Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites

Above, a cleric prays outside the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Iran’s holy city of Qom on March 16, 2020. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites

  • Shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon

DUBAI: Iran on Saturday moved to open businesses, religious and cultural sites as it eases restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Museums and historical sites are to reopen on Sunday to coincide with the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations that end the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, President Hassan Rouhani said on state television.
Holy shrines — some of which became focal points of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran — will reopen Monday.
Rouhani had said last week that the shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Some areas of the shrines such as narrow corridors will stay shut.
All workers in the country will return to work next Saturday.
“We can say we have passed the three stages regarding the coronavirus,” Rouhani said.
The fourth phase is containment in 10 of Iran’s 31 provinces, where the situation is better and screening will intensify while infected patients will be separated from the rest of the population.
The president said last week that restaurants would reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, will reopen on June 6.
Rouhani said on Saturday that 88 percent of the fatalities from COVID-19 in Iran were victims with underlying illnesses.
According to health ministry figures, more than than 7,000 have so far died from the pandemic in Iran and more than 130,000 have been infected.


‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

Updated 26 min 59 sec ago

‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

  • Turkey claims an agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to create a “fait accompli” over rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling off the coast of Libya, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Ankara’s announcement that it intends to activate last year’s maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli has brought simmering tensions to the boil.   

Turkey claims the agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between its southern coast and Libya’s northeastern coast. However, Greece, Cyprus and the EU say the deal is illegal. Turkey may also face EU sanctions over drilling in Cypriot territorial waters.

Ankara has not said exactly where it will drill, but experts told Arab News they expect exploration activities to begin off Tripoli in the short term, and then near to the coastal city of Sirte.

“From a tactical point of view, Turkey may test the scenario of a crisis with Athens where escalation takes place and then, in the context of de-escalation, the two countries would have to discuss and negotiate their positions,” said Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and co-founder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said: “If we take Turkish operations off the Cypriot coast as an indicator, operations off the Libyan coast might start off on the less provocative part of the spectrum and grow bolder with time toward the more provocative part of the spectrum.

“The objective is to demonstrate a resolute determination in order to extract concessions or, at the very least, to impose itself as a player to reckon with.”