Saturday, March 3, 2007

News from Iran

March 1, 2007

Iran’s nuclear program and its defiance of a UN deadline to halt its uranium enrichment program dominated the coverage of the media inside the country. Iran ignored the 23 February deadline and insisted that it will forcefully continue the development of its nuclear program. President Ahmadinejad compared the program to a high-speed train on a one-way track with no brakes. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran needed a stop button on its train to avoid further UN sanctions. On domestic front, the nuclear program caused major rifts among the country’s political groupings. In an unusual blunt language, a prominent reformist group accused the government of “adventurism” and warned that its nuclear program will put the country in grave danger. The Supreme Leader responded by saying any talks of danger for the country could only come from the enemies of the state.

Iran Nuclear Program
· President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran’s movement to acquire nuclear technology is like a train on a one-way track with no room for stopping, no reverse gear and no brakes; he said that the critics of the country’s nuclear program are bullying him to stop uranium enrichment.
· Iranian Government Spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham totally ruled out any suspension of the country’s uranium enrichment program; he said that suspension of peaceful nuclear programs that are pursued under the supervision of the IAEA is an illegitimate and irrational request; Elham added that if Iran's nuclear train stops, then the country will lose time and will be obliged to backtrack on the path of nuclear progress.
· The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has ignored a UN Security Council (UNSC) ultimatum to freeze its uranium enrichment program; IAEA report to UNSC asserted that Iran has actually expanded its enrichment program by setting up hundreds of new centrifuges; the report put the number of centrifuges in operation at roughly 1,000; Iran has announced its goal of setting up 3,000 centrifuges, necessary to enrich enough uranium at industrial level.
· The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (5+1) sought a new UNSC resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran; an earlier UNSC resolution (1737) had demanded that Iran stop its enrichment program by 23 February; the leaders of 5+1 were to draw up a new draft UN Security Council resolution by early March.
· Mohsen Rezaie, the executive director of Iran’s Expediency Council, asserted that Iranian officials were firm in standing against any future resolution by the UNSC to curtail Iranian nuclear program.
· Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani assured the West that Iran was not seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
· Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Iran was far closer to learning how to make bomb-grade uranium than earlier thought.
· The Mujahedeen of Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), a prominent reformist party in Iran, called upon the Iranian government to accept the UN demand and halt its uranium enrichment program; the statement put out by the party said that “the officials should bravely correct their mistakes …to stop a further sacrifice of people's rights and to protect national, security and military interests”; the statement asserted that the nuclear standoff and the government’s “adventurist” policies will subject Iran to serious dangers.
· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei rejected any assertion that the country is in danger; Khamenie, alluding to the statement by MIRO, said that all the propaganda about existence of a state of emergency in Iran was false; he attributed such assertions to attempts by enemies to exert psychological pressure on the Iranian government.

Other Domestic Storylines
· Iran announced it has successfully launched into space its first rocket; Iran's Aerospace Research Center said that the suborbital rocket brings the country one step closer to launching its own commercial satellites; Iran launched its first satellite, Sina-1, into orbit from a Russian rocket in 2005; Iran has said it is planning the construction and launch of several more satellites over the next three years.
· Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Najar announced that Iran has inaugurated the production of Navy destroyers inside the country; the first destroyer to be built in the facilities was named “Wave II”; it is a 1420 ton destroyer with 2,000 hp and a top speed of 30 knots.
· Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) announced that it has killed one of the leaders of PEJAK, an Iranian Kurdish armed opposition group that operates in northwest Iran; IRCG had announced earlier that it had killed 17 PEJAK members during an operation in an area bordering the Iraqi Kurdistan.
· The Iranian government announced it plans to make an additional payment to a Russian contractor to enable the completion of a much-delayed nuclear power plant being built by the Russians in Bushehr; Russia had said it may delay the delivery of nuclear fuel for the reactor if the payments problems continue; Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation deputy chairman, Mohammad Saeedi, denied allegations by the Russian contractor, Atomstroiexport, that funds from Iran for the Bushehr plant had been frozen since January.

Iran-US Relationship
· US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, alluding to President Ahmadinejad’s comments comparing Iran’s nuclear movement to a train with no reverse gear and no brakes, said the Iranians do not need any reverse gear, only a stop button; Rice added if and when Iran stops its enrichment program, then we can come to the table and we can talk about how to move forward.
· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, rejected US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's conditional offer that US is ready to hold direct talks with Iran if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment; Larijani said that setting conditions means indicating the outcome of talks before holding them.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said US is not in any position to attack Iran; Mottaki was responding to US Vice President Dick Cheney who renewed Washington's warning to Iran that all options were on the table if Iran continues to enrich uranium.

Regional Issues
· Iran will attend an international conference in Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s future; US along with other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iraq’s neighbors will all attend the conference; the issue of security in Baghdad and in Iraq will be on the agenda.
· Pakistan hosted a meeting of foreign ministers of the region’s Islamic countries; the foreign ministers of Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia gathered in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to lay the groundwork for a summit of Muslim leaders at an unspecified date in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Iran was not invited to the meeting.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Tehran for Khartoum on a state visit to the Sudan.

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