Russia’s oil giant, Lukoil, has begun pumping crude oil from one of the world’s largest undeveloped oil fields in southern Iraq, as the Arab country works to bolster its oil exports.
During a Saturday ceremony to inaugurate the West Qurna-2 field in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said crude production at the massive oil field is expected to reach some 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), from an initial 120,000 bpd.
The Iraqi minister further expressed hope that the country’s oil output could possibly reach four million bpd by the end of this year.
“This is a historic and great accomplishment that would enable the government to implement its development programs by increasing its revenues,” added Luaibi.
Lukoil Chief Executive Vagit Alekperov also hailed the launch of West Qurna-2 as “strategically important” for the Russian company, which is the principal firm developing the enormous West Qurna-2 field.
The inauguration of West Qurna-2 will allow Russia’s second oil producer to more than double its overseas crude output.
Earlier in the day, Dhiya Jaafar, the head of Iraq’s South Oil Company, said oil exports from southern Iraq have averaged 2.48 million bpd so far this month and would rise to 2.65 million following the inauguration of West Qurna-2.
West Qurna-2, with an estimated 14 million barrels of recoverable reserves, is the second biggest untapped oil field after Rumaila in southern Iraq.
Iraq is dependent on oil exports for government revenue and is working to boost its oil sales. The Arab country has proven reserves of 143.1 billion barrels of oil as well as 3.2 trillion cubic meters of gas.
Baghdad seeks to increase its crude production capacity to nine million bpd by 2017.
Iran has rejected a politically-motivated ruling by a Canadian court to seize more than USD 7 million of the Islamic Republic’s assets and properties.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Saturday that Iran was not informed about the legal proceedings, adding that the court ruling has therefore “no legal value” to Iran.
An Ontario judge in Canada recently ordered the seizure of more than USD 7 million of assets and properties belonging to Iran over some plaintiffs alleging that the Islamic Republic funds terrorist groups.
“Given the approach of the Canadian government, it is crystal clear that the verdict is politically-motivated and such rulings have no legal value,” Afkham said, reminding the Ottawa government of its international commitment to protect diplomatic properties.
Pointing to Canada’s move to sever ties with Iran unilaterally, Afkham said under international law diplomatic properties have immunity, warning Ottawa of the legal repercussions of disrespecting international regulations.
The Iranian official stated that Iran, as a victim of terrorism, has always denounced this inhuman scourge.
She warned that the double standards used by Western countries, including Canada, in the fight against terrorism will not only fail to uproot it but will also contribute to the spread of this phenomenon.
On September 7, 2012 the Canadian government closed its embassy in Tehran and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave Canada within five days.
In a statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird cited a number of reasons for Ottawa’s decision to sever ties with Iran, including the West’s dispute over Tehran’s nuclear energy program, the country’s support for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as “threatening the existence of Israel.”
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has renewed its call for the elimination of nuclear weapons across the world.
In a statement on Thursday, NAM labeled nuclear arms as a major threat and expressed deep concern over the destructive repercussions of the use of such weapons on present and future generations as well as the environment.
The statement said that using or threatening to use nuclear weapons was in contravention of international law, urging all countries to fulfill their denuclearization commitments.
It said that global nuclear disarmament is the first step toward creating a world free of nuclear weapons, stressing that the elimination of all such weapons is the only way to guarantee that they will not be used as a threat against countries.
Calling on world countries to respect international law and meet their legal commitments, NAM also urged an immediate conference attended by the leaders of world countries to discuss global disarmament.
It also urged the full implementation of a UN General Assembly resolution on nuclear disarmament, which was passed last year.
In December 2013, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a nuclear disarmament resolution that includes proposals forwarded by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as the head of NAM.
The resolution, adopted on December 5, 2013, calls on nuclear-power states to make more efforts to scale down and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear arms.
According to the resolution, non-nuclear states should be given guarantees that they will not be threatened or attacked by nuclear weapons.
It also calls on the General Assembly to urge all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to follow up on the implementation of their obligations as agreed in the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.
Iran says the United States has imprisoned more than 20 Iranian nationals over allegations of violating Washington’s sanctions regime against Tehran.
“The US government has arrested more than 20 Iranian nationals over the unfounded allegation of breaching US’s unilateral and illegal sanctions against the Iranian nation and [it] has so far taken no measure to release these innocent citizens despite [Iran’s] follow-up through diplomatic and legal channels,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Sunday.
She added that Iran’s Foreign Ministry would continue to pursue and seek to secure the rights and freedom of these innocent Iranians.
She further dismissed claims about the detention of American nationals in Iran.
“No American national is in custody or prison in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian spokesperson said.
She said the two people that the US authorities and media say are in custody in Iran are actually Iranian citizens and will have to be held accountable before the law while enjoying their full legal rights.
Following a move by the European satellite provider Eutelsat SA to take Press TV off the air in a flagrant violation of freedom of speech, Press TV viewers can continue to watch the news channel via the following satellites or by visiting the following websites:
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Two New York legislators say they will introduce a bill to strip state aid from universities that take part in a recent movement to boycott Israeli academic centers.
State Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat who is also a former member of the Jewish Defense League that was classified as a “terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001, say they want to cut off state aid to universities affiliated with the American Studies Association’s movement to boycott Israeli institutions.
Earlier this month, members of the ASA overwhelmingly voted to ban Israeli universities from collaborations with their campuses.
The organization said the reason behind its decision was that the Israeli institutions were “a party” to policies “that violate human rights” as Israel’s “violation of international law and UN resolutions” continues and the “impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students” is well-documented.
“The American Studies Association is carrying on a long and proud tradition of American academics by engaging in an academic boycott much like many professors did during apartheid South Africa,” Michael Shallcross, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Temple University in Philadelphia, told Press TV.
However, the move, which is part of a larger international effort to win boycotts of Israeli institutions, angered some US politicians both at state and federal level.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) has urged the ASA to end the boycott, saying he was surprised by the organization’s decision.
And now, two pro-Israel Democrats in New York’s state legislature, Klein and Hikind, are trying to cut state aid to universities affiliated with the movement.
“[It] is a shameless attempt at censorship by powerful Zionist politicians in New York State by cutting off economic life lines that make higher education possible,” Shallcross said.
The ASA is the largest and oldest association involved in interdisciplinary studies of American culture and history.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have neither the right nor any duty to inspect Iran’s military and missile sites, a senior Iranian official says.
“The agency’s inspectors have no right and [no] responsibility to do it. There is no authority in the world [responsible] for inspecting such facilities, and there is no treaty in that regard, either,” Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday.
“The IAEA is not in a position to conduct such inspections,” he underscored, dismissing certain media reports which quoted him as saying that the agency’s inspectors will visit Iran’s missile industries for more transparency.
In November, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a road map based on which Iran would, on a voluntary basis, allow IAEA inspectors to visit the Arak heavy water plant and the Gachin uranium mine in Bandar Abbas, in southern Iran, despite the fact that Tehran is under no such obligation to do so under the Safeguards Agreement.
The voluntary move is a goodwill gesture on the part of Iran to clear up ambiguities over the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy program.
Salehi further denied charges leveled by certain Western countries suggesting a diversion in Iran’s civilian atomic work.
“Such accusations are unfounded given the IAEA’s inspections and [Iran’s] broad transparency moves and cooperation,” the AEOI head said.
The United States, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Egypt’s constitution-drafting committee has agreed to an article that grants immunity to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
According to a draft published in Egypt’s state media on Thursday, the new constitution would grant more powers to the SCAF and could ban Islamic parties completely.
The 50-member assembly is scheduled to finish the draft of the constitution this week. The constitution will then be put to a referendum in December.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the army chief and minister of defense, had been seeking immunity for the military council for a period of five to ten years.
It has also been leaked that he asked for a media campaign to lobby for a specific clause to be included in the constitution. The clause would allow Sisi to retain his post as defense minister in the event he loses in the presidential election.
The military representatives of the committee also called for the constitution to allow the military to name the defense minister during the next two presidential terms. The move has been widely criticized by legal experts, who say this would give the military more power than the president.
Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since July 3, when the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s government, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the parliament. It also appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, as the new interim president.
The government of Mansour has launched a bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters and arrested more than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members, including the party’s leader, Mohamed Badie, who was detained on August 20.
About 1,000 people were killed in a week of violence between Morsi supporters and security forces after police dispersed their protest camps in a deadly operation on August 14. The massacre sparked international condemnation and prompted world bodies to call for an independent investigation into the violence.
The Spanish government has approved a new draft law which imposes harsh penalties on Spaniards taking part in unauthorized anti-government demonstrations, a move criticized by the opposition as trying to silence protests.
The draft law, presented by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Friday, sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($40,800) for offenses like torching the national flag, affronting the state or causing serious troubles outside parliament.
Fines of up to 1,000 euros will be imposed on people insulting or intimidating police officers.
Four “very serious” offenses, including interfering in electoral processes and illegal protests at strategic facilities such as airports or nuclear power plants, could be fined up to 600,000 euros (about $1,000,000).
The opposition says the bill is meant to prevent demonstrations against the government as the country struggles with a debt crisis and high unemployment.
“When more than 20 percent of people are unemployed, I don’t think this legislation is what we require,” said Alejandro Tourino, from law firm Ecija.
The government, however, has defended the bill, saying it will create discipline and safeguard public freedoms.
It will help “regulate and protect public freedoms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
Madrid’s harsh spending cuts and rising unemployment have sparked massive anti-government protests across the country in recent years. Protesters argue that the government-imposed measures have failed to curb rising poverty or help extricate the country from its worst recession in years.
The draft law must be approved by parliament, where it may change to some extent. However, it will probably be ratified as the governing party has an absolute majority in the parliament.
Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years. On November 20, students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.
The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
French automakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault are planning to return to Iran’s market following a recent nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six major world powers in Geneva which will ease sanctions on auto industry.
According to the Geneva deal, the EU and US sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical export, gold and precious metals and auto industry as well as the supply of spare parts for the Iranian airplanes would be suspended.
French auto giants are poised to resume vehicle sales in Iran to reclaim their share of the huge Iranian market they lost after the implementation of sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear energy program in 2011.
Peugeot and Renault are among Western companies sending representatives to a crucial auto conference that was to open in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday.
Their participation in the conference has been interpreted by the media as a sign to mark their early return to the Iranian market before other competitors.
Renault and Peugeot have been production partners of Iran’s domestic majors – Iran Khodro and SAIPA.
Official data show the sanctions against Iran led to the unemployment of 100,000 workers and undermined the output of the two French giants.
A day after the nuclear deal between Iran and the six countries, Peugeot’s shares soared 4.50 percent to 10.69 euros and Renault rose 1.43 percent to 65.35 euros.
Iran used to be Peugeot’s second-biggest market in car sales volumes before Western sanctions against Tehran were toughened. In 2011, Iran accounted for 13 percent of Peugeot’s annual sales.
Peugeot has experienced an estimated four billion euros in lost sales after cutting ties with Iranian automaker Iran Khodro in February 2012 under pressure from its American partner company General Motors.
On July 26, Renault reported a huge fall in profits for the first half of 2013 after writing off the entire value of its business in Iran due to the US-led sanctions against Tehran.
The firm took a 512-million-euro (680-million-dollar) charge after halting its activities in Iran.
Last year, Renault sold a total of 100,783 vehicles in Iran, and had a 10-percent market share. The Middle Eastern country was Renault’s eighth-biggest global market by sales, above Italy where Renault sold 96,144 units and Spain where it sold 83,366 cars.
On November 24, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the US – plus Germany sealed an interim deal in the Swiss city of Geneva to lay the groundwork for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program.
- Iran Accord Sparks Race to Tehran as Automakers Target Deals (bloomberg.com)
The US and Israel are planning to conduct a joint military drill in an effort to threaten Iran towards the end of the six-month period when an interim deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany expires.
The drill is aimed at sending a threatening message to Iran while US President Barack Obama says “we cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict.”
Time magazine broke the story of the planned US-Israeli military exercise on Thursday, citing a top Israeli official who said, “The strategic decision is to continue to make noise.”
“In May there’s going to be a joint training exercise with the Americans,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be big.”
The planned war game comes after the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 intensely angered Israelis.
As part of the interim deal, which was announced on November 24, Iran has agreed to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, and the United States and its allies have agreed to lift some of the economic sanctions and offer access to a portion of the revenue that Tehran has been denied through these sanctions. No additional sanctions will be imposed.
The deal infuriated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called it “a historic blunder.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-advocacy group in the US, also called on US Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.
Meanwhile, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll has shown that the American people support the deal over Iran’s nuclear energy program by a 2-to-1 margin.
The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) says Iranian channels have been taken off air from 27 satellites 66 times over the past three years by those claiming to be the advocates of freedom of speech.
Ezzatollah Zarghami made the remarks in an interview with Iran’s Young Journalists’ Club (YJC) on Thursday.
Zarghami noted that in addition to this, the channels have been repeatedly blocked or distorted through jamming of their transponders.
“This is while the Islamic Republic of Iran has been falsely accused of jamming [foreign radio and TV broadcasts] and sometimes it is claimed that the source [of the jamming] is outside Iran,” he stated.
The head of the IRIB said that in the modern world the free flow of information and enlightenment by independent media cannot be blocked.
He noted that the move against the Iranian channels by those who claim to be the advocates of freedom of speech and free flow of information comes as thousands of TV and satellite channels are currently broadcasting their programs onto the Iranian territory.
Iranian channels have come under an unprecedented wave of attacks by European governments and satellite companies since January 2012.
They have been taken off the air in several Western countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Spain.
European companies say they are abiding by the US-engineered sanctions against Iran. However, Michael Mann, the EU foreign policy chief’s spokesman, has told Press TV that sanctions do not apply to media.
In June, in another illegal act against Iranian alternative channels, Intelsat said that it will no longer provide services to Iranian channels, including Press TV.
Press TV later learned that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) — an agency of the US Treasury Department — was behind the pressure on Intelsat.
Media activists call the attacks on Iranian channels a campaign against free speech launched by the same European governments that preach freedom of expression.