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Heard This Week - 08/17/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Prague, Czech Republic -- August 17, 2006) Major stories for Radio Farda this week were the war in Lebanon, the terrorist airline threat in London, and a crackdown on dissent in Iran's Kurdish provinces and on a human rights group founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as changes at the top of Iran's major pro-reform party and the International AIDS Conference in Toronto.

>> Radio Farda news coverage of the Middle East crisis this week focused on Hezbollah's position after four weeks of war with Israel and the concerns of the international community about Iran's arms supplies to Hezbollah. A Radio Farda correspondent in Jerusalem continued to report news and views from Israel, while Radio Farda's daily press review of Arab reaction to the crisis gave listeners a balanced, comprehensive picture of events.
On August 17, Radio Farda covered a conference on "Understanding the Hezbollah-Iran Connection" at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, which featured a presentation by Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack, a renowned Middle East expert, told Radio Farda listeners that Hezbollah "are a terrorist group. More important than that, I think, they are pernicious influence inside Lebanon. They are representing the Shia right now. I think we need to recognize that the problem is that the way they are representing the Shia is detrimental to the overall unity of Lebanon and the goals of the other societies in Lebanon."
On August 15, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, in an exclusive interview for Radio Farda, told listeners that "[the] Iranian people should ask the question, why is Iran spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Hezbollah? That would be money much better spent at home. It is part of a larger pattern, that Iran is ruled by individuals who are placing the welfare and the self-interest of the Iranian people second in the pursuit of nuclear weapons or pursuit of foreign policy, which does things like help terrorist groups."

>> On August 16, Radio Farda broadcast to listeners an exclusive statement by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, criticizing the Iranian government's decision to ban the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, founded by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. In the statement, Barks-Ruggles told Radio Farda listeners that "Shirin Ebadi has fearlessly used her legal expertise to promote and protect fundamental human rights equality and rule of law in Iran. She has been an inspiring voice advocating for the Iranian people. We find it alarming that the Iranian regime which already has a dismal human rights record, would seek to close Ms. Ebadi's center for the defense of human rights and constrain her efforts to ensure that all Iranians have a voice."

>> A Radio Farda program that aired on August 13 took a look at the British Muslim community, whose representatives recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair urging him to change the U.K.'s policy of support for the U.S.-led operation in Iraq. Radio Farda's London correspondent interviewed two of the British Muslim leaders who had signed the letter. Inayat Bingluala told Radio Farda that police had failed to find explosives in the homes of the arrested terrorist suspects and that a terrorist threat was not imminent, while Ghayassudin Siddiqui told Radio Farda that U.K. policy in Iraq is alienating more Muslims from the British and U.S. governments.

>> Radio Farda reported on protests in Iran's northwestern Kurdish region the week of August 14, in reaction to tightened security there to suppress dissent. In an exclusive interview, Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand of the Organization to Defend Human Rights in Iran's Kordestan province told Radio Farda that security forces recently killed four Kurds in different Kurdish cities, sparking the protests.

>> A shake-up at Iran's major state pro-reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, ousted longtime party chief Mohammadreza Khatami and replaced him with a new secretary general, Mohsen Mirdamadi -- an older man believed to be more conservative than his predecessor. A Radio Farda broadcast on August 13 asked two Iranian experts for their views on the change in leadership. Tehran University political science professor Sadeq Zibakalam said the change would have no impact on the party's policies and politics, while Mashhad-based pro-reform journalist Mohammad Sadeq Javadi Hesar said the party is taking a turn towards the right and that Mirdamadi is considered to be a more radical figure in the eyes of ruling hard-liners.

>> Radio Farda aired a special program on August 14 about the 16th International AIDS conference being held in Toronto this year, which focused on prevention for women. The program included an exclusive interview with Dr. Hamid Reza Setayesh, the UN AIDS country officer in Tehran, who told Radio Farda listeners that as many as 70,000 people In Iran are HIV-positive.

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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