Thursday, March 30, 2006

Islamic regime finances Nazi groups in Europe


The Islamic regime has increased its financial help to several European Nazi and Far-Right groups, especially, in France, Germany and Austria. Thousands of Dollars and Euro have been already distributed in that line.

The money is being distributed by businessmen with links to some of Dubai's Import-Export circles which are working with the Islamic regime's Intelligence.

This policy intends to boost the regime's anti-Jewish propaganda and to show support of the regime's President and his denial of the Holocaust. It also targets the Iranian masses in an effort to persuade them on the validity of Ahmadinejad's claim which will look stronger with the presence of Europeans sharing his shameful view.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Afghan Christian Given Asylum in Italy

Yahoo News:

By MARIA SANMINIATELLI, Associated Press Writer

Wed Mar 29, 4:20 PM ET

The Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity received asylum in Italy Wednesday, despite requests by lawmakers in Afghanistan that he be barred from fleeing the conservative Muslim country.

Abdul Rahman arrived in Rome days after he was freed from a high-security prison on the outskirts of Kabul after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness.

The case has attracted wide attention in the West and led to calls by the U.S. and other governments for the Afghan government to protect the 41-year-old convert.

It also inspired an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and efforts by the United Nations to find a country to take him in after Muslim clerics in Afghanistan threatened his life, saying his conversion was a "betrayal to Islam."

Rahman was in the care of Italy's Interior Ministry, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday evening. "He is already in Italy," he said. "I think he arrived overnight."

The premier declined to release more details. The Interior Ministry said Rahman was "under protection."

Conversion is a crime under Afghanistan's Islamic law. Rahman was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible. He was brought to trial last week and faced the death penalty for converting 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Under heavy international pressure by the United States and other nations that helped oust the hard-line Taliban regime and provide aid and military support for Karzai, Rahman was released from prison Monday.

President Bush and others had insisted Afghanistan protect personal beliefs. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Karzai last week and appealed for a "favorable resolution" of the case. Afghanistan's new parliament debated Rahman's case Wednesday and demanded he be barred from leaving the country. But no formal vote was taken on the issue.

Some 500 Afghans, including Muslim leaders and students, also gathered at a mosque in the southern town of Qalat, in Zabul province, to demand the convert be forced to return to Islam or be killed.

"This is a terrible thing and a major shame for Afghanistan," Zabul's top cleric Abdulrahman Jan said.

Germany, where Rahman once lived, praised the Italian move.

"This is a humanitarian signal and we welcome it," German government spokesman Thomas Steg said.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Tuesday that granting asylum would bring "all the forms of protection and assistance" related to recognizing refugee status.

Italy has close ties with Afghanistan, whose former king, Mohammed Zaher Shah, was allowed to live with his family in exile in Rome for 30 years. The former royals returned to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban regime.

Italian troops were sent into Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2001 to help with reconstruction and Italy still has 1,775 troops there.

Rahman's ordeal began as a custody dispute over his two daughters, now 13 and 14. The girls had lived with their grandparents their whole lives but Rahman sought custody when he returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after living in Germany for nine years. A custody battle ensued and the matter was taken to police.

During questioning, it emerged that Rahman was a Christian and was carrying a Bible. He was immediately arrested and charged.

Monday, March 27, 2006

In Iran, Even Some On Right Warning Against Extremes

Washington Post:

Conservative Faction Fears Radicalism

By Karl VickWashington Post Foreign Service

Monday, March 27, 2006; A11

TEHRAN -- Nine months after the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Iranian politics has shifted so sharply to the right that some traditional conservatives are warning of the dangers of radicalism.

With reformists sidelined and Ahmadinejad setting a strident new tone on the global stage, figures from the extreme right of Iran's political spectrum are defining the terms of political debate in the country. In remarks that set off a domestic firestorm, a senior cleric close to the new president suggested in January that Iranian voters were largely irrelevant because the government requires only the approval of God.

The remarks by Ayatollah Taqi Mesbah, and similar comments by an aide, were roundly criticized, even on the editorial page of Kayhan, a traditional showcase for hard-line thinking.

Iranian political insiders said the flap offered a window on intense infighting at the highest reaches of Iran's theocracy just as world attention is focused on the government's determination to proceed with a nuclear program that skeptics call a cover for atomic weapons.

"Ayatollah Mesbah is an extremist," said one Iranian official close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the soft-spoken cleric who has been Iran's supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.

"Ayatollah Khomeini warned the people lots of times not to allow these people, the Shia Talibans, to come to power in Iran and have space," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that Khamenei has judged it prudent to accommodate even extremists within the system and accord them respect. "Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei feel these people can do a lot of damage. They can damage Iran. They can damage Islam. They are like the Taliban.

They are like al-Qaeda. They say they know what Allah expects from us -- that we should do what he wants from us without paying attention to the consequences.

"And it's a very dangerous belief."

The tension highlights significant divisions within Iran's conservative camp, often viewed from outside the country as a turbaned monolith. In reality, 27 years after the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite clerics to power, Iranian politics is a nuanced landscape defined largely by the lessons taken from the previous quarter-century.

Traditional conservatives describe themselves as firm but flexible. While remaining committed to the precept that clerics should hold ultimate authority, they were chastened in the 1990s when reformists -- determined to lessen the intrusion of the state into private lives and show greater tolerance for dissent -- won landslide electoral victories.

Other conservatives, who proudly call themselves fundamentalists, argue that reformists were hollowing out the Islamic Republic from within. Equating dissent with treason, they demanded a hard-line defense of the revolution's tenets, including strident opposition to the United States and Israel.

In recent years, the two camps united at election time, making common cause against reformists. But after the votes were counted, moderate conservatives were left unsatisfied.

"There was a problem in our structure, our conservative political structure," said Amir Mohebian, a leader in a conservative faction that absorbed some reformist inclinations, including cautious engagement with the West. "We start very well, but the result was not under our control."

Mohebian said the outcomes of 2003 elections for local councils, the 2004 contest for parliament, "and now the presidency," were "not our result." Each succeeding contest tightened the right's grip.

One reason was the hard-line orientation of the Guardian Council, a screening panel that barred reformist candidates, producing a ballot skewed to the right.

That amplified another factor: turnout. The Basij civilian militia, and in last June's presidential contest the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, showed up most reliably at the polls, doing their duty as the core constituency Khamenei set out to create after succeeding Khomeini.

"The Basij is mainly a creation of Mr. Khamenei," said one Iranian analyst, who declined to be quoted by name. "They spent a huge amount of money to reinforce these military groups. Basiji people and even the Revolutionary Guard people are really an artificial social class, like an artificial island."

Ahmadinejad spent most of his career in both groups, and he wrote huge increases for each into his first budget as president. He commanded a Revolutionary Guard engineering unit during the 1980s war with Iraq, the defining experience for many hard-liners holding fast to the slogans of a then-young revolution, and he was a leader in the Basij.

"He's a true believer in the revolutionary values, which we believe in, too," said Mohammad Ali Tai, 61, as he squatted on a curb at Tehran University, where Friday prayers are held in the capital. Usually, a few thousand people attend. Most are veterans like Tai, who returned home to lives that failed to improve materially while the governing elites grew wealthy.

"I am a barber myself. I talk to many people," Tai said. "They are only tolerating this hardship because they believe in Islam. Some people who were in charge did not believe in these values, and this inequality is because of them."

Each week, Tai attends a Basij meeting, and well as a gathering of his hayat , a community group that mounts celebrations for religious holidays. When Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, he provided the groups with rice at discount prices.

"Everything we do is actually a matter of keeping alive the revolutionary spirit," said Tai, who said he voted in the previous two presidential contests for Mohammad Khatami, a reformist. "But this time the Basij told us: Only vote for Ahmadinejad, and don't vote for anybody else."

If such groups were key to Ahmadinejad's electoral success, the cocooning cycle of their meetings -- offering mutual reinforcement and fealty to a shared vision -- provides insight into the staying power of his rigid outlook. Friends say he held to it stubbornly when others adjusted their views to the post-revolution realities that spawned Iran's reform movement.

"He always thought that was a deviation from the true path of the revolution," said Nasser Hadian-Jazy, who has known Ahmadinejad since grade school. "Equality, justice, humility, being simple, supporting Muslims, opposing global arrogance -- he was never ashamed of these principles. Never."

Hadian-Jazy, himself a revolutionary who evolved into a reformist, said he marveled at seeing his old friend wearing a checkered headdress around his shoulders on a university campus in 1998, a deeply unfashionable gesture at the height of the reform movement. "His sense of overconfidence, to me, that's not a positive point. But that's the way he is," said Hadian-Jazy, now a political scientist at Tehran University. "He's naive. The black and white area of his mind is a lot bigger than the gray area."

Insiders say these are the qualities that keep Iran's hard-liners in the extremes.

"Because of their religious beliefs, these people are inflexible," said a former senior official in Khatami's government, who declined to be identified further. "Although their number might be few, the certainty of their belief lets them resist a larger population. The supporters of civil society and reformists are less hard, less ready to be damaged because of their belief."

"Whenever someone is fixed in his thinking, we call them hard-liners," said Mehdi Karrubi, a moderate cleric who lost narrowly to Ahmadinejad in the first round of last year's presidential balloting. "A group of people just come together. They talk to each other and say: This is what the society thinks!"

Mesbah, the cleric whose speech touched off the current conflict in the conservative camp, is praised even by critics for his intellect. He leads a well-funded seminary in the holy city of Qom and has forged a reputation for steeling the resolve of Iran's harshest conservatives, famously declaring: "If someone tells you he has a new interpretation of Islam, sock him in the mouth!" A cartoonist dubbed him "Ayatollah Crocodile" for encouraging suppression of the press. One follower, now Ahmadinejad's intelligence minister, once bit a journalist on the shoulder.

Another, now Ahmadinejad's interior minister, oversaw the execution of thousands of prisoners in the late 1980s.

Many of Mesbah's former students hold places in the Revolutionary Guard's ideological and political section. The cleric encourages students to study in Canada and the United States, which critics say does little to soften their views. Most eventually return to Qom.

Mesbah's followers have now set their sights, Hadian-Jazy said, on gaining control of the panel of clerics that is empowered to name Iran's supreme leader -- an open-ended appointment that has been assumed to run a lifetime. Called the Assembly of Experts, the 86-member body will be elected in nationwide balloting set for October.

Mesbah is expected to field a slate of graduates from his seminary, and in the preelection positioning now underway, some see preparations for a kind of coup. But the boldness hard-liners have shown since Ahmadinejad's surprise win -- on a populist platform that emphasized quality of life -- has unsettled many here.

"I believe the traditional right wing is worried," said Saeed Laylaz, an analyst who served in the first reformist administration of Khatami. "Until now they used each other as a horse to ride from one place to the other, and each thought the other was the rider."

Ahmadinejad's triumph, he said, clarified the driving force.

"When you create radicals, they don't stop when you want them to," Laylaz said. "The leader can order when they leave the barracks, but they decide when to go back. This is the dangerous position of the supreme leader and the right wing right now."

Khamenei Urges Iran To Resist Threats On Nuclear

Space War:

by Staff Writers

Tehran (AFP) Mar 27, 2006

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged Iranians to resist "the enemy's threats" amid international warnings for Iran to halt atomic activities. "Some of these threats may also be put in practice. A nation will be able to preserve its honor and glory in this case if it resists without retreat," Khamenei told the Basij, Iran's Islamic militia force.

"The enemy wants to dominate Iran again and today they follow the same objective by propaganda, rumors and lies about the nuclear issue," he said, referring to talks at the UN Security Council on Iran's nuclear programme.

The United States and its allies believe Iran's nuclear program conceals an effort to develop weapons and have urged it to halt sensitive uranium enrichment activities.

Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its research is peaceful and meant to provide fuel for its power plants.

Khamenei also termed moves on the Security Council as "lining up against Iran's interests." "They call it international consensus, but the international consensus is against America's interference and war-mongering."

Iranian hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underscored Tehran's insistence on having full access to nuclear technology.

"The world must know that Iranian nation will not back down even a step from its right on the issue of nuclear technology," he told Iranians in the southern province of Kohgiluyeh-Boyerahmad, in a speech broadcast live on television.

Ahmadinejad also shrugged off the UN Security Council's discussions.

"Don't mind these threats, naggings, frowns and meeting after meeting ... they want to take a concession from us. Our response is that Iranian nation will not give you the least concession and is not worried that you are angry."

The UN Security Council is currently deadlocked over Iran's nuclear program.

Discussions, which began Monday, have been snagged by the refusal of Russia and China, two of the council's five veto-wielding permanent members, to consider sanctions against their ally and major trading partner in Tehran.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Iran's Nuclear Steps Quicken, Diplomats Say

Los Angeles Times:

Tehran reportedly is gearing up for uranium enrichment. A split in the Security Council may impede efforts to halt the program.

By Alissa J. Rubin and Maggie Farley, Times Staff Writers

March 25, 2006

VIENNA — With efforts to halt its nuclear program at an impasse, Iran is moving faster than expected and is just days from making the first steps toward enriching uranium, said diplomats who have been briefed on the program.

If engineers encounter no major technical problems, Iran could manufacture enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb within three years, much more quickly than the common estimate of five to 10 years, the diplomats said. Iran insists that it is interested only in producing electricity, which requires low-grade enrichment of uranium.

New information about Iran's program came from diplomats representing countries on the United Nations Security Council. They were briefed by senior staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which maintains monitors in Iran. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the briefing was private.

Even as Iran apparently moves forward, diplomatic efforts to persuade it to halt its nuclear work appeared to be faltering in the face of distrust among powerful Security Council members and disagreements over the best strategy.

"We're getting conflicting signals from the United States; it now appears they want to escalate the situation," said a senior diplomat in Vienna. "The Russians see that as a slippery slope.

"Officials said Iran was on the verge of feeding uranium gas into centrifuges, the first step toward enrichment. That move is in keeping with Iran's experience level and its previous statements, experts said.

According to one non-Western official who closely follows Iran's progress, engineers at a pilot plant in Natanz are likely to start crucial testing in the next couple of days to ensure that the centrifuges and the pipes connecting them are properly vacuum sealed. They are likely to begin feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into a series of 164 connected centrifuges within about two weeks, the official said.

Diplomats and experts say Iran has forgone usual testing periods for individual centrifuges and small series of linked centrifuges, instead apparently trying to put together as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

They said Iran also was likely to begin assembling more centrifuges in mid-April to put together additional cascades of linked centrifuges. The pilot plant can hold up to six cascades of 164 centrifuges each. It could take many months to complete that work, the diplomats said.

The U.S. and its British, French and German allies believe Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, and must be stopped before learning how to enrich uranium. They view the ability to operate a series of centrifuges as a technological tipping point.

"If you can do one centrifuge, you can do 164," said Emyr Jones Parry, British envoy to the U.N. "If you can do 164, you probably can do many more. That means you have the potential to do full-scale enrichment. If you can do enrichment up to 7%, you can do 80%.

If you can do 80%, you can produce a bomb."Policymakers watching Iran's program are making two separate assessments: a technical one based on Iran's ability to enrich uranium and a political judgment on whether Iran is attempting to make a bomb or merely trying to enrich uranium to a low level for civilian purposes, as Iranian officials insist.

The three-year time frame for Iran to produce a bomb cited by diplomats is the same as an estimate by former nuclear weapons inspector David Albright.

In a paper that will be released Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security, which Albright founded, he and a colleague give a detailed description of how, under a best-case scenario, Iran would be able to manufacture enough highly enriched uranium for a crude nuclear device in three years. Albright cautioned, however, that Iran faces many technical hurdles it might find difficult to overcome.

Gary S. Samore, a former nonproliferation expert at the National Security Council, now at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, also said it was far more likely that the Iranians would encounter problems and that it could take them four to five years.

If Iran decides to make highly enriched uranium, it would need either to do so clandestinely, or leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which prohibits signatories from producing highly enriched uranium.

The IAEA board of governors reported Iran to the Security Council for failing to respond to requests from inspectors for information about its program, which it kept hidden for 18 years.All the members of the Security Council agree that Iran should not be permitted to produce a bomb.

Under an agreement with Russia and China, the council only began to discuss Tehran's case in mid-March. The next steps are hotly disputed.The European Union and the Americans want to exert vigorous pressure on Iran. They insist on a reinstatement of a total moratorium on uranium enrichment that Iran had voluntarily put in place in late 2004 while negotiating with the EU. The U.S. and EU are willing to use a U.N. procedure that gives Security Council resolutions the force of law, and to impose sanctions.

The Russians and the Chinese, mindful of the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq three years ago, fear that taking too hard a line would lead to an escalation of tensions that could result in military action against Iran. They believe that sanctions and other measures might push Iran to abandon the nonproliferation treaty, which keeps international inspectors in the country.

Russia and China would be willing to allow Iran to retain a small cascade of centrifuges for research purposes.

The difference among the permanent Security Council members suggest it could be a long time before they reach a consensus."I don't think anyone can predict if there will be serious action in the Security Council," said Stephen G. Rademaker, acting assistant secretary of State for security and nonproliferation, in an interview this week.

The U.S. and its allies face the difficulty of allaying Russian suspicion that reporting Iran to the Security Council was a way to make the case for military action.

"The Russian concern is with the medium- and long-term plan: 'Where's it going?' " said a diplomat from a European Union country. "Even though we say military action is not an option, they have a concern that we're going down a route that ends up in a single place.

"The diplomat said the West's counter-argument is that moving ahead in a unified way sends a signal that the five powerful permanent members of the Security Council are united and that Iran needs to listen.

However, getting Russia on board probably will be more difficult after a letter written by John Sawers of the British Foreign Office to his counterparts in the United States, France and German, was leaked this week. The letter touched on several issues, including the need for the U.S. to be involved in a package of incentives for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment, but it also made it clear that the U.S. and its European partners jointly were negotiating a position without consulting the Russians and Chinese.

"Moscow is unlikely to agree to anything devised behind its back and then presented as the sole solution possible," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov.

In the meantime, the situation is changing daily as the Iranians move ahead.

"We're getting to the point where this fundamental difference between the U.S. and EU position and that of the Russians is being overtaken by Iran's … putting new facts on the ground," said Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, who previously worked for the U.S. State Department on nuclear issues. "Iran is closer and closer to enrichment, so the effort to deny them the capability is rapidly failing."

Rubin reported from Vienna and Farley from the United Nations.

Iran supports Russian, Chinese line on nuclear dispute

Yahoo News:

Sat Mar 25, 2:27 AM ET

Iran supports the stance taken by Russia and China to take the diplomatic route in the search for an international solution to the thorny nuclear issue, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said.

Mottaki made his comments during three-way telephone talks with his Russian and Chinese counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Li Zhaoxing, the semi-official Iran agency reported.

Iran "supports and is happy with the position (of Russia and China) in favour of pursuing negotiations in a bid to find a solution acceptable to all parties and examination of the (nuclear) question under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency" (IAEA), Irna quoted Mottaki as saying.

The UN Security Council has attempted in vain to agree on a deadline for Tehran to comply with IAEA demands to abandon all activities linked to the enrichment of uranium.

Russia, backed by China, insists on the Security Council playing a supporting role to the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, and rejects any deadline which appears like an ultimatum linked to possible sanctions.

Lavrov said Friday that Moscow could not accept any decision on Iran reached by Western powers without prior consultation with Russia.

"I doubt we would accept (a proposal) taken behind our back and then presented to us as the only outcome possible," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

He was commenting on reports earlier this week that Britain had been carrying out secret negotiations with other Western capitals.

Meanwhile US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday also telephoned Lavrov in a new attempt to break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear program.

Rice told a news conference that she and Lavrov agreed to step up work on a statement aimed at forcing Tehran to renounce any ambitions to develop atomic bombs.

The call came a day after Rice expressed impatience over the slow pace of UN talks on the issue and warned "there can't be any stalling" in dealing with the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Diplomatic sources in Berlin said Rice would travel next week to key European allies Germany, France and Britain to discuss the issue.

The United States and its allies believe Iran's civilian nuclear program hides an effort to develop weapons. Tehran says its research is peaceful.

Russia has repeatedly said the Iran nuclear crisis should be resolved within the IAEA, effectively ruling out sanctions against Tehran.

Russia has previously proposed a compromise under which Iran would enrich uranium on Russian, not Iranian, soil. Tehran has rejected that plan.

Mottaki denounced "certain Security Council member nations who are in the minority and who are pursuing political objectives and are seeking confrontation".

He added that the return of the Iranian nuclear dossier to the IAEA by the Security Council would permit random inspections of Iranian nuclear sites.

Iran only week or two away from pilot uranium enrichment - diplomats

Yahoo News:

Sat Mar 25, 4:05 PM ET

Iran could be running a 164-centrifuge pilot cascade to enrich uranium by the end of March or beginning of April, diplomats close to the UN nuclear watchdog told AFP.

This comes as the United Nations Security Council is stalled over issuing a statement that would call on Iran to suspend enrichment, which Tehran says is to produce nuclear reactor fuel but can make atom bomb material.

At the pilot cascade in the Iranian city of Natanz, "there is just piping to be finished, then they do vacuum tests, then they would test with inert gas and finally they would put in uranium gas to begin the process," said a diplomat close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The diplomat, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the cascade might be ready to begin enrichment as quickly as "within a week, maybe a week or two longer." While the cascade at Natanz is too small to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU), the reported progress "has really raised the anxiety level" about Tehran's nuclear program, a Western diplomat said.

"Iran is closer to mastering centrifuge cascade operations than we expected," the diplomat said. Nuclear expert David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said Iran could make low-enriched uranium which it could enrich further to bomb grade "a lot quicker."

The Western diplomat said Iran's progress in enrichment "means diplomacy has less time to succeed. Much less time. And yet the Russians are dithering."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday telephoned Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a new attempt to break a deadlock at the Security Council.

Rice told a news conference in Washington that she and Lavrov, whose country has resisted tough action against Iran, agreed to step up work on a statement aimed at forcing Tehran to renounce any ambitions to develop atomic bombs.

Rice's earlier warned "there can't be any stalling" in dealing with the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran in mid-February dropped a self-imposed moratorium on enrichment -- meant to show it did not seek nuclear weapons -- by putting uranium hexafluoride gas into single centrifuges in Natanz, followed by 10-centrifuge and a 20-centrifuge cascade.

The next step would be the 164-centrifuge cascade, a research-level operation to learn about techniques used in running thousands of centrifuges.

Iran, which strongly denies it wants nuclear weapons but insists on its right to enrich uranium for fuel, needs more than 50,000 centrifuges to produce enough for up to a dozen atom bombs a year.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Envoy Accuses Iran Of Duplicity on Iraq

Washington Post:

Fighters Receive Support, Khalilzad Says

By Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer

Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, March 24, 2006; Page A12

BAGHDAD, March 23 -- Iran is publicly professing its support for Iraq's stalemated political process while its military and intelligence services back outlawed militias and insurgent groups, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday.

Iranian agents train and arm Shiite Muslim militias such as the Mahdi Army, linked to one of Iraq's most powerful clerics, Khalilzad said, and also work closely with Sunni Arab-led insurgent forces including Ansar al-Sunna, blamed for dozens of deadly attacks on Iraqi and American soldiers and Shiite civilians.

"Our judgment is that training and supplying, direct or indirect, takes place, and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with Revolutionary Guard and with MOIS," the Afghan-born Khalilzad said, referring to Iran's main military force and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Khalilzad's comments, made in an interview in his spacious office in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, came as the United States and Iran -- two feuding foreign powers with dominant roles in Iraqi affairs -- have expressed willingness to hold talks aimed at stabilizing the beleaguered country. Iran, which borders Iraq to the east and whose theocratic government retains close ties with Iraq's Shiite political leaders, has repeatedly denied American accusations that it is a force for instability in Iraq. Instead, it has blamed the United States for the unrest.

The calls for dialogue over Iraq coincided with deliberations by the U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is a permanent member, over possible actions against Iran for its controversial nuclear program. Asked if any discussions had begun, Khalilzad said, "There is nothing new on that."

Khalilzad's remarks also coincided with stalled negotiations over the formation of Iraq's next government. Sunni Arab parties, pushing for more prominent ministerial posts from the Shiite religious parties that hold the largest share of the seats in parliament, have accused Iran of complicity in recent attacks on Sunnis by Shiite militias that have pushed the country toward civil war.

"The militias haven't been focused on decisively yet. . . . That will be tough," Khalilzad said. "More Iraqis in Baghdad are dying -- if you look at the recent period of two, three weeks -- from the militia attacks than from the terrorist car bombings."

Khalilzad expressed particular concern over Iran's ties to the Mahdi Army, an armed group loyal to the outspoken Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that the ambassador said was responsible for many of the recent killings, despite Sadr's public pleas for calm.

Sadr, who was charged by the former U.S. occupation authority with involvement in the killing of a rival religious leader soon after the U.S. invasion three years ago, has recently plunged into politics after waging two armed uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004.

But Khalilzad said the United States has had no face-to-face contact with the cleric, in his early thirties, whose followers hold more than 30 seats in the new parliament. "No, I don't talk to him, because we don't meet with Moqtada Sadr, but I have sent him messages publicly. . . . We engage him whatever way we can," said Khalilzad, who added that he and other embassy officials did meet with Sadr's political allies. "I think that our people advise me against it because there is an indictment against him."

An aide to Sadr, one of the most outspoken critics of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, said Thursday that the cleric would not meet with American officials until foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq.

With negotiations to form a government deadlocked three months after the Dec. 15 legislative elections and Iraqis growing increasingly impatient, Khalilzad said he was stressing to Iraqi leaders that new authority is needed to quell instability.

"I am the one who's saying, 'The country is bleeding, you need to move,' " he said, adding that recent sessions with political leaders from various sides have brought at least one encouraging sign: The groups are now more willing to directly address each other's concerns without using Americans as intermediaries.

"I have been reduced -- and I am not complaining -- to an observer, which is a good thing," he said, dismissing the widely held belief that he is still the driving force for unity, cajoling rival groups to negotiate. "I think now I say that they are really politically moving toward a self-reliance."

Still, he said, a deep gulf remains between the country's Shiite and Sunni factions.

"Sunnis are concerned about having a say in the decision-making, while the Shia concern is that having a say in the decision-making should not obviate the results of the elections and should not create a situation in which decisions are so difficult to make that nothing happens because everyone needs to speak to everyone before anything is done," he said.

Sunnis and others have called on Shiites to reconsider their choice -- backed by Sadr -- of the transitional prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafari, to lead the new government. They also want the Shiites to ensure that the country's security ministries are not put in the hands of politicians tied to militias. The Shiite bloc has so far resisted both demands.

Asked if Shiites, who fell short of winning a parliamentary majority, would ever be willing to share enough power to allow a unified government to be formed, Khalilzad pointed to constitutional provisions that require a two-thirds vote for many of the functions of government to be carried out.

The Shiites "have no alternative" but to compromise, he said.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Diplomats Report Little Progress on Iran

Yahoo News:

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer

Wed Mar 22, 7:45 PM ET

The five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council reported little progress Wednesday after new talks meant to craft a unified message urging Iran to come clean about its suspect nuclear program.

The gap between Britain, France and the United States on the one side, and China and Russia on the other, on the stance to take toward Iran has shown little sign of closing in the nearly two weeks that council members have debated the issue.

Nonetheless, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and several diplomats in New York expressed their belief that the council would come to a deal eventually.

"We will come up with a vehicle, I am quite certain of that," Rice said during a trip to the Bahamas. "We have work still to do. This is the natural course of diplomacy. If it takes a little longer, I'm not really concerned about that."

The United States and its allies in Europe had hoped that a strong council statement would help pressure Iran to comply with demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to stop enriching uranium. The IAEA's 35-nation board had asked for Security Council involvement earlier this year after Iran moved to develop full-blown enrichment capabilities.

Yet the West has so far been unable to persuade China and Russia to sign onto a statement reiterating demands by the IAEA that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, the process that can be used to generate nuclear power or make nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said the Russians and Chinese have not budged from their demand that the IAEA retain the main role in cajoling Iran on uranium enrichment. They have raised concerns that pushing Iran too hard could lead to its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expulsion of IAEA inspectors.

After their talks Wednesday, the five veto-wielding members of the council said more talks were needed. They still had no plans to call a meeting of the full, 15-nation council to consider a new text for a council statement.

"We will meet from time to time but we didn't discuss any proposals to arrange the meeting of the whole membership," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said. "We still need some more time to consult."

In a talk in Wheeling, W.Va., President Bush stressed that Iran should never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

"We're dealing with this issue diplomatically by having the Germans and the French and the British send a clear message to the Iranians, with our strong backing, that you will not have the capacity to make a weapon, to know how to make a weapon," Bush said.

Rice won't tolerate stall tactics on Iran

USA Today:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a veiled warning Thursday to holdouts in a diplomatic impasse at the United Nations over Iran's disputed nuclear program. "There can't be any stalling," Rice said in response to a question about U.S. efforts to get Russia and China to sign on to a strongly worded rebuke to Tehran.

Russia and China have refused to back a U.N. Security Council statement proposed by Britain, France and the United States demanding Iran suspend uranium enrichment.

Talks among the permanent members of the Security Council have bogged down over the statement, which traditional Iranian allies or trade partners see as a prelude to sanctions they do not support.

Rice planned to call her Russian counterpart Friday to try to break the deadlock.

The Security Council statement was intended to be an opening move in what could be lengthy talks at the powerful U.N. body over how to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

The statement was also meant to be an easier pill to swallow for Russia and China than would another option: A tough Security Council resolution.

A presidential statement requires consensus from the body's 15 members. A resolution would be put to an up-or-down vote, meaning Russia and China would have to approve, abstain or veto action against Iran.

Rice indicated that the United States will not wait long before taking another tack.

"The international community has got to act," Rice said following a first meeting with the new Greek foreign minister, Theodora Bakoyannis.

"People are looking to the international community to show that this can, indeed, be dealt with diplomatically," Rice said. "We are committed to a diplomatic solution, but it has to be dealt with."

Russian deputy U.N. Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov said Russia was still under the assumption that the council was working toward a presidential statement, not a resolution.

"We are continuing negotiations in good faith and we hope that all our partners are doing likewise," Dolgov told The Associated Press.

The Iran nuclear file moved to the Security Council this month, with the support of veto-wielding members Russia and China. That was seen as a diplomatic victory for the United States, which had long sought to place Iran before the U.N. body for possible punishment.

Moscow and Beijing now insist the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency, play the lead role in clearing up suspicions over Iran's intentions.

"We think there is still an opportunity to get a compromise but a compromise that would send the right signal — endorse the IAEA, and help in the negotiation process which is going on and should go on," Dolgov said.

Iran says it is developing nuclear technology only to produce electricity, but the United States and its allies accuse the clerical regime of using civilian nuclear power as a cover to develop weapons.

"There is an erosion of confidence in Iran on this point, because they lied to the IAEA for 18 years," Rice said, referring to nuclear research and development activities that Iran kept hidden.

Russia and China have raised concerns that pushing Iran too hard could lead to its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and expulsion of IAEA inspectors.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

U.S. President expresses his greetings at the occasion of the Iranian New Year


The U.S. President, George W. Bush, has expressed his greetings at the occasion of the upcoming Iranian New Year, starting on March 20th.

The Presidential statement is as follow:

" March 2005 I send greetings to those celebrating Nowruz. Nowruz marks the arrival of a new year and the celebration of life. It has long been an opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the beauty of nature. Many Americans who trace their heritage to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Central Asia observe this special occasion to preserve their rich heritage and ensure that their values and traditions are passed on to future generations. This festival also reminds all Americans of the diversity that has made our Nation stronger and better. Laura and I send our best wishes for peace and prosperity in the New Year. GEORGE W. BUSH End..."


Yahoo News:

By Richard Reeves

Fri Mar 17, 6:44 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Let me ask you a question: If you were running Iran, would you try to develop nuclear weapons?

I would.

Apparently the editors of the Los Angeles Times would also answer "Yes."

The lead editorial in Friday's Times was comment on the release of the U.S. government's latest "National Security Strategy." That's the one in which President Bush's introduction begins, "America is at war," and then goes on to specifically name Iran as an enemy of the United States.

The document also reiterates the U.S. commitment to pre-emptive or preventive war.

The Times puts it this way:

"In invading Iraq, Bush has created his own nightmare. Iraq is now a magnet for jihadists. And Iran is even more determined to develop nuclear weapons to forestall a fate similar to Iraq's. ... A document that names as enemies Iran and North Korea ... provides all the justification those regimes need for a nuclear deterrent of their own. And it virtually guarantees a continuation of the very proliferation that Bush has identified as the greatest threat of all."

In plainer language, the bomb is the symbol of maturity in the world today. Nations that have the bomb are treated as grown-ups. Nations without the bomb get no respect. To many Iranians, not all of them fanatic clerics who dress funny, building a bomb is the only protection against Americans trying to take over their world. Non-proliferation would make more sense if you are not afraid of the Americans.

Again, what would you do? The United States says it is at war, you are the enemy, and it will strike first if it decides that is in its national interest. But that is not likely to happen if you have nuclear weapons.

That is a lesson learned for many bad guys -- including Saddam Hussein. It seems that the reason the Iraqi tyrant was pretending to have weapons of mass destruction was not to scare the Americans, but to deter the Iranians. According to the new book by Michael Gordon and retired general Bernard Trainor, "Cobra II," Saddam was afraid that if Iran knew that Iraq no longer had stocks of poison gas -- both sides used gas in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988 -- then Iran might not be deterred if it had visions of moving into southern Iraq.

President Bush, judging from the 49-page National Security Strategy, seems to have learned no lesson, including the fact that America is not really at war. The government and its volunteer military and the new brand of privatized paramilitary corporations are at war. But the whole thing is just television to most of the citizenry -- at least, those who do not have servicemen and women in the family, or do not have a financial stake in keeping this thing going.

Besides, this adventure is not going to be paid for by us, but by our children and grandchildren, who will be the ones paying the bills. In case you do not follow such things, the national debt has increased by 50 percent during this administration.

"War," to me, is not the most disturbing word in the strategy document. What scares me is the word "our." As in: "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

It is not "our" world. It is "the" world, still a planet of nations wallowing in their own history, ambition, fantasies -- and self-interests. The American fantasy these days is that we are better than other people and they all want to be just like us.

What other people want is what we have, "things." Things like cars and iPods, clean water and good health. And they want us to leave them alone or treat them as grown-ups.

We are drowning in our own hype. If God really made us so much better than other people, we would have been able to beat the South Koreans and Mexicans in the opening rounds of the World Baseball Classic last week.

Opinion: Hitting Iran

Yahoo News:

By William F. Buckley Jr.

Fri Mar 17, 6:46 PM ET

A sane and studious observer of the international scene addressed the dinner guests and concluded his optimistic analysis of our Iraqi venture with an arresting afterthought. "What we will not be seeing, when President Bush leaves office, is an Iran with a nuclear bomb."

Almost all discussion of pressing strategic concerns touches down on Iran. The drumrolling on nuclear Iran makes it retrospectively incredible that when Pakistan joined the nuclear club, we simply heard about it, roughly speaking, the day after they exploded one. By contrast, Iran is almost every week in the news on the matter of its determination to have a bomb. Most recently there was a setback, when Moscow declined to provide some of the help that Iran had asked for. It was this development, in the opinion of some analysts, that caused Tehran to agree to send a mission to Baghdad to confer with our ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad.

This hardly means that Iran is ready to negotiate an end to its nuclear development. Stephen Hadley, national security adviser to the president, caught the spirit of U.S. reaction to this development: "We're talking to Iran all the time. We make statements, they make statements."

But repeated statements by the president on the matter of U.S. concern over a nuclear-armed Iran bring up the question: What do we intend to do about it if Iran, departing from its bluster, adopts the Pakistani mode and proceeds noiselessly to nuclear armament?

The conversation turns to military intervention. A year ago, The New Yorker ran an extensive essay on the subject by Seymour Hersh, the salient finding of which was that to bring off an interdictory operation is very nearly impossible:

Item No. l:

The Israeli air force does not have airplanes with a range sufficient to complete a round trip to Iranian targets. Israeli culture does not sanction suicide missions, and it is inconceivable that planes would fly from Israel on suicide missions.

Item No. 2:

Nuclear sites in Iran are spread about, so that what the Israelis did in the 1981 bombing of Osirak, aborting the whole Iraqi nuclear operation, cannot be reproduced in Iran. An air strike superior to anything the Israelis could mount would be required.

And Item No. 3:

To get on with such an operation, requiring aircraft carriers and strategically useful bases on the perimeter of the target area, could not conceivably be done stealthily. The whole world would be ongoing witness to the impending operation, and pacifist anti-American capitulationist forces would rise to put almost impassable diplomatic obstacles in the way.

Well, then, can we get on with sanctions? These would seem to be scheduled, with the reiterated threat to call to the attention of the U.N. Security Council the illegality of Iran's program, as a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the first place, Moscow, in its anfractuous way, would probably veto sanctions. But what if it didn't? A determined international anti-Iran effort would hurt Iranians and Iranian interests, but how decisively? We aren't going to refuse to consume Iranian oil. Economic boycotts mostly do not work, and if and when they do (e.g., against Rhodesia), they require great stretches of time to generate real pain, and time is what we do not have.

The point insufficiently pressed is this: Why does the United States need to shoulder the critical burden here? If Iran gets the bomb, probably a new set of strategic relationships would arise.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt would clamor for the bomb, perhaps also Turkey. Regional internecine pressures would mount hugely. What it comes down to is that the United States would be critically affected, but other nations would be more directly affected, and the question repeats itself: Why do they not take on the responsibility of intervening in Iran?

Why should France not interrupt its August holiday to participate in a military mission? The interests of Germany and India are clearly affected. Where is U.S. diplomacy going with all of this? It's one thing that the United States is the ultimate deterrent power, but we act as though there were no others, and this is both emasculating and psychologically subversive.

Ideally, the initiative would be taken elsewhere, a forceful European or Middle Eastern leader mobilizing continental and Asian concern.

But failing that, the initiative would necessarily fall on us, and the question then becomes: Is it something Mr. Bush is going to handle before the end of his term in office?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In Iran, Dissenting Voices Rise on Its Leaders' Nuclear Strategy

Tthe New York Times:


TEHRAN, March 14 — Just weeks ago, the Iranian government's combative approach toward building a nuclear program produced rare public displays of unity here. Now, while the top leaders remain resolute in their course, cracks are opening both inside and outside the circles of power over the issue.

Some people in powerful positions have begun to insist that the confrontational tactics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been backfiring, making it harder instead of easier for Iran to develop a nuclear program.

This week, the United Nations Security Council is meeting to take up the Iranian nuclear program. That referral and, perhaps more important, Iran's inability so far to win Russia's unequivocal support for its plans have empowered critics of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to political analysts with close ties to the government.

One senior Iranian official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicate nature of the issue, said: "I tell you, if what they were doing was working, we would say, 'Good.' " But, he added: "For 27 years after the revolution, America wanted to get Iran to the Security Council and America failed. In less than six months, Ahmadinejad did that."

One month ago, the same official had said with a laugh that those who thought the hard-line approach was a bad choice were staying silent because it appeared to be succeeding.

As usual in Iran, there are mixed signals, and the government does not always speak with the same voice.

On Tuesday, both Mr. Ahmadinejad and the nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted in public speeches that their country would never back down. At the same time, Iranian negotiators arrived in Moscow to resume talks — at Iran's request — just days after Iran had rejected a Russian proposal to resolve the standoff.

Average Iranians do not seem uniformly confident at the prospect of being hit with United Nations sanctions.

From the streets of Tehran to the ski slopes outside the city, some people have begun to joke about the catch phrase of the government — flippantly saying, "Nuclear energy is our irrefutable right."

Reformers, whose political clout as a movement vanished after the last election, have also begun to speak out. And people with close ties to the government said high-ranking clerics had begun to give criticism of Iran's position to Ayatollah Khamenei, which the political elite sees as a seismic jolt.

"There has been no sign that they will back down," said Ahmad Zeidabady, a political analyst and journalist. "At least Mr. Khamenei has said nothing that we can interpret that there will be change in the policies."

But, he said, "There is more criticism as it is becoming more clear that this policy is not working, especially by those who were in the previous negotiating team."

There are also signs that negotiators are starting to back away, however slightly, from a bare-knuckle strategy and that those who had initially opposed the president's style — but remained silent — are beginning to feel vindicated and are starting to speak up.

A former president, Mohammad Khatami, recently publicly criticized the aggressive approach and called a return to his government's strategy of confidence-building with the west.

"The previous team now feels they were vindicated," said Nasser Hadian, a political science professor at Tehran University who is close to many members of the government. "The new team feels they have to justify their actions."

Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say, issued a strong defense of Iran's position on Tuesday. "The Islamic Republic of Iran considers retreat over the nuclear issue, which is the demand of the Iranian people, as breaking the country's independence that will impose huge costs on the Iranian nation," he said.

"Peaceful use of nuclear technology is a must and is necessary for scientific growth in all fields," Ayatollah Khamenei said. "Any kind of retreat will bring a series of pressures and retreats. So, this is an irreversible path and our foreign diplomacy should defend this right courageously."

In a speech in northern Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad called on the people to "be angry" at the pressure being put on Iran.

"Listen well," the president said to a crowd chanting "die" as they punched the air with their fists. "A nuclear program is our irrefutable right."

When Mr. Ahmadinejad took office, he embraced a decision already made by the top leadership to move toward confrontation with the West about the nuclear program. From the sidelines, Mr. Ahmadinejad's opponents remained largely silent as his political capital grew.

Iran's ability to begin uranium enrichment, and to remove the seals in January at least three nuclear facilities without any immediate consequences, was initially seen as a validation of the get-tough approach.

But one political scientist who speaks regularly with members of the Foreign Ministry said that Iran had hinged much of its strategy on winning Russia's support. The political scientist asked not to be identified so as not to compromise his relationship with people in the government.

The political scientist said some negotiators believed that by being hostile to the West they would be able to entice Moscow into making Tehran its stronghold in the Middle East. "They thought the turn east was the way forward," the person said. "That was a belief and a vision."

The person added, "They thought, 99 percent, Russia would seize the opportunity and back the Iranian leaders."

The route forward remains unclear as Iran tries to regain a sense of momentum.

There is a consensus here that Iran has many cards to play — from its influence with the Shiites in Iraq to its closer ties to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the prospect of using oil as a weapon. But the uncertainty of appearing before the Security Council, and the prospect of sanctions, has led some here to begin to rethink the wisdom of fighting the West head-on, analysts said.

Professor Hadian said he believed that for Iran to fundamentally change course the situation for Iran would have to first grow much worse.

"There are concerns to keep the situation calm," said Mr. Zeidabady, the journalist. "We have received orders not even to have headlines saying the case has been sent to the Security Council.

Although the situation is very critical, they want to pretend that everything is normal. They do not want to show the country is coming under pressure and lose their supporters."

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting for this article.

China, Russia object to tough Iran statement

USA Today:

Posted 3/14/2006 10:04 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China and Russia objected Tuesday to a tough U.N. Security Council statement backed by the United States, Britain and France calling for a report in two weeks on Iran's compliance with demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

While the five veto-wielding council members are united against Iran developing nuclear weapons, they disagree on how to get Tehran to comply with demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to stop all enrichment and reprocessing and answer questions about its controversial nuclear program.

Uranium enrichment can be used either in the generation of electricity or to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is to produce nuclear energy but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised concerns that Tehran might be seeking nuclear arms.

The draft Security Council proposals would express "the conviction that continued Iranian enrichment-related activity would intensify international concern." It also would reaffirm that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction "constitutes a threat to international peace and security" — language that already appears in virtually all U.N. sanctions resolutions.

The United States and its allies believe Security Council action will put pressure on Iran and could lead to tougher measures later on, such as sanctions.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a tough line on his country's suspect nuclear program Tuesday, saying it is "irreversible" and any retreat would endanger the Islamic republic's independence.

Russia and China, allies of Iran, are not as skeptical of its intentions and believe that tough council action could spark an Iranian withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and expulsion of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

China and Russia on Tuesday reiterated the importance of diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff.

The five permanent members met Tuesday and were scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he sought a council statement with a short political message calling "on the Iranians to cooperate, to comply with the IAEA resolutions, support the IAEA authority on this issue, and give the Security Council support to the IAEA — let the IAEA continue to play the main role."

The United States wants "to strengthen the IAEA's hand," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said, but it also believes "the Security Council has an independent obligation when faced with the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in violation of treaty obligations, which is what the case of Iran is."

He said the United States wants to move as quickly as possible.

"Every day that goes by is a day that permits the Iranians to get closer to a nuclear weapons capability," Bolton warned.

Whether the opposing views can be reconciled remains to be seen.

On Tuesday afternoon, the entire 15-member council met for the first time to discuss the elements in the draft British-French text; further consultations were scheduled on Thursday.

Last month, the IAEA's board voted to report Iran to the Security Council, saying it lacked confidence in Tehran's nuclear intentions and accusing Iran of violating the NPT.

Iran responded by ending voluntary cooperation with the IAEA and announcing it would start uranium enrichment and bar surprise inspections of its facilities.

Iran Leader: Nuclear Path 'Irreversible'

Yahoo News:

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 14, 8:26 PM ET

Iran's supreme leader issued a tough line on his country's suspect nuclear program Tuesday, saying it is "irreversible" and any retreat would endanger the Islamic republic's independence. The confrontational tone from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, set Iran on a collision course with the West as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council debated how to deal with fears Tehran is seeking to develop atomic weapons.

After meeting Tuesday at the United Nations, the Security Council powers remained divided over how strong a statement to make on Iran's nuclear program. A British-French draft demands that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, which can be used to make nuclear arms, and calls for a report within weeks on Iran's progress toward answering questions about its nuclear program.

Russia and China, which have strong economic ties with Tehran, say the draft does not leave enough room for diplomacy and focuses too much on possible action by the council, which could impose sanctions.

The White House said the calls by Moscow and Beijing for a negotiated end to the crisis do not mean the end of U.S. hopes for a strong statement from the 15-nation council.

"That's premature to get into that kind of discussion," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The discussions are ongoing."

McClellan said Iran wants to divert attention from the real issue, but that "all nations understand the importance of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon. ... This is about the regime's behavior."

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Bush administration wants to move "as quickly as we can," although he added that it wants to maintain the unity of the five permanent council members that wield veto power.

"Every day that goes by is a day that permits the Iranians to get closer to a nuclear weapons capability," Bolton said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also called for a "robust and determined" stance from the United Nations and said his country would consider pushing for a weapons embargo against Iran if efforts to force it to clear up questions about its nuclear intentions fail.

Khamenei's comments further dimmed already fading hopes for a compromise proposal by Moscow that called for uranium enrichment to take place entirely on Russian soil and was seen as the last chance for averting a standoff at Security Council over Iran.

Tehran has been giving conflicting signals on the proposal, announcing over the weekend that it was no longer being considered, then saying talks with Russia were still under way.

Khamenei intervened Tuesday to lay down the one of his strongest statements on the nuclear issue, apparently aimed at ending any compromising tone from moderates within the Iranian government.

He told Iranian diplomats who were called home for consultations that there would be no backing down.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers retreat over the nuclear issue ... as breaking the country's independence which will impose huge costs on the Iranian nation," Khamenei said, according to state television.

"This path is irreversible and the foreign policy establishment has to bravely defend Iran's rights," he told the diplomats.

In a nationally televised speech, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also vowed to resist pressure from the Security Council, saying "no power" can take nuclear technology from Iran.

"They should know that through propaganda, political pressures and games they play nowadays ... (they) can't prevent the Iranian nation from pursuing its path," he said, referring to the West.

Russian negotiators held talks with an Iranian delegations Tuesday in Moscow, urging a diplomatic solution to the standoff. The Iranians left the Russian capital after the talks, with no announcement of any progress. Moscow has appeared increasingly frustrated with Iran, a longtime ally that Russia is helping to build its first nuclear reactor.

In another sign Tehran was preparing for the worst, officials told editors of Iran's newspapers in recent meetings that editorials criticizing the government's nuclear policies won't be tolerated, according to an internal newsletter of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party.

The nuclear program is a source of national pride in Iran, and even pro-reform figures have supported its pursuit.

But criticism has been growing among reformists of Ahmadinejad's foreign policy performance. The Islamic Iran Participation Front said in its newsletter this week that Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" last year rang alarm bells in Western capitals and unnecessarily provoked the West against Iran.

The United States and some in Europe accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its program aims only to use nuclear reactors to generate electricity. It insists on its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to fully develop peaceful nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment.

The United States and its European allies want Iran to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, because the process can produce not only fuel for a reactor but also the material for a nuclear warhead.

Symbols of Islamic regime set on fire


March 14

Thousands of pictures of the Islamic regime's leaders were set on fire, by maverick Iranians, at the occasion of the banned "Tchahar-Shanbe Soori" (Fire Fiest). In places, the constitution of the Islamic regime was also thrown in fire bushes with the "Hurray" of maverick Iranians.

Reports from several areas of the Capital, such as Sadeghie and Mohseni, or from cities, such as, Esfahan, Ahvaz, Mahabad, Hamedan and Shahin-Shar, are all stating about some of the regime's symbols set on fire.

The Movement issued, yesterday, a communique by asking to "transform into ash the symbols of the regime and to give the ash to the wind." The call was broadcasted by most popular abroad based media for inside the country.

This year's Fire Fiest demos have been qualified as unprecedented. many Iranians intended to defy the Islamic regime and to reject the religious ban of the event.

Hundreds wounded or arrested in Fire Fiest riots


March 14

Hundreds were wounded or arrested during the "Tchahr-Shanbe Soori" (Fire Fiest) riots which rocked, this evening, most Iranian cities. Some reports are also stating about several deaths, but, the Islamic regime's sources are attributing them to incidents that have happened due to use of explosives by the victims themselves.

Those arrested will be kept in jail and subject to harsh punishment as already warned by the Islamic regime. Arrested females are expected to be condemned to lashes and the males to be kept for along time before even being send to speedy courts.

The most violent clashes happened in the Madar, Javadieh and sadeghie areas of Tehran and main squares of cities, such as, Esfahan, Ahvaz, Khorram-Abad, Hamedan, sari and Kermanshah.Several public buildings and business have been damaged by what has been confirmed as the plainclothes agents of the regime, itself, in order to justify repression. Some of the same elements were seen burning US and Israeli flags in order to deviate the meaning of the popular riots and in order to simulate, for propaganda purposes, the existence of anti-American feelings among Iranians.

The riots, despite being expected, took the regime by surprise due to an unprecedented participation which marks the increasing Nationalistic and Secularist feelings of Iranians. Even opposition groups, such as the Iraqi based Marxist-Islamist MKO, have had to line up in order to avoid loosing more ground among Iranian masses. The Cult group, which doesn't benefit of a real popularity among Iranians, is now even trying to claim leadership of what happened while everyone know that its ideology was to fight against Iran's national and cultural heritage, not a very long time ago.