Mainstream media ignores yesterday’s anti-regime protests in Iran

May 02, 2006

* The BBC governors report on BBC bias just out: criticizes BBC for not using word terrorism when suicide bombs go off

 

CONTENTS

1. Mainstream media ignores exceptional Iranian May Day protests
2. “Tehran found even closer to nukes” (Washington Times, May 1, 2006)
3. “Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers” (Washington Times, May 1, 2006)
4. “May Day workers rally brings out tens of thousand and exposes the regime’s lies” (Iran Press News, May 1, 2006)
5. “Iran workers in rare protest on May Day” (AFP, May 1, 2006)
6. “Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report” (Reuters, April 27, 2006)
7. “Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’” (Beirut Daily Star, April 20, 2006)
8. “Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran” (AP, April 26, 2006)
9. “Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions” (Reuters, May 2, 2006)
10. “Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire” (Reuters, April 23, 2006)
11. “Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors” (AFP, April 21, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

MAINSTREAM MEDIA IGNORES EXCEPTIONAL IRANIAN MAY DAY PROTESTS

One of the reasons I am sending this today is that The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and The Guardian have shied away from revealing that yesterday’s exceptional May Day demonstration by workers in Tehran included protests against the regime’s stances on the Palestinians and its nuclear ambitions.

Despite its top story being on Iran last night, plus running a supposed “in depth” feature on Iran, the BBC News website did not mention this.

Instead of publishing photos of the mass anti-government protests, The Guardian today publishes an Iranian-government organized picture of Tehran May Day demonstrators peacefully propping up a wall painted with an anti-US caricature of the Statue of Liberty with a lurid grinning death’s head. (www.guardian.co.uk/gall/0,,1765265,00.html – 7th picture on page)

For pictures of the actual anti-government protests, see
regimechangeiran.blogspot.com/2006/05/photos-of-labor-protest-today-in.html

Below, I attach a series of recent news reports on Iran. There are summaries first, for those who don’t have time to read the full articles. (Today’s dispatch is divided into two for space reasons. There will be no more dispatches for the next week because of other work commitments.)

-- Tom Gross

 

GAZA JOURNALISTS GET THREATS OVER HAMAS COVERAGE

On a separate matter, Reuters correspondent Nidal al-Mughrabi reports today that “Palestinian journalists in Gaza have received death threats for their critical coverage of Hamas since it began running the PA government in March, the Palestinian Journalists' Union said Monday. Radio and the government-run television station have been highly critical of Hamas policies since the group took office. ‘Since Hamas came to power, they want journalists all to talk the same language, the Hamas language,’ said journalist Waseem Gharib.”

I am glad to see that Reuters is at least reporting on such threats. They failed to do so in the days of Yasser Arafat’s rule. See The Case of Reuters: A news agency that will not call a terrorist a terrorist.

 

BBC GOVERNORS REPORT ON BBC BIAS JUST OUT

The BBC governors report on BBC bias, written up last month, was made public a short time ago, and as someone who the BBC took evidence from I have been emailed the link by the BBC. I have not had time to read it yet. It can be found here:

http://www.bbcgovernors.co.uk/docs/reviews/panel_report_final.pdf

One point I note from a quick glance of the report is that the governors say BBC coverage has “not been full and fair” and that BBC journalists should use the word terrorism when describing terrorist acts while reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Readers may wish to contrast the report with this article.

 

SUMMARIES

IRAN FOUND EVEN CLOSER TO NUKES

“Tehran found even closer to nukes” (By Abraham Rabinovich, The Washington Times, May 1, 2006)

Israel has told the Bush administration that Iran is closer to having a nuclear weapon than was previously thought... The head of the Mossad intelligence service, Meir Dagan, traveled to Washington last week to meet with counterparts in the CIA and pass on Israel’s latest findings on Iran’s nuclear progress.

An Israeli satellite launched last week from a Russian cosmodrome in Siberia began sending high-resolution photographs over the weekend. Israeli specialists termed the results “amazing.”…

Ehud Olmert did not say what Mr. Dagan told his American counterparts last week. But the London Sunday Times quoted an Israeli source yesterday as saying that the Mossad had evidence of hidden uranium enrichment sites in Iran “which can shortcut their timetable in the race for their first bomb.”…

 

“TEHRAN MASTERMINDED THE ATTACK ON THE ITALIANS”

“Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers” (By John Phillips, The Washington Times, May 1, 2006)

Iranian agents were accused yesterday of masterminding a bomb attack that killed three Italian soldiers in Iraq last week and intensified political pressure for the incoming government to speed up its withdrawal of troops from that country.

Thousands of politicians, soldiers and police solemnly filed past the coffins of the three soldiers at a chapel at Rome’s Celio military hospital yesterday. An honor guard from Italy’s Corrazieri cavalry regiment stood stiffly by the coffins, each draped with the Italian tricolor flag and the swords and berets of the dead.

The soldiers, whose deaths are being treated as a national tragedy, were killed on Thursday by a remotely detonated roadside bomb that exploded next to their armored vehicle near Nasariyah. Pathologists said temperatures in the vehicle exceeded 5,000 degrees.

The newspaper la Repubblica yesterday quoted officials of the Military Intelligence and Security Service, known by its Italian acronym SISMI, saying the attack was organized by Iranian agents, who were first spotted in the province in early April.

 

[For space reasons, only a summary of this article is attached in this dispatch]

“LET GO OF THE PALESTINIANS AND START THINKING ABOUT US”

“May Day workers rally brings out tens of thousand and exposes the regime’s lies” (Iran Press News, May 1, 2006)

www.iranpressnews.com/english/source/012597.html

… The workers who had shown up at the ex-U.S. embassy due the Islamic regime’s threats and intimidation of the loss of their jobs were meant to be nothing more than window-dressing for the Islamic regime’s own self-promotion. They had been told to chant slogans about “nuclear power is our absolute right”; instead however, in defiance of their oppressors, they began chanting slogans such as: “Incompetent labor minister, resign, resign, strike, strike... is our absolute right” or “Imprisoned worker must be freed” or “Let go of the Palestinians and start thinking about us.” At this point the regime’s plans for a pro-regime seeming demonstration was dashed…

 

“TO STRIKE IS OUR UNDENIABLE RIGHT!”

“Iran workers in rare protest on May Day” (AFP, May 1, 2006)

A few thousand angry Iranian workers held a rare protest in Tehran, using international Labor Day to press demands for more jobs, better contracts and the payment of wage arrears.

The gathering had been organized by the Islamic regime to show off public support for its disputed nuclear drive but quickly transformed into a protest over economic conditions.

Several people chanted “To strike is our undeniable right!” and “Permanent employment is our undeniable right!” instead of the regime’s current favourite slogan “Nuclear technology is our undeniable right”…

 

IRAN HAS MISSILES THAT PUT EUROPE IN RANGE

“Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report” (Reuters, April 27, 2006)

Iran has received a first shipment of missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief was quoted as saying. Known in the West as BM-25s, the Russian-designed missiles have a range of around 2,500 km (1,500 miles), giving them a longer reach than the Iranian-made Shihab-4 missiles which are capable of hitting Israel…

The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where it was known as the SSN6, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead… After the Russians decommissioned the SSN6, the missiles were sold to North Korea, which adapted them to carry a heavier payload… a German diplomat, citing his country’s intelligence data, confirmed a German newspaper report that said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25s from North Korea…

 

CHIRAC: “MILITARILY NUCLEARIZED IRAN IS UNACCEPTABLE”

“Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’” (Beirut Daily Star, April 20, 2006)

… The Iranian leaders “must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram. He insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran goes along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council. “More than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders,” he said…

… Chirac is also scheduled to officially inaugurate the French University in Egypt, which first opened three and a half years ago and whose first graduates should receive their diplomas in a few weeks. France is the fourth largest investor in the Egyptian economy and its exports increased by 40 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.

 

RUSSIA LAUNCHES SPY SATELLITE FOR ISRAEL

“Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran” (AP, April 26, 2006)

Russia launched a satellite for Israel that the Israelis say will be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities. The Eros B satellite was launched from Svobodny, in eastern Russia… The Itar-Tass news agency in Russia and Channel 10 television in Israel reported that the launching was successful.

The satellite is intended to help Israel gather information on Iran’s nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, said an Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The most important thing in a satellite is its ability to photograph and its resolution,” the official said...

 

IRAN SAYS RUSSIA AND CHINA WILL NOT BACK SANCTIONS

“Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions” (Reuters, May 2, 2006)

Iran’s foreign minister was quoted today as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program…

 

IRAN, INDIA AND PAKISTAN CLOSE TO SIGNING GAS PIPELINE DEAL

“Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire” (Reuters, April 23, 2006)

Iran, India and Pakistan are close to signing a gas pipeline deal, the Iranian and Pakistani oil ministers told Reuters, defying U.S. opposition to the project. The plan to pump Iranian gas to India through Pakistan was first proposed more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan and, more recently, U.S. opposition to Iran because of its nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said he had an understanding with India and Pakistan and was unconcerned by U.S. opposition. “We have a very good understanding,” Vaziri said…The $7 billion pipeline through Pakistan would link Iran’s abundant gas reserves, the world’s second biggest, to India’s booming economy. It would carry 150 million cubic meters per day of gas for 25 years, Vaziri said.

 

SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN AMONG WORLD’S TOP EXECUTORS

“Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors” (AFP, April 21, 2006)

China carried out 80 percent of the world’s 2,148 known executions last year, while Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for most of the rest, Amnesty International said… Amnesty said at least 2,148 prisoners were executed in 22 countries in the 12 months to December 2005.

It added that some 1,770 executions were reported in China – although it suspected the real figure could be as high as 8,000 – and at least 94 in Iran, 86 in Saudi Arabia… It said executions are also known to have taken place in Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestinian areas, Singapore, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen…

It called on Iran – “the only country known to Amnesty International to have executed juvenile offenders in 2005” – to follow the lead of the United States in March 2005 and ban the death penalty for under-18s.

Iran executed eight people last year who had committed crimes when they were children, including two who were still under the age of 18 at the time of their execution. Execution is carried out by hanging or stoning…



FULL ARTICLES

IRAN FOUND EVEN CLOSER TO NUKES

Tehran found even closer to nukes
By Abraham Rabinovich
The Washington Times
May 1, 2006

Israel has told the Bush administration that Iran is closer to having a nuclear weapon than was previously thought, but acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he is confident that the West will not allow that to happen.

The head of the Mossad intelligence service, Meir Dagan, traveled to Washington last week to meet with counterparts in the CIA and pass on Israel’s latest findings on Iran’s nuclear progress.

An Israeli satellite launched last week from a Russian cosmodrome in Siberia began sending high-resolution photographs over the weekend. Israeli specialists termed the results “amazing.”

However, Mr. Dagan’s report was based on earlier information that Israeli sources say indicates that Iran is closer to nuclear capability than is generally realized.

Mr. Olmert, in a weekend interview with the German newspaper Bild, denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in some of the strongest language yet heard from an Israeli leader.

“Ahmadinejad talks today like Hitler spoke before seizing power,” Mr. Olmert was quoted as saying. “We are dealing with a psychopath of the worst kind, with an anti-Semite. God forbid this man from ever getting his hands on nuclear weapons.”

Iran, which reiterated yesterday that it would go ahead with plans to enrich uranium in defiance of the U.N. Security Council, maintains its program is for peaceful purposes. Most Western countries reject that claim, and Mr. Olmert said he did not think Tehran would be allowed to succeed.

“The West, above all under the leadership of the United States, will ensure that Iran under no circumstances comes to possess unconventional weapons,” he said.

Mr. Olmert did not say what Mr. Dagan told his American counterparts last week. But the London Sunday Times quoted an Israeli source yesterday as saying that the Mossad had evidence of hidden uranium enrichment sites in Iran “which can shortcut their timetable in the race for their first bomb.”

The source said Mr. Dagan presented American officials with that evidence and told them: “This is what we know and this is what we’ll do if you continue to do nothing.”

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee, also described his concern about the Israeli intelligence findings. “When I read the recent reports regarding Iran, I saw a monster in the making,” said Mr. Steinitz, whose committee oversees the Mossad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Friday accusing Tehran of failing to comply with a Security Council deadline to freeze its nuclear fuel enrichment and instead speeding up its nuclear activities.

The eight-page IAEA report said Iran had curtailed its cooperation with agency inspectors, making it increasingly difficult to track Tehran’s nuclear program. The agency expressed concern over the “gaps” in its knowledge about Iran’s centrifuge program and the role of Iran’s military in nuclear development.

Three of the five veto-wielding Security Council members – the United States, Britain and France – are expected to introduce a resolution this week under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter for a mandatory halt to uranium processing.

The chapter leaves military action as a last resort, but the other two permanent members – China and Russia – are reluctant to approve even economic sanctions. Diplomats are discussing compromises that include a ban on foreign travel by top Iranian officials.

The Tehran government remained defiant yesterday. “Iran will not implement any forced resolution,” chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted as saying in speech to university students in Tehran. “Iran’s plan is to have research and development and the nuclear fuel cycle in Iran.”

The negotiator also referred again to remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said last week that Iran would harm U.S. interests around the world if it was attacked.

 

“THE TEHRAN GOVERNMENT WAS THE DIRECT MASTERMIND OF THURSDAY’S ATTACK ON ITALIAN SOLDIERS”

Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers
By John Phillips
The Washington Times
May 1, 2006

Iranian agents were accused yesterday of masterminding a bomb attack that killed three Italian soldiers in Iraq last week and intensified political pressure for the incoming government to speed up its withdrawal of troops from that country.

Thousands of politicians, soldiers and police solemnly filed past the coffins of the three soldiers at a chapel at Rome’s Celio military hospital yesterday. An honor guard from Italy’s Corrazieri cavalry regiment stood stiffly by the coffins, each draped with the Italian tricolor flag and the swords and berets of the dead.

The soldiers, whose deaths are being treated as a national tragedy, were killed on Thursday by a remotely detonated roadside bomb that exploded next to their armored vehicle near Nasariyah in southern Dhi Qar province. Pathologists said temperatures in the vehicle exceeded 5,000 degrees.

The newspaper la Repubblica yesterday quoted officials of the Military Intelligence and Security Service, known by its Italian acronym SISMI, saying the attack was organized by Iranian agents, who were first spotted in the province in early April.

The SISMI sources were quoted as saying the Iranians met with radical Shi’ite leaders to plot that attack and another roadside bomb that exploded near three Carabinieri paramilitary police armored vehicles close to a bridge over the Euphrates River on April 22.

A spy in a local police station evidently provided the Iranians with the route to be taken by the soldiers’ convoy. Iraqi officers at the Nasariyah police station were trained by the Italian contingent, but many are considered unreliable.

“The Tehran government was the direct mastermind of Thursday’s attack, not just a political reference point,” la Repubblica said. It said plans for Italy to withdraw all its forces from the country by the end of this year “makes it [essential] for Tehran to dominate the radical guerrilla panorama in southern Iraq.”

The bodies were flown home yesterday, and a state funeral tomorrow in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major will be broadcast live on state-run television. Doctors were fighting to save the life of a fourth soldier wounded in the attack, whose condition was described as “critical but stable.”

Italy, a staunch ally of Washington under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, sent 3,000 soldiers to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Involvement in the war has been unpopular at home and was a key issue in close-run parliamentary elections last month.

The attack Thursday was the worst on the force since November 2003 when 19 Italians, mostly Carabinieri, were killed in a suicide attack in Nasariyah. Italy has about 2,600 troops in Iraq.

Oliviero Diliberto, head of the Italian Democratic Communist Party, a coalition partner of Prime Minister-designate Romano Prodi, said the new government could withdraw all Italian forces from Iraq by this summer.

Mr. Prodi “completely agrees with me” on speeding up withdrawal, he said. But political sources said Mr. Prodi, who is set to form a government after Mr. Berlusconi resigns tomorrow, was unlikely to accelerate the phased withdrawal so dramatically.

“There are already nearly 1,000 Italian troops scheduled to leave Iraq in May who won’t be replaced,” a diplomat said. “June is unrealistic, but Prodi might speed up the schedule to pull out by October.”

 

IRAN WORKERS IN RARE MAY DAY PROTEST

Iran workers in rare protest on May Day
AFP (Agence France Presse)
May 1, 2006

A few thousand angry Iranian workers held a rare protest in Tehran, using international Labour Day to press demands for more jobs, better contracts and the payment of wage arrears.

The gathering had been organised by the Islamic regime to show off public support for its disputed nuclear drive but quickly transformed into a protest over economic conditions.

Several people chanted “To strike is our undeniable right!” and “Permanent employment is our undeniable right!” instead of the regime’s current favourite slogan “Nuclear technology is our undeniable right”.

“Under the temporary contracts, there is no job security. You can be fired any minute. And if you complain, employers say ‘take it or leave it’,” 48-year-old Esmail Ramezanzadeh, who works in a cooking oil factory, told AFP.

“It has been 14 months that we have not been paid,” complained another protestor, among a group of men from a textile plant in central Iran. “The market is doing poorly but why should we suffer from this situation?

“Inflation is backbreaking,” said the textile worker, 39-year-old Ali Arabi. “Now that they cannot pay us, they are planning mass lay-offs.”

The demonstration in central Tehran was largely calm but there were scuffles between workers and frustrated organisers.

“Workers usually have no opportunity to spell out their demands. What is going on today is only a part of the pain our labourers are going through,” said Arash Faraz, who works for a governmental organisation dealing with worker’s rights.

“Organisational activities to support workers are restricted and their unfulfilled demands are building up.”

Iran’s economy is closely protected and dominated by the state, but many sectors have experienced upheavals amid efforts to force through a privatisation plan aimed at kick-starting the stagnant economy.

 

IRAN HAS MISSILES THAT PUT EUROPE IN RANGE

Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report
Reuters
April 27, 2006

Iran has received a first shipment of missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief was quoted on Thursday as saying. Known in the West as BM-25s, the Russian-designed missiles have a range of around 2,500 km (1,500 miles), giving them a longer reach than the Iranian-made Shihab-4 missiles which are capable of hitting Israel.

The intelligence chief, Major-General Amos Yadlin, was quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as saying in a lecture on Wednesday that some BM-25s had arrived in Iran.

The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where it was known as the SSN6, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Haaretz reported.

After the Russians decommissioned the SSN6, the missiles were sold to North Korea, which adapted them to carry a heavier payload, the newspaper’s military affairs correspondent said.

In February, a German diplomat, citing his country’s intelligence data, confirmed a German newspaper report that said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25s from North Korea.

Israel has been urging the international community to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear programme as well as its efforts to obtain long-range missiles.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest producer of crude oil, says its nuclear programme is a peaceful project to provide electricity.

Israel is widely believed to have more than 200 nuclear warheads. It declines to comment on its atomic programme, saying only it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

 

CHIRAC: “MILITARILY NUCLEARIZED IRAN IS UNACCEPTABLE”

Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’
The Beirut Daily Star
April 20, 2006

French President Jacques Chirac arrived Wednesday in Egypt for a two-day visit during which he was expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear ambitions with his counterpart. Chirac went straight into talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Iran’s controversial nuclear drive and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict topped the agenda of the summit.

The Iranian leaders “must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” Chirac said in an interview to the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram published Wednesday. He insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran goes along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council. “More than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders,” he said.

The French president reaffirmed Iran’s “legitimate right” to civil nuclear energy, but on the condition that the country give “objective guarantees on the peaceful nature of its program. “The IAEA found that its nuclear activities had been carried out in an underhand way,” he said. “Besides, Iran is pursuing a worrying missile program.”

Egypt is calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but is also worried by the fact that Israel refuses to sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Experts believe Israel has some 200 nuclear warheads.

The French leader called on the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government and Israel to “make the necessary gestures” for a resumption of “real” peace negotiations. “In the immediate future we call on Hamas to understand that the way of violence is pointless and to continue its transition toward political action, continuing to respect the truce and committing to a process of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel,” Chirac said.

Chirac continued: “But we also say to the Israelis that they must brush aside the temptation of unilateralism, end targeted killings and the pursuit of settlements.”

In other remarks, Chirac defended the cautious reforms carried out by Egypt, including electoral changes, describing them as “fruitful.” He said France had “no hidden agenda concerning Syria,” implicitly denying that Paris wanted a regime change in Damascus.

Chirac also touched on Iraq’s future after U.S.-led forces leave Iraq. Though a UN Security Council resolution provides for the forces, “this foreign presence arouses the hostility of a section of Iraqi opinion,” he said. “Once a timetable has been set for this withdrawal, the Iraqis will be able to embark more easily on a process of reclaiming responsibility,” said Chirac, who was a strong critic of U.S. plans to invade Iraq in 2003. France has no troops there.

French presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said Wednesday that France was “convinced that Egypt had a very special part to play in convincing Hamas to change its positions.”

Chirac’s visit to Egypt, his first since 2002, is a chance “to take stock of the situation, after four years which have seen many changes in Egypt and across the region,” a French diplomat told AFP.

The French president traveled to Egypt with his wife Bernadette and an 80-strong delegation.

On Thursday, Chirac is scheduled to officially inaugurate the French University in Egypt, which first opened three and a half years ago and whose first graduates should receive their diplomas in a few weeks.

France is the fourth largest investor in the Egyptian economy and its exports increased by 40 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.

 

RUSSIA HELPS ISRAEL KEEP AN EYE ON IRAN

Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran
The Associated Press
April 26, 2006

Russia launched a satellite for Israel on Tuesday that the Israelis say will be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.

The Eros B satellite was launched from Svobodny, in eastern Russia, said Aleksei Kuznetsov, a spokesman for the Russian space forces. The Itar-Tass news agency in Russia and Channel 10 television in Israel reported that the launching was successful.

The satellite is intended to help Israel gather information on Iran’s nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, said an Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The most important thing in a satellite is its ability to photograph and its resolution,” the official said. “This satellite has very high resolution.” He added that it could take up to 10 days to assess the quality of the images transmitted by the satellite.

Israel has for years regarded Iran as a threat, disputing Tehran’s claims that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has questioned Israel’s right to exist.

Earlier this month, speaking in Tehran at a conference on the Palestinians, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Israel was a “constant threat” and predicted that it was on the verge of “being eliminated.” His comments followed his remark last year about “wiping Israel off the map.”

 

IRAN SAYS RUSSIA AND CHINA WILL NOT BACK SANCTIONS

Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions
Reuters
May 2, 2006

Iran’s foreign minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France are expected to introduce a resolution this week to legally oblige Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands it halt all uranium enrichment work.

When asked how far Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, would support Washington, Manouchehr Mottaki told the Kayhan newspaper:

“The thing these two countries have officially told us and expressed in diplomatic negotiations is their opposition to sanctions and military attacks.”

“At the current juncture, I personally believe no sanctions or anything like that will be on the agenda of the Security Council,” he said in the interview.

Western diplomats say China and Russia will probably back a U.N. resolution demanding a halt to Iran’s fuel work, but are not yet ready to back moves toward sanctions.

Iran has been hauled before the U.N. Security Council after failing to convince the international community that its nuclear power station program is not a front for building an atom bomb.

China and Russia both have big energy interests in Iran, the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter. In 2005, more than 11 percent of China’s crude imports came from Iran. Russia’s LUKOIL is exploring the Anaran oilfield in western Iran.

China is also planning a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy Iranian Liquefied Natural Gas when it comes onstream in return for an upstream stake in a huge southern Iranian oilfield.

Russia has been helping Iran build its first nuclear power station at the southern port of Bushehr, a $1 billion project, and Tehran has said it is keen for foreign firms, particularly Russian, to play a role in building more reactors.

However, both China and Russia also have strong trade ties with the United States and European Union whose positions on Iran are becoming increasingly united.

 

IRAN, INDIA AND PAKISTAN CLOSE TO SIGNING GAS PIPELINE DEAL

Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire
Reuters
April 23, 2006

Iran, India and Pakistan are close to signing a gas pipeline deal, the Iranian and Pakistani oil ministers told Reuters on Saturday, defying U.S. opposition to the project.

The plan to pump Iranian gas to India through Pakistan was first proposed more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan and, more recently, U.S. opposition to Iran because of its nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said he had an understanding with India and Pakistan and was unconcerned by U.S. opposition. “We have a very good understanding,” Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri told Reuters. “They are willing and Iran is ready.”

Asked when the deal would be signed, he said only: “I hope we are going to have a ministerial meeting in Tehran in June,” adding it would be attended by the same three ministers.

Speaking after talks with his Iranian and Indian counterparts on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Doha, Pakistan’s oil minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon told Reuters only technical issues had to be resolved.

The $7 billion pipeline through Pakistan would link Iran’s abundant gas reserves, the world’s second biggest, to India’s booming economy. It would carry 150 million cubic meters per day of gas for 25 years, Vaziri said.

Although Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, it has said the pipeline would aid economic growth and foster better ties with India after years of brinkmanship between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Iran had said it would go ahead without India if it did not agree to join the pipeline by May. The Indian oil minister Murli Deora declined to comment following Saturday’s talks.

 

SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN AMONG WORLD’S TOP EXECUTORS

Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors
AFP (Agence France Presse)
April 21, 2006

China carried out 80 percent of the world’s 2,148 known executions last year, while Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for most of the rest, Amnesty International said Thursday. The London-based human rights group said in a statement that these countries bucked a steady two-decade trend toward the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world, with Mexico and Liberia the most recent examples.

“It is a glaring anomaly that China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S. stand out for their extreme use of this form of punishment as the ‘top’ executors in the world,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan said.

Amnesty said at least 2,148 prisoners were executed in 22 countries in the 12 months to December 2005.

It added that some 1,770 executions were reported in China – although it suspected the real figure could be as high as 8,000 – and at least 94 in Iran, 86 in Saudi Arabia.

Sixty were carried out in the United States.

It said executions are also known to have taken place in Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestinian areas, Singapore, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

In China, a person can be sentenced and executed for as many as 68 crimes, including nonviolent ones such as tax fraud, embezzlement and drug offenses, Amnesty said.

Amnesty warned that there are fears that high profits behind organ transplants from people executed in China might be acting act as an incentive to maintain the death penalty.

In Saudi Arabia, people have been taken from their prison cells and beheaded without knowing that they had been condemned to death, Amnesty said.

In the United States, which uses lethal injection and electrocution, two men were released from death row in 2005 upon presentation of evidence of their innocence.

Khan called on Iran – “the only country known to Amnesty International to have executed juvenile offenders in 2005” – to follow the lead of the United States in March 2005 and ban the death penalty for under-18s.

Iran executed eight people last year who had committed crimes when they were children, including two who were still under the age of 18 at the time of their execution. Execution is carried out by hanging or stoning.

Khan renewed her organization’s long-held call for the death penalty to be abolished, arguing that it was not a “unique deterrent” to crime and it was instead the “ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights.”

“It is often applied in a discriminatory manner, follows unfair trials or is applied for political reasons. It can be an irreversible error when there is miscarriage of justice.”

“The momentum against the death penalty has become unstoppable,” said Khan.

She said in 1977, only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. By 2005, that figure had risen to 86.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.