Iran calls for unity to expel US from Middle East during visit by Syrian PM

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020   •   764

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis delivers an address during the opening of the Damascus International Fair on Sept. 6, 2018, in Damascus, Syria. EPA-EFE FILE/Youssef Badawi

By Marina Villen

Tehran – Iranian authorities on Monday called on the region’s countries to unite to expel US troops from the Middle East during a visit to Tehran by a Syrian delegation headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis.

Khamis’s presence in Iran was significant because the Islamic Republic has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its war against the armed opposition and insurgent groups, support that mostly came via Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was recently killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

“As long as US terrorist forces are present in West Asia, the region will not achieve peace or security,” Ali Shamkhani, an influential official who serves as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the Syrian prime minister.

To end this situation, Shamkhani said that “the withdrawal of the US will happen through the unity of the countries and governments of the region,” Iranian official state media reported.

“The presence and interference of the United States have caused instability, especially in Iraq and Syria,” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said.

The expulsion of US troops, therefore, is “the best revenge,” Jahangiri said.

Syria is part of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the United States and Israel led by Iran and comprised of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Iran and some of these groups vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“Without a doubt, the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani will make the Axis of Resistance more determined in its fight,” Shamkhani said.

The United States thought that Soleimani’s killing would lead to the “collapse of that front of the region,” Shamkhani said.

The Iranian general’s killing, however, led to “more cohesion and strengthening of the Axis of Resistance,” Shamkhani said.

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani expressed the same view during his meeting with Khamis.

As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years spread Iran’s influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq.

Khamis posthumously awarded Syria’s highest military medal to Soleimani, noting that the honor reflected “the deep affection” of al-Assad for the late Iranian general.

The Syrian official also thanked Iran for its support in eradicating terrorism in Syria and called for strengthening economic and trade relations at a time when Iranian companies are seeking huge contracts to rebuild the Arab country.

Soleimani’s killing is “an example of the US conspiracies in the region,” the Syrian prime minister, who headed a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem and Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said.

“The fight against the presence of US forces in the region must become a sustained process,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.

Despite Soleimani’s death, “the path of resistance continues,” Hatami said.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran on Sunday, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to ease tensions in the region on Monday.

Qureshi, who is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia next, called for “maximum restraint and immediate steps” to resolve the crisis, advocating “dialogue and diplomacy.”

No one wants war, the Pakistani official said.

Iranian President Hasan Rohani said he welcomes “with pleasure, Pakistan’s efforts to promote regional peace and stability.”

The Islamic Republic “never tried to start a war,” the Iranian president said. EFE

mv-ar/ta/hv

Duterte to join democracy summit hosted by US – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   December 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to participate in the “Summit for Democracy” to be hosted by the United States government this week, Malacañang said.

In a statement, the Office of the President said Duterte will join the summit set on December 9 to 10 “upon the invitation of US President Joe Biden.”

“President Biden has invited heads of state and government, other government leaders and voices from the business and nongovernment sectors to join the US in taking action to strengthen democracy,” the Palace said.

Malacañang said Duterte “has accepted” Biden’s invitation.

“President Duterte likewise welcomes the opportunity to share the Philippine democratic experience and commitment to democratic values and nation-building at the Summit for Democracy,” it added.

Biden will convene world leaders from government, the private sector, business and the civil society in the virtual summit. It will focus on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and will provide a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad, according to the US State Department.

The summit has three key themes: Defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.

The United States said the summit will offer an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of actors whose support and commitment is critical for global democratic renewal.

US reopens borders to foreign tourists after 20 months

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 8, 2021

The United States (US) has reopened its land and air borders to fully vaccinated foreign visitors after a 20-month travel restriction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US will lift its travel ban on 30 countries but will still implement strict regulations for foreign individuals arriving in the country. Passengers will be required be tested within three days before travel and will have to present negative Covid-19 test results. Unvaccinated travelers, meanwhile, will be allowed entry to the US as long as it falls under ‘essential trips’.

US borders were closed after March 2020 to travelers from large parts of the world, including the Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Britain and China, India and Brazil. AAC

Over 2 million Pfizer vaccine shots arrive in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has received another batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 said Monday.

In a statement, the NTF said the shipment containing 2,098,980 Pfizer doses arrived on Sunday, Oct. 31.

The vaccine shots were donated by the United States government through the global initiative COVAX Facility, it added.

The NTF said United States facilitated the delivery of almost 28 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines, which is aside from the more than 20 million doses directly donated by the US to the country.

“I can only encourage people in the Philippines to get vaccinated, it’s a safe, very effective vaccine and that’s the way our economy and our schools get back to normal,” U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava was quoted as saying in the statement.

For his part, NTF Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. thanked the US government, COVAX and the American people for the latest donation of COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccine czar expressed optimism that the country will be able to increase its daily jab rate to 1 to 1.5 million doses, noting that the nationwide vaccination for children aged 12 to 17 will start on November 3.

“We are very confident that we can have 1 million or 1.5 million jabs a day. Before, we thought having 300 to 500 [thousand] jabs a day is impossible but right now, we’re able to achieve more or less 700,000 jabs a day.” Galvez said.

The newest vaccine shipment has brought the total vaccine deliveries for October to 34,887,870 doses, which surpassed projections that around 29.5 million doses would arrive this month.

To date, the Philippines has received a total of 106,212,460 COVID-19 vaccine doses from various manufacturers since February.

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