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Heard This Week - 06/08/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Prague, Czech Republic -- June 8, 2006) Radio Farda's major stories this week included the news that Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq al-Zarqawi had been killed; special analysis of the incentive package offered to Iran to give up its nuclear enrichment program; an exclusive interview with award-winning Iranian journalist and political dissident Akbar Ganji; more on the fallout from last week's protests in the Azari province of northwestern Iran; and a conversation with the head of an Iranian prisoner rights group.

>> The June 8 announcement that Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi had been killed was major news on Radio Farda. Programming included coverage of the announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, statements by U.S. President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and reaction from leaders and policymakers around the world. In a first look at what al-Zarqawi's death could mean for the insurgency in neighboring Iraq, Radio Farda aired interviews with western analysts, who said the death of the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq is a blow to the insurgency and will be demoralizing for the Islamist militant movement worldwide.

>> Radio Farda's regular programming on the longstanding international controversy over Iran's nuclear program covered three main areas -- U.S. policy, European views, and Iranian interests.
This week, in addition to daily reporting of statements from the U.S. State Department, White House, and Congress, Radio Farda aired special analysis June 7 on the European Union's incentive proposal. One of the experts contacted, Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based Institute of Strategic Studies, was cautiously optimistic about prospects for resolving the stand-off. He said the U.S. offer of direct talks with Iran and the fact that China and Russia have moved closer to the U.S.-Europe position offered some hope. Fitzpatrick also pointed out to Radio Farda listeners that Iran does not have the ability to continue nuclear enrichment on a large scale and could in time, and with skillful negotiation, accept some face-saving compromise. Hans Blix, the former head of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said on Radio Farda that Iran's insistence on enriching uranium does not make sense. He said "my country, Sweden, gave up its enrichment technology because getting fuel from outside, makes more economical sense." Reza Taghizadeh, a professor at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and an expert on Iran said that maintaining its hard line position only increases Iran's isolation.
Radio Farda frequently contacts officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency for comments and talks to other prominent European and American experts. Earlier, Radio Farda broadcast a statement by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, one of the architects of the Paris nuclear agreement between Iran and the EU. Fischer said a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the state of Israel, as well as a threat to the stability of the entire region. To get an Iranian perspective, Radio Farda interviewed Tehran university professor Davoud Hermidas Bavand, who suggested that an international conference be organized to address both the nuclear dispute and the human rights situation in Iran. Bavand was one of the signatories on a recent statement by the National Front in Iran that called for normalized U.S.-Iranian relations. Radio Farda broadcast the statement in full and aired a separate interview with Bavand about it.
Shahin Fatemi, a university professor living in Paris told Radio Farda that it is in Iran's national interest to end its isolation and open up to the world. He said the longer this takes, the more difficult it will be for Iran to become a full member of the international community. Tehran university professor Sadegh Zibakalan told Radio Farda that, to date, the foreign policy of the government of President Ahmadinejad has served only those within the US government who seek military action against Iran. Iran's former ambassador to the UN, Mansour Farhang told Radio Farda that the only way to end the nuclear standoff is to hold direct talks between Iran and US.

>> Iranian journalist and rights activist Akbar Ganji gave a lengthy, exclusive interview to Radio Farda on June 6, one day after he received the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom award. Speaking by phone from Moscow, Ganji told Radio Farda listeners about his determination to continue his struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. In the interview, aired on Radio Farda's weekly "Viewpoints" program, Ganji said: "I am radical in my goals, but I am a reformist in my methods. I don't believe in revolution or violence." He said he will work for "full-scale democracy in Iran," but stressed this should be achieved from within the country, without outsiders. Ganji was released from prison in March after serving more than six years for writing critical articles about Iranian senior officials.

>> Radio Farda continued to report on the crackdown in the Azeri-populated northwest corner of Iran, following widespread protests by the Azeri-Iranian minority sparked by a newspaper cartoon they found insulting. Government officials said no one was killed in the May demonstrations and that security forces were dealing leniently with the protesters. But residents who spoke with Radio Farda by phone gave a different picture.
In an interview aired June 5, a Tehran University student from the city of Tabriz said that at least two people were killed there. He described how one of the victims was buried and also gave an account of the arrest of a local journalist in the northwestern city of Ardabil.
Radio Farda also contacted a journalist in Tabriz, who said seven reporters and writers were arrested this week in the towns of Tabriz, Maiand, Meshkinshahr and three other cities in Iran's Azari province. The families of the arrested journalists said they were taken away to an unknown destination. The interview aired June 7.

>> With a rising prisoner population in the country, Radio Farda interviewed the head of a Tehran non-government organization working to help the prisoners and their families, the Iranian Association for the Defense of Prisoners. Its chairman, Emadeddin Baghi spoke to Radio Farda about the group's just-released annual report, stating there were 34 political prisoners in Iran in 2005. Baghi said his group tries to keep track of the prisoner population, but that the main focus of its work is helping the families of prisoners. The interview aired June 7.

For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit: -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran

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