US Syria plots
Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad says the US push to renew a cross-border aid operation into Idlib is aimed at supplying terrorist groups with arms and prolonging the war. In an interview with RT, Mekdad also said cross-border activities by the US and Turkey are a violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The aid is funneled from Turkey into northwest Syria in an arrangement authorized by the UN Security Council. The seven-year authorization will expire next month. A diplomatic standoff is expected next month between Western members of the council who support renewing the authorization, and Russia, which has threatened to veto any such move. The top Syrian diplomat called Washington’s policy a pure hypocrisy, citing wide-ranging US sanctions against the war-torn Arab country.
Iran's new COVID-19 vaccine
Iran has launched the clinical trial of yet another vaccine as part of its drive to develop COVID-19 jabs. The shot, dubbed Noura, has been unveiled at a public university of medical sciences in Tehran. Officials say Noura is a recombinant vaccine and can be easily mass-produced in Iran after completing clinical trials. The project, sponsored by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, is the result of 16 months of scientific research. Iran is working on several coronavirus vaccines. Earlier this month, the health ministry authorized the emergency use of an all-Iranian jab called Barakat. Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei got the first dose of the vaccine on Friday.
France local elections
French people are heading to the polls to cast their ballots in the second round of regional elections. The first-round results saw a drubbing for President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party, disappointment for Marine Le Pen's far-right and a record-low turnout. The results put Le Pen's National Rally party ahead in just one region. There were also cross-party concerns over the low turnout for last week's polls, which were shunned by nearly 67 percent of voters. Some observers believe the outcome of the first round of the elections has raised doubts over whether the 2022 presidential election would come down to a duel between Macron and Le Pen in a runoff long seen as the most likely scenario.