Iran starts gasoline rationing, hikes prices

News Network
November 15,2019

Dubai, Nov 15: Iran introduced gasoline rationing and price hikes on Friday with an official saying that the revenue would be used for subsidies for 18 million needy families, state television reported.

Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the fall of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling to neighbouring countries.

State TV said the price of a litre of regular gasoline was increased to 15,000 rials (12.7 U.S. cents) from 10,000 rials and the monthly ration for each private car was set at 60 litres per month. Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rial per litre.

Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, head of the country's Plan and Budget Organization, told state TV that proceeds from the price hikes would be used to fund additional subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million people.

Despite its huge energy reserves, Iran has for years struggled to meet its domestic fuel needs because of a lack of refining capacity and international sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran's vital oil industry and other sectors.

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Hosting ‘limited’ hajj required double efforts amid pandemic: Saudi king

Agencies
July 31,2020

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Makkah, Jul 31: Organising this year's scaled-down hajj required "double efforts" by Saudi authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, King Salman said Friday after being discharged from hospital following gall bladder surgery.

Only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom are participating in this year's pilgrimage, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.

"Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic... required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts," 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech read out on state television by acting media minister Majid Al-Qasabi.

"The hajj this year was restricted to a very limited number of people from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances," he said.

The speech came on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, a day after the king left hospital following a 10-day stay for surgery to remove his gall bladder.

The hajj, which began on Wednesday, is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Authorities implemented the "highest health precautions" during the rituals, the king said.

Pilgrims, who were all tested for the virus, are required to wear masks and observe social distancing.

For Friday's "stoning of the devil", the last major ritual of the hajj, Saudi authorities offered the pilgrims pebbles that were sanitised to protect against the pandemic.

In a sign that its strict measures were working, the health ministry reported no coronavirus cases in the holy sites on Wednesday or Thursday.

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Muslims in UAE urged to perform Eid al-Adha prayers at home

Agencies
July 23,2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 23: Muslims in the United Arab Emirates have been asked to perform Eid Al-Adha prayers at home even as mosques will be allowed to operate at an increased capacity of 50 percent from Aug. 3.

Mosques in the UAE have been operating at 30 percent capacity after they reopened on July 1.

Announcing the move, Dr. Saif Al Dhaheri, the official spokesman for the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, stated that after assessing the situation and coordinating with the concerned authorities, it was decided that Eid Al-Adha prayers would be conducted in homes and takbeers broadcast through visual and audio means.

He also announced that the Emirates Fatwa Council has recommended that donations and sacrifices should be to official charitable causes in the country only.

Al Dhaheri advised the public to donate during this time to the official charitable bodies in the country with sacrifices and donations, through smart applications concerned with sacrifices or through slaughterhouses outlined by the local authorities that guarantee the application of precautionary and preventive measures and provide remote services without the need to enter livestock markets or slaughterhouses.

Al Dhaheri stressed the need to avoid family visits and gatherings, and replace them using electronic means of communication or phone contact, as well as refraining from distributing Eid gifts and money to children and individuals during this occasion recommending to instead use of electronic alternatives.

Al Dhaheri pointed out that it is necessary to avoid visiting pregnant women, children and those with chronic diseases who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and not to allow them to leave the home and avoid going out to public places to preserve their health and safety.

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6 Gulf countries including UAE, Saudi Arabia back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

Agencies
August 10,2020

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Dubai, Aug 10: A six-nation bloc of Gulf Arab nations torn apart by internal strife endorsed on Sunday an extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, just two months before it is set to expire.

The Gulf Cooperation Council said it sent a letter to the UN Security Council backing an extension of an arms embargo that’s kept Iran from purchasing foreign-made weapons like fighter jets, tanks and warships.

The GCC — comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — alleged Iran had “not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighbouring countries, directly and through organisations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”

A Saudi-led coalition continues to battle Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the UN, the U.S. and armament experts have accused of receiving arms from Iran.

Tehran denies arming the Houthis, even as Iranian armaments and components have repeatedly turned up in Yemen.

As such, it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons’ movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilising activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organisations, the GCC said.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi condemned the GCC letter and called it an irresponsible statement that serves U.S. interests, Iranian state TV reported.

Mr. Mousavi also criticised the Gulf Arab countries for being among the “largest arms buyers in the region and the world,” even amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program.

That blocked Iran from replacing its ageing equipment, much of which had been purchased by the shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. An earlier embargo targeted Iranian arms exports.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal saw the UN agree to sunset the arms embargo this October.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018, part of a maximum pressure campaign that’s hurt Iran’s already-ailing economy and led to a series of escalating incidents in the Middle-East.

That the GCC offered a unified statement on Iran comes as it remains torn by the ongoing Qatar crisis, which saw Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates cut diplomatic ties and launch a boycott of the nation beginning in 2017.

Kuwait has sought to mediate the crisis, though its 91-year-old emir now is hospitalised in the U.S. suffering from an undisclosed ailment.

Amid the crisis, Qatar has had warmer ties with Iran and used its airspace while sharing a vast offshore oil and gas field with Tehran.

The small nation is home to the massive Al-Udeid Air Base, home to the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command. Oman, which saw its long-serving sultan die earlier this year, long has had close ties to Iran and has served as an interlocutor between Tehran and the West.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates long have viewed Iran far more suspiciously, accusing it of stirring up dissent among Shiite populations in the region.

The unified GCC statement comes after recent visits by outgoing U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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