Iran news headlines on Saturday include Iran releasing new indigenous fighter jet, Qaher-313; US Defense Secretary accusing Iran of escalating efforts to destabilize the Middle East; US Vice President stressing on US willingness for direct talks with Iran; Vatican dismissing Turkish gunman claim about Iranian link to pope shooting; Iran security chief traveling to Syria for meeting with President Bashar Assad and Iran’s currency plummeting to an all-time dollar low on Saturday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has unveiled the country’s newest fighter jet, which officials claim can evade radar.
Ahmadinejad said at a Saturday ceremony broadcast on state TV that Qaher-313, or Dominant-313, showed Iran’s will to “capture peaks.”
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused Iran of an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East by smuggling anti-aircraft weapons to militant allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
“There is no question when you start passing MANPADS around, that becomes a threat, not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft,” Panetta told the newspaper in an interview. “That is an escalation.”
Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions – but only if the leadership in Tehran “is serious.”
Washington has indicated in the past that it’s prepared to hold talk directly with Iran, and talks involving all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany have made little headway.
The Vatican is dismissing Mehmet Ali Agca’s latest claim about who ordered him to assassinate Pope John Paul II.
The Turkish gunman, who has changed his account many times, writes in “They Promised Me Paradise,” released Thursday in Italy, that Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the killing and that he was trained to carry it out by Khomeini’s forces after he escaped from a Turkish prison.
A senior Iranian security official was expected in Damascus on Saturday for a meeting with President Bashar Assad, Iranian officials in the Syrian capital said.
Saeed Jalili, who heads the Supreme National Security Council, would also meet with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, the officials told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.
Iran’s currency plummeted to an all-time low on Saturday, registering a more than 21-percent drop in a span of two weeks against the US dollar, currency tracking websites and money changers said.
The rial was traded at between 39,000 and 40,000 per dollar on the open market on Saturday, down from about 33,000 two weeks ago.
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