Sunday, July 31, 2005

Defiant Iran to resume key nuclear tests


By Alec Russell in Washington and Behzad Farsian, Iran Correspondent

(Filed: 01/08/2005)

Iran dramatically raised the stakes in the international crisis over its nuclear ambitions yesterday, pledging to defy the West by resuming a key part of its sensitive nuclear fuel processing as early as today.

With less than a day's notice Teheran issued a deadline of 12.30pm GMT yesterday for European Union negotiators to present proposals for incentives for Iran to suspend indefinitely its nuclear programme. Part of the uranium enrichment process at the Isfahan plant, Iran A British official labelled it a "dangerous step". The Foreign Office urged Teheran not to take "unilateral steps" that could jeopardise months of negotiations with the European Union. But last night Iranian officials indicated that the deadline had passed and that it would press ahead with its threat. The latest showdown raises the possibility that Iran will be referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions, a course of action long sought by the Bush administration. Some diplomats are clinging to the hope that this is a last-minute attempt by Iran to put pressure on Europe ahead of negotiations that had been planned for later this week. Teheran insists its nuclear programme is for civilian and peaceful purposes only and is needed to create electricity. But the EU fears and Washington is convinced that Iran is really seeking to make nuclear weapons. The EU troika heading the nuclear talks with Iran - Britain, France and Germany - was planning to offer Iran later this week some economic, political and security incentives as a carrot to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programme. Officials had said the proposals would be submitted after president Mahmood Ahmadinejad takes office on Wednesday.

Iran suspended all uranium enrichment and conversion last November under intense diplomatic pressure. It insists that the deadline for the EU to present its bargaining chip was Aug 1 and made clear yesterday that it felt entitled to resume activities today.

"If we do not receive the EU proposal today, tomorrow morning we will start part of [our] activities in Isfahan's uranium conversion facility," Ali Aghamohammadi, a spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said yesterday. He added that all work would be done under the supervision of UN inspectors.

The Foreign Office said the EU would produce new proposals within a week despite Iran's threat.

Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said Iran would inform the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, by today at the latest of its intention to resume uranium conversion work.

"The time limit [on the suspension of such activities] has passed and public opinion cannot wait any longer," he said.

According to last November's agreement, Iran committed itself to continue and extend its suspension to include all "enrichment related and reprocessing activities". Iran's pledge threatens to set in train what many in Washington and Europe had long feared would be a summer of confrontation over its nuclear ambitions.

Italy bans Islamic burqas

The Australian:

Natasha Bita, Florence

August 01, 2005

ITALY has banned Islamic burqas under tough terrorism laws that provide two-year jail terms and E2000 ($3200) fines for anyone caught covering their face in a public place.The counter-terrorism package, passed by Italy's parliament yesterday, doubles the existing penalty for wearing a burqa or chador -- traditional robes worn by Muslim women to cover their faces -- or full-faced helmets or balaclavas in public.

Police can extract DNA samples without a suspect's consent, detain them for 24 hours without a lawyer present, and deport foreigners suspected of terrorism under the new legislation. Soldiers involved in counter-terrorism have been given the same stop-and-search powers.

The changes, approved in a rare show of bipartisanship, came as Italian police arrested a fugitive hunted by British police over the bungled bombing attempt in London on July 21.

"In the course of the investigation, it has been possible to identify a dense network of individuals from the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Italy, believed to have helped the fugitive cover his tracks," Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told the Senate. "We have before us a grave threat that has to be confronted with all the means of prevention and contrast that we have." Italian media yesterday reported that the suspected terrorist, named by British police as Somali-born Hussain Osman, was Hamdi Adus Issac, 27, born in Ethiopia and allegedly granted British citizenship using false Somali documents.

Osman, who reportedly lived in Rome for several years and speaks fluent Italian, is fighting Britain's extradition request via a European arrest warrant. He slipped through Britain's security dragnet last week by catching a train from London's Waterloo station to Paris. He then moved to Milan and Rome, where Italian police arrested him during a raid on a relative's apartment. They had been tracking him by monitoring his mobile phone.

Italy's biggest newspapers reported that Osman had admitted to his Italian police interrogator that he had carried a bomb on to a train in his backpack.

Italy's opposition leader, former European Commission president Romano Prodi, yesterday pledged to withdraw Italy's 3000 troops from Iraq if his centre-left coalition wins elections due by June next year.

"We will withdraw them as a occupying force because our job will be to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq," he said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- who has said Italy will progressively withdraw its troops starting in September -- accused his rival of putting Italian soldiers' lives at risk by defining them as "occupying".

"He's breaking Western solidarity, justifying and enticing attacks against our troops," Mr Berlusconi said.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini accused Mr Prodi of exposing Italy to a terrorist attack.

Imam crackdown widens

The Australian:

August 01, 2005

LESS than a month after suicide attacks in London, French authorities have started cracking down on radical imams accused of inciting young Muslims to violence.France's Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has launched a series of measures he says will show "zero tolerance" for Muslim clerics who preach violence and recruit young men for jihad, or holy war.

In just a week, two imams out of about a dozen threatened with either expulsion or losing their French nationality were sent back to Algeria.

Reda Ameuroud, 35, an imam expelled on Friday, was arrested more than two weeks ago in what authorities called "a preventive anti-terror operation" in a Paris neighbourhood that is home to a mosque known for attracting radicals.

Another Algerian, Abdelhamid Aissaoui, 41, was banished from France on July 23. He was an "occasional imam", who had been sentenced to four years in prison for participating in an attempted attack in 1995 on a high-speed train near Lyon, organised by Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

French authorities have zeroed in on a dozen imams, most of them from North Africa but also some from Turkey, who are preaching in and around cities with large immigrant populations such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

They are also monitoring about a dozen other people deemed potentially dangerous due to the content of their speeches.

France has less than 1,000 imams and officials point out that the vast majority of them do not pose any problem.

About half of the imams preach regularly, while 320 only lead Friday prayers, and 150 are occasional preachers. Thirty per cent of French imams are Moroccans, 20 per cent Algerians and another 20 per cent are French, with Turks accounting for about 15 per cent.

Of the 1,500 or so Muslim places of worship in France, less than 40 are under the influence of hardline radicals, with their preaching extending from "'classic fundamentalism' to more violent ideas", police officials said.

The self-proclaimed, or "occasional", imams often do not have any training and only a cursory knowledge of the Koran, Islam's holy book.

Despite a lack of scholarship, these preachers can exercise influence over youths from disadvantaged neighbourhoods looking for some sort of identity.

"The title of imam has been tarnished, it is often usurped," said Dalil Boubakeur, the moderate president of the French Council of the Muslim Religion, the first recognised national organisation for France's estimated 5 million Muslims.

"Sometimes all that's needed is a djellaba (kaftan) and a turban to pass for an Islamic sheikh."

The French crackdown on imams is cause for concern in immigrant communities, which were rattled 18 months ago by the adoption of a French law that barred religious insignia -- notably the Muslim headscarf -- from state schools.

"We are not killers -- immigrants are human beings, not cockroaches," said one Frenchman of Egyptian origin near the Paris mosque where Ameuroud preached.

France cracks down on radical Muslim clerics

Hindustan Times:

Agence France-Presse

Paris, July 31, 2005

France's tough-talking interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has launched a series of measures he says will show "zero tolerance" for Muslim clerics who preach violence and recruit young men for jihad, or holy war.

In just a week, two imams out of about a dozen threatened with either expulsion or losing their French nationality were sent back to Algeria.

Reda Ameuroud, 35, an imam expelled on Friday, was arrested more than two weeks ago in what authorities called "a preventive anti-terror operation" in a Paris neighbourhood that is home to a mosque known for attracting radicals.

Another Algerian, Abdelhamid Aissaoui, 41, was banished from France on July 23. He was an "occasional imam", who had been sentenced to four years in prison for participating in an attempted attack in 1995 on a high-speed train near Lyon, organized by Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

French authorities have zeroed in on a dozen imams, most of them from North Africa but also some from Turkey, who are preaching in and around cities with large immigrant populations like Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Iran says preparing to restart suspended nuclear activities

The Jerusalem Post:

Jul. 31, 2005 22:13


Tired of waiting for European negotiators to make a proposal in return for a nuclear freeze, Iran said Sunday it is preparing to restart some of its suspended atomic activities.

The statement triggered alarms in Paris, London and Vienna, with a British official labeling it a "dangerous step" and a European diplomat saying the EU was just days away from making Teheran a "generous" offer, including nuclear fuel, technology and other aid.

The European offer would also include "security guarantees" that Iran won't be invaded if it permanently halts uranium enrichment and related activities, European and Iranian officials confirmed.

But a senior European diplomat accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency qualified the security pledge, saying nobody could give a "100 percent guarantee" against invasion.

Iran's nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani held out the possibility of a coming "understanding" with the EU negotiators, but he warned that Iran was readying to restart uranium reprocessing work at its Isfahan Nuclear Conversion Facility, according to a report by the state Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Isfahan plant converts uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium gas, the feedstock for enrichment. Uranium enriched to high levels can be used for nuclear bombs; at low levels it is used as fuel for nuclear energy plants.

Iran's top officials were to decide Sunday evening whether to restart the plant, said Ali Agha Mohammadi, a spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"Europe has only a few hours, up to when the council meets, (to file its) proposal. If it does not arrive by that time, the council will discuss breaking the ice" on Iran's stalled nuclear program, Agha Mohammadi told state radio Sunday.

But the IAEA official in Vienna said the Europeans would present their proposal to Iran next week. The proposal was not yet finished, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

If Iran restarts the Isfahan facility, the Europeans would call an emergency IAEA board meeting, the IAEA official said. Such a meeting is likely set a deadline for the Iranians to "see the error of their ways" and stop their enrichment activities.

If such a deadline were not met, then the Europeans - with American support - would push to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for breaking their promise to desist from enrichment while talks were under way. The council could impose sanctions on Iran.

In London, a Foreign Office official warned that restarting work in Isfahan would be a damaging step. Earlier this week, French President Jacques Chirac said France's goal was to get Teheran's guarantees to renounce all enrichment activities, and if it was unsuccessful, "the question should be taken to the Security Council."

Iran suggested Sunday that the IAEA officials who are in Teheran this week might oversee the resumption of uranium reprocessing in Isfahan.

"We would like to unseal the equipment and carry on the activity under the IAEA," said Hamid Reza Asefi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman.

Iran suspended enrichment of uranium last November under international pressure led by the United States, which accuses Teheran of trying to make nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its program is peaceful and has long said its decision to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities was voluntary and temporary.

France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, had been expected to present the proposals to Iran by the beginning of August, but they requested a delay until Aug. 7.

Iran refused to wait, and said it would write the UN nuclear agency about its plans.President Mohammad Khatami, who will be replaced Aug. 6 by conservative president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said last week that Iran would resume some suspended activities, with or without European consent.

Iran: Europe Proposes Nonaggression Pact

Washington Post:


The Associated Press

Sunday, July 31, 2005; 12:55 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator said his European counterparts have proposed a guarantee that Iran will not be invaded if Tehran agrees to permanently halt uranium enrichment, the state-run news agency said Sunday.

Hasan Rowhani said the proposal is being discussed by Europeans and includes several important points such as "guarantees about Iran's integrity, independence, national sovereignty" and "nonaggression toward Iran," the Islamic Republic News Agency said Sunday.

"If Europe enjoys a serious political will about Iran's nuclear fuel cycle, there will be the possibility of understanding," the agency quoted Rowhani as saying in a letter to outgoing Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

Iran has been negotiating with France, Britain and Germany, who are acting on behalf of the 25-member European Union.

A senior European diplomat accredited to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency who is familiar with the talks confirmed that the Europeans were offering the Iranians "security guarantees," but the diplomat said no country could give "a 100 percent guarantee" to another country that it would not be invaded.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the confidential negotiations with the media.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to produce weapons, while Iran insists it aims to generate electricity. The Europeans are trying to persuade Iran to accept economic incentives in exchange for a permanent halt to enrichment.

Iran has shown growing impatience with the negotiations, insisting its suspension _ in place since November _ is not permanent.

Iran could resume nuclear conversion and enrichment at any time, Rowhani said in his letter. In the case of military attack on Iran's scattered nuclear facilities, the country could continue both tasks without any delay or fear of damage, he said.

Meanwhile, Iran's top officials were to meet Sunday evening for a final decision on when to resume work at a reprocessing center in Isfahan, said Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman for Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council.

"Europe has only a few hours, up to when the council meets, for the proposal. If it does not arrive by that time, the council will discuss breaking the ice" on Iran's stalled nuclear program, Agha Mohammadi told state-run radio.

Other incentives offered by European negotiators include promoting political and security cooperation between Iran and Europe, considering Iran as a chief source of energy for Europe, and support for Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization, Rowhani's letter stated.

Earlier Sunday, Iran threatened to resume its nuclear program and hoped to do so under the watch of the IAEA.

"Today or tomorrow we will send a letter to the IAEA about resumption of activity in the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. "We would like to unseal the equipment and carry on the activity under the IAEA."

Asefi said IAEA inspectors already were in Tehran, which means a short flight to the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

"Since our nuclear policy is transparent and legal, we will start activity upon delivering the letter to the IAEA, with the inspectors in attendance," Asefi said.

Later Sunday, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA, told the AP the agency had not received any official notification from Iran about resumption of activity at the Isfahan facility.

Once the Isfahan plant resumes work, Asefi said Tehran no longer will discuss halting activities there.

Britain warned Iran to honor agreements on its nuclear program, with a Foreign Office spokesman saying a resumption of work at the uranium reprocessing center "would be an unnecessary and damaging step."

"Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity, according to policy.

Rowhani said it appeared that European negotiators were trying to draw out their talks with Tehran until September, when the incoming Iranian administration is expected to announce its nuclear policies.

On Saturday, Iran rejected a request from European negotiators to postpone by a week the release of new European proposals for resolving the nuclear dispute. France, Britain and Germany had been expected to present the proposals to Iran by the beginning of August but requested a delay until Aug. 7.

The proposals are part of an agreement reached in May under which Iran would continue its suspension of nuclear activities in return for a comprehensive European plan for resolving the nuclear dispute.

Khatami, who will be replaced Aug. 6 by ultraconservative president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesday that Iran would resume some suspended activities, with or without European consent.

Iran has said it will not resume the more controversial step of feeding the gas into centrifuges to produce enriched uranium, which can be used either as nuclear energy fuel or as the core of a weapon.

Iran warned over nuclear programme

Daily Mail News:

31st July 2005

Britain has warned Iran to back away from a threat to resume its hugely controversial nuclear fuel programme.

In a statement, the Foreign Office urged Tehran to refrain from taking what it said would be an "unnecessary and damaging step".

Iran suspended all uranium conversion and enrichment activities in November 2004 as a result of international pressure. The US believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, though Iran insists its programme is for civilian use only.

However, Tehran has always insisted that the suspension was temporary and that it would resume some of its nuclear activities regardless of EU proposals.

Iran says the EU - represented by Britain, France and Germany (the E3) - had agreed to August 1 as a deadline for presenting a package of economic incentives to encourage Tehran to scale down its nuclear ambitions.

The three countries deny they ever agreed to such a deadline, saying they merely promised to submit their proposals in late July or early August.

Today the Foreign Office in London said: "We have received reports that the Iranians have decided to restart their uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, where activities have been suspended since November last year in accordance with successive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board resolutions and the terms of the Paris Agreement between Iran and the E3 (Britain, France and Germany).

"This would be an unnecessary and damaging step by Iran. The E3 foreign ministers and the EU High Representative have just written to Dr (Hasan) Rouhani - Iran's chief negotiator on nuclear activities - confirming that full and detailed proposals would be given to Iran in a week's time, in accordance with the decisions at the E3/Iran ministerial meeting in Geneva in May.

"We are seeking clarification of Iran's intentions. We urge them not to take any unilateral step which would contravene the Paris agreement as that would make it very difficult to continue with the E3/Iran negotiations.

"Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA."

The situation was further confused today when Dr Rouhani claimed that his European counterparts have proposed a guarantee that Iran will not be invaded if Tehran agrees to a permanent halt on uranium enrichment.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Dr Rouhani as saying that the proposal is under discussion by the Europeans and includes several important points such as "guarantees about Iran's integrity, independence, national sovereignty" and "nonaggression toward Iran."

"If Europe enjoys a serious political will about Iran's nuclear fuel cycle, there will be the possibility of understanding," the agency quoted Dr Rouhani as saying in a letter to outgoing Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

UK warns Iran over nuclear plans


Sunday, 31 July, 2005

The international dispute over Iran's nuclear programme appears to be escalating, with Tehran threatening to resume uranium conversion.

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) urged Iran not to take unilateral steps that could jeopardise talks with three European Union nations - known as the E3. The remarks came after a top Iranian official set a Sunday deadline for the EU to propose economic incentives. The UK - the current EU president - said these would be given in a week.

This was in accordance with the decisions of the Geneva meeting in May between Iran and the three European countries - Britain, France and Germany - as well as the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said the FCO spokesman.

This is threatening to become a dangerous escalation, says the BBC's Jon Leyne. If we do not receive the EU proposal today [Sunday], tomorrow morning we will start part of the activities in Isfahan's uranium conversion facility Ali Aghamohammadi Iranian spokesman

The US believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Iran insists its programme is for civilian use only.

Iran suspended all uranium conversion and enrichment activities in November 2004 as a result of international pressure.

However, it has always insisted that the suspension was temporary and that it would resume some of its nuclear activities regardless of EU proposals.

The European states have threatened to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if Iran resumes its nuclear activities.

IAEA supervision

The UK reaction came after Iran said it would resume nuclear activities at the Isfahan plant on Monday if the Europeans had not submitted their proposals.

"This will be under the supervision of UN inspectors," he said.

The FCO spokesman said this would be "an unnecessary and damaging step by Iran".

"We are seeking clarification of Iran's intentions. We urge them not to take any unilateral step which would contravene the Paris agreement as that would make it very difficult to continue with the E3/Iran negotiations.

"Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]."

Iran appears to be hardening its position but it is not clear if this is just a way of putting pressure on Europe before the talks or a serious threat, says the BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran.

Earlier this week, outgoing President Mohammad Khatami said he hoped EU diplomats would allow for a resumption of enrichment activities, but that Iran would begin again in any case.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative former Tehran mayor who was elected Iran's president last month, has said he wants to continue the nuclear programme. Uranium enrichment can be used to fuel nuclear power stations, but can also provide material for nuclear weapons.

'Sham' president declares war on liberal Iranians

Scotland on Sunday:

Sun 31 Jul 2005


OFFICIALLY, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incoming Iranian "elected" president, will assume his post next month, but his presence is already felt in the political circles and on the streets of Tehran. Since his election, under the banner of a renewed Islamic revolution, the clerical regime hanged six people and sentenced another to death in the space of seven days.

The elections were a sham and the controversy about polling irregularities is far from settled. The outgoing president, Mohammad Khatami, announced the forthcoming release of a report documenting the extent of electoral violations and smear campaigns. A similar account, further exposing factional disarray within the theocratic rule, was introduced by former parliament speaker, mullah Mehdi Karroubi, who lost his presidential bid in the first round.

While Ahmadinejad is portrayed as a "populist" son of a blacksmith, hoisting the flag of class warfare against the "wretched rich and corrupt", his win can be attributed to his unquestioned loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the full support of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps' top brass.

A former commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) Force in the Guard Corps, tasked with planning and execution of terrorist plots and assassination abroad, Ahmadinejad was catapulted to the presidency by the ultra conservative faction. His presidency was backed by Khamenei and engineered by the IRGC.

Indeed, the real story of this election is the metamorphosis of the Guards Corps from an ideological army to an omnipresent political/military powerhouse. With Ahmadinejad's win, the IRGC is now able to spread it wings over all key centres of power in Iran. This may account for the most major power realignment within the ruling theocracy since Ayatollah Khomenei's death in 1989.

The first success of the IRGC's resurgence took place during national municipal elections in 2003. Then, in the February 2004 parliamentary elections, at least 40 former IRGC commanders won seats. Shortly after, Khamenei appointed a top IRGC general as head of Iran's national broadcasting.

As an ominous sign of things to come, Ahmadi Moghaddam, the No 2 in the paramilitary Bassij, was appointed by Khamenei as Iran's new chief of police. The appointment of Moghaddam, who once said "a country where liberal ideas rule will get nowhere", brings Iran's regular police force under the domination of the IRGC and signals the readiness to rein in social and political dissent.

State-run media reported the crackdown on "social vice" and on "shops and public places in where public chastity and Islamic values are ignored" has already begun. A senior security official told reporters that "mal-veiled or unveiled individuals inside and outside of cars" would be the target of arrests. Responding to the looming crackdown, a group of students from Tehran University rallied, carrying the banner declaring, "Infidelity does not overthrow a regime, Suppression does". The students also demanded the release of all political prisoners.

The IRGC has full control over Tehran's terror network and has won the admiration of Khamenei for "running effective intelligence and diplomatic operations" in Iraq. Khamenei has also placed Iran's nuclear development under the IRGC's full command. Further, active or former commanders of the IRGC maintain control over many of the principal dailies, the municipal councils and the Supreme National Security Council.

In the aftermath of Ahmadinejad's win, and in the absence of any feasible alternative for engagement or military action that will neutralise the threats posed by Tehran, other alternatives must be considered in the complex Euro-American Tehran policy equation.

A housewife in Tehran recently expressed hope that an Ahmadinejad presidency would hasten the regime's collapse. "This is the best result," she said. "The moment of real change has just got much closer."

She may well have captured one of the strategic implications of Ahmadinejad's presidency for the success of democracy movement in Iran. And this is where the American policy towards Iran needs to gravitate. It is a security and policy imperative since only a fundamental change in Tehran will ultimately rid Iran and the region of the ayatollahs' menace and the pending nuclear weapon that may soon be at its service.

Nir Boms is the vice-president of the Centre for Freedom in the Middle East. Reza Bulorchi is the executive director of the US Alliance for Democratic Iran.

Iran says EU talks go on, no uranium enrichment

Yahoo News:

By Parisa Hafezi

July 31, 2005

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran set a Sunday deadline for the EU to submit proposals on a dispute over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, but said it would continue talks with the bloc and would not resume uranium enrichment.

It said it would restart limited uranium conversion if the European Union did not come up with the proposals by 5 p.m. (1230 GMT).

The EU -- represented by Britain, France and Germany -- is due to offer Iran a limited package of economic and political incentives to give up work that the United States suspects is a veil for efforts to build a nuclear bomb.

In return, the EU wants Iran to agree to maintain indefinitely a suspension of uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities.

Iran has said the parties originally agreed on an Aug. 1 deadline for submission of the proposals, but that ambassadors for the EU's so-called "Big Three" had asked for this to be extended by six days. Tehran said it rejected any delay.

"We will continue our talks with the EU. Iran will not resume uranium enrichment," Ali Aghamohammadi, a spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, told Reuters.

"The Europeans have until 1700 today to submit their proposals."

If the EU did not submit its proposals the "only activity we will resume is to lift part of the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan and it will be only limited activities," he said.


The plant in the central city of Isfahan takes processed uranium ore, mined in Iran's central desert, and turns it into uranium hexafluoride gas. This gas can be pumped into centrifuges that spin at supersonic speed to enrich the uranium.

It was not clear whether Iran, which says its nuclear program is only for power generation, was using a tough stance over a matter of a few days to put pressure on the EU.

Diplomats in the EU's "Big Three" countries said they were not aware the bloc had committed itself firmly to Aug. 1.

They said there had been an agreement at talks with Iran in Geneva last May that the EU would submit proposals by the end of July or "early August."

Waiting until Aug. 7 would allow the EU to present its offer after the inauguration of Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Aug. 3.

Regardless of the date, diplomats have expressed little optimism a deal can be done. EU diplomats say the European offer is predicated on Iran agreeing to maintain indefinitely its suspension of uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities.

If it does not do so, they have threatened to back U.S. demands to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Analysts are uncertain what effect a new president will have on the dispute over Iran's nuclear program but suggest negotiators take their orders directly from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, bypassing the government.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Demonstrators attack regime's Supreme Leader offices in NE Iran


SMCCDI (Information Service)

Jul 29, 2005

Angry demonstrators attacked, on Thursday, several public buildings including the Offices of the regime's Supreme Leader in the northeastern City of Khorvin located in Khorassan province.

Buildings and security patrol cars were heavily damaged by angry demonstrators who retaliated to the security forces' use of rubber bullets and tear gas.

The riot follows a serie of unrests which took place, few days before, in the same city and other cities of the province, such as, Mashad. They had resulted in injury and arrest of tens of residents.

Peaceful protesters had hoped to attract the supreme leader's attention at the occasion of his official visit of the province and pilgrimage of the shrine of Reza, a Shia Imam.

Iran rejects EU request to delay nuclear proposals

Swiss Info:

Saturday 30.07.2005, CET 20:06

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Saturday rejected a European Union request to delay submitting EU proposals to solve a dispute over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme, a spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council said.

The European Union, represented by Britain, France and Germany, were due to offer Iran a limited package of nuclear, economic and political incentives to give up work the United States suspects is a veil for efforts to build a nuclear bomb.In return, the EU wanted Iran to agree to maintain indefinitely its suspension of uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities.

The Iranian spokesman said ambassadors for the so-called EU Three had asked for the August 1 deadline for their proposals to be extended till August 7.

"We reject any delay. We are expecting their proposals to be submitted on August 1 and it should meet Iran's minimum expectations," council spokesman and nuclear negotiator, Ali Aghamohammadi, told Reuters.

He said the EU Three had asked to discuss the proposals in meetings in Paris on August 31 and in New York in September."It means the proposal regarding Iran's nuclear programme practically will be postponed for an unlimited time," said Aghamohammadi. "That means this proposal does not meet Iran's minimum expectations."

Iran regards nuclear fuel cycle activities as a right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and wants to be allowed to keep at least a pilot enrichment programme.

The EU Three have threatened to back U.S. demands to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions if it ends its voluntary suspension of enrichment-related activity.

Iran’s censors stop popular play on murder of dissidents

Iran Focus:

Tehran, Iran, Jul. 30 – The showing of a play staged by Iran’s leading playwright and theatre director came to an abrupt end on Friday night on the orders of the Islamic Republic’s authorities.

“A Play Portraying the Passions of Master Navid Makan and His Wife Engineer Rokhshid Farzin”, written and directed by Bahram Beizaii, debuted in Tehran’s City Theatre on July 3 and was played to a packed house in 24 performances, before Iran’s cultural censors pulled the plug on it, almost a month ahead of its scheduled termination.

Beizaii, an icon of Iranian screen and stage, produced the play after a long hiatus. The production soon became a crowd-puller in a city suffering from chronic cultural starvation. Tickets quickly sold out for all performances in advance.

The play is a masterful portrayal of the murder of dozens of dissidents and intellectuals by Iran’s secret police in the 1990s and the cultural terror that the murders installed in Iranian society.

Navid Makan, a university lecturer purged by the Islamic authorities, and his wife Rokhshid, an architect, live in constant terror in their house in Tehran. The intellectual Makan, a writer and poet, has recurring nightmares of three faceless men in grey raincoats following him everywhere. He goes to the police to complain, but they dismiss his fears as mere illusion. Makan goes to a psychiatrist to seek help.

Makan’s spouse, played by Beizaii’s wife Mojdeh Shamsaii, is an architect who is renovating historic buildings. She, too, has the same nightmares as her husband. The couple is instantly recognisable by the Iranian audience as Darioush Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari, who were brutally murdered in their home in Tehran in 1997. The authorities later blamed the gruesome killings on “rogue officials” of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the secret police.

The abrupt end to the showing of the play came in a letter faxed to Tehran-based news organisations from the public relations office of the City Theatre. The announcement gave no reason for the unexpected decision.

A source in Tehran’s City Theatre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the decision came after three “cultural advisers” to the newly-elected hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended a showing earlier this week. As the mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad expressed his opposition to “Western-style” theatre and turned many of the local theatres in Tehran into Hosseiniehs, or prayer halls.

Asked about the authorities’ decision to end the showing of the most successful Iranian play in recent memory, Beizaii simply said, “I don’t know. All I know is that it ends on Friday”.

The last showing of the play ended on Friday night to a standing ovation and long, rapturous applause by the packed house brimming with mostly young people.

“Why are you stopping this play”, shouted a man in the audience when the applause finally ended. “It’s written in the press”, retorted the City Theatre’s public relations officer Mohammad Bahrami.

Behind the stage, actors and actresses, some with tears in their eyes, expressed frustration and anger at the authorities’ decision to stop the play at the height of its success.Beizaii, 68, is regarded as a master of contemporary Iranian dramatic arts. His plays and films, always carrying a strong political message, have aroused much anger in the ruling circles of Iran’s theocracy.

Iran lawyer for slain journalist takes refuge to avoid arrest

Iran Focus:

Tehran, Iran, Jul. 30 – A human rights lawyer representing the family of slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi turned up unexpectedly at the Tehran Bar Association on Saturday and began an indefinite sit-in, after police raided his home and tried to arrest him.

Abdolfattah Soltani’s troubles began when he publicly accused Tehran’s Revolutionary Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi on Monday of involvement in the July 2003 murder of Zahra Kazemi, who was killed in Evin Prison after being arrested while taking photographs of families of political prisoners outside Tehran’s notorious jail.

Police and agents of the capital’s public prosecutor’s office raided Soltani’s home on Wednesday, after the powerful Mortazavi issued a warrant for his arrest. Soltani’s lawyer, Farideh Gheyrat, said the arrest warrant was illegal, as “it came out of the blue, with no prior notification or summoning of my client”.

“This morning, my client wrote a letter to Judiciary Chief [Mahmoud Shahroudi], in which he said that he would continue his sit-in protest inside the Tehran Bar Association until the reasons for the aggression of agents of the prosecutor’s office on his private home and his arrest warrant by the Tehran Prosecutor’s office are announced”, the state-run ILNA news agency quoted Gheyrat as saying.

Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and raped while in detention, according to a former Iranian military doctor who had examined Kazemi at a Revolutionary Guards hospital, where she was taken after losing consciousness in Evin Prison.

Prosecutor Mortazavi himself has been implicated in her murder and a French newspaper quoted sources in Tehran as saying that Kazemi died of blows to her head by Mortazavi.

Iran to put nuclear “spies” on trial

Iran Focus:

Tehran, Iran, Jul. 30 – Iran will put two employees of its nuclear establishment on trial behind closed doors on espionage charges on August 2 and August 20 in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, state-run newspapers reported on Saturday.

Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad announced in late June that the trial of the “nuclear spies” was postponed, “because one of the accused was ill and had to undergo surgery”.

Several hearings have already been held for the case of a third nuclear expert who faces similar charges, though no verdict has yet been reached.Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Younessi announced last year that the authorities had arrested dozens of spies, including several who had given away the Islamic Republic’s “nuclear secrets”.

"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested several spies who were carrying Iran’s nuclear information [out of the country]", Younessi, a Shiite cleric who heads Iran’s dreaded intelligence apparatus, told reporters.

Younessi linked the arrested nuclear experts with the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK), who he said had passed the bulk of secrets on Iran’s nuclear program to “foreign powers”.

"The [MeK] had the main role in this and they have boasted before about spying against Iran in a press conference in America," Younessi said. "We have identified and arrested dozens of spies on various grounds."

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition coalition that includes the MeK, first disclosed the location of two sensitive nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in central Iran in a press conference in Washington, DC, in August 2002, a move that set off a major probe by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Shortly after Younessi’s comments, the NCRI in Paris denied that those arrested had anything to do with the organisation’s previous disclosures of Iran’s secret nuclear program.

The new trials come in the wake of fresh revelations by the council’s foreign affairs chief, Mohammad Mohaddessin. Mohaddessin told a seminar on Iran’s nuclear project in Paris on Thursday that Iran was secretly importing an extra-durable steel for use in its nuclear program.

Mohammad the Murderer

Persian Journal:

Jul 28, 2005


It is a fact that Mohammad was indeed a monstrous murderer. He invented a religion which suited him and his thugs.Unfortunarely, he was also a cunning humanist, and took advantage of the fact that people were (and some still are) in a state of despair and ready to accept a message of brotherly comradery of the common man against the rich, corrupt establishment which has haunted most civilizations in time.

Mohammad was an excellent marketing specialist, and packaged his message of hate and destruction in a pallatable format, which initially appeared to be aimed at the corrupt.

However, it is apparent by his own words in the Quran that he promoted war, death and destruction to all who opposed him. To say that all non-muslims must convert or die was to declare war on almost the entire world at that time. It also equates to a policy of genocide; this is the definition of the term "genocide."

Islam, the religion of peace? Please! It is more pre-occupied with killing all non-muslims or converting them with the threat of violence than with any misely message of love.

If you are a muslim, then you either are living in denial, ignorance, or a state of perpetual hate. In either case, I pity you.

However, it is never too late to seek the truth; I used to be a muslim until I opened my eyes.

Rafsanjani calls for Ganji's release

Tehran Times:

July 30, 2005

TEHRAN – Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Thursday called for the release of jailed journalist Akbar Ganji.

"I regret what is happening. This question can be resolved," Rafsanjani told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting on the First National Assembly of the Youth. "I have spoken with Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi (Judiciary chief) and made some proposals for rectifying the problem and I hope it will come to be," Rafsanjani said.

Addressing the First National Assembly on the Youth, Rafsanjani also said that the young people should move in line with national and reformist values.

He called on the assembly to find a journal that would raise people’s knowledge by publishing transparent and accurate information.

The EC chairman also proposed that the assembly appoint advisors in governmental centers around the country.

Rafsanjani said that he would certainly assist president-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad in his new post.

“Everyone with any post has to help the president,” he noted.

Rafsanjani called the 20-Year Outlook Plan, a plan for the youth, adding it should be enhanced and implemented by the country’s young people.

“In fact, the spirit of the 20-Year Outlook Plan is for the youth to get involved in various decision-makings,” he observed.

Iran will attain goals of 20-Year Outlook Plan ahead of schedule: Ahmadinejad

Tehran Times:

July 30, 2005

TEHRAN -- President-Elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad said here on Friday that he is confident Iran will attain the goals of the 20-Year Outlook Plan sooner than predicted through honest efforts and with the help of God.

In a meeting with the Supreme Leader’s representatives in universities around Tehran Province, Ahmadinejad said that building a prosperous country based on science and culture requires sincere efforts by wise, brave, and creative people. “The main objective in all scientific, religious, and cultural efforts is spiritual development. Thus, seminaries and universities pursue a common goal,” he observed.

The president-elect stressed that adopting a cultural viewpoint on all aspects of life is essential, adding that universities are tasked with performing cultural activities and training cultured people.

In order to do so, universities should promote solidarity and remain vigilant in the face of divisive efforts, he noted, and voiced the new government’s readiness to support cultural activities at universities.

Ahmadinejad also stressed the necessity to strengthen friendly ties between the Supreme Leader’s representatives at universities and students and academics. He referred to students as assets of the Islamic Revolution, saying all the sincere forces of society, without exception, can gather under the umbrella of Islam, the Revolution, and the Islamic government, which is a sign of friendship and brotherhood.

The president-elect also warned against violence at universities, saying the enemies of Iran are planning to try to create a hateful and violent atmosphere in universities. He announced that expert sessions would be held after the inauguration of the new government to study methods to resolve various problems of the country’s universities.

“I am certain that, despite the enemies’ efforts, our universities will soon enjoy a friendly and pleasant atmosphere,” he said in conclusion.

Prior to Ahmadinejad’s remarks, Hojjatoleslam Qomi, the Supreme Leader’s representative to universities throughout Iran, delivered a speech, saying the result of the recent presidential election was the manifestation of religious democracy in Iran, which showed people’s trust in universities and academics.

He added that universities are prepared to help establish the proper spiritual foundation for establishing an Islamic government.

At the meeting, several other representatives also presented their viewpoints on cultural issues in universities.

Iran dissident 'cannot see wife'


By Pam O'Toole

BBC News

Friday, 29 July 2005

The wife of Iran's best-known political prisoner, journalist Akbar Ganji, says officials will not let her visit her husband, 49 days into a hunger strike.

Massoumeh Shafeih says she will not be allowed access until she stops giving interviews to the foreign media.

Mrs Ganji said she received the message when she called the hospital where he is held to arrange her next visit.

Mr Ganji was jailed five years ago for linking senior Iranian officials to the murders of prominent intellectuals.

His hunger strike is aimed at achieving his unconditional release.

During her last visit, on Thursday night, Mrs Ganji said her husband looked as though he may only live for a few more days.

Collapse Since Mr Ganji started his hunger strike, his wife has been foreign reporters' main source of news about his condition.

Although most Iranians know about his fast, Iran's official media has stayed largely silent.

The hardline judiciary insists that he is not on hunger strike, saying has been hospitalised for treatment on a knee injury, and is in good condition.

But Mrs Ganji maintains that during her last visit, late on Thursday night, Tehran's chief prosecutor was present at Mr Ganji's bedside and told her that doctors did not expect her husband to last the night.

She said Mr Ganji - who has lost more than 25kg in weight - looked as though he may only live a few days.

Mrs Ganji said she later tried to persuade her husband to take food, or at least to agree to be fed serum through an intravenous drip, but he refused.

She said he then tried to get out of bed, walked a few steps and collapsed unconscious.

At that point, she said, she authorised the hospital to give him serum via a drip, which it did.

Mrs Ganji said that when she called the hospital on Friday to arrange her next visit, she was told that she could not see him again while she continued giving interviews to the foreign media.

She has vowed to continue with the interviews

Raid on Iran dissident's lawyer


By Pam O'Toole

BBC News

Thursday, 28 July, 2005

Human rights activists have told the BBC that officials have raided the home of a lawyer representing Iran's best-known political prisoner.

His client, journalist Akbar Ganji, is reported to be gravely ill after 48 days on hunger strike.

Mr Ganji was jailed five years ago for linking senior Iranian officials to the murders of prominent intellectuals.

His hunger strike is aimed at achieving his unconditional release. His wife says he is "fighting with death".

Lawyer Abdul Fatah Soltani telephoned a colleague to say officials from the hardline Tehran prosecutor's office had arrived at his home bearing a search warrant.

Mr Soltani was out of the house at the time. The colleague, Mohammad Saifzadeh, says he does not know his current whereabouts.

Rallying point

It is unusual for officials to raid the homes of prominent lawyers in Iran.

But this is an unusual case. Mr Ganji, whose family say has lost more than 25kg (55lb) in weight during his hunger strike, has become a rallying point for reformist politicians, students and human rights activists.

He remains defiant. On Thursday, in an open letter, he called on Iran's powerful Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down.

Ayatollah Khamenei, he said, should answer this question - how could this be done in a peaceful way?

There have been calls for Mr Ganji's release from around the world, including from US President George W Bush.

Iran's outgoing President, Mohammad Khatami, has called for him to be given parole.

Iran's hardline judiciary has denied that Mr Ganji is on hunger strike, saying he has been hospitalised for a knee injury and is in good condition.

Officials said his friends were welcome to visit him in hospital.

But a delegation of students and political activists who made a determined effort to do so told the BBC that they were turned away by security officials at the hospital.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Iran's New President Glorifies Martyrdom


The act of martyrdom is often celebrated by the Iranian theocracy. Most recently, Iranian President-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, in his second TV appearance since his election victory, spoke July 25, 2005 on Iranian Channel 1 in praise of "the art of martyrdom."

The day after Ahmadi-Nejad's TV appearance, the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published a report about his spiritual advisor, Ayatollah Mohammad Misbach Yazdi. The report advised Iranians on how to volunteer for the Iranian regime-sponsored volunteer martyrdom squad, and mentioned an Iranian women's volunteer group that is dedicated to carrying out martyrdom operations against U.S., British, and Israeli forces.

The subject of Iranian martyrdom seekers was also the topic of a recent program on Al-Arabiya TV, which is discussed below.

Ahmadi-Nejad on the Art of Martyrdom The following are excerpts from a speech by Iranian President-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, which aired July 25, 2005 on Iranian Channel 1. In it, he praises martyrdom operations and states that Islam will conquer the world. (To view this clip, visit

Ahmadi-Nejad: "We want art that is on the offensive. Art on the offensive exalts and defends the noble principles, and attacks principles that are corrupt, vulgar, ungodly, and inhuman.

"Art reaches perfection when it portrays the best life and best death. After all, art tells you how to live. That is the essence of art. Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity.

"The message of the [Islamic] Revolution is global, and is not restricted to a specific place or time. It is a human message, and it will move forward.

"Have no doubt... Allah willing, Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountain tops of the world."

Spiritual Advisor of Iran's President-Elect Calls on Iranian Volunteers to Carry Out Martyrdom Operations

Ayatollah Mohammad Misbah Yazdi, the spiritual leader of Iranian President-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, issued an announcement to the Iranian people, calling upon them to volunteer for an Iranian organization of martyrs. [1]

The announcement read: "Acts of martyrdom are the great pinnacle of the [Iranian] people and the height of its courage. The commander [Iranian Leader] Khamenei has announced registration for the forces of martyrdom in all of Iran's provinces, in order to defend Islam and to fight the enemies of Islam. Our sacred organization, [the organization of martyrs belonging] to the Islamic Republic, is intended for those interested in carrying out shahada [martyrdom]. The volunteer, male or female, will join specialized courses. Brother and sister believers who want to defend Islam are invited to contact [us] at POB 664-1653, Tehran, and to send two photos, a copy of their birth certificate, and a request to join the martyrs' corps."

According to the report, the organization is headed by Elias Naderan, leader of the conservative faction of the Iranian parliament, former intelligence officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and an ally of President-Elect Ahmadi-Nejad. A few months ago, he founded an organization called Zeitoon, intended for women and men interested in committing martyrdom operations "against the enemies of Iran and Islam" – especially against U.S., British, and Israeli forces.

Ayatollah Masbah Yazdi attended one of Naderan's conventions, and emphasized to the hundreds of participants the need to volunteer for the martyrdom operation training courses.

One of the volunteers, Mohammad Reza Siyari, who recently fled from Iran to Turkey, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that during a visit to Ayatollah Masbah Yazdi's office in Qom, the latter told the volunteers: "The gates of Paradise have opened for you. There are beautiful black-eyed virgins waiting for you on the banks of rivers of honey."

Siyari further said that the volunteers undergo training in four Revolutionary Guards and "Army of Jerusalem" camps.

Al-Arabiya TV Report on Iranian Martyrdom Seekers

The following are excerpts from a report about the movement of "martyrdom seekers" in Iran. Al-Arabiya TV aired this report on July 2, 2005. (To view this clip, visit

Martyrdom-seeking movement member Vesaly: My name is Vesaly... We are first and foremost Muslims, and it is our duty to defend our brothers and sisters throughout the world. We don't need permission from anybody. This has to do with our religious duty and responsibilities. This is our choice, and we have no fear. We adhere to the legacy of our late leader, Imam Khomeini."

Crowd: "There is no God but Allah. There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah's messenger."

Reporter: "These young women have forsaken the temptations of life, and have taken the hard way. Indeed, they have chosen martyrdom as a way of liberating the Islamic lands. This is what they say.

"40,000 time bombs in Iran – this is the number of volunteers so far, and the registration is still open. There is no distinction between men and women, Sunnis or Shiites. 'We all sacrifice for the sake of Islam,' they chant. This is the movement of martyrdom seekers, whose goals and organizational structure are still unclear. They refused to give further details, but did not conceal their determination to sacrifice their lives. The reason [is] what America has done in the holy places of Najaf and Karbala."

Firooz Rajai, a movement leader: "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The movement of martyrdom seekers began after the American campaign against Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, over a year ago. The religious scholars decided that such a movement should be established in this country, the majority of which are Shiite, in order to support their brothers, especially following the experience of the war that was forced on Iran by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq."

Reporter: "This is a symbolic grave of the first man who tried to get rid of Salman Rushdie. Here there are also symbolic graves commemorating the people who killed hundreds of American and French soldiers in Lebanon, in 1983.

"This young mother from Palestine, who sacrificed her life and blew herself up at an Israeli checkpost, is a role model for the movement's members, who believe this is the only way to liberate the Palestinian lands, especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Firooz Rajai: "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. We will not allow the Zionists to build their Solomon Temple in the place where the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands. They have not succeeded so far, and they never will. We are willing to sacrifice our bodies and souls to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Our goal is to achieve martyrdom by way of true Jihad. This is the true path to which we strive. We don't need a fatwa on this, since we get our fatwas from the Koran and from all the authorities on Islamic law. We vow to turn into bombs that will explode at anyone who wishes to desecrate our holy places."

Reporter: "The movement denies any connection to the Iranian government, and considers itself an independent organization. Although the government occasionally expresses reservations about the movement of martyrdom seekers and its operations, the movement has used government buildings for its training, and some Revolutionary Guards members have publicly defended them."

Iranian MP Hamid-Reza Haji-Babai: "Martyrdom seekers may exist in every country, and in Iran, they have beliefs that they hold sacred. This is a popular movement, which cannot take the form of an organization. Iran has so far managed, democratically and diplomatically, to maintain relations with all countries and preserve its status, despite the American hostility. The oppressive, inhuman, and undemocratic American behavior in recent years has led to the creation of martyrdom-seeking movements everywhere."

Reporter: "After receiving theory lessons, the volunteers undergo secret training, far from the media. Even though the movement's leaders refrain from disclosing the kind of activities that are included in this training, they emphasize that this is not a military organization, and that no special or complex training is required – a few days are enough to train the volunteers."

Firooz Rajai: "So far, we have not sent any brigade out of the country, and have not clashed with government opposition to us. We maintain law and order, and our activity is clear and serves Islam. This does not mean that we are not prepared to report for duty anytime, anywhere. We believe in combining ideology and action. Our movement is not a symbolic one. Our goal is well known. When the time comes, martyrdom will be inevitable. There are many NGOs in Iran that support the Palestinian cause, and we maintain relations and cooperate with them, as well as with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. We meet with the representatives of the two movements in Tehran, and we hope this will be successful."

Reporter: "Whether in Iraq, Palestine, or any Islamic country, the movement of martyrdom seekers is ready for action, but the Iranian government still does not know whether the movement has already sent volunteers to Iraq or even to Israel."

Ali Samadi, a movement leader: "As everyone can see, the Zionists attribute no significance to the Arab and Islamic governments. They continue their aggressive policies to fulfill their goals. The world considers the Israeli military to be the fifth most powerful force, and its security apparatus to be the second most powerful in the world. Since they only understand the language of force, our new weapon of martyrdom operations is bound to change the balance of power. Even the separation wall they are building won't prevent the martyrdom operations and the changing of the balance. The Iranian youth takes pride in [the fact that] this movement was founded after the Islamic Revolution in order to create a core of resistance against the occupiers in a way unmarred by flaws, as was the case with the Al-Qaeda organization, for example. We are not afraid of the American fleets or the British weapons in Iraq. We vow to become time bombs in the event of any aggression on our land."

Reporter: "Thus, they await death with happiness and joy. In their view, martyrdom for the sake of Allah is the sweetest thing."

Hezbollah in step with the times

Asia Times:

By Sami Moubayed


- Earlier this year, Hezbollah secretary general Hasan Nasrullah recounted an important conversation he had with Lebanon's slain premier Rafik Hariri in early February, one week before Hariri's assassination in Beirut. Nasrullah remembered that Hariri had spoken about Hezbollah, saying, "I believe in this resistance. And I am telling you that if I become prime minister again I will not implement the (disarmament) article of (UN) Resolution 1559. I swear to you that the resistance and its weapons will remain until the day a comprehensive regional settlement is reached, not just until (the Israeli) withdrawal from the Sheba Farms."

Hariri, according to Nasrullah, went on, saying, "On that day, when that agreement is reached, I will sit with you and say: 'Sir, there is no further need for the resistance and its weapons.' If we agree, that's what will be. If we disagree, I swear to you and before God (he also swore by his deceased son Hussam) that I will not fight the resistance. I will resign and leave the country (before that happens)."

Hariri has taken details of this conversation with him to the grave, and some in Lebanon today are doubting whether he ever made such a promise to Nasrullah. Were Hariri, an Arab nationalist at heart and a one-time member of the Movement of Arab Nationalists still around, it is debatable whether he would agree with the disarmament of Hezbollah. Yet he was a man loyal to his words and if he made such a promise to Nasrullah, he would have kept it.

Today, however, Lebanon is divided like no time before on whether Hezbollah should keep its arms, or whether it should be demilitarized and fully enter the political system.

Nobody, however, wants to disarm the group by force since this would be considered aggression on the Shi'ite community as a whole. Doing that might easily ignite another civil war in Lebanon. Force is not even an option for the Americans, who know that due to pan-Shi'ite loyalties, aggression on the Shi'ites of Lebanon would enrage the Shi'ites of Iraq and Iran. This would upset the already very turbulent situation in Iraq and alienate America's number one allies in the post-Saddam Hussein order in Iraq. The Americans have realized that the only way to get Hezbollah to disarm is to keep the issue a domestic Lebanese one, negotiated by leaders of the Sunni, Shi'ite and Christian communities. Any excessive US interference would lead to a violent backlash, aggressiveness, and permanently damage any progress.

For its part, Hezbollah is enjoying its current status in Lebanon and the confusion it is creating in Washington. It has gotten to keep its arms even in the wake of the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, maintain its war with Israel, has one party member and one party loyalist in the cabinet of Fouad al-Siniora, and 14 seats in parliament.

Many wrongly believed that once the Syrian army left Lebanon, Hezbollah would be weakened, gradually losing its influence in the country. This turned out to be nonsense, since contrary to what is commonly portrayed in the Western media, Hezbollah is a party that is totally independent in Lebanon from control of the Syrians.

For example, they had four parliamentary seats in 1992, and four for their allies, a total of only eight, and this in the heyday of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. Today, with Syria out, they have 14 seats. This explains why Hezbollah remained pro-Syrian until curtain fall. Even without the Syrians, Nasrullah knew that he could survive without them. He never relied on the Syrians for his power base, nor did any member of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah might have needed Syrian support in the early 1990s to survive in the post-civil war arena while other armed groups were being disbanded, but it outgrew Syrian patronage. It may have relied on the Syrians for cover and advice, but it received no money, military training or weapons from the Syrians. After its success in driving the Israelis out of Lebanon in May 2000, its stature and credibility inside Lebanon increased tremendously, making any Syrian support unnecessary.

Also in Hezbollah's favor now is the victory of Mamud Ahmadinejad, the president-elect of Iran, who is likely to continue supporting the Lebanese Shi'ite guerillas. A man devoted to the principals of the Iranian revolution of 1979, Ahmadinejad knew that one of its main objectives was Shi'ite emancipation, and helping the Shi'ites of the world achieve victory and end injustice. Had a moderate like Mustapha Moin become president of Iran, for example, or someone like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was seeking imaginative ways to appease the Americans, then probably the future of Hezbollah would have been in doubt, given the possibility of losing its Iranian patron. Ahmadinejad, however, is an ally of Hezbollah and so is his master, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If the Syrian withdrawal in any way shook the confidence of Hezbollah, then Ahmadinejad's victory certainly restored it.

Saad Hariri, the son of the slain premier, who now leads the biggest parliamentary bloc, told the media on July 25 that Lebanon had a lot of problems and that it was a fragile country; discussing them all at once will lead to instability. He prioritized nation-building, and finding those who killed his father, over the disarmament of Hezbollah. Any disarmament, he said, had to be made within the Lebanese framework and not under pressure from abroad.

This was echoed by French President Jacques Chirac, when he received Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on July 27. The Israeli leader requested French assistance in the disarmament of Hezbollah, and Chirac replied that this was a domestic Lebanese matter that could only be dealt with by the Lebanese themselves, with no outside intervention.

The arms debate

Inside Lebanon, everybody pays tribute to Nasrullah and acknowledges his role in liberating South Lebanon in 2000. The country is sharply divided on disarmament, however. The Christians, and some Muslims, are in favor of disarming the resistance. The Shi'ites, even those who are not members in Hezbollah, are overwhelmingly opposed to such a move.

Nasrullah voiced his views on the matter on the anniversary of the liberation of the South, held in the southern village of Bint Jbeil, "There is talk of disarming the resistance. Any thought of disarming the resistance is pure madness. We do not want to attack anyone. We have never done so. And we will never allow anyone to attack Lebanon. But if anyone, no matter who, even thinks about disarming the resistance, we will fight him like the martyr-seekers in Karbala."

Hezbollah is a symbol of Shi'ite emancipation and power in Lebanon. If it goes away, many people fear that the Shi'ites will return to becoming the under-class of Lebanese society, as they had been in the 1950s and 1960s. Also, many fear that if Hezbollah disarms, it would lose its finances, which allow it to maintain so many charity networks, schools, medical centers and hospitals. Many people rely on these charity organizations for their livelihoods.

As the world discusses the disarmament of Hezbollah, one question should be raised: why do people support Hezbollah? The obvious reason is religion, yet a study conducted in 1996 by Dr Judith Harik, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, shows otherwise. In her study, "Between Islam and the State: Sources and Implications of Popular Support for Lebanon's Hezbollah", published in Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 40 (March 1996), Harik showed that 70% of Hezbollah's supporters saw themselves only as moderately religious, and 23% said they were religious only out of obligation. Pragmatism and nationalism, rather than Muslim ideology, are the secrets of Hezbollah's success.

Hezbollah enjoys authority and commands unwavering loyalty among Shi'ites because it always appears to be a confident political party that is doing an honorable job in fighting Israel. Adding to the nationalist aspect is the social one, which is that many people in the Shi'ite community, mainly at the grass-root level, rely on Hezbollah for charity and welfare. Hezbollah has succeeded in promoting itself through the media, igniting confidence, safety and security among the 10 million viewers of al-Manar television, for example. Many of those viewers are Shi'ites. Hezbollah's media empire includes al-Manar, a radio station, a newspaper and tons of Internet sites, created by, affiliated with, or supportive of the resistance. Not once does al-Manar, for example, show viewers a member of Hezbollah defeated. Rather, it shows pictures of dead Israelis, real footage of Hezbollah operations, and programs highlighting Hezbollah's charity organization, such as the rebuilding of 5,000 homes destroyed by the Israelis in South Lebanon. Hezbollah is a movement inspired by nationalism rather than religiousness.

Precisely for these reasons, it would be difficult for anyone to tackle Hezbollah. The only way to disarm is for the Shi'ite group to wait until the Israelis leave Sheba, and then quietly lay down their arms and modify their agenda from a military to a political one. The examples of armed groups dismantling themselves the minute independence is achieved are many.

History lessons

One that comes to mind is the National Youth in Syria, whose leaders willingly disarmed when the French left in 1946. Another is that of Irgun and Hagana, the two Zionist military groups that operated in Palestine prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. To the Jewish, they were resistance leaders. To the Arabs, they were terrorists. This is exactly how Hezbollah is viewed today by the Lebanese/Arabs and Israelis/Americans.

One side sees them as a heroic resistance, the other side as terrorists. Many columnists in the Jewish media have been drawing parallels between the two Zionist militias that disarmed in 1948 and the current military groups in the Arab world, saying that they should do the same. This applies, they claim, to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

The story of 1948 says that when David Ben Gurion became prime minister of Israel, he knew that in order to centralize power, he needed to build a strong army and one military authority in Israel. He could not afford another military group operating in Israel. The role of the Irgun and Hagana was acknowledged in having helped achieve victory for Israel in 1948, but now was the time, Ben Gurion argued, for them to lay down their arms and enter the political arena as political parties with no military agenda.

The founders of both parties, Menahem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, curtly refused, claiming that any efforts to disarm the "resistance" was madness. On June 20, 1948, the Irgun office in Paris sent a ship loaded with arms and ammunition to Israel, named the Altalena, to reinforce the resistance. A stern Ben Gurion confronted the ship at the shore of Tel Aviv and ordered his army to sink it, with all arms on board.

After the Altalena Affair, the Hagana was absorbed into the Israeli Defense Forces and Irgun were convinced, unwillingly, to disarm. Begin abandoned military affairs for a political career, ending up as prime minister in 1977, and Shamir did the same, becoming prime minister in 1983. This should be repeated, Jewish writers are saying, in Lebanon today. Hezbollah must disarm, just like Hagana and Irgun, or else the Lebanese government, now freed from Syrian influence, must make strong moves to disarm the resistance, similar to how Ben Gurion sunk the Altalena.

The difference between Ben Gurion's case in 1948 and Lebanon's in 2005 is colossal. Ben Gurion only cracked down on the armed groups after Israel was created in 1948. He would not, and could not do that while Israel was occupied by the British. Hezbollah cannot do that, and the Lebanese government cannot force them to do that, while the Sheba Farms are occupied by the Israelis.

Recently, it was reported in the media that two US officials had held talks with Trad Hamadeh, the Lebanese minister of labor who was nominated into office by Hezbollah. The talks were mainly concerned with Hamadeh trying to convince the Americans to change face, vis-a-vis the resistance in Lebanon, and conduct dialogue with it, rather than pursue confrontation.

When visiting Beirut in July, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if the US would change course towards Hezbollah if the group abandoned its military program. She swiftly replied, "We don't speak in hypotheticals." Yet revealed at her Beirut visit was a guarantee she had received from Ariel Sharon for the Israeli withdrawal from Sheba. This plan was advocated by the US, France and Germany, who are lobbying with Sharon to get him to withdraw. They plan on getting Syria and Iran to support this, in exchange for some sort of deal with both countries that would reduce US pressure on Tehran and Damascus.

Logically, if the Sheba Farms are liberated, there would no longer be any need for Hezbollah to maintain its arms. The argument against Hezbollah would become much easier for Lebanese politicians, American statesmen and Israel. From where they stand today, however, Hezbollah is unlikely to lay down its arms that easily. It will not disarm even if Sheba is liberated. It would still have a high priority on its agenda: protecting the Shi'ites of Lebanon.

Hezbollah as a party works for the Shi'ites, who historically have been a oppressed community. In 1992, eyebrows were raised when Hezbollah decided to enter parliamentary elections because this was a political system that it despised, describing it as feudal and corrupted. Nasrullah at the time replied that he was doing it "for the sake of the oppressed".

Precisely for this reason, he will not abandon the arms of Hezbollah. Hezbollah will remain armed "for the sake of the oppressed".

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

Iran accuses US of double standard over N-issue

Dawn/The Guardian News Service:

By Simon Tisdall

IRAN accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of operating a double standard and undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by agreeing to aid India’s civil nuclear programme, while insisting that Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions or face international sanctions.

The Iranian accusation will raise the temperature as the EU3 — Britain, France and Germany — prepare to unveil a “final” draft proposal on curbing Iran’s nuclear programme early next month. The US and Israel suspect Iran is only months away from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran flatly denies.

The EU3 plan is expected to offer limited economic incentives and energy generation assistance if Iran forgoes uranium enrichment, which is associated with the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

But Iranian resistance to the proffered deal may have been reinforced by President George Bush’s unexpected decision last week to acknowledge India’s status as a nuclear weapons state and offer “full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade”, despite the fact that India, unlike Iran, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “India is looking after its own national interests. We cannot criticise them for this,” a senior Iranian official said. “But what the Americans are doing is a double standard.

“On the one hand, they are depriving an NPT member from having peaceful technology, but at the same time they are cooperating with India, which is not a member of the NPT, to their own advantage.” The US policy shift has been attributed to Washington’s wish to develop a strategic security relationship with India. The Clinton administration imposed sanctions on Delhi after its 1998 nuclear bomb tests. The tests confirmed India as a nuclear power and led Pakistan to follow suit.But the move, yet to be approved by the US Congress or agreed with the 40-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, has been criticised by administration opponents for circumventing the NPT. Nigel Chamberlain of the independent British American Security Information Council said the Iranian accusation appeared justified, given that Tehran had apparently complied so far with the NPT and International Atomic Energy Agency inspection requirements.

“The Iranians do feel they are being singled out unfairly. It is very difficult to say that there are legal grounds to tell them to stop doing what they are doing. And India now seems to have benefited by standing outside the treaty,” Mr Chamberlain said.He said Washington’s move was potentially fatal for an NPT regime already severely weakened by the failure of last May’s treaty review conference, scene of what he called “a running battle” between Iran and the US, as well as disputes over the failure of acknowledged nuclear weapons states, such as the US and Britain, to relinquish their arms. The unveiling of the EU3 plan could coincide with the inauguration on August 6 of Iran’s conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Observers have suggested he may take a tougher line than his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.

But the senior Iranian official said that while “methods and tactics” might alter when the new government took office, Tehran’s basic insistence on its legal right to develop its nuclear industry would not change. “People are getting impatient,” the official said. “We have said repeatedly that we are ready to give guarantees to the EU3 and IAEA that we are not diverting from our peaceful nuclear activity.”