Archive for September, 2013

Iranian president makes debut on world stage

September 25, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran’s new president told world leaders Tuesday that the biggest danger in the Middle East is chemical weapons falling into the hands of “extremist terrorist groups” in Syria and he blamed the countries backing the opposition for fueling the civil war there.

The comment by Hasan Rouhani, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, closely mirrored language used by the Iranian-allied Syrian regime, which refers to the opposition as terrorists. The U.S. and its allies, including Gulf nations Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been supplying the Syrian opposition with weapons, aid and training.

Rouhani praised Syria’s willingness to accept the international treaty barring the use of chemical weapons. And without naming nations, he warned that the “illegitimate and ineffective threat” to use military force in Syria “will only lead to further exacerbation of violence and crisis in the region.”

Just a few weeks ago, President Barack Obama was considering launching a military strike on Syria to retaliate for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that the U.S. blamed on Bashar Assad’s regime. But a U.S.-Russia deal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control averted military action, at least for now.

Even as he sided with the Assad’s regime, Rouhani also sent signals that Iran might be ready to negotiate with the West on its disputed nuclear program and talk to the United States after decades of frozen relations. He said “peace is within reach.”

Rouhani spoke hours after Obama also addressed the General Assembly, saying the U.S. prefers to resolve its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully but is determined to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Obama said he was “encouraged” that Rouhani received a mandate from the Iranian people to pursue a more moderate course, but added that “the diplomatic road must be tested.” Rouhani’s “conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” Obama said.

Rouhani called his election over the summer a “wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation” and said every issue can be resolved through mutual respect and rejection of violence and extremism. He is considered a relative moderate amid the hard-line clerics who control Iran. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei holds the real power, deciding all important matters of state including the nuclear program.

Elements of Rouhani’s speech were reminiscent of the anti-American rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was critical of how America projects power and called for a new world order without the U.S. as a superpower.

Like Ahmadenijad, Rouhani called for a new world order and criticized “the persistence of Cold War mentality and bi-polar division of the world into ‘superior us’ and ‘inferior others.” He criticized “the prevalent international discourse” that favors rich countries over poor.

This has led to the prevalence of “violent forms of xenophobia,” Rouhani said, adding that “propagandistic and unfounded faith-phobic, Islamo-phobic, Shia-phobic, and Iran-phobic discourses do indeed represent serious threats against world peace and human security.”

There had been some expectations that with both Obama and Rouhani addressing the U.N. on the same day, the two might meet briefly and even exchange handshakes and pleasantries — something that may have been seen as a dramatic step forward in relations that have been frozen since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution

That didn’t happen. But Rouhani said he listened to Obama’s speech to the General Assembly and is open to talks. “Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage differences,” he said.

“To this end, equal footing, mutual respect, and the recognized principles of international law should govern the interactions,” he said, repeating themes often heard in Iranian political discourse. Unlike Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction, Rouhani never mentioned Israel by name in his speech. But he was highly critical of the “occupation” of Palestine, saying: “Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.”

Israel’s delegation walked out of Rouhani’s speech in protest, as it had done in previous years when Ahmadinejad spoke at the U.N. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Rouhani of “hypocrisy.” He said in a statement after the speech that Iran participates in the slaughter of civilians in Syria — a reference to its support of Assad’s regime — and in carrying out terrorist attacks around the world.

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment — a process that can be used to make fuel for both nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. The U.S. and its allies have taken even more devastating measures targeting Iran’s ability to conduct international bank transfers and to export oil.

“Unjust sanctions … are intrinsically inhumane and against peace,” Rouhani said. “It is not the states and the political elite that are targeted, but rather, it is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions.”

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. But Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful — a point Rouhani reiterated by saying: “This has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers have been stalled for months but Iran agreed to a new meeting this Thursday on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Rouhani reiterated Iran’s right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.

On the conditions that world powers recognize that right and insist that all nations’ nuclear programs are for peace purposes only and Iran “is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks,” he said.

“Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions,” he claimed. “Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.”

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Iran to send second monkey into space

Tehran (XNA)

Sep 19, 2013

Iran plans to send its second monkey into space onboard the home-made rocket named Pishgam ( Pioneer) II within 45 days, Iran Space Agency director Hamid Fazeli was quoted as saying by local media on Sunday.

In January, Iran sent a capsule containing a monkey onboard Pishgam (Pioneer) I into space.

Fazeli said unlike the first rocket which was solid-fueled, the Pishgam II will use liquid propellant, according to Tehran Times daily.

The plan to send living creatures into space is part of the project to send human beings into space within a course of five to eight years, said the Iranian official.

ISA has plans to launch the Tadbir (Prudence) research satellite as well as Sharif and Nahid satellites into space by the end of the Iranian calendar year, which ends on March 20, 2014, he added.

Iran, a founding member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, launched its first domestically-made data-processing satellite the Omid (Hope) in 2009.

Iran frequently says that it will push ahead with its space program in the coming years.

Source: Space-Travel.


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Iranian ministers open pages on banned Facebook

Monday 9 September 2013

TEHRAN: Iran’s entire Cabinet has opened Facebook pages in what is seen as a move toward greater government openness — even though the social media site is blocked in the Islamic Republic.

The Facebook pages of 15 ministers could be viewed in Tehran through a proxy server. Newspapers on Monday hinted the move might herald the lifting of some Internet barriers.

“It seems the ‘key’” — Rouhani’s electoral symbol in his presidential campaign — “may turn the lock of (Internet) filtering,” the pro-reform Shargh daily said.

With the exception of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who joined Facebook in 2009, the Cabinet members signed up this August after the inauguration of centrist- and reformist-backed President Hasan Rouhani.

Rouhani’s office has also opened a page on Facebook that was “liked” by all the ministers.

Saeed Leilaz, a Tehran-based political analyst, said it was likely the start of the lifting of Internet “filters,” which block specific sites. “Definitely filtering on Facebook will be lifted, and we will witness the elimination of filters (on the rest of) Internet,” said Leilaz.

Rouhani had promised greater openness and transparency during his presidential campaign in June. The move also suggests that his administration is looking toward social media to push its policies.

Last week, Zarif told a local news website that he sent a message on Twitter saying “Happy Rosh Hashana,” the Jewish new year, in what is likely a small diplomatic step toward easing the hostilities between his nation and Israel.

Iranian hard-liners see the Internet as a possible corrupting force, but many Iranians use proxies to access banned sites.

Iran imposed a ban on Facebook after disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, when his opponents used social media to organize protests.

Earlier in 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, issued a religious decree in which Facebook was considered permissible if it was not used for corrupting or bad purposes. A page that claims to be Khamenei’s is generally believed to reflect his views. He has neither disowned nor claimed it, and many consider it his unofficial voice.

There are 18 ministers in the cabinet but three nominees of Rouhani failed to receive vote of confidence from parliament in August. The president should introduce their alternatives to the parliament in coming months.

Source: Arab News.

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Iran: Ex-Defense Minister attacks regime’s record in Al-Ahwaz

Friday, August 16, 2013

Former Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, an ethnic Arab who rose to the top of the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq War, this week made unprecedented criticism on the Iranian regime’s treatment of Ahwazi Arabs while visiting a mosque in Ahwaz City during Eid celebrations.

Regarded as a regime loyalist and the only Arab to have held a cabinet position in the Islamic Republic, Shamkhani accused the regime of “sectarianism” for launching a new television channel, Ahwaz TV, which is intended to counter Ahwazi Arab opposition.

Often praised for his role in the fight against Iraqi forces, Shamkhani accused the government of failing to reconstruct and develop the Ahwazi Arab region for the benefit of the people following the end of the 1980-88 war, which saw many towns devastated and still has a legacy of one of the world’s worst landmine problems. He highlighted various challenges facing the region in relation to good resource management and human development, but although government officials have often acknowledged the problems they have failed to act.

In a side-swipe at the ruling theocracy, Shamkhani claimed that native people had felt marginalized by the government’s decision to import extreme Shia fundamentalists from Arab countries, such as Tunisian theologian Muhammad Al-Tijani, to confront Sunnis. He claimed these theologians had little understanding of local Arab society and had proven to be counter-productive, fueling conversion from Shi’ism to other faiths.

Instead of progandising with religion and television channels, Shamkhani called on the government to deal with discrimination and resolve problems of poverty, which motivate disloyalty among Ahwazi Arabs. He claimed that in spite of frequent changes of administration and 15 different provincial governors, the policies in the region have not changed.

Source: Ahwaz New Agency.


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Iran’s former FM to lead nuclear organization

Aug. 16, 2013

TEHRAN, Aug. 16 (UPI) — The Iranian government said Friday former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was appointed by the president to lead the country’s nuclear organization.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a former chief nuclear negotiator for the Iranian government, is working to assemble his administrative team to guide him through his first term in office.

He took office Aug. 3 after running as a moderate, compared with his conservative rival candidates. Presidential spokesman Mohammad Reza Sadeq confirmed to the official Islamic Republic News Agency the president appointed Salehi to serve as the head of the Nuclear Energy Organization.

He replaces Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who was wounded in a 2010 assassination attempt. Last year, Abbasi-Davani said U.N. nuclear inspectors had failed to convince Iran a visit to the Parchin military complex, a suspected nuclear development site, was necessary.

Salehi in July, while serving as foreign minister, said he was committed to international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Two rounds of talks in Kazakhstan were concluded this year. Iranian lawmakers said they were willing to further negotiations but added they wanted relief from international sanctions pressure.

Iran says its nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes. Sanctions are designed to rob Iran of finances its adversaries say could fund a weapons program.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


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