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Heard This Week - 08/31/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Prague, Czech Republic -- August 31, 2006) Major stories for Radio Farda this week were developments in the ongoing nuclear crisis, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's forthcoming trip to the United States, a petition drive to eliminate discrimination against women and the release from prison of academic and author Ramin Jahanbegloo.

>> Radio Farda aired daily reports about Iranian statements showing a hardening stance, disregarding the UN ultimatum on its nuclear program and U.S. and western reaction preparing for sanctions. On August 30, one day before the UN deadline, Radio Farda aired a special report, detailing the history and highlights of the controversy.

>> Radio Farda continued its coverage of the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon, providing listeners comprehensive coverage of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's trip to the Middle East, international efforts to put a peace plan in place and analyses of the post-war situation in the region.
On August 31, Radio Farda aired Annan's announcement, during a press conference with Jordan's King Abdullah, that "there will be Islamic troops on the ground (in Lebanon) from Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey," and that it will be time for Israel to withdraw completely from Lebanon "when the international forces have reached 5,000 and are deploying to the south with the Lebanese."
Radio Farda also aired reports that looked into Italy's role in securing the release of the Israeli soldiers, whose kidnapping by Hezbollah in mid-July sparked the conflict. In an August 27 interview with Radio Farda, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema denied that any "secret" mediation of the issue with Iran was underway. The next day, Italian Senate Defense Committee chair Sergio De Gregorio told Radio Farda that he had personally received a letter from Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani, asking the Italian government to get more involved in negotiations over the Israeli hostages -- thus adding confirmation and detail to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's televised statement that indirect contact was taking place between Hezbollah and Israel on an exchange of prisoners.

>> A special Radio Farda program broadcast August 29 was about a debate among Iranian Americans sparked by former President Mohammad Khatami�s upcoming visit to Washington next week. Roozbeh Farahanipour, chairman of the Los Angeles-based Marze Por Gohar Party, told Radio Farda that "Khatami's visit is just a big political public relations maneuver to make the Islamic regime look good." Another activist, Aryo Barzan Pirooznia of Boston, said: "Iranians will gather in front of the National Cathedral to protest Khatami's trip to the U.S. because so many crimes took place in the eight years that he was president of Iran." Radio Farda also spoke to Chicago-based journalist Mohammad Arasi, who told Radio Farda listeners that he supports Khatami's trip to the US. He said "in the current situation in Iran, the problems between [the U.S. and Iran] will only be solved through dialogue."

>> Alberto M. Fernandez, Director for Public Diplomacy in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, in an exclusive August 29 interview, explained for Radio Farda listeners the reasons why the U.S. is giving an entry visa to Khatami. Fernandez said: "just because somebody gets a visa, it does not mean that we endorse the practices of the regime in Tehran or we approve of them or we approve of Mr. Khatami... This is not about rewarding the regime in Tehran. This is not a signal to the regime in Tehran. This is us respecting our own values of freedom of speech."

>> A petition drive has been launched in Iran to collect one million signatures for changing laws discriminating against women. Authorities blocked the gathering at which the launch was supposed to take place, Sunday, August 27, but activists have begun collecting signatures regardless. Radio Farda interviewed rally organizer Golnaz Maleki, who told listeners that the main goal of the activists is to start a dialogue with Iranian citizens and remind them of their civic rights. Radio Farda also interviewed famed Iranian poet Simin Behbahani, who was scheduled to speak at the aborted meeting. Behbahani told Radio Farda that she would have spoken about the restrictions women have to cope with and that she is not surprised authorities wanted to prevent the rally. Another of the organizers, Farnaz Seyfi, told Radio Farda the authorities offered no explanation for refusing to allow the meeting, saying only that it had not been authorized. Activist Golnaz Maleki said in a Radio Farda interview there is broad support for changing the discriminatory laws. She said: "One million signatures can at least demonstrate that our demands are not only the demands of 4,000 or 5,000 people, who go to various gatherings, are beaten up and then go home. There is wide support for these demands" (See

>> Radio Farda gave prominent coverage August 30 and August 31st to news that leading Iranian writer and philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo had been released from prison, after confessing he was guilty as charged of plotting a non-violent revolution and apologizing for his mistakes. In a Radio Farda interview, Dr. Abdol-Karim Lahidji of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights welcomed Jahanbegloo's release and said any confession or admission of guilt lacks credibility, because it was extracted under harsh prison conditions and the threat of further incarceration. His imprisonment, Lahidji said, was an attempt by Iranian authorities to discourage Iranian youth from supporting civil rights causes.
Jahanbegloo was released on bail, after spending four months in Tehran's Evin prison following his April arrest on espionage charges. A philosopher educated in France and the US, Jahanbegloo is a citizen of Canada who enjoys a wide following in Iran as a result of his writings and lectures on democracy. Iranian officials have said excerpts of Jahanbegloo's confession may be broadcast on state television. International human rights groups told Radio Farda that it is frequent practice for the "confessions" of well-known political prisoners to be disseminated after their release from prison through government-controlled media.

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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