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Iran-US tensions flare over new sanctions threat

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Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has denounced possible new US sanctions on his country which could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally implemented within weeks.

In a letter to his defence minister, Rouhani said reports that the US Treasury Department planned to blacklist companies and individuals with ties to Iran’s ballistic missile programme constituted “hostile and illegal interventions” that justified a response.

The comments from Rouhani, who said the military should intensify its development of missiles, seemed to cause backtracking in Washington with reports that the White House had put the intended sanctions on hold indefinitely.

In the five months since the nuclear deal was struck US officials say Iran has conducted two missile tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on October 11. Iran also recently aired television footage of an underground missile base.

The actions angered the United States and a United Nations panel found earlier this month that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping the Islamic republic from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

But the threat of new sanctions — the nuclear deal is due to lift past measures that froze Iran out of the global financial system and crippled its oil exports — brought already worsening relations to a head.

It also came after US officials said an Iranian vessel had test-fired several rockets near three Western warships, including the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.

The alleged incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on December 26 drew denials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who are responsible for protecting Iranian interests in the strategic waterway where much of the world’s oil passes.

Spokesman General Ramezan Sharif accused the US of fabricating the incident as part of a “psychological operation”.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday that the US was preparing fresh sanctions against companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates over alleged links to Tehran’s ballistic missile programme.

But yesterday the newspaper said the measures had been delayed — although they remain on the table — over fears the nuclear deal could be derailed.

Were the Treasury to introduce the sanctions it would be a major barrier to the nuclear deal’s formal enactment, let alone its durability.

Disaster

Italy Coronavirus: 135,586 Cases and 17,127 Deaths

The death toll on Saturday was 681, bringing the total to 15,362 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21.

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Coronavirus Treatment

Rome, April 8 : Italy registered 135,586 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 17,127 fatalities, according to fresh figures from the Civil Protection Department managing the COVID-19 emergency.

Of these, the new active infections registered against Monday were 880, which brought to total 94,067 infections nationwide. Recoveries kept rising, with a relevant number of 1,555 more people cured compared to the previous day, reaching 24,392 in total, reported Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.

The number of new recoveries widely exceeded that of new active infections on a daily basis.

“The decrease in the trend of new infections is being confirmed, and the number of 880 is the lowest (daily) rise we have seen since March 10,” Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli stressed at a press conference.

Borelli, who also serves as extraordinary commissioner in the COVID-19 emergency, explained the daily number of recoveries registered on Tuesday was “the second highest in absolute terms since the epidemic has begun.”

There was an increase of 3,039 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall cases to 135,586.

Of those who have tested positive so far, 28,718 are hospitalized in normal wards, 3,792 are in intensive care units, and the remaining 61,557 under home isolation.

Borrelli also confirmed that the pressure on Italian hospitals was lessening, and especially “for intensive care units, where we have now 106 fewer patients (compared to the previous day).”

The death toll grew by 604 over the last 24 hours. New fatalities registered on a daily basis had been 636 on Monday, and 525 on Sunday.

“Finally, it seems that we are beginning to see a decrease in new cases,” confirmed Giovanni Rezza, Director of Infectious Diseases Department at the National Health Institute (ISS), while addressing the press conference alongside the commissioner.

“In our epidemic curve, after a plateau phase, there seems to be a fall … the curve tends to bend down,” he explained.

However, the epidemiologist warned caution, stressing the ISS experts would rather “wait for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, before eventually heaving a sigh of relief.”

Borrelli also praised the national health staff for its non-stop contribution in the fight against the new coronavirus. “My thoughts are with medical professionals … who are making their best to protect all of us,” he said.

“My hug also goes to all relatives of the medical professionals who died in the fight against the COVID-19,” he added.

As of Tuesday, some 26 nurses and 94 doctors have died since the pandemic hit Italy’s northern regions on Feb. 21, according to data provided by the respective professional associations.

Some five physicians lost their lives over the last 24 hours, the country’s Federation of Medical Associations (Fnomceo) said.

As for nurses, the national staff registered 6,549 infections, with an increase of 1,049 cases compared to last Saturday, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported, citing data by the National Federation of Professional Nurses Orders (Fnopi).

In a statement released for the World Health Day — which is being marked on April 7 — the Fnopi stressed nurses are “the backbone of every health system.”

According to the latest data available by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), Italy counted 351,008 nurses across the country in 2017, with a rate of 5.8 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants.

Also on Tuesday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a declaration to mark the 70th edition of the World Health Day, renewing a call for international solidarity.

“So many deaths and sufferings have made clearer than ever the value of health as an essential component of the right to life, and as a stronghold to preserve and boost solidarity among peoples, states, and continents,” Mattarella wrote.

He recalled this year’s World Health Day was dedicated to nurses and obstetricians and praised the generosity and professionalism of which health professionals were proving capable.

“It is precisely the universal value of the right to health that calls us to a commitment, to a global co-responsibility, putting aside national egoism and privileges of any kind,” Mattarella stressed.

He called for this effort in order to give global cooperation “a great impetus of strength with regard to treatments, research, exchange of information, and supply of tools capable of saving lives.”

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Middle East

Palestine warns Israel against annexation policy

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

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Mohammed Ishtaye

Ramallah, April 8 : Palestine warned Israel against pressing ahead with annexation policy amid its process to form a new government.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Tuesday warned of the danger of an Israeli government coalition favoring the annexation of parts of the West Bank and emphasized the importance of an international role to confront such illegal plans that undermine international law and resolutions and threaten to end the two-state solution, according to a statement by his office, reported Xinhua news agency.

Ishtaye made the remarks in two separate video-conference and telephone meetings with the new Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, and the UN Envoy for the Peace Process in the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov.

They also talked over international support for the efforts of the Palestinian government amidst the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said.

Ishtaye briefed both Lazzarini and Mladenov on the obstacles facing the coronavirus outbreak and ways to alleviate its economic and financial consequences on the government and the Palestinian economy, which is affected by the unilateral Israeli measures against Palestinians and their territory.

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

“We have received promises of aid, few of which have been translated on the ground and we’re awaiting the rest. We will face this pandemic with a comprehensive national plan covering the West Bank, the Gaza strip, and the diaspora,” Ishtaye was quoted as saying.

Palestine declared a state of emergency on March 5, as the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the West Bank, and has taken measures to implement an austere budget, amidst forecasts of a significant negative economic impact.

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Business

Iran FM urges US to stop sanctions on oil exports

Iran has asked the world to oppose U.S. sanctions on Iran amid the surge of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Zarif

Tehran, April 8 : Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the US government to stop sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

“Iran is rich in human & natural resources. We don’t need charity from (US President) Donald Trump,” Zarif tweeted on Tuesday, reported Xinhua news agency

The remarks of Zarif was an allusion to the recent help offer by Trump amid the surge of the novel coronavirus in Iran.

“What we want is for him to stop preventing Iran from selling oil & other products, buying its needs & making & receiving payments,” said Zarif.

Iran has asked the world to oppose U.S. sanctions on Iran amid the surge of COVID-19 pandemic.

Iran is the worst-hit country by the pandemic in the Middle East, with 62,589 confirmed cases and 3,872 deaths so far.

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