Tuesday, March 13, 2007

News from Iran

The permanent members of the UN Security Council moved closer to agreement on a second resolution against Iran. The Security Council may vote on the proposed new sanctions by Friday 16 March. In addition to previous sanctions imposed against Iran, the new resolution is expected to impose an embargo on arms exports, a ban on governmental loans to Iran, and asset freeze on more individuals and companies linked to the nuclear program. The Russians also announced that the construction of Bushehr nuclear reactor will not be completed sooner than November 2007.

Iran Nuclear Program
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a special session of the UN Security Council on Iran’s nuclear program.
· The permanent members of the UN Security Council moved closer to agreement on a second resolution against Iran.
· Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami urged the Iranian government to prevent a crisis with world powers over its nuclear program; Khatami said that Iran should pay “a certain price” to resolve the nuclear standoff and avoid the second sanctions resolution; he added that Iran can prevent a crisis with “discretion and courage.”
· Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran’s nuclear program has a legal base; and Iran’s chief delegate to IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, added that the uranium enrichment program “will continue as planned.”
· Russia announced that the construction of Iran's first atomic power station will not be completed sooner than November 2007; Iran accused the Russians of “politicizing” the electricity-generating project.
· NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that Iranian and North Korean missiles and nuclear programs are serious threats to NATO.
· Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel is capable of dealing alone with the Iranian nuclear threat even if sanctions don't work.

The Baghdad Conference and US-Iran Relations
· The American and Iranian envoys to Baghdad’s regional peace conference exchanged direct talks; the US representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, called it a “first step”; Khalilzad said that their discussions with regard to Iraq were “constructive, businesslike and problem-solving”; the Iranian representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters that all dialogue was within the framework of the meeting; he added there had been "heated" discussions with the US side over the six Iranian diplomats detained by American forces in Iraq.

Domestic Storylines
· The government has released all but two of 33 women arrested prior to the International Women’s Day celebrations on 8 March; the women were detained while protesting the arrest of five other women activists.
· Mystery continued over the disappearance of a senior Iranian defense ministry official in Turkey ; Iran accused Western power of “kidnapping” the official, Ali Reza Asghari, a former deputy defense minister.
· Iran issued a bank note with a nuclear symbol in defiance of sanctions over its insistence on enriching uranium; the note shows a nuclear symbol within a map of Iran.
· Iran lifted the ban on the country’s flagship newspaper, Shargh; the newspaper was closed down in September 2006 after publishing a carton deemed offensive to the Iranian president.

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