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Russia raps US 'unhelpful' threat

Russia criticizes the United States for threatening Iran ahead of the key talks in Vienna on parties’ obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal. Mikhail Ulyanov says Washington’s stance against Tehran is unhelpful and unwelcome. It comes after the US warned it would confront Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency over the country's alleged refusal to cooperate with the watchdog. Signatories to the nuclear deal are set to meet on Monday for the seventh round of their talks, after a five-month break. Tehran says the negotiations will be focused on the removal of anti-Iran sanctions. The US imposed the bans on Iran after pulling out of the accord in 2018.

Russia-NATO tensions

Tensions simmer over Russia’s troop buildup near its borders with Ukraine. NATO has warned Moscow it will respond to any use of force against the country. The comments by Stoltenberg echo those coming from Washington. The US has called the military buildup unusual warning all options are on the table to counter Russia. The US, NATO and Ukraine have raised the alarm over Moscow’s military movements, claiming it is planning to attack Ukraine. Russia, however dismisses the allegations. It says the increased military activity near borders with Ukraine is defensive. Russia says the steps are in response to the growing NATO presence near its borders.

New covid-19 variant

The world health organization says the new covid-19 strain discovered in South Africa is a variant of concern. The official said that the WHO is closely monitoring the new variant it has dubbed Omicron. She called for adherence to social distancing and wearing masks to minimize possible exposure to the virus as scientists study its severity and transmissibility. Meanwhile, countries around the world are taking extra measures to curb the spread of the new strain. The European Union nations have announced a ban on travel from countries in southern Africa. Similar restrictions have also been announced by other countries including Iran, Canada and the US.

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