Russia warns countries: Don't sell arms to Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Egypt - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends talks at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. - -/Russian Foreign Ministry/dpa

Moscow is warning countries not to supply weapons to Kiev, amid an escalation in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"We urge all responsible countries that we communicate with - and Turkey is one of them - that we strongly recommend they analyze the situation and the Kiev regime’s constant belligerent statements, and we also warn them against encouraging these militaristic aspirations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying Monday in Egypt by the Itar-TASS news agency.

The warning comes against a background of Turkey delivering combat drones, for which Ukraine had signed a contract in 2019.

Half a dozen have already been delivered, according to media reports.

According to the Defence Ministry in Kiev, further contracts for the delivery of combat drones, including ammunition as well as for the construction of patrol boats, were concluded in December.

Lavrov also criticized the deployment of US warships to the Black Sea, saying the question remains unanswered as to what the US wanted there, thousands of kilometres away from its own territory. According to Turkey, the US had given notice of passage of warships through the Black Sea straits by May 4.

Amid the seven-year conflict, reports of Russian troop movements towards the Ukrainian border have recently caused international concern.

Parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions along the Russian border have been under the control of pro-Moscow fighters since 2014.

According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have been killed since then. Since the beginning of this year, 50 fatalities had been reported despite a ceasefire.

On Monday, the Ukrainian army again reported the death of a government soldier.

The European Union said it was following Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border and on the Crimean Peninsula with great concern.

The EU called on the Russian authorities to refrain from any steps that would lead to further tensions, a spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

A renewed escalation of the conflict would be unacceptable from the EU's point of view.

The spokesperson also called on Russia to step up efforts to implement the 2015 peace plan. The EU welcomed the efforts being made by Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Selenskyj, in this regard.

German politicians commemorate Holocaust victims at Buchenwald camp

Commemoration of the liberation of concentration camps in Germany - German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech at the German National Theatre during an event commemorating the liberation of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps 76 years ago. - Ronny Hartmann/AFP-POOL/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the premier of the state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, on Sunday led a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

It was the task of democracy not to let the Nazi crimes be forgotten, Ramelow said during the ceremony commemorating 76 years since the camps of Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora were liberated.

"We will not be able to transfer this memory to a museum. [Remembrance] is a daily task," said Steinmeier. The camps stood for racial fanaticism, murder and extermination, he added.

During the commemorative event, which was streamed online, there were speeches by survivors of the camp from the United States, Italy and France, though they could not be present in person due to the coronavirus pandemic, just like last year.

The concentration camp near Weimar, the largest on German territory by the end of the war, was liberated on April 11, 1945 with the help of US forces. It was built by the Nazis in 1937.

Some 56,000 people died there, either murdered or from hunger, illness and the consequences of forced labour.

In nearby Mittelbau-Dora, around 60,000 inmates were forced to build rockets in an underground shaft. At least 20,000 of them died.

Israeli President Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with formation of government

Israeli President nominates Netanyahu to form new government - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters on stage at the party headquarters after polls closed in the Israeli Parliamentary election. President of Israel Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday nominated Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, with forming a government. - Noam Moskowitz/dpa

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government two weeks after Israel’s fourth election in two years.

Rivlin entrusted the premier with the task after Netanyahu received the most recommendations during post-election talks with party leaders, in a speech from his residence on Tuesday.

Rivlin emphasized that while none of the 13 groups represented in parliament currently held a majority, Netanyahu had slightly better chances of forming a coalition.

However, it was not an easy decision to put Netanyahu in charge of forming the government again, given he is being tried for corruption, Rivlin said.

Netanyahu, the first sitting premier in Israel's history to stand trial, is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. Prosecutors allege Netanyahu systematically accepted expensive gifts and tried to improve media coverage of him in return for favours.

Voters were again evenly split in the last election, giving no candidate a clear path to victory.

As before, the split lies between a bloc supporting Netanyahu and a group of other parties hoping to oust the long-serving leader.

Netanyahu's Likud party again got the most votes, with 30. Next came the Atid party, with 17. It has ruled out a coalition with Likud. The conservative religious Shas party came in third place, with nine mandates.

That presages another round of tough negotiations. The last election resulted in a broad, unstable coalition of political enemies that would have seen them taking turns in the prime minister's office. It collapsed after only a few months amid a fight about the budget.

Egypt parades trove of ancient royal mummies on Cairo's streets

Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Egypt - Carriages carrying the mummies of ancient Egyptian kings and Queens roll out of the Egyptian Museum near Cairo's Tahrir Square during the "Pharaohs' Golden Parade", a procession held to transport the mummified bodies of 22 ancient Egyptian kings and queens from the Egyptian Museum to their new resting place at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, located on the shore of Ayn as Sirah Lake. - Gehad Hamdy/dpa

Egypt on Saturday paraded 22 ancient royal mummies along the streets of Cairo, as the country hopes to draw global attention to its rich wealth of antiquities.

The parade marked the transfer of the mummies from their long residence at the Egyptian Museum in iconic Tahrir Square in central Cairo to a new Cairo museum in the historic area of al-Fustat.

Authorities temporarily closed the roads used by the procession, dubbed the "Pharaohs' Golden Parade" to allow for smooth transfer of the mummies in a city noted for usual traffic snarls.

The mummies of 18 pharaonic kings and four queens were carried onto gold-coloured, ancient-Egyptian-styled carriages.

The mummies were placed inside special containers filled with nitrogen to protect them during the parade broadcast live on different Egyptian television stations, said antiquity officials.

Each cart was emblazoned with the name of the royal it carried.

The mummies included that of Rameses II, one of the country's most powerful ancient rulers.

The mummies were originally discovered in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor and later kept for decades in the Egyptian Museum.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi called the event "unique."

He welcomed the convoy of mummies at their arrival at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in al-Fustat.

In their new home, the mummies and their sarcophagi will be "appropriately" displayed, the officials added.

Egypt is seeking to revive its battered tourism industry, a main source of national income.

The industry has been hit by unrest since the 2011 uprising against long-time ruler Hosny Mubarak as well as the global pandemic.

41 people killed in deadly train accident in eastern Taiwan

Train derailment in eastern Taiwan - Rescue members of the Keelung City Fire Department search for people who are stranded and injured in compartments after a train carrying 490 people derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan. At least 66 were injured and 48 others were killed, according to Taiwan’s National Fire Agency. - Keelung City Fire Department/ZUMA Wire/dpa

At least 41 people were killed in a deadly train derailment in eastern Taiwan, officials said on Friday.

An eight-carriage train with more than 350 passengers onboard appeared to have been hit by an engineering vehicle falling from a slope as it passed a tunnel in Hualien county in eastern Taiwan, according to Hualien County Fire Department.

Several carriages were severely damaged in the crash, according to footage aired on local TV.

Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang on Friday expressed his apologies to the passengers and sent his condolences to the victims' families.

"I want to express my deep sympathies to the victims’ families and to the passengers who were injured," Su told a news conference in Taipei, adding that he regretted the incident. He said he would immediately leave Taipei for Hualien.

According to the National Fire Agency, 41 people were killed and at least 66 were injured and are being treated in hospital.

The derailment occurred on the first day of a four-day break for Taiwan's annual tomb-sweeping tradition.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen has instructed the authorities to continue their rescue activities and to comprehensively investigate the cause of the accident.

The last major train crash in Taiwan was in October 2018, when 18 people died.

Germany limits general use of AstraZeneca jabs to people over 60

German Chancellor Angela Merkel press conference in Berlin - German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) following an online meeting with state premiers to discuss how to proceed with the Astrazeneca vaccine at the Chancellery. - Markus Schreiber/AP POOL/dpa

Germany's federal and health ministers have agreed to limit the general use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine to people over age 60 starting Wednesday, citing concerns about blood clots.

People under 60 should be able to receive the shot, but only "at the discretion of doctors, and after individual risk analysis and thorough explanation," according to the decision by the health ministers seen by dpa on Tuesday.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and the 16 state health ministers came to the decision in an emergency meeting, after authorities in the cities of Berlin and Munich decided to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 60.

Spahn said that while it was a setback in one sense for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be an increased risk for a certain age group, it also meant more people over 60 could be vaccinated more quickly.

"In that respect, I can really just expressly ask all people over 60 to take advantage of this vaccination offer," Spahn said.

Germany's vaccine commission issued a corresponding recommendation for AstraZeneca's use, due to data on "rare, but very severe thromboembolic side effects" that had predominantly been observed in people under 60 in the four to 16 days after vaccination.

The side effects concerned blood clots in cerebral veins, especially observed among younger women.

Chancellor Angela Merkel justified the new age restrictions by saying that they helped to ensure confidence in coronavirus vaccines.

"Trust comes from the knowledge that every suspicion, every single case will be looked into," said Merkel in Berlin after consultations with the country's 16 state premiers. Openness and transparency are the best ways to deal with such a situation, the chancellor added.

Earlier, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, a medical regulatory body, said there had been 31 cases of cerebral thrombosis that were suspected to have occurred after administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Nine of those cases resulted in the death of patients, the institute said. All except two occurred in women between ages 20 and 63.

Earlier on Tuesday, several state and city authorities already suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for anyone under the age of 60, citing new data on suspected side effects.

Berlin Health Senator Dilek Kalayci announced the move and referred to it as a "precautionary measure." She said Berlin authorities would wait for the outcome of talks at the federal level.

The Charite and Vivantes hospitals in the capital had suspended AstraZeneca jabs until further notice for women under the age of 55.

"From Charite's point of view, this step is necessary, since further cerebral vein thromboses in women in Germany have become known," Charite spokesperson Manuela Zingl said.

In the western state of North Rhine Westphalia, the heads of five of the six university hospitals also spoke out in favour of a temporary halt of AstraZeneca vaccinations for younger women.

The risk of further deaths is too high, according to a joint letter to the federal and state health ministers seen by dpa.

Authorities in the southern German city of Munich also suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 60.

"Due to current developments, the city has decided, like Berlin, to suspend vaccinations with AstraZeneca for people under 60 as a precautionary measure until the question of possible complications for this group of people has been clarified," a spokesperson said.

Germany and numerous other countries had temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca in March because several cases of thrombosis (blood clots) in the cerebral veins were reported.

The vaccine was deemed safe again for use shortly thereafter.

Indonesian police: Weekend church suicide bombers were married couple

Bomb explosion in Indonesia - A police officer works outside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral after a bomb explosion Yesterday. Police said two people killed and 20 people were injured in a suspected suicide bombing was carried out by two people. - Herwin Bahar/ZUMA Wire/dpa

The people who carried out a suicide attack outside a church in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province at the weekend were a newly married couple, police said on Monday.

Twenty people were injured when two people on a motorbike detonated explosives as they were being stopped by security guards at the gate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in the provincial capital of Makassar on Sunday.

The suspects belonged to the local branch of the militant network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and were linked to another couple who carried out a deadly twin-bombing in the southern Philippines in 2019, national police spokesperson Argo Yuwono said.

"The couple got married six months ago," Argo told reporters.

Indonesian couple Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh carried out an attack that left 23 people dead at a cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the Philippines, in January 2019, according to Philippine authorities.

National police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the husband, identified by his initial L, left a goodbye message for his parents.

"He said that he was ready to be a martyr," Listyo said at a news conference on Monday.

Listyo said police had arrested five people in West Nusa Tenggara province in connection with the attack.

Investigators also found five bombs and explosive materials during the raids on houses in Jakarta and the neighbouring suburb of Bekasi, he said.

Late on Sunday, Listyo said the attackers were members of the local cell of JAD, a domestic militant group that supports Islamic State.

"The person belonged to the group whose members were arrested some time ago," Listyo said, referring to the arrest of 18 JAD suspects and the killing of two others in Makassar in January.

"This group is connected to the group that carried out the attack in Jolo," he added.

JAD has been blamed for a series of militant attacks in Indonesia in recent years, including suicide attacks on three churches in Surabaya, the country's second-largest city, in 2018.

The coordinated attacks involving two families, including children, killed 15 people and 13 attackers.

Los Angeles gets ready to raise the curtain on blockbuster museum

Los Angeles gets ready to raise the curtain on blockbuster museum - "Bruce the Shark" installation at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles in November 2020. - Todd Wawrychuk/Academy Museum Foundation/dpa

Even hanging from the ceiling, Bruce, an 8-metre-long shark, is still menacing. The dummy shark from the horror blockbuster "Jaws" has his own special spot at Los Angeles' Academy Museum of Motion Pictures - coming soon to viewers like you.

After several delays, the countdown until the museum's release is on: The film industry's prestige project will open in September 2021.

It is a long-cherished dream and long overdue that Los Angeles finally gets its first film museum, says museum director Bill Kramer.

It's been a labour of love for many people to say the least.

Plans for the ambitious building by Italian star architect Renzo Piano were announced back in 2012. Costs shot up to more than 480 million dollars, and the opening was delayed several times, most recently being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the museum, the history of film is to be celebrated over an area of almost 28,000 square metres, spread over seven floors and a futuristic domed building. The collection features countless items, including screenplays, costumes, posters and production design.

Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro gives a foretaste of his fantasy creatures, which will have their own dedicated exhibition, while in a gallery named after director Steven Spielberg, scenes from more than 700 films from all over the world will be shown on 10 monitors.

Oscar-winner Spike Lee also has his say: A collection of beloved items that have shaped his work will be part of the museum. The director behind "BlacKkKlansman," among others, says he especially wants to get school children interested in the world of film.

Curator Jessica Niebel is in charge of the museum's opening exhibition on the work of Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki.

The 80-year-old is world famous for films such as "My Neighbour Totoro" and "Spirited Away." Niebel hopes that the celebrated director will pay a visit for the first retrospective of his work.

She is also optimistic about the latest opening dating in September and takes a positive view of the museum's delayed inauguration.

"We are living in a time when so much is changing in cultural and social discourse, and our museum now has the chance to respond to this," she tells dpa, referring to topics like diversity and racism.

In this way, the museum will also illuminate some of the "less proud" moments of film history. For example, the Academy Awards in 1940.

That's when Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar with her supporting role in the Southern epic "Gone with the Wind." At the awards, however, she was not allowed to sit at a table with the rest of the cast and crew because of her skin colour.

For Niebel, who worked at the German Film Museum in Frankfurt before moving to Los Angeles in 2016, one of the highlights is the round spaceship Aries 1B from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The rare prop from the filming of the 1968 sci-fi classic looks "simply magnificent" after restoration, she says delightedly.

Stars like Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and George Lucas, as well as film studios, foundations and companies, donated millions for the construction of the academy. One of the glass bridges that connects the elegant old building on Wilshire Boulevard with a bold, gigantic sphere of glass, steel and concrete is named after Streisand.

In the belly of the sphere is the David Geffen cinema, with 1,000 seats. Above it is a huge terrace from which one looks down on the famous Hollywood sign.

Niebel admires not only the millions donated, but also the time and energy that big stars put into the project. "Tom Hanks and Annette Bening, for example, were always ready [to help] when asked ... The Academy Museum is a real labour of love for them," she says.

With cultural institutions being shut down for a long period due to the coronavirus pandemic, Niebel expects the museum to receive a lot of visitors on its opening day. But, she adds, there's also a lot online for people abroad who might not be able to make it right away.

"The museum can expand internationally and reach people who can never come here," says Niebel.

Where hippos are pets: Pablo Escobar's lasting legacy in Colombia

Where hippos are pets: Pablo Escobar's lasting legacy in Colombia - Vanessa is the only hippo who still lives in a fenced-in pond area at Hacienda Napoles, Pablo Escobar's luxury estate in Colombia. - Luis Bernardo Cano/dpa

The kangaroos, giraffes and elephants that once lived at the private zoo at Pablo Escobar's estate, Hacienda Napoles, are long gone, just like the Colombian drug lord himself.

The only remaining legacy is a population of hippos. And they are thriving. So much so that it's becoming a problem for the region.

"We have one goal: to stop the uncontrollable growth of the hippos," biologist David Echeverri of the regional environmental agency CORNARE tells dpa. The animals can damage the ecosystem, displace native species and alter water quality. The latest effort is trying to obtain contraceptives for Escobar's fertile "cocaine hippos."

The current population all stems from four African hippos brought to Hacienda Napoles, 170 kilometres from Medellin, as a show of wealth and power by Escobar, who dominated the illegal drug trade with the United States in the 1970s and '80s with his Medellin cartel.

These days, the 3,000-hectare estate is an amusement park, and about 80 hippos in total frolic about the nearby Puerto Triunfo community.

"The animals are a blessing, they bring many tourists," says Isabel Romero from Estacion Cocorna village. She and her sons offer boat tours for 60 dollars to the spots where the hippos like to hang out.

After Escobar was killed by security forces in 1993, the hippos were left to fend for themselves. Luckily for them, the tropical climate, without any natural enemies, was a perfect spot for them to live.

"About 10 years ago, we started to realize that we had a huge hippo population," according to Echeverri. "We began to study the population to see if there was an immediate solution," he explains.

But by then, it was too late. Just 10 hippos have been castrated, a costly and difficult process, and four have been taken to zoos in Colombia. The rest of the hippos just continued reproducing unabated.

While about 40 hippos can move freely back and forth from the lake near Hacienda Napoles, the female hippo Vanessa is the only one who has her own pond at the luxury estate. Tourists pet and feed Vanessa, who was cast out from the herd, despite the dangers hippos can pose.

Hippos are, in fact, more dangerous than crocodiles and lions put together. Their weight is enough to capsize boats, a fact that keeps many fishermen on the local river, the Rio Magdalena, on the lookout.

However, residents in the area have mostly become used to the hippos' presence in their rivers and in the streets. In the village of Doradal, the main advice is "If you don't hurt them, they won't hurt you," according to Ana Rita Duque Quiceno.

"We keep a safe distance and take pictures. Nothing has ever happened that way," she says.

Even barking dogs don't bother the hippos - they themselves are now pets. That's why researchers' recent suggestion that the hippos be killed didn't sit well with people in the area and animal lovers.

The pot had been stirred already in 2009 when Pepe, a stray hippo, was shot on the orders of the Environment Ministry. Soldiers posed with the dead hippo, sparking outrage that caused the hippo to become nationally famous and leading to a court ban on hunting them in 2012.

Besides a fondness for the animals, they're also a source of revenue.

Doradal is a veritable Hippo Disneyland nowadays, complete with a pnk hippo statue and hippo-shaped drink stand. Kids like Miller Steven Diaz, 9, are being trained to become tour guides in the future.

The hippos, just like Escobar, have a mixed legacy. The drug kingpin was seen by some as evil personified, while others view him as a kind of South American Robin Hood.

Similarly, the hippos are a part of Escobar's legacy that some people want to get rid of, while others don't want to part with so easily.

The researchers are aware that their recommendation to kill the hippos is difficult to implement when that factor is taken into consideration, besides the general popularity of the animals.

Their last hope, then, is to turn to science and chemical castration.

People around the world switch off lights for Earth Hour

Earth Hour in Frankfurt - The full moon is reflected in the facade of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters during the worldwide climate and environmental protection campaign "Earth Hour". he lighting of well-known buildings was switched off for 60 minutes to send a visible signal for the preservation of our planet. - Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa

Despite coronavirus restrictions, people around the world went dark for Earth Hour on Saturday in order to bring light to the issue of climate change.

The global climate change event encourages nations to turn off their lights for an hour at 8:30 pm local time.

New Zealand was the first to do so, with Auckland's Sky Tower and Wellington's parliament buildings switching off at 8:30 pm (0730 GMT).

In Germany, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate was shrouded in darkness, while Paris' Eiffel Tower and the Vatican's Saint Peter's Basilica also hit the switch. Other cities that participated included Singapore, Tokyo, Moscow and Sydney with its famous opera house.

Many citizens also took part in the event called by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), switching off the lights in their homes.

"#EarthHour reminds us that small actions can make a great difference for our planet," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.

"With Earth Hour, millions of people around the world show that we have to do more against the climate crisis and for a planet that is alive," said Marco Vollmar of WWF Germany.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Australia, with 190 countries and territories taking part in the initiative in 2020.

Five more activists killed during anti-Modi protest in Bangladesh

Protest against Indian prime minister's visit in Dhaka - Bangladeshi police arrest a protester in front of the National Press Club during a protest against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi. - Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA Wire/dpa

Five more Islamist activists have died in clashes with security forces during the second day of protests against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh, officials and hospital staff said on Saturday.

Four of them were shot during clashes between the Islamic group Hefazat-e-Islami Bangladesh and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, Abdul Momin Fuad, a local leader of the group, told reporters.

The fifth activist was shot dead when activists from the ruling Awami League party attacked the group, he added.

Abdullah Al Mamun, a medical officer at the district's main public hospital, confirmed that three bodies covered in bullet injuries were brought to the hospital in the evening from the protest site, and two among at least 20 others admitted with bullet wounds died later.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told local news portal that the law enforcement agents fired their guns in self defence.

Hefazat-e-Islami Bangladesh called a nationwide general strike for Sunday to protest the police attacks.

On Friday, four activists were shot dead in Chattogram while another man died in Brahmanbaria as demonstrators clashed with police on the day the Indian premier arrived in Dhaka to join Bangladesh’s golden jubilee celebration of independence.

Modi left Dhaka for New Delhi on Saturday, wrapping up his two-day official trip.

Modi is a hated figure among some groups in Bangladesh. He has been accused of inciting a riot against Muslims in 2002 while he was chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people were reportedly killed.

Police say blast outside Indonesian church is suspected bombing

Bomb explosion in Indonesia - A bomb squad member works in front of the Makassar Cathedral Church after a bomb explosion. Police said nine people were injured and it was likely a suicide bombing and that the suspect was dead. - Herwin Bahar/ZUMA Wire/dpa

Several people were injured in a blast outside a church in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province on Sunday morning, local television reported.

Provincial police spokesman E Zulpan said the explosion was believed to be from a bomb. The blast took place at 10:28 am (0328 GMT).

Body parts had been found at the scene, he said.

The Kompas TV news channel said it was a suspected suicide attack.

A police bomb squad and ambulances have arrived at the scene.

Iran and China sign long-term cooperation agreement 

Chinese Foreign Minister in Tehran - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting. - -/Iranian Presidency/dpa

Iran and China inked a long-term cooperation agreement in Tehran on Saturday, state television reported.

The comprehensive agreement signed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, aims to expand bilateral cooperation in various fields in the next 25 years.

The agreement paves the way for billions in Chinese investment in Tehran, and in return, Iran wants to supply oil to Beijing at favourable prices. Military cooperation is also part of the plans.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani described cooperation with China as strategic and said that the new agreement will deepen this partnership even further. "We want China to be a major trading partner," he said during his meeting with Wang Yi on Saturday.

Iran is facing a crippling economic crisis due to sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. With US President Joe Biden seemingly unwilling to lift sanctions in the short term, the government in Tehran has been aligning itself more closely with Russia and China.

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