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Iran Report: October 30, 2006

October 30, 2006, Volume 9, Number 40

CANDIDATES REGISTERED FOR LOCAL COUNCIL POLLS. Registration of aspiring candidates for local council polls due in December ended late on October 22, with some prominent Iranians registering to run, agencies reported. They included former Tehran police chief Morteza Talai; Masumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami; Ishaq Jahangiri, former industry minister under Khatami; and Ahmad Masjid-Jamei, Khatami's former culture and Islamic guidance minister. Others registering were prominent reformist Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, former state budget chief Muhammad Ali Najafi, and conservative Mehrdad Bazrpash, who, until recently, was an adviser to President Ahmadinejad, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on October 23.

Candidacies must be approved by the Guardians Council, a body of clerical jurists. On October 23, leftist cleric Hadi Khamenei said unfair disqualifications, bias among Guardians Council or related personnel involved in electoral supervision, or the "citing of amazing excuses or raising pseudo-legal obstacles" for aspirants will discredit the upcoming polls for local councils and the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body. "If...the gentlemen want to resort to their old methods, the elections are flawed, even if nobody says so," ISNA quoted him as saying. Khamenei is the brother of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Vahid Sepehri)

IRAN PREPARES FOR CENSUS. Iranian authorities are preparing to carry out the country's sixth nationwide census from October 28 to November 27, IRNA reported on October 26. Officials reportedly expect new surveying methods to give the count a 99.8 percent level of accuracy. Households will answer 26 questions chosen "with international advice" from 900 relevant questions used in similar measurements. The survey is expected to cost $40 million and will be carried out by 88,000 people, with the final results expected in March 2007, IRNA reported.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told a gathering of officials and statisticians involved in the project on October 26 that "precise and scientific planning" are necessary for the government's stated plans to "implement justice and build the country," IRNA reported. "A correct response to the country and the people's needs requires correct and comprehensive information and figures," Ahmadinejad said. (Vahid Sepehri)

RIGHTS GROUP GATHERS SIGNATURES TO BAN STONINGS. Amnesty International has gathered some 160,000 signatures to pressure Iran's government to ban the practice of stoning, a lethal penalty imposed on people -- more often women -- convicted of adultery or extramarital sex, "El Pais" reported on October 25. The rights group said seven women are now waiting to be stoned to death in Iran, while a man and a woman were stoned in May, reportedly for the first time since December 2002, according to

Iran's Islamic laws forbid extramarital sex. Articles 102 and 104 of its Penal Code explain the modalities of this punishment, whereby men and women are buried to the waist or chest respectively, before being stoned by mid-sized stones to ensure pain before death, the daily reported.

Rights activist Mehrangiz Kar told Radio Farda on October 24 that the time has come for legal reformers to call for the elimination of stoning from Iran's laws. She said a recent letter written by jurists to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi observed that even existing legal stipulations on stoning are not properly implemented and there is "inconsistency" and "subjectivity" in sentences issued by judges, Radio Farda reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

END TO STONINGS DEMANDED. Women's rights activists in Iran have called on the head of the country's conservative judiciary and the parliament to end the stoning to death of convicted adulterers. Under pressure from the European Union, Iran was said to have introduced a moratorium on stonings in 2002. But activists accuse judges of perpetuating the practice.

Reports suggest that two people were stoned to death in May and at least eight women currently face stoning sentences.

Under Islamic laws as applied in Iran, the punishment for adultery is stoning. It is widely considered to be among the cruelest of punishments. Women are buried up to their chests in a pit; men are buried up to their waists. And their hands are tied behind their backs.

Then, as lawyer Elham Fahimi explains, they are struck with rocks until they die.

"They put them in a hole and they wrap them in a kafan [a white sheet used for burial] -- this is how it should be done, according to the law," Fahimi says. "Then they call on those who have not committed any crimes to come and throw stones." Death by stoning is slow and painful. Islamic code prescribes that "the stone should not be so big as to kill the offender with one or two stones" and "nor should it be as small as pebbles."

Still Happening

The latest case of a judicially ordered stoning was reportedly carried in early May in a cemetery in the holy city of Mashhad in eastern Iran.

A woman, identified as Mahbubeh M., and a man, identified as Abbas H., had been convicted of committing adultery and murdering the woman's husband. Activists say that before the two were stoned to death, they were treated like "lifeless corpses." They were given final ablutions and then buried in a hole in the ground. Reports claim that more than 100 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Basij paramilitary forces participated in the stoning.

The case alarmed and outraged women's rights activists. Their investigations suggested that judges in several cities have continued to condemn people to death by stoning, despite the reported moratorium.

Women's rights activist Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh tells RFE/RL that one of the reasons new stonings are being ordered is because the moratorium was not enshrined in law.

"Since under our laws, judges are independent, one reason [for continued stonings] might be that with the new government [of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad] coming to power and the change in the political atmosphere, judges who are in favor of such sentences have become more active," Abbasgholizadeh says. "Therefore, we think stoning should be banned by law -- otherwise judges can issue such sentences as they desire."

Silent Killings

Abbasgholizadeh says it is unclear how many stoning sentences have been issued and carried out in Iran since reports of the moratorium emerged four years ago.

"Currently they don't carry out stoning in public. I don't know [why], maybe because of public opinion or international pressure," Abbasgholizadeh says. "Now it seems that they do it in the prison courtyards by prisoners or prison guards [casting the stones]. I even know...a political prisoner who was detained three or four years ago and had seen from his cell that they brought a woman and forced other female detainees to stone her."

The head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, has not reacted publicly to the activists' calls for an end to stonings.

Parliamentarian Elham Aminzadeh was quoted by Iranian media as saying after a trip to Brussels in mid-October that stoning sentences are no longer being handed down in Iran. She said EU officials had asked about the resumption of the practice. Aminzadeh said they had referred to an Amnesty International statement and an Internet list, which she described as invalid.

Abbasgholizadeh dismisses Aminzadeh's claim and says rights activists have carefully documented stoning cases.

"We don't speak without proof," Abbasgholizadeh says. "This lady speaks in a way that shows she's denying stoning and saying that the judiciary has replaced it with other sentences. This means she's saying stoning should not exist. Our point is that as long as [a ban] doesn't become law, judges can [issue stoning sentences] and are doing it. So this lady, who is a legislator and opposes it, should make the ban a legal one."

Pressure Continues

On October 10, Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan called on Iran to abolish stoning "immediately and totally."

Activists have published the names of nine women and two men whom they claim have been sentenced to death by stoning.

One of them is Shamameh Malek Ghorbani, who was reportedly sentenced to stoning in June after relatives found a man in her home. Amnesty International reported that her brothers and husband murdered the man and also stabbed Ghorbani with a knife.

Ghorbani's lawyer, Fahimi, tells RFE/RL that the case is being reexamined by a higher court.

"She is in Urumiyeh prison," Fahimi says. "Her crime is adultery, and she has been sentenced to stoning. I visited her while my colleague went to Qom to study her case, which is before the Qom supreme court. The sentence has most probably been overturned."

Reports suggest that the stoning sentence against another woman identified by Amnesty International, Ashraf Kalhori, has also been suspended.

But activists are determined to continue their efforts until the practice is rooted out of Iran.

Women's rights defenders say adultery cannot be considered as deserving of such harsh punishment. They are quick to add that "no crime deserves to be punished by stoning."

With officials largely silent on the issue except to deny that it occurs, it is unclear how many more Iranians might be stoned to death before authorities throughout the country are forced to agree. (Golnaz Esfandiari)

RIGHTS GROUP WANTS INVESTIGATION OF EVIN PRISON. Four Iranian human rights organizations have called on the United Nations and other human-rights bodies and organizations to send an independent delegation to investigate the situation in section 209 of Tehran's notorious Evin prison. The human rights groups say most prisoners held in section 209 are being maltreated and have no access to their family or lawyers. Section 209 is reportedly controlled by Iran's Intelligence Ministry and no other government bodies have access to it.

Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent human rights lawyer, was detained in a cell measuring about five square meters in section 209 of Evin prison for more than seven months.

He was not physically tortured but he told RFE/RL that during the first two months he was completely cut off from the outside world.

Held Incommunicado

"One doesn't have any contact with family, a lawyer. For two months I didn't have a television, radio, newspapers, or a book -- just a Koran and maybe a [prayer book]," he said. "It is the worst form of psychological torture when one has no contact outside of the prison cell; many were ready to confess to anything just not to be forced to bear those conditions."

Section 209 is Iran's most notorious detention center for detained critics and activists.

Located inside Tehran's Evin prison, the names of the individuals held there are not recorded on the official list of Evin's prisoners and families of the detainees are sometimes left clueless about where their loved ones are being held.

Political- and security-related prisoners are sometimes held in section 209 in solitary confinement for months without being charged or put on trial.

Reports Of Abuse

Detainees are reportedly subjected to long and multiple daily interrogations. Some former detainees have said they were deprived of sleep and medical care. Others have said they were threatened by authorities with indefinite imprisonment. Some said they were beaten up.

Soltani says prisoners in section 209 do not enjoy the same rights as prisoners held in other wards of Evin prison.

"If anybody becomes sick there is a room there they call the infirmary, inside 209, and only after many demands will they take prisoners there where there is a general doctor with very limited possibilities," he said. "I had a heart problem and I asked for an appointment for two months -- then I was freed and still hadn't had an appointment."

Four Iranian human rights groups have expressed concern over the situation of scores of political prisoners, including dissidents, human rights activists, and students who are reportedly being held in section 209.

The rights groups that have sent an appeal to international human rights bodies include the newly founded UN human Rights Council, Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Northwest Iran, the Kurdish Human Rights Defense Organization, and the Ahwazi Human Rights Organization.

Secret Service Controlled

HRAI's spokesman in Europe, Sadegh Naghashkar, says section 209 is out of the control of bodies such as Iran's prison organization and Evin's prison officials.

"[Section 209] is one of the most dreadful sections of Evin's prison, and it is controlled by the Intelligence Ministry," he said. "No one else has control over this section. The interrogators in this section put pressure on detainees based on their assessment."

Last summer, when a group of Iranian legislators visited Evin prison, they were not allowed into section 209. One of the legislators, Akbar Alami, said "most regrettably" the wing was closed and added that this has contributed to "doubts" about what goes on in section 209.

In recent years there have been reports of other unofficial detention centers that are not under the control of Iran's prison authorities. Their number is not known, however, as they are officially not registered as prisons and are reportedly being run by certain security bodies.

Some have been reportedly closed, including Prison 59, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.

Unexplained Deaths

Many reformist figures and human rights activists have described such detention centers as illegal and called for their closure.

Soltani says all detention centers should be under the control of relevant authorities.

"According to the law, the Intelligence Ministry does not have the right to have a detention center," he said. "It doesn't have the right to do interrogations; it should do its investigation and give its information to the police. The police then have the right to make arrests with orders from the judiciary. But, in section 209 there is unfortunately no control over the actions of officials; anything can happen to the detainees and that's a tragedy."

Soltani says there should be tighter control by the relevant authorities of the prison situation and also monitoring should be done by independent human rights groups. He said such measures could prevent "tragedies" such as the murder of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died from a head injury suffered during beatings while in custody in Evin.

The human rights groups who have called for an international investigation into the conditions in section 209 have published the names of some of the detainees that are believed to be held there. They include the outspoken Ayatollah Kazemeyni Borujerdi -- who was arrested after calling for the separation of religion from politics -- and student activists Kayvan Ansari and Kianush Sanjari. (Golnaz Esfandiari)

DISSIDENT RELEASED ON BAIL. Former legislator Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeini was released on bail on October 21 after 130 days' detention, Radio Farda reported on October 23, quoting his wife, Zohreh Islamian. Musavi-Khoeni reportedly had to post bail of 150 million tomans (roughly $160,000). He said after his release that he was jailed for his "useful and effective" activities when a member of parliament and an activist, including for calling state officials to account and defending the rights of detainees. Musavi-Khoeini was arrested on June 12 after he participated in a Tehran demonstration for women's rights (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," September 26, 2006). He vowed to continue his "social and human rights" activities, Radio Farda reported.

Separately, Muhaddaseh Saberi, a supporter of detained cleric Ayatollah Seyyed Hussein Kazemeyni Borujerdi, told Radio Farda on October 22 that reports of that outspoken cleric's release are false and that Borujerdi remains in Tehran's Evin prison. "They want to make it seem as if [Borujerdi] has been released," she said, so that no one "follow[s] up" on his case. (Vahid Sepehri)

REPORTS HIGHLIGHT PRECARIOUS RIGHTS IN IRAN. In a Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) report on press freedom in the world over the past year, Iran is listed as a state that restricts free speech, Radio Farda reported on October 23. The report includes Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad among the prominent enemies of the free press, Radio Farda added. Separately, Iran's Defenders of Human Rights Center has issued a report on the state of human rights in Iran over the past six months, Radio Farda reported. The center's report cites rights irregularities including 29 cases of legal action against journalists in that time; 38 cases of interference in court cases by "irresponsible individuals"; prosecutions of 35 press editors; seven publications being banned; books removed from bookshops; refusing to allow the publication of certain books; 130 cases of disciplinary measures taken against students; and 21 cases of prosecution or imprisonment of students, Radio Farda reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

STATE NEWSPAPER RESUMES PUBLICATION. Publication of the "Iran" newspaper resumed on October 28. "Iran," which is published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), was shut down in May after its publication of a cartoon led to riots in the northwest and demonstrations by ethnic Azeris elsewhere.

Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Hussein Safar-Harandi told state television on October 23 that there would be some changes. "The way the work is done has been reviewed so that the newspaper would look more pleasing to readers." (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN STUDENTS DISCIPLINED, CAMPUS JOURNAL SHUT DOWN. Three students from Tehran's Amir Kabir University were summoned to the university's disciplinary committee on October 21, while another was temporarily banned from studying, on charges a university official said are confidential, ISNA reported on October 23. Mohammad Salmanpur told ISNA that he, Ibrahim Rahmani, and Saman Khosravi were summoned to the disciplinary committee, adding that his own charges related to allegedly disruptive behavior. The same university confirmed a previous order to ban another student, Abbas Hakimzadeh, from entering the campus, Hakimzadeh told ISNA. He said the university also shut down his journal "Vazhe-yi-i No" (New Word). The head of the student-affairs department at the university, identified as Ataipur, told ISNA on October 23 that student dossiers are "entirely confidential" and any disciplinary rulings are for presumed political or campus-related misconduct. "If any student has been prevented from entering the university, it must have been in line with regulations, and if the disciplinary committee has issued an order, we are not allowed to divulge its contents," he said. He added the university does its best to respect students' rights. (Vahid Sepehri)

DISSIDENT CRITICIZES EU INDIFFERENCE TO ABUSES. Government critic Akbar Ganji was in Strasburg on October 24, where he met with EU parliamentarians and criticized what he called EU tolerance of rights abuses in Iran so as not to jeopardize commercial interests, Radio Farda reported. He told the broadcaster that he met with German Liberal and Greens parliamentarians the same day, and with Angelika Beir, head of the European Parliament's Human Rights Committee, with whom "we discussed the extensive violation of human rights in Iran." Ganji also addressed the legislative body and answered members' questions, reportedly criticizing the EU for "shutting their eyes to rights abuses" for the sake of economic interests, Radio Farda reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

SENIOR IRANIANS CHARGED IN 1994 BOMBING IN BUENOS AIRES. Argentinean prosecutors have charged leading Iranian statesmen and Lebanon's Hizballah militia with the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, AFP and AP reported on October 25 (see RFE/RL Iran Report," November 10, 2003). Chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman issued a statement accusing Iranian leaders of planning the bombing in 1993. Hizballah has close ties to Iran's government. Prosecutors have asked a federal judge to issue arrest warrants for Iran's then President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and his intelligence and foreign ministers, Ali Fallahian and Ali-Akbar Velayati, among other suspects, AP reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini on October 26 rejected the charges by "certain Argentinean judicial agents" of official Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing and repeated the oft-stated Iranian stance, that Iran is a victim of terrorism, IRNA reported. Iran "is itself a victim of various terrorist activities and has borne heavy human, material, and moral costs," he said. Husseini said previous irregularities in Argentina's investigations into the bombing, and the acquittal by a British court of Iran's then ambassador in Buenos Aires, Hadi Suleimanpur, showed " the claims made about" Iran's involvement in the bombing are "baseless."

The "new publicity," Husseini said, is "being fanned within the framework of the political hostility of Zionists" and designed to sow discord between Iran and Argentina and offset "the anti-Israeli atmosphere" after recent "violations" against Palestinians and Lebanese. Husseini said Argentinean officials must "move away from past mistakes, and make reasoned and firm evidence the basis of any statement of opinion," IRNA reported.

Separately, the public prosecutor in Rome asked for a life sentence at an October 25 court session for a former Iranian diplomat accused of orchestrating the murder of another former Iranian diplomat-turned-government-opponent, Radio Farda reported. The court is examining the 1993 killing of Mohammad Hussein Naqdi, a case in which diplomat Amir Mansur Bozorgian is a suspect. Neither he nor an attorney were present at the latest session, Radio Farda reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

FORMER SECURITY AGENT IN JAIL FOR REVELATIONS ABOUT DISSIDENT KILLINGS. The Student Committee of Human Rights Reporters of Iran reports that Intelligence and Security Ministry official Reza Malek has been held in Tehran's Evin prison for six years now for having revealed parts of a report on the murders of dissidents in the late 1990s by Iranian security agents, Radio Farda reported on October 26. The group reports that Malek was given a 12-year prison term for disclosing excerpts of an 80-page report on the killings, which included the stabbing deaths in their home of prominent critics Darius and Parvaneh Foruhar. Malek is reportedly in Evin's section 209, where political prisoners are kept.

A group of political inmates in the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, a city outside Tehran, have issued a statement expressing concern over the condition of prisoners in Evin's 209th wing, Radio Farda reported. Their statement reports that unspecified detainees in the 209th wing are on hunger strike or "in an unsuitable condition." It called on the UN Human Rights Council to send inspectors there, Radio Farda reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

FOREIGN MINISTRY SUMMONS EUROPEAN ENVOYS OVER MEETINGS WITH TERRORISTS. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of Finland and Belgium on October 25 to express its displeasure at meetings held in Belgium between parliamentarians and Iranian exiles, including prominent opponent Mariam Rajavi, ISNA reported. Finland currently holds the rotating EU Presidency. Rajavi is a self-styled Iranian president-in-waiting and a leader of the National Council of Resistance and the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (commonly known as the MKO or MEK, and which uses a variety of cover names including People's Mujahedin of Iran), both part of a left-wing militant grouping considered terrorists by Iran, the United States, and the European Union.

Rajavi met with Belgian Senate leader Anne-Marie Lizin on October 24, while a 20-member delegation with her later met other senators, AFP reported the same day. The visit was unofficial, but Tehran had already summoned the Belgian envoy on October 22 to protest it, AFP reported.

On October 25, Ibrahim Heidarpur, the director-general for Western European affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said the Senate's invitation was unfriendly toward Iran and a gesture of support for terrorism, ISNA reported. Heidarpur told the envoys that the EU is applying a "double standard" in its response to terrorism and that "political games" like this could be "dangerous" for Iran-EU relations, ISNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

SANCTIONS DISCUSSED IN MOSCOW. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought support from top Russian officials in Moscow on October 21 regarding the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, news agencies reported. But even before she arrived, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated his opposition to tough sanctions against Iran. He told the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA that "any measures of influence should encourage creating conditions for talks." Lavrov added that "we won't be able to support and will oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to punish Iran or to use Iran's [nuclear] program [as an excuse] to promote the idea of regime change there." In addition to discussing North Korea, Rice appealed to Russia and Georgia to reduce the tension between their countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini said in Tehran on October 22 that Iran will respond if sanctions are imposed over its nuclear activities and contrasted Western threats with what he suggested was Iran's cooperative approach, ISNA reported. "If the West chooses sanctions, we too will decide in line with their choice," he said, adding that the West's choice of "the Security Council path, threats and...resolutions" will have "regional, international, and global consequences and the West knows this very well. Meanwhile, we have always stressed dialogue and negotiations," ISNA reported.

Husseini said Iran's calls to form an international consortium in Iran to produce nuclear fuel -- one of the activities the West wants Iran to stop due to its potential military applications -- are among the confidence-building measures that Iran has taken, "which should have been encouraged and welcomed by other states." Iran proposed talking about a "limited suspension" of uranium enrichment and related activities if "conditions were fair," he said, while rejecting suspension in principle. Husseini asked why Iran should accept suspension beyond the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a signatory. "We had duties we have carried out, for which we must enjoy certain rights," he said. "They want to deprive us of those rights."

Senior legislator Alaedin Borujerdi said in Tehran on October 22 that Iran has no option but to "stand firm in the nuclear field, and the entire system shares this view," IRNA reported. Borujerdi, the head of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of members of the three branches of government. He said the nuclear dossier constitutes a "difficult passage" for Iran. "We have no authority but to go through this passage. America's red line is Iran's enrichment and that is precisely our red line, and that is the point causing the challenge. We must either surrender or tolerate difficult events," he said.

"The West wants Iran to be a weak and impotent country, but that will never take place because the government and parliament will not accept it." Borujerdi said Iran must "state its case" but "establish peacefulness in foreign policy," IRNA reported. Parliament, he added, has passed three laws to safeguard Iran's nuclear rights.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said on October 23 in Rey, south of Tehran, that all Iranians wish to have "the full use of nuclear energy" and "are standing by their right," IRNA reported. Iran, he said, will continue to pursue activities that are "within the framework of the law and regulations" in contrast to the conduct of "certain forceful powers" that trample on "justice" and "morality." He said he was certain the "nation will stand firm until the last stage of its goal," though he urged foreign powers to "let us resolve problems in an atmosphere of dialogue."

Also on October 23, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani suggested Western powers accept the "formulae" Iran proposed in recent talks between Larijani and EU negotiator Javier Solana. These include, he said, Western recognition of Iran's right to make nuclear fuel and engage in attendant activities, and the formation of a multinational fuel-making consortium to reassure the West there are no deviations in Iran's program to bomb-making activities, IRNA reported. He was speaking after a meeting in Tehran with Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili. (Patrick Moore, Vahid Sepehri)

GUARDS CORPS EYEING ENEMY MOVEMENTS. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi said in Tehran on October 22 that Iran's armed forces "have intelligence dominance over supra-regional enemies and are precisely observing their movements," IRNA reported, citing the IRGC public-relations office. He said after a troops review that foreign powers have concluded that the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon have learned to resist "foreign domination" from Iran and its defense against Iraq from 1980-88, and that Iran's armed forces are "a powerful force, equipped with advanced, contemporary equipment and technology." Iran's armed forces have a "strategy of comprehensive deterrence and defense," he said. (Vahid Sepehri)

AHMADINEJAD DEPLORES 'AGGRESSIVE' U.S. ADMINISTRATION. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau on October 22, stating Iran's desire for optimal ties with Belarus and cooperation in energy, industry and defense sectors, IRNA reported. Ahmadinejad said Iran wishes to work with "independent" and "friendly" states to break the alleged injustice of "the existing unipolar system in the world." The two discussed a coming visit by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, although IRNA gave no date for that trip.

Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Shemiranat, a suburb of Tehran, on October 23 that "we have no problem with the people of America, and believe [it] is currently under the sway of an aggressive government," ISNA reported. Ahmadinejad was touring and speaking in Tehran's environs that day.

He said there are two foreign policy perspectives in the world presently, "the first perspective is [of] humiliation and insults to nations" and seeks to curb the progress of nations. The other perspective, Iran's, is of religious piety and "respect for nations and human dignity." The United States, he said, now fingerprints visiting Iranians at airports "like criminals," but Iran "has not engaged in this policy toward American nationals, and we believe [they] can easily travel to Iran. Of course if anyone wants to spy or commit violations, we shall...not permit them to enter," ISNA quoted him as saying. He said "we asked parliament" to halt a proposed bill to fingerprint U.S. visitors. (Vahid Sepehri)