Iranian MP dies from coronavirus as Saudi Arabia resists infection

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Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, Iran, on Feb. 27, 2020, amid a coronavirus outbreak. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Updated 01 March 2020

Iranian MP dies from coronavirus as Saudi Arabia resists infection

  • Iran is at the center of the spread of the coronavirus through the Middle East
  • Saudi Arabia is now the only Gulf Arab state not to have reported any cases of the coronavirus

JEDDAH: An Iranian member of parliament died on Saturday after becoming infected with coronavirus, one of nine new fatalities.

The death toll in Iran is now 43, the highest outside China, and the total number infected has risen to 593. 

Several, including a vice president, the deputy health minister and five MPs, have tested positive for the virus as the outbreak forced the regime to close the parliament and impose internal travel bans.

Tehran has also ordered the shutting of schools until Tuesday and extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week. Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes.

Opinion

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Iran is at the center of the spread of the coronavirus through the Middle East. Qatar and Oman both reported their first cases on Saturday, both linked to travel from Iran. The UAE suspended nursery classes and school trips.

Saudi Arabia is now the only Gulf Arab state not to have reported any cases of the coronavirus, but pharmacies in the Kingdom are nevertheless struggling to meet the demand for face masks.

“Despite assurances by the Ministry of Health, people have been demanding face masks, and I’m seeing more people wearing them in public,” pharmacist Adel Abdul Shakoor told Arab News. “We are out of masks now and usually we have full shelves.”

The Ministry of Health said all measures had been taken to protect the Kingdom against the virus and confirmed that there have been “no known cases” of infection.

 


 

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Since December the virus has infected more than 85,919 people and killed 2,941, mostly in China.

The first death from the virus in the US was confirmed on Saturday night  in Washington state, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency on Saturday.

Gov. Jay Inslee directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the outbreak. The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, a Seattle and King county health official who works with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the person who died was a man in his 50s.

President Donald Trump described the person as having a high medical risk. He said healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus.

Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming at least three patients were infected by unknown means. The patients had not visited an area where there was an outbreak, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who had.

(With AP)


Tensions continue to rise between US and Hezbollah

Updated 10 July 2020

Tensions continue to rise between US and Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party was in talks with Iran about buying oil with Lebanese pounds
  • Pompeo said on Wednesday: “Washington will not allow this. This will not be acceptable”

BEIRUT: The fallout from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning that Washington will do all it can to prevent Iran selling oil to Hezbollah in Lebanon continued on Thursday.
After Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party was in talks with Iran about buying oil with Lebanese pounds, to ease pressure on the plummeting currency, Pompeo said on Wednesday: “Washington will not allow this. This will not be acceptable. This is a product subject to sanctions. We will do everything in our power to ensure that Iran cannot continue to sell crude oil anywhere, including to Hezbollah.”
A Hezbollah source described the comments as “blatant, rude and unacceptable interference in Lebanese economic options.”
Another Hezbollah source said on Thursday: “Lebanon will not remain a hostage to American practices. It has to make up its mind about the choices that provide for the needs of its people.”
However, Minister of Energy Raymond GHajjar said ahead of a cabinet session on Thursday that the Lebanese government “is not considering importing oil from Iran, is not negotiating with it on this issue, and negotiations are still ongoing with Iraq.”
Lebanon is facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has caused its currency to lose 80 percent of its value, resulting in soaring inflation and plunging many people into poverty.
Nasrallah on Thursday renewed his call for the Lebanese government to purchase oil from Iran, adding that Tehran “is ready to accept payment in Lebanese pounds instead of the dollar.” He also accused the US of “imposing an economic, financial and monetary blockade on Lebanon and its people.”
Pompeo said that “the US will continue to treat Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” while pledging his country’s support for Lebanon and its assistance to help the Lebanese people get through the crisis. He added that Washington will not accept Lebanon becoming a state affiliated with Iran, and will continue to put pressure on Hezbollah and support the efforts of the Lebanese people to ensure they are represented by an honest government.
Meanwhile Sheikh Nazir Jishi, a cleric who leads a group called Righteous People, has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office accusing US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea based on evidence allegedly “related to establishing espionage networks that work for the benefit of the Israeli enemy on Lebanese lands, incitement, inciting sectarian strife, threatening civil peace and insulting the Lebanese people.”
Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said that the events of recent days show that Washington is continuing to put pressure on Hezbollah, without allowing relations to completely break down.
He highlighted a number of recent developments, including: Nasrallah’s comments that his party wants Lebanon to have good relations with all countries, including the US; the legal action taken against Ambassador Shea; the early release of Lebanese businessman Kassim Tajideen from an American prison where he was serving a five-year sentence for providing millions of dollars in funding for Hezbollah; and an official visit to Lebanon by Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, during which he met President Michel Aoun and the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“All of these situations indicate that some kind of an agreement is being woven between the two sides, beneath all the confrontations,” said Hage Ali.
“The Americans care about supporting Lebanese institutions, especially the army. There is talk of limited Arab aid to Lebanon with American approval but what does this mean? Is it like life support so that the country continues to survive within minimum limits until the next US presidential election, pending a new approach to the Iranian threat … if the Democrats win?”