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Sat, Apr 19, 2014

  President Rouhani on Army Day:
Nation Will Stand Against Any Aggression

TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Iran has no intention of committing acts of aggression but retains the right to defend itself militarily, President Hassan Rouhani said Friday.
"The neighbors should know that the Iranian military wants stability in the region," he said at a parade to mark National Army Day.
Referring to the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the world powers over Tehran's nuclear program, Rouhani said Iran has shown it has no hostile intentions toward anyone in the world.
"During the talks, we announced to the world and we say so again ... we are not after war," Rouhani said. "We are a people of reason and dialogue," he added.
The speech was preceded by fighter jets passing overhead, and followed by a procession of missiles and other military hardware on trucks.
"Over the past two centuries Iran has never attacked anyone, but we have always confronted aggressors."
The president touted Iran's diplomatic outreach and said the backing of the military and the nation was crucial. "Support by the armed forces and support by our brave people have empowered the officials in charge of the talks on the diplomatic front."
Rouhani said Iran "will not invade any country," although it would "resist any invasion".
He also assured neighboring countries that Iran seeks better ties with them, saying that "neighbors should know that our army supports peace and stability".
Rouhani said the Islamic Republic has the might to deter any attacks.
Chanting "God is Greatest", troops paraded missiles carriers, some bearing banners saying "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", armored personnel carriers and unmanned surveillance aircraft as well as small submarines with men wearing aqua-lungs alongside.
Parachutists landed in the parade area in the south of the capital near the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, the late Imam Khomeini.
In Friday's parade, Iran showcased its air defense systems, including the S-200 Russian-made, medium to high altitude surface-to-air missile system designed primarily to track, target, and destroy aircraft and cruise missiles.
On display were also fighter jets such as U.S.-made F-4 and F-14, Russian-made MIG-29 and Sukhoi-24, as well as Iran's indigenous fighter plane, Saegheh. The parade also showed off a newer version of the short range, surface-to-surface Fajr-5, Nazeat and Zelzal missiles.
Iran unveiled new homemade military technology including a destroyer and missile defense systems.
The destroyer, named the Damavand after the highest mountain in Iran, will become operational later this year. The ship will bear cannons and a missile system.
Other new missile systems unveiled Friday were a radar system, a missile-simulator system and a missile-launching system.
Iran has been making its own defense machines, from tanks to personnel carriers to fighter jets, since the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
On Tuesday a senior army commander announced that the country has been beefing up its data gathering and transmission systems at air defense sites. Another stated on Saturday that Iran is building more air defense sites "in sensitive and strategic regions".
Commander of Iranian army’s ground forces said the Islamic Republic constantly monitors all enemy’s moves against the country.
“The armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be never taken off-guard and they are monitoring all the enemy’s actions,” Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said at the Friday prayers ceremony in the central city of Qom.
“Any enemy aggression will elicit a crushing response,” the commander added.
Pourdastan said one of the major tasks of the Iranian armed forces is to constantly monitor enemy threats from land, sea and air at the regional and extra-regional level.
Another high-ranking Iranian military commander said the Islamic Republic is developing a new version of the powerful and high-precision Sayyad (Hunter) missile to be mounted on indigenous S-200 missile defense systems.
Commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili said Iranian defense experts are working on the development of Sayyad-3 missile.
He added that the mid-range, high altitude and solid-fuel Sayyad-2 missile has proven successful in locating and hitting even small aerial targets.
Esmaili further said a new missile has been mounted on Mersad (Ambush) missile system, which is being used at Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base. He said the missile “will surprise the enemy on the battlefield”.
The state-of-the-art technology used in Mersad links it to other anti-aircraft batteries and provides it with the unique ability to combat electronic warfare.


Gaza a Hell Under Siege of Zionists

GAZA (Dispatches) -- Life has never seemed so grim for the Mustafas, a family of seven cramped into a shabby two-room hovel in Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp.
Seven years into a blockade by the occupying regime of Israel and ten months into a crippling Egyptian one, Gaza's economic growth has evaporated and unemployment soared to almost 40% by the end of 2013.
Opposition to the Hamas group which runs the Gaza Strip has led its neighbors to quarantine the enclave, shutting residents out of the struggling Mideast talks and leaving them with plenty of parties to blame.
Living on UN handouts of rice, flour, canned meat and sunflower oil, with limited access to proper health care or clean water, families like the Mustafas - seemingly permanent refugees from ancestral lands now occupied by the Zionist regime - have no money, no jobs and no hope.
"We're drowning... We feel like the whole world is on top of us. I turn on the television and I see the lifestyles on there, and I think, God help me leave this place," said Tareq, 22.
The Mustafas often must pick up and move when rain floods their low-lying home - even on a sunny day, it's lined with slick, smelly mildew. They stand in the dark, as 12-hour power cuts are now the norm throughout Gaza due to scant fuel.
"There's no money for university or to get married. There's not even enough to spend outside the house so we can escape a little. What kind of life is this?" Tareq asks.
Well over half of Gaza residents receive food from the United Nations, and the number is on the rise.
UNRWA, the U.N. Refugee Works Agency devoted to feeding and housing the refugees, told Reuters it was now feeding some 820,000, up by 40,000 in the last year. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) gives food aid to some 180,000 other residents.
More than 1.2 million of 1.8 million Gazans are refugees or their descendants who fled or were driven from land that was occupied by Israel in the war of its fabrication in 1948.
As decades passed, the hand of occupation variously clenched or relaxed through wars and uprisings. Groups of tents slowly morphed into concrete ghettos - eight camps in total - where chances for change feel as narrow as the claustrophobic alleys.
"Gaza just seems to keep descending further into poverty and de-development of the economy," said Scott Anderson, deputy director of operations at UNRWA, noting that the level of aid dependency faced by Gaza has few parallels in the world.
"In terms of economic shock to a population, probably somewhere like Sierra Leone might be the only place where people experience what the people of Gaza experience on a daily basis," he told Reuters.
The crisis is pulling down the Strip's most vulnerable, not just among its poor but also its sick. While basic health and economic indicators outstrip much of Africa, the rising level of aid dependency and sense of confinement takes a constant toll.
Eman Shannan, who runs a support group for cancer patients and writes about Gaza life, told Reuters that treatment for the disease has been rendered agonizing by travel curbs at the Egyptian border, a lack of medicine and careless officialdom.
"We are headed for disaster. Five new cases come into the office every day... Cancer doesn't kill as much as the circumstances around us do. People can survive cancer, but not this," said Shannan, herself a survivor.
There are 13,000 sufferers in the Strip and it is the second highest cause of death among Palestinians after heart disease.
Farha al-Fayyumi, a breast cancer patient from the Shuja'iya refugee camp in central Gaza complains that her teeth are throbbing - medicines used to offset the effects of her years of chemotherapy treatments are not available in Gaza.
Once the a main conduit for Gazans seeking treatment abroad, the crossing with neighboring Egypt is now only open to people, including the sick, around two days each month. More and more, poverty is also staunching the flow.
"I haven't been to Egypt for treatment for a year and a half. I can't afford the travel expenses," said al-Fayyoumi, a widow with eight children clad in a head-to-toe black niqab body cloak.
Treatment in Gaza was rendered harder by the 1993 Oslo interim accords because radiation chemotherapy, the two sides agreed, could have military applications. Only five practicing oncologists remain in Gaza, Shannan notes with gloom.
In northern Gaza's green farmland, one man sits in a flowing brown robe and rests his cane over his knees in a sunny enclosure next to his family house.
The 67-year-old remembers the orchards in his 180,000 square meters of land astride the fence erected by the occupying regime of Israel where olives, lemons and oranges once thrived in the area's sweet well water.
Long since demolished by Israeli bulldozers, the orchard lives on only in his small garden. In it stands one of every type of tree he used to tend - a reminder of what he's lost and of the steady erosion of land and livelihoods that Palestinians have endured over the decades.
Contamination of the aquifer means the family's water is now brackish and undrinkable. Like many Gazans, they pay to have it filtered.
"When they closed the land, life ended." he sighed. "We used to sell the fruit of our trees, now we buy from Egypt and Israel, but only when we can afford it."
Grumbling at their leaders' perceived incompetence is common among residents, but many said Gazans would remain behind Hamas.
"The whole world is against them. They're not angels of course. They've made a lot of mistakes. But if they went ahead and recognized Israel, the people here would spit on them -- their popularity would evaporate overnight," said Zakaria Shurafa, a driver picking up his family's ration of UN food aid at a busy distribution center by the Beach Refugee camp.


Oil Output Doubles Over Eight Months

TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran's crude oil exports have hit 1.2 million barrels per day, almost doubling from eight months ago when the country elected a new president, a top government official said Friday.
Mansour Moazami, who holds the planning brief among the Islamic Republic's five deputy oil ministers, said the numbers were 20% above forecasts and they would rise further.
"When the government took office, exports were around 700,000 barrels per day," Moazami was cited as saying by the Mehr news agency.
He said the updated figure of 1.2 million was supplemented by 200,000 barrels per day of derivative gas products from crude.
"Our oil exports are now 20% higher than in the budget numbers and we believe that in the current Iranian year they will increase further," Moazami added.
The rising oil exports come as Iran and world powers prepare for a fifth round of talks next month aimed at a long-term nuclear deal.
Despite the higher numbers, Iran's oil exports remain heavily down on shipment levels before sanctions -- the country was shipping 2.5 million barrels per day of crude abroad in late 2011.
China, India, South Korea and Japan are Iran's biggest oil export markets.
Essar Oil, Iran's top Indian client, imported 18.6% more oil from Tehran in 2013/14 after a jump in shipment volumes in the final quarter to end-March, according to tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources and assessed by Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics.
The private refiner shipped in about 231,100 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude in March, its highest monthly shipment since at least January 2011, reflecting a growth of about 90% from February and six times more than the volume in March 2013, the data showed.
Essar shipped in about 105,700 bpd from Iran in the year to March 31, the data showed, benefiting from discounts offered by Tehran.
On the basis of actual loading from Iran, Essar lifted about 31% more oil than the contracted 80,000 bpd in the last fiscal year, a government source told Reuters.
Iran accounted for about a third of Essar's total imports of about 3.28 million bpd in the last fiscal year, compared with 27.6% the year before, the data showed.
While Essar's imports increased, overall imports of Iranian oil by India, the world's fourth-biggest oil buyer and Tehran's top client after China, tumbled about a fifth in the fiscal year that ended in March.


U.S. Usurps Iran's Building in New York

NEW YORK (Dispatches) -- A U.S. federal judge has approved plans to sell a 36-story Manhattan office building and other properties owned by Iran nationwide in what will be the largest forfeiture ever, a prosecutor said on Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Judge Katherine Forrest approved the deal between the U.S. government and 19 holders of more than $5 billion in judgments against the government of Iran, including claims brought by the estates of victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The deal calls for the Manhattan building and other forfeited assets to be sold by the U.S. Marshals Service, with the U.S. government receiving reimbursement for litigation expenses and any costs of the sales before the rest is distributed to victims of attacks. The agreement stems from a 2008 lawsuit by the government against the building’s owners.
“From the very beginning of this case,” Bharara said in a release, “this office sought to dismantle Iran’s slice of Manhattan - an office tower on Fifth Avenue”.
The government said buildings also will be sold in Queens and in Texas, California, Virginia, and Maryland.
Prosecutors said funds will be drawn from bank accounts formerly in the name of entities linked to the Iranian government. The properties’ estimated total worth wasn’t provided Thursday.
The judge ruled last September that the Manhattan office tower was subject to forfeiture because revenue from it was allegedly funneled to a state-owned Iranian bank in violation of a U.S. trade embargo.
The U.S. government had said the Alavi Foundation’s sole partner in the ownership of the Manhattan building was a shell company fronting for a secret interest held by the state-owned bank of Iran, Bank Melli.
The judge ruled that monetary transfers by the shell company, Assa Co., to Bank Melli violated money laundering statutes.
“There is substantial, un-contradicted evidence that Assa is owned and controlled by Bank Melli and that Bank Melli is wholly owned and controlled by Iran,” the judge said.
Lawyers for Alavi and Assa said in September that they planned to appeal.
The Fifth Avenue building was built in the 1970s on property acquired by a not-for-profit corporation formed in New York by the former Iranian dictator Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown in 1979. It was valued at $83 million in 1989.
The skyscraper was majority owned by the Alavi Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes Islamic culture and the Persian language.