News | IAEA Barred from Military Site; Mousavi: I Stand by My Views
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI
22 Feb 2012 12:25
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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:3012:25 p.m., 3 Esfand/February 22 Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency who were visiting Tehran returned to Vienna without having succeeded in visiting the Parchin facility, southeast of the capital, where Iran has produced conventional ammunition since the 1950s. "Intensive efforts were made to reach agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran's nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions," an IAEA statement on the visit read. "Unfortunately, agreement was not reached." IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano stated, "It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings. We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached."
The IAEA report on Iran published last November alleged that in 2000 Iran built a large, cylindrical steal chamber at Parchin designed to contain the force of up to 154 pounds (70 kilograms pounds) of high explosives. High explosives have civilian, conventional military, and nuclear applications for triggering nuclear reactions, but the IAEA suspects that Iran built the chamber to test the high explosives for their potential use in a nuclear weapon. Parchin was visited by IAEA inspectors twice in 2005. Ollie Heinonen, then deputy director-general for safeguards, said at that time that the Parchin case was closed, but in its November 2011 report the IAEA revived the issue. The agency claims that it did not visit the building which is now believed to have housed the test chamber. "It remains for Iran to explain the rationale behind these activities," the report stated.
It must be pointed out, however, that the Islamic Republic appears to be well within its legal rights under its 1974 Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA to refuse to grant permission to the agency to visit a site such as Parchin. According to the Safeguards Agreement, the IAEA can visit only those locations declared to be nuclear sites -- which does not include Parchin -- and has no legal right to demand entry to other sites. The authority for such demands is granted to the IAEA under the Additional Protocol. Iran did carry out the protocol's provisions from October 2003 to January 2006 on a volunteer basis, as stipulated in the Sa'dabad Agreement of October 2003 and the Paris Agreement of November 2004 between Iran, France, Germany, and Britain. But because the three European states did not deliver on their promises in return for the protocol's voluntary implementation and the suspension of Iran's nuclear program, Iran announced in January 2006 that it would no longer abide by the terms of the Additional Protocol. Since the Majles refused to ratify it, the Islamic Republic is under no obligation to carry out its provisions.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had said on Monday that the IAEA had plans to visit Iran's nuclear facilities, and that "their work has just begun." Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, said that negotiations will continue. Reaffirming Salehi's statement, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the result of the negotiations will affect the upcoming talks between Iran and the 5+1 group, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. It is not yet clear where the negotiations will take place. Salehi said that Turkey has expressed its willingness to host the meeting, while other locations may also be considered.
Meanwhile, a conference was held in Arak, where Iran has built a heavy water plant and is constructing a heavy water nuclear reactor, to honor the Iranian scientists who have been assassinated since January 2007. Particular tribute was paid to Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the most recent victim.
Mousavi: 'I still stand by my positions'
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Green Movement leader, has declared once again that he holds firmly to his views and "nothing has changed." Kaleme, the website close to Mousavi, reported that he and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, who have now been under extralegal house arrest for more than 12 months, were allowed to speak with their three daughters briefly by phone last week. According to Kaleme, what was unusual about the phone conversation was that, right from the beginning, Mousavi said firmly, "My daughter, you must know that I still stand by my positions," and that the security agents "may cut off even such brief conversations that have been allowed so that you can learn about our situation."
Cash handouts to counteract voter apathy
Cleric Gholam Reza Mesabahi Moghaddam, head of the Majles commission that is overseeing the elimination of subsidies on basic food items and energy, said that the Ahmadinejad administration is willing to give people more money "to encourage them to vote in the Majles elections," to be held on March 2. Khamenei and others have claimed that 60 percent of the people will vote. On Monday, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior military adviser to Khamenei and former chief of the Revolutionary Guards, pleaded with the people "to take the elections seriously and by voting in maximum numbers create another epic event." The hardliners are very concerned about the prospect of a low turnout. Reports indicate that the elections have been a non-issue at the universities. Two hardline candidates for the Majles, former Guard commander Ali Reza Zakani and reactionary cleric Ghasem Ravanbakhsh, held an election discussion in Emam Sadegh University, but even at that religious university with a student body loyal to the political system, the discussion did not attract many students. Pictures of another election gathering at the Iran University of Science and Technology, at which labor activist Soheila Jelodarzadeh and Alireza Mahjoub spoke, indicate that few students took part. Similar events with sparse attendance were held at the University of Tehran's Faculty of Sciences and law school, at Sharif University, at Tarniyat Modarres University, and at other academic institutions.
Khamenei rejects Rafsanjani suggestion
As previously reported by Tehran Bureau, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters have been trying to appoint their own man, Farhad Daneshjoo, as president of Islamic Azad University, Iran's largest university chain with over 800,000 students and assets reportedly worth at least $200 billion. The president considers the university a power base for Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who chairs the school system's board of trustees. Rafsanjani has refused to sign the order for Daneshjoo's appointment. A new report indicates that Rafsanjani wrote a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he suggested that Abdollah Jasbi, who has been president of the university since its inception in 1982, remain in his post until he finishes all the projects on which he has been working, but that Khamenei rejected the idea.
"Billionaire minister" pays hefty Islamic tax
Former Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli, a close friend and adviser of Ahmadinejad's who is known as the "billionaire minister" for his vast fortune, paid 4,500 billion rials ($370,000 according to the official rate, $240,000 unofficially) as khoms, the annual Islamic tax paid on net income. Since the tax rate for this purpose is 20 percent, it means that Mahsouli projects an applicable income of $1,850,000 (or $1,200,000 at the unofficial rate) -- an enormous sum in Iran -- in the current Iranian year, which ends March 20. Mahsouli himself has said that his assets total about $250 million.
Iran worst jailer of journalists
In its report on the past year, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared that Iran is one the worst places in the worls for journalists to work. Forty-two journalists are incarcerated in Iran -- the most anywhere -- under terrible conditions in Evin and Rajaei Shahr prisons, serving sentences ranging from six years to almost two decades. Twenty-one journalists spent some time in solitary confinement, 18 were subjected to internal exile, 12 suffered serious illnesses, 14 endured physical punishments, five were barred from visits by their families, and four were denied health care. The Committee also ranked Iran among the countries that most severely restrict access to the Internet.
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