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Factbox: Timeline Of The Iranian Nuclear Dispute

(epa) Below is a timeline of the unfolding international dispute surrounding Iran's nuclear program. While Tehran maintains that its program is entirely peaceful, the United States accuses Iran of secretly attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Tehran has failed to persuade it that its program is purely nonmilitary.


23 May 2007 -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says in a new report, issued to coincide with the expiration of a Security Council deadline for Tehran, that Iran continues to defy UN Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment and has in fact expanded such work. The IAEA adds that the UN nuclear agency's ability to monitor nuclear activities in Iran has declined due to lack of access to sites. IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei urges constructive efforts on both sides and estimates that Iran could build a nuclear weapon within "three to eight years" -- if it chose that path.


17 May 2007 -- U.S. President George W. Bush says alongside outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the United States and Britain will seek new UN sanctions against Iran if it continues to resist calls for it to halt sensitive areas of its nuclear program. Bush is speaking the same day that a senior Iranian official says Tehran has expanded work on its nuclear facility at Natanz.


2 May 2007 -- A foreign affairs adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tells a conservative daily that Iran is capable of the "mass production" of centrifuges used for enriching uranium.


28 April 2007 -- EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana calls on the United States to open a direct "channel of communication" with Iran on all topics, adding that it remains unclear "how far the U.S. is willing to engage" with Iran.


25-26 April 2007 -- EU foreign policy official Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani restart talks aimed at finding a nuclear compromise.


April 19, 2007 -- An IAEA official says in a leaked letter that Iran has assembled roughly 1,300 centrifuges into eight cascades and begun making nuclear fuel in its underground uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz. The Iranian ambassador to the IAEA says that "our enrichment is continuing under the safeguards of the IAEA, the inspectors and cameras are controlling all activities, and the report of how many centrifuge machines and the latest status of the activities in Natanz will be reported by the director-general."


11 April 2007 -- A spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) predicts that Iran will have the capacity to build its own nuclear bomb in four to six years, leaving time for diplomatic efforts to counter any potential danger.


10 April 2007 -- Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says Iran will not accept any suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities and urges world powers to accept the "new reality" of the Islamic republic's nuclear program.


9 April 2007 -- Iran says the country's uranium-enrichment program is ready to operate on an "industrial level."


24 March 2007 -- The Security Council unanimously approves a resolution broadening UN sanctions against Iran for its continuing failure to halt uranium enrichment. Iranian officials call the new measures "unnecessary and unjustified." Officials confirm that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad canceled a New York visit in which he vowed to address the Security Council ahead of the sanctions vote; Tehran blames U.S. delays over visas for Ahmadinejad's entourage.


20 March 2007 -- Russia and Iran reject a report in "The New York Times" of March 19 suggesting that Moscow told Tehran it would withhold fuel for the Bushehr nuclear plant unless Iran complied with UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.


15 March 2007 -- Diplomats say the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany have agreed on a draft resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran for defying demands to suspend uranium enrichment.


12 March 2007 -- The Russian company building Iran's first nuclear power station at Bushehr, Atomstroiexport, announces that the facility's launch will be postponed due to a two-month payment delay preventing the delivery of uranium fuel.


11 February 2007 -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, says the Russian supplier for its planned Bushehr nuclear plant has signaled a delay over delinquent payments. He suggests the real problem lies on the Russian side and that he hopes the plant is not being "politicized."


8 March 2007 -- The United Nations' nuclear guardian, the IAEA, votes unanimously to cut almost half its aid programs to Iran as part of the UN sanctions targeting Tehran's nuclear program. The Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, counters that the move will not affect his country's enrichment work.


5 March 2007 -- IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei says Tehran has not convinced the UN nuclear watchdog of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program and an investigation into that program remains at a "stalemate" until Iran provides full cooperation.


26 February 2007 -- The United States says it is seeking "incremental" steps to pressure Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.


25 February 2007 -- President Ahmadinejad says Iran's nuclear program is unstoppable and, in a show of its growing technical prowess the same day, Iran reportedly fires a rocket into space for the first time.


23 February 2007 -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says Washington will "do everything" it can to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons and has not taken "any options off the table," spurring further speculation that U.S. officials would consider military intervention.


22 February 2007 -- The IAEA issues a report confirming that Iran has failed to halt uranium-enrichment activities, as demanded by the UN Security Council. The report also notes that Iran has expanded the program, installing two cascades with many dozens of centrifuges at Natanz and nearing completion on two more cascades.


21 February 2007 - The UN Security Council's 60-day deadline ends for Iran to halt uranium enrichment. Iranian parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel warns that a delay by Russia in completing the Bushehr nuclear plant would harm bilateral ties. His comments came after Russian nuclear officials' claim that lagging payments from Tehran could delay start-up of the facility.


17 February 2007 -- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says "nuclear energy is the future and destiny" of Iran, and notes that its oil and gas reserves "would not last forever."


11 February 2007 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says Iran wants talks to resolve its nuclear dispute and will cooperate with the IAEA, but Tehran will not suspend uranium enrichment. Iranian officials also say they will allow IAEA cameras at its underground nuclear facility at Natanz. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy calls Ahmadinejad's offer of talks while continuing enrichment "totally unacceptable."


8 February 2007 -- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that while he does not expect anything as "irrational" as an attack on Iran, his country would strike back at U.S. interests around the world if it were attacked. A spokesman for the White House National Security Council dismisses Khamenei's comment as "unprovoked" and says President George W. Bush "has made it clear we have no intention of going to war with Iran." Bush's chief spokesman says flatly, "We are not invading Iran."


1 February 2007 -- The French president's office essentially retracts a recent suggestion by Jacques Chirac that a nuclear-armed Iran would not be "very dangerous," calling such an eventuality unacceptable and describing Iran's nuclear program as "opaque and therefore dangerous for the region."


31 January 2007 -- Iran's embassy in Moscow denies a British newspaper report that North Korea is giving it technical help to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one carried out by Pyongyang in October.


28 January 2007 -- After talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, visiting Russian security chief Igor Ivanov says "Russia is determined" to finish Bushehr nuclear power plant, in southern Iran, on time.


26 January 2007 -- IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei warns that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could have "catastrophic consequences" and would only encourage Iran to develop an atomic bomb. "Are you going to bomb the knowledge?" he asks.


22 January 2007 -- Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki confirms reports that 38 UN nuclear inspectors have been prohibited from entering the country in a list that was reportedly delivered to the IAEA; the next day, Tehran stresses that cooperation with the IAEA continues, despite the ban. The European Union urges all countries to enforce the recently passed UN sanctions against Iran.


12 January 2007 -- Outgoing U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte tells the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Iran is capable of weathering shocks to its economy, noting record oil revenues and manageable debt.


10 January 2007 -- The United States urges China to reconsider a $16 billion energy deal with Iran on the development of oil and gas fields whose outlines were affirmed in a memorandum of understanding in December 2006.


27 December 2006 -- Iran's parliament passes a bill that obliges the government to "revise its cooperation level" with the UN's nuclear watchdog and, at the same time, continue to pursue the country's civilian nuclear program.


25 December 2006 -- President Ahmadinejad responds to UN Security Council Resolution 1737 by saying the sanctions will have "no impact" on Iran's nuclear program.


23 December 2006 -- The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopts a binding resolution that calls on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and to comply with its IAEA obligations. Resolution 1737 directs all states to prevent the supply or sale to Iran of any materials that could assist its nuclear or ballistic-missile programs. It also imposes an asset freeze on key companies and individuals named by the UN as contributors to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Iran rejects the move as an "invalid" and "extralegal act" outside the bounds of the UN's charter.


6 December 2006 -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says that imposing overly tough sanctions on Iran could draw out the nuclear dispute.


5 December 2006 -- Ahead of a major-powers meeting on the Iranian nuclear issue, Iranian President Ahmadinejad warns the international community that "if you continue making efforts to halt the progress of Iran's nuclear program [or] if you take any step against Iran's rights -- either in propaganda or international bodies -- the Iranian nation will consider this a hostile act."


24 November 2006 -- IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei says Iran has pledged to give international inspectors new access to records and equipment from two nuclear sites, as well as environmental samples, from Lavizan and Natanz.

23 November 2006 -- UN diplomats are quoted as saying the IAEA's board of governors shelved Iran's bid for technical aid for a heavy-water reactor project at Arak over fears it could yield weapons-grade plutonium.

20 November 2006 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad reportedly says Tehran wants 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium to meet its nuclear-fuel needs within a year. He also is quoted as saying that Israel is currently incapable of launching an effective military attack against Iran's nuclear sites.

17 November 2006 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the IAEA should lead efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, rather than UN Security Council. He suggests that "it was agreed from the beginning that we would seek through the Security Council the swift resumption of negotiations with Iran, and not the punishment of Iran."

15 November 2006 -- U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton says no progress was made in talks on the Iranian nuclear issue involving himself and envoys from Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

14 November 2006 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad predicts that Iran will celebrate its "full nuclearization" by the end of the year that concludes in March, and suggests his country's right to pursue nuclear technology will soon be acknowledged internationally. Reports also emerge suggesting the IAEA will soon report that Iran continues to enrich uranium, spurn cooperation over its nuclear program, and that UN inspectors are pursuing their discovery of unexplained traces of plutonium and highly enriched uranium at a waste facility in Iran with officials in Tehran.

13 November 2006 -- U.S. President George W. Bush says after talks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "there has to be a consequence" if Iran proceeds with its uranium-enrichment program in defiance of international pressure.

12 November 2006 -- An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman says Tehran is pressing ahead with plans to expand its program to enrich uranium and remains determined to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007.

11 November 2006 -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia wants to restart nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

10-11 November 2006 -- Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani emerges from talks in Moscow divulging no details but saying Iran is ready for dialogue to resolve any disputes over its nuclear program; he reportedly meets with President Vladimir Putin on the second day of his visit.

8 November 2006 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany are reportedly still deadlocked after a meeting at the UN to discuss a European draft resolution to curtail Iran's nuclear program and amendments offered by Moscow and Washington. Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says there is still a "considerable gap" separating the parties.

5 November 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini says Tehran is ready to consider negotiating with the United States on regional issues, including Iraq, if Washington requests it.

4 November 2006 -- Russia stresses that any punitive measures the UN Security Council agrees to impose on Iran "should have a precise limitation on the period for their being in effect."

3 November 2006 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says after a meeting in Brussels that a European draft UN resolution on Iran sanctions "goes far beyond [our] agreements."

1 November 2006 -- Foreign Minister Lavrov says a draft UN resolution authored by France, Germany, and Britain to impose sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions would isolate Iran and Moscow "cannot support measures that are aimed at isolating Iran from the outside world."

31 October 2006 -- Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov says his country has no information "that would suggest that Iran is carrying out a nonpeaceful [nuclear] program," adding that "the possibilities for continuing political discussion...have not been exhausted."

30 October 2006 -- Iran's president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, says Tehran would make an "appropriate and firm" response to UN sanctions, adding that "the Iranian nation is standing strong and it will not retreat even one bit from its nuclear rights."

28 October 2006 -- Mohammad Ghannad, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, says that Tehran has stepped up its uranium-enrichment work.

26 October 2006 -- Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov criticizes a draft UN resolution providing for a form of sanctions against Iran.

24 October 2006 -- Anonymous diplomatic sources at the UN say major world powers remain split over the details of a draft Security Council resolution to respond to Iran's continuing nuclear work.

21 October 2006 -- Foreign Minister Lavrov says Moscow opposes any attempt to use the Security Council to punish Iran over its nuclear program.

18 October 2006 -- EU foreign ministers express backing for gradual sanctions against Iran's nuclear program.

16 October 2006 -- In his country's first reaction to sanctions targeting North Korea for its apparent nuclear-weapons test on October 9, President Ahmadinejad dismisses the UN Security Council as a tool for "hegemony" and "intimidation."

4 October 2006 -- EU foreign policy chief Solana says four months of intensive talks have brought no agreement on suspension of Iran's sensitive nuclear activities, and he adds that the dialogue cannot continue indefinitely.

3 October 2006 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggests the international community will have no choice but to impose sanctions on Iran if it refuses to suspend its uranium-enrichment efforts.

26 September 2006 -- Russia and Iran agree on a September 2007 launch of Iran's nuclear power plant at Bushehr, with electricity production to begin two months later.

25 September 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says nuclear talks with European negotiators are "on track" and a diplomatic solution is possible.

22 September 2006 -- Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi warns that Iran's armed forces will strike back "like lightning" against any attack on the country and destroy "the enemy."

21 September 2006 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says nuclear talks with the EU are "on the right path." He adds that he is "at a loss" as to what more Tehran can do to provide guarantees that it is no trying to develop nuclear weapons.

20 September 2006 -- U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns says six major world powers have agreed to back further EU talks with Iran, but he hints that Washington will push for sanctions if Tehran continues sensitive nuclear work. Burns says an unspecified deadline has been set for the current EU-Iranian talks to achieve results.

19 September 2006 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today urged other permanent members of the UN Security Council not to allow their "credibility to decline" by failing to act against Iran.

17 September 2006 -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier proposes the creation of shared, U.N.-monitored uranium-enrichment facilities as an alternative to individual countries acquiring their own enrichment technology.

14 September 2006 -- To "set the record straight," the IAEA protests in a letter to U.S. officials that a recent U.S. report describing Iran's nuclear program as a strategic threat contains "erroneous, misleading, and unsubstantiated information." The IAEA dismisses as untrue a claim that Iran is enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels; Iran is enriching to 3.6 percent, not the 90 percent needed for nuclear weapons.

13 September 2006 -- A spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana says a second round of EU-Iranian nuclear talks slated for the following day have been postponed. The same day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that Tehran's position on the nuclear issue might have softened.

11 September 2006 -- Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says he is "encouraged that there is ongoing dialogue" over Iran's nuclear activities.

9-10 September 2006 -- Two days of "productive" EU-Iranian talks end inconclusively, with a vow to meet again the following week.

September 8, 2006 -- U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns says the UN Security Council should begin drafting a resolution in the next week on sanctions over Iran's nuclear program. He notes that there is still no consensus on what type of sanctions might be imposed.

5 September 2006 -- The Iranian parliament's Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy approves the outlines of a bill to suspend entry to Iran of UN inspectors in the event of punitive measures by the UN Security Council.

3 September 2006 -- Visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says President Ahmadinejad reaffirms that Tehran wants to find a negotiated solution to its nuclear standoff with the world but also rejects any suspension of its uranium-enrichment program prior to talks.

1 September 2006 -- Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami arrives in the United States ahead of a UN conference and several public appearances that make him the most senior Iranian official to visit the United States outside the strict framework of a UN event in more than two decades.

31 August 2006 -- The IAEA reports to the Security Council that Iran has continued to enrich uranium despite UN calls for it to stop its nuclear activities by August 31, adding that its own investigations have been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from Iran.

29 August 2006 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says he thinks the UN Security Council will not punish Iran, but says his country "will not bow to threats and ultimatums." He says Tehran's response to the recent international deadline presents a "very exceptional opportunity" to resolve the nuclear dispute. Ahmadinejad also proposes a live, televised debate with U.S. President George W. Bush.

27 August 2006 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad launches a new phase in Iran's nuclear development with the formal opening of a heavy-water-production plant at Arak. Critics fear the plant will eventually be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium, and the IAEA will later shelve an Iranian request for international technical assistance with the plant. Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani says Iran is determined to produce its own nuclear fuel.

22 August 2006 -- Iran responds to a self-imposed deadline by saying an international proposal to curb its disputed nuclear program has "fundamental and serious ambiguities" but adds that Tehran is ready for "serious talks." Iranian officials essentially ignore the demand by the UN Security Council's permanent members plus Germany that Iran halt uranium enrichment.

16 August 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says Iran is willing to discuss its uranium-enrichment program, although he says international calls for its suspension are "illogical."


4 August 2006 -- The United States slaps sanctions on seven international arms dealers, including two major Russian companies, for allegedly providing banned technology to Iran.


31 July 2006 --The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1696, calling for Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment activites by August 31 or face the possibility of economic sanctions.


18 July 2006 -- The unfolding crisis between Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon delays UN consideration of Iran's nuclear program.


16 July 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi says the international incentives package is "an acceptable basis" for further negotiations.


12 July 2006 -- A meeting of foreign ministers of the permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany in Paris decides to refer Iran's nuclear program back to the Security Council for possible sanctions.


11 July 2006 -- The EU announces that it is disappointed with progress in Brussels talks with Iran over the international incentives package.


30 June 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says Iran will not respond to the international incentives package before August, despite U.S. and EU pressure for Tehran to answer by July 5.


16 June 2006 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad calls a package of international incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to abandon sensitive nuclear activities "a step forward" and says he has "asked my colleagues to carefully consider it."


15 June 2006-- Russian President Putin says after a meeting with President Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit that the talks left him with a "very positive impression." Putin says Ahmadinejad says Iran is "positively" assessing the package of nuclear incentives. Putin also says any country has the right to use nuclear technology so long as it "does not arouse concerns of the international community on the [nuclear] nonproliferation issue."


12 June 2006 -- Supreme National Security Council chief and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani says of the incentives offer that "this proposal contains some positive points, such as the nuclear reactor for Iran." Larijani's comments come as the IAEA board is launching a meeting at which it will discuss the Iranian nuclear standoff.


9 June 2006 -- Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency, says Iran has until the July summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries to respond to an offer of incentives aimed at resolving the crisis over its nuclear program.


8 June 2006 -- A new report by the UN nuclear agency says Iran is continuing to enrich uranium and indicates that nuclear inspectors have made little progress on shedding light on worrying aspects of Tehran's nuclear activities in the past.


6 June 2006 -- EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana meets in Tehran with senior Iranian government officials and presents them with fresh proposals aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its uranium-enrichment program. The proposals have been agreed on by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany.


15 May 2006 -- The EU says it is ready to offer Iran sophisticated civilian nuclear technology as part of an "exceptional" new package of trade and technical incentives designed to halt Tehran's suspected military nuclear program. EU High Representative for the Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana says it is "fundamental" that Iran cease its enrichment activities.


17 May 2006 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says in a televised speech that Tehran will reject a European offer of incentives to give up uranium enrichment, saying acceptance of the proposal would be tantamount to swapping nuts and chocolate for gold.


28 April 2006 -- The IAEA sends its report to the UN Security Council faulting Iran for failing to meet demands to suspend uranium enrichment and improve cooperation with nuclear inspectors. The report marks the end of the Security Council's 30-day deadline for demonstrating that its nuclear activities are only for civilian purposes. U.S. President Bush expresses a desire to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.


27 April 2006 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says on the sidelines of a NATO meeting that the UN Security Council "has to act" in order to remain credible if Iran ignores the deadline for halting uranium enrichment. Iranian President Ahmadinejad says Iran will not comply.


25 April 2006 -- Top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani says Iran will cut ties with the IAEA if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.


24 April 2006 -- Iranian President Ahmadinejad says Iran's nuclear activities are transparent and he does not think pursuing uranium enrichment will lead to international sanctions.


23 April 2006 -- Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi says Iran's uranium-enrichment and nuclear-research activities are "irreversible."


19 April 2006 -- U.S. Secretary of State Rice says Washington is prepared to use political, economic, and other measures to dissuade Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, adding that it has "diplomatic tools" at its disposal.


12 April 2006 -- IAEA head Muhammad el-Baradei visits Iran to discuss the country's nuclear program with senior Iranian officials but few details emerge. El-Baradei says he cannot confirm Iranian claims that its scientists have enriched uranium to fuel power stations.


11 April 2006 -- Iranian President Ahmadinejad announces, using Islamic rhetoric in a special ceremony seemingly designed to attract popular support, that Iran has completed the nuclear-fuel cycle. The achievement places Iran among the "nuclear countries of the world."


2 April 2006 -- Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, claims that the more the Security Council is involved, the worse the situation will become.


30 March 2006 -- The five permanent UN Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia -- and Germany warn Iran that it must heed the UN statement insisting that it stop its nuclear work or face isolation. Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki dismisses the warning; other officials will also reject the Security Council warning. IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei urges Iran to be more forthcoming but also says he thinks sanctions at this time would be unwise.


29 March 2006 -- UN Security Council unanimously adopts statement calling on Tehran to halt its nuclear work.


28 March 2006 -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov demands that Tehran say "unambiguously" whether it will accept or reject Russia's offer to enrich uranium to supply an Iranian nuclear program. Reports emerge that the Iranian Embassy in Moscow has proposed the establishment -- with the involvement of other countries -- of a nuclear-fuel production center in Iran.


25 March 2006 -- Syrian First Vice President Faruq al-Shara and Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki decry Israel's nuclear program as a threat to regional peace.


21 March 2006 -- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says "there is no problem with" direct talks rumored to have been planned between Iran and the United States over the situation in Iraq, as long as those discussions lead Washington to understand Tehran's position. Iranian sources have been quoted as insisting the talks must be limited to the topic of Iraq.


20 March 2006 -- U.S. President Bush says he hopes "to solve this [nuclear] issue diplomatically" with a "united message" from the five permanent Security Council members but adds that Iranian officials' threats against "our strong ally, Israel," are "a threat to world peace." Bush adds that "we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."


16 March 2006 -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair insists the international community "cannot walk away" from the Iranian nuclear issue and says there was no point turning to the UN "unless something is going to follow as a result of that."


14 March 2006 -- U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton says informal discussions on Iran's nuclear program now include all 15 members of the Security Council and adds that the draft of a possible resolution has been distributed. The same day, U.S. President Bush announces to Congress that he has extended bilateral economic sanctions against Iran by another year. Bush says Iranian government policies and actions pose a continuing threat to the U.S. economy, foreign-policy goals, and national security.


12 March 2006 -- Tehran says a Russian proposal to move Iran's enrichment program to Russia is "off" the agenda and that Iran will not consider any proposal that does not guarantee the country's "right to nuclear research."


8 March 2006 -- IAEA head Muhammad el-Baradei says at the end of a three-day meeting that the agency will forward his report -- which accuses Iran of withholding information, possessing plans linked to nuclear weapons and refusing to freeze uranium enrichment -- to the UN Security Council. El-Baradei urges Iran to "be transparent" and "take confidence-building measures." Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad vows in a televised speech that "Iran will not give in to any political pressure, [will] make no compromise, and will go to the end of the line."


7 March 2006 -- Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns says Tehran has "crossed the international red line" with its activities to enrich uranium, adding that unless Iran suspends all nuclear activities, the Security Council must get involved.


3 March 2006 -- European talks with Iranian officialsfailto provide a nuclear compromise ahead of the IAEA's March 6-8 meeting.


2 March 2006 -- Reports say Russian-Iranian talks in Moscow fail to produce a "decisive breakthrough" on the basis of a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran. Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani pledges that his country will not stop its enrichment activities.


26 February 2006 -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh, says Iran and Russia have reached basic agreement on a Russian proposal to host Iran's uranium-enrichment program.


14 February 2006 -- Ten days after the IAEA voted to report it to the UN Security Council over its nuclear activities, Iran confirms that it has resumed work on uranium enrichment.


5 February 2006 -- Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki announces the end of Iran's voluntary cooperation with the IAEA.


4 February 2006 -- IAEA governing board votes overwhelmingly to report Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear activities.


30 January 2006 -- Foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), plus Germany, concur that Iran should be reported to the council for its nuclear activities, but action should be delayed until after the March meeting of the IAEA governing board. Tehran counters with a threat to end all cooperation with the IAEA and adherence to international accords, as called for by an earlier parliamentary decision.


24 January 2006 -- Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani visits Moscow to discuss a December proposal that nuclear fuel enriched in Russia will be shipped to Iran for use, then returned to Russia for storage. Larijani indicated a lack of enthusiasm on 27 January, telling reporters at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport that Moscow's idea does not conform fully with Tehran's needs. He said the proposal should be revised in future discussions. The next round of Iran-Russia talks is scheduled for 16 February.


11 January 2006 -- Leaders from the United States, Russia, and EU countries roundly condemn Iran for its resumption of nuclear-fuel activities. The leaders renew calls for referring the dispute to the UN Security Council.


10 January 2006 -- Iran resumes nuclear research, triggering Western condemnation. Mohammad Saidi, a deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, says that Iran agreed with the IAEA on 9 January for IAEA inspectors in Iran to "reopen those places on which we agreed." Resumed activities, he said, are merely in "research, and nothing more. We distinguish between fuel-related research and the production of fuel." On the same day, IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei informs the IAEA governing board that Iran intends to begin "small-scale" uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility.


3 January 2006 -- Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Mohammad Saidi told state television that Tehran will resume its nuclear-fuel research. The Iranian government confirmed the report on 9 January.


25 December 2005 -- Tehran formally rejects an offer from Moscow to enrich uranium for its nuclear program in Russia. Iranian officials insist upon Iran's right to enrich uranium on its own soil.


24 November 2005 -- A meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors postpones any action on Iran's nuclear program. The move is aimed at reopening negotiations on a Russian proposal for a compromise that would allow Iran to enrich uranium, but only in Russia and under strict controls.


15 October 2005 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holds talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The two officials disagree over Iran's nuclear program, with Lavrov maintaining the Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.


12 October 2005 -- The EU issues a statement calling on Iran to continue negotiations with the EU-3 and to improve its human-rights record.


7 October 2005 -- IAEA head Muhammad el-Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for their work in mediating the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.


28 September 2005 -- Iran's parliament votes to expedite a bill that would end voluntary IAEA inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.


25 September 2005 -- Tehran rejects the IAEA report and Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says his country remains committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.


24 September 2005 -- The IAEA governing board adopts a resolution that says the nuclear watchdog, "after two and a half years of intensive inspections," remains unclear on "some important outstanding issues." "Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," it continues, adding that the agency questions Iran's motives for not declaring certain factors and "pursuing a policy of containment." The resolution does not refer Iran to the UN Security Council, but it does hint at this possibility by noting that some of the outstanding questions are "within the competence of the Security Council. The resolution was approved by a vote of 22 in favor, 1 against (Venezuela), and 12 abstentions. (See also, "Iranian Government Reacts To IAEA Nuclear Resolution.")



17 September 2005 -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad announces the Iranian position on the nuclear issue at the UN General Assembly. "Peaceful use of nuclear energy without possession of nuclear fuel cycle is an empty proposition," he said. He expressed concern about the creation of a nuclear "apartheid," and he calls for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. "In accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited," Ahmadinejad said. As a confidence-building measure, Ahmadinejad said, Iran is willing to partner with public and private groups in its uranium-enrichment program. He added that Iran will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, he dismissed promises that other countries will be the source of fuel for the Iranian nuclear program.


The signing of the fuel agreement between Russia and Iran in February 2005 (epa)

2 September 2005 -- Members of the IAEA Board of Governors receive a report on Iran's nuclear activities. It notes that Tehran has been less than forthcoming about some of its activities and has been reluctant to provide access to some sites. "In view of the fact that the agency is not in a position to clarify some important outstanding issues after two and a half years of intensive inspection and investigation, Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," the report states. "Given Iran's past concealment efforts over many years...transparency measures should extend beyond the formal requirements...and should include access to individuals, documentation on procurement, and dual-use equipment."


August 2005 -- Iran rejects the EU proposal, which includes commercial and political cooperation in exchange for Iran's forsaking efforts to develop nuclear fuel. (See also, "IAEA Draft Resolution Expresses 'Serious Concern' Over Iran's Nuclear Activities.") The European proposal included an offer to help build a light-water reactor and then provide fuel for it. (Fuel for a light-water reactor is cannot be used for weapons.)


July 2005 -- President Khatami says on 19 July that Iran will not forsake the right to produce nuclear fuel and the enrichment suspension will not be permanent. He says on 27 July that activities at the Isfahan UCF could resume in days, depending on the concessions proposed at an Iran-EU meeting. "The system has already made its decision to resume Isfahan's activities," he said.


May 2005 -- Iranian officials repeat that activities at Isfahan UCF will resume "soon," but then Tehran agrees to wait for two months after Iranian and EU officials meet in Geneva.


April 2005 -- Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani said on 30 April -- after the previous day's negotiations in London with British, French, and German representatives failed to yield substantive results -- Tehran is considering resumption of activities at the Isfahan uranium conversion facility (UCF).


February 2005 -- Iran and Russia sign an agreement on the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia for reprocessing and storage. This measure is intended to eliminate the possibility that the materials will be used for making nuclear weapons. Fuel delivery will take place six months before the facility's completion, which should occur at the end of 2006.


January 2005 -- IAEA inspectors visit the Parchin military site, which is southwest of Tehran, to investigate allegations that the military tested conventional explosives that can be used to detonate nuclear weapons there.


December 2004 -- Talks between Iran and the EU-3 over political and economic concessions, in exchange for Iran making its enrichment suspension permanent, are scheduled to begin on 13 December (see "How Close Is Iran To The Bomb?").


November 2004 -- Iran holds talks in Paris with the EU-3. On 14 November, Iran signs an agreement to suspend uranium enrichment. The Europeans offer a series of political and economic concessions in exchange. But at an IAEA board of governors meeting from 25-29 November -- which was set to pass a resolution endorsing the deal and agreeing to monitor it -- Iran insists on an exemption for 20 centrifuges for research purposes. Iran eventually backs down, but demands -- and wins -- key changes softening the resolution in exchange. Most importantly, the resolution describes the enrichment freeze as a voluntary, rather than the legally binding commitment as both the United States and the EU sought. (See also, "The Iranian Nuclear Imbroglio.")


October 2004 -- The EU-3 again calls for Iran to suspend all uranium-enrichment activities to avoid its case being brought before the Security Council. The Europeans offer economic and political incentives in exchange. The Iranian parliament passes a bill approving the resumption of enrichment activities.


September 2004 -- An IAEA report calls Iran's claims about its nuclear program "plausible," but voices concern over Iran's decision to resume large-scale production of the feed material for enriching uranium. Claiming enrichment is a "sovereign right," Iran refuses to accept an unlimited suspension and says it will not stop manufacturing centrifuges. The IAEA gives Iran a 25 November deadline to reveal all its nuclear activities. Tehran later announces that it has resumed large-scale conversion of uranium yellowcake ore, a step toward uranium enrichment.


July 2004 -- Iran says it has resumed production of parts for centrifuges that are used for enriching uranium, but insists that it has not resumed its enrichment activities. The announcement appears to put the enrichment-freeze deal worked out between Iran, the EU-3, and the IAEA in jeopardy.


June 2004 -- IAEA says that inspectors found new traces of enriched uranium that exceeded the levels necessary for civilian energy production.


May 2004 -- Iran submits to the IAEA a 1,000-page report on its nuclear activities.


February 2004 -- Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, says that he had provided atomic secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea since the late 1980s. IAEA inspectors notice similarities in designs and components for the advanced P-2 centrifuge, adding to suspicions that Khan supplied both North Korea and Iran with same nuclear know-how.


November 2003 -- An IAEA report states that at the moment there is no conclusive proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The United States, seeking to have the matter sent to the UN Security Council, dismisses the conclusion. The IAEA's 35-member board of governors passes a resolution sternly rebuking Iran for covering up 18 years of atomic experiments, but does not send the matter to the Security Council.


October 2003 -- The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Great Britain travel to Tehran and persuade Iran to agree to stop enriching uranium and to sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT. The EU-3 also dangle economic concessions if Tehran cooperates fully with the IAEA. Iran turns over a declaration to the IAEA admitting to 18 years of covert atomic experiments, including the unreported uranium enrichment, although it continues to deny this was for a weapons program.


Students demonstrating in support of Iran's nuclear program at Isfahan in August 2005 (AFP)

September 2003 -- The United States says Iran is in noncompliance with the NPT and calls for a referral to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions. But Washington agrees to support a proposal from Great Britain, France, and Germany (who were negotiating on behalf of the European Union and became known as the "EU-3") to give the Tehran until the end of October to fully disclose nuclear activities and allow for a stricter inspection regime.


July 2003 -- IAEA begins a fresh round of inspections in Iran.


June 2003 -- In a report, el-Baradei says inspections have demonstrated that "Iran failed to report certain nuclear materials and activities" and urges Tehran to cooperate with the agency. The report does not declare Iran in breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The IAEA requests that Iran sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT and allow unannounced inspections of its nuclear sites.


February 2003 -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei visits Iran to verify Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful. IAEA inspectors later find traces of highly enriched uranium at Natanz and other sites.


August 2002 -- An Iranian exile opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, accuses Tehran of hiding a uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy-water plant at Arak.


(compiled by RFE/RL)

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program


THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


CHRONOLOGY

An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.

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Turkey Claims Its Drone Was Instrumental In Finding Wreckage Of Iranian Helicopter

An Akinci drone made by Turkey (file photo)
An Akinci drone made by Turkey (file photo)

Turkey says its Akinci drone deserves more credit for helping to locate the wreckage of the Iranian helicopter that crashed in a remote and mountainous area of Iran on May 19, killing President Ebrahim Raisi and other top Iranian officials, according to Turkish media reports on May 22.

The reports say that the Akinci drone was first to find the site of the wreckage and accused Iran of changing its narrative about the use of the Turkish equipment after it provided information about the location of the wreckage and then made counterclaims that its own drone found the site.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week that the Akinci drone was sent at the request of the Iranian government.

According to Erdogan, despite the bad weather conditions the drone was able to conduct search operations in the region for seven and a half hours and fly a total of 2,100 kilometers.

After the Turkish drone identified the helicopter wreckage and detected heat sources believed to be the crash site in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province, the Iranian search team successfully located the downed helicopter and the bodies of Raisi and the others in the mountainous terrain, according to Turkish media reports.

However, Iran rejected the notion that there was foreign participation in the search operation despite data from the Turkish drone that revealed the coordinates of the crash, and confirmation of this data by some Iranian news agencies.

After the Akinci drone captured images of the wreckage using its night vision and thermal camera and released them on the Internet, Pirhossein Kolivand, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, called foreign participation in the search a rumor.

“We did not stop the search in the dark, fog, and rain, and when we discovered the wreckage of the helicopter with our own drone, we moved to the exact place where the helicopter fell," Kolivand said.

He claimed that rescuers from the Red Crescent found the wreckage at an altitude of 2,500 meters and "it took 40 minutes from the time of finding the wreckage of the helicopter to reaching the accident site.”

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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But during the overnight search, the Red Crescent said in a statement at around 4 a.m. local time on May 20 that after the Turkish drone identified two potential “hot spots” the Red Crescent rescue teams headed toward the sites.

The head of the East Azerbaijan Red Crescent also cited the Turkish drone report that a “burning spot” had been detected and said rescue forces were sent to that area.

The head of Turkey, Asia, and Indo-Pacific studies at the Institute for International Relations and Strategic Research (ULISA) said in an opinion piece published by the state news agency Anadolu that the drone’s role in finding the wreckage site demonstrated the need to recognize Turkey’s commitment to fulfilling its humanitarian responsibilities through its defense capacity.

Professor M. Nazmul Islam said that, after Iran accepted Turkey’s offer to send the drone, the Akinci took off from a Turkish base at around 11:30 p.m. local time and began searching nearly an hour later. Turkey claims that it transmitted the image of the wreckage of the helicopter at 3:06 a.m. Iranian time and shared the coordinates with the Iranian authorities.

But according to Iranian media accounts, an Iranian drone belonging to the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps found the remains of the helicopter at around 5:30 a.m. local time.

A statement issued by Iran's military said that, despite Turkey sending a drone equipped with night vision and thermal cameras, it "failed to accurately locate the crash site due to its lack of detection equipment and control points below the cloud," referring to the adverse weather conditions.

Iran Radio reported that it was “five o'clock in the morning when the correct coordinates were finally found with Iranian equipment and Iranian relief forces.”

Iran, whose military has its own drone program, was not able to deploy its drones because they were located in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at the time, the Iranian military said. Western powers have accused Iran of providing drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

With reporting by Anadolu and Reuters

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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As thousands attended a funeral procession in Tehran, new images and an official account of the final flight of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have emerged. Raisi and seven others died when their helicopter crashed in northwestern Iran on May 19.

Updated

Khamenei Prays Over Coffins At Funeral For Raisi, Others Killed In Helicopter Crash

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) and other clerics pray over the coffins of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in Tehran on May 22.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) and other clerics pray over the coffins of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in Tehran on May 22.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers in Tehran at the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on May 22 as thousands attended a procession for Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

Khamenei presided over the start of the ceremony at a time of deepening crisis between the country's Islamic leadership and many citizens over a lack of freedoms and declining living standards. He delivered a traditional "death prayer" for Raisi and then left the ceremony without giving a speech.

Khamenei delivered a traditional "death prayer" for Raisi at the ceremony on May 22, three days after the accident in a remote, mountainous area of the country's northwest. Khamenei then left without giving a speech.

Crowds reached out to touch the caskets during the procession as Iran's acting president, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, stood nearby.

Besides Iran's top leaders, including the chiefs of the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, several foreign dignitaries attended, including Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, and a delegation from Afghanistan's Taliban rulers led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi.

No Western leaders attended. Three former Iranian presidents -- Mohammad Khatami, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Rohani -- were also not seen among dignitaries in attendance.

After the ceremony, the caskets of Raisi and the other victims of the crash were carried out on the shoulders of people onto a platform truck amid chants of "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" from the crowds.

Some reports said Tehran residents received mobile phone messages urging them to attend the funeral procession, which headed toward Freedom Square in central Tehran.

The caskets were draped in Iranian flags with pictures of the deceased on them, while on Raisi's casket, a black turban was placed to mark his alleged direct descendance from Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Although Egypt and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry traveled to Tehran to attend the funeral. Tehran and Cairo have recently floated the possibility of reestablishing relations, which were cut after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing was to attend the memorial service, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, was also seen in live footage as attending. Iran has armed and supported Hamas during the ongoing war with Israel in Gaza. Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy leader of Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese proxy, was also present.

A presidential election to determine Raisi's successor was announced for June 28. The election is to be organized by a council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president.

According to Iranian media, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister.

WATCH: A woman who lost 11 relatives in executions in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating Raisi's death. Raisi was accused of being on a "death committee" that ordered mass executions at the time.

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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The ceremonies marking the deaths of those involved in the crash started on May 21 with tens of thousands of mourners in attendance in the city of Tabriz, the capital of Iran's northwestern province of East Azerbaijan where the crash occurred, and the Shi'ite clerical center of Qom.

Beyond the official display of public grief, many Iranians who have been victims of acts of repression by Raisi and the Iranian regime or had relatives who suffered from such acts were adamant in voicing their satisfaction at Raisi's death.

A woman who lost 11 relatives, including two daughters, in executions allegedly coordinated by Raisi in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating his death.

"Truly, I cannot express how limitless my happiness is," Esman Vatanparast said. "When Raisi became president, it was very difficult for us hurting mothers, the survivors of the massacres committed by him."

The White House, too, had harsh words for Raisi.

U.S. national-security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that "no question, this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands" for supporting extremist groups in the Middle East.

U.S. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said Raisi's rule was "barbaric" and marked by "terror, danger, and oppression."

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and had tightened many restrictions on Iranians through the enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code on head scarves.

Thousands of people, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, athletes, and artists have been arrested and at least 500 people have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on the protests.

Raisi also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the death of Raisi has pushed back nuclear negotiations to improve Iran's cooperation with the agency.

"Now Iran is in a period of mourning and it should be respected, but when this period is over, we want to re-engage with Iran to improve cooperation," Rafael Grossi said on May 22 in Helsinki.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Director Mohammad Rasoulof, Who Fled Iran, Will Attend Cannes

Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled Iran, is expected to attend the Cannes Film Festival.
Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled Iran, is expected to attend the Cannes Film Festival.

Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who made a dramatic on-foot escape from Iran, will attend the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of his new movie, organizers told AFP on May 21. The award-winning director will be on the French Cote d'Azur on May 24 when The Seed Of The Sacred Fig competes for the top prize Palme d'Or, festival director Thierry Fremaux said. An outspoken critic of the Iranian government, Rasoulof served two terms in Iranian jails over previous films and had his passport revoked in 2017. His new film tells the story of a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran. He had come under pressure from the Iranian government to withdraw it from Cannes before the festival opened.

'A Symbol Of Murder Gone': Families Of Victims Of Mass Executions Express Relief After Iranian President's Death

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, is accused of sending political dissidents to their deaths in 1988.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, is accused of sending political dissidents to their deaths in 1988.

Esmat Vatanparast lost 11 members of her extended family during the mass executions of political prisoners and regime opponents in Iran in the 1980s.

For the last three decades, the elderly Vatanparast has been grieving and seeking justice for the deaths of her family members, including her two daughters and three brothers.

On May 19, when President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, Vatanparast says she obtained a semblance of justice.

Raisi allegedly played a role in the estimated execution of at least 5,000 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), students, and leftist political parties and groups during the summer of 1988.

"My happiness has no limits," Vatanparast, who fled to Sweden after the massacre, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on May 20, the day Raisi's death was confirmed. "Today is a beautiful day for the people of Iran."

Raisi, known as the "butcher of Tehran," was accused of serving as a prosecutor on a "death committee" that ordered the executions. Many were executed in prisons, including in the Iranian capital's notorious Evin prison.

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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Vatanparast said it was "very difficult" for the families of the victims of the massacre to witness the rise of Raisi, a former judiciary chief who became president following a controversial election in 2021.

"I want to congratulate all the mothers and fathers whose children were killed by the Islamic republic and couldn't say or do anything," said Vatanparast, who is in her 80s.

The mass killing was ordered by the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In a fatwa, or religious decree, Khomeini declared that "apostates" and those who had taken up arms against the Islamic republic were "waging war against God" and should be sentenced to death. Some estimates of those executed run into the tens of thousands.

The fatwa was issued in the last days of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, during which members of the MKO switched sides and fought alongside Iraqi forces.

Only one Iranian has been convicted and jailed over the mass executions. Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian prison official, was sentenced to life in prison in Sweden in 2022 for his role in the massacre.

'Death Of This Executioner'

Mehdi Aslani was a former member of the leftist Fadayian-e Khalq organization who served time in Gohardasht prison near Tehran and Evin prison.

Aslani survived the mass executions in 1988 and then fled to Germany. He testified during Nouri's trial in Sweden.

"I'm happy at this moment because a symbol of murder is gone," the former political prisoner told Radio Farda. "I would be lying if I said the news of the death of this executioner did not bring me joy."

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) issued a fatwa ordering the execution of "apostates" in the late 1980s. (file photo)
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) issued a fatwa ordering the execution of "apostates" in the late 1980s. (file photo)

As rescue teams were still searching for the wreckage of Raisi's helicopter, videos emerged on social media showing fireworks going off at night in what appeared to be celebrations.

Mihan Rusta, whose husband was among those executed in 1988, says the celebrations were the result of decades of anger and pain.

Celebrating a death may "not be humane," she said, but it is to be expected when "you've been under pressure" for years.

"It's a natural and human reaction to feel a sense of relief when circumstances intervene when you couldn't," Rusta told Radio Farda.

Like many other family members of the victims of the mass executions, Rusta bemoaned that Raisi's death meant that he would evade justice for his alleged crimes.

Raisi took "part of the truth" to the grave, she said. "For those who seek justice...you will always carry this thought with you. The knowledge that you'll never know the whole truth," she added.

As president, Raisi oversaw a bloody crackdown on unprecedented antiestablishment protests in 2022 and the tightening of the country's morality laws.

Vatanparast said it would be "good for the world" for people like Raisi to go on trial. But she added, "The sooner they die...the safer people's children."

Written by Kian Sharifi based on interviews by Fereshteh Ghazi of RFE/RL's Radio Farda

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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As three days of funeral ceremonies began for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and others killed in a helicopter crash, a woman who lost 11 relatives in executions in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating his death. Raisi was accused of being on a "death committee," which ordered mass executions at the time. Later, his period in office was marked by a brutal crackdown on nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody.

Iranian-Danish Director Of The Apprentice Offers To Screen Movie For Trump

Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi (file photo)
Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi (file photo)

Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has called The Apprentice, a film about the former U.S. president in the 1980s, “pure fiction” and vowed legal action following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

But Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi is offering to privately screen the film for Trump.

Following its premiere on May 19 in Cannes, Steven Cheung, Trump's campaign spokesperson, said the Trump team will be filing a lawsuit “to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers."

Abbasi said he "would offer to go and meet [Trump] wherever he wants and talk about the context of the movie, have a screening and have a chat afterwards, if that’s interesting to anyone at the Trump campaign.”

Updated

Iranian President's Casket Arrives In Tehran As New Crash Details Emerge

Mourners try to touch the flag-draped caskets of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Raisi's chief bodyguard, Mehdi Mousavi, during a funeral ceremony in the city of Tabriz, Iran, on May 21.
Mourners try to touch the flag-draped caskets of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Raisi's chief bodyguard, Mehdi Mousavi, during a funeral ceremony in the city of Tabriz, Iran, on May 21.

The caskets of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and others killed in a May 19 helicopter crash arrived in a procession with an honor guard in Tehran on May 21 ahead of a planned journey to the holy city of Qom, where additional services were scheduled for later in the day as part of a five-day mourning period declared by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several funeral ceremonies were taking place in Iran on May 21 to mark the deaths of Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in the helicopter crash that occurred in northern Iran near the city of Tabriz, the capital of Iran's northwestern province of East Azerbaijan.

Following their journey to Qom, the caskets are to return late on May 21 to Tehran, where a funeral service is scheduled for May 22 presided over by Khamenei and with a procession set to follow. Ceremonies are also being held in Birjand on May 23, when Raisi will be buried at the Imam Reza Shrine in the holy city of Mashhad, Iranian media reported.

The IRNA state-run news agency posted the first footage purportedly showing the caskets of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian on X, formerly Twitter.

State television later showed large crowds gathering in Qom ahead of services there.

Khamenei also named First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as interim president. Iranian law stipulates that if the president dies, power is transferred to the first vice president.

A presidential election to determine Raisi's successor was announced for June 28. The election, which has to be held within 50 days, is to be organized by a council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president.

Iran's interim president, Mohammad Mokhber (right), leads a cabinet meeting in Tehran on May 20.
Iran's interim president, Mohammad Mokhber (right), leads a cabinet meeting in Tehran on May 20.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister, Iranian state media reported.

After Iranian state television said on May 20 that the helicopter had crashed due to poor weather conditions, search-and-rescue teams found the bodies of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian at the site of the crash in northwest Iran.

Communication was lost while the helicopter was on its way back to Tabriz after Raisi attended the joint inauguration of a dam with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on their common border.

On May 21, an official on another helicopter disclosed additional details of events on the day of the crash, according to a report by dpa.

Gholam Hossein Esmaili, the presidential chief of staff, told state television that upon the helicopters' departure, "the weather was cloudless, completely clear, and bright."

But he said clouds quickly emerged and that the pilot of the presidential helicopter -- flying in the center of the three-aircraft convoy -- ordered the copters to fly at a higher altitude.

Shortly afterward, the pilot of the helicopter Esmaili was traveling in realized that the Raisi craft was no longer with the others and was thought to have made an emergency landing.

The two other helicopters in the convoy circled for several minutes over the area before landing near a copper mine because of the poor conditions.

The Iranian government said the other two helicopters eventually landed safely in Tabriz.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said that all eight people aboard the Bell 212 helicopter purchased by Iran in the early 2000s were killed. Besides Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian, the governor of East Azerbaijan Province, a senior cleric from Tabriz, a Revolutionary Guards official, and three crew members were killed, according to IRNA.

The bodies from the helicopter that crashed were severely burned but not beyond recognition, according to the head of Iran's Crisis Management Organization, Mohammad Hassan Nami. He said DNA tests were not needed to confirm the identities of those killed in the crash.

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash
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He added that Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem, who served as Khamenei's representative in East Azerbaijan Province, survived the crash initially and remained alive for about an hour before he died.

Nami said that, during that time, Al-e Hashem had made contact with Raisi's chief of staff by phone. He did not reveal any further details.

Meanwhile, Washington said for the first time that Tehran had asked for U.S. help in the helicopter incident but that it was unable to provide assistance, mainly due to logistical reasons.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller did not specify how the request was made or the nature of it. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

Foreign governments on May 20 issued expressions of condolence and solidarity. Lebanon announced three days of mourning to honor Raisi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were both "true, reliable friends of our country."

Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, issued a statement of condolence and thanked Raisi for his "tireless efforts in solidarity" with the Palestinian people.

The United States -- a bitter rival of Iran that had imposed financial sanctions on Raisi when he was head of Iran's judiciary in 2019 -- also offered its condolences.

"The United States expresses its official condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and other members of their delegation in a helicopter crash in northwest Iran," the State Department said in a statement.

"As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The White House, nevertheless, had harsh words for Raisi, saying he had "blood on his hands" for supporting extremist groups in the Middle East.

U.S. national-security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that "no question, this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands."

U.S. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said Raisi's rule was "barbaric" and marked by "terror, danger, and oppression."

"In these fateful days, we pray for stability in the Middle East, for Iranian leaders who will seek to live at peace with their neighbors and the West, and for the day when the flag of freedom will be raised in Iran," Johnsonwrote on X.

European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement of "sincere condolences," adding "our thoughts go to the families."

Some activists criticized the EU for assisting in the rescue operation of a leader who has been accused of overseeing major human rights abuses.

But EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic defended the move on May 20, saying that, by providing satellite mapping services to Tehran, Brussels was acting "upon request for facilitating a search and rescue operation" and was not "an act of political support to any regime or establishment."

"It is simply an expression of the most basic humanity," he added in a post on X.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and had since tightened many restrictions on Iranians through the enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code on head scarves.

Thousands of people, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, athletes, and artists have been arrested and at least 500 people have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on the protests.

Raisi also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

Iran Mourns -- And Celebrates -- President's Death

Iran Mourns -- And Celebrates -- President's Death
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The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has led to official mourning in the country, but other Iranians celebrated the passing of a man who oversaw a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests after a young woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody in 2022.

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash
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A new presidential election must be held in Iran within 50 days following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19, according to the country's constitution. Chatham House's Sanam Vakil says the candidates permitted to run -- be they ultraconservatives or more conciliatory figures who are better able to connect with the public -- will reveal the regime's political priorities.

Iranian Nobel Laureate Ebadi Says Raisi's Death Means He Will Evade Justice

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (file photo)
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (file photo)

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has said that the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was regrettable because he will evade justice for his alleged crimes.

Raisi, who died in a May 19 helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, has been accused of serving as a prosecutor on an "execution committee" that sent thousands of political prisoners and regime opponents to their deaths in the late 1980s.

His presidency, which began in 2021, is also infamous for its stricter enforcement of Iran's draconian hijab law and brutal crackdown on mass demonstrations for women's rights.

"If we haven't forgotten, which tragically is not easily forgotten, there was the painful incident of the mass execution of political prisoners by the execution committee," Ebadi said of Raisi in a May 20 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "The people of Iran had hoped to see him brought to justice, to witness how he would struggle and plead for his own exoneration. He did not deserve such an easy death."

The rights watchdog Amnesty International has said that at least 4,500 people were executed in the mass killing ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1988 for "waging war against God."

The leftist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, which was accused of treachery for its role in carrying out an invasion deep into Iranian territory after a cease-fire ended the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, says that up to 30,000 people were executed.

Many of the victims were buried in secret.

During a court trial in Stockholm in 2022 in which a former prison guard for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps faced testimony from hundreds of survivors and their relatives, Raisi was named as belonging to the three-member execution committee that determined the fate of prisoners.

Ebadi, 76, was a prominent human rights lawyer for years in Iran before she was forced into exile in 2009. From her home in Britain, she has continued to criticize the Iranian authorities for their crackdown on virtually any form of dissent.

WATCH: A new presidential election must be held within 50 days following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, and one analyst says the candidates permitted to run -- be they ultraconservatives or more conciliatory figures who are better able to connect with the public -- will reveal the regime's political priorities.

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash
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Ebadi said that some in the foreign media expressed surprise that some Iranians were celebrating Raisi's death, including by lighting fireworks and dancing in videos shared on social media.

"Are people truly this happy about the death of one person?" Ebadi said she was asked. "Regrettably, I told them that [hard-liners'] actions had made their deaths a cause for celebration."

WATCH: Raisi's death led to official mourning in Iran -- but other Iranians celebrated the passing of a man who oversaw a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

Ebadi said that now that the 63-year-old Raisi is dead, it is unlikely he will posthumously face prosecution.

"Generally, and legally, once a person passes away, any criminal actions they committed are no longer prosecuted," Ebadi said. "However, they will remain in people's memories and be recorded in history, particularly in the annals of human rights."

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, The Iranian Foreign Minister Close To Revolutionary Guards, Dead At 60

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian distrusted the West and was a vocal supporter of the so-called axis of resistance.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian distrusted the West and was a vocal supporter of the so-called axis of resistance.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a conservative figure who enjoyed the support of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has died at the age of 60.

Amir-Abdollahian and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi were returning from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan when their helicopter crashed in Iran's mountainous northwest on May 19, killing all on board.

Tehran's top diplomat was suspicious of the West and a vocal supporter of the "axis of resistance," Iran's loose network of militant groups and proxies, against Israel and the United States.

His appointment in 2021 was seen as part of the Raisi administration's disengagement with the West and its focus on the Middle East region. He was said to be fluent in Arabic, while his English appeared to be limited.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (left) sits next to President Ebrahim Raisi (center) at a conference in Tehran in December 2023.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (left) sits next to President Ebrahim Raisi (center) at a conference in Tehran in December 2023.

Born in the northern city of Damghan in 1960, Amir-Abdollahian did not enlist to fight in the devastating 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and instead attended university and eventually obtained a PhD in international relations.

He climbed the ladder in the Foreign Ministry quickly and his first posting was in Iran's Embassy in Iraq in the late 1990s.

In an apparent sign of the Islamic republic's faith in Amir-Abdollahian, the young diplomat was named to a three-man delegation to represent Iran in rare talks with the United States over the war in Iraq.

Amir-Abdollahian served in various roles in the ministry, notably as ambassador to Bahrain, deputy minister for Arab and African affairs, and head of the Persian Gulf department.

His involvement in Tehran's relations with Iraq and the activities of the IRGC in Iran's western neighbor allowed him to forge a relationship with Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC's overseas arm. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. air strike near Baghdad in 2020.

Ahead of his appointment as foreign minister, conservative lawmaker Ali Alizadeh praised Amir-Abdollahian as the "Soleimani of diplomacy."

In 2016, amid rumors that he had fallen out with then-Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he turned down an offer to become Iran's envoy in Oman and left the ministry.

But Amir-Abdollahian quickly landed on his feet and was appointed as foreign affairs adviser to then-parliament speaker Ali Larijani, where he remained until he was named foreign minister.

Amir-Abdollahian is survived by his wife and their two children.

Ebrahim Raisi, The Hard-Line Iranian President Tipped As Next Supreme Leader, Dead At 63

On May 19, a helicopter carrying Raisi crashed in Iran's mountainous northwest on its way back from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan. His fate was not immediately clear.
On May 19, a helicopter carrying Raisi crashed in Iran's mountainous northwest on its way back from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan. His fate was not immediately clear.

Ebrahim Raisi, the ultraconservative Iranian president who was widely tipped to become the country's next supreme leader, has died at the age of 63.

A helicopter carrying Raisi and his foreign minister crashed in Iran's mountainous northwest on May 19 on its way back from a visit to the border with Azerbaijan, killing all on board.

Raisi, a longtime protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was a former judicial chief who also allegedly played a role in one of the darkest chapters of the Islamic republic.

The hard-line cleric will be remembered for overseeing the brutal suppression of the unprecedented, monthslong antiestablishment protests that erupted in 2022 and the tightening of the country's morality laws.

Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested as government forces crushed the demonstrations, one of the biggest challenges to the country's clerical rulers in decades.

Raisi defended the bloody crackdown and accused foreign powers and opposition groups of instigating the unrest.

Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, says Raisi's presidency has been marked by growing social and political ruptures and deteriorating relations with the West.

"His tenure reflects the broader trend of increasingly insulated policymaking at the top of the Iranian system as it consolidates ultraconservative control," he said.

President Ebrahim Raisi (center) and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (left) attend a conference in Tehran in December 2023.
President Ebrahim Raisi (center) and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (left) attend a conference in Tehran in December 2023.

'Butcher Of Tehran'

Raisi attended seminary schools in the holy Shi'ite cities of Qom and Mashhad, where he was born in 1960. He later studied theology and Islamic jurisprudence under the guidance of Khamenei and other powerful clerics.

Raisi was referred to by critics of the Islamic republic as the "Butcher of Tehran" for his alleged role in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 when he was Tehran's deputy prosecutor.

In 1989, the year Khamenei became supreme leader, Raisi was named the Iranian capital's top prosecutor. He remained in the role until 1994, when he was tasked with heading the State Inspectorate Organization, a judicial body, a post he held for 10 years.

Powerful judiciary chief Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi appointed Raisi as his deputy in 2004. After a decade in the role, Raisi was named as Iran's chief prosecutor in 2014. Two years later, Khamenei appointed Raisi as custodian of a shrine in Mashhad and one of Iran's wealthiest foundations.

In the 2017 presidential election, Raisi launched an unsuccessful bid against incumbent moderate President Hassan Rohani. He secured 38 percent of the vote.

Two years later, Khamenei appointed Raisi as Iran's judiciary chief. That same year, the United States imposed sanctions on Raisi and eight others deemed to be in Khamenei's inner circle.

'Impunity Reigns Supreme'

Raisi succeeded in his second bid for the presidency in 2021 in an election that was widely seen as a one-horse race.

Scores of moderate and pro-reformist candidates were barred from running. The vote witnessed the lowest-ever turnout for a presidential election since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Ebrahim Raisi (right) was widely believed to be the main contender to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left).
Ebrahim Raisi (right) was widely believed to be the main contender to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left).

"That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran," Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said after Raisi's election victory.

Raisi's election consolidated the authority of the country's hard-liners, which dominate all three branches of power in Iran.

Under Raisi's administration, Iran has deepened relations with China and Russia and ramped up its confrontation with the West and archfoe Israel.

In elections held in March, Raisi defended his seat on the Assembly of Experts, a body that picks the country's supreme leader.

The death of Raisi, long tipped to be the next supreme leader, is likely to complicate Khamenei's succession plan. Mojtaba Khamenei, the influential son of the supreme leader, is now considered among the front-runners.

Raisi is survived by his wife, Jamileh Alamolhoda, and their two daughters.

World Reacts To Death Of Iranian President Raisi

Iranians and world leaders are reacting to the deaths of Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, and his foreign minister after state media reported they both died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. 

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Will Raisi's Death Bring Major Changes To Iran's Policies? The Short Answer Is 'No.'

Ebrahim Raisi's death will have limited impact on policy, but could set off a power struggle among hard-liners in Iran.
Ebrahim Raisi's death will have limited impact on policy, but could set off a power struggle among hard-liners in Iran.

The helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has sent shock waves around the Islamic republic and the region.

But Raisi's death is not expected to bring major changes to Tehran's domestic and foreign policies, analysts say.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all major state affairs, and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are the key centers of power in Iran, where the president's authority is limited.

"The death of Raisi, in itself, will not cause a significant shift in Iran's policies," said Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "After all, the president is the second in command in the power hierarchy of the Islamic republic, and strategic directions are set by the supreme leader."

As president, Raisi oversaw a brutal crackdown on antiestablishment protests in 2022 and the tightening of the country's morality laws.

The real significance of the ultraconservative Raisi's death, experts say, is that it could set off a power struggle among the country's hard-liners.

The demise of Raisi, who was widely tipped to become the next supreme leader, could also complicate Khamenei's succession plans.

Raisi, a former judiciary chief, was a longtime protege of Khamenei, who was believed to be grooming him as his successor.

Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the London-based Chatham House, said Raisi "fit the bill" to take over from Khamenei and even modelled his life on the 85-year-old supreme leader.

"[Raisi] was a loyal functionary willing to do the bidding of the supreme leader through multiple institutions," she said. "There are no obvious candidates that can tick a lot of boxes."

Raisi's death has left a vacancy to fill. Elections must be held within 50 days, according to Iranian law, leaving the clerical establishment scrambling to find a suitable replacement.

The early front-runners are speaker of parliament Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei.

Azizi said the next president could have "significant influence over the overall trajectory" of Khamenei's succession.

"As a result, this is going to lead to heightened intra-conservative competition to [become president]," he added.

Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran Project at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said the upcoming election offers an opportunity for the clerical establishment to "pursue a different course" by allowing a relatively competitive vote.

In 2021, Raisi won the presidential election by a landslide, in a vote that was widely seen as rigged. His victory consolidated the power of hard-liners, who assumed control of all three branches of government.

"But I suspect that the regime is dedicating all its efforts to preparing for a succession after Khamenei, striving to create homogeneous conditions at the top of the power pyramid, and not allowing any rivals into this circle," Vaez told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

International Relations

Raisi’s death is unlikely to have any impact on the deepening ties between Iran and Russia, a relationship that has increasingly worried the West, analysts say.

Iran has supplied thousands of drones to Russia following its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The Iranian unmanned aircraft, known as the Shahed, has played a key role in the 27-month war, allowing Russia to devastate Ukrainian cities at a distance, including destroying critical infrastructure.

"It is unlikely that anything will change in relations between Russia and Iran. At least if a conservative remains president,” Ilia Kusa, an analyst at the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Institute of the Future, said on Facebook.

"The situational partnership between Russia and Iran is tied not so much to one person as to the international situation, poor relations with the West, and close ties at different levels," he said.

As for U.S.-Iranian relations, which have been tense for decades, the Biden administration does not expect any transformation with Raisi's death.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on May 20 that when it comes to Iranian policy, it is Khamenei who “calls the shots,” not the president.

“So we don't anticipate any change in Iranian behavior. And therefore the Iranians should not expect any change in American behavior when it comes to holding them accountable,” Kirby said.

Iranian President Raisi's Death Sets Off Scramble To Find His Replacement

President Ebrahim Raisi's seat in the Iranian cabinet sits empty following his death in a helicopter crash on May 19.
President Ebrahim Raisi's seat in the Iranian cabinet sits empty following his death in a helicopter crash on May 19.

The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sets in motion a scramble to replace him in short order, with long-term implications for the clerical establishment.

Mohammad Mokhber, who served as first vice president under Raisi, has already taken over the presidential duties in an acting capacity.

His time in office will likely be brief, with Iranian law stipulating that a new presidential election be held within 50 days.

Mokhber, along with speaker of parliament Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, must now arrange a new vote, expected to take place early July.

Raisi died on impact along with nine others, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in northwestern Iran on May 19.

WATCH: A new presidential election must be held within 50 days following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, and one analyst says the candidates permitted to run -- be they ultraconservatives or more conciliatory figures who are better able to connect with the public -- will reveal the regime's political priorities.

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash
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Raisi, a former judiciary head who was elected by a landslide in a controversial election in 2021, was seen as a protege and possible successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, addressing the nation on May 19 before Raisi's death was confirmed, said that "the Iranian people should not worry, there will be no disruption in the country's work."

But the death of the ultraconservative Raisi presents challenges to the Islamic republic's hard-liners, who solidified their hold on power following this spring's parliamentary elections.

Ali Afshari, a U.S.-based former student leader who was jailed in Iran for his activism, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that "it may not be easy to find a leader like Raisi, who was completely obedient to Khamenei and the establishment.”

The normally lengthy process for determining suitable presidential candidates, all subject to vetting and approval by the powerful Guardians Council, will now be squeezed into a window of less than two months.

In winning the presidency in 2021, Raisi benefitted from the mass disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates. Seen as a hand-picked candidate who would not pose a threat to Khamenei, he took more than 72 percent of the vote in a presidential election that garnered the lowest turnout ever since the Islamic republic was founded in 1979.

There is some precedent for a quick presidential transition in Iran.

The Islamic republic's second president, Mohammad-Ali Rajai, served less than two weeks before his assassination in 1981. He was replaced just over a month later by Khamenei, who took more than 95 percent of the vote in an election in which he was backed by all three other candidates.

Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House in London, said in a video interview that she expects an expedited process this time around.

"The leadership wants to show a commitment to the constitution, but also business as usual," Vakil said. "And facilitating a quick and accountable election will be important, at least for external constituencies and to show stability."

Vakil lists past presidential candidates who have already undergone vetting by the Guardians Council among Raisi's possible successors, including parliament speaker Qalibaf.

Vakil also said Khamenei could take the opportunity to "rehabilitate marginalized" former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who was barred from running against Raisi in 2021, but "has been a loyal supporter of the system."

Some observers have also suggested that this might be a chance to repair ties with members of former moderate President Hassan Rohani's camp, Vakil says, although she does not see Rohani himself as a potential candidate.

In 2021, Raisi defeated Mohsen Rezaee, a senior officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who is a member of the influential Expediency Council, as well as Abdolnaser Hemmati, a banker who was the only moderate in the race.

"Who the system picks, or permits, to run will really indicate the priorities or direction of this political establishment," Vakil said. "If they do allow a more contested election, then this could be about building bridges and trying to increase popular legitimacy."

On the other hand, if a hard-liner is selected from within the ranks of the clerical establishment, it would show that "the priorities are unity, conservative consolidation, and making sure that transition...continues to be prioritized."

The election of a president this year will also bring changes to election timelines, as the next elected president will serve a full four-year term. This will mean that future presidential elections will fall the same year as parliamentary elections.

Longer-term, Raisi's death leaves a major vacancy in the effort to groom the Islamic republic's next supreme leader, who makes all final decisions regarding Iranian foreign and domestic policies.

Iran's clerical leadership, Afshari said, now finds itself "in an uncomfortable situation" in finding a suitable successor to the 85-year-old Khamenei, who has reportedly suffered from health problems in recent years.

Reza Alijani, an Iranian journalist and analyst based in France, said that former competitors of Raisi would likely benefit. He named Khamenei's son, the prominent cleric Mojtaba Khamenei, as a strong contender to replace his father.

"Mojtaba Khamenei's chances are likely much higher now," Alijani told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

With contributions by Kian Sharifi

Bodies Recovered As Iranian TV Announces President's Death

Bodies Recovered As Iranian TV Announces President's Death
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Iranian state media showed rescue workers and soldiers carrying away the bodies of the casualties after a helicopter with senior officials on board crashed in the country's northwest. State television announced on May 20 that President Ebrahim Raisi had died in the crash.

Updated

Iran Announces June 28 For New Election Following Raisi's Death

Even as Iran declared a period of mourning following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in a helicopter crash, the country moved forward and set June 28 as the date for an election to determine Raisi’s successor.

Iranian authorities also said the funeral procession for Raisi will be held in Tehran on May 22.

The announcements came as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of mourning after the bodies of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were found at the site of a helicopter crash in northwest Iran.

Meanwhile, Washington said for the first time that Tehran had asked for U.S. help in the helicopter incident but that it was unable to provide assistance, mainly due to logistical reasons.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller did not specify how the request was made or the nature of it. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

Iranian state television on May 20 said the helicopter had crashed due to poor weather conditions. It was unclear how many people were on board the helicopter when it went down.

Khamenei also named First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as interim president. Iranian law stipulates that if the president dies, power is transferred to the first vice president.

WATCH: A new presidential election must be held within 50 days and one analyst says the candidates permitted to run -- be they ultraconservatives or more conciliatory figures who are better able to connect with the public -- will reveal the regime's political priorities.

Iran At Crossroads After President Killed In Helicopter Crash
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A council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president must arrange for a new president to be elected within 50 days.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister, Iranian state media reported.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the governor of East Azerbaijan Province and other unspecified officials and bodyguards were aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber was named as interim president.
First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber was named as interim president.

Foreign governments on May 20 issued expressions of condolence and solidarity. Lebanon announced three days of mourning to honor Raisi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were both "true, reliable friends of our country."

Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, issued a statement of condolence and thanked Raisi for his “tireless efforts in solidarity” with the Palestinian people.

The United States, a bitter rival of Iran – and which had imposed financial sanctions on Raisi when he was head of Iran's judiciary in 2019 – also offered its condolences.

“The United States expresses its official condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and other members of their delegation in a helicopter crash in northwest Iran,” the State Department said in a statement.

“As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The White House, meanwhile, had harsh words for Raisi, saying he had "blood on his hands" for supporting extremist groups in the Middle East.

U.S. national-security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that "no question, this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands."

European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement of “sincere condolences,” adding “our thoughts go to the families.”

Search-and-rescue teams, aided by several foreign governments, had been frantically searching for the helicopter after it went down in bad weather conditions in a mountainous area of the country late on May 19.

WATCH: Raisi's death led to official mourning in Iran, but other Iranians celebrated the passing of a man who oversaw a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

Some activists criticized the EU for assisting in the rescue operation of a leader who has been accused of overseeing major human rights abuses.

But EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic defended the move on May 20, saying that by providing satellite mapping services to Tehran, Brussels was acting "upon request for facilitating a search and rescue operation" and was not "an act of political support to any regime or establishment."

"It is simply an expression of the most basic humanity," he added in a post on X.

Raisi's helicopter was on its way to the city of Tabriz when it went down near the city of Jolfa in what state television said was a "hard landing," but several news reports quoted government sources as saying the helicopter crashed as it crossed a mountainous and forested area.

The bodies from the helicopter that crashed were severely burned, but not beyond recognition, according to the head of Iran's Crisis Management Organization, Mohammad Hassan Nami. He said DNA tests were not needed to confirm the identities of those killed in the crash.

He added that Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, who served as Khamenei's representative in East Azerbaijan Province, survived the crash initially and remained alive for about an hour before he died.

Nami said that, during that time, Ale-Hashem had made contact with Raisi's chief of staff by phone. He did not reveal any further details.

The Iranian government said the helicopter was one of three flying in a convoy, and the other two reportedly landed safely in Tabriz.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian late last year.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian late last year.

The ultraconservative Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian had been in Azerbaijan earlier on May 19 to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said on X that Azerbaijan was "profoundly troubled" by the news that Raisi's helicopter had gone down.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and has since tightened many restrictions on Iranians through enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the code on head scarves.

He has also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

Iranian President, Foreign Minister Killed In Helicopter Crash

Rescuers work to recover bodies at the site where a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi crashed in a fog-shrouded mountainous area in the country's northwest on May 20. Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also among those killed, along with seven others. 

Frantic Search For Crashed Helicopter With Iranian President

Frantic Search For Crashed Helicopter With Iranian President
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Iranian rescue teams were frantically searching for a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi after it crashed in a remote area of the country on May 19.

Iran Releases Footage Of Rescuers Searching For President's Helicopter

Iran Releases Footage Of Rescuers Searching For President's Helicopter
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Thick fog dominates the official Iranian footage of search efforts for a helicopter reportedly carrying President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Iranian state media said the helicopter made a "hard landing" on May 19. Video from Iran's northwestern East Azerbaijan province shows offroad cars driving up a bumpy road and rescuers walking in the rugged mountainous terrain.

Updated

Official Says 'No Signs Of Life' Found At Crash Site Of Iranian President's Helicopter

Iran Releases Footage Of Rescuers Searching For President's Helicopter
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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is feared dead after rescue teams reached the remote site in northwestern Iran where a helicopter he and other government officials, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, were travelling in crashed.

The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state television early on May 20 that rescuers had seen the downed helicopter and upon arrival, the situation was "not good."

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter's passengers,” he said.

Search-and-rescue teams, aided by several foreign governments, had been frantically searching for the helicopter after it went down in bad weather conditions in a mountainous area of the country late on May 19.

Raisi's helicopter was on its way to the city of Tabriz when it went down near the city of Jolfa in what state television said was a "hard landing," but several news reports quoted government sources as saying the helicopter crashed as it crossed a mountainous and forested area.

The Iranian government said the helicopter was one of three flying in a convoy, and the other two reportedly landed safely in Tabriz. The massive search for more than 12 hours before a Turkish drone with night vision that was aiding the search identified a source of heat "suspected to be the wreckage of the helicopter carrying Raisi." According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency, Ankara immediately "shared its coordinates with Iranian authorities."

Frantic Search For Crashed Helicopter With Iranian President
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Reports of the crash sparked several countries, including Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, into action to help in the search effort, while the European Union activated its Copernicus satellite mapping service at Iran's request.

The ultraconservative Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian had been in Azerbaijan earlier on May 19 to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said on X that Azerbaijan was "profoundly troubled" by the news that Raisi's helicopter had gone down.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and has since tightened many restrictions on Iranians through enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the code on head scarves.

He has also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

With growing dissent among many Iranians over an array of political, social and economic crises, Iran's clerical rulers.

Hours after the search began, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a brief statement late calling for prayers and assuring Iranians "the country's affairs will not be disrupted." He has not commented publicly since reports of the burned wreckage were found.

State TV showed people praying at the Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites, as well as in Qom and other locations across the country.

Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who won Iran's 2021 presidential election after leading the country's judiciary. He is viewed as a protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He has been sanctioned by the United States in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq War.

Some reports have noted that because of international sanctions it has been difficult for Iran to obtain parts for its aging helicopter fleet.

Iranian law stipulates that if the president dies, power is transferred to the first vice president. A council consisting of the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the head of the judicial power, and the first vice president must arrange for a new president to be elected within 50 days. The current first vice president of Iran is Mohammad Mokhber.

Dubai Unlocked: Convicts, Wealthy Iranians With State Ties Implicated In Leaked Property Data

An aerial view of the palm tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah real estate development in Dubai (file photo)
An aerial view of the palm tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah real estate development in Dubai (file photo)

Over 7,000 Iranians, including convicts and some with ties to the state, own what experts estimate to be billions of dollars of property in Dubai, according to a report by the Netherlands-based outlet Radio Zamaneh.

The information was obtained as part of a monthslong investigative project known as Dubai Unlocked. Journalists from 75 media outlets from across the world, including Radio Zamaneh, pored over the leaked data and have gradually released their findings over the past week.

Radio Zamaneh’s report cites academics and experts who say the total value of properties owned by Iranians in Dubai is around $7 billion.

It notes that while there is a slew of ordinary Iranians who have properties in the United Arab Emirates, there are also convicts, fugitives, and known figures with links to the Iranian establishment.

An office in Dubai’s Aspect Tower worth around $650,000 belongs to Abbas Iravani, a former head of the Ezam Automotive Parts Group who was sentenced to 65 years in prison earlier this year for his involvement in smuggling auto parts, disrupting the economy, and bribing officials. He has denied the charges.

Another prominent figure is Mohammad Emami, an investor and TV producer who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in financial corruption. His friend and alleged co-conspirator in the case, Amir Reza Farzanrad, is a fugitive and also implicated in the Dubai Unlocked leaks.

Radio Zamaneh says Emami and Farzanrad each own a villa in the affluent Al-Merkadh neighborhood of Dubai worth $5.5 million and $12 million, respectively.

Convicted steel magnate Rasul Danialzadeh, sentenced to 16 years in prison for bribery, owns $12.6 million worth of property in Dubai, including five apartments in the upscale Al-Thanyah Fifth community and a villa in Palm Jumeirah.

The family of the late former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani feature prominently in the leaks.

His oldest son, former Tehran City Council chairman Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, owns an apartment worth an estimated $380,000. Mohsen’s son, Ehsan, has a small apartment in Dubai valued at $100,000.

Yasser Hashemi Rafsanjani -- the ex-president’s youngest son -- and his wife, Maryam, own two apartments in the Burj Khalifa worth a combined $1.45 million.

The reports also notes that several dual national Iranians own properties in Dubai, including Mehdi Shams, a former executive at the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line Group.

The report said Shams, who is sentenced to 20 years in prison over his involvement in a multibillion-dollar embezzlement case, purchased a villa valued at $20 million on his British passport.

To put the figures into perspective, the average annual household income in Tehran in the Iranian year 1401 (March 2022-23) was around 2.3 billion rials. That is roughly $3,900 per year, or around $325 a month.

“With a reputation for financial secrecy, low taxes, and an ever-expanding spread of valuable real estate, [Dubai] is an appealing option for those looking to launder or hide cash,” says the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which along with Norwegian financial outlet E24 coordinated the investigation project.

EU Urges Iran To 'Reverse Nuclear Trajectory' As Tehran Threatens To Cross Threshold

 The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (left) meets Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran in June 2022.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (left) meets Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran in June 2022.

The European Union has joined the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in urging Iran to abandon suggestions that it might develop nuclear weapons.

"We continue to call Iran to reverse its nuclear trajectory and show concrete steps, such as urgently improve cooperation with the IAEA," EU spokesman Peter Stano told RFE/RL in written comments on May 16.

The Islamic republic has long claimed that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, but a growing number of officials in recent weeks have openly suggested that Iran might review its nuclear doctrine if it deems it necessary.

A landmark deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and world powers in 2015 restricted Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.

However, Iran expanded its program and restricted IAEA inspections of its nuclear sites after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United Staes from the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018.

The EU, which is the coordinator of the JCPOA's Joint Commission, mediated several rounds of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington from 2021 to 2022.

The 27-member bloc presented a final draft of an agreement to revive the deal in August 2022, but talks broke down soon after as Tehran and Washington accused each other of making excessive demands.

"Our goal has always been to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, through a diplomatic solution," Stano said, adding that the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and his team continue efforts to revive the Iran deal.

Iran has particularly upped the rhetoric since last month, when it launched an unprecedented missile and drone attack against its archfoe Israel in response to a deadly air strike on its embassy compound in Syria that killed several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

An IRGC general at the time warned that an attack on Iran's nuclear sites could lead to a rethinking of its policy on nuclear weapons.

Kamal Kharazi, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a former foreign minister, repeated the threat earlier this week.

"We do not want nuclear weapons and the supreme leader's fatwa is to that effect. But if the enemy threatens you, what do you do?" he said.

The fatwa refers to a religious decree by Khamenei in which he said the Islamic republic considers the use of nuclear weapons to be "haram" and Iran would not pursue one.

The fatwa has long been cited by the Iranian authorities as evidence that Iran would never weaponize its nuclear program. Experts, however, question how effective of a barrier the fatwa really is.

Farzan Sabet, a senior research associate at the Geneva Graduate Institute, said, "The nuclear fatwa does not pose an insurmountable religious or legal obstacle inside Iran for the system there to pursue nuclear weapons or potentially build them."

Despite the public comments by Iranian officials, the Foreign Ministry has insisted that there has been no change in the country's nuclear doctrine.

Stano said that it "is imperative to show utmost restraint" given the heightened tensions in the Middle East.

"Further escalation in the region -- also in the form of statements about the nuclear posture, even if not reflecting the official position of the country -- is in no one's interest," he added.

In response to in Iran's new rhetoric, the United States has said it "will not allow" Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons.

Separately, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi has called on Iran to "stop" suggestions that it might review its nuclear posture.

Deadly Floods Ravage Northeastern Iran

The floods were triggered by an intense rainfall that started earlier this week, inundating streets and sweeping away cars. (file photo)
The floods were triggered by an intense rainfall that started earlier this week, inundating streets and sweeping away cars. (file photo)

At least seven people have died in northeastern Iran amid severe flooding and heavy rainfall in the city of Mashhad, with local authorities warning the death toll may rise as rescue operations continue to hunt for individuals yet to be accounted for.

The floods were triggered by an intense rainfall that started earlier this week, inundating streets and sweeping away cars. Videos on social media show multiple vehicles being carried off by rushing waters.

According to local media reports, at least 12 people have been reported missing. The head of the Crisis Management Department of Khorasan Razavi Province, Reza Abbasi, confirmed that searches are ongoing in Torghabeh, Shandiz, Mashhad, and Fariman county.

Abbasi said authorities are working to ensure proper verification from forensic specialists before attributing deaths to the floods.

Of the confirmed casualties, five were from Mashhad and two from the surrounding rural areas of Fariman.

Abbasi urged residents of Mashhad to avoid unnecessary travel as poor weather conditions are expected to persist in the region through to the end of the week, posing risks of further flooding.

The Iranian Meteorological Organization issued a warning on May 16 for potential severe thunderstorms and heavy winds over the coming 24 hours, affecting several provinces including West and East Azerbaijan, Ardabil, and parts of the Alborz mountain range, among others.

This flooding has acted as a grim reminder of deadly floods in April 2019, when heavy rains in Shiraz triggered a major disaster that claimed 22 lives and caused extensive damage.

Experts say climate change has amplified droughts and floods that are plaguing Iran, and that their intensity and frequency threaten food security.

The Iranian Meteorological Organization has estimated that 97 percent of the country is experiencing drought to some degree.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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