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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.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.

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Iranian Workers' Group Strikes Over Wages As Inflation Continues To Soar

The strike comes after several weeks of protests, dubbed Protest Sundays, in front of government agencies in Shush.

Employees and retirees in the southwestern Iranian city of Shush have gone on strike to protest living standards and to push the government to approve wage and social payment increases in the Iranian New Year.

Videos published on social media showed crowds gathering in front of the local governor's office while chanting, "Enough oppression! Our tablecloth is empty."

The strike comes after several weeks of protests, dubbed Protest Sundays, in front of government agencies in Shush.

On March 26, a rally took place in front of the Shush governor's building, where workers and retirees from the Haft Tapeh sugarcane company joined others to protest.

The Supreme Labor Council has resolved to raise the minimum wage for workers in the Iranian New Year, which commenced on March 21, by only 27 percent compared with the previous year. Annual inflation in Iran has been running at around 40 percent for the past two years.

During a gathering of workers over the weekend, labor activists highlighted the ongoing rise in the inflation rate and the increasing costs of food and other expenses. They argued that the wages set by the Supreme Labor Council are "oppressive" and called for a salary increase that corresponds with price growth and living expenses to better support working families.

Prices have grown as living standards have fallen in Iran due to crushing sanctions imposed on the country by the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into demonstrations, which officials across the country have tried to quell with harsh measures.

The activist HRANA news agency said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Thousands have been arrested in the clampdown, with the judiciary handing down harsh sentences -- including the death penalty -- to protesters.

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

Iranian Lawmaker Says New Hijab Plan Prohibits Physical Punishment

Iranian parliament member Hossein Jalali (file photo)

An Iranian parliamentarian says the government's new strategy to enforce the compulsory wearing of the hijab will eliminate physical punishment for women and instead carry financial and administrative penalties that have been approved by the leader of the Islamic republic.

Iranian parliament member Hossein Jalali said on March 27 that the new plan includes a financial penalty of up to 30 billion Iranian Rials ($60,000) for those who breach the compulsory hijab law, while additional penalties consist of revoking a person's driver's license, canceling their passport, and prohibiting Internet access for those women who do not adhere to the hijab requirement.

Under the new proposals, physical punishment will not be allowed, Jalali said. Violators instead will be punished according to a predetermined table.

To help limit physical confrontations, surveillance cameras will be used to monitor public spaces for women not wearing the hijab and offenders will be tracked down and punished afterward. Police and judicial authorities will be tasked with collecting evidence and identifying violators, Jalali said.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Protests That Shook Iran's Clerical System

The Cultural Commission of the Iranian parliament said earlier that shop owners and the operators of businesses such as shopping malls and accommodation centers will also be responsible for implementing the rules.

Officials have recently moved to seal off the businesses of some "violators," including this week when a hotel in the city of Kashan and a shopping center in the capital, Tehran, were closed because employers were not observing the mandatory hijab rule.

The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of 9 after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years in protest and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Long-simmering tensions boiled over after the death in custody in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained for allegedly wearing the hijab improperly, with Iranians flooding streets across the country in protest. Women and even schoolgirls have put up unprecedented shows of defiance in the unrest, one of the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, the authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. Rights groups say more than 500 people have died in the protests.

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

Saudi, Iranian Foreign Ministers To Meet During Muslim Holy Month

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (file photo)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, have agreed to meet during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Saudi state news agency SPA said on March 27, under a deal to restore ties. Both ministers spoke by phone for the second time in a few days, SPA said. "The two ministers also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting between them during the ongoing month of Ramadan," SPA said. Ramadan is likely to end on April 20. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

U.K. Says Iran Resupplies To Russia Of Kamikaze Drones Fueling More March Attacks

The wreckage of an Iranian kamikaze drone (file photo)

The British Defense Ministry said on March 26 that Russia had "likely launched" at least 71 Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones against Ukraine after a two-week letup in late February. The resumption suggests that "Russia has started receiving regular resupplies of small numbers of Shahed" uncrewed aerial drones, the U.K. military added in its daily intelligence assessment. It said Russian forces were probably launching the Iranian drones from the Krasnodar region in the east and Bryansk region in the northeast, cutting down flight times in the north to further "stretch Ukrainian air defenses."

Tehran Condemns U.S. Strikes On Iran-Linked Groups In Syria

Washington said it launched the retaliatory raids after a strike by a drone "of Iranian origin" that struck a U.S.-led coalition base in Syria. 

Tehran has condemned U.S. air strikes on Iran-linked forces in Syria that reportedly killed 19 people, which Washington said it carried out following a deadly drone attack on U.S. forces. The Iranian Foreign Ministry late on March 25 condemned "the belligerent and terrorist attack of the American army on civilian targets" in the eastern Syrian region of Deir el-Zor. Washington said it launched the retaliatory raids after a U.S. contractor was killed -- and another contractor and five military personnel wounded -- by a drone "of Iranian origin" that struck a U.S.-led coalition base in Syria.

Iran-Backed Fighters On Alert In East Syria After U.S. Strikes, Activists Say

Iran-backed fighters were on alert in eastern Syria on March 25, a day after U.S. forces launched retaliatory air strikes on sites in the war-torn country, opposition activists said. The air strikes came after a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six other Americans on March 23. The situation was calm following a day in which rockets were fired at bases housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria. The rockets came after U.S. air strikes on three different areas in Syria's eastern province of Deir el-Zour, opposition activists said. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Biden: U.S. Does Not Seek Conflict With Iran But Will 'Forcefully' Protect Americans In Syria

U.S. President Joe Biden (file photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden has said the United States does not seek conflict with Iran but will respond to protect its personnel in Syria and elsewhere.

The United States is prepared "to act forcefully to protect our people. That's exactly what happened last night," Biden said after he ordered a retaliatory air strike on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Biden, who spoke to reporters during a visit to Ottawa, Canada, ordered the air strike after a U.S. contractor was killed and six other Americans were injured in an attack on March 23 blamed on groups affiliated with Iran in northeast Syria.

The deadly attack by a kamikaze drone struck a maintenance facility on a base of the U.S.-led coalition near Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, the Pentagon said.

The United States has maintained about 900 troops in posts across northeastern Syria to keep pressure on groups affiliated with the Islamic State group and to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against the Syrian government.

The Pentagon said two F-15 fighters launched the retaliatory attack early on March 24. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack killed 11 pro-Iranian fighters -- six at a weapons depot in Deir el-Zour city and five others at military posts near two towns.

Two Syrian opposition activist groups later on March 24 reported a new wave of air strikes in eastern Syria against positions of Iran-backed militias.

The new wave of air strikes came after rockets were fired at a Conoco gas plant that has a base housing U.S. troops. It was not immediately clear if U.S. warplanes carried out the attack.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in the Pentagon statement that the U.S. intelligence community had determined the drone that killed the U.S. contractor was of Iranian origin but offered no evidence to support the claim.

The statement said its retaliatory "precision" strikes were intended to protect and defend U.S. personnel and were "proportionate and deliberate" and intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.

"As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing," Austin said. "No group will strike our troops with impunity."

With reporting by AP and AFP

Iranian Activist Sentenced To 18 Years After Calls For Khamenei's Resignation

Activist Fatemeh Sepehri

Iran's judiciary has confirmed an 18-year prison sentence for activist Fatemeh Sepehri, an outspoken critic of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after calling on him to resign.

In February, Asghar Sepehri, Sepehri's brother, wrote on Twitter that his sister had informed him during a phone call from prison that the Islamic Revolutionary Court had handed her the sentence.

He said the sentence includes 10 years for propaganda activities against the Islamic republic, five years for cooperation with hostile governments, two years for insulting the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, and one year for gathering and conspiring against national security.

On March 23, Dostali Makki, Fateme Sepehari's lawyer, said the sentence had been confirmed by the court and that the sentence would be implemented.

Makki added that the court did not accept his representation of Sepehri, thus keeping them from appealing the initial verdict.

According to the laws of the Islamic republic, if a convict is sentenced to several prison sentences in one case, the longest prison sentence will be implemented. In this case, Sepehri must spend the next 10 years in prison.

Sepehri is one of 14 activists in Iran who have publicly called for Khamenei to step down. She has been arrested and interrogated several times in recent years.

She and the other activists have also called for a new political system within the framework of a new constitution that would secure dignity and equal rights for women.

Criticism of Khamenei, who has the last say on almost every decision in Iran, is considered a red line in Iran, and his critics often land in prison, where political prisoners are routinely held in solitary confinement and subjected to various forms of torture.

Sepehri was arrested by security forces on September 21, at the beginning of nationwide protests in Iran over the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was taken into custody by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating the country's hijab law. She died while in detention.

Since the unrest erupted, lawmakers and security officials have threatened harsher and harsher treatment for protesters and anyone expressing dissent.

Human rights groups say the crackdown has left more than 500 people dead and hundreds more injured. Several people have been executed.

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

Sky Hunters: Ukrainian Border Guards Gun Down Iranian-Made Drones

Sky Hunters: Ukrainian Border Guards Gun Down Iranian-Made Drones
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Ukrainian soldiers have been honing their skills to shoot down Iranian-made drones with machine guns. Russian forces have been using the drones to launch attacks across Ukraine, including on residential housing and civilian infrastructure. The Ukrainian military says it is having success gunning down the drones, even as Russia continues to change tactics.

Iranian Women Arrested After Altercation With Hijab Enforcer

The three women were visiting a tourist site in the city of Yazd on March 21. (file photo)

Three Iranian women have been arrested after arguing with another woman who was attempting to enforce rules on wearing a head scarf in the central city of Yazd.

According to a report published by the Asr Iran news website, the three women were visiting a tourist site in the city of Yazd on March 21, the first day of the Iranian New Year, when another woman warned them to observe the country's hijab law.

A physical fight ensued. Police intervened to break up the fight and arrested the three women, who were accused of not observing the hijab law. The woman who gave the warning and instigated the conflict was not arrested.

Such acts of civil disobedience have increased in Iran, where the country's Hijab and Chastity Law requires women and girls over the age of 9 to wear a head scarf in public.

In recent weeks, officials have warned women to respect the hijab law and have threatened to punish violators. The authorities have also shut down businesses, restaurants, cafes, and in some cases pharmacies due to the failure of owners or managers to observe Islamic laws and hijab rules.

Judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei warned on March 6 that women who violate the hijab rule will be punished, saying that removing the head scarf shows “enmity towards the establishment and its values.”

Since the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody after allegedly breaking the hijab law, Iranians have flooded into the streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls putting up unprecedented shows of support in what is considered one of the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, the authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

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

'I Will Keep Protesting': Anti-Regime Demonstrations Continue To Rock Iran's Baluchistan, Even As Nationwide Rallies Subside

Photos of some of the Baluch protesters killed in Zahedan on a poster seen at a recent protest in Zahedan.

Thousands of people pour into the streets and stage anti-regime rallies in Iran’s southeastern city of Zahedan after Friday Prayers every week.

The weekly demonstrations have occurred since September 30, when government forces gunned down scores of people following antiestablishment protests in the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province, which is home to Iran’s Baluch ethnic minority.

Among those participating in the weekly rallies in Zahedan is Ahmad, who was among the more than 300 people wounded in the deadly crackdown, referred to as “Bloody Friday.”

SPECIAL REPORT: The Protests That Shook Iran's Clerical System

At least 94 people were killed that day, according to the U.S.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Several members of the security forces also reportedly died.

“I still can’t move my arm properly,” said Ahmad, who did not reveal his full name for fear of retribution. “But I protest every Friday because our rights have been violated for the past 44 years,” he added, referring to the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that brought the current clerical regime to power.

The crackdown on September 30 was the single deadliest day of the nationwide anti-regime protests that erupted after Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman, died on September 16 following her arrest by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s hijab law.

While the protests have largely subsided across most of Iran, the demonstrations have continued in Sistan-Baluchistan, fueled by anger over the deadly state crackdown and historical grievances.

Sistan-Baluchistan is one of Iran’s poorest provinces. Members of the Baluch minority, many of whom are Sunni Muslims in Shi’a-majority Iran, have long faced disproportionate discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities.

The authorities have yet to take action against Molavi Abdolhamid, whose popularity has soared.
The authorities have yet to take action against Molavi Abdolhamid, whose popularity has soared.

The sermons of Molavi Abdolhamid, the outspoken Friday Prayer’s leader in Zahedan, have also helped motivate protesters. In a rare show of dissent, Abdolhamid has publicly criticized the authorities for alleged human rights abuses and repression of Iran's ethnic and religious minorities.

The authorities blamed Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, for the September 30 killings, a claim rejected by local and independent sources.

But Abdolhamid said senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were responsible, saying security forces shot “indiscriminately” at people after raiding the central mosque in Zahedan and the nearby Great Mosalla, a religious site.

The cleric has called on the authorities to bring those responsible for the deaths to justice. The failure to conduct a transparent investigation has added to public anger in Sistan-Baluchistan.

The authorities have yet to take action against Abdolhamid, whose popularity has soared. A document from the hard-line Fars news agency that was leaked in November suggested Khamenei had told security and military officials to try and discredit Abdolhamid instead of arresting him.

A protester in Zahedan holds a placard that reads: "Political prisoners must be released."
A protester in Zahedan holds a placard that reads: "Political prisoners must be released."

One of his aides, Molavi Abdolmajid Moradzehi, was arrested in January and charged with “disturbing public opinion and numerous communications with foreign individuals and media outlets.”

Days before his arrest, Moradzehi told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that protests would continue in Zahedan "until the issue of Bloody Friday and the people of Zahedan who were killed and injured is resolved.”

Shirahmad Shirani of Haalvsh, a Baluch rights group, told RFE/RL that Abolhamid has become a trusted and widely respected figure.

“Abdolhamid is based inside the country and people trust him. It’s not just because of the past six months, but due to his actions in recent years. People know him and they see him as someone they can rely on,” said Shirani.

“[The protesters] are demanding the rights of the Baluchis and the Sunnis that have been systematically violated during the past 40 years,” he added. “In the province, where 90 percent are Baluch, we don’t have any Baluch in senior positions, in the security bodies, or even in the education system.”

Iranian security forces seen in Zahedan earlier this month.
Iranian security forces seen in Zahedan earlier this month.

Shirani, a rights activist who was jailed in Iran after being convicted of acting against national security, said the protests in Zahedan have become “more organized” in recent weeks.

“If, during the first days of the protests, people were driven by anger and outrage, today it’s a mix of anger and ideals. They’re protesting knowing that they can get arrested or killed, yet they still come into the streets,” he said.

Human Rights Watch reported in December that since the Bloody Friday crackdown, security forces have killed at least eight people in Sistan-Baluchistan. Haalvsh has identified 121 people it said were killed between September 30 and March 20 in Zahedan and the nearby city of Khash.

Haalvsh has reported increased security measures in Zahedan as well as the arbitrary arrests of protesters in the city. Authorities have also routinely disrupted the Internet in Zahedan to prevent the weekly protests.

Videos posted online appeared to show protesters chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Mullahs get lost” in Zahedan on March 24.

Despite the risks, Ahmad said he remains determined to continue making his voice heard.

“I will keep protesting, even though when I leave home I don’t know if I’ll return,” he said, adding that Sistan-Baluchistan has now become “the voice of all Iranian people."

Iranian National Soccer Team's Assistant Coach Fired For Supporting Protesters Online

Rahman Rezaei (third right at back) poses with Iran's national soccer team in 2006.

An assistant coach with Iran's national soccer team has been fired amid a campaign by hard-liners to oust him over social media posts he made criticizing the government's response to protests sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody.

Rahman Rezaei, a former star player on the Iranian men's national soccer team, had come increasingly under fire after being named last week as an assistant coach for his comments online about the regime's crackdown on demonstrators, including one last October where he said, "Enough is enough. You should be tried in the nation's courts."

On March 20, an official of the Sports Ministry wrote on Twitter: "Do you think that someone who insults the Islamic republic so brazenly can be trusted to serve honestly under the holy flag?"

Soon after, the semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, announced Rezaei's dismissal.

FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has repeatedly warned the Iranian Football Federation over government interference in national team affairs. There was no immediate comment by FIFA.

Since the start of nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, numerous Iranian celebrities and sports personalities have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after voicing support for the protests.

The unrest has put women's rights in Iran and the lack of freedoms in general in Iran in the spotlight.

Authorities have responded to the unrest with a wave of brutal and often deadly repression.

Another Iranian professional soccer player, Amir Nasr-Azadani, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for "assisting in waging war against God." Nasr-Azadani had faced a potential death sentence.

Ali Karimi, a former soccer player with Bayern Munich and once the captain of Iran's national soccer team, has also been a target of the government for his support of the protesters and his posts on social media, including on Instagram, where he has nearly 15 million followers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described efforts by celebrities to support the protesters as "worthless" and has called for judicial action against them.

Since Amini's death, more than 500 people have been killed in the police crackdown, according to rights groups. Thousands more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Iran Sentences Five To Death For Alleged Spy Operations With Israel

A man who identified himself as Mansur Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France. (video grab)

Five Iranians -- four men and one woman -- in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia have been sentenced by a court to death for allegedly engaging in intelligence cooperation and espionage activities that benefited Israel.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, said one of those sentenced to death is Mansur Rasuli, whose interrogation by Mossad agents in Iran made headlines last year.

At least five other people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the case, the report added.

Last year, Israeli media reported that agents for the Mossad security service captured and interrogated a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps inside Iran.

Later, a video was released in which a person who identified himself as Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France.

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war. Tensions have been nearing a boiling point in recent years.

In November, the semiofficial Mehr News agency reported that Iran sentenced to death four people accused of collaborating with Israel. The four were accused of having interrogated people in Iran with intelligence cooperation from Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

Tensions have also flared between the two countries as negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers remain deadlocked. In the absence of a deal that would curb Iran's sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, Tehran has reduced its commitments and expanded its nuclear activities.

Iran has been roiled in recent months by nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman while she was being held in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Tehran has blamed Israel, the United States, and other Western countries for the unrest, which has seen security forces kill more than 500 people, according to human rights groups, including dozens of minors.

Officials have not shown any evidence to back up their accusations that the West has been involved in the anti-government uprising.

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

The Farda Briefing: Iranians Celebrate Norouz Under The Shadow Of An Economic Crisis And State Crackdown

People celebrate the Persian New Year in Tehran this week.

Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter. To subscribe, click here.

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I've been following over the past week, and what I'm watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Iranians are celebrating Persian New Year, Norouz, under the cloud of a dismal economic situation and currency drop, and amid a brutal state crackdown on antiestablishment protests that rights groups say has claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

Many Iranians, already struggling to make ends meet, can't afford to treat their families during the Norouz holidays due to soaring prices. Domestic media have reported that there's little holiday cheer due to an economy that has been crushed by U.S. sanctions and years of mismanagement.

"The spirit of Norouz is not flowing in society," the daily Taadol said in a recent report, adding that astronomical prices have broken people's backs. Others have said they're not in the mood for celebration due to the blood spilled in the deadly state crackdown.

In recent days, relatives of some of those killed have gathered at their loved ones' graves to keep their memories alive, while others have turned their traditional Haftsins into altars for victims of the state crackdown.

Why It Matters: This Persian New Year has arrived in an atmosphere of gloom and growing frustration with the clerical establishment. Yet Iranians fighting for freedom and democracy, particularly women, should be proud of their bravery and defiance against the repressive Iranian establishment.

"It's true that we have become poorer, but at the same time we became more united, and our fight received international attention," a woman in the Iranian capital told me.

What's Next: There are few signs that the economy will improve in the new Iranian year amid warnings by economists that the inflation rate, currently at about 50 percent, could worsen. Talks on the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled, and Tehran has become more isolated due to its deadly crackdown on protesters and its supply of drones that Russia is using in its unprovoked war against Ukraine.

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Hundreds of people, including scores of children, have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on antiestablishment protests. Here, we look back at the significance of the demonstrations and list the more than 300 people whose deaths we have independently verified.

Women in the Iranian capital, Tehran, burned their head scarves during celebrations of the annual fire festival known as Chaharshanbe Suri ahead of Persian New Year, as parliament proposed new measures to enforce the compulsory wearing of the hijab, including the use of surveillance cameras.

What We're Watching

Iran has been engaged in increased regional diplomatic outreach, as evidenced by the Chinese brokered agreement between Tehran and Riyadh announced on March 10 and other recent steps.

A senior Iranian official said President Ebrahim Raisi has welcomed an invitation by King Salman to visit Riyadh. There has been no confirmation from Saudi officials.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on March 19 that Tehran has proposed to Saudi Arabia three locations for a meeting with his Saudi counterpart.

Amir-Abdollahian also said Tehran hopes for improved relations with Bahrain and the removal of some of "the obstacles" between Tehran and Manama. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were among countries that followed Saudi Arabia in severing ties with Iran in 2016 in the wake of attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and the execution of a prominent Shi'a cleric by the kingdom.

Separately, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, visited the United Arab Emirates to improve ties, while also signing a border-security agreement with Iraq to increase coordination and the "strengthening of cooperation in several areas of security."

Why It Matters: Iran appears determined to improve its relations with regional foes and neighbors and to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations in an attempt to decrease its isolation and lessen the impact of U.S. sanctions that have crippled the country's economy.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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From Our Regions: Norouz Celebrations Welcome Spring

U.S. Announces Sanctions Aimed At Iranian Network Used To Purchase Drone Parts

The U.S. Treasury Department announced the new sanctions on March 21. (file photo)

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iranian firms and individuals accused of procuring equipment used to make drones.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) coordinated with the FBI to designate four entities and three people in Iran and Turkey for allegedly buying equipment to be used for Iran’s drone and weapons programs.

“Iran’s well-documented proliferation of [drones] and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a news release issued on March 21.

“The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that supports Iran’s military industrial complex," he said.

Among those blacklisted in the new round of sanctions are the Iran-based Defense Technology and Science Research Center (DTSRC), its procurement firm Farazan Industrial Engineering, and two other firms along with the companies’ purchasing agents.

The Treasury Department said this procurement network operates on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), which oversees several firms involved in drone and ballistic missile development.

U.S. defense officials say Iran is supplying Russia with drones, which have been used on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine as the Kremlin presses its invasion.

The action follows OFAC’s designations on March 9 of a network based in China in connection with Iran’s drone procurement efforts, as well as several previous OFAC actions targeting Iran’s UAV manufacturers and their executives since September 2022.

The individuals named are Amanallah Paidar, who has served as a commercial manager and procurement agent for the DTSRC; Murat Bukey, a procurement agent who has supported Paidar and his DTSRC-related procurement; and Asghar Mahmoudi, who has facilitated the supply of items, including marine electronics, to Paidar and the DTSRC, according to the OFAC.

Bukey attempted to provide European-origin engines with drone and surface-to-air missile applications to Paidar and Farazan Industrial Engineering, OFAC said, adding that he separately sold more than 100 European-origin drone engines and related accessories worth more than $1 million to companies that likely shipped the items to Iran.

The sanctions freeze any property held in U.S. jurisdiction by the three individuals and the entities. In addition, people in the United States who engage in transactions with those designated may themselves be exposed to sanctions, the Treasury Department said.

With reporting by AP

Protests In Western Iran Met With Force Despite New Year Holiday

People attend a protest on the Persian New Year holiday in western Iran on March 20.

Fresh anti-government protests in several Kurdish cities in western Iran, held as the country celebrates the Persian New Year holiday, have been met with violence from security forces.

Reports published on social media show that in the western cities of Iran, including Mahabad, Oshnavieh, Bukan, Piranshahr, Saqez, Sanandaj, and Dehgolan, people took to the streets on March 20 with several of the gatherings encountering attacks by government forces.

According to local sources, including the website of the Hengaw human rights group, people in the western Iranian city of Saqez gathered at the grave of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody last September -- an event that sparked months of protests across the country.

Those who gathered to protest chanted anti-government slogans, as well as "The martyr will never die."

Meanwhile, protesters in Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood and elsewhere in the capital chanted "Death to the dictator," a reference to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, from windows and rooftops as the Persian New Year began.

Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Iran's Protest Anthem Played At White House Norouz Celebration

First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for Baraye at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on February 5.

A video of Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour performing the protest anthem Baraye played on March 20 at a White House celebration marking Norouz, the Persian New Year. The video was played just before President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted the event. Biden told the audience that the traditional New Year inspired "hope for women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms." The song instantly became associated with the political upheaval in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody for an alleged violation of Iran's hijab law.

EU Extends Iran Sanctions To Judges, Clerical Council

European ministers agreed to add eight Iranians and one of the Tehran government's most powerful bodies to EU sanctions lists, alleging human rights violations. The individuals -- including clerics, judges, and a broadcaster -- are accused of playing leading roles in Iran's crackdown on anti-government protests. The EU said it was in particular "sanctioning members of the judiciary responsible for handing down death sentences in unfair trials and for the torturing of convicts." The government institution, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, was said to have "promoted several projects undermining the freedom of girls and women and discriminating against minorities."

Iranian Teachers' Union Warns Government Over Failing To Meet Its Demands

In recent years, Iranian teachers have taken to the streets across the country to demand better pay and working conditions.

A teachers' union in Iran has warned the government that if its demands are not met, its members will take to the streets in May, adding to the social and economic unrest that has plagued the country for almost a year.

The Coordinating Council of Teachers' Syndicates said in a statement on March 19 that imprisonment, dismissal, deportation, and court sentences have failed to deter teachers from their desire to accompany the people of Iran in the direction of fundamental changes in the Islamic republic.

"The tyranny can no longer stand against The Power of Powerless", the statement added, referring to a political essay written by the Czech communist-era dissident Vaclav Havel.

In recent years, Iranian teachers have taken to the streets across the country to demand better pay and working conditions. In response, the authorities have summoned, detained, and jailed a growing number of protesters and activists, actions that have failed to stop the rallies.

The statement, published just ahead of the beginning of the Persian New Year on March 21, referred to the last year as "a year full of glory and complaints" and added that "the stance of teachers and students together will promise days full of awareness."

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into demonstrations, which officials across the country have since tried to quell with harsh measures.

The activist HRANA news agency said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Thousands have been arrested in the clampdown, with the judiciary handing down harsh sentences -- including the death penalty -- to protesters.

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

Iranian Rights Violations May Amount To Crimes Against Humanity, UN Expert Says

Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran (file photo)

Iran's authorities have committed violations in recent months that may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN-appointed expert told the Human Rights Council on March 20, citing cases of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual violence, and persecution. Iran has been swept by protests since the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody last September. Addressing the Geneva-based council, Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said he had evidence that Amini died "as a result of beatings by the state morality police." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Britain Sanctions More Iranian Officials Involved In Rights Abuses, Financing IRGC

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

Britain on March 20 sanctioned more Iranian officials responsible for financing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and for committing human rights abuses. They include five members of the body that manages the IRGC's investments and two IRGC commanders from Tehran and Alborz provinces who committed "gross human rights violations," the Foreign Office statement said. "Today we are taking action on senior leaders within the IRGC who are responsible for funneling money into the regime’s brutal repression.... We will continue to stand with the Iranian people as they call for fundamental change in Iran," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

Jailed Iranian Activist Says 'Overthrow' Of The Regime Is 'Logical' Step

Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat

In a message on the eve of the Persian New Year to honor the hundreds of victims killed in recent nationwide protests, leading jailed Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat said the "overthrow" of the Islamic regime as a "logical" step following months of unrest.

In a letter written from the women's ward of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Hedayat said on March 19 that while toppling the Islamic government was not the initial intent of the movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged violation of the hijab law, "this demand has become the objective on a scale that cannot be ignored.”

Hedayat, who is currently in prison for participating in the anti-government protests that erupted after Amini's death last September, listed the names of several protesters who were killed during the unrest, as well as four protesters who were sentenced to death and then executed as part of the judiciary's crackdown aimed at intimidating the demonstrators, thousands of whom have been arrested.

She added that the Islamic authority "has become the most immoral element of Iranians' daily lives and its survival is a denial of our survival, our children's survival, and our land. Therefore, the logic of overthrow is still in place."

The letter emphasizes the protesters' determination to "take back Iran" after the death of Amini.

Along with the execution of four protesters, Iran's judiciary has handed several others death sentences after what rights groups and the U.S. government have called "sham trials."

The executions and death sentences are part of the government's brutal, and often violent, crackdown on demonstrators. Lawmakers have pushed for harsh punishments to try and quell what has become the biggest challenge to the country's leadership since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Hedayat is a student activist and women's rights campaigner in Iran who has been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms several times. Most recently, she was arrested on October 3 during the nationwide protests.

The activist HRANA news agency has said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

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

Iran's Foreign Minister Says He Has Agreed To Meet Saudi Counterpart

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right) greets his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, in Tehran on January 29. In recent weeks, Iran has expressed interest in holding meetings with regional leaders.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on March 19 that he had agreed to meet his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir, proposing three locations during a news conference. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to reestablish relations and reopen embassies within two months after years of hostility, following talks in China. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Zelenskiy Announces Sanctions On Hundreds Of Individuals, Including Syrian President, Iranian Drone Makers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has announced sanctions against hundreds of individuals and companies, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranians associated with the production of Shahed drones.

Zelenskiy said on March 18 that most of the more than 400 individuals and companies designated for sanctions are Russian and are involved in the defense industry, but Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here.

According to a decree issued by Zelenskiy, the sanctions against Assad are imposed for 10 years. The new sanctions also list Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous and Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

In addition, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' drone force was placed on the sanctions list. Sanctions were also introduced against other Iranian citizens.

Ukraine severed diplomatic relations with Syria last year. Assad recently visited Moscow and declared his full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling Russia's war against Ukraine a struggle "with "old and new Nazis."

Russia has backed the Syrian Army in its fight against rebel forces in northern Syria, and Assad has said the presence of Russian troops in Syria is legitimate as his government has requested Moscow's support.

Zelenskiy's sanctions decrees list 141 legal entities, including companies from Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian sanctions are part of the global pressure on Russia.

"We study in depth each of our sanctioning steps," he said on Telegram. The sanctions are aimed at "all those who produce weapons for terror against Ukraine, who help Russia incite aggression, in particular by supplying Shahed drones, and who support Russia’s destruction of international law."

Russia has used Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure, including electrical substations and water facilities.

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