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Iran Report: July 12, 2006

July 12, 2006, Volume 9, Number 25

NEW ANTI-ISRAEL CAMPAIGN IN IRAN. The Students' Justice-Seeking Movement and the Students' Headquarters for the Support of Palestine will raise funds in Tehran for Israel's annihilation, Fars News Agency reported on July 6. The first collection will take place after the Friday Prayers on July 7. On July 8, according to Fars, "Global Slumber and the Need to Support Palestine" will be shown at the Kosar Hall next to the Mellat Bank in Tehran.

In Isfahan, fundraising has commenced at 80 local Basij Resistance Force bases and 92 student Basij bases, provincial television reported on July 5. Colonel Moradi, commander of the Basij in the town of Shahreza, said he expects the fundraising drive -- called Labayk Ya Khamenei (We are ready to give a positive response to your call O' Khamenei) -- to raise some $55,000.

A July 5 statement from the Isfahan Province Islamic Publicity Coordination Council called on people to participate in anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rallies after the July 7 Friday Prayers, Isfahan Provincial television reported. According to the statement, "Usurper Israel has realized its own futility and worthlessness and, supported by criminal America, it has increased the fire of its grudge and bloodthirstiness to maximum and is continuing its indiscriminate murder of the oppressed people of Palestine." (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN NUCLEAR DECISION NOT FORTHCOMING. The visit to Brussels of Iran's top nuclear negotiator, which was scheduled for July 5, was postponed for a day for security reasons, according to Iranian news agencies. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani was scheduled to meet with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and an anonymous "informed source" said the presence of Israeli assassins in Brussels led to the delay, Mehr News Agency reported. An unnamed Iranian "security official" said the alleged hit teams were backed by Israel and "certain European states," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Iranian Speaker of Parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel gave a less precise explanation, telling state television, "A technical reason, rather than a political issue, has been behind the postponement of the visit."

Larijani attended a dinner with Solana in Brussels on July 6, AFP reported. Larijani said Iran will not respond right away to the international community's proposal that purportedly calls on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities in exchange for various incentives until international inspectors confirm that the country's nuclear program has no military applications. Solana delivered the proposal to Tehran in early June. Larijani said the response would not come either at that evening's dinner or on July 11, when talks with officials from the countries behind the proposal are scheduled to take place. Tehran has said repeatedly that it must consider the proposal carefully, but also has said that the proposal is vague in some key areas.

Tehran's slow response to the international nuclear proposal has led to calls for it to act with greater haste. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Muhammad el-Baradei said on July 6 in Ankara, "We hope that Iran will respond promptly and positively, we hope, to the offer that was made by the six countries," Radio Farda reported. He added, "we need to get the parties to start the negotiations, and the earlier we get the parties to the negotiating table the better for everybody.... I hope that Iran also understands that the international community is getting somewhat impatient, and the earlier they can provide an answer the better for everybody."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on July 6 in Paris, "We call on the Iranians to give a rapid response to our offer. It is important that we receive rapid, concrete answers," AFP reported.

European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said on July 5 in Brussels that there is "disappointment" in "Iran's slowness," Radio Farda reported.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on July 4 in London, "What I'd like is a response [to the international offer of incentives] as soon as possible because I don't really see what more there is to talk about," Radio Farda reported. Blair voiced concern that Tehran might harbor the false hope that it can "divide the international community." (Bill Samii)

IRAN DEVELOPS NEW LINE OF MISSILES. Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Mohammad Mustafa Najjar said on June 28 in Tehran that Iran is among the top six countries in the production of armor-piercing missiles, IRNA reported. He went on to say that country's defense industries are part of national development plans for the next two decades. (Bill Samii)

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AND IRAQI SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT VISIT IRAN. Armenian President Robert Kocharian on July 6 concluded a two-day visit to Iran during which he met with his counterpart, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, international news agencies reported. Kocharian was accompanied by Energy Minister Armen Movsisian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Kirakosian. The Iranian and Armenian sides signed seven memorandums of understanding; most related to energy issues, but several dealt with legal matters and cultural preservation. Noyan Tapan and the Armenian "Lragir" newspaper reported on July 6 that the most important topic of discussion was the construction of a natural-gas pipeline connecting the two countries. RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on July 6 that another important topic was connection of the two countries' electricity grids.

Mahmud al-Mashhadani, speaker of the Iraqi parliament, met with Ayatollah Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, head of the Imam Reza Shrine Foundation and the provincial representative of Iran's Supreme Leader, during a visit to the western Iranian city of Mashhad on July 6, IRNA reported. During the meeting, al-Mashhadani said the United States is occupying Iraq because it wants to create a "Greater Israel," IRNA reported. Al-Mashhadani added that the United States and Israel are working against stability in Iraq, and he attributed the rule of the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the United States, saying, "Saddam was appointed in Iraq by the United States itself to help it materialize its arrogant goals." Al-Mashhadani called for a greater Iranian role in his country's reconstruction. Al-Mashhadani arrived in Iran on July 3 at the invitation of his Iranian counterpart, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel. (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS AMONG CASUALTIES IN IRAQI SUICIDE BOMBING. Thirteen people were killed and another 41 were wounded on 6 July when a suicide bomber's vehicle exploded between two buses carrying Iranian pilgrims in the city of Al-Kufah, which is north of Al-Najaf, Al-Sharqiyah Television and Reuters reported. Munther al-Athari, the head of Najaf's health service, said eight of the dead were Iranians, Reuters reported. Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television reported that five Iranian pilgrims lost their lives and 22 others were wounded.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi condemned the incident and blamed the U.S., Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television reported. He described this as a barbaric act that only benefits Iraq's enemies. He added, "The wrong policy of the American occupiers and their refusal to accept responsibility in Iraq have led to the growth of terrorism and ruthless behavior in that country; and the terrorists by counting on America's erroneous approach, continue their crimes." (Bill Samii)

IRAN ATTACKS KURDS IN IRAQ. An Iranian army spokesman announced on July 1 that Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces sustained heavy losses when Iranians attacked their positions in the northern Iraqi town of Sidikan, Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television reported. The spokesman said the attack was in response to PKK activities near the Iranian city of Salmas. The next day, a statement from the PKK-affiliated People's Defense Forces (HPG) said Iranian and Turkish armed forces suffered great losses during clashes with the HPG, Roj Television reported. The HPG statement claimed that 18 Iranian soldiers and two local militiamen were killed near the Iranian towns of Marivan and Baneh on June 28. Turkish personnel reportedly were killed on June 29. Two HPG members lost their lives as well, it claimed. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN ATTRIBUTES ETHNIC STRIFE TO FOREIGN INVOLVEMENT. Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei said on July 2 in Tehran that his agency has countered many conspiracies by Iran's enemies over the last 10 months, state television reported. He said the United States has the greatest motivation to act against Iran, Mehr News Agency reported, and he indicated that the U.S. intervention is motivated by Iran's gains in military power. Mohseni-Ejei also mentioned the funds for democracy legislation requested by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in February, and added that, in fact, much more money than that has been spent by Washington to destabilize Iran. Mohseni-Ejei claimed that the United States has dispatched many spies to Iran since the election of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in June 2005. Referring to the continuing ethnic disturbances in the northwest, southwest, and southeastern parts of Iran, Mohseni-Ejei said ethnic groups in these areas deserve more attention because the United States is trying to exploit them.

On July 1, in Mahabad, legislator Alaedin Borujerdi said government investigations show that the United States and Britain are behind unrest in the Khuzestan and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN MINORITIES EXPERIENCE HOUSING DIFFICULTIES. UN special rapporteur Miloon Kothari released a report on housing on June 29, and part of that document focused on Iran. According to the report, Kothari visited neighborhoods in and around Tehran, as well as the Boyerahmad va Kohkiluyeh, Fars, Kerman, Kermanshah, and Khuzestan provinces, and he heard testimony relating to Ilam and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces. Rural land is being expropriated and its inhabitants evacuated to make way for agricultural and petrochemical projects, the report notes. "In some regions, these expropriations seem to have targeted disproportionately property and land of religious and ethnic minorities, such as Baha'i cemeteries, but also houses" -- some 640 Baha'i properties, including cemeteries and shrines, have been confiscated since 1980. People are not fairly compensated. There are "allegations of procedural irregularities and bias against ethnic and religious minorities" in cases of expropriation. Minorities face "disproportionately poor living conditions" -- for example, Arabs, Kurds, and Muslim Sufis have "extremely unsatisfactory" living conditions in Kermanshah and Khuzestan. Laws relating to inheritance are harmful to minorities, according to the report, and favor Muslims. (Bill Samii)

UNPAID WORKERS PROTEST IN NORTHWEST IRAN. Employees of a china and porcelain factory in the northwestern city of Tabriz staged a protest on June 27 against five-months of wage arrears, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. During that time, workers told ILNA, they only received a onetime payment of 500,000 rials (roughly $57). The factory's managing director told ILNA he would pay the employees as soon as he can, but there has been a slump in demand for the products. (Bill Samii)

TRUCK CRASH SHAKES SHIRAZ. A truck carrying 8,000 liters of gasoline crashed into a high-voltage electricity pole in the city of Shiraz on June 26, and fuel that leaked into the sewage system exploded, state radio reported. Gholam-Hussein Monshi, an official with the city sanitation department, stressed that the underground sewage system was not damaged because the gas leaked into surface canals only, IRNA reported. Fars Province Governor-General Ebrahim Azizi said the blast killed one person and injured four others, IRNA reported. More than 20 cars were reported damaged. The Shiraz emergency hospital reported that six people who fell into the canal received immediate medical treatment.

In eastern Iran on June 26, 22 people lost their lives when a bus and a truck crashed head-on, Reuters reported. The accident took place on the highway connecting Birjand and Nahbandan. (Bill Samii)

INTELLECTUAL LABELED U.S. AGENT. Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei discussed the cases of jailed intellectual Ramin Jahanbegloo and former Tehran parliamentary representative and student activist Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni on July 2, Radio Farda reported. Mohseni-Ejei said Jahanbegloo was trying, at U.S. instigation, to bring about a nonviolent, "Velvet-type" revolution in Iran. The investigation into Jahanbegloo's case is continuing, Mohseni-Ejei added, and he claimed that the United States is training members of NGOs at overseas locations. Turning to Musavi-Khoeni, Mohseni-Ejei said the former legislator's participation in a women's rights rally on June 12 was illegal and that is why he was arrested, Radio Farda reported. Most other people arrested then have been released, but Mohseni-Ejei did not explain this inconsistency. (Bill Samii)

JOURNALIST THREATENS MASS HUNGER STRIKE TO FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS. Dissident Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji has threatened to organize a hunger-strike "movement" in several Western cities if the government does not release three Iranian political prisoners as soon as possible and unconditionally. The most prominent of the three is noted scholar and author Ramin Jahanbegloo, who is accused of working with the United States to bring down Iran's Islamic regime through a nonviolent revolution. Former reformist legislator and the head of the alumni association of Iran's main reformist student group, Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni, and bus-driver union leader Mansur Osanlu are the others.

Akbar Ganji reiterated his call for Iranian officials to release Ramin Jahanbegloo, Mansur Osanlu, and Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni during an interview with Radio Farda on June 30 while he was in Germany.

Ganji said that Osanlu and Musavi-Khoeni represent Iran's intellectual, workers', and student movements whose members, he says, have been under pressure.

He said they should be freed and he has called on all freedom-loving Iranians and human rights defenders to join him.

"We've called on the regime to free these three prisoners immediately," he said. "If they will not be freed soon, I have planned with some friends a hunger strike against the Iranian regime in England, in France, in Germany, in the U.S. and across the world to bring the world's attention to the vast human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Ganji -- one of Iran's most prominent investigative journalists -- was freed in March after spending more than five years in prison because of his critical articles.

During his jail term he remained defiant and on at least two occasions he went on a long hunger strike to protest his conditions.

Ganji has been on a European tour for the last month and has condemned human rights abuses in Iran wherever he speaks.

"Iran's Islamic regime is continuing its political repression and human rights violations like before," he said. "One of the tools for political repression is arbitrary and illegal arrests. They arrest people because of their opinions and because of dissent."

Ganji noted that many human rights activists and intellectuals have called for the release of Jahanbegloo, Musavi-Khoeni, and Osanlu.

He added that since Iranian authorities have not paid attention to these calls, a general hunger strike seems to be the only way to press for their release.

In recent weeks several separate statements have been issued by activists and intellectuals in protest of the detentions of the three men.

In the case of Jahanbegloo, personalities such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Literature Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, acclaimed Italian writer Umberto Eco, and prominent historian and author Timothy Garton Ash have joined the call for his release.

Jahanbegloo is a well-known philosopher who has published several books in French, English, and Persian on issues as ranging as intellectual thought in Iran and Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and his nonviolent resistance.

He has been detained since April 27 without access to a lawyer.

Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei said on July 2 that Jahanbegloo is one of the people who was arrested "in line with the U.S. effort to instigate a velvet [or] soft revolution in Iran."

Some of Jahanbegloo's colleagues and friends have expressed concern that he could be under pressure to make forced confessions.

This method has been used -- though largely unsuccessfully -- by Iran in the past to discredit critics.

There is also growing concern about Musavi-Khoeni, who was arrested in Tehran during a June 12 women's rights gathering.

Seventy men and women were arrested for attending the protest against legal gender discrimination. All have been freed except for Musavi-Khoeni.

Former legislator Fatemeh Haghighatjoo tells RFE/RL that Musavi-Khoeni's case is being reviewed by the hard-line revolutionary court.

"This is a matter of concern because it is possible that they will bring new charges against him such as espionage or toppling the regime," he said. "During his term in the parliament he worked hard for the closure of secret and illegal prisons; he also defended the rights of political prisoners. These are among issues that can lead to new cases against him especially because he has been a defender of student rights and also the rights of women and workers."

Human rights activists are also worried about the fate Osanlu, the president of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran Bus Company.

He has been in jail since last December on unspecified charges. He reportedly helped organize demonstrations against bus drivers' work conditions.

On June 30, the student website reported that student leader Abdullah Momeni welcomes Ganji's call for the release of Osanlu and other prisoners.

Momeni is quoted as saying that Ganji's resistance while imprisoned provides a lesson for all Iranians who are longing for a change.

He added: "I think students and those close to the students have the capacity to express their readiness for a protest."

Iran's most prominent living poet, Simin Behbehani, has also expressed support for Ganji's initiative.

Behbehani told Radio Farda that any action that would lead to the release of Iran's political prisoners is "necessary." (By Golnaz Esfandiari; Radio Farda correspondent Nazi Azima contributed to this report.)