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Japan’s Abe in Tehran to ease US-Iran tensions

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Tokyo, June 12 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on a two-day trip to Iran, during which he will try to help diffuse rising tensions in the Persian Gulf between Washington and Tehran.

Prior to the Japanese leader’s departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Abe said he wanted to exchange candid views while in Iran and help ease rising tensions.

“To ease tensions, I’d like to have a frank exchange of views,” Abe told reporters at the airport.

During his visit, Abe is slated to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani and intends to try and urge Iran to stick to an international nuclear accord inked in 2015 between Iran and six major powers, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

US President Donald Trump, however, has since pulled the United States out of the international nuclear deal and restored sanctions against Tehran that were scraped under the 2015 deal, leading to a backlash from Tehran and it opting to suspend some of its commitments under the deal.

The US sending a carrier strike force, B-52 bombers and armed troops to the Gulf, after Iran said it plans to keep more enriched uranium than is permitted under the pact, has contributed to rising tensions in the region.

Prior to this, the US said it would on May 2 end waivers granted since November that have been applicable to certain countries including resource-poor Japan to import oil from Iran.

The Japanese prime minister believes he can help de-escalate the situation as Japan has friendly ties with both Washington and Tehran.

Abe’s high-stakes, yet symbolic visit to Iran will mark the first visit to be made a Japanese prime minister to Iran since Takeo Fukuda in 1978.

In light of the escalating tensions in the region, Abe will seek to use the summit-level talks to try and urge Iran to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue as the US. has voiced its openness to hold further talks.

Abe garnered the support of Trump to try and help mediate the situation with Iran while the US leader was here for a state visit recently.

Japan, who maintains friendly ties with Iran, relies on its Middle Eastern partner for 5 per cent of its total crude oil imports, due to favourable prices.

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Nine drug addicts killed in Afghanistan shooting

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Kabul, Nine drug addicts were shot to death in an overnight shooting in a non-residential area in western side of Kabul, Afghanistan, the capital police said on Sunday.

“The shooting occurred at side of Qurugh Mountain in Police District 6 roughly at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. Personnel of Kabul Criminal Investigation Police Department shifted the bodies to Forensic Science Service Department near Kabul University shortly after the shooting was reported,” Ferdaus Faramarz from Kabul police told Xinhua.

One arrest was made after the shooting and the motive behind the incident remained unclear. Further investigation is on, police added.

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31 civilians killed in Yemen airstrike: UN

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An airstrike in the Yemeni northeastern province of al-Jawf has killed at least 31 civilians and injured 12 others, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen said in a statement on Sunday.

“We share our deep condolences with the families of those killed and we pray for the speedy recovery of everyone who has been injured in these terrible strikes,” Lise Grande said in the statement obtained by Xinhua.

“Under international humanitarian law parties which resort to force are obligated to protect civilians. Five years into this conflict and belligerents are still failing to uphold this responsibility,” she added.

The victims were killed in the airstrike on Saturday that targeted a gathering of people at the site where a Tornado warplane of the Saudi-led coalition crashed in al-Masloub district in the southwest of al-Jawf, according to a local tribal source.

The victims were members of three relative families, the source said on condition of anonymity. The strike came hours after the Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down the Tornado warplane.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition confirmed that a Tornado warplane crashed in al-Jawf during an operation to support Yemen’s government forces. The coalition held Houthis responsible for the lives and safety of the plane’s crew, according to a statement carried by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels since its intervention in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015 to support the internationally-recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

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Japan confirms 70 new coronavirus cases from cruise ship

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Toky, Another 70 people aboard the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan’s Yokohama have been tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total to 355 cases, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato confirmed on Sunday.

The health ministry said that the 70 new cases came out of 289 people tested, bringing the total number of those who have undergone tests to 1,219, Japan Times reported.

The cruise ship arrived in Japan earlier this month with more than 3,700 passengers and crew members from more than 50 countries and regions.

With global attention increasingly focused on the situation, the US Embassy sent a letter on Saturday to Americans aboard saying that a chartered aircraft, set to arrive in Japan on Sunday, would repatriate those who wished to leave the ship.

The US aircraft is set to depart from Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Monday, according to Japanese official japan will also cooperate with other countries that make similar arrangements to evacuate their citizens on the ship, Japanese government officials said.

More than a week has passed since the cruise ship was put under a two-week quarantine at Yokohama port after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with COVID-19, the pneumonia-causing coronavirus.

Japan’s health ministry had initially planned to keep all of the passengers and crew confined on the vessel until Wednesday, when the quarantine is scheduled to end.

But the ministry decided last Thursday to let passengers 80 and older, as well as their traveling companions, leave before the end of the quarantine after they were screened for infection.

Those with pre-existing conditions or who were staying in cabins without windows were prioritized for disembarkation.

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