Tuesday, July 3, 2007

News from Iran

The Iranian government’s gasoline rationing and the reports of the decision’s aftermath dominated the coverage in the Iranian media. Long lines were formed at gas stations throughout the country and a dozen stations were burned and destroyed. Tehran’s police chief complained the government had kept the police in dark as to when the rationing was to take effect which resulted in police absence at the scene when the stations came under attack. On the nuclear front, the Iranian president said the country was unfazed by threat of new sanctions and will continue to develop its nuclear program. In regional news, Iran denied any involvement in abducting and killing five US soldiers last January in Karbala as alleged by the US military in Iraq. Iran launched a 24-hour English-language TV news channel, called Press TV.

The Gasoline Rationing

· Iran’s Oil Ministry announced the rationing nationwide of gasoline for the motorists; immediately after the announcement long lines were formed at gasoline stations and several stations were burned and destroyed; the suddenness of the announcement caused chaos throughout the country; Tehran police chief Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi Moqadam said the Oil Ministry failed to notify him when the rationing was going to take effect; Moqadam said the announcement took the police off guard and they could not prevent the destruction and the burning; Tehran’s deputy mayor said the city did not have the additional 6,000 taxis and a thousand more buses it needed to meet the rising demand for public transport; Iran’s Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said that greater advance notice of gasoline rationing would have prolonged public chaos.
· Iran has imported over $2 billion worth of gasoline since the start of the Iranian year on 21 March; the Treasury would have used its allocated $5.2 billion annual billion for gasoline imports within a few months; Keyhan, the influential conservative daily, called for sharp rise in gasoline prices to prevent gasoline smuggling to the neighboring counties; the price of gasoline is set by government at 41 cents a gallon with the ration of slightly more than a gallon of gasoline per car per day; the government has not yet announced the price for extra fuel purchased above the quota.
· Venezuela agreed to sell gasoline to Iran; Venezuelan energy minister Rafael Ramirez said the Iranians had asked to buy gasoline from us and Venezuela accepted their request; Ramirez was accompanying President Hugo Chavez in his visit to Iran.

The Nuclear Program

· The deputy director of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ollie Heinonen will visit Iran on 11 July to resolve outstanding issues on the country’s nuclear program; Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's ambassador to IAEA, said the delegation would not inspect Iran's nuclear facilities during their visit since they are not inspectors; Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani had invited the IAEA to send a team to Tehran to resolve unanswered questions on the nuclear program’s past; Larijani had met IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradeie in Geneva on 23 June.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is unfazed by threat of new sanctions; Ahmadinejad said that the West cannot cause Iran any harm.
· Iranian Majlis deputy Morteza Tamaddon said Iran would retaliate if US Congress approves a proposed legislation to ban companies from selling gasoline to Iran; Tamaddon said Iran will restrict the flow of oil through Strait of Hormuz if the Congress passed the bill.
· Russian President Vladimir Putin called for measured steps in dealing with Iranian nuclear program; US President George Bush said that during their meeting in Kennebunkport, Maine, he and Putin agreed to “send a strong message” to Iran over the country’s nuclear program; US has been trying hard to gain the Russian support on a new round of tough economic sanctions against Iran.
· Atomstroyexport, the Russian general contractor building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, sent its representative to Iran to resolve the remaining issues between the two sides; Atomstroyexport had stopped work at Bushehr due to financial disputes with the Iranian government.

Iran-US Relations

· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini denied accusations made by US military in Iraq of Iran’s involvement in training Iraqi extremists; the US military said that a captured senior Hezbollah militant, Ali Musa Daqduq, had confessed to training Iraqi militants inside Iran; US Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner also accused Iran of direct involvement in the capture and the killing of five US soldiers in Karbala last January; Gen. Bergner said that Daqdup was a liaison between the Iranians and Al Qazaali group accused of carrying out the abduction and killings of the Americans in Karbala; Iran’s defense minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mustafa Najar rejected the claims; Najar said the US accusations regarding Iran's interference in Iraq's affairs were “lies.”

Other Domestic Storylines

· Iran launched a 24-hour English-language TV news channel, called Press TV (3); Press TV is owned and operated by state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB); Press TV will compete with Al Jazeera English and other 24-hour English-language TV news channels; Press TV has a staff of 400, with 26 foreign correspondents stationed in major cities worldwide; the news channel did not have any agreements in place with the US cable operators for its programs to be carried by cable.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a proposal by US movie director Oliver Stone to make a film about him; Mehdi Kalhor, Ahmadinejad’s media advisor, said Stone is part of the cultural establishment of the “Great Satan”.

Regional and International Storylines

· Iran will join Cuban-Venezuelan trade agreement as an “observer member”; the visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed Iran’s observer membership in the trade pact that he called an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas; Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro signed the deal, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA, in 2005; Chavez said cooperation between countries such as Iran and Venezuela will have an effective role “in defeating imperialism”; Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran and Venezuela would sign over 20 memorandums of understanding during Chavez's visit to Iran.
· Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Asaloyeh, the center of Iranian petrochemical industry on the shores of the Persian Gulf, to launch the construction of a joint petrochemical plant; the tow presidents called the joint venture a manifestation of an “axis of unity” between the two nations.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hossieni said that that Iran has returned to UAE the three boats it had ceased near the island of Abu Mussa; Hosseini said all their passengers were also released and were returned to UAE.
· Iran called for end of hostilities in Yemen through regional mediation; the foreign ministry spokesman said Iran welcomes end of clashes and peaceful settlement of issues in the framework of national unity in Yemen.

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