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Heard This Week - 06/29/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Prague, Czech Republic -- June 29, 2006) Major topics addressed on Radio Farda this week included the ongoing nuclear crisis; the annual university entrance tests taken by a million and a half young Iranians; and a report on a new government plan to ration gasoline.

>> U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told Radio Farda listeners in an interview aired June 26 that, even though "the nuclear issue has a lot of prominence now," the U.S. is "focused on a variety of issues" in Iran, including "the lack of democracy, the repression of journalists, the fact that young people can�t speak out... and Iran's support for terrorism." Asked why the U.S. government was pursuing re-authorization of the 1996 "Iran and Libya Sanctions Act" while simultaneously offering Iran an incentives package to halt its nuclear program, Burns said the U.S. strategy towards Iran consists of both "positive" and "negative" incentives: "the negative incentives entail sanctions in the future. So reauthorizing ILSA is very much complimentary and supportive of that path. We would not have offered negotiations with Iran had we not also warned Iran that there will be consequences if it doesn�t suspend its enrichment program, and the consequence will be Chapter 7 sanctions of the [UN] Security Council."

>> A Radio Farda correspondent June 27 interviewed Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, about Annan's meeting that day in New York with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki. Haq told Radio Farda listeners that the Secretary General reiterated that Iran should speed up its response to the incentive proposals put forward by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Great Britain, Russia, United States) and Germany. According to Haq, the two men also exchanged views on Iraq, Afghanistan and "collaboration between Iran and Afghanistan on border security and efforts to combat drug trafficking."

>> Radio Farda's daily programming on international focused on efforts to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program. A special program on June 28 featured an interview with a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who confirmed that Solana will meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Iran next Wednesday, June 5.

>> On June 30, more than 1.4 million young Iranians take the annual university entrance exams, an important step for their future. Radio Farda aired a special program on June 28 about university studies and the exam, seen as a top priority for millions of young people and their parents. Psychologist Azardokht Mofidi in Tehran said on the radio Farda broadcast that this intense interest in higher education is "a mass hysteria" with little reason behind it. Mohammad Qaed, publisher of the educational monthly "Lowh" in Tehran, told Farda that about a million young people fail the university entry exam each year, which gives rise to a whole different set of social problems in the country.

>> Iran's oil minister has announced that Iran will stop gasoline imports in September and, effective that month, gasoline will be rationed for all Iranians. Although Iran is the fourth largest exporter of crude oil, it is also the fourth largest oil importer in the world, because much of the country's refining capacity was destroyed in the Iran-Iraq war. Rebuilding the refineries has been impeded by economic sanctions; as a result, Iran now imports 40 million liters of gasoline (2.5 million barrels) a day to meet a domestic demand of 70 million liters of gasoline (4.4 million barrels) a day.
Radio Farda spoke on June 27 with Bijan Haj Mohammadreza, head of Iran's Union of Gas Station Owners. Mohammadreza told Radio Farda from Tehran that the government's plan to use ration "smart cards" will be impossible to implement, because most gas stations in Iran do not have the electronic equipment to process the cards. According to the Oil Ministry, consumers will be issued "smart cards" with which they can buy gas at existing regular prices. Once the allotment on the card is used up, they will only be able to buy gas at a higher, as yet unspecified price.

For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit: -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran

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