21 June 2004, Volume 7, Number 20
SPECIAL CLERICAL COURT DETAINS MONTAZERI AIDE. Hojatoleslam Mujtaba Lotfi, an aide to Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, will be released soon, Montazeri's son Ahmad told Radio Farda on 12 June (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran/archive/2004/06/12062004.asp#104695). The Special Court for the Clergy arrested Lotfi on 26 May in Qom, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported two days later, and his family visited him on 11 June, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.
Ahmad Montazeri told Radio Farda that Lotfi was arrested for publishing a book that detailed the ayatollah's five years under house arrest (from late 1997 until early 2003; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 February 2003). The book also covered the attacks on Montazeri's home and theological school and described the various charges and accusations against Ayatollah Montazeri. The court confiscated all copies of the book, Ahmad Montazeri told Radio Farda. (Bill Samii)
CONSERVATIVE DAILY CLOSES. After a little more than five years, "Entekhab" daily has ceased publication, Radio Farda reported on 12 June (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran/archive/2004/06/12062004.asp#104696). "Entekhab" was owned by the Islamic Propagation Organization, which is connected to the Mehr News Agency. Hamid Islami, one of the daily's editors, attributed the closure to a reshuffling in the Islamic Propagation Organization's board of trustees. Islami said the board determined that the newspaper did not provide adequate financial returns, it had accumulated debts to publishing houses, and, furthermore, the board did not care for the political activities of the daily's founder, Taha Hashemi.
Hashemi told Radio Farda that the financial issue is not really behind the closure, and from the very first issue the newspaper focused on national concerns, rather than political squabbles.
"Nobody will cite 'Entekhab' as an example of ideal journalism," noted a commentary in the reformist "Aftab-i Yazd" on 10 June, but "one can say that its organizers tried to a great extent to put aside the rigid division between factions and while its positions were often closer to those of the conservatives, at certain sensitive points the paper showed that it was free and put national interests before factional inclinations." (Bill Samii)
YOUTH WARNED TO BEWARE OF 'SHARKS' WHILE SURFING INTERNET. On 28 April, Radio Farda's Golnaz Esfandiari wrote that Iranian police are warning the nation's youth about the dangers of the Internet. In a statement, police praised the advantages of the Internet while also warning young people to beware of immoral websites.
Twenty-six-year-old Maryam of Tehran uses the Internet on a daily basis, mostly to read the latest news. Maryam says she read the police warning about the dangers of the Internet while she was surfing the web.
"I actually saw this news today on the Internet. Well, I don't think the Internet is a problematic thing. It depends on how we use it. Since our books and our magazines are not updated, we get the latest news through the Internet. There is no other place we can refer to," Maryam said.
There are no reliable figures on the number of Internet users in Iran. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that 3,168,000 people used the Internet in 2002 (http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/Internet02.pdf). Iranian media outlets, for their part, put the number between 4 million and 7 million. The same ITU publication estimates that there were 4.9 million personal computers in Iran in 2002, or 7.5 computers per 100 inhabitants.
The Iranian police directive was published in late April on the Internet and in the country's newspapers. It reads, "Today, the best means of communication in the world has been manifested in the Internet, which like a boat familiarizes us with the exquisite shores of the world, but these shores are always frequented by dangerous sharks."
Among the dangers, the statement says, "indecent pictures" available on some sites jeopardize the mental health of Internet users and could lead to "depression, ideological weakness, as well as psychological damage."
The Internet remains one of the only free sources of information in Iran, where the media is under the tight control of conservative authorities and most independent publications have been shut down in recent years. The government has attempted to filter some websites it deems inappropriate, but with little success.
Iran's population, one of the youngest in the world, is increasingly using the Internet as a window on the wider world. On the Internet, they can read about subjects that do not receive coverage in the state media because they are deemed un-Islamic.
Public life is also tightly controlled in the Islamic republic, and mingling between boys and girls is not allowed in public. As a result, many young people use the Internet as a way to freely talk to members of the opposite sex, to make new friends, or simply to express themselves.
Maryam says most of her friends use the Internet for checking the latest news, getting in touch with friends, or for making new friends through so-called chat rooms. "Fortunately, this is a channel that nobody can prevent us from using. Well, [the authorities] do filter some sites, but there are also anti-filters, and if a person wants to do something, he or she will do it, regardless of the warnings," Maryam said.
Some Iranian officials express concern that young people are using the Internet only for "fun."
Mohammad Amir Foroughi is a computer expert and an Internet researcher based in Tehran. "According to the figure I have, which has been approved by different sources, our youth in Iran uses the Internet in 70 percent of the cases only for chat. Unfortunately, the use of the Internet for educational purposes is only 6 percent, and it's only for academic work. Internet surfing is usually done for pictures, films, and new shows," Foroughi said.
In the late-April directive, Iranian police also warn young Iranian web surfers over the dangers of Internet addiction. "Beware of falling into the trap of Internet addiction," the statement says. "Don't hurt your physical and mental health by visiting immoral sites." It says familial and social relationships can unwittingly suffer through overuse of the Internet.
Foroughi says Internet usage in Iran is growing by around 20 percent each year and that "addiction" will increasingly become a problem in the country: "Our youth in Iran between the ages of 14 and 20 generally spend their time [playing] games, and there is more addiction to [online] games. Besides that, at night from their homes, they use the Internet for access to chat rooms, [downloading] music files, and so on."
This is the first time Iranian police have issued a warning about the dangers of the Internet. Some observers say the directive is part of Tehran's efforts to confront cyber-crime. Others say the directive is simply an acknowledgment by Iranian authorities of their failure to block access to controversial sites. (Golnaz Esfandiari)
TEACHERS AND WORKERS STAGE PROTESTS. Several 19 June reports from the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) note that workers throughout the country continue to face difficulties. More than 200 salt factories are on the brink of closure and thousands of people could lose their jobs, salt-factories representative Hassan Ebrahimi Sarcheshmeh said. He ascribed this situation to a doubling of salt prices by the federation of salt-mining cooperatives that disregarded the Commerce Ministry's opposition. If the situation is not resolved, Ebrahimi said, workers will stage protests. ILNA also reports that Luristan Province railway workers who have not been paid held another sit-in to protest non-payment of wages.
A Kurdistan Province textile factory's closure has left 300 people without jobs, ILNA reported on 19 June. Iraj Bahram-Nejad, a provincial House of Labor official, said that demand for their product is high, but there is inadequate supply due to a lack of cash and raw materials, as well as mismanagement. The factory's machinery is not running on the grounds that it will be replaced with new machinery, he said, but it was on the same pretext that other factories closed. Kerman Province House of Labor official Abbas Kar-Bakhsh said the Asia Textile Factory had closed because of mismanagement and a dispute between managers and shareholders, ILNA reported. This has put 110 people out of work.
Representatives of the country's teachers union held a sit-in outside the parliament on 15 June to protest salary problems, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Among their demands were a raise in salary and the use of available funds to benefit the teachers. Speaker of parliament Gholam Reza Haddad-Adel told the teachers' representatives that their problems cannot be solved until the Education and Training Ministry gets an adequate budget. He also said that approval and enforcement of pending legislation that unifies the salaries of government employees will help the situation.
A crowd consisting mostly of women and children demonstrated against child labor in Tehran's Laleh Park on 12 June, IRNA reported. They called on the government to prevent the spread of child labor and to help the families of working children, and they demanded that Iran adhere to international treaties against child labor. On 11 June the International Labor Organization issued a report entitled "Helping Hands or Shackled Lives" about the phenomenon of child labor (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/download/cdl_2004_helpinghands_en.pdf).
Several Iranian opposition websites have carried reports on protests by workers during the month of June. Foumanat Textile Factory employees have not been paid for four months, and last year 80 part-timers were dismissed and 170 employees did not get their bonuses, peykeiran.com reported. Workers at the Fahrabad Textile Factory have been laid off, and the factory reportedly is idle. Roshangari.com reported that Kerman Province mine workers are losing their jobs as a result of privatization by the government. Rouydad.info reported that about 3,000 agro-industry workers in northwestern Iran demonstrated against poor working conditions and nonpayment of wages. (Bill Samii)
NEW PRISONS CHIEF DENIES HOLDING POLITICAL PRISONERS. Ali Akbar Yasaqi, who was appointed as the new Prisons and Corrections Organization chief on 6 June, said in a 9 June interview that there are no political prisoners in the country, IRNA reported. "I positively stress there are no political prisoners in Iranian prisons," he said. Yasaqi explained that this is because the legislature has not passed legislation defining political crimes.
In a 73-page report released on 7 June titled "Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran" (http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/torture/iran/), Human Right Watch (HRW) describes the abuse of political detainees at Iranian prisons. The report speaks of arbitrary arrests, detentions without trial, torture, solitary confinement, and physical and psychological abuse in the Iranian prison system. Tehran's actions, according to HRW, also include press closures, imprisonment of writers and journalists, and the intimidation of student activists, which have "squelched" political opposition and the independent media. HRW's report describes intelligence agencies that operate in parallel with, and outside the control of, the executive branch.
HRW's report makes recommendations to Iran's supreme leader and Guardians Council, to the European Union, and to the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel and inhuman punishment. (Bill Samii)
SUPREME LEADER STRESSES ACCOUNTABILITY AND DEVELOPMENT. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with new members of the legislature at his home in Tehran on 16 June, state radio reported. In his speech, he built on his earlier declaration that this is the "year of accountability" for the government (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 March 2004). Khamenei stressed the importance of the comptroller-general's office, which deals with public revenues, tracks spending, and allocates the budget. He told the parliamentarians: "There are two aspects to your work so far as accountability is concerned. You have to be accountable and you should hold others accountable." He told them to determine their priorities and to report to the public. Khamenei also encouraged his audience to fight financial corruption and warned, "Money is a dangerous thing, a very dangerous thing."
Khamenei also addressed the subject of development, state radio reported. He said that the Iranian development model is an indigenous one that is particular to the country and its people. "We should not emulate anyone, neither the World Bank, nor the International Monetary Fund, neither the right-wing countries nor the left-wing countries," Khamenei added. He went on to say that there are thousands of incomplete projects in Iran and that, instead of starting new projects, the incomplete ones should be finished first. He noted that local projects, such as an airport or a road, are started due to the interest of legislators and the pressure they put on the government. "So what is the result," he asked. "The result is that our incomplete projects will increase from more than 4,000 to 5,000 or 10,000." (Bill Samii)
ARAB NATIONALISTS REPORTEDLY BEHIND TERROR ATTACK IN IRAN. The heretofore-unknown Arabic Renaissance Party (Hizb al-Nahdah al-Arabi) has claimed that it attacked an electricity-generation facility in the Kut Abdullah area in the city of Ahvaz, Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" newspaper reported on 13 June. The party reportedly was created in 2003 and claimed that it has burned Iranians' farms and attacked Iranian commercial facilities, including the Behbehani Hotel in Ahvaz and the Rex Commercial Center in Abadan.
Morteza Afqah, the Khuzestan Province deputy governor-general for political and security affairs, told ISNA on 13 June that he has never heard of the Arabic Renaissance Party but he confirmed that unidentified gunmen attacked the Shekareh electricity generator in Kut Abdullah. The regional electricity company confirmed that, on 9 June, people shot at the generator and wounded one of the workers, but the generator itself was not damaged. The official in charge of security at the regional electricity company, Abdulreza Heidari, said, "The timely intervention of the company's security officers and the Law-Enforcement Force meant that the equipment at the generator was not damaged." (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN CALLS FOR COLLECTIVE SECURITY SYSTEM IN PERSIAN GULF. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi; Industries and Mines Minister Ishaq Jahangiri; Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Minister Masud Pezeshkian; and other officials left Tehran for Muscat, Oman, on 14 June, IRNA reported. Aref-Yazdi told reporters at Mehrabad Airport that a major topic during the trip will be expansion of economic cooperation, and that the 9th Iran-Oman joint commission will convene during the visit. The two sides will sign memorandums of understanding on counternarcotics, cancellation of visa requirements, tourism, fishing, and the elimination of double taxation. The Iranians and their Omani counterparts also will discuss events in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, Aref-Yazdi said.
During a 14 June meeting with Oman's Deputy Prime Minister for Cabinet Affairs Fahd bin-Mahmud Al-Said, Aref-Yazdi called for the creation of a collective security system, IRNA reported. He described collective security and economic cooperation as the path to regional development and tranquility, adding that the presence of foreigners in the region causes instability. Aref-Yazdi said events in Iraq illustrate his point.
On 15 June Aref-Yazdi and Oman's minister of agriculture and fisheries, Sheikh Salim bin Hilal bin Ali al-Khalili, attended an event at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), the Oman News Agency reported on 16 June. OCCI Vice President Khalid bin-Muhammad al-Zubayr told his guests that Iran-Oman trade totaled 208 million Omani rials ($542 million) in 2003, up from 192 million Omani rials ($500 million) in 2002. Aref-Yazdi visited the Sultan Qabus University in Muscat on the same day and expressed Iran's interest in a scholarly exchange, IRNA reported.
On his 16 June return to Mehrabad Airport, Aref-Yazdi said that the two sides signed a number of bilateral agreements, IRNA reported. Aref-Yazdi said that one of the four memoranda of understanding cancelled visa requirements for Iranians, and the other three established cooperation in the areas of counternarcotics, commerce and tourism, and fishing. (Bill Samii)
PERSIAN GULF NAUTICAL TENSIONS PERSIST. Several incidents in the Persian Gulf during the first three weeks of June point at a new level of tension between Iran and its Arab neighbors to the south.
In a 5 June statement of the 91st session of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jeddah, participating foreign ministers expressed regret "that contacts with [Iran] have so far failed to achieve results" that would help to resolve the dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates' (U.A.E.) over three Persian Gulf islands (Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb), AFP reported. The next day, the U.A.E. confirmed that it detained the crew of an Iranian fishing boat in the Persian Gulf on 2 June for allegedly sailing into U.A.E. territorial waters, AFP reported, citing an unnamed U.A.E. coastguard official. The crew was reportedly "referred to judicial authorities" in the U.A.E., the official told AFP.
In Tehran on 6 June, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi rejected the U.A.E.'s "repetitive positions" and "baseless claims" over the Persian Gulf islands, ISNA reported. Assefi said the "islands are and will remain an inseparable and eternal part of [Iran]."
Regarding the arrests, Assefi was quoted by IRNA on 6 June as saying, "This is not anything new, but we have demanded an explanation from the United Arab Emirates since we consider this as an unacceptable measure." Assefi added that Iranian and U.A.E. diplomats are discussing the matter in order to bring about the release of the fishermen. The Iranian fishermen were reportedly arrested near Abu Musa, AFP reported.
Deputy Interior Minister for security and disciplinary affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi said on 13 June that, on 11 June, a Qatari naval vessel confronted several Iranian fishing boats on the grounds that they had entered Qatari waters, state television reported. Ahmadi said the boats were in Iranian waters. After speaking with the Qataris, the Iranian fishermen started to leave the area, but the Qataris opened fire on them thinking they were trying to flee. One Iranian was killed and two were injured, and the boats were detained.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Qatari Ambassador Saleh Ibrahim al-Kuwari on 12 June, demanded an explanation, called for the immediate return of the boats and their crews, and urged Qatar to punish the responsible individuals. The Foreign Ministry summoned al-Kuwari two times on 15 June, ISNA reported. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hadi said, "Contrary to initial claims made by local Qatari officials, it has now become clear that the attack was carried out on calm and still waters." Dr. Hadi went on to say that the Iranian vessels had permits and were attacked without warning or justification. He demanded an explanation and compensation.
These incidents come at a sensitive time for Iran, which is trying to portray international concern about its nuclear activities as an affront to its sovereignty. Some Iranians, therefore, have addressed this issue in nationalistic terms or as part of an international campaign against Iran.
Borujerd parliamentary representative Alaedin Borujerdi speculated that the United States is behind the U.A.E.'s actions, "Resalat" reported on 8 June. "There is a great likelihood that the Emirates government has entered into this adventurism under American pressure and incitement," he said. Shahrud representative Kazem Jalali suggested that the U.A.E. stance is timed to coincide with international pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities.
Hussein Shariatmadari, the supreme leader's representative at the Kayhan Institute and the managing director of "Kayhan" newspaper, said that Iranian sovereignty over the islands can be traced back to 1836, when official British maps indicated that the islands are Iranian, "Resalat" reported. Shariatmadari added that Iran's last monarch was not entitled to end Iranian claims to Bahrain.
Brigadier General Ali Reza Afshar, deputy chief for defense and cultural affairs at the Armed Forces Headquarters, on 15 June denounced the recent Qatari attack on an Iranian fishing vessel that allegedly entered Qatari waters, IRNA reported the next day. Afshar said it is not unusual for fishing vessels to enter the territorial waters of littoral states. For example, in the previous week the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps stopped seven vessels from the United Arab Emirates and detained 22 of their crew members. (Bill Samii, Vahid Sepehri)
IRAN DENIES MOVING TROOPS TO IRAQI BORDER. An anonymous "reliable political source" in Iran denied on 15 June that the Islamic republic has deployed four military divisions along its southwestern border, ISNA reported. The source was reacting to a report in that day's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" daily from London, which said that the four divisions are stationed "near the Iraqi border in the Al-Amarah and Al-Basrah sector and in the vicinity of Dezful in the Maysan sector and Shalamcheh in the Al-Basrah sector." "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," which cited anonymous "reliable Iraqi sources," also reported that Iranian military-intelligence personnel have infiltrated Iraqi territory. These sources suggested that Iranian forces might enter Iraq upon the withdrawal of U.S. forces. ISNA's anonymous source contended that such allegations reflect the alleged U.S. desire to continue occupying Iraq.
An anonymous Iraqi military official in Baghdad reiterated, in the 19 June issue of "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," that Iranian military forces are massing near the two countries' border. He said that Baghdad has sent "direct and indirect" messages to Tehran that say, "We know about the movement of your forces and what they are thinking." The official noted the futility of such messages, and added, "Unfortunately, the Iranian leadership is not a single institution but political, religious, and military institutions and whenever we talk to one of them, it says it does not know and blames another institution." The Iraqi official also described the capture of a Lebanese Hizballah member who confessed to throwing a grenade that wounded Spanish troops. "He confessed that it was the Iranian authorities that facilitated his entry into Iraq through Iran and that many others like him had entered Iraq in this way."
Iran's Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asqar Ahmadi said on 12 June that plans are under way to have the police take over security duties along the border with Iraq, Fars News Agency reported. Ahmadi said that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is responsible for the northwestern border and the army handles the southwest. The law handing over responsibilities to the police has been approved, and the plan will be implemented after organization charts are prepared and a budget is allocated.
In Istanbul, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, on 15 June, IRNA reported. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference foreign ministers' meeting. According to IRNA, Kharrazi told Zebari that Iraq should begin work on establishing long-term relations with its neighbors and added, "America's repeated mistakes are adding to the crisis [in Iraq]." (Bill Samii)
OIC PRESIDENCY IN TURKISH HANDS. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Istanbul on 14 June for the 31st meeting of the foreign ministers of member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), IRNA reported. The same day, he handed over presidency of the forum to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, according to the Anatolia news agency.
While in Istanbul, Kharrazi met with Gul and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. During these meetings they discussed regional developments, Iran-Turkey bilateral cooperation, Cyprus, and OIC affairs. Erdogan also discussed Ankara's position on Afghan, Iraqi, and Palestinian affairs. Kharrazi also met with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara, saying that Iraq's neighbors should play a more active role there. Kharrazi also condemned Israel, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
9/11 COMMISSION RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT AL-QAEDA IN IRAN. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a. the 9/11 Commission; http://www.9-11commission.gov/) on 16 June raised questions about Al-Qaeda's presence in Iran, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 17 June. The commission said in a report that there were "strong indications that elements of both the Pakistani and Iranian governments frequently turned a blind eye" to the transit through their countries of Al-Qaeda personnel prior to the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States, the daily reported. The commission also said Al-Qaeda operational planners considered launching poison gas or cyanide attacks on Jewish areas in Iran.
Syrian-Spanish jihadist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar is one Al-Qaeda associate in Iran, according to the "Los Angeles Times" on 23 May. Spanish police believe Nasar is the Al-Qaeda mastermind behind the 11 March train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people, and they say his stature in the network compares with that of Abu Mu'sab al-Zarqawi. Other Al-Qaeda members who are allegedly in Iran are military commander Saif al-Adel and second-in-command Ayman-al-Zawahiri.
Iranian officials continue to say that Al-Qaeda suspects they are holding will face trial soon. Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian told reporters in Vienna on 16 June that the middle-ranking suspects will be tried after questioning is completed, Reuters reported. Musavian said the suspects were "plotting against the national security of Iran and they have planned for terrorist activities inside Iran." He went on to say that Iran might hand the suspects over to their countries of origin after their trials. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on 12 June that Iran had turned detained Taliban personnel over to Saudi Arabia, IRNA reported.
Tehran initially rejected U.S. assertions that Al-Qaeda or Taliban personnel had entered the country. In February 2002, Iran conceded that some Arabs had entered the country illegally (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 February 2002). (Bill Samii)
IRAN REPORTEDLY GETS EAST ASIAN NUCLEAR ASSISTANCE. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, established by the U.S. Congress in 2000, describes possible transfers of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to Iran in its 15 June "2004 Report to Congress" (http://www.uscc.gov/researchreports/2004/04annual_report.PDF). The report describes China's expanding energy cooperation with Iran and Sudan and cites analysts who suspect "WMD-related transfers as a component of some of its energy deals." The report also describes "China�s cooperation with Pakistan and Iran in nuclear and missile-related technologies," its supply to Iran of advanced conventional weapons, and its provision of dual-use, chemical-weapons-related equipment.
Japan's "Sankei Shimbun" newspaper (http://www.sankei.co.jp/) reported on 15 June that Iran and North Korea would soon test a nuclear detonator. Quoting an anonymous "military source," the newspaper reported that six Iranian experts visited North Korea in May to hold discussions on a six-month neutron-irradiation-testing project that would begin in July.
Abdullah Hamidi Benam, the Iranian military attache to Pyongyang, on 18 June delivered a letter of congratulations to Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Il-ch'ol, North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported on 19 June. The letter marks the 40th anniversary of the North Korean workers party. Benam delivered the letter in his role as senior member of the corps of military attaches in Pyongyang. (Bill Samii)
QUESTIONS SURFACE ABOUT IRANIAN RESEARCH SITE. Abcnews.com reported on 16 June that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has received commercial satellite imagery of another possible nuclear-research facility in Iran. The site is in Lavizan-Shian, a northeastern Tehran neighborhood.
Imagery from August 2003 reveals large buildings inside a secure perimeter, while imagery from March 2004 shows that the buildings have been dismantled, the rubble removed, and the earth scraped, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reported (http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/lavizanshian.html). ISIS and ABC report that the National Council for Resistance in Iran, which according to the U.S. State Department is another name for a terrorist group known as the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2003/31711.htm), first described the Lavizan-Shian Technical Research Center as a biological-weapons research facility associated with Malek Ashtar University and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.
According to ABC, the IAEA has not inspected the site yet. (Bill Samii)
A ROLLER-COASTER RIDE IN VIENNA. In his introductory statement at the 14 June board of governors meeting in Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei started positively, according to the IAEA website (http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2004/ebsp2004n003.html). He noted that the IAEA is making progress on understanding the Iranian nuclear program and its uranium-conversion and laser-enrichment activities, and added, "With Iran's cooperation, the agency has had access to all requested locations." It went downhill from there for Iran, culminating with the board's adoption of a critical resolution four days later.
El-Baradei said the information Iran provided on the origin of enriched-uranium particles "has not been sufficient," according to the IAEA website. Iran should provide additional information and explanations, he said. Iran's provision of information on advanced P-2 centrifuges, furthermore, "has been changing and at times contradictory." He described Iranian cooperation as "less than satisfactory" and said, "Iran needs to be proactive and fully transparent."
A seemingly oblivious Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said, after listening to el-Baradei's statement, that the statement "proves that most of the issues have been clarified," RFE/RL reported. "So it's just minor issues which have to be clarified. And it's not in our hands, it's in the hands of the agency and other countries."
The same day, Hussein Musavian, spokesman for the Iranian delegation to the IAEA board of governors meeting, said that Tehran was trying to persuade its European partners to modify a critical draft resolution they intended to present to the board, IRNA reported. The draft resolution prepared by France, Britain, and Germany, reportedly called on Iran to improve its cooperation with the IAEA and asserted that snap inspections of Iranian installations should continue (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 June 2004).
Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai said on 15 June in Tehran that the three European countries have mistaken Iranian cooperation for weakness and warned of permanent damage to Iran-Europe relations, ISNA reported.
A second draft of the resolution backed away from earlier demands that Iran forsake its plan to build a heavy-water reactor and toned down the wording in the document, which nevertheless "remained tough," according to AP on 16 June. The resolution pressured Iran to be transparent on its nuclear program, but did not mention any deadlines. According to AP, the Iranian delegation's meeting with el-Baradei and European delegates was fruitless. The Iranian spokesman, Musavian, said after the meeting: "This is not acceptable. It does not meet our expectations for substantial revisions, not at all," Reuters reported.
According to a 14 June report from Mehr News Agency, President Mohammad Khatami wrote a letter to the leaders of France, Britain, and Germany in which he warned of possible repercussions in the event of European failure to fulfill commitments made in October 2003 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003). The declaration issued at that time recognized Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and referred to discussions on longer-term cooperation and Iranian access to modern technology and supplies (http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Focus/IaeaIran/statement_iran21102003.shtml).
Khatami described this letter on the morning of 16 June, saying that he told the heads of state in Great Britain, France, and Germany that Iran would like to continue cooperating with them and it does not intend to suspend this cooperation, state television reported. In light of the draft resolution, he said, Iran is skeptical about the Europeans' commitment to their undertakings and it no longer feels morally committed to the suspension of uranium enrichment. Khatami also said that the draft resolution and the most recent IAEA report on Iran (http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/iaea0604.pdf) contradict the findings of IAEA inspectors.
Khatami added that this is not an announcement of pending action, nor does it mean that Iran will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Later that day, Hussein Musavian expressed the hope that the third draft resolution would reflect Khatami's comments, IRNA reported.
The IAEA on 17 June acknowledged that it wrongly accused Iran of withholding information about importing dual-use machinery, international media reported. The agency's report states that Iran's admission of importing parts for P-2 centrifuges did not come until April, but Tehran produced a tape-recorded conversation in which it gave the information to the IAEA in January. El-Baradei explained: "This [statement that Iran had imported magnets for gas centrifuges used in uranium enrichment] was made in an oral statement at the end of a particular meeting with one [Iranian] individual, whose English was not very clear to us. And we did not pick it up, it was not fed to our system. But there was ample opportunity for Iran afterward to correct that impression," RFE/RL reported.
El-Baradei played down the significance of the mistake. He said, "That technical correction, as I said, does not change the overall picture, which I am presenting to the board, that I need more transparency and more practical cooperation on the part of Iran."
Iranian spokesman Musavian told reporters, "We believe this is [an] innocent mistake, and the effect against Iran has been too much by this mistake because the whole atmosphere created in the board that Iranian information always has been contradictory, with changes," RFE/RL reported. "This is the most important issue in the report which has reflected in the resolution, draft resolution by E-3 [Germany, France, and Great Britain]. Now, it is completely clear this has been wrong."
It is not clear if the discovery of this omission had an impact on the board of governors' deliberations. On 18 June the board approved a resolution that criticizes the extent of Iranian cooperation with the nuclear watchdog. An anonymous diplomat cited by Reuters said that the resolution urges Iran to behave more cooperatively. "Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely, and proactive as it should have been," the resolution says, according to nytimes.com on 18 June. The resolution also refers to outstanding questions about Iran's centrifuge program, its technology sources, and uranium contamination.
Hussein Musavian said on 17 June that Tehran is not happy with the final draft resolution, IRNA reported. Nevertheless, he said, Iran will continue to cooperate with the agency.
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani dismissed the significance of the resolution during a 19 June press conference, ISNA reported. He went on to say that Iran has no plans to withdrawn from the NPT, is willing to continue its cooperation with the IAEA within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement, and will continue its nuclear activities within the framework of the NPT Additional Protocol and the Safeguards Agreement.
Rohani also expressed disappointment in the Europeans, but suggested that there would be no repercussions, ILNA reported: "The behavior of the three European countries during the [IAEA] meeting was contrary to what we had expected, but I stress that Iran needs its ties with the European Union and a good relationship is in the interests of both Iran and the European Union." (Bill Samii)