Shamkhani Warns Europe against Playing US-Israeli Game

A senior Iranian official has warned European countries against playing into the hands of the United States and the Israeli regime as European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal propose fresh sanctions against Tehran under the pressure of Washington.

"Defense capabilities, particularly the missile program, of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which have a deterrent nature, will firmly be continued based on national security necessities," Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said in a meeting with Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran on Saturday, according to Press TV.

"Political and media propaganda will have no impact on their development," he added.

Russia to Expel 23 British Diplomats, Close Consulate General in St. Petersburg

MOSCOW- Twenty three British diplomats have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"On March 17, British Ambassador to Moscow Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry where he was handed a note saying that in response to provocative actions of the British side and evidence-free accusations against the Russian Federation over the incident in the city of Salisbury on March 4 this year, the Russian side has taken the following retaliatory measures.

Twenty three diplomats of the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week’s time, according to Itar Tass.

US Prepared Militants for Conducting Chemical Attacks, Poised to Hit Syria: Moscow

Provocations by US-trained militants groups using chemical weapons will serve as a pretext for the United States to attack Syria, and Moscow has seen corresponding preparatory moves, including the formation of naval strike groups, the Russian General Staff has said.

"We note the evidence of preparation for possible attacks. Strike groups of naval carriers with cruise missiles are being formed in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, in the Persian Gulf and in the Red Sea," chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Col. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy said, according to Sputnik.

US Extends Sanctions against Russia

The US administration has for the first time applied the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to impose sanctions against Russian citizens and organizations. The relevant information has been spread by Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury.

The sanctions were imposed due to "Russia’s continuing destabilizing activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 U.S. election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya attack, a cyber-attack attributed to the Russian military on February 15, 2018,” the Treasury said in the statement.

Putin ‘Extremely Concerned’ over UK’s ‘Destructive, Provocative’ Stance in Skripal Case – Kremlin

In his first public reaction to the UK measures against Russia in ex-spy Sergei Skripal’s poisoning, President Vladimir Putin said he was “extremely concerned” by the “destructive and provocative” stance of the UK.

A “detailed discussion” of the current crisis in Russian-UK relations was held when Putin met with top officials from the Russian government, military and security services on Thursday, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “Extreme concern was expressed about the destructive and provocative stance taken by the British side,” the spokesman added.

US Military Helicopter Crashes in Western Iraq

A US military helicopter, with seven service members onboard, has crashed in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, US officials say.

According to Press TV, the aircraft was a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and it crashed near al-Qaim town near the Syrian border on Thursday, two US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the officials said fatalities were "likely" and that there were no indications that the helicopter was shot down by hostile forces.

Russia Calls on US to Stop Supporting Terrorists, Including in E Ghouta – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the US-led coalition to stop supporting terrorists in Syria especially in Eastern Ghouta, where tensions have been running high recently.

"The most important thing is that in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria, the US-led coalition, which is conducting an aerial operation there and has a large number of special forces on the ground, ceases to support terrorists, such as Nusra Front and all other factions that the West considers to be not extremist. For some reason these factions work under the "umbrella" of Nusra Front and have a common command. The UN Security Council Resolution 2254 demands the terrorists be shunned," the top diplomat said during the “Russia – Land of Opportunity” forum .

Nebenzya Vehemently Denies British Allegations that Russia Perpetrated Nerve Agent Attack on UK Soil

UN Security Council representative Vasily Nebenzya vehemently denied British allegations that Russia perpetrated a nerve agent attack on UK soil, while imploring Council members to think critically about the incident.

Nebenzya stated that, following the letter and the 24-hour ultimatum from British Prime Minister Theresa May, Russia had called for an open, not closed, meeting of the Security Council, in the interests of transparency. “We wanted to make sure everyone sees what’s happening here,” Nebenzya said, RT reported.

He went on to decry the “completely irresponsible statements” and “threats against a permanent member of the UNSC” made by British politicians calling the international community to look beyond “highly likely” type of proof, while reaffirming that Russia “had nothing to do with this incident.”