Iran slams US for barring Zarif from New York hospital visit

US authorities restricted Zarif’s movement to six blocks in New York since July. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 September 2019

Iran slams US for barring Zarif from New York hospital visit

  • Zarif was forbidden from visiting a hospital where Iranian diplomat was receiving cancer treatment
  • US said Iran should first release American citizens that are “wrongfully detained”

TEHRAN: Iran slammed on Saturday the United States for what it called an “inhumane” decision to bar its foreign minister, who was attending the UN summit meetings in New York, from visiting a hospitalized Iranian diplomat in the city.
US authorities were not allowing Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit UN ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi who was undergoing cancer treatment in a New York hospital. In July, the US restricted Zarif’s movement to just six blocks in New York.

The US State Department said it would allow the hospital visit request only if Iran released one of several US citizens it is currently “wrongfully detained.”
The official IRNA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying the US had taken humanitarian issues “hostage” for political causes.
The spat comes amid heightened tension between Tehran and Washington following US President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to unilaterally pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran. The US has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.
The tensions have included seizures of oil tankers at sea. On Friday, Iran released a British-flagged oil tanker it had seized in July as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.
The ship, the Stena Impero, set sail from Iran Friday morning, arriving at an anchorage outside Dubai’s Port Rashid in the United Arab Emirates just before midnight. It was expected to head into port early Saturday afternoon. The tanker’s Swedish-based ship-owning company Stena Bulk said the crew would disembark in Dubai for medical checks and debriefing, and to spend some time with their families.
The Stena Impero’s seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized an Iranian supertanker carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion it was breaking European Union sanctions by taking the oil to Syria. Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran promised the ship wouldn’t go to Syria.
Renamed the Adrian Darya 1, the ship later sat off the Syrian coast, angering Britain. Iran hasn’t said who purchased its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.
Britain responded to Iran’s release of the Stena Impero on Friday by accusing Tehran of trying to disrupt freedom of navigation.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the ship “was unlawfully seized by Iran” and that the action was “part of a pattern of attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation. We are working with our international partners to protect shipping and uphold the international rule of law.”
The Arabian Gulf tensions have also seen a series of attacks across the Middle East that the US blames on Iran. They reached their height on Sept. 14, with a missile and drone attack on the world’s largest oil processor in Saudi Arabia and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”
Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.”


Man shot dead as Lebanese army disperse protesters

Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

Man shot dead as Lebanese army disperse protesters

  • The death is the second during the nationwide protests that have paralyzed the country

BEIRUT: A man was shot dead south of Beirut after the army opened fire to disperse protesters blocking roads, Lebanese state media said Wednesday, nearly a month into an unprecedented anti-graft street movement.
The victim “succumbed to his injuries” in hospital, the National News Agency said, the second death during the nationwide protests that have paralyzed the country.
The army said in a statement that it had arrested a soldier after he opened fire in the coastal town of Khalde, just below the capital, to clear protesters “injuring one person.”
Protesters have been demanding the ouster of a generation of politicians seen by demonstrators as inefficient and corrupt, in a movement that has been largely peaceful.
On Tuesday night, street protests erupted after President Michel Aoun defended the role of his allies, the Shiite movement Hezbollah, in Lebanon’s government.
Protesters responded by cutting off several major roads in and around Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern region of Bekaa.
The Progressive Socialist Party, led by influential Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, said in a statement that the man shot dead was one its members.
A long-time opponent of President Michel Aoun, Jumblatt appealed to his supporters to stay calm.
“In spite of what happened, we have no other refuge than the state. If we lose hope in the state, we enter chaos,” he said.
The government stepped down on October 29 but stayed on in a caretaker capacity and no overt efforts have so far been made to form a new one, as an economic crisis brings the country to the brink of default.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of protesters had gathered near the law courts in central Beirut and tried to stop judges and lawyers from going to work, demanding an independent judiciary.
Employees at the two main mobile operators, Alfa and Touch, started a nationwide strike.
Many schools and universities were closed, as were banks after their employees called for a general strike over alleged mistreatment by customers last week.
The UN’s special coordinator for the country, Jan Kubis, urged Lebanon to accelerate the formation of a new government that would be able “to appeal for support from Lebanon’s international partners.”
“The financial and economic situation is critical, and the government and other authorities cannot wait any longer to start addressing it,” he said.
The leaderless protest movement first erupted after a proposed tax on calls via free phone apps, but it has since morphed into an unprecedented cross-sectarian outcry against everything from perceived state corruption to rampant electricity cuts.
Demonstrators say they are fed up with the same families dominating government institutions since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
In his televised address on Tuesday, Aoun proposed a government that includes both technocrats and politicians.
“A technocratic government can’t set the policies of the country” and would not “represent the people,” he said in the interview on Lebanese television.
Asked if he was facing pressure from outside Lebanon not to include the Iran-backed Hezbollah in a new government, he did not deny it.
But, he said, “they can’t force me to get rid of a party that represents at least a third of Lebanese,” referring to the weight of the Shiite community.
The latest crisis in Lebanon comes at a time of high tensions between Iran and the United States, which has sanctioned Hezbollah members in Lebanon.
Forming a government typically takes months in Lebanon, with protracted debate on how best to maintain a fragile balance between religious communities.
The World Bank says around a third of Lebanese live in poverty and has warned the country’s struggling economy could further deteriorate if a new cabinet is not formed rapidly.