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Iran bans the import of US and UK Covid-19 vaccines

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Iran has prohibited the import of American and British Covid-19 vaccines. The order was given to the government in Tehran by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I have no confidence in them,” explained Khamenei in a live televised speech. “Sometimes they want to test vaccines on other nations… If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country.”

Khamenei added that he does not trust the French vaccine either, due to France’s infected blood scandal in the 1980s and 1990s. “But if they [the Iranian authorities] want to import vaccines from a reliable place, there is no problem.”

So far three major vaccines have been made available, with many countries around the world rolling them out, especially to key workers and the most vulnerable due to age and health. The German BioNTech vaccine, which was co-produced by the US Pfizer Company; the Moderna vaccine also from the US; and the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain, which is regarded as the cheaper option of the three.

READ: Russia to ban tomato imports from Iran over virus fears

Iran has been the worst hit by the pandemic among regional countries. It began human trials of its first domestic vaccine late last month, although some citizens have expressed scepticism about its effectiveness. Iran’s Red Crescent Society has also stated that, separately from the government, it is planning to import a Chinese vaccine.

The Iranian leader also reiterated calls for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country, which have had an affect not only on the authorities and officials but also the Iranian people and their access to medicine and medical equipment. “The Western front and the enemies are obliged to end this malicious move and immediately stop it,” he insisted.

However, Iranian officials said last month that the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had approved the transfer of funds to a Swiss bank for COVAX, an international programme to facilitate the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

READ: Iran to buy covid vaccines using Iraq gas sale funds

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Asia & Americas

Al-Arabiya TV: Saudi minister optimistic US ties will be ‘excellent’ under Biden

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Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has voiced optimism that relations between Riyadh and Washington will be “excellent” under new US President Joe Biden, Al-Arabiya TV channel cited him as saying on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Appointments made by Biden show “understanding of the common issues” by the new US administration, Prince Faisal bin Farhan added, according to Twitter posts by the Saudi-owned, Dubai-based TV channel.

“The Biden administration will find that our targets regarding Yemen are the same,” Al-Arabiya quoted him as saying.

READ: Biden administration to declassify report about Khashoggi murder

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group after it seized the capital Sanaa.

Biden pledged during his election campaign to reassess ties with Saudi Arabia, demanding more accountability over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and calling for an end to US support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab monarchies have long been allies of the United States, sharing the objective of protecting oil supplies from the Gulf region and containing Iran.

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Africa

Baghdad bombing sparks global condemnation

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Condemnations are pouring in from across the world over twin suicide bombings in Iraq’s capital Baghdad that killed at least 32 people and wounded 110 others.

The attack rocked a busy commercial market in Baghdad when two suicide bombers detonated explosives they were carrying near al-Tayaran Square, the Iraqi Health Ministry said.

The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad strongly condemned the bombing affirming Turkey’s stand with Iraq.

Turkey’s Ambassador in Baghdad Fatih Yildiz tweeted: “I strongly condemn the dehumanized groups that today showed their ugly face in Baghdad again after a long period of time.”

The Turkish diplomat prayed for the victims and wished quick recovery for the wounded, asserting that “Turkey, as usual, is always beside you.”

Iraq: Twin suicide bombings hit central Baghdad

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing and offered condolences to the families of the victims, according to the official Wafa news agency.

“We stand in solidarity with Iraq, the president, the government and the people, as a result of the heinous terrorist act that targeted defenseless innocent people,” Abbas said.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the bombing stressing support for Iraq in the face of everything threatening its security.

In a statement, the ministry spokesman, Dhaifallah Al-Fayez, described the bombing as a “cowardly terrorist act that aims to destabilize security and stability and contradicts with religious and humanitarian values ​​and principles.”

The Qatari Foreign Ministry also strongly condemned the bombing in the capital, Baghdad, reiterating Doha’s firm position on rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and causes.

In a statement, the ministry offered condolences to the families of the victims and the government and people of Iraq, and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

For its part, Egypt condemned the bombing, expressing its sincere condolences and sympathy to the brotherly Iraqi government and people for the victims of this “disgraceful act of terrorism”, and wished a speedy recovery for the injured.

Iraq DM warns of ‘civil war’ if attacks on diplomatic missions do not stop

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry affirmed in a statement that it “stands by brotherly Iraq in its endeavors to maintain security and stability and confront all forms of terrorism and extremism.”

Canada’s Ambassador in Baghdad Ulric Shannon strongly condemned the bombing describing it as a “disgusting event.”

“It is with great sadness and sorrow that I received the news of the terrorist attack in the Bab Al Sharqi region,” he said. “I wish the wounded a speedy recovery, mercy and forgiveness for the martyrs.”

The international coalition against ISIS (Daesh) called the Baghdad attack another example of terrorists killing Iraqis and harming those seeking peace.

It affirmed to continue its support for the Iraqi government to achieve security and stability.

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Asia & Americas

Official twitter account changed to ‘US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza’

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The official Twitter account of the US Ambassador to Israel had a brief name change yesterday to “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza” after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The account was quickly changed back to “US Ambassador to Israel”.

Asked whether this brief change suggested that a shift in American foreign policy can be expected under Biden, an embassy spokeswoman said: “This is not a policy change or indication of future policy change. It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change.”

In his first day in office, Biden reversed a number of Trump era policies, including the controversial “Muslim travel ban”. However, indications are that he will not overturn the most controversial changes made by his predecessor, such as the relocation of the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem.

Biden may be more even-handed than Trump, however. There is talk that the new president will reopen the US Consulate-General in occupied East Jerusalem to act as an “embassy” to the Palestinians, to whom he will also restore US aid.

Read: The Israelisation of US foreign policy is hard to reverse

Relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Biden are predicted to be tense given their history. Biden was humiliated during a trip to Jerusalem in 2010 when he was Vice President under Barack Obama.

As a pro-Israel stalwart, Biden arrived in Jerusalem with instructions from Obama to revive peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Netanyahu had reluctantly agreed to a temporary moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. However, as Biden pledged unyielding US support for Israel, Netanyahu unveiled a big expansion of settler housing on Palestinian land in occupied Arab East Jerusalem annexed by Israel.

In what could be a message to the now President Biden, the Israeli government approved the building of 2,572 new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank during his inauguration yesterday.

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