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Iran meets world powers in Vienna to discuss n-deal compliance

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Vienna, March 6 Five major world powers met Iran in the Austrian capital on Wednesday to analyze the Islamic republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement amid the tough sanctions being applied by the US.

This was the first meeting between Iran, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China since the establishment of Instex, a European trade mechanism intended to save the Iran nuclear agreement, Efe news reported.

“This mechanism is in its early stages and we are still unsure how it is going to work and prove helpful. Therefore, we need to have expert discussions about it,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency before the meeting.

After the US pulled out of the agreement and revived sanctions on Tehran last year, European countries set up the Instex in January to facilitate trading with the Islamic republic without violating the sanctions.

Meanwhile, Washington criticized the trade mechanism and demanded the EU withdraw from the agreement, considering Iran a threat to peace in the Middle East.

According to a document by the French Economy and Finance Ministry, Instex will initially focus on trade with pharmaceuticals and food – products that are not affected by US sanctions.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani explained in an address in the city of Lahijan that his country has “stood up to their (US) sanctions”.

“They were trying to incite us to violate our obligations, so that the world would follow them in imposing sanctions, but they failed in both steps.

“The US’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a violation of rules and regulations, standing against the United Nations and the world,” the President added.

The 2015 agreement placed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in order to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons, in return for lifting sanctions that had strangled its economy.

In its most recent report, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees Iran’s nuclear activities, confirmed that the Islamic republic’s production and storage of enriched uranium and heavy water, as well as access to its nuclear installations, have complied with the nuclear deal.

Business

Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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COVID-19 cases in South Korea reach 2,022, 13 deaths

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Seoul, Feb 28 The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased to 2,022 on Friday, with a total of 13 fatalities as the nation aggressively counters the fast-spreading virus with massive testing, particularly for 210,000 followers of a religious sect at the centre of the epidemic.

The 256 new cases brought the nation’s total infections to 2,022, the Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

Only two days ago, the number of infections exceeded 1,000.

More than half of newly confirmed cases were linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul.

Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, and 49 are in the neighbouring North Gyeongsang Province.

Since raising the virus alert level to “red”, the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in South Korea, and North Gyeongsang.

Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The government also ordered another 1,638 Shincheonji followers to self-isolate as they have shown symptoms, Yonhap News Agency said in its report.

Since the first coronavirus case — a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — on January 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until February 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.

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