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Iraq underlines expansion of swaps trading with Iran

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Iraq underlines expansion of swaps trading with Iran

He made the remarks in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday.

“The trade balance between the two countries is high, which is a favorable ground for securing the interests of both countries,” he said noting that Iraq is the second-largest trading partner of Iran after China.

Highlighting the coronavirus outbreak, the Iraqi minister said regional cooperation is needed to promote trade, and future trade relations are planned.

Referring to Iran’s cross-border cultivation potential in Iraq, he said: “The ministries of agriculture of the two countries, along with the Ministry of Industry, should pursue the issue via mutual Economic Council.” 

Iraqi Minister al-Jubouri arrived in Tehran on Monday at the head of a delegation to attend the meeting.

On Tuesday, he met with Iran’s First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, where he noted that the trip was conducted to revive the Joint Economic Commission of the two countries to determine specific frameworks for the activities of all economic sectors.

Referring to the importance of his trip to Tehran, Al-Jubouri said that the Iraqi private sector has also been present alongside the public sector to take further steps to develop relations between the two countries.

The 4th Iran-Iraq Joint Economic Commission meeting began in the Iranian capital on Tuesday.

The two-day commission meeting is participated by high-ranking officials from both sides and a number of economic activists.

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Joe Biden to reinstate Covid travel restrictions on travellers from UK

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President Joe Biden is set to reinstate Covid-19 travel restrictions on non-US travellers from Brazil, Ireland, the UK and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders.

White House officials said that South Africa would also be added to the restricted list on Monday because of concerns about a variant of the virus that has spread beyond that nation.

Mr Biden is reversing an order from Donald Trump in his final days in office that called for the relaxation of the travel restrictions as of Tuesday.

President Joe Biden is reversing Donald Trump’s order (Evan Vucci/AP)

The decision to reverse the order is not surprising but the addition of South Africa to the restricted travel list highlights the new administration’s concern about mutations in the virus.

The South Africa variant has not been discovered in the United States but another variant — originating in the UK — has been detected in several states.

Last week, Mr Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies to require international air passengers to quarantine upon arrival in the US.

The order also requires that all US-bound passengers aged 2 and above get negative Covid-19 test results within three days before travelling.

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Portugal’s president wins second term after Covid-hit election

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Portugal’s president has been returned to office for a second term in an election held amid a devastating Covid-19 surge that has made the country the worst in the world for cases and deaths.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa captured around 61.5% of the vote. He had been widely expected to win.

In a stunning development, newly arrived right-wing populist Andre Ventura was in a close race for second place with Socialist candidate Ana Gomes, with both polling around 12%.

Such a showing for Mr Ventura would have been unthinkable until recently and will send a shudder through Portuguese politics.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (Manuel de Almeida/ via AP)

Four other candidates ran for president.

One of the re-elected president’s first tasks will be to decide next month whether to approve a new law allowing euthanasia.

Parliament has passed the Bill but the head of state could try to block it or send it to the Constitutional Court for vetting.

The turnout was less than 40% — significantly lower than in recent elections and apparently confirming concerns that some people would stay away for fear of becoming infected with Covid-19.

Political leaders say that when the pandemic began to worsen there was no longer enough time to change the Portuguese constitution to allow a postponement.

Portugal has the world’s highest rates of new daily infections and deaths per 100,000 population, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and its public health system is under huge strain.

Mr Rebelo de Sousa, 72, has long been viewed as the clear front-runner in the contest. He is an affable law professor and former television personality who as president has consistently had an approval rating of 60% or more.

To win, a candidate must capture more than 50% of the vote.

Right-wing populist presidential candidate Andre Ventura casts his ballot at a polling station in Lisbon (Armando Franca/AP)

Mr Rebelo de Sousa, a former leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, has worked closely with the centre-left minority Socialist government, supporting its pandemic efforts.

He also has endeared himself to the Portuguese with his easy-going style. Photographs taken by passers-by of him in public places, such as one last year of him standing in line at a supermarket wearing trainers and shorts, routinely go viral.

With the country in lockdown, the election campaign featured none of the usual flag-waving rallies but restrictions on movement were lifted for polling day.

Authorities increased the number of polling stations and allowed for early voting to reduce crowding on election day. In other precautions, voters were asked to bring their own pens and disinfectant to polling stations. Everyone voting wore a mask and kept a safe distance from each other.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa urged people to turn out for the ballot, saying that “unprecedented planning” had gone into ensuring that the vote could take place safely.

Portugal has 10.8 million registered voters, around 1.5 million of them living abroad.

Every Portuguese president since 1976, when universal suffrage was introduced following the departure of a dictatorship, has been returned for a second term. No woman or member of an ethnic minority has ever held the post.

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Joe Biden attends Mass for first time since taking office

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President Joe Biden has attended Mass for the first time since taking office, worshipping on Sunday at the church he frequented when he was vice president.

Mr Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington’s Georgetown neighbourhood, a few miles from the White House.

It is where the nation’s only other Catholic president, John F Kennedy, often went to Mass.

Mr Biden entered through the front entrance, where a Black Lives Matter banner was hanging on one side and a banner with a quote from Pope Francis was on the other: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, left, depart after attending mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The president, in a brief exchange with reporters, said the service was “lovely”.

He was accompanied to church by his son, Hunter, and two of his grandchildren, Finnegan and Maisy.

His motorcade made a brief stop on the way back to the White House for a takeway from Call Your Mother, a popular deli near the church.

The president remained in his armoured vehicle while his son picked up the order.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that Mr Biden had not yet settled on a home church in the nation’s capital but said that she expected Mr Biden will continue to regularly attend services during his presidency.

President Joe Biden’s motorcade drives through the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)

At home in Delaware, Mr Biden and his wife, Jill, were regulars at St Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville.

They alternated between the Saturday and Sunday services depending on their travel schedules throughout the 2020 campaign.

Catholic faithful have an obligation to attend Sunday services but church teaching allows for the commitment to be fulfilled by attending a service on the evening of the preceding day.

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