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Bid to Impeach Ahmadinejad Foiled by Khamenei; Nuke Program Stutters

23 Nov 2010 16:13No Comments

Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.

THE LEAD

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Assembly Pushes to Oust Iran President

Wall Street Journal | Nov 21

Iran's parliament revealed it planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the regime.

Lawmakers also launched a new petition to bring a debate on the president's impeachment, conservative newspapers reported Monday.

The reports of challenges to Mr. Ahmadinejad were intended as retorts to a powerful body of clerics that urged Mr. Khamenei to curb the parliament's authority and give greater clout to the president.

In a report released Sunday and discussed in parliament Monday, four prominent lawmakers laid out the most extensive public criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad to date.

They accused him and his government of 14 counts of violating the law, often by acting without the approval of the legislature. Charges include illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund without getting parliament's approval.

"The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament," the report stated. "A lack of transparency and the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."

Iran Nuclear Effort Faces Technical Problems: Expert

AFP | Nov 23

Technical problems are slowing down Iran's uranium enrichment, allowing more time for diplomacy to defuse tensions over its nuclear program, a former official with the UN atomic watchdog said.

"It looks like that there might be still time for a negotiation," said Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran has run into technical difficulties in its efforts to enrich uranium, due possibly to a flawed design for centrifuges, Heinonen said Monday at an event organized by the Arms Control Association.

The centrifuges are also operating at only 60 percent of capacity and Iran for some reason has removed hundreds of the machines.

"This indicates there is a problem," Heinonen said.

A September report from the IAEA said an enrichment facility at Natanz houses about 8,800 centrifuges, but only about 3,700 are operating.

Iran also has struggled with plans to build a new, more powerful centrifuge model, according to Heinonen.

Iran's current centrifuges are drawn from a Pakistani model that was based on an old Dutch design. But developing a new centrifuge may be hampered by difficulties in securing raw materials such as carbon fiber, due to tightened international sanctions against Tehran.

Iran: Computer Worm Didn't Harm Nuclear Program

AP (via Houston Chronicle) | Nov 23

Iran's nuclear chief said Tuesday that the malicious computer worm known as Stuxnet has not harmed the country's atomic program and accused the West of being behind a failed sabotage attempt.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi's remarks came a day after diplomats told The Associated Press in Vienna that Iran's nuclear program recently suffered major technical problems that forced the temporary shutdown of thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium -- the cornerstone of Iran's program.

Salehi said details about the virus became known only after Iran's "enemies failed to achieve their goals." Over the past several months, Iranian officials have acknowledged that the Stuxnet code had spread widely through Iranian industrial sites and infected several personal laptops belonging to employees at the country's first nuclear power plant.

The West has accused Iran of trying to develop a weapons capability under the cover of a civil nuclear energy program. Tehran denies the accusation, saying the program is only for peaceful purposes and insisting it has every right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for the production of reactor fuel.

"One year and several months ago, Westerners sent a virus to (our) country's nuclear sites," Salehi said, according to the official IRNA news agency. He did not specify which sites.

"They had hoped to stop our speedy peaceful nuclear activities through software. But, with the grace of God, we discovered the virus exactly at the same spot it wanted to penetrate because of our vigilance and prevented the virus from harming (equipment)," IRNA quoted him as saying.

OTHER NEWS

Tehran to Close Public Institutes for Alarming Air Pollution

Xinhua (via CRI) | Nov 23

According to a Tehran Governorate communique [...] the emergency session of the Tehran City Air Pollution Committee on Monday, headed by Governor Morteza Tamaddon, decided that due to the polluted weather conditions and the alarming high level of poisonous gases in Tehran air, government offices, funds, banks and schools in Tehran City would be closed on Nov. 24, said the report.

The decision was made after a survey report by the State Aero- Meteorological Organization was studied, according to the report.

Military, emergency and other public services, as well as hospitals, would be subject to their own rules and regulations under such circumstances, the report added.

In recent years, the government and the parliament of Iran have made several efforts to solve air pollution problem in Tehran, including passing laws to urge safer fuel for the cars and to replace old, inefficient cars with new ones to meet the standards.

Also, the Iranian government has developed plans of decentralizing policies in the country, which may slow down the accumulation of people and industries in the capital to a considerable degree.

Solidarity Never, as Hard-line Government Intensifies Crackdown on Labor

Los Angeles Times | Nov 22

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iranians this month that "frugal" families have nothing to fear from impending economic pressures.

But just in case, his government is cracking down on labor activists who may disagree.

Three workers from the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Co. Union are facing jail time on charges of insulting the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to an Iranian human rights organization. The union, formed following a massive strike in 2008 over withheld wages, has complained of continual harassment by authorities.

"It has gotten more intense, the crackdown, in the last two years, but the last two months have been worse because [the government] is getting rid of subsidies," said Mehdi Kouhestaninejad of the Canadian Labor Congress.

"They know the labor movement cannot accept [subsidy cuts] because prices will go through the roof but their wages are the same," he said. "They attack people before they can get organized around this."

Behrouz Nikoufard, Alireza Saeidi and Behrouz Molazadeh are the latest to be charged as the government steps up its crackdown on organized labor. The head of the sugar cane union, Reza Derakhshan, is rumored to be facing jail time for an article he wrote commemorating the syndicate's second anniversary.

"It is now two years since that day -- two bittersweet years," reads the letter, which was translated and published on the website Iran Labor Report.

"On the one hand, after much ebb and flow, five members of our board of directors ... were eventually sentenced by the Dezful Revolutionary Court to jail terms and transferred to prison after being fired from their jobs," it says. "On the other hand ... the condition of workers and that of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Co. are in much better shape than before ... while we, at the [union] board of directors, were severely punished and have lost our bread, the wheels of production at the plant have gone into motion, the workers are back at work, there is food on the table and life goes on."

Ahmadinejad Calls on Iranian Girls to Marry at 16

Christian Science Monitor | Nov 22

Iran's populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling on Iranian girls to marry as young as 16, in a bid to reverse decades of family planning policy that turned revolutionary Iran into a UN-recognized model of curbing population growth in the Islamic world.

"We should take the age of marriage for boys to 20 and for girls to about 16 and 17," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in remarks reported in Sunday newspapers in Tehran. "The marriage age for boys has reached 26 and for girls to 24, and there is no reason for this."

The comments are the latest effort by the Iranian president to bolster the nation's population of 75 million. He has said Iran can sustain 150 million citizens, and since July has supported a program of financial incentives for every new baby born.

Such practices are a U-turn of widely praised birth control practices in Iran. Seeking more "soldiers of Islam" after the 1979 Islamic revolution, family planning centers of the pro-West Shah were taken down, in the words of one historian, "on the grounds that Islam and Iran needed a large population."

Critics of Ahmadinejad's efforts complain that Iran's deepening economic problems, from unemployment and inflation to lack of resources, will only worsen with a swelling population. Currently some two-thirds of the population is under 35 years old.

See also:"Girls Should Marry Aged 16-18: Iran's Ahmadinejad" (Reuters)

Iran Issues Arrest Warrant for Rafsanjani's Son

AFP (via Zawya) | Nov 23

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for the son of influential cleric and ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the deputy judiciary chief was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency on Tuesday.

"An arrest warrant has been issued for Mehdi Hashemi. He will be arrested and taken to jail," Ebrahim Raisi said without specifying the accusations.

Judiciary officials had previously said Hashemi, who left Iran for Britain after last year's disputed presidential election, faces arrest upon his return home.

Hardliners have accused Hashemi of inciting mass street protests which rocked Iran in the wake of the June 2009 vote which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-instated in power amid fraud allegations.

Tehran School Bells Ring for World Philosophy Day

Tehran Times | Nov 21

Bells at two Tehran schools were rung on Saturday to symbolically announce the opening of the World Philosophy Day events in Iran, one day prior to the official opening.

However, UNESCO, which is the founder of the occasion, has previously withdrawn from participating in programs organized by Iran.

President of the World Philosophy Day conference in Iran Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel attended a special ceremony at Farhang High School, ringing the bell himself. The school, located on Mo'allem Street, is one of a number of schools dedicated exclusively to the humanities.

"I came to the Farhang High School to announce that our country is the organizer of the World Philosophy Day conference this year," Haddad-Adel said during the ceremony.

"The day is celebrated in many countries and this year great ceremonies have been organized for this day in Iran," he added.

Director of the Institute of Wisdom and Philosophy of Iran Gholamreza Avani, who is also the deputy president of the conference, also rang the bell at Farhang High School on Damavand Street.

In 2008, UNESCO accepted Iran's bid to host this year's the World Philosophy Day, which has been celebrated since 2002.

However, in a statement published on November 9, UNESCO announced that it would not take part in the World Philosophy Day events, which are scheduled to be held from November 21 to 23 in Tehran.

Haddad-Adel said that UNESCO's withdrawal from the events organized by Iran has produced "positive effects" for the conference.

"The number of the scholars seeking to attend the conference in Iran increased after UNESCO announced it would dissociate itself from the World Philosophy Day in the country," he stated.

Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Islamic Republic of Iran to UNESCO Mohammadreza Majidi blamed Israeli lobbies, saying that UNESCO has pulled out of the World Philosophy Day under pressure from the Zionists.

"The World Philosophy Day will be held in a more impressive manner this year than in past years," he added.

Iran Hosts Intl. Philosophy Conference

Press TV | Nov 21

Philosophers from 42 countries have gathered in the Iranian capital to attend the three-day conference of the International Philosophy Day.

According to director of the event Gholamreza Avani, more than 95 acclaimed philosophers participate in the conference, IRNA reported on Sunday.

''The international participants of the congress include 37 Europeans, 28 Asians, 15 Americans, 12 Africans and 5 Australians," Avani told IRNA.

Members of the International Society for Islamic Philosophy (ISIP) and the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPS) have also attended the event.

"Iran is the first Asian country to host the conference of the International Philosophy Day," he said, adding that all countries try to commemorate the occasion by holding similar gatherings.

Gambia Severs Diplomatic Ties with Iran

AFP | Nov 22

Gambia has severed its ties with Iran, ordering all the Iranians representing their government to leave the country within 48 hours, the west African nation said Monday.

A statement issued by the Gambian foreign ministry said "all government of the Gambia projects and programmes, which were implemented in cooperation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been cancelled."

Gambia gave no reason for cutting ties with Iran, which has been involved in many projects in what is said to be the smallest country on the African continent.

"The Gambia government hereby requests all Iranian nationals representing the interest of the government of Iran in the Gambia to leave the country within 48 hours from the effective date stipulated through a notification issued to the Government of Iran," the statement said.

Both ostracised internationally, with Iran under sanctions for its nuclear programme and Gambia accused of rights abuses, the two nations have repeatedly declared their support for each other.

See also:"Former Gambian Diplomat Says Break with Iran Presidential Cover-Up" (VOA)

Iran Lifts Ban on Pro-Nazi Website

Al Arabiya | Nov 22

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance lifted the block it had imposed on a pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish website, amid concerns by both conservatives and reformists.

While it blocks around five million political, cultural, religious, and "indecent" websites, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance permitted the operation of a website called irannazi.ir, also called the Center for Historical Studies on World War I and Nazism." The website is run by a group called the Center for Nazi Iranian Studies.

The re-opening of the website was met with objections in Iranian political circles, which was shown in the reactions of both the pro-government website Tabnak and the pro-reformist Rooz Online.

Tabnak demanded that the Iranian government provides an explanation for allowing the website to operate while Rooz Online accused deputy minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance is Muhammad Ali Ramin of being behind lifting the ban on the website.

Rooz reported that Ramin had connections with neo-Nazis when he lived in Europe and that he is known for his support for Nazi ideas.

Ramin is also the founder of the Holocaust Institute in Tehran and was the president of a conference called Holocaust: A Global Perspective, which denied the extermination of Jews by the German Third Reich.

Iranian journalist Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah argued that Ramin plays a major role in influencing the policies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as far as denying the Holocaust is concerned.

"Right after the ministry unblocked it, the website attracted 300 new members and received more than 3,200 emails in support of the group," said Yazdanpanah.

'Ashtiani's Life Could Be Spared'

Press TV | Nov 22

The head of Iran's Human Rights Council says there is a "good chance" that the life of an Iranian woman convicted of adultery and complicity in murder could be spared.

The woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was found guilty of committing adultery and colluding with another man to kill her husband.

"Iran's Council of Human Rights has helped a lot to reduce her sentence and we think there is a good chance that her life could be saved," Secretary General of Iran's High Council for Human Rights Mohammed Javad Larijani told Press TV.

Larijani compared the judicial system of Iran and the US, saying that "in the US, a woman killed her husband, with the aid of her ex-lover, and even though she was suffering from mental disorder, she was sentenced to the capital punishment and was executed."

He was referring to 41-year-old Teresa Lewis who was sentenced to death by the state of Virginia for plotting the murder of her husband and stepson in 2002.

The same incident took place in Iran, and the woman was condemned to capital punishment, but her case is still open for further revision, Larijani added.

The Iranian official said "nothing is said about the American woman, but there are lots of criticism regarding our judicial system," and this shows "how biased, unrealistic and hypocritical and malicious" this media hype about Iran is.

Larijani also criticized the UN General Assembly's Third Committee resolution against Iran as illegal and discredited.

Larijani explained that "the unpopularity of this resolution was completely clear," as many countries defended Iran, refusing to participate in the procedure.

The resolution was passed while more than 110 countries refrained from voting in favor of it, including 44 nays and 57 abstentions. 80 members voted for the resolution.

Detained US Nationals to Stand Trial in Iran in February

Fars | Nov 23

The three US nationals arrested by Iranian security forces in July 2009 after crossing Iran-Iraq borders illegally are scheduled to go on trial for espionage charges, their lawyer announced.

"I have received an official notification to appear in court on the 17 Bahman (February 6) to represent my three clients, Sarah (Shourd), Josh (Fattal) and Shane (Bauer)," lawyer Masoud Shafii told the Iranian labours news agency on Monday.

Joshua Felix Fattal, 27, along with Shane Michael Bauer, 27, and Sarah Emily Shourd, 31 were arrested in the western Iranian district of Marivan, at the Malakh-Khur border point on July 31, 2009 for crossing Iran's borders with Iraq illegally. They were later charged with espionage.

Following the release of Shourd, Ahmadinejad called for the release of [...] eight Iranians held captive in the US, pointing to Iran's humanitarian gesture in releasing Shourd.

Earlier this month, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Iranian Expatriates' Affairs Hassan Qashqavi criticized the US for violating the rights of the Iranian nationals due to its feud with Tehran, saying that the US has jailed 65 Iranian nationals mostly on void and baseless charges.

Qashqavi pointed out that a number of these Iranians are in US prisons because they have exported some goods to Iran which Americans claim have a dual-use.

He described such accusations as unacceptable and political, and said they are not consistent with the international law and regulations.

The deputy foreign minister said such a rationale for arresting the other countries' citizens merely serves as an excuse, because any commodity can be considered as having a dual use and if such a rationale is put into effect, then anybody willing to export anything to Iran should be arrested by the US.

U.S. Hikers Detained in Iran Seek Transfer to Swiss Embassy, Lawyer Says

Bloomberg | Nov 22

The lawyer representing two U.S. Americans detained in Iran for more than a year on espionage charges said he'll request that they be allowed to move to the Swiss embassy in Tehran while awaiting trial.

Masoud Shafiei, the lawyer, said he will make the request after the trial date was postponed yesterday by three months to Feb. 6. The Swiss embassy in the Iranian capital handles the interests of the U.S., which doesn't have diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic.

"It would be logical that they would be freed and allowed to stay at the Swiss embassy until the court session," Shafiei said in a phone interview in Tehran today. He also said he'll seek an earlier trial date because the three-month postponement "is against the rights of my clients."

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