The campaign for 14 March parliamentary elections in Iran got under way. Reformist parties endorsed unified candidate lists, while rival conservative factions presented two separate endorsement lists. The division among the conservatives would ensure the presence in new Majlis of reformists and some conservatives highly critical of Ahmadinejad’s administration. On regional front, Iran actively pursued a break in the impasse over Lebanese presidential elections. Iranian foreign minister held talks with his Saudi, Syria, Qatari and Omani counterparts to broker a deal. Iran did not want the Lebanese impasse affect the upcoming Arab Summit to be held in late March in Damascus. Iran and Syria were hoping to use the summit to push an anti-Israeli agenda.
Iran Nuclear Program
· Iran ready to hold talks with 5+1 on nuclear issues; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said Iran was ready to hold talks with Group of 5+1 and Europeans over Iran’s nuclear program.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no more negotiation outside IAEA; “Iran will not negotiate the nuclear issue with any country outside the IAEA anymore,” Ahmadinejad said in Tehran.
· Iran's Under-Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Javad Vaidi said Iran will continue with its nuclear activities; ”We will say ‘no’ to the ‘no’ which obstructs Iran's progress in nuclear field,” Vaidi said.
· Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili said Iran will ask for compensations from EU-3 for damages caused by Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment activities between 2003 and 2005; “those who made us stop uranium enrichment based on false accusations will have to pay for compensations as a result,” Vaidi said.
· Iran's Oil Minister Qolam Hossein Nozari said latest UN sanctions against Iran would not affect country’s oil sector; Nozari said Iran's oil industry is mature enough to be impacted by UN sanctions.
· Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies held an international conference in Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program; forty scholars from 30 countries were in attendance.
Leading Domestic Storylines
· Iranians are to go polls on 14 March to elect a new parliament, the 8th Majlis; Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged voters to register their defiance of “enemies,” referring to US and the West; Khamenei added the West wants to “dishearten” people and “dissuade” them from taking part in elections.
· Reformist and moderate parties presented unified endorsement list for Tehran and some provinces; conservative factions endorsed two different lists of candidates, with only eight common names among them.
· Tehran residents staged rallies to protest “insults” to Prophet Mohammad in European press; protestors also condemned Israel's attacks against Palestinians in Gaza; they chanted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans in a ceremony at Tehran’s Palestine Square.
· Iran is to boost its crude oil production to 4.27 million bpd; production increase is to start in late March.
· Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said no bilateral talks with US were on Tehran's agenda; Hosseini said Washington has intensified its hostile policy towards Iran.
· US negotiators did not show up at Iran-US talks on Iraqi security in Baghdad; Iranian delegation led by Reza Amiri Moqadam had arrived in Baghdad as scheduled; US-Iran talks on Iraq’s security were to be held at request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iran’s delegation left Baghdad after US refused to take part in meeting.
· Iraqi government spokesman said US is responsible for postponement of fourth round of Iran-US talks on Iraqi security; failure of US to attend a scheduled meeting with Iranians was “the reason for postponement,” explained Iraqi government spokesman.
· Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili, said he will not hold talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over Iran’s nuclear program.
· Iran and Iraq set to establish border region free trade zones (FTZ); investors would be free from paying tax for 30 years in FTZ’s; Iran set no limitation for foreign entities established in FTZ’s.
· Iran, Iraq trade and tourism increased in 2007; non-oil trade between Iraq and Iran reached about $2 billion; travel between the two countries, especially for religious pilgrims, increased considerably.
· Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers discussed Lebanon; Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met at Cairo airport to resolve crisis over Lebanese presidency; Iran has voiced support for a coalition government; Saudis support Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government; Prince Saud al-Faisal later met with US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch; Weich flew in from Amman to discuss Lebanese crisis.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew to Damascus airport for a meeting with foreign ministers of Syria, Qatar and Oman, four foreign ministers had gathered at Damascus airport to discuss crisis Lebanese crisis.
· Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Reza Sheybani conferred with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora; Sheybani and Siniora discussed Iran’s cooperation in rebuilding of Lebanon.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resistance was only way to “defeat Zionists and their masters”; Ahmadinejad spoke at a ceremony in Tehran honoring Secretary General of Islamic Jihad Ramadhan Abdullah; “the collapse of the fabricated Zionist regime has begun,” Ahmadinejad added.
· Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent congratulatory message to Dmitry Medvedev on his victory in Russia's presidential elections; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Tehran does not predict any change in Moscow's policies under Medvedev.
· Indonesian president arrived in Tehran; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono headed a high ranking delegation; Yudhoyono held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials.
· Iran and Sudan signed defense cooperation agreement; agreement was signed in Tehran by Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his Sudanese counterpart General Abdulrahim Mohammad Hussein; Gen. Najjar said Iran supports sovereignty of Sudan and “condemns interferences” in its domestic affairs.
· Tehran ready to sign Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline; Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Talaei visited Mumbai to push final agreement with India; Talaei said Iran is proposing an acceptable price and transition fees to get Indian and Pakistani agreements.
Iran's president wins only accolades in home town
By Alistair Lyon
Thu, 13 Mar 2008
ARADAN, Iran (Reuters) - Don't come to the sleepy market town where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born and expect to hear him criticized for his handling of the nuclear issue, the economy, or anything else really.
Just ahead of Friday's parliamentary election, voters in Aradan admit they are troubled by inflation, rising housing costs and unemployment, but few blame the president.
"We are very happy with the government, especially Ahmadinejad," said greengrocer Ali Kashani, as he waited for customers in an almost deserted street. "He has done great things for us, like standing up to America, standing against our enemies so that no foreigners interfere with Iran.
"We have no problems, and if we do, they are not created by the government," said the 38-year-old father of two.
Full story Here.
Letter to the Editor, ArabNews.com
Iran may be ready to negotiate with Europe over it nuclear program as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made clear yesterday, but is Europe ready for that? There is nothing for Iran to negotiate unless it is the details of how it will kiss America's and Israel's feet. Tehran is not in the dock because it has committed a crime, but because it has sought to do what every country in Europe has done - trying to use nuclear power for energy needs. There is no country in Europe that does not have them. It is no crime in their case because they are all white and Christian. Iran is Muslim. The objection is that Iran may use its nuclear facilities for making weapons. Why is not that fear there in the case of Christian nations? Do not Britain, America and France have nuclear weapons? They have. But that is no problem because, apparently, when Christian kill, it is virtuous.
White Christians committed all mass massacres of history - from Crusades through world wars to Iraq -. Did it make Christianity terrorism? It did not. But the 3,000 dead in September 2001 made Muslims terrorists.
Iran will not be forgiven, for it has committed the crime of defying the West. No one has done that for over 400 years now. Look at the temerity of America, which, after invading, occupying and pillaging Iraq, calls Iran evil, because it is interfering with America's invasion. Such arrogance of power, though evil, is understandable. What is not understandable is the UN joining the condemnation and imposing sanctions on Iran. History has to repeat itself. The UN has to march into the same trap that the League of Nations fell into.
Samir Manwa, Riyadh
This is going a bit far.
Nine magazines shut for publishing pictures of 'corrupt' foreign film stars
Monday, 17 March 2008
TEHRAN: Iran's Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the closure of nine cinema and lifestyle magazines for publishing pictures and stories about the life of "corrupt" foreign film stars and promoting "superstitions." The Press Supervisory Board, a body controlled by hard-liners, also sent warning notes to 13 other publications and magazines on "observing the provisions of the press law," the ministry said on its website.
It was not clear why the nine magazines were targeted for closure. They do not deal with politics, focusing on light lifestyle features, family advice, and news of celebrities. They regularly publish photos of Iranian actresses in loose headscarves and stylish clothes, as well as foreign female film stars without head coverings — but nothing more revealing than what is tolerated on some state media.
A recent issue of one of the closed magazines, Sobh-e-Zendegi, or 'Morning of Life,' had photos of Cameron Diaz, Naomi Watts, Mandy Moore and Angelina Jolie.
The ministry said it shut the magazines down for "using photos of artists, especially foreign corrupt film stars, as instruments (to arouse desire), publishing details about their private lives, propagating medicines without authorisation, promoting superstitions."
John McCain arrives at Headquarters for further instructions.
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