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Spike



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Ahmadinejad: New UN Iran sanctions 'fit for dustbin'


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to halt Iran's enrichment programme

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the new UN sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme as a "used handkerchief" fit for the dustbin.

Earlier, the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for failing to halt its nuclear enrichment programme.

They include tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo, but not the crippling sanctions the US had wanted.

Iran denies building nuclear weapons, insisting it seeks only atomic energy.

US President Barack Obama said the sanctions sent an unmistakable message about the determination to stop the spread of nuclear arms.
Fourth round

At a meeting at the UN in New York on Wednesday, the Security Council voted by 12 votes to two in favour of a fourth round of coercive measures.

Brazil and Turkey voted against the sanctions, while Lebanon abstained. They argued that the sanctions were counter-productive and endangered a diplomatic solution.

ANALYSIS

BBC News

In itself this fourth round of sanctions will not stop Iran enriching uranium which many countries believe it's doing so it can build a nuclear weapon.

The Western diplomats are hoping that cumulative pressure on Iran reinforced by the war-like noises that come out of Israel will force it back to the negotiating table.

The fact that China and Russia back the resolution could increase Iran's sense of isolation.

But the Iranians will be aware that it has taken months of hard bargaining to get this far and the sanctions aren't nearly as tough as the Americans, British and French would have liked.


Later, Mr Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's Isna news agency as saying: "I gave one of the [world powers] a message that the resolutions you issue are like a used handkerchief which should be thrown in the dustbin.

"They are not capable of hurting Iranians," he added.

The most significant parts of the resolution create a legal basis to restrict the supply of goods that Iran wants for its alleged nuclear missile programmes, says the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen.

Our correspondent says the resolution singles out the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who run much of the economy - including the national shipping line which Western diplomats say is trying to evade sanctions by setting up front companies.

The sanctions also prohibit Iran from buying heavy weapons such as attack helicopters and missiles.

They toughen rules on financial transactions with Iranian banks, and increase the number of Iranian individuals and companies that are targeted by asset freezes and travel bans.

But the sanctions were passed after being watered down during negotiations with Russia and China on Tuesday.

In the end there were no crippling economic sanctions and no oil embargo.

'Little effect'

The vote for sanctions came almost 18 months after US President Barack Obama promised a new strategy of engagement with Iran when he took office.


Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazilian envoy to UN New sanctions 'not the last' New Iran bodies under sanction Commentators' views Send us your comments

Yet the US eventually pushed for tougher sanctions.

Mr Obama said the sanctions did "not close the door on diplomacy" and he urged Iran to "choose a different and better path".

China's UN ambassador Zhang Yesui said the sanctions were trying to prevent nuclear proliferation and would not hurt "the normal life of the Iranian people".

But Turkey and Brazil said the sanctions may have closed the door to negotiations just as it was opening.

They insisted a deal they recently brokered with Iran on a nuclear fuel exchange had provided the pathway back to talks.

"[The sanctions] will most probably lead to the suffering of the people of Iran and will play into the hands of people on all sides who do not want dialogue to prevail," said the Brazilian ambassador to the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti.


The two "no" votes were the strongest opposition yet in four rounds of sanctions, weakening the international unity the Americans have tried to build to isolate Iran.

Welcoming their votes, Iran's UN ambassador vowed that sanctions would not stop Tehran from what he said was its peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy.

"No amount of pressure and mischief will be able to break our nation's determination to pursue and defend its legal and inalienable rights," Mohammad Khazaee told the BBC.

"Iran… never will bow to the hostile actions and pressures by these few powers and will continue to defend its rights."

The BBC News website's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says this fourth round of sanctions is unlikely to have any more effect on Iranian policy than the first three.

Iran's vital economic interests have not been targeted and Tehran has already developed systems of evasion, he says.

Three earlier rounds of UN sanctions blocked trade of "sensitive nuclear material", froze the financial assets of those involved in Iran's nuclear activities, banned all of Iran's arms exports and encouraged scrutiny of the dealings of Iranian banks.
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Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:05 pm
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Spike wrote:
Quote:
It is surely bad practice to conduct one's international nuclear diplomacy in such a way that following a cursory examination of the policy outlined above a cynic might ask, "why does it appear that two non-nuclear powers are being bribed to do this?"*

*Maybe to keep us guessing just long enough to instigate "global"* nuclearisation before going to war with militant Islam?

* Meaning "pals only" of-course.



You might be right about that, it's certainly the logical next step for Brazil, although it's hard to see the U.S. tolerating even an allied nuclear power within it's so-called backyard.


Or just keep 'em guessing?*

(I urge anyone reading this thread to check out the Mihama Reactor accident cover-up references on my thread "What's that coming over the hill?", go to; http://medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3021 )

* This being "educated guesswork" on my part of-course.
Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:50 pm
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Spike



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For a man whose been out of Iran for a year now, John Leyne seems to know an awful lot about the inner workings of the Iranian mind. I wonder who his sources are? Oh that's right it's 'opposition sources'

Maybe he's absolutely spot on with his analysis, maybe Iranians really are 'seething with frustration', but how does he know? He doesn't know, he has to be either guessing, or, as he states, getting his information from one side. Hardly impartial.


Tehran clashes reported on Iran vote anniversary

Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Saturday, 12 June 2010 21:56 UK


Sporadic demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities have been reported on the anniversary of the disputed presidential election.

A massive security presence prevented any larger gatherings to protest at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.

Opposition leaders earlier called off protests, saying they did not want to cause the loss of innocent lives.

The BBC's Tehran correspondent says the day has left the opposition once again with no sense of direction.

And many Iranians are seething with frustration, Jon Leyne reports.

The government insists Mr Ahmadinejad was re-elected by a landslide last year and has dismissed protests as a Western plot.
Text warning

Reports of the new unrest could not be verified independently because of Iranian foreign media restrictions.

According to eyewitnesses, and judging from footage posted on the internet, members of the security forces were patrolling in large numbers across Tehran.

The intelligence ministry sent out a text message warning people: "In case of any illegal action and contact with the foreign media, you will be charged as a criminal."

Later the text message system was turned off, as often happens at moments of tension, our correspondent says.

Despite these measures, there were some demonstrations, particularly outside Sharif University in Tehran, and at some major road junctions.

But the protests appear to have been broken up before they could gather momentum, our correspondent says.

Outside Iran, a small pro-opposition rally was held near the Iranian embassy in the Japanese capital Tokyo.

Sullen acquiescence

Opposition sources say their supporters went out on to their roofs after dark on Friday night to chant "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), a gesture of defiance they began following Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election.

They came on to the streets in their millions a year ago, our correspondent says.

It was a spontaneous outburst of anger from huge numbers of Iranians who felt Mr Ahmadinejad had stolen the presidential election.

Since then the opposition have been steadily battered into submission, beaten up when they demonstrate on the streets, arrested and, they say, abused in prison.

The opposition seem to have run out of ideas and many Iranians are now reduced to sullen acquiescence, our correspondent adds.

Meanwhile, government's next big problem looks to be the economy: with falling oil revenues, it could be, fairly rapidly, running out of money.
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Iranian film director Jafar Panahi is released

Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 14:41 UK



Jafar Panahi Jafar Panahi was released on bail from Tehran's notorious prison

Iran has released film director Jafar Panahi after more than two months in custody.

The acclaimed film-maker had been held in Tehran's Evin prison after voicing support for an opposition candidate in last year's disputed election.

He was released on a bail of $200,000 (£140,000), it was reported.

His case has been referred to a revolutionary court, and he may still face trial, the official Irna news agency said.

He had been on hunger strike for a week to protest against his detention.

Mr Panahi's films are known for their social commentary. He has been a vocal critic of Iran's strict Islamic law and government system.

The writer and director was arrested in March along with members of his family, but the Iranian authorities maintained that his detention was not political.

Mr Panahi's family were released shortly after their arrest.
Cannes protest

Mr Panahi has won awards at the Venice and Berlin Film Festivals, and was due to be acting as a member of the jury at this year's Cannes Film


Vincent Dowd
Arts reporter, BBC News

It was indicative of Mr Panahi's tense relations with the Iranian authorities that in February he was reportedly refused permission to attend the Berlin Film Festival.

Seven years ago, the director won a major prize at Cannes for his film Crimson Gold, which covered the privileged life of Iran's elite.

His best-known work, though, is probably The Circle, made a decade ago, which focuses on the treatment of women in Iran and took the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

His films' often critical view of his country - perhaps combined with their success around the world - made him unpopular with some in power in Tehran.

International pressure had been growing on Iran to release Mr Panahi, and he was the subject of an impassioned protest by actress Juliet Binoche as she accepted an award at the festival.

Abbas Kiarostami - perhaps the best-known Iranian director internationally - spoke at Cannes about Mr Panahi's imprisonment for a film he is said to have been working on.

Mr Kiarostami said he did not understand how a film could be a crime.

The Iranian authorities have clamped down on dissenting voices since protests flared over the disputed elections last June.

There have been reports of at least 30 protesters being killed in clashes since the polls, although the opposition says more than 70 have died.

Thousands have been detained and some 200 activists remain behind bars.

At least nine have been sentenced to death, and two have been executed already.
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Iranian leaders issue warning to opposition at rally

Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Friday, 4 June 2010 12:16 UK



Picture of protests on 18 June 2009 posted on Twitter by a protester named as shadish173 Opposition protests followed last year's disputed elections

The Iranian authorities have issued a warning to the opposition at a mass rally in the capital Tehran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said opposition groups who worked against the regime would be "banished by the people".

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also gave a warning to past leaders now considered opposition figures.

Tens of thousands gathered at a shrine to mark the death 21 years ago of revolution leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Ayatollah Khomeini led the 1979 revolution which toppled the US-backed Shah of Iran.

The rally comes just days before the anniversary of last year's disputed elections.
Past record

Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran was in a position to "see off any conspiracies."

He said people would be judged by their current actions, not their past record.

The BBC's Jon Leyne says this is an apparent warning to the opposition leadership, which includes a former president and prime minister.

Opposition candidates claimed President Ahmadinejad changed the result of last June's election.

There were mass rallies to protest and thousands of opposition supporters were arrested.

Dozens were killed in clashes with police and at least nine have been sentenced to death following the protests.

The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini was interrupted by the crowd when he tried to speak at Friday's rally.

Hassan Khomeini is perceived by some to support opposition leaders.

President Ahmadinejad also condemned a raid by Israeli commandos on ships trying to take aid to Gaza.

He said "thousands of flotillas" would follow them.
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Why time is against Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

By Jon Leyne

BBC Tehran correspondent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the Shanghai World Expo, 11 June Mr Ahmadinejad has been in China visiting the Shanghai World Expo

Twelve months on from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's bitterly disputed re-election, Iran is both back to normal and changed forever.

The opposition protests that brought millions out on to the streets have petered out. Opposition supporters seem disillusioned, not just with their own government but with the opposition leadership as well.

The two main opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have called off protests planned for the weekend, saying they do not want to cause the loss of innocent lives.

The government continues to insist that all the trouble was caused by a tiny handful of foreign-inspired rioters and troublemakers.

But they betray their sense of insecurity by their endless succession of warnings and triumphant declarations about how they have vanquished the enemy.


Witnesses say the streets of Tehran have been flooded for days with unprecedented numbers of police and members of the security forces. The odds are stacked against anyone who still wants to go out and protest.

After the government's initially hesitant response to the demonstrations last summer, the apparatus of repression has been honed and hardened.

Monitoring of the internet and phones has risen to new levels, making it ever harder to receive reliable information out of the country. Opposition supporters and journalists continue to be arrested.

Even Iranian exiles have become steadily less willing to speak out, as they continue to receive threats from the intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards back in Iran.

Many Iranians have fallen into a sullen acquiescence, frustrated that their hopes for change have slipped away.

But in the longer term, trends may be against President Ahmadinejad and those around him.

Divisions at the centre

There was a revealing glimpse of the divisions at the heart of the establishment during a ceremony to commemorate the death of Ayatollah Khomeini on Friday, 4 June.
Iranian plainclothes policemen beat an election protester in Tehran, 14 June 2009 Opposition leaders fear a new crackdown like that of last year

During prayers at the Imam Khomeini shrine outside Tehran, Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Hassan Khomeini, was barracked and shouted down by a huge crowd brought in to express support for President Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Hassan Khomeini is known as a supporter of the reformist movement. The incident shocked many Iranians who see Hassan Khomeini as the keeper of the flame for the revolutionary leader who still inspires respect.

And it is clear that many key establishment figures are giving only very reluctant support to President Ahmadinejad.

Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has kept a very low profile. Even the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, is no enthusiast.

As a result, a weakened president has had to compromise over a key plank of his domestic policy, subsidy reform, and has lacked the authority to negotiate freely over the nuclear programme.

Even more seriously, the economic trends are not good. Through a combination of mismanagement and international pressure, oil production is going down fairly rapidly, from 4.1 million barrels a day to 3.5 million barrels a day over the past two years.

Gas production is not coming through to replace it either. Amazingly this country of huge gas reserves is probably a net importer of gas.

At the same time, vast swathes of the economy have been virtually handed over to the Revolutionary Guards, part of their hugely increased power since the election.

They are not famed for their skills at economic management. According to one economist, following their recent takeover of the state telecom company 12,000 extra employees were taken on, many of them presumably loyal supporters, either being rewarded or being used for stepped-up monitoring of communications.

The government seems unable to reverse the big increase in spending made by President Ahmadinejad when oil prices were at record levels. Again, it lacks the authority to make the tough decisions that might have to be made.

There is much discussion if or when an economic "crunch" could come. The main symptom could be a crisis over the exchange rate and foreign currency reserves.

The political significance could be enormous if the government begins to run out of money to pay its loyal supporters in the security forces, not to mention the many millions of Iranians now employed in state-owned enterprises.

Class factor

During last summer's protests, the missing element was widespread labour unrest. Since then, there have been sporadic strikes, mostly over unpaid wages, but no sign of a wider, politically inspired, general strike that would be hugely damaging to the government and the system. Any glimmer of that would be a big danger for the government.

But the labour issue also illustrates a weakness of the Green movement. Despite the unpopularity of President Ahmadinejad, they have been unable to broaden their core support into the working classes, and also into the diverse regions of Iran, where the different ethnic groups have also been antagonised by Mr Ahmadinejad.

A majority may oppose Mr Ahmadinejad, and almost certainly voted against him in last summer's election. But they are not yet active supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi.

So it is still possible the government could get away with its continued mismanagement of the economy by continuing to repress dissent, even as this resource-rich country slips into poverty.

In another way, though, time is against Mr Ahmadinejad. The population is overwhelmingly young, it is well educated and it is outward looking.

Despite the misleading talk about Mr Ahmadinejad's rural base, the vast majority now live in the cities. And more and more Iranians would think of themselves as middle class, with aspirations to lead a freer, more secular lifestyle.

Iranians will proudly remind you of many aspects of their history. One of those is the country's history of popular rebellion that has shaped Iranian society and government for more than 100 years.

It is hard to see an Iranian government surviving indefinitely while it is so divided within, and so bitterly opposed by large numbers of ordinary Iranians.

Jon Leyne was expelled from Iran in June 2009 in the aftermath of the elections.
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Ahmadinejad says Iran nuclear fuel deal 'still alive'

Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Tuesday, 15 June 2010 12:30 UK

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 11 June Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has refused to halt uranium enrichment

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says a nuclear fuel swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey is still on the table, despite the adoption of new UN sanctions last week.

Mr Ahmadinejad said the deal could help defuse the conflict with Western powers over Iran's nuclear programme.

It provides for Tehran to send enriched uranium abroad in return for high-grade fuel for a research reactor.

Iran had earlier threatened to withdraw the offer if the US pursued sanctions.
Fuel deal

Under the deal brokered in May, Iran agreed to deposit 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium with Turkey, in return for reactor fuel.

But the US and its Western allies said the agreement was too little too late, and pressed ahead with a fourth round of sanctions on Wednesday.

"The Tehran declaration is still alive and can play a role in international relations even if the arrogant [Western] powers are upset and angry," Mr Ahmadinejad said on state television, during a meeting with visiting Turkish parliament speaker Mehmet Ali Shahin.

A number of Western countries suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, but Iran insists its nuclear enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes.

The UN Security Council voted by 12 votes to two in favour of the sanctions. Brazil and Turkey voted against, while Lebanon abstained.

The new UN resolution includes measures to prohibit Iran from buying heavy weapons such as missiles and helicopters.

It toughens rules on financial transactions with Iranian banks, and increases the number of Iranian individuals and companies that are targeted by asset freezes and travel bans.

Also on Tuesday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said Tehran would protest against the sanctions resolution by sending separate letters to all 15 members of the UN Security Council, the AFP news agency reports.
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Iran 'vote riggers' must be tried, Mousavi says



Mousavi supporter at a rally in Tehran, June 2009 Scores were killed and thousands arrested in last year's protests

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for the trial of those he claimed "committed fraud" in last year's presidential election.

He made the demand in a statement issued on the anniversary of violent protests that followed the vote.

Mr Mousavi also said the police and the military should stay out of politics. He demanded an independent judiciary.

Last week, he urged his supporters not to take to the streets to mark the anniversary to avoid bloodshed.

Scores of people were killed and thousands arrested during the violence that followed the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 12 June 2009.

"A fair trial of those who committed the election fraud, tortured and killed protesters must be held," Mr Mousavi said in the statement released on his website Kaleme.com.
'New charter'


MIR HOSSEIN MOUSAVI

* Active in the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah
* Prime minister of Iran for eight years up to 1989
* Active in the reformist movement since 1997
* Stood as a moderate in the 2009 election


He called for an "end to the involvement of police and military forces in politics, the independence of the judiciary, and prosecution of those in plainclothes," referring to the Basij militia, deployed in Tehran last year during opposition protests against Mr Ahmadinejad.

He urged authorities to release political prisoners and to lift restrictions on political parties and social movements.

Last week, Mr Mousavi and his reformist ally Mehdi Karroubi called off mass protests planned for the one-year anniversary of President Ahmadinejad's re-election, saying they did not want to cause the loss of innocent lives.

Only sporadic demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities were reported, amid a massive security presence and warnings from the intelligence ministry that protesters would be "charged as criminals" for "any illegal action and contact with the foreign media".

Mr Mousavi has repeatedly vowed to continue his struggle against the government, even saying he is not afraid to die for the cause of reform.
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Russia's Medvedev raps EU, US sanctions against Iran



Dmitry Medvedev Russia agreed to last week's UN sanctions after months of diplomacy

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has criticised the unilateral US and EU sanctions on Iran that go beyond those approved by the UN Security Council.

He said Russia "did not agree" to any separate sanctions when it backed a joint UN resolution last week.

Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Robert Gates said US intelligence showed that Iran could be able to attack Europe with "scores" of missiles by 2020.

He added that Russia seemed to have a "schizophrenic" approach to Iran.

Moscow viewed Iran as a threat, but still pursued commercial ties with it, he told a US senate hearing in Washington.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons - which Tehran denies.

'Collective action'

In an interview that ran on Thursday, the Russian leader criticised the EU and US for acting unilaterally.

"We didn't agree to this when we discussed the joint resolution at the UN," Mr Medvedev told the Wall Street Journal.



"A couple of years ago, that would have been impossible," Mr Medvedev said. "We should act collectively. If we do, we will have the desired result."

The fresh EU sanctions approved in Brussels on Thursday include a ban on investments and technology transfers to Iran's key oil and gas industry - measures that go further than the latest UN sanctions.

Only a day earlier, the US announced sanctions that ban Americans from trading with a number of firms and individuals, including Iran's Post Bank, its defence minister and the air force and missile command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

'Salvo attack'

Separately, at a senate hearing in Washington, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said US intelligence had shown that Iran could launch an attack against Europe with "scores or hundreds" of missiles by 2020.

He said the intelligence had prompted major changes to US missile defences plans, called a "phased adaptive approach".

The new approach uses sea- and land-based interceptors to protect Nato allies in Europe, instead of larger weapons designed to counter long-range missiles.

One of the elements that contributed to the phased approach "was the realisation that if Iran were actually to launch a missile attack on Europe, it wouldn't be just one or two missiles or a handful," Gates told the hearing.

"It would more likely be a salvo kind of attack, where you would be dealing potentially with scores or even hundreds of missiles."

During the hearing, Mr Gates acknowledged one lawmaker's concerns about Russia's long-standing commercial links to Tehran, which he noted go back more than 20 years.

"You've just put your finger on a kind of schizophrenic Russian approach to this," Mr Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I think that it is this balancing act. And Russia, they recognize the security threat that Iran presents," he said.

On 10 June the Security Council endorsed a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran, including tighter financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the vote and rejected calls to halt uranium enrichment - which could have military as well as civilian uses.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely designed to produce energy.
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US expands sanctions against Iran


Bushehr nuclear reactor, file pic Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at peaceful energy use

The United States is expanding its sanctions against Iran because of concerns about its nuclear ambitions.

Washington said the individuals and institutions targeted were helping Iran to develop its nuclear programme.

This is the first step in implementing sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council last week.

Those blacklisted include Iran's Post Bank, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi and the air force and missile command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons - a charge Iran strongly denies.

Front companies targeted

The US sanctions prohibit any American business or individual from trading with those named on the blacklist. The sanctions also freeze any assets they may have under US jurisdiction.

"We will continue to target Iran's support for terrorist organisations, we will continue to focus on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and we will continue to expose Iran's efforts to evade international sanctions," US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a White House news briefing.

Also on the list is a front company for the national shipping line, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards.

The Treasury has designated 27 new ships and has updated entries for 71 others whose names had been changed.

The designation of Post Bank brings to 16 the total number of Iranian banks under sanctions. The US Treasury says Post Bank is a front for Bank Sepah, which was designated in 2007 for providing financial services to the Iranian missile industry.

EU sanctions

Last week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the UN sanctions as "a used handkerchief" fit for the dustbin.

The European Union, which has been working closely with Washington, will decide on its own sanctions at a summit on Thursday.

The EU's proposed sanctions go further than the UN, targeting the oil and gas industry.

EU countries such as Germany and Italy have become important trading partners for Iran, but the EU is becoming increasingly concerned that Iran may be pursuing nuclear weapons.
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Iran bars two UN nuclear inspectors over report



Isfahan nuclear facility, file pic Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes

Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it will not allow two of its inspectors to enter the country, state media report.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said they had prematurely published a report he described as "untruthful".

Mr Salehi did not say which parts of the report he considered inaccurate.

The decision comes two weeks after the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.

US President Barack Obama said the punishment, for continuing to defy resolutions ordering it to suspend all enrichment of uranium, was an unmistakable message on stopping the spread of nuclear arms.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sanctions should be thrown in the dustbin like a "used handkerchief".

The US and its allies fear Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
'Classified information'

In January, Tehran told the IAEA its scientists had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, a process which can be used to purify uranium for use in nuclear weapons, prompting a request from the agency for more information.


But it then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

In May, IAEA experts visited the site of the alleged experiments in Tehran only to find an electrochemical cell had been "removed" from the unit used in them, according to the IAEA report released to the media later that month.

Iranian officials insist that they did not remove any equipment and that the experiments were not related to pyroprocessing.

"Iran last week announced that these two [inspectors] would not have the right to enter Iran due to submitting wrong... information as well as disclosing classified information before the proper official time," Mr Salehi was quoted as saying by the Isna news agency.

"Their report was utterly untruthful and... we asked that they would not ever send these two inspectors to Iran and instead assign two others," he added.

"If an inspector makes a report contrary to the standing fact... we have the right to place a protest as we did in regard to the report by two inspectors."

There was no immediate comment from the Vienna-based IAEA.

Correspondents say relations between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Yukiya Amano became the agency's director-general in December and took a tougher approach than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.
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Iran hangs Sunni militant leader Abdolmalek Rigi

Abdolmalek Rigi, file pic Mr Rigi had allegedly pleaded guilty to forming Jundullah and other charges

The leader of a Sunni militant group has been executed in Iran for his involvement in "terrorist" attacks in the Islamic state, state media report.

Abdolmalek Rigi, head of Jundullah, was hanged at dawn at Tehran's Evin prison in the presence of the families of its victims, the Irna news agency said.

Mr Rigi was accused of being behind a series of deadly bombings and raids in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

He was arrested in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan.

Founded in 2003, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) says it is fighting to defend the human rights, culture and faith of ethnic Baluchis.

The majority of Iran's ethnic Baluchi population live in Sistan-Baluchistan and adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. They claim that as a minority in a Shia state, they are persecuted by the authorities.

Sistan-Baluchistan is also the most impoverished, underdeveloped and sparsely-populated of Iran's provinces. Drug trafficking is a major problem, and kidnappings and armed clashes are common.

Iran's government says Jundullah receives support from the US, UK and Pakistan, an allegation which all three countries have denied.

High-profile attacks

Four months after being captured by Iranian security forces when he was flying over the Persian Gulf en route to Kyrgyzstan, Mr Rigi was hanged on Sunday morning in accordance with a decision by the Tehran Revolutionary Court.


"The head of the armed counter-revolutionary group in the east of the country... was responsible for armed robbery, assassination attempts, armed attacks on the army and police and on ordinary people, and murder," a court statement said.

Jundullah was "responsible for the killing of 154 members of security forces and other innocent people and wounding of 320 people since 2003" and was "linked to members of foreign intelligence services", it added.

Mr Rigi had allegedly pleaded guilty to forming the "terrorist group Jundullah which was fighting the Islamic republic" and a number of other charges.

"He collaborated and ordered 15 armed abductions, confessed to three murders, and ordered the murders of tens of citizens, police and military personnel through bombings and armed actions," the court statement added.

ABDOLMALEK RIGI


* Leader of Jundullah, believed to be 26 years old
* The Sunni Baluchi nationalist group emerged in 2003
* Accused by Iran of links with the US and Pakistan
* Thought to be linked to drug smugglers on Iranian border



Jundullah has said it was responsible for a string of high-profile attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan, including a suicide bombing near the Pakistani border that killed 42 people, including six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders, and a bombing in a Shia mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people.

Shortly after his arrest, state media reported that Mr Rigi had admitted that he had been on his way to a meeting with a "high-ranking person" at the US military base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan when he was captured.

"They said they would co-operate with us and would give me military equipment," he said in a video statement broadcast on Iranian TV.

Despite the loss of their leader, the confrontation between Jundullah and the Iranian authorities has shown no sign of abating.

The group recently asserted in a statement: "Let the regime know that it will face a movement that is stronger and much more solid than ever before and one whose existence it has not been aware of."

Mr Rigi's younger brother, Abdolhamid, was captured in Pakistan in 2008 and extradited to Iran. State media reported that he was executed last month in Zahedan after being convicted of terrorism.
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Iran doubles highest banknote amid inflation fears



Iran has doubled the denomination of its highest banknote to 100,000 rials ($10, £6.50), its Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani has announced.

At least 150 million notes are being printed and distributed over the next three months, he told Mehr news agency.

The move has been prompted by high inflation, although official figures say the rate has fallen to 10% from a peak of 29% in 2008.

Mr Bahmani said the new notes should be used in place of travellers' cheques.

The special travellers' cheques, which local banks issue, can each be worth up to 2m rials.

Kamran Dadkhah, an associate economics professor at Boston's Northeastern University, said "astronomical" inflation in Iran in recent years had necessitated the new notes.

"They have to print notes in larger denominations, otherwise people will have to take a sack of them to buy a sandwich," he told Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

The Iranian government has previously said it would start reducing food and fuel subsidies later this year, in a move critics fear could fuel inflation and spark protests.

The government says Iranians in lower income brackets will receive cash payments to help them cope when the cost of items such as bread and gasoline increase as a result of the gradual removal of the subsidies over a five-year period.
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US Congress backs new sanctions against Tehran


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President Ahmadinejad refuses to halt Iran's enrichment programme

The US Congress has overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against foreign companies that trade with Iran, over its nuclear programme.

Those firms that supply Iran's Revolutionary Guards or contribute to the country's energy industry are targeted by the bill.

The sanctions are designed to put pressure on Tehran which denies seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

The bill now goes back to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The Senate and House of Representatives acted in quick succession on Thursday to agree to the new penalties. The Senate vote was 99-0 and the House vote was 408-8.

Iran says its nuclear industry is for peaceful purposes.
'No both ways'

"We must stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a weapon that would surely threaten the national security of the United States and of Israel," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Republican Senator John McCain said: "We will be posing a choice to companies around the world: Do you want to do business with Iran? Or do you want to business with the United States?

"We don't think that is much of a choice, but we will force companies to make it. They can't have it both ways."

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for failing to halt its nuclear enrichment programme.

They include tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo, but not the crippling sanctions the US had wanted.

Three earlier rounds of UN sanctions have blocked trade of "sensitive nuclear material", frozen the financial assets of those involved in Iran's nuclear activities, banned all of Iran's arms exports and encouraged scrutiny of the dealings of Iranian banks.
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Iran university reform sparks row in Ahmadinejad camp


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 20 June President Ahmedinejad wanted to shake up the university board

A row has broken out over attempts by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to control Iran's biggest university.

Supporters of Mr Ahmadinejad protested outside parliament on Tuesday after MPs voted down a bill to replace several board members of Azad University.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani has denounced the protests, reportedly calling them "ugly and vindictive".

Correspondents say the battle for control has revealed new divisions within the country's leadership.

Azad University, a private institution, has 1.5 million students and billions of dollars in assets.

For almost 30 years, it has been considered to be a key centre of support for former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, a rival of Mr Ahmadinejad, the BBC's Sebastian Usher reports.

Mr Ahmedinejad's supporters accuse him of allowing Azad's resources to be used by the opposition during last year's election campaign, he adds.
Battle for control

Under the defeated bill, Mr Ahmadinejad had sought to put government-appointed trustees on the board of Azad University in Tehran.

He also sought to block Mr Rafsanjani from transferring the assets of the university to a religious foundation.

But on Sunday parliament rejected Mr Ahmadinejad's proposal.

At the protest following the vote, which was attended by dissenting MPs and students of the university, protesters denounced the "traitor MPs" who voted against the reforms.

Mr Larijani, another rival of Mr Ahmadinejad, called the response ugly and vindictive, the conservative Iranian news agency Mehr reported.

"If the norms are observed in the criticism of [government] branches, it will be good... but [this should] not [be done] with bad language," Mehr quoted him as saying in a speech to parliament.

He warned them that once the bill was ratified by Iran's powerful Guardian Council, they would be expected to respect the law.
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Total stops petrol sales to Iran

Iran's Badr Abbas oil refinery - 2004 Iran cannot refine enough petrol for its domestic needs

French energy company Total says it has stopped petrol deliveries to Iran, amid growing international pressure over Iran's nuclear programme.

Total confirmed the move days after the US Congress passed unilateral sanctions that could punish companies doing business with Iran.

The sanctions still have to be signed into law by US President Barack Obama.

The US and some allies believe Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

It was not immediately clear how much petrol Total had been supplying to Iran, or exactly when deliveries were stopped.

But the Financial Times newspaper quoted traders as saying that Total had stopped supplies about a month ago.
Dependence on imports

The US sanctions aim to stop international companies from investing in Iran's oil and gas industries or supplying it with petroleum products by preventing them from trading in the US if they trade with Iran.

Such measures are not part of the most recent round of sanctions approved by the UN, since Russia and China, both investors in Iran's energy sector, objected.

Other companies have already taken similar action to Total in anticipation of the measure passed by Congress.

Spain's Repsol confirmed on Monday that it had withdrawn from a contract it won with Royal Dutch Shell to develop the South Pars gas field in southern Iran, Reuters news agency reported.

The White House says President Obama will probably sign the Congress bill into law later this week.

The American approach is designed to target a weak part of the Iranian economy, BBC world affairs analyst Paul Reynolds reports.

Despite its huge oil and gas reserves, Iran still cannot refine enough petroleum products for domestic demand and depends on imports for 30-40% of its petrol needs.

However, Iran has other investors and suppliers and the practical effects remain to be determined.
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Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri 'flees US captors'


In a video shown on Iranian state TV, he says he has escaped in the US state of Virginia and is now on the run

A man who says he is an Iranian nuclear scientist claims to have escaped after being abducted by US agents.

In a video shown on Iranian state TV, he says he has escaped in the US state of Virginia and is now on the run.

Mr Amiri disappeared a year ago while undertaking the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Two videos purportedly showing him surfaced three weeks ago. One said he had been kidnapped, the other that he was living freely in Arizona.

The US has strenuously denied abducting him, but ABC News reported in March that Mr Amiri had defected and was helping the CIA compile intelligence on Iran's controversial nuclear weapons programme.

The state department has refused to say whether he is in the US.
'Not free'

In the new video, broadcast on Tuesday, a man claiming to be the missing scientist says: "I, Shahram Amiri, am a national of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a few minutes ago I succeeded in escaping US security agents in Virginia.

"Presently, I am producing this video in a safe place. I could be re-arrested at any time."

Two videos supposedly showing Shahram Amiri emerged on 8 June

The man says the video broadcast earlier this month - in which someone claiming to be Mr Amiri says he was kidnapped by Saudi and US agents, tortured, forced to say he had defected and was living in Tucson, Arizona - is "completely authentic and there are no fabrications in it.

"The second video which was published on YouTube by the US government, where I have said that I am free and want to continue my education here, is not true and is a complete fabrication.

"I am not free here and I am not permitted to contact my family. If something happens and I do not return home alive, the US government will be responsible."

He finishes the video by urging Iranian officials and human rights organisations to "put pressure on the US government for my release and return".

"I was not prepared to betray my country under any kind of threats or bribery by the US government," he adds.

A US official told the AFP news agency the allegations were "ludicrous".

Iranian media have said Mr Amiri worked as a researcher at a university in Tehran, but some reports say he worked for the country's atomic energy organisation and had in-depth knowledge of its nuclear programme.
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Iran says its passenger jets were refused fuel abroad



Iran Air passenger jet at Paris-Orly airport (file image) Iran says the alleged fuel ban is doubling its aviation costs

Iran has accused the UK, Germany and the UAE of refusing to provide fuel to Iranian passenger planes.

The allegation came days after the US enacted unilateral sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme, to penalise foreign companies trading with Tehran.

Britain said it was not aware of any refusal to refuel Iranian planes, and Germany stressed there was no ban.

Oil firms contacted by the BBC said they could not comment on individual contracts.

Tehran says its nuclear industry is for peaceful purposes but Western powers fear it is trying to develop a bomb.

"Since last week, our planes have been refused fuel at airports in Britain, Germany and UAE because of the sanctions imposed by America," Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of the Iranian Airlines Union, told Iranian media.

He said the national carrier Iran Air and a private airline, Mahan Air, had both run into refuelling problems.

"Refusing to provide fuel to Iranian passenger planes by these countries is a violation of international conventions," he added.
'Retaliation'

Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said Iran would retaliate.

"Iran will do the same to ships and planes of those countries that cause problems for us," Iran's Isna news agency quoted him as saying.

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), which manages the airports in the UAE cities of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, told Reuters news agency the company was continuing to refuel Iranian jets.
UN Security Council 9.6.10 The UN Security Council has imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran

"We have contracts with Iranian passenger flights and continue to allow refuelling," she added.

But AFP news agency quoted "a source close to the aviation sector in the UAE" as saying there had been a problem with an unnamed international fuel supplier.

"A servicing company which provides fuelling at several airports around the world has refused to provide Iranian planes with fuel, including at UAE terminals," the source said on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for the UK's Civil Aviation Authority told the BBC any move to withhold fuel would be down to individual fuel companies.

Germany's transport ministry said the refuelling of Iranian planes was not banned under EU or UN sanctions but it would not comment on whether any individual providers were refusing to fuel Iranian aircraft.

The US sanctions prohibit the sale or provision to Iran of refined petroleum products worth more than $5m (£3.3m) over a year.

Paul Reynolds, world affairs correspondent for the BBC News website, said it might be that fuel companies are worried that their sales over a year might add up to $5m, in which case they could face a possible ban on doing business in the US.

An Iranian aviation official said Iranian airliners were filling up with as much fuel as possible inside Iran.

But they were also having to refuel in countries along their route not imposing a ban, a move which the official said was doubling costs.

The new US sanctions were signed into law by President Barack Obama last week.

Last month, the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for failing to halt its nuclear enrichment programme.
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Iran bars two UN nuclear inspectors over report


Isfahan nuclear facility, file pic Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes

Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it will not allow two of its inspectors to enter the country, state media report.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said they had prematurely published a report he described as "untruthful".

Mr Salehi did not say which parts of the report he considered inaccurate.

The decision comes two weeks after the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.

US President Barack Obama said the punishment, for continuing to defy resolutions ordering it to suspend all enrichment of uranium, was an unmistakable message on stopping the spread of nuclear arms.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sanctions should be thrown in the dustbin like a "used handkerchief".

The US and its allies fear Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
'Classified information'

In January, Tehran told the IAEA its scientists had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, a process which can be used to purify uranium for use in nuclear weapons, prompting a request from the agency for more information.

But it then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

In May, IAEA experts visited the site of the alleged experiments in Tehran only to find an electrochemical cell had been "removed" from the unit used in them, according to the IAEA report released to the media later that month.

Iranian officials insist that they did not remove any equipment and that the experiments were not related to pyroprocessing.

"Iran last week announced that these two [inspectors] would not have the right to enter Iran due to submitting wrong... information as well as disclosing classified information before the proper official time," Mr Salehi was quoted as saying by the Isna news agency.

"Their report was utterly untruthful and... we asked that they would not ever send these two inspectors to Iran and instead assign two others," he added.

"If an inspector makes a report contrary to the standing fact... we have the right to place a protest as we did in regard to the report by two inspectors."

There was no immediate comment from the Vienna-based IAEA.

Correspondents say relations between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Yukiya Amano became the agency's director-general in December and took a tougher approach than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.
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Iran claims higher enriched uranium production

Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Thursday, 24 June 2010 13:37 UK

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Iranian lawmakers visit the Isfahan uranium conversion facility 2004 Enrichment activity is at the heart of Iran's nuclear stand-off with the West

Iran says it has produced 17kg (37lb) of uranium enriched to 20%, in defiance of United Nations efforts to halt its nuclear programme.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said the country could now produce up to 5kg every month.

There has been no independent verification of the claims.

Iran says the fuel is needed to power a medical research reactor, but Western powers accuse Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The announcement by Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the atomic energy body and is also the Vice-President of Iran, adds another element to the row between Iran and the UN over its disputed nuclear programme.

On Monday, Iran barred two inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - from entering the country, saying they had published an "untruthful" report.

All this comes the wake of a fourth round of UN sanctions imposed just two weeks ago and even tougher measures announced by both the US and the European Union.
Stockpiles

Iran started refining uranium to 20% purity - up from around 5% previously - in February, saying it aimed to make fuel to power a research reactor that produces isotopes for treating cancer and for other medical purposes.

Analysis

Jonathan Marcus,
BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

The release of this Iranian statement clearly has a political purpose - to underline to the outside world once again that Iran is continuing with its programme to enrich material to this level.

As yet it is not so much the amount of material that has been enriched that is important, though it probably already exceeds the amount needed to fuel the reactor for one year.

It is the fact that Iran is continuing with this work at all.


The move alarmed Western nations as it was seen as a significant step towards making weapons-grade uranium, which is 90% enriched.

Experts say that Iran's claim that it has produced 17kg of uranium enriched to just under 20% is impossible to verify.

In an IAEA report at the end of May, Iran was estimated to have about 11kg of this material and indications were that it was capable of producing it at a rate of about 3kg per month.

If Iran were to claim significant advances in its capacity to produce this more highly-enriched material, it might well lead to questions about how many centrifuge cascades it was devoting to this work, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Many experts outside the country question if Iran is actually capable of turning the enriched uranium hexafluoride into the necessary fuel assemblies for the reactor, our correspondent adds.

Iran had hoped to avoid the latest UN sanctions by offering to send some of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in return for higher grade fuel.

The offer, brokered in May by Turkey and Brazil, revived a deal struck with major Western powers in October 2009.

But Western diplomats said the fuel swap was no longer viable as Iran had increased its LEU stockpile considerably in the meantime.
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US Congress backs new sanctions against Tehran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President Ahmadinejad refuses to halt Iran's enrichment programme

The US Congress has overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against foreign companies that trade with Iran, over its nuclear programme.

Those firms that supply Iran's Revolutionary Guards or contribute to the country's energy industry are targeted by the bill.

The sanctions are designed to put pressure on Tehran which denies seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

The bill now goes back to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The Senate and House of Representatives acted in quick succession on Thursday to agree to the new penalties. The Senate vote was 99-0 and the House vote was 408-8.

Iran says its nuclear industry is for peaceful purposes.

'No both ways'

"We must stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a weapon that would surely threaten the national security of the United States and of Israel," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Republican Senator John McCain said: "We will be posing a choice to companies around the world: Do you want to do business with Iran? Or do you want to business with the United States?

"We don't think that is much of a choice, but we will force companies to make it. They can't have it both ways."

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for failing to halt its nuclear enrichment programme.

They include tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo, but not the crippling sanctions the US had wanted.

Three earlier rounds of UN sanctions have blocked trade of "sensitive nuclear material", frozen the financial assets of those involved in Iran's nuclear activities, banned all of Iran's arms exports and encouraged scrutiny of the dealings of Iranian banks.
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Here's John Leyne again and once again he's found a new angle from which to view the evil, despotic, despotic and evil regime in Iran.

Now they're cracking down on haircuts!!!


Iran cracks down on 'decadent' haircuts for men




By Jon Leyne

BBC Tehran correspondent

A guide to hairstyles considered appropriate in Iran Iranian officials have published a guide to "appropriate" men's hairstyles

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the personal is political. No more so than in the issue of personal appearance.

The imposition of headscarves is deeply resented by more liberal-minded women. Now the government is tightening up on men's hair as well.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has published a guide to men's hairstyles. Short, neat hair is approved; ponytails are definitely not.

The styles are to be showcased in a "modesty and veil" conference later this month.

On the streets of Tehran, you often see young men with the most extravagant, outrageous, hairstyles.

Huge bouffant quiffs that must take hours of loving care.

They are clearly intended as an unspoken act of rebellion against a government that bans many of the pleasures young people enjoy, including public displays of affection or Western pop music.

By contrast, men who support the government, particularly members of the feared basij militia, are characterised by a thick stubble on their chins that marks out their interpretation of Islam, a growth that always mysteriously appears two days old, but never matures into a full beard.

Many young women also defy the government by wearing the compulsory headscarf so far back it is almost in the neighbouring country.

The compulsory outer garment, the roupoosh, that is supposed to hide those seductive curves, can be adapted into a garment that only adds to the female allure.

'Naked women'

Since the disputed election last summer, the issue of clothing and personal appearance has become even more political.

Strangely, it is the hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has been arguing that it is not the government's job to crack down on people's style of dress.

For this he has been criticised by various conservative ayatollahs and politicians, who thunder against "naked' or "half-naked" women roaming the streets. Their version of naked usually means a headscarf slightly out of place.


Before his first election victory in 2005, Mr Ahmadinejad insisted he would not crack down on such personal issues.

Nevertheless, during his first term in office the police announced repeated drives on the dress code.

Women would be pulled aside and warned if their clothing was deemed inappropriate.

If they argued the point, they were liable to be taken down to the local police station.

Now some Iranians are worried that the pressure on political freedom that followed Mr Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year will extend to personal dress and appearance as well.

But there also seems to be a faction amongst the hardliners, particularly the revolutionary guards, who are trying to offer an unspoken deal.

Don't challenge our political power and we will leave you alone in your private lives appears to be the suggestion.

Artists arrested

It is difficult to get a clear picture, but there are sporadic reports of a degree of liberalisation.

The regulations concerning art galleries, for example, have been relaxed a little. Though any sense of greater freedom has been removed by the arrest of so many of Iran's leading artists and creative talents, such as the film director Jafar Panahi.

If there really is a debate about the dress code going on among the ruling elite, it is a fascinating glimpse into the divisions that have sprung up since the election.

One leading commentator has described the regulations on clothing and appearance as one of the pillars of the Islamic republic.

Even in last summer's unprecedented mass demonstrations, few if any women took the radical step of throwing off the headscarf. If they did, in numbers, the foundations of the system would surely begin to shake.
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Iran bolsters friendships abroad

By Jonathan Marcus

Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

The US and its European allies like to see Iran as an increasingly isolated country; its economy hobbled more and more by economic sanctions and with the pressure growing weekly.

There is no doubt that Iran is to a large extent isolated from key markets and that the sanctions are beginning to act as a significant brake on its economy.

This was already in a bad way due to mismanagement and structural problems.

Iran's inability, for example, to import Western technology for its oil and gas industry is seriously reducing its ability to exploit this vital natural asset over time.

However, as this week's gathering of the Developing 8 (DCool in Nigeria shows, there is isolation and there is isolation.
Strong sympathy

Iran is no North Korea. It maintains strong economic ties with both Russia and China.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is something of a globetrotter, pursuing an active diplomacy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans.

The D8 gathering brings together a diverse collection of countries, including a number who are significant players in their own regions - Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

All are predominantly Muslim countries or have large Muslim populations.

While principally a trading or economic grouping, politics is never really far away and they are set to give a resounding endorsement of the need for all countries to be able to secure the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy.

This will be taken by Iran as an endorsement of its efforts to master various nuclear technologies. It insists that this is for civil, not military, purposes.

The meeting underlines the fact that many governments - especially in the developing world - still have strong sympathy for Iran's aims.

They view its battle with the United Nations Security Council over the enrichment of uranium in very different terms from those perceived in Washington and European capitals.

Dynamic diplomacy

The meeting highlights the fact too that Iran has a dynamic and active diplomacy of its own; something that is often forgotten with the focus on US coalition-building to back each new round of UN-imposed sanctions.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the D8 summit in Abuja (8 July 2010) Mr Ahmadinejad received a warm reception from the D8 delegates

At many levels Iran's diplomacy has actually been quite successful.

It recently engaged with two of the key emerging regional powers - Turkey and Brazil. They had intervened to try to find a compromise deal that would enable the fuelling of a research reactor in Iran used to produce medical isotopes.

The US and its supporters would argue that it is wrong to see its differences with Iran as a battle between Tehran and the West.

It is, after all, the demands of the UN - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Security Council - with which Iran is failing to comply.

But that is not how it is seen in many parts of the world and Mr Ahmadinejad's warm reception among the D8 is evidence that many still have a very different view of Iran and its nuclear struggles.
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Iran woman escapes stoning death for adultery

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (Family handout via Amnesty International) Ms Ashtiani says she was forced to confess to adultery during questioning

The authorities in Iran have announced that a woman convicted of adultery will not be stoned to death.

But it is not clear whether they have lifted the death sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has been in prison in Tabriz since 2006.

The 43-year-old had already been punished with flogging for an "illicit relationship" outside marriage when another court tried her for adultery.

There has been an international campaign to prevent her being stoned.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said stoning was a "medieval punishment" and that its continued use showed Iran's disregard for human rights.

"If the punishment is carried out, it will disgust and appal the watching world," he told a news conference in London on Thursday.

Under Iran's strict interpretation of Islamic law, sex before marriage is punishable by 100 lashes, but married offenders are sentenced to death by stoning. The stones used must be large enough to cause the condemned pain, but not sufficient to kill immediately.

Ms Ashtiani's lawyer and human rights activists had warned that her execution was imminent, after appeals for clemency were rejected.

In May 2006, a criminal court in East Azerbaijan province found Ms Ashtiani guilty of having had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband. She was given 99 lashes.

But that September, during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, another court reopened an adultery case based on events that allegedly took place before her husband died.

Despite retracting a confession the she said she had been forced to make under duress, Ms Ashtiani was found guilty.
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Possible explanations for Iranian scientist mystery

By Jon Leyne Middle East correspondent, BBC News, Cairo

Shahram Amiri addresses the press in Tehran (15 July 2010) Mr Amiri is, for the time being, being treated as a returning hero by the Iranian government

The Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri is home safely with his family in Iran, following a tearful reunion with his family at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.

He is being treated as a hero by the Iranian authorities, at least for the time being.

Yet almost nothing about this strange case is clear, and it may never be.

Straight off the plane Mr Amiri walked with the Iranian deputy foreign minister into a news conference.
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He repeated - and elaborated on - his earlier story.

Escape

Mr Amiri described how he was kidnapped by agents in Saudi Arabia, drugged and then flown to the US.

During his interrogation in America he was subjected to mental and physical torture, he said.

Israeli agents were present. At some stage he was offered $50m (£33m) to remain in the US.
The Natanz enriching nuclear plant (file photo April 2007) Mr Amiri says he knows nothing about the Iranian nuclear programme

But he escaped, and made his way to the Iranian diplomatic mission in Washington, he said.

American officials, by contrast, continue to insist that he arrived in the US freely, and left freely.

American sources have told US media that Mr Amiri was given $5m, first to start passing them secrets on the Iranian nuclear programme, then to defect in person.

In past briefings, they have explained this was part of a wider programme, using Iranians in the US to get to access to individuals working on sensitive programmes inside Iran.

According to this version of events, Mr Amiri began sending videos to Iran claiming he had been abducted as a way to get back in favour with the authorities, so that he could return to see his family.

As Shahram Amiri has now pointed out, why would he have defected to the US while leaving his family in Iran?
'Simple researcher'

There are a number of possibilities.

Maybe the CIA promised him they would get the family out at a later date, and then failed to deliver.
Shahram Amiri is greeted by his family at Tehran's airport (15 July 2010) Mr Amiri's family may have played a key part in his return

Maybe Mr Amiri himself naively underestimated the difficult of getting his family out, or the pressure the Iranian authorities would place on them.

While the Americans continue to stress the importance of the information on Iran's nuclear programme furnished by Mr Amiri, he has described himself as just a "simple researcher" with no knowledge or access to the most controversial sites, such as the enrichment plants at Natanz or Fordo.

As Shahram Amiri was flying back to Iran, US intelligence sources put a brave face on it.

They now had the information, they pointed out, even if Iran had their man.

That may well be the case.

But whatever the circumstances of Mr Amiri's return, it sends a strong message to Iranian exiles or possible defectors.

They may leave Iran, but the Iranian government will not leave them alone - wherever they are in the world.
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