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TEHRAN, June 22, 2018 (MENA) – Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi on Friday said he does not rule out Tehran's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA) in the coming weeks, Sputnik news agency reported.

"I cannot say that the prospect of the continuation of negotiations with Europe is clear and can lead us to achieve a joint package for saving the JCPOA," Araqchi noted, adding that the deal was "in the intensive care unit" as a result of the "US withdrawal."

Tehran has been earlier saying it would be complying with the nuclear deal, signed in 2015 in Vienna by Iran, the European Union, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, despite the US decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The announcement comes after Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in an article on Wednesday Tehran would return to the negotiating table with the United States if it sticks to the 2015 nuclear pact, which requires Tehran to maintain a peaceful nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

 

VIENNA, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - OPEC agreed on Friday on a modest increase in oil production from July after its leader Saudi Arabia persuaded arch-rival Iran to cooperate amid calls from major consumers to help reduce the price of crude and avoid a supply shortage.

Two OPEC sources said the group agreed that OPEC and its allies led by Russia should increase production by about 1 million barrels per day (bpd), or 1 per cent of global supply.

The real increase will be smaller because several countries that recently underproduced oil will struggle to return to full quotas while other producers will not be allowed to fill the gap, OPEC sources have said.

The United States, China and India had urged OPEC to release more supply to prevent an oil deficit that would hurt the global economy.

Saudi Arabia and Russia said they were happy to pump more but Iran had criticised the idea as it faces export-crippling US sanctions.

Iran, OPEC's third-largest producer, had demanded OPEC reject calls from US President Donald Trump for an increase in oil supply, arguing that Trump had contributed to a recent rise in prices by imposing sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

Trump slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran in May and market watchers expect Iran's output to drop by a third by the end of 2018. That means the country has little to gain from a deal to raise OPEC output, unlike top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

However, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih appears to have convinced his Iranian peer Bijan Zanganeh to support the increase just hours before Friday's OPEC meeting.

OPEC and its allies have since last year been participating in a pact to cut output by 1.8 million bpd. The measure has helped rebalance the market in the past 18 months and lifted oil to around $75 per barrel from as low as $27 in 2016.

But unexpected outages in Venezuela, Libya and Angola have effectively brought supply cuts to around 2.8 million bpd in recent months.

Brent oil prices were up 1.9 per cent on Friday as the output boost had been largely priced in and was seen as modest.

"It will be enough for now but not enough for the fourth quarter to address a decline in Iranian and Venezuelan exports," said Gary Ross, head of global oil analytics at S&P Global.

"There isn´t a lot of spare capacity in the world. If we lose a million bpd of output from Venezuela and Iran in the fourth quarter, where will all these barrels come from? We are in for higher prices for longer," he said.

The OPEC meeting began around 10:00 GMT and was continuing after two and a half hours.

Falih has warned the world could face a supply deficit of up to 1.8 million bpd in the second half of 2018 and that OPEC's responsibility was to address consumers' worries.

"We want to prevent the shortage and the squeeze that we saw in 2007-2008," Falih said, referring to a time when oil rallied close to $150 per barrel.

OPEC's deal to release more supply centres on the idea of returning to 100 percent compliance with existing, agreed cuts. Current compliance is around 40-50 percent above target because of production outages in Venezuela, Libya and Angola.

Zanganeh has said that if OPEC returned to regular compliance, the group would raise output by around 460,000 bpd. Iran has objected to having members with additional capacity such as Saudi Arabia fill Venezuelan output gaps.

Falih also said the real increase for OPEC and non-OPEC would be smaller than the nominal gain of 1 million bpd. He said OPEC could meet again in September to adjust the deal.

OPEC sources also said Iran had demanded that US sanctions be mentioned in the group's post-meeting communique.

The United States, which rivals Russia and Saudi Arabia for the position of world No.1 oil producer, is not participating in the current supply pact.

MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) – Coach Carlos Queiroz said Iran will soak up the experience of facing World Cup contenders Spain on Wednesday but warned the Lions of Persia will produce their "best game ever" as they strive to cause the shock of the tournament.

Days after celebrating only their second-ever World Cup win in five editions with a 1-0 victory over Morocco that sent them top of Group B, Iran are expected to return to earth with a bump against a Spain side oozing class.

"For us it's a privilege and an honour to be here. It's a unique opportunity for us to play against Spain, one of the candidates to win the World Cup," Queiroz told a packed and, at times, chaotic media conference in Kazan on Tuesday.

"We're in a win-win situation because it's a unique opportunity for our national team to learn more about the game and to grow as players."

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa scored twice while Real Madrid defender Nacho gave Spain a 3-2 lead before Cristiano Ronaldo snatched a 3-3 draw for Portugal with a late third in a spectacular game in Sochi last Friday.

Queiroz is under no illusions about the superiority of Fernando Hierro's side as the Spaniards look to claim their first win of the tournament.

But he says Iran are in Russia carrying the hopes of an entire nation, not just to make up the numbers.

"If there was a magic potion to stop the Spanish team, then $1 million would not be too much to buy it, even though we do have some financial troubles," said Queiroz, who was flanked by AEK Athens midfielder Masoud Shojaei.

Queiroz, a former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, sounded a defiant message, saying Spain could boss the match technically but could not control how much Iran will fight.

"We are well aware of Spain's reputation, so we'll have to play our best game ever. In the end the football gods will decide," he said.

 

 

LONDON, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Iran has no plans to extend the range of its missiles since their 2,000-km (1,240-mile) reach is enough to protect the country, the Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, amid mounting US pressure over Tehran's missile programme.

Iran's government again ruled out negotiations with US President Donald Trump over Tehran's military capabilities and regional influence, saying that such talks would be against the values of the Islamic Republic.

Trump withdrew the United States last month from the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran's nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

He said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not curbed Iran's ballistic missile programme or reined in its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and said Washington would reimpose tough sanctions on Tehran.

"We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies' strategic targets are already within this 2,000-km range. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic...," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

 

 

TEL AVIV , June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Israel has indicted a former cabinet minister on suspicion of spying for Iran, Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said on Monday.

In a statement, the Shin Bet said Gonen Segev, energy minister from 1995 to 1996, had been living in Nigeria and “was recruited by Iranian intelligence and served as an agent”.

Investigators found that Segev made contact with officials at the Iranian embassy in Nigeria in 2012 and that he visited Iran twice for meetings with his handlers, the Shin Bet said.

Segev, it said, received an encrypted communications system from Iranian agents and supplied Iran with “information related to the energy sector, security sites in Israel and officials in political and security institutions”.

The Shin Bet said Segev, 62, put some Israelis involved in the security sector in contact with Iranian intelligence agents, introducing the Iranians as businessmen.

Segev’s attorneys, contacted by Reuters, declined immediate comment.

Segev, a physician, was jailed in Israel in 2004 after being convicted of attempting to smuggle Ecstasy pills into the country. He left Israel in 2007 after his release from prison.

The Shin Bet said Segev was arrested during a visit to Equatorial Guinea in May and extradited to Israel, where he is being detained. He was indicted on Friday.

Israel has long been locked in a shadow war with arch-foe Iran, which supports Islamist guerrillas in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and whose nuclear program is widely believed to have been targeted repeatedly by Israeli saboteurs.

In January, Israel said it had cracked a Palestinian militant cell suspected of having been recruited and handled by Iranian intelligence officers who worked out of South Africa. The suspects’ lawyer denied the charges.

 
 
 

ST PETERSBURG, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - A heartbreaking stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.

In a group where Spain and Portugal are strong favourites to qualify for the knockout stage, the result gives Iran an outside chance of an upset but was a bitter blow for an enterprising Moroccan side.

Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.

The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.

Morocco and the unfortunate Bouhaddouz were devastated as the country were forced to reflect on a second major footballing blow of the week after their bid to host the 2026 World Cup failed on Wednesday.

When the pain subsides, however, they should take heart from a performance which showcased some impressive talent, well assembled by French coach Herve Renard, and which will have been keenly noted by Spain and Portugal.

Perhaps it should have been no surprise that defences dominated given the two teams had been so impressive in that aspect of the game during qualification.

Morocco only conceded one goal in their eight games, while Iran let in just five in their 18 Asian qualifiers.

There was nothing cautious about the way the Moroccans approached the game, though.

They enjoyed more possession throughout and began in particularly aggressive fashion, taking the game to their opponents and overloading their right flank as they targeted Hajsafi.

That approach almost paid off when Nordin Amrabat whipped in a dangerous cross from the right but Younes Belhanda’s header from an acute angle flashed wide.

Iran were missing the calming influence of suspended holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi as Morocco over-ran them in the centre of the park with the clever Mbark Boussoufa directing play as the African side frequently attacked in numbers.

Morocco almost turned that initial pressure into a goal in the 19th minute when following a scramble in the area, Medhi Benatia’s shot was well saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Quieroz had clearly given his side instructions to defend deep and look to break on the counter-attack and two minutes before the break that approach almost bore fruit.

Striker Sardar Azmoun broke clear though the middle but he shot straight at Mohamedi who got up quickly to keep out a follow-up effort from Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

Chances were at a premium after the break, with both sides keeping their shapes well, but a sweetly-struck effort from Morocco's Hakim Ziyech brought out a fine save from Beiranvand nine minutes from the end.

Then came the error from Bouhaddouz, the drama and the agony as Iran grabbed just their second win in their World Cup history.

 

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