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Iran urges voters to take part in Friday’s presidential election

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(Last Updated On: June 17, 2021)

Iran’s president appealed to voters to set aside their grievances and take part in a presidential election on Friday that record numbers of people are expected to boycott due to economic hardship and frustration with hardline rule.

Hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and moderate former Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati are the main contenders after the hardline Guardian Council disqualified several prominent candidates from running and others quit.

President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, urged Iranians on Thursday, as campaigning ended, not to let the “shortcomings of an institution or a group” keep them from voting, an apparent reference to the Guardian Council.

“For the time being, let’s not think about grievances tomorrow,” Rouhani said in televised remarks.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already urged people to turn out in large numbers, saying that would help avert foreign pressures on the Islamic Republic.

Official opinion polls suggest turnout could be as low as 41%, significantly lower than in past elections.

In addition to anger over the disqualification of prominent moderates, grievances include economic hardship exacerbated by U.S. sanctions as well as official corruption, mismanagement and a crackdown on protests in 2019 triggered by rising fuel prices.

The accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian plane in Iran in January last year which killed 176 people also undermined public trust.

“Voting would be an insult to my intelligence,” 55-year-old Fatemeh said, declining to give her second name for fear of reprisals. “Raisi has already been selected by the government regardless who we vote for.”

Prominent dissidents inside and outside the country have called on fellow Iranians to snub the election, including exiled former crown prince Reza Pahlavi and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, under house arrest since 2011.

On the other hand, many leading reformists have rallied behind Hemmati, including former President Mohammad Khatami, arguing that a massive boycott would guarantee a Raisi win.

Under the Iranian Constitution, the supreme leader, elected for life and responsible for choosing six of the 12-member Guardian Council, holds most of the powers of the state.

Khamenei has the final say on all matters of state and sets Iran’s foreign and nuclear policies.

The vote would have no impact on indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the top Iranian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

Polling stations open at 7 a.m. local time and close at 2 a.m. on Saturday. The interior minister told state TV that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, voting will take place outside at 67,000 sites across the country, with social distancing and the donning of face masks. Voters are asked to bring their own pens.

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US was losing war to IEA so it turned to negotiations: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The United States was losing the war to the Taliban (IEA) so it chose negotiations as an alternative, said the former US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in an interview with CBS News.

According to him, Washington tried many times to strengthen its position on the battleground but it failed.

“We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year,” he said.

Khalilzad blamed former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani for the disintegration of Afghanistan’s security sector, saying his escape triggered the chaos i seen in Kabul as the US withdrew its troops.

“But I believe the biggest difficulty was that President Ghani and a few other Afghan leaders did not believe that we were serious about withdrawal for a long time, and they liked the status quo compared to a political settlement in which they might not have the jobs that they had and- and the resources that the US was providing would not be there.

“They preferred the status quo to a political settlement. And then when it became clear that the U.S. was leaving, then they- they miscalculated the effects of-of the continuing war. They were not serious about the political settlement,” he said.

and did not take into account the real situation in the country.

Khalilzad believes that the US counterterrorism mission in the country succeeded as “the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is not what it used to be” and al-Qaeda has been “devastated.”

He said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is living up to its agreement regarding al-Qaeda stating “we are convinced that they are not allowing- they are not allowing plotting and planning operations by al-Qaeda against the United States.

“We always would like to see more from the Taliban (IEA), from almost any country that we deal with on this issue. We would like them to do more. We would like to expel- to- to get them to expel any al-Qaeda member who was there.”

“We should press them to do more on the issue of terrorism,” he added.

Asked if he knew where the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri was, Khalilzad said: “Well, the [UN] report that I have seen indicates he could be in Afghanistan or adjacent territories.”

However, he said the IEA members he negotiated with in Doha said they did not know where al-Zawahiri was.

He went on to say he did not necessarily believe this and said: “That’s why it’s very important not to take their word for it, in terms of what they say or what they commit to. That’s why we are saying there has to be over the horizon monitoring of the commitments on terrorism and the ability to strike if we see plotting and planning going on.”

On October 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Khalilzad had stepped down as a special envoy for Afghanistan.

Khalilzad said that he made the decision to resign at a time when Washington is beginning a new phase of policy toward Kabul following the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.

“I was representing the United States to carry out the president’s direction. But I believe the biggest difficulty was that President Ghani and a few other Afghan leaders did not believe that we were serious about withdrawal for a long time, and they like the status quo compared to a political settlement in which they might not have the jobs that they had and- and the resources that the US was providing would not be there.

“They preferred the status quo to a political settlement, he said.

Khalilzad also stated that he would have liked to have seen a negotiated settlement but implied that Ghani did not give this a chance.

He said Afghanistan was close to his heart, especially as he had been born in the country.

“I was born there, and I have spent a lot of my life on behalf of the United States focused on Afghanistan. I helped them with their constitution. I helped them with their first election. I established an American university in-in Afghanistan.

“I was very encouraged by the first years, the enthusiasm, the hopefulness that I observed there,” he said adding that the “political elite of the country made terrible mistakes”.

He said they “allowed corruption, misused elections, democracy, and didn’t treat their security forces perhaps the way they should have been treated.

“And we faced the- the circumstances we did.”

In conclusion he said: “Now it’s time for the Afghans to take ownership with non-military assistance, unless we are threatened, then our military should be in play. But we should not abandon Afghanistan, turn our back on it — use our influence as a country with enormous capability and influence to encourage the emergence of an Afghanistan that the Afghans aspire for.”

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Iranian embassy confirms meeting, outlines agenda

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2021)

Bahadar Aminian, Iranian ambassador in Kabul said Monday that economic and security problems and establishing an inclusive government will be discussed at the Tehran meeting on Afghanistan.

This comes as Iran prepares to host a meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Aminian said that foreign ministers from Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and China will attend the meeting.

“Countries in the region in Tehran meeting will emphasize responsibility about security, economic stability and an inclusive government,” said Aminian.

The Iranian envoy added that participants will also discuss sending humanitarian aid for Afghans and talk about development projects in Afghanistan.

“Not only is aid necessary for Afghans, but long term projects for development are also important for Afghans to preserve their independence,” he added.

China’s foreign minister will deliver an online speech, while Russia has confirmed it will be present.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said that they asked Iran for details but have not received any so far.

“In the past decades, rulers of the country [Afghanistan] have not taken responsibility for independence, dignity and security. We hope that the current people in Afghanistan will solve the problems,” said Aminian.

This comes after the former government accused Iran of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Now however the Iranian envoy criticized the former government and called on the IEA to be more responsible.

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IEA welcomes Russia’s stance on removing IEA’s leaders from the Blacklist

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2021)

The Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] welcomed the expressions of the Russian president for removing their leader’s names from the blacklist.

Previously Vladimir Putin said that he is considering removing the names of the IEA leaders from the blacklist.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi a Foreign Ministry spokesman said that:” the era of war ended in Afghanistan and called on the international community to bring positive changes dealing with Afghanistan.

Foreign Ministry said the Afghan government wants positive relations with the world.

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