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Iran Report: October 26, 2005


26 October 2005, Volume 8, Number 42

IRAQI KURDS WANT IRANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TRIED. Iraqi Kurds want Masud Rajavi, leader of an Iranian opposition organization based in Iraq, to be arrested and tried, Radio Farda reported on 20 October. Rajavi's group, the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MEK), settled in Iraq in the 1980s, where it received assistance from and cooperated with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Kurds say they want Rajavi to be tried because of the role his organization played in their repression by the Hussein regime.

Mohammad Tofiq Rahim, an official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said in an interview with Radio Farda that his organization has documentary evidence of Rajavi's role. He said that when the Kurds seized control of northern parts of Iraq with U.S. assistance at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the MEK cooperated with the Iraqi Army in retaking control of the city of Kirkuk. In the process, he charged, hundreds of the city's residents were killed by the MEK.

"Everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan knows that Masud Rajavi cooperated with the Mukhaberat [intelligence] and security forces of Saddam Hussein not only in the suppression of the Kurds, but all the opponents of the regime of Saddam," Rahim added. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN DEMANDS JUSTICE IN HUSSEIN TRIAL. Iranian judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad announced on 19 October that Tehran has submitted a criminal complaint to the court that is trying former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. He said the indictment relates to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, the abuse of Iranian prisoners of war, and the use of unconventional and chemical weapons against Iranian troops.

Karimirad described Hussein as a war criminal who must be brought to justice for his crimes against Iranians. An "expert on Iraqi issues," identified only as "Mr. Jaafari," told Iranian state radio on 19 October that the United States might kill Hussein in prison and claim that he committed suicide or became sick. According to Jaafari, this is so the trial does not go on too long and issues relating to Iraq's wars on Iran and on Kuwait do not come to light. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN AIRS ITS GRIEVANCES AGAINST HUSSEIN. On 18 October, the day before the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on charges of crimes against humanity began in Baghdad, Iranian judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad said Tehran will be submitting a separate indictment against him.

Karimirad said on 18 October that the first part of his country's indictment has already been sent to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to be forwarded to Iraq and other relevant materials will be sent later, Iranian state radio reported.

The current trial does not address Hussein's alleged crimes against Iran, most of which relate to the 1980-88 war between the two countries. Iranian officials made clear in September that they would submit a separate indictment, and their concern was apparent when Hussein was arraigned in July 2004.

The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, said in early September that "the bill of indictment [in Hussein's current trial] is very weak and feeble, and Saddam's crimes during the eight-year imposed war against Iran and the Kurds have been neglected," state radio reported. Hashemi-Shahrudi said he has tasked the prosecutor-general with drawing up a further bill of indictment for submission to the court.

Prosecutor-General Qorban Ali Dori-Najafabadi described the issues that he believes have been neglected. He mentioned "crimes against humanity, genocide, the killing of senior clerics and distinguished personalities, the chemical bombardment of Halabja, [and] the chemical bombardment of our country," state radio reported on 6 September. Dori-Najafabadi went on to mention Iraqi bombardments of Iranian cities and infrastructure, as well as damage to the environment. Dori-Najafabadi added that Hussein "has to be held accountable for all the crimes he committed."

Dori-Najafabadi said the real importance of the Iranian indictment is in establishing the accuracy of the historical record rather than in punishing Hussein. "It must be recorded and registered in history," Dori-Najafabadi said, "the evidence, the documents, for future generations, to show how wronged our nation was, how wronged the Iraqi nation was as well. So that it will serve as a lesson for other criminals."

Dori-Najafabadi conceded that Iran might seek compensation.

The preliminary charges against Hussein at the time of his July 2004 arraignment related to purported crimes against humanity committed during his Ba'ath Party's 35-year rule of Iraq. These charges reportedly relate to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, the 1974 intentional killing of Iraqi religious figures, the 1983 killing of Barzani clan members, the 1987-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, and the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings in 1991.

Iranian complaints related mostly to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which Hussein initiated. Tehran is particularly enraged by the Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iranians. Iran first reported an Iraqi chemical attack in November 1980. Attacks using mustard agents, the nerve agents tabun and sarin, VX gas, and cyanide continued into 1988.

The day after Hussein's arraignment, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani asked in the second sermon of the Friday prayers why none of the initial charges against Hussein relate to Iran, state radio reported on 2 July. "Have you not heard of the 100,000 victims of chemical weapons in Iran?" he said. Rafsanjani said that, in some cases, it is only now that the symptoms of chemical poisoning are becoming apparent. "One of [the victims] is my own son," Rafsanjani said. "He thought he had not been affected." The cleric referred to the Iraqi chemical attacks on the Kurdish towns of Halabja in Iraq in March 1988 and Sardasht in western Iran in June 1987. He claimed that although the initial chemical attacks on Iranians were ineffective, later ones had a bigger impact because of scientific and technical assistance from the West.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on 6 July: "Initiation of eight years of war against Iran should be the most important issue in the letter of indictment against the former dictator of Iraq," state television reported. "This is because this war was imposed on the Iranian and Iraqi nations and consumed a considerable portion of both countries' resources." Khamenei also claimed that the United States was Hussein's accomplice in the war against Iran.

Four days after Hussein's 2004 arraignment, the head of the Iranian judiciary was already talking about an additional indictment. Hashemi-Shahrudi said at a 5 July meeting of judiciary officials that he had instructed the prosecutor-general to draw up an indictment and added that the judiciary and the Foreign Ministry must coordinate their actions, state television reported.

It is clear, therefore, that the Iranian indictment has been some time in the making. Yet there are other outstanding issues that will not disappear regardless of the outcome of Hussein's current trial. Iran has, at various times, claimed in excess of $1 trillion in war damages. Tehran's hostility to the United States, furthermore, is connected to some extent with the persistent belief that Washington encouraged Iraq to start the war and aided it during the fighting. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN AID ARRIVES IN IRAQ. The Iranian Embassy in Baghdad announced on 20 October that a consignment of aid has arrived from Iran, IRNA reported. The shipment reportedly includes food, tents, medicine, and other relief supplies, and it is destined for Tal Afar, the site of intense fighting in recent weeks. Then Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 24 February 2004 that he was suspicious of many of Iran's "humanitarian and outreach programs" in Iraq, according to testimony posted on the Senate website.

Meanwhile, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad dismissed London's accusation of Iranian interference in Iraq, state television reported. "It is also absurd because those who have come from thousands of kilometers away, occupying the land [Iraq] and bullying people, are now accusing others of interfering in the domestic affairs of that land," he added. "Well, you [the British] are carrying out the highest level of interference." (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN UNINTERESTED IN TALKS WITH WASHINGTON. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 20 October that Iran does not plan to take part in bilateral discussions with the United States, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. Assefi was reacting to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statements the previous day, when she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration is considering direct contacts with Iran in an effort to bring about stability in Iraq, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 20 October. Rice said such contacts would take place at the embassy level in Baghdad and probably would be limited to Iraqi affairs. Washington-Tehran contacts are currently made indirectly through third parties. "The American administration's request is not compatible with their approach and performance," Assefi said, adding a call for the United States to change its behavior. (Bill Samii)

BOMBINGS IN SOUTHWEST BLAMED ON USUAL SUSPECT. Two explosions in the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran on 15 October were responsible for the death of five people, Iranian state radio reported on 16 October. Less than two hours after the explosions occurred, Al-Alam, Iran's official Arabic-language satellite news network, was connecting them with Great Britain. "Ahvaz has previously witnessed such blasts. Investigations have proved that the British troops in Iraq were involved in these," Al-Alam commented.

Indeed, explosions and other forms of unrest have been occurring in southwestern Khuzestan Province since April, and the Iranian government has often attributed these incidents to foreign sources.

To date, however, no evidence to support these allegations has been offered. Tehran may be using a foreign scapegoat to deflect attention from simmering ethnic grievances in the region, or it could be retaliating against British accusations that Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with explosives. Tehran-London relations have deteriorated, furthermore, since Iran abandoned its temporary suspension of uranium-enrichment activities.

A "Mr. Shariati," identified as the deputy governor-general of Khuzestan for political-security affairs, said shortly after the bombings that they took place on Naderi and Salman Farsi streets around 5:15 p.m. local time, state television reported. Shariati said the bombs were placed in trash bins and were not very powerful, but because they went off in a crowded area about 90 people were injured.

Suspicions of British intentions run deep in the Arab-inhabited southwest, and this was immediately apparent (see "Iran: Blaming British For Arab Unrest Has Historical Roots," rferl.org).

"Who could it have been but Britain?," an anonymous bystander told state television just hours after the bombings. The bystander said Britain's objective is "creating discord." He added, "In this holy month, they want to create discord between Shi'a and Sunnis."

Iranian officials contributed to these suspicions. General Mohammad Hejazi, commander of the Basij Resistance Force, said in the northwestern city of Ardabil on 16 October: "The explosions in Ahvaz are linked to elements outside the borders of the country and only the British have been involved in them," the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. Hejazi said Britain is trying to make Iran seem insecure.

A member of the Iranian legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaedin Borujerdi, said on 16 October: "In view of the presence of British forces near the country's borders, there is concern about their involvement in the Ahvaz explosions, just as we had information about their involvement in the previous incidents and unrest in Khuzestan." Borujerdi announced that in two days the ministers of foreign affairs, of intelligence and security, and of the interior, as well as the chief of the national police, will attend a meeting to discuss events in Ahvaz, Mehr news agency reported.

The British Embassy in Tehran denied any involvement in the 15 October bombings and offered condolences, ILNA reported on 16 October. "There have been allegations of involvement of the British in Khuzestan [bombings] in the past which the British government denies," the embassy statement said. "Any [accusations of] involvement of the British government in these terrorist attacks is entirely baseless." The British Embassy expressed its willingness to cooperate with Tehran in bringing the culprits to justice.

Foreign sources received some of the blame for the explosions in Ahvaz in June. Explosions at three oil wells in Ahvaz on 1 September also were attributed to foreigners. Dasht-e Azadegan parliamentary representative Seyyed Nezam Mollahoveyzeh said afterward that the bombers are "provided for and guided by London," "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 3 September. Hamid Zanganeh, who represents Ahvaz, said on 6 September, "Undoubtedly, mercenaries of foreign powers were involved in the blasts," ILNA reported.

Yet in early October judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad attributed them to Iranian dissidents. "The main defendants in the case of the Ahvaz blasts were refugee members of SAVAK [the Iranian monarchy's intelligence and security organization] and the families of the members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization who had been executed," "Mardom-Salari" on 6 October quoted him as saying.

Nevertheless, the accusations against the British continued in the following days. Khuzestan police commander Issa Darai said on 10 October that a four-man gang of weapons smugglers confessed that the U.K. and U.S. militaries, as well as Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, were promoting the smuggling of arms to Iran, Al-Alam and Mehr news agency reported. Darai described the seizure of handguns and Kalashnikov rifles.

An Iraqi security official identified only as "Abu Ali" said on 11 October that the British Royal Marines have a plan calling for the secession of Khuzestan Province, Fars news agency reported. The U.K. Foreign Office was reportedly involved with the training of mercenaries who later returned to Iraq to work as police in Al-Amarah. Abu Ali said the British Embassy in Tehran knows of the plan, which coincides with eavesdropping and espionage along Iraq's border with Khuzestan Province, as well as satellite imagery of the province's oil resources. He said London spent some $200 million for this plan, which includes propagating immorality, distributing weapons, cooperating with the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, and identifying rioters as freedom fighters.

Tehran's accusations of British interference overlook the ethnic heterogeneity of the Iranian population. Arabs make up a sizable minority in Iran (3 percent of the total population of some 69 million). Many ethnic Arabs live in the southwest, and one of their major grievances is that although much of the country's oil wealth comes from this area, they do not benefit from it. They also complain of underdevelopment, discrimination in securing jobs, and poor educational opportunities.

Nasser Sudani, a parliamentarian from Ahvaz, hinted at this in his 27 September pre-agenda speech to the legislature. "Saving Khuzestan from the existing crisis and the quagmire of problems requires everybody's support, and if we hesitate about taking required measures we will have to feel regret in the future." "Jomhuri-yi Islami" quoted him as saying the next day. "Justice requires paying special attention to this province and settling the problems facing its people," Sudani added.

Furthermore, Tehran's most recent accusations could be a reaction to British accusations of its involvement in Iraq. In early October, London complained that Iran and Lebanese Hizballah have provided Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated explosive devices that have killed a number of British troops. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on 6 October that the explosives "lead us either to Iranian elements or the Hizballah, because they are similar to devices used by Hizballah that is funded and supported by Iran." And, more recently, British officials accused Iran of running training camps for bombers in Iraq, "The Times" of London reported on 12 October. (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS CLAIM TO FOIL ANOTHER BOMBING ATTEMPT. Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam satellite television channel reported on 17 October that security forces foiled a bombing attempt in Ahvaz. Bombings in Ahvaz two days earlier killed six people and wounded another 90 people. (Bill Samii)

BRITISH DIPLOMAT SUMMONED AFTER BOMBINGS IN IRAN. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad claimed on 16 October and again on 17 October that Great Britain was involved in the 15 October bombings in Ahvaz. In his second statement, he said the "presence of British troops in southern Iraq alongside Iranian borders is the root cause of insecurity for Iraqi and Iranian people, and intelligence traced down Britons to have been involved in hiring terrorists for sabotage in Khuzestan Province," IRNA reported. In his earlier statement, he said: "Intelligence and security officers have comes across traces of British involvement in such plots in the past," ISNA reported. "We are very suspicious of British forces' involvement in terrorist activities."

The British charge d'affaires in Tehran, Kate Smith, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on 17 October to receive a protest note, state television reported. The previous day, the British Embassy denied any involvement in the bombings.

Ahmadinejad said on 18 October in Tehran that there is no evidence to date to disprove British involvement in the bombings in Ahvaz, state television reported.

Intelligence and Security Minister Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei said on 18 October that "some clues have been [tracked] down and we have a suspicion about the U.K.," IRNA reported. He said 20 people have been arrested so far.

Moreover, Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi said on 18 October that several arrests have been made, and the arrestees were trained outside Iran, IRNA reported. He said he has asked the legislature for additional funding for enhanced border security.

Qolamreza Shariati, deputy governor-general of Khuzestan for political-security affairs, said on 18 October that a heretofore unknown group called Usamah Mahdi took credit for the bombings on its website, state radio reported. "Be that as it may, there are stronger indications pointing to British involvement, which is well-known for creating divisions, suggesting that not much credence can be given to this unknown group's claims," Shariati continued.

An Iranian state-television announcer commented on 19 October that it is increasingly evident that Great Britain is connected with the bombings in Ahvaz four days earlier. "There is no strong evidence showing that Britain had not been involved in the blasts," the announcer said. The announcer connected the bombings with British and U.S. concern over Iran's nuclear pursuits, and explained: "To achieve their goals, they apparently intend to hatch certain plots -- including plots to cause insecurity and fan the flames of ethnic differences."

The same day, Alaedin Borujerdi of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee told reporters in Tehran that all the explosives used in Ahvaz originated in British-controlled areas of Iraq, Mehr News Agency reported. He said an occupier is responsible for security in the occupied state; therefore, the British military is responsible for the explosives. (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS UNHAPPY WITH ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN. An international corruption-monitoring organization has reported that businessmen and analysts both in and outside Iran see the country as profusely corrupt. Inside Iran, meanwhile, there is criticism of the failure to eliminate corruption, even though a government agency was created for this very function four years ago. There have also been allegations of a cover-up, and one parliamentarian is calling for an investigation of this agency.

Iran ranked 88th out of 159 countries surveyed in Transparency International's "Corruption Perceptions Index 2005," which was released on 18 October. The survey's methodology shows the perceptions of "business people and country analysts, both resident and non-resident," and is derived from 16 different polls. A perfect score is 10, and Iran scored 2.9. Nearly half the countries surveyed had scores lower than 3.0, which means they are rampantly corrupt. Transparency International's press release urges national leaders to go "beyond lip service and make good on their promises to provide the commitment and resources to improve governance, transparency, and accountability."

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded the elimination of corruption in a 30 April 2001 decree to the heads of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The decree established an official headquarters against economic corruption, and it called for cooperation between the State Inspectorate, the State Audit Office, and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

One day later, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi said in a letter to Khamenei that a committee made up of personnel from the judiciary, the Tehran Justice Administration, the State Inspectorate, State Audit Office, and the MOIS has been created to deal with economic and financial corruption, IRNA reported.

Four and one-half years later, not everyone is impressed with the anticorruption campaign. According to state radio, Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in his 7 October Friday prayers sermon in Tehran: "There are many instances of financial corruption, and many of these instances are covered up." He continued: "I wish to question these cover-ups. To what extent will it serve the interests of the state to hide the instances of corruption? Of course there may be some expediency, but there are disadvantages too."

The sentiments have been repeated by others. Tehran parliamentary representative Imad Afruq said on 10 October that corruption problems persist, "Iran Daily" reported on 11 October. He said there is a legal vacuum on how to deal with economically corrupt individuals, and suggested that the guilty are being shielded. "Perhaps hidden hands are involved which protect those people," Afrugh said, suggesting an investigation of the anticorruption headquarters might be in order.

Within days of these official critiques, the anticorruption headquarters announced its discoveries. Its spokesman, Hojatoleslam Abdolreza Izadpanah, announced on 14 October that Supreme Leader Khamenei has been given a report detailing 3 trillion rials (approximately $348 million) worth of corrupt activities in 11 firms affiliated with the Petroleum Ministry, "Iran Daily" and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 15 October. Izadpanah referred to cases involving land speculation and said 6.3 trillion rials have been returned to the treasury. Other cases involved personnel from the Supreme Leader's Office and unnamed "Islamic revolutionary institutions." Izadpanah said that 110 companies have falsified profit-and-loss statements, forged contracts, and engaged in other activities with the cooperation of Management and Planning Organization officials. In the last three years, he said, the MOIS has dealt with almost 1,500 economic cases, more than half of which have been referred to the judiciary. He said 1,100 people have been arrested so far.

In an 18 October interview with Radio Farda, Transparency International chairman Peter Eigen explained that there is more to economic corruption than ill-gotten gains. Eigen said corruption undermines the proper functioning of governments. "The policies are distorted by corruption. The whole purpose of corruption is that you want to change decisions and very often you want to buy the wrong decisions," Eigen said. "If you are, for instance, a private company, which tries to get the big contract for constructing a power station, then you try to get the contract even though you may not be the best supplier. Therefore there is a very negative, destructive relationship between, in particular, economic policy and corruption." Eigen added that corruption is harmful to public welfare as well. "Corruption perverts economic policymaking and therefore corruption leads to poverty and leads to the impossibility of a government to deal with poverty in its society."

Corruption may not be the worst crime, Eigen posited. Nevertheless, he continued, "corruption has destroyed the possibility of people to fight poverty, to develop a democratic society, and, in that sense, it is in my opinion a crime against mankind."

The elimination of corruption will require steps that are more proactive than issuing reports and making arrests. Judiciary chief Hashemi-Shahrudi explained in September: "The more the regulations and laws related to financial and administrative performance are transparent and open, the less the possibility of corruption and abuse," "Mardom Salari" reported. He went on to say that there is a duplication of effort among Iranian supervisory bodies, and not only does this waste money but it hinders the actual supervisory function.

Izadpanah, spokesman for the anticorruption headquarters, identified other necessary steps. He said the MOIS must control and supervise foreign contracts, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 15 October. He also called for the revision of tax laws, the elimination of numerous import tariffs, amendment of foreign investment and trade laws, and the transformation of nontariff barriers.

Official concern about the corruption problem persists in Iran, and the anticorruption headquarters' report did not satisfy everybody. Parliamentarian Imad Afruq said on 18 October that 50 of his colleagues have called for a probe into the headquarters' activities, Mehr News Agency reported. Karaj parliamentary representative Rashid Jalali-Jafari said on 19 October that the judiciary should reveal the names of corrupt officials, even the "big shots," "Sharq" reported on 20 October. The fight against corruption will not be effective if such a step is not taken, he said. Mujtaba Bigdeli, spokesman for the hard-line Hizbullah organization, said in the 20 October issue of "Etemad" that the anticorruption headquarters' record to date is not bad. However, he called on the headquarters to identify the corrupt individuals. "We expect the headquarters to name and shame the accused and those who have been engaged in economic corruption, because with their activities they have deprived the people of the assets necessary for work creation," he said. "We hope that Mr. [Mahmud] Ahmadinejad will implement his programs on economic justice as soon as possible." (Bill Samii, Fatemeh Aman)

INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION CRITICIZES IRAN. Radio Farda reported on 19 October that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has just released its annual survey (http://www.icftu.org/survey2005.asp?language=EN). In its section on Iran, the survey notes many violations of workers rights, including the killing of four strikers, the closed trials of seven labor leaders, and the arrest and harassment of trade unionists. Mansur Asanlu, who heads the Tehran bus-drivers syndicate, told Radio Farda that "we want freedom for the syndicates." He said it is not enough for the government to sign some international agreements and then tell the world that Iran is upholding international standards. Asanlu and several colleagues were arrested in September as they protested against unpaid wages. (Bill Samii)

IRAN FARES POORLY ON PRESS FREEDOM LIST. Reporters Without Borders' fourth annual "World Press Freedom Index," which was released on 20 October, gave Iran the worst record of press freedom in the Middle East and among the worst of all 167 countries evaluated with a ranking of 164th. The press watchdog noted the high number of Iranian journalists who are jailed or face a return to jail. (Bill Samii)

HARD-LINERS STRENGTHEN HOLD ON MEDIA. Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Mohammad Hussein Safar-Harandi has appointed Alaedin Zohurian as director of the Domestic Press and News Agencies Department, ISNA reported on 15 October. Zohurian was the deputy managing director of the "Jam-i Jam" daily, which is linked with the state broadcasting agency.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has appointed Hojatoleslam Zaeri as editor in chief of "Hamshahri," the municipality's daily, Mehr News Agency reported on 14 October, citing an anonymous source. Zaeri was the editor in chief of a publication called "Hamshahri-yi Mahalleh."

Abbas Darvish Tavangar, formerly an editor at the ultraconservative "Resalat" daily and a frequent contributor to the Ansar Hizbullah's "Ya Lisarat al-Hussein" weekly and the Islamic Coalition Party's "Shoma" weekly, has been appointed editor in chief of the conservative Fars News Agency, "Etemad" reported on 13 October. Tavangar succeeds Bijan Moghaddam, who was appointed editor in chief of "Iran" newspaper, which is connected with the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Moghaddam's appointment was reported on 8 October by Fars News Agency. The deputy minister for press affairs at the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, Alireza Mokhtarpur, said on 8 October that the appointment of Moghaddam at "Iran" and Ahmad Khademolmelleh at IRNA is in keeping with "the news needs of a society, which, by choosing the new government, voted for the initial, lofty aims of the Islamic revolution." Moghaddam said the newspaper would follow a line that adheres to the new government's aims. He is a member of the Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami), as is President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. (Bill Samii)

BLOGGER RECEIVES JAIL SENTENCE. A Tehran court has sentenced blogger Omid Sheikhan to a flogging and one year in jail, ILNA reported on 18 October. Sheikhan's lawyer, Mohammad Seifzadeh, said he has filed an appeal. Also on 18 October, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Tehran of attempting to increase its control, surveillance, and censorship of Internet use. It said Iran is working on a "woefully oppressive model of Internet management." RSF described this as "very bad news for Iranian bloggers and Internet users." RSF said an Iranian firm, Delta Global, has been contracted to establish the censorship system. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN KURDISH JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO JAIL. The 18-month jail sentence of Mohammad Sedigh Kabovand, editor of the weekly "Payam-i Mardom-i Kurdistan," has just come to light, Reporters Without Borders reported on 18 October. The sentence was handed down in August, the media watchdog stated, and the fact that it was revealed two months later is a sign of the lack of transparency in the Iranian legal system. According to RSF, Kabovand's trial took place despite the absence of his lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani. Soltani has been in jail since late July. (Bill Samii)

THEMATIC ART CONTEST TO TAKE PLACE IN IRAN. Iran's House of Cartoons and the Union of Islamic Students Associations are sponsoring an "A World Without Zionism" art competition in Tehran, IRNA reported on 19 October. The main themes of the competition are: "A World Without America," "A Mirage Named Zionism," "The Wishes Of A Palestinian Student," and "The Intifada." The contest is open to students aged 7 to 18, and they have until 21 November to send their submissions to info@zionot.ir (Bill Samii)

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS STAGE PROTEST. Students at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University staged a protest on the evening of 16 October against the shutoff of hot water in the women's dormitory, Radio Farda reported. The protestors reportedly set part of the men's dormitory alight. Although the new academic year has just begun, according to Radio Farda, students appear more disgruntled than in previous years. Paris-based professor Said Peyvandi, a specialist in sociology and pedagogy, told Radio Farda that a major frustration for students is that they have few opportunities available to them after graduation. The dormitories accommodate just one-fifth of them, he said, so their actions there are particularly noteworthy. Peyvandi quoted the Iranian education minister as saying the country's academic budget has a 2 trillion rial (approximately $232 million) shortfall. Peyvandi criticized this budgetary problem, saying this amount of money equals 1.5 days' worth of oil sales. The students recognize that although the new government said it would attend to people's welfare, it is not doing so, Peyvandi told Radio Farda. (Bill Samii)

SMUGGLERS COMPLAIN ABOUT ECONOMY. Fifteen Iranians were arrested in the Turkish mountains along Iran's western border for smuggling gasoline on 14 October, Radio Farda reported on 17 October. They allegedly entered Turkey from Iran's West Azerbaijan Province, and reportedly had more than 20,000 liters of gasoline and diesel fuel with them. A fuel smuggler by the name of Vahid told Radio Farda he has four children and there is widespread unemployment in his locality. Smuggling is the only way he can earn an income and provide for his family, Vahid told Radio Farda. He said he buys a liter of gasoline for 800 rials (approximately $.09) and sells it on the other side of the border for 8,000 rials. (Bill Samii)

NEW OFFICIALS APPOINTED TO SUPREME NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL. Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aqamohammadi has been replaced by Hussein Entezami, ISNA reported on 14 October. Entezami is the founder and managing director of "Jam-i Jam" newspaper, which is linked with the state broadcasting agency. National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani has appointed Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli as secretary and deputy head of the council, IRNA reported on 11 October. Larijani previously served as chief of state broadcasting, and Rahmani-Fazli was the deputy head of that organization. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN SEES NO NEED FOR REFERRAL TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 16 October that there is no legal reason to refer the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, IRNA reported.

The legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee approved on 16 October the general principles of a bill that calls on the government to suspend its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if Iran is referred to the UN Security Council, Fars News Agency reported. The committee is scheduled to review the specifics of the bill on 18 October.

Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said on 16 October that Iran will not be committed to its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol if the 24 September International Atomic Energy Agency governing-board resolution on Iran is not amended, state radio reported.

Meanwhile, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said on 15 October that Iran is ready to hold talks with Europe, but it will not accept any preconditions for doing so, state radio reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani dismissed the possibility of suspending activities at the Isfahan Uranium Enrichment Facility. (Bill Samii)

REPORTS OF RETALIATORY IRANIAN TRADE EMBARGO. The British Foreign Office is investigating reports that the Iranian government has imposed a trade embargo against it in retaliation for the British stand on the nuclear issue, "The Guardian" reported on 20 October. U.K. entities reportedly sell some $1 billion worth of goods to Iran annually. The purported embargo is reportedly an informal move and not official Iranian policy, but neither would it be unprecedented. A British official said tactics such as visa delays and problems with customs papers accompany such a move.

Seoul's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry intends to summon Iranian Ambassador Jahanbakhsh Mozaffari to find out if South Korea is being embargoed, Yonhap news agency reported on 20 October. Yonhap reported that South Korean PVC and steel products were denied entry to Iran earlier in the week. An anonymous Iranian official said he knew nothing about the issue.

The Iranian charge d'affaires in Prague, Hussein Rezvani, denied on 19 October that Czech goods are being embargoed, CTK news agency reported, quoting Czech Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Martin Tlapa. Tlapa said an embargo would undermine Iran's relation with the European Union. (Bill Samii)

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