egypt over the dam, its envoy was quoted as saying.
Earlier this week talks between the three nations to regulate the flow of water from the dam failed to reach agreement.
Sudan and Egypt both fear the $4 billion hydroelectric dam could lead to water shortages in their own nations.
The project has raised concerns in Egypt that already limited Nile waters will be further restricted. The Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile from which Egypt gets 90% of its fresh water.
Egypt asked Ethiopia for urgent clarification on whether it had started filling the reservoir, the foreign ministry in Cairo said on Wednesday.