The country’s nuclear program and the impending UN Security Council’s meeting to impose further sanctions against Iran for its program dominates the media coverage. President Ahmadinejad announced that he will attend the UNSC meeting to defend Iran’s nuclear rights. Iranian leaders warned the West against any military attack on Iran and threatened to respond militarily to any attack.
Iran Nuclear Program
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will attend the UN Security Council’s meeting on Iranian nuclear issue; Ahmadinejad said he will defend Iran's nuclear rights at the meeting; US announced that it has issued visas for Ahmadinejad and 38 members of his entourage to attend the UN meeting; Ahmadinejad had said earlier that the Security Council has no legitimacy among the peoples of the world.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran will respond in equal measure if the UN Security Council issues a second sanctions resolution against the country; Mottaki said the new sanctions will bring all kinds of consequences.
· Major General Ataollah Salehi, the commander of Iranian military, warned the United States not to make any “stupid move” over Iran’s nuclear program; General Salehi said Iran's military was stronger now than when Iran fought against Iraq in 1980-88; Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also warned the West against any military attacks; Larijani said that Iran would respond militarily if attacked.
· Russia put off delivering enriched uranium fuel to start Bushehr nuclear reactor; the fuel delivery was scheduled for March 2007; Russia had announced earlier that the construction of Bushehr plant will not be completed on schedule; Atomstroiexport, the Russian general contractor for Bushehr project, said in a statement that it had difficulties in appeasing subcontractors demanding urgent payments from Iran; the Iranian government announced that there had been no delay in paying the construction companies for their work at Bushehr; Iranian politicians have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of politicizing the Bushehr project.
· French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Iran had the choice of either suspending its uranium enrichment or face further sanctions.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in South Africa for a meting with President Thabo Mbeki; South Africa has proposed a 90-day moratorium on uranium enrichment by Iran and a corresponding moratorium on UN sanctions against Iran to calm the atmosphere and give all sides to conclude their negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear standoff.
· International Monetary Fund (IMF) ruled that US sanctions against an Iranian bank was legal; IMF rejected Iran’s argument that US sanctions violated laws on foreign exchange; US had blacklisted Iran’s Bank Saderat in late 2006, accusing it of financing terrorist operations; in January 2007, US added another major Iranian bank to the list, Bank Sepah. It has singled out the bank of major investment in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
· Iran hangs Ahmad Sariz, a member of Baluchi militant group Jundallah; Jundallah has carried out a string of attacks on government forces in Iranian Baluchestan; the government said that Sariz was found guilty for taking part in the killing of a police chief and the abduction of policemen; the province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has a substantial Sunni minority.
· The head of Iran’s Security Forces, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, said it is possible that Western intelligence services have kidnapped Iran’s former defense deputy minister Ali Reza Asgari; Asgari’s wife said her husband had disappeared in December; Asgari arrived in Istanbul on a visit and has not been seen since.
· Iran's most wanted fugitive businessman was arrested in a neighboring Arab country after escaping from authorities and leaving the country in February; Shahram Jazayeri had been sentenced in 2002 to 27 years prison for embezzlement; Jazayeri was transferred to Iran after his arrest in the unnamed Arab country.
· Iran launched a complaint with UNESCO against the movie 300; Iranian ambassador to UNESCO asked the world’s cultural organization to take a stand against the film; the movie portrays the Achaemenid Persians as savage beasts attacking freedom-loving citizens of Sparta; Achaemenid Persia, and its founder Cyrus the Great, gave the world its first charter of human right, known as Cyrus Cylinder; a replica of the cylinder is on permanent exhibit near the entrance of UN Security Council; the film is seen as a crude attempt to prove Western moral superiority over Eastern savagery throughout history and to show Persia as an “evil empire.”
· Bahrain’s defense minister said that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have capability to respond to any attack from Iran; Khalifa bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said the Gulf countries are able to defend themselves against Iran.
· Iranian ambassador to Iraq Mohammad Hossein Kazemi-Ghomi said that detained Iranian diplomats will be freed soon; he said that the Iraqi foreign minister had assured him of their imminent release; Kazemi-Ghomi said that no negotiations had been held between Iran and US on the fate of detained Iranians.