Iran, Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — Iranian state TV says the health minister has resigned over spending cuts in a budget submitted to parliament last week.
It says President Hassan Rouhani accepted Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi's resignation on Thursday.
Iran is in the grip of an economic crisis and has seen sporadic protests in recent months as officials try to downplay the effects of renewed U.S. sanctions.
The $47.5 billion budget is less than half the size of last year's, mainly due to the severe depreciation of the local currency following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The U.S. has restored crippling sanctions in recent months, including on Iran's energy and banking sectors.
Kabul, Jan 3 (Xinhua/UNB) -The Afghan Independent Elections Commission (IEC) announced a new timeline for candidates' registration of the country's fourth presidential elections, a statement from the entity said on Thursday.
The announcement came as the IEC slated July 20 over the weekend as a news date for the polls which previously set to be held on April 20, citing some reasons and present issues at the IEC for holding the polls on time.
The 18-day candidate nomination process for 2019 presidential elections officially began on Jan. 3 and will continue until Jan. 20, each day from Saturday to Thursday, according to the statement.
The statement said that under the country's constitution and the electoral law, the IEC has the authority of holding and managing any kinds of elections in the country.
The presidential candidates' primary list will be announced on Feb. 5, while the final list of eligible contenders would be announced on March 26, the statement said.
The IEC is expected to hold elections for Provincial and District Councils and Ghazni constituency for national parliament on the same day, July 20 this year.
The election commission will also launch a supportive voter registration process on March 1-20 to help register Afghans who do not have voting card, newly return to the country or lately become eligible for taking part in the elections.
Paris, Jan 1 (AP/UNB) — The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.'s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.
The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.
The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.
The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.
The U.S. has demanded "fundamental reform" in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust's horrors, and to defend media freedom.
The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.
UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.'s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.
Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.
In April of this year, Israel's ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was "like a wedding" after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on "Occupied Palestine," and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.
The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren't enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.
In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.
The State Department couldn't comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member "observer state" on "non-politicized" issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.
The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.
Iran, Dec 31 (AP/UNB) — Iran has denounced plans by Brazil's newly elected president to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Monday that such a move "will not help with peace, stability, security and retrieval of the Palestinian people's rights." He added, however, that "relations with Brazil will eventually be continued."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting Brazil, said Sunday it is only a matter of time until Brazil moves its embassy to Jerusalem. Incoming President Jair Bolsonaro said last month that he intends to move the embassy, prompting threats by Arab states to boycott Brazilian goods.
Jerusalem's fate is one of the most divisive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nearly all countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, and the U.S. decision to move its embassy sparked protests.
Jakarta, Dec 30 (Xinhua/UNB)- Indonesia's Mount Agung volcano of Bali Island, located in northern part of the resort island, erupted on early Sunday, Indonesian authorities said.
"Eruption has occurred in Bali's Mount Agung on Dec. 30 at 4:09 a.m. (local time). Exact height of ash columns hardly able to be observed," Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said in a statement.
Heavy cloud hindered direct vision to the peak of the volcano when it erupted, it said.
The eruption was recorded by seismograph with maximum amplitude of 22 mm, lasted in three minutes and eight seconds, he added.
"Currently Mount Agung volcano is in alert status," the statement said, adding that the level III danger status has been issued on the volcano.
Indonesia's Center of Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) urged locals, trekkers and tourists to stay away from red zone at present, which is 4 km from the volcano crater.
The PVMBG said the red zone areas could be expanded or reduced in the following days on the basis of results monitored by its observation outpost.
The agency also warned people residing near the rivers of being cautious of potential threats as the lava and volcanic materials may flow into rivers.
Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, volcanic ashes have affected Bali's northern regencies during rainy days.