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US, EU lift sanctions under historic Iran nuclear deal

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The US and European Union lifted international economic sanctions against Iran implementing a historic deal with Tehran after the UN nuclear watchdog agency confirmed it has begun dismantling its nuclear programme as promised.

The implementation of the deal would also release about $100 billion of Iran’s assets and make it easier for India and other countries to do business with Tehran.

India, which had substantially reduced its oil imports from Iran under US pressure, can now freely import oil from Tehran, but would now have to pay for it in dollars.

Due to the sanctions, India has been paying Iran in Indian rupees, with the money kept in an Indian account. India has to now release an estimated $6 billion in pending oil payments to Iran.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting some of the US economic sanctions on Iran, the White House announced.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement confirming the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran “has fully implemented its required commitments”.

“Iran has undertaken significant steps that many, and I do mean many, people doubted would ever come to pass.

“And that should be recognized, even though the full measure of this achievement can only be realized by assuring continued full compliance in the coming years,” Kerry said.

With the implementation of deal reached last July, the US, “our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world are safer because the threat of the nuclear weapon has been reduced”, he said.

In exchange for lifting sanctions, Iran must reduce its level of uranium enrichment, dramatically reduce the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium, reduce the number of centrifuges, and agree to unfettered international inspections.

The implementation came hours after Iran freed four American prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, in exchange for seven Iranian prisoners. Another American, who was not a part of the exchange, also was released.

But several Republican presidential candidates criticized the prisoner swap with frontrunner Donald Trump saying that Iran was getting more in the deal than the US.

“They’re getting seven people, so essentially they get $150 billion plus seven, and we get four,” Trump said in New Hampshire.

Senator Marco Rubio accused the Obama administration of not pushing hard enough for the American prisoners’ release when the US negotiated a deal with Iran last year.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the US should not have had to make any concessions to get the Americans released.

Entertainment

Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli survives COVID-19

Last week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the singer revealed his family had been sick with COVID-19.

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Andrea Bocelli

Los Angeles, May 27 : Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli has confirmed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus in March, adding that he made “full recovery” before his historic Easter Sunday webcast at the Milan cathedral.

In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday, the opera singer explained he did not reveal his diagnosis earlier because he wanted to protect his family’s privacy, reports variety.com.

The 61-year-old added that he hid the news because he didn’t want to “unnecessarily alarm” his fans, saying that he has donated his blood to help researchers find a cure for coronavirus.

“The pandemic which has shaken the world has also affected — albeit mildly — me and certain members of my family,” Bocelli said, adding: “I certainly didn’t want to unnecessarily alarm my fans and also wished to protect my family’s privacy.”

He continued: “We were fortunate enough to have a swift and full recovery by the end of March. Given the chance to donate blood to help find a cure for Covid, my response was an immediate ‘yes’. A modest — but fundamental — gesture, through which I am playing my small part.”

Last week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the singer revealed his family had been sick with COVID-19.

“I was able to be with my entire family and we all got infected. We had a fever, then we were cold, and then we got a little bit of a cough,” he said.

Bocelli, who has been blind since age 12, broke YouTube records last month on Easter Sunday with his “Music For Hope” concert. The performance was viewed by more than 28 million people worldwide in its first 24 hours and has currently been viewed more than 40 million times.

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Disaster

No country thought of exit strategy, says Swedish physician to Rahul

“I think it will take months to really ease out the lockdown. But you must do one restriction at a time and see what happens,” said Johan Giesecke.

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Johan Giesecke Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, May 27 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, continuing with series of talks on Covid-19 crisis, interacted with Johan Giesecke, a well-known Swedish physician and Professor Emeritus at the Karolinska Institute at Stockholm. Giesecke said that no country thought of exit strategy prior to announcing the lockdown.

“All the countries in Europe that instituted the lockdown one or two months ago, did not think about the exit strategy at that time,” said Johan Giesecke.

“I think you will soon create more harm than good with a severe lockdown,” he added.

He said, “Every single country had said that we’ll do this lockdown, we’ll close this school, we’ll close this border, we’ll close the restaurants. I don’t think at that point they thought about how to get out of it.”

“Now everyone is asking the same question, how do we get out of this,” added Giesecke.

He suggested that the exit has to be step wise. “Take away restrictions in India one by one, you take one away, you soften one restriction,” he suggested.

He further said, “Wait 2-3 weeks and see what happens. If you have more spread of the disease, then take one step back and try another restriction.”

“I think it will take months to really ease out the lockdown. But you must do one restriction at a time and see what happens,” said Johan Giesecke.

However, he said that it is a difficult balance there. “I think the way we have done it in Sweden is that the main thing is to protect the old and the frail. They should be protected from the disease. Everything else comes second.”

“So what we have done is that we have not completely shut down the country. Many workplaces are still open. Many people are working from home if they can. We don’t have restrictions. You can go outside, and meet other people outside. Better than in your home,” he said.

He suggested that for India, “you will ruin your economy very quickly if you had a severe lockdown. I think it’s better to skip the lockdown, take care of the old and the frail, and let the other people have the infection. Most people will not even be sick. They will not even notice they have it.”

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Disaster

Israel reports 16,757 COVID-19 cases, 281 deaths

Earlier in the day, the Israeli transport ministry announced the full resumption of the state’s railway system on June 8.

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Jerusalem, May 26 : The Israeli health ministry has reported 17 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number in the country to 16,757.

After four consecutive days without death cases, the ministry on Monday reported two new fatalities, bringing the death toll from the COVID-19 to 281, Xinhua reported.

The number of patients in serious condition decreased from 44 to 41, out of 115 patients currently hospitalized, the lowest number of hospitalized patients since March 12.

The number of recoveries increased by 154 to 14,457, while the active cases decreased to 2,019.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli transport ministry announced the full resumption of the state’s railway system on June 8.

China and Israel have cooperated on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 11, the Tel Aviv Municipality Hall, a landmark in the Israeli city, was illuminated with the colours of China’s national flag, showing solidarity with China in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

On March 19 and April 1, two video conferences were held between Chinese doctors and Israeli counterparts to share experience in containing the virus’ spread and treatment of the infected patients.

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