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News | 100,000 MKO Followers Rally; Israel Urges Russia to Pressure Iran

26 Jun 2012 21:35Comments

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MKORallyHome.jpg9:35 p.m. IRDT, 6 Tir/June 26 Iranian exiles rallied in Paris on June 23, a year after a similar event. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based front for the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MKO), organized the "Convention for Democracy in Iran" in the northern Paris suburb of Villepinte. It attracted nearly 100,000 people, most of them bused in by the MKO from across Europe.

Maryam Rajavi -- wife of Masoud Rajavi, who heads what many call the MKO "cult" -- led the rally with a 90-minute speech. She expressed the group's desire to be delisted by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization and its opinion that the only resolution to the nuclear crisis is regime change in Tehran, executed via Iranian opposition groups.

Guests invited to address the rally included several American political figures who have been paid by the MKO and its allies to campaign for its delisting; they included former House speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations Bill Richardson and John Bolton, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who declared, "The only real answer for world peace is a new regime in Iran." In addition to regime change, they called for the West to increase support to Iranian opposition groups such as the MKO.

Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, former President of the Belgian Senate Anne-Marie Lizin, and present members of the European, German, Italian, Palestinian, and Jordanian parliaments also joined the rally, a sign of the MKO's expanding campaign to promote itself.

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Israel took advantage of a visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to urge increased pressure on Iran because of uncertainties over its nuclear program. Russia is an influential voice in the international debate over Iran because of its ties with both Tehran and the West.

Israel and Russia enjoy deep economic and cultural relations bolstered by the more than one million immigrants in Israel with roots in the former USSR. Russia has constrcuted a $1 billion nuclear reactor for Iran in Bushehr, but also canceled a shipment of long-range missiles to Iran as part of the 2012 START treaty, signed by President Barack Obama and his former Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Israel has repeatedly hinted it may act militarily to stop Iran's nuclear program. Several members of its political, and intelligence apparatus have urged the right-wing Netanyahu government to tone down its rhetoric.

Netanyahu said of his relationship with Putin, "We agree that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran pose a grave danger, first for Israel but also for the whole world." Israel refuses to accept any level of Iranian uranium enrichment, which Iran sees as its inalienable right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Netanyahu continued by saying that the international community needs to "bolster the sanctions, and bolster the demands [on Iran]." Iran is currently under four sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions aimed at its nuclear program.

Note: An earlier version of this roundup described the appointment of Jillian Burns, a senior State Department Foreign Service officer, as national intelligence officer for Iran. In fact, Burns has served in the position for several months and is due to rotate out to a new Foreign Service assignment. The National Intelligence Council is searching for a successor.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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