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Iran ready for prisoners swap with US ‘without preconditions’

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2020)

Iran is ready for a full prisoner swap with the US, amid the country’s fear for the health and safety of Iranians in US jails during the Pandemic, a local news outlet reported.

“We are ready to exchange Iranian and American prisoners and we are ready to discuss this issue without with the US without any preconditions, “ Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesperson said quoted by the Khabar online, an Iranian media agency.

Rabiei said that the US yet to respond to Iran’s proposal.

“We hope that as the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease threatens the lives of Iranian citizens in the US prisons, the US government eventually will prefer lives to politics… We are worried about the safety and health of Iranians in jail. . . We hold America responsible for Iranians’ safety amid the new Coronavirus outbreak,” the Iranian official said.

Rabiei added that it seems that the US has more readiness to bring the situation to an end.

In a rare act of cooperation between two longtime rivals, the US and Iran swapped prisoners in 2019 — American graduate student Xiyue Wang, detained for three years on spying charges, and imprisoned Iranian stem-cell researcher Massoud Soleimani, accused of sanction violations, AlJazeera reported.

According to the report, the exchange in December last year was facilitated by the Swiss government.

“There is no need for a third country to mediate between Iran and America for the prisoner exchange,” Rabiei has told Khabar Online.

Michael White, a US Navy veteran who has been detained in Iran since 2018, is reportedly a likely candidate to be swapped.

He was detained in Iran for allegedly insulting the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online but he was released from prison in mid-March on medical furlough but remains in Iran.

Iran is believed to be holding at least four Americans.

Iran says U.S. authorities are holding some 20 Iranian nationals in jail.

It comes as, so far, 1,309,698 people in the United States have been infected with the COVID-19 with 78,799 deaths, while Iran witnessed 107,603 positive cases with 6,640 fatalities.

Business

Campaign to promote Afghani launched in western provinces

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2020)

The government has launched a campaign over the use of Afghani currency instead of Iranian Rials in domestic transactions in western parts of the country.

Sharifullah Shagewal, a spokesman for the central bank of Afghanistan, Da Afghanistan Bank says that the organization has set to boost the use of Afghani currency in local markets.

According to reports, many provinces sharing borders with Iran use Rials for transactions.

It comes as the organization launched a campaign in 2019 just to tell people not to use foreign currencies in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Helmand, and Kandahar province, where public used to use Pakistani rupees in daily transactions.

Now, the De Afghanistan Back says that it succeeded to prevent billions of Pakistani rupees from money circulation in the country.

Meanwhile, the central bank of Afghanistan urges the public to join the campaign by using Afghani currency instead of foreign currencies in their daily businesses.  

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Locusts attack along India-Pakistan border threatening food security

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(Last Updated On: May 25, 2020)

There has been an increased risk along both sides of the India-Pakistan border, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said Friday.

FAO, in its Friday release, warned, “Despite control operations, recent heavy rains have created ideal conditions for the pest’s reproduction in several countries. Young juveniles will become voracious adults in June just as farmers begin to harvest, compounding an already bleak food security situation.”

Reports indicate that India has reached out to Pakistan to counter a locust invasion which threatens to destroy crops and undermine food security in the south and southwest Asia already threatened by the COVID19 pandemic.

According to Indian news outlets, swarms of desert locusts swept Jaipur on Monday as the insect onslaught spread wider to parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh; while Gujarat and Punjab have warned their farmers of locust attacks.

This is the second round of locust attack in India, the first one having occurred during December-February.

Locust attacks in 12 countries, including Pakistan, Iran, and ten nations in Africa, have damaged crops over millions of hectares.

The World Bank has set up a $500 million program to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat the impact of locusts.

It is noteworthy that the Locusts can destroy standing crops and devastate livelihoods of people – The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a single swarm covering 1 square kilometer can contain up to 80 million locusts.

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COVID-19

COVID19 updates Afghanistan; cases rise to 11,173

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(Last Updated On: May 25, 2020)

With 591 new registries in the last 24 hours, the number of Coronavirus confirmed cases rose to 11,173 – Kabul ranks first on the table, with 390 new cases.

The Ministry of Public Health confirmed 591 new cases of the Coronavirus in the past 24 hours, including 390 reported from Kabul, and the rest are designated as follows:

“Herat 62, Balkh 36, Badghis 21, Nangarhar 18, Kunar 14, Takhar 14, Jawzjan 11, Wardak 7, Paktia 5, Baghlan 5, Khost 3, Panjshir 2, Ghor 2, and Bamyan reported one new case.”

It is worth mentioning that authorities have tightened the movement restrictions on Eid days in Kabul city to prevent the further spread of the deadly virus.

On the other hand, although religious scholars emphasize to impose restrictions, they call on the police to be soft with the sick and others in serious need.

The Ministry of Public Health has reported a lack of capacity in the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital amid the rapid increase in the number of infections.

It, therefore, has announced that three more hospitals will be made designated to the Coronavirus patients in Kabul.

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