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Heard This Week - 09/08/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Prague, Czech Republic -- September 7, 2006) Major stories for Radio Farda this week were developments in the ongoing nuclear crisis and an interview with the U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, continuing daily coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's trip to the United States, the death of another political prisoner in Iran, the second suspicious death in five weeks; a ceremony for the victims of the 1988-1989 political executions, and a domestic passenger plane crash, now, under investigation.

>> Radio Farda's coverage of the nuclear controversy this week centered on international reaction to Iran's defiant refusal to comply with the UN resolution, giving Iran until August 31 to suspend nuclear enrichment activities. In an exclusive RF interview, aired September 1, U.S. Representative to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, said the enrichment activities are not necessary for civil nuclear power and that Iran "is moving ahead step by step with determination to master the technology to produce the material for nuclear weapons." He said the US is giving diplomacy a chance and is addressing the issue with "great urgency." Schulte stressed that the incentive package offered to Iran "is an enormous opportunity for Iran to become more integrated into the international economy." He said if Iran were to suspend enrichment and begin negotiations on the package, "the US...will be prepared to support a new type of relationship with Iran."
Radio Farda broadcast extensive segments of President George W. Bush's speeches, which included the President saying the world will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon; and statements on sanctions by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Italian Foreign Minister Masimo Dalma and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
September 2 Radio Farda broadcast the announcement by German authorities in Potsdam that a network of ten German companies have been smuggling nuclear parts to Iran. Radio Farda in that program also quoted VOA Tokyo correspondent Steve Herman�s report about a Japanese company which has sold nuclear technology to Iran for two decades.
September 7, Radio Farda reported the Berlin meeting of the US, Russia and China with Britain, France, Germany and the European Union on sanctions as a next step and quoted U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack's statement that Washington would stop pushing for sanctions if Iran suspended uranium enrichment.

>> UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Tehran and talks with President Ahmadinejad over the weekend figured prominently in Radio Farda newscasts and political programming. Radio Farda reported Iran�s pledge to Annan of �full support� for the cease-fire resolution in Lebanon. Radio Farda�s Jerusalem correspondent continued to report twice daily on developments on the Israeli front. September 7, Radio Farda aired Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin�s announcement that Israel will lift its aerial and naval blockade September 7 at 6 PM, as international forces take up positions to police the area. The broadcast also included Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh�s remarks that �the two Israeli soldiers will not be released unless there are negotiations on a prisoner exchange between the Israelis and the Lebanese.�
August 31, Radio Farda gave extensive coverage to an international donors� meeting for Lebanon held in Stockholm, which raised double the expected 500 million dollar amount. In addition to statements by political leaders, an RFE/RL correspondent at the conference filed reports on the Lebanese government�s assessment of war damage, calls for Israel to lift its blockade against Lebanon, and its criticism of Israel for the use of cluster bombs during the war.

>> Radio Farda began broadcasting the debate over former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami's two-week visit to the United States, starting September 1, a week before he arrived and continued to talk this week to Iranian Americans and U.S. politicians about Khatami's U.S. tour. An exclusive interview with former Iranian dissident student Akhbar Atri aired September 6 in which Atri, now living in Washington DC, said the Iranian government sent Khatami to the US in an effort to appear positive and progressive, but one should not forget that during his presidency, Khatami did very little for democracy in Iran.
September 5, Radio Farda aired Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's order that Massachusetts state government agencies were to decline support for Khatami�s visit to the Boston area, where he is scheduled to speak at Harvard University September 10. Romney said �state taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel.� Radio Farda also broadcast US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack's comments that "our Diplomatic Security Service is providing security services for the former president," as is customary for former high-ranking officials travelling in the United States. McCormack stressed that the U.S. did not invite Khatami, and that policy toward Iran remains unchanged.
September 6, Radio Farda aired comments by U.S. politicians, objecting to the visit, including Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who said it sent the wrong message to former American hostages in Iran and "all US victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism."
September 7, Radio Farda reported Khatami's address at the National Cathedral in Washington and comments on the nuclear crisis. He said: "there could be some grounds for talks between senior [U.S. and Iranian] officials, misunderstandings between the two countries should be removed. Unfortunately these misunderstandings have a historical aspect. Naturally both sides have complaints, some are justified, and some are not. We should be ready for talks based on mutual respect and equal rights."

>> A major story for Radio Farda all week has been the hunger strike and declining health of political prisoner Valiollah Feyz-Mahdavi and the announcement of his death September 6. September 4, RF quoted the head of Tehran prisons, Sohrab Soleimani, saying that Valiollah Feyz-Mahdavi had been transferred to a hospital in Gohardasht Prison after attempting suicide. In the September 4 program, Radio Farda interviewed one of Mahdavi's lawyers, Mohammad Sharif, who said his client had started a hunger strike ten days ago and was taken to hospital September 2 in critical condition.
September 5, Radio Farda gained an exclusive interview with Iranian human rights activist Sadeq Naghashkar, who said a crew from Islamic Republic Television had visited the prison and the prisoners were instructed to deny Feyz Mahdavi was on a hunger strike and say he tried to commit suicide. September 6, Radio Farda reported Valiollah Feyz-Mahdavi�s death in custody in the city of Karaj near Tehran. A statement from the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), aired September 7, said Mahdavi, aged 28, was on a hunger strike to protest he was being denied access to lawyers.
In exclusive interviews aired September 7, Radio Farda spoke with Reed Brody of HRW who said the version of Mahdavi's death given out by Iranian authorities lacked credibility. Brody said: "we were told by other inmates that prison officials had repeatedly ignored his health condition until it reached a critical stage." Mahdavi's lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said in the same program that Mahdavi "lost his life because of a lack of medical care," and that other prisoners said Mahdavi was already brain-dead when he was transferred to the prison clinic.

>> Radio Farda reported September 1 an eyewitness account of a ceremony at Khavaran Cemetery near Tehran, commemorating the death of thousands of political prisoners executed in Iran from July 1988 until January 1989. In accordance with a religious edict issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, thousands died, including hundreds of women. In the ceremony, family representatives and human rights activists lay flowers on the graves of victims and paid tribute to their memory.

>> Radio Farda was able quickly to inform listeners September 1 that a Russian-built Tu-154 Iranian airliner had crashed on landing at Mashad Airport in northeastern Iran. Radio Farda aired an interview with the head of Iran Air Tours, Mehdi Sadeghi, who said the plane skidded off the runway and caught fire. Later it became known that 29 people died and more than 40 of the 150 passengers and crew on board were wounded. A journalist in Mashad told Radio Farda of conditions on the ground following the crash and the length of time the airport was closed. He said "people don't trust Russian planes and unfortunately, it was again a Russian plane that crashed." Radio Farda�s correspondent in Ankara, reported that recently flights by Tupolev Tu-154 were banned from Turkish air space because of their lack of safety.

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

Radio Farda, a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and
Voice of America (VOA), is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service.
Produced in Washington, D.C. and Prague, Czech Republic and
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Radio Farda features fresh news and information at least twice an hour,
with longer news programming in the morning and the evening.
Radio Farda also broadcasts popular Persian and Western music.

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