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Iran Plans 4 New Research Reactors; Mousavi Aide Pressed to 'Confess'

12 Apr 2011 07:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

Tehran Research Reactor.

7 a.m., 23 Farvardin/April 12 Iranian authorities made a number of announcements signaling the Islamic Republic's plans to expand its nuclear program. According to a report by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), via Reuters,

Iran plans to build "four to five" nuclear research reactors and will continue to enrich uranium to provide their fuel, a nuclear official said on Monday despite Western pressure on Tehran to curb atomic work.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoon Abbasi, said Tehran would build the reactors "in the next few years" to produce medical radioisotopes, according to [...] ISNA.

"To provide the fuel for these (new) reactors, we need to continue with the 20 percent enrichment of uranium," ISNA quoted him as saying.

"We will also raise the amount of the enriched uranium up to 20 percent based on our country's need and for doing so, we will not seek anybody's permission," he said.

Abbasi also announced that Iran has successfully tested a third generation of nuclear centrifuges for use in the enrichment process. Meanwhile, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reiterated demands that France hand over the 50 tons of uranium to which the Islamic Republic claims title. Junior Assistant President Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said on Monday that Iran would soon be among the leading producers of nuclear fuel rods. And Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced his expectation that the Bushehr nuclear reactor would enter the critical phase of its startup in early May.

Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Vahid Talaei.
Vahid Talaei, a member of the legal council of Mir Hossein Mousavi's 2009 presidential campaign, has written a letter to Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi in which he says that interrogators are pressuring him to "confess" to being linked with the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization. He writes, "Why is it that when the attorney for an accused cannot read the case against his client with the excuse that the case is not complete yet, the [hardline] press is allowed to publish lies about him and claim that they are part of his charges?" Talaei, who was arrested about 140 days ago and is being held in Evin Prison's Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, also noted that although his bail has been agreed on and posted, he has still not been released.

Thirty prominent political prisoners who are being held in Karaj's Rajaei Shahr Prison and in Khuzestan province have sent a message of condolence to Mousavi for his father's death. Among them are Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front; Mohsen Aminzadeh, Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, Abolfazl Ghadian, and Mostafa Tajzade, leading members of the reformist Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin; journalists Emad Baghi, Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, Mehdi Mahmoudian, and Keyvan Samimi; and leading former and current student activists Abdollah Momeni, Milad Asadi, Ali Jamali, Ali Malihi, and Hassan Asadi Zeidabadi.

The attorney for Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, who has been awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the authorities have not agreed to grant his client a furlough. He also said that since Zeidabadi was given his six-year prison sentence, the authorities have refuse to even consider his furlough requests. When asked about the possibility of bail, he said that because of the refusal to consider furlough, the question of bail is moot.

In a meeting for former provincial governors-general, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that those nations that kill their own citizens are committing political suicide. Rafsanjani said, "There are new developments in the region that are real and have deep roots. The only way to confront the uprisings is to pay attention to the demands and aspirations of the people, because repression and crackdown is not a long-term solution." He continued, "The movement of Iranian people in rejecting dictatorship has a 50-year root. Trust between the people and the government is the most important asset, and the trust is created if everything is done competently, justly, and honestly, whereas discrimination, corruption, baseless promises, and fake statistics [about progress] are the factors that ruin the trust."

Conservative Majles deputy Hamid Reza Katouzian, head of the parliament's energy commission, said that the price of residential electricity will increase by a factor of four to five this year. He added, "The price of natural gas has increased dramatically, putting tremendous pressure on the people. The commission is looking for ways to lower the pressure on the people, and has repeatedly invited [administration] officials to attend the commission's meetings. If the administration does not reconsider the way it decides the price of oil products, the Majles must revise the law for the elimination of the subsidies and force the government to increase the price of oil-related products only 20 percent each year."

Dr. Majid Reza-Zadeh, secretary-general of the committee for the prevention and control of AIDS, said that although the government has been successful in stemming the rise of AIDS cases resulting from shared narcotics needles, a new wave of AIDS is spreading through dangerous sexual behavior. According to him, there are no precise statistics on the number of women who are involved, voluntarily or forcibly, in such behavior, but many reports indicate the rising number of AIDS cases among them.

Hamid Baghaei was appointed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his executive vice president. In the order appointing Baghaei, Ahmadinejad called his administration a "government in waiting," a reference to the belief he has been advocating -- that Imam Mahdi, who disappeared over 1,000 years ago, is about to return. Ahmadinejad has previously referred to his administration as a "government of kindness" and a "government of justice." He has also claimed that his administration obtained documents indicating that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 in order to prevent the return of Imam Mahdi.

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said that the rate of economic growth in Iran is below the average growth worldwide. He said, "Whether we wish to increase people's income or create jobs, we need economic growth, but unfortunately, the rate of growth is not good. What is important is the question of how to turn on the engine of economic growth in the country. The economic growth does not necessarily mean that we should increase the number of projects carried out by the government. People should get involved and develop an economic mind. The government and the quasi-governmental corporations alone cannot generate the 8 percent growth of the economy that is the goal."

Iran's Foreign Ministry gave three Kuwaiti diplomats ten days to leave Iran. Last month, three Iranian citizens were convicted of spying in Kuwait and sentenced to death by a Kuwaiti court. The Kuwaiti government also alleged that it had discovered eight spying networks working on Iran's behalf and expelled three Iranian diplomats.

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, Iran's prosecutor-general, said that former Majles deputy Dr. Ghasem Sholeh Sadi was arrested because he has an unserved jail sentence. He said that Sholeh Sadi was summoned to serve his sentence and was arrested when he refused to do so. Sholeh Sadi wrote a highly critical letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2002, for which he was arrested and detained for 36 days.

The Article 90 Commission of the Majles demanded that Iran nullify an agreement to sell the United Arab Emirates natural gas. The agreement, signed in 2001, came under attack after the hardliners took control of the Majles in 2004. Hossein Eslami, spokesman for the commission, said that it has reached the conclusion that the agreement is not in Iran's interest. According to the agreement, a pipeline is supposed to be built from Iran's Salman offshore field in the Persian Gulf to the UAE to carry the natural gas. But Hamid Zaheri, chief operating officer of the British corporation Crescent, which is involved in the pact, said that there has in fact been no agreement how to implement it, as it is before the International Court in the Hague.

Reformist Majles deputy Mohammad Reza Khabbaz said that the reformist legislators are going to meet on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Majles elections in early 2012 and decide whether they want to run again. He said that his group "has no problem with the fundamentalist deputies who truly defend people's rights and do not care what other fundamentalists think of them." Many reformists both within and outside Iran have said that participation in the elections has no positive outcome and will only give legitimacy to a sham vote that is clear will be won by the hardliners.

Dr. Abdolkarim Lahiji, head of the Society for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran, presented a report on the plight of attorneys that have been harassed by the government. According to the report, Dr. Ghasem Sholeh Sadi; Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been given a sentence of 11 years and ten-year bans on practicing law and traveling abroad; Maedeh Ghaderi; and Javid Houtan Kian, attorney for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning, are currently imprisoned. Mohammad Oliaeifard, arrested on May 1, 2010, was given a jail sentence of one year. Mohammad Seifzadeh has been given a jail sentence of nine years and a ten-year ban on practicing law. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was arrested in July 2009 and put on trial, but his sentence has not been announced. Khalil Bahramian was given a sentence of 18 months in jail and a ten-year ban on practicing law in February 2011. Mohammad Sharif, a university professor, was fired from his position. Mostafa Daneshjoo was given a sentence of seven months in jail and a permanent ban on practicing law. Farshid Elahi and Ami Eslami were given jail sentence of six months each. Omid Behroozi was banned from practicing law, and Ehsanollah Heydari was expelled from his university. Five attorneys -- Mohammad Hossein Nayyeri, Maryam Sabbaghian, Maryam Karbasi, Maryam Kian Ersi, and Rosa Gharachorlo -- were arrested in November 2010 upon their return from Turkey and detained for one month. Naser Zarafsahn, who represented the families of the victims of the Chain Murders, spent five years in jail from 2002 to 2007. Three attorneys, Shirin Ebadi, Shadi Sard, and Mohammad Mostafaei, went into exile.

Hardline Majles deputy Ruhollah Hossein declared that Iran should prepare its armed forces to confront Saudi Arabia. He said, "The government of Iran should not hesitate to put on alert its armed forces, when Saudi Arabia invades Bahrain. We should not allow the borders with Saudi Arabia to come closer to us. We now have an exceptional opportunity that we must not miss due to being cautious. We should not allow our enemies to occupy other lands by force. The people of Bahrain are currently under pressure and the world has ignored this because they are Shiites. Thus, we must be very active in this matter." But Dr. Hassan Ghafourifar, a conservative Majles deputy, said that Hosseinian's suggestion is unconstitutional because this is a decision that must be made by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces -- Supreme Leader Khamenei. At the same time, Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, chief of staff of Iran's military, said, "The danger to Saudi Arabia of the Islamic awakening of the region is more than the rest. It is the pillar of the United States in the region. That is why the slogans in Bahrain and Iran are considered by Saudi Arabia as a threat against their country."

Sara Mahboubi, a Baha'i student who was expelled from her university, has been arrested for a second time. She was previously arrested on June 24, 2010, and released after posting bail. She has been given a jail sentence of ten years. One of the charges against her is "membership in the counterrevolutionary website Facebook."

Nader Ahsani, a secular leftist student, who was arrested on February 8, 2010, along with his sister Elham Ahsani, has been sentenced to two years in jail. He spent 12 days in solitary confinement after his arrest and was then given a jail sentence of one year, which he served in full. He was previously arrested in December 2007 and given a two-year prison sentence.

Blogger and human rights activist Laleh Hassanpouir has been sentenced to five years in jail and summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving her sentence. One year of the sentence must be served, and the rest is suspended.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that he has not received an invitation to visit Egypt, but if he does, he is prepared to travel there promptly and congratulate the new prime minister on his appointment. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "We are pursuing the matter." Salehi has said that he believes that former President Hosni Mubarak was the only impediment to better relations between Iran and Egypt.

Majles deputy Parviz Sarvari, head of the parliament's domestic security commission, said that the explosion in the natural gas pipeline in Qom province was a terrorist operation. He said that the commission held a special meeting that was attended by security and Oil Ministry officials. The goal of Friday's explosion, which blew up the 56-inch pipeline, according to Sarvari, was to create insecurity in the country's energy sector. A similar explosion occurred on February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution.

The Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization has announced that 33 of its members, including eight women, have been killed and 300 injured in an attack by the Iraqi military on Camp Ashraf, 75 miles west of the Iranian border. Iraq's army commander has said that only three people were killed, and alleged that the attacks were the result of provocation by the people living in the camp. The Associated Press quoted unnamed staff at an area hospital as saying that 12 people died. At the same time, Terry Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq said that Baghdad does not allow it to send humanitarian aide to Camp Ashraf. The European Union has proposed the appointment of a special envoy to Iraq to investigate what has happened. Katherine Ashton, who is in charge of E.U. foreign policy, said, "The European Union has asked the government of Iraq to avoid using violence and respect the rights of the residents of the camp."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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