Iran’s top leader says fighting virus trumps other concerns

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran September 14, 2007. (REUTERS)
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Updated 25 October 2020

Iran’s top leader says fighting virus trumps other concerns

  • A top health official stressed this week that the true number of deaths from the outbreak is likely 2.5 times higher

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday urged authorities to prioritize public health above any economic or security concerns, amid the Mideast’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.
Iran’s death toll from the global pandemic topped 32,000 this week. The government has resisted a total lockdown fearing it would further devastate its economy, already weakened by unprecedented US sanctions.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told officials during a meeting with the country’s top counter-coronavirus committee that “the main priority in decision-making is people’s health.”
Khamenei urged “all organizations” to follow strictly the health ministry’s guidelines to help restrict the virus’ spread, “regardless of other considerations.”
Some hard-liner lawmakers have criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s management of the pandemic and demanded his resignation. Rouhani is a reformist politician and also championed Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which began collapsing after the US’s unilateral withdrawal.
Lawmaker Mojtaba Zolnouri, who heads parliament’s influential committee for national security and foreign policy, called on his Twitter account for Rouhani’s “hanging a thousand times until people’s hearts are satisfied.”
Khamenei indirectly condemned such inflammatory statements in the meeting, calling it “wrong.” He said there is a difference between criticisms and insults.

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32,000 death toll recorded in Iran this week.

Iran shattered its single-day death toll record on Monday, and recorded consecutive daily infection highs on Tuesday and Wednesday — then again on Friday.
A top health official stressed this week that the true number of deaths from the outbreak is likely 2.5 times higher.
On Saturday, the Iranian Health Ministry put the official death toll from COVD-19 at 32,320, adding 335 casualties from the past twenty-four hours.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari raised the total number of confirmed cases to 562,705.
Khamenei added the government’s management of the pandwemic is very important.
“In some countries, such as the United States, the worst management has been applied. But we must try to pass this incident, which is related to people’s lives and health and their security and economy, with the best management,” he said.
Iranian health minister Saeed Namaki said in the meeting that the pandemic could only be controlled by enforcing tighter restrictions.
“We must curb the disease by enforcing regulations and tightening legal restrictions,” he said.


Iran prepares to bury killed nuclear scientist as it mulls response

Updated 30 November 2020

Iran prepares to bury killed nuclear scientist as it mulls response

  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran
  • President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”

TEHRAN: Debate raged in Iran on Sunday over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honored at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.
Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear program, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardians Council.
President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap.”
Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear program, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.
The scientist’s body was taken for a ceremony on Sunday at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.
On Monday live video from Tehran, shared by national outlet Iran Press, showed uniformed men gathering around images of Fakhrizadeh seemingly ahead of a procession.
His funeral will be held in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defense ministry said on its website, without specifying where.
Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.
Trump withdrew the US from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and then reimposed and beefed up punishing sanctions as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
Biden has signalled his administration may be prepared to rejoin the accord, but the nuclear scientist’s assassination has revived opposition to the deal among Iranian conservatives.
The head of Iran’s Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body, said there was “no reason why (Iran) should not reconsider the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.”
Mohsen Rezai said Tehran should also halt implementation of the additional protocol, a document prescribing intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilitates.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Saturday for Fakhrizadeh’s killers to be punished.
Parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf called Sunday for “a strong reaction” that would “deter and take revenge” on those behind the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who was aged 59 according to Iranian media.
For Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Fakhrizadeh’s killing was clearly tied to Biden’s arrival in office.
“The timing of the assassination, even if it was determined by purely operational considerations, is a clear message to President-elect Joe Biden, intended to show Israel’s criticism” of plans to revive the deal, it said.
The UAE, which in September normalized ties with Israel, condemned the killing and urged restraint.
The foreign ministry, quoted by the official Emirati news agency WAM, said Abu Dhabi “condemns the heinous assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which could further fuel conflict in the region...
“The UAE calls upon all parties to exercise maximum degrees of self-restraint to avoid dragging the region into new levels of instability and threat to peace,” it said.
Britain, a party to the nuclear accord, said Sunday it was “concerned” about possible escalation of tensions in the Middle East following the assassination, while Turkey called the killing an act of “terrorism” that “upsets peace in the region.”
In Iran, ultra-conservative Kayhan daily called for strikes on Israel if it were “proven” to be behind the assassination.
Kayhan called for the port city of Haifa to be targeted “in a way that would annihilate its infrastructure and leave a heavy human toll.”
Iran has responded to the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal by gradually abandoning most of its key nuclear commitments under the agreement.
Rezai called on Iran’s atomic agency to take “minimum measures” such as “stopping the online broadcast of cameras, reducing or suspending inspectors and implementing restrictions in their access” to sites, ISNA news agency reported.
Iran’s parliament said the “best response” to the assassination would be to “revive Iran’s glorious nuclear industry.”
It called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to be barred from the country’s atomic sites, said the legislature’s news agency ICANA.
Some MPs had earlier accused inspectors of acting as “spies” potentially responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
But the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told IRNA on Saturday that the issue of inspectors’ access “must be decided on at high levels” of the Islamic republic’s leadership.