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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 12, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has addressed a cable of congratulations to the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on his country’s national day anniversary, wishing the Iranian people optimum progress and prosperity. Their Highnesses the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, respectively Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, sent cables of identical content to the Iranian president.
Thousands of cars and motorbikes paraded in celebration of the 43rd anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution on Friday, although fewer pedestrians were out for a second straight year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. In the capital Tehran, processions started out from several points, converging on the usual meetup point at Azadi Square. State media said hundreds of thousands of people were involved in the celebrations, and state TV showed crowds in many cities and towns. The anniversary comes as negotiations to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers continue in Vienna. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, and in response Iran gradually reneged on its commitments.
President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran was seeking a balanced foreign policy, but would take “big steps” to further economic independence. “We never pinned hopes to Vienna and New York,” he said in a speech before Friday prayers in northern Tehran’s Mosalla Mosque. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that a deal is “in sight,” but warned that “if it’s not reached in the coming weeks Iran’s nuclear advances will make it impossible” for the U.S. to return to the deal. Crowds waved Iranian flags, chanting slogans and carrying placards that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in celebration on Friday, a commemoration for the uprising that ousted a Western-backed monarchy and brought the Islamists to power.
Several groups in Tehran and elsewhere burned U.S. and Israeli flags, a regular ritual at Iranian rallies. It was the second year where celebrations were largely limited to vehicles due to the pandemic. Authorities say the aggressive omicron variant is now dominant in the country, and hospitals have been urged to prepare for a new wave of infections. With more than 130,000 total deaths according to official numbers, Iran has the highest national death toll in the Middle East. It says it has vaccinated some 80% of its population above age 18 with two shots, although only 27% of that group has had a third shot. Iran’s Islamic Revolution began with widespread unrest over the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah, terminally and secretly ill with cancer, fled Iran in January 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini then returned from exile and the government fell on Feb. 11, 1979, after days of mass demonstrations and confrontations between protesters and security forces. In April 1979, Iranians voted to become an Islamic Republic, a Shiite theocracy with Khomeini as the country’s first supreme leader, with final say on all matters of state.
When the U.S. later allowed the shah into the United States for cancer treatment in New York, anger boiled over in Tehran leading to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in November 1979 by militant students. The subsequent hostage crisis kindled decades of enmity. Germany’s foreign minister said Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran are entering a “final phase” and that, despite Israeli reservations, a return to a nuclear agreement would make the region safer. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke at a joint press conference in Tel Aviv with her Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, during an official visit to Israel. Her remarks come as negotiations between Iran and world powers reconvened this week in an effort to revive a 2015 nuclear accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program.
That deal crumbled after the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Baerbock later visited Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, for a meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki. He asked Germany, which supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, to pressure Israel to enter peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes Palestinian independence. Israel and Iran are archenemies, and Israel has vocally objected to U.S.-led efforts to revive the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Its leaders have said it would not be bound by any agreement between world powers and Iran, leaving it room to maneuver militarily.