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Majles Considers Presidential Summons; Deputies Argue over Leader's View

29 Jun 2011 02:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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

Mohammad Dehghan. Hossein Sobhaninia.

2:30 a.m., 8 Tir/June 29 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

One hundred Majles deputies signed a motion to summon Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning about recent events, including what the deputies consider his habit of violating approved legislation. But the Majles leadership announced that it will put off summoning the president for one month. Mohammad Dehghan, a member of the Majles leadership team, said that it is not in the interest of the nation to weaken the relationship between the parliament and the executive branch. Hossein Sobhaninia, another member of the Majles leadership, said that a number of the deputies who signed the motion have already retracted their support for the summons. He added that if the number of the motion's signatories falls below 75, the question of summoning Ahmadinejad will not be brought up for debate. The effort to summon the president is led by influential conservative Ali Motahari, brother-in-law of Speaker Ali Larijani.

A speech by Majles deputy Fatemeh Alia during Tuesday's legislative session provoked loud reactions by other deputies. Alia, a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad, claimed that Khamenei was upset by the behavior of the deputies last Tuesday, when Hamid Sajjadi, Ahmadinejad's nominee to be minister of sports and youth affairs, was rejected. Calling what had happened "shameful," Alia said that Khamenei summoned Speaker Larijani and other influential legislators and told them that the parliament had insulted the president. Alia implied that Khamenei was displeased both by Sajjadi's rejection and the plan to summon Ahmadinejad. As Alia described the meeting, the deputies erupted in protest and demanded that she stop her speech, because the meeting was not supposed to be publicized.

Larijani, however, also spoke about the meeting, claiming that the Leader said that questioning Ahmadinejad and even impeaching him are within the rights of the Majles. He added that Khamenei had told him that some people had spoken to him about impeaching Ahmadinejad and asked what he thought, to which Khamenei responded that it is up to the Majles to decide the issue. Meanwhile, deputy Asadollah Badamchian, an influential member of the Islamic Coalition Party, declared that the goal of revealing what Khamenei said in his meeting with the Majles leadership was to gain political leverage.

In another attack on Ahmadinejad, Mojtaba Zolnour, former deputy to Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded to those who have been implicitly criticizing Khamenei for supporting Ahmadinejad. Zolnour likened Khamenei to the Prophet Muhammad and said, "If someone claims that the Supreme Leader made a mistake in supporting the president, it would be like saying the Prophet and Imam Ali [Shiites' First Imam, the Prophet's cousin, and his son-in-law] also made mistakes regarding Talheh and Zobeir," two historical Islamic figures who were strong supporters of the Prophet and Imam Ali, but later turned against them. Zolnour also said that the "perverted team"-- code name for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, and his inner circle -- is determined to take over at least 50 percent of the Majles seats in the elections next March, which "will demonstrate the depth of the perversion." He added, "If the recent events had occurred during [the administration of former president Mohammad] Khatami, or if Mousavi had been elected president, the country would have become chaotic with demonstrations," thus acknowledging once again the extent of the reformist leaders' social base.

Melli Mazhabi, the website of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition, reports that a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met recently with Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. According to the report, the representative warned about the dangers to the country and hence the necessity of "preserving the political system," but Mousavi kept silent, offering no response at all. Kaleme, the website that reflects Mousavi's views, has not yet confirmed or denied the report.

Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts, said in Tehran, "What would be the use of it, if the government selects prayer Imams for the mosques who are not accepted by the people? The Imams should have credibility with the people." He added that the government should not interfere in the work of the mosques, even if it helps with their construction. Since the 1979 Revolution, however, the government has consistently tried to control all of the country's mosques.

Mohammad Behzad, deputy minister of power, said that 15 gas-fired power plants that produce electricity currently have no natural gas, and the stored gas for some other power plants is running out. This has led to concerns that the ministry may resort to cutting off electricity for hours on a daily basis. Minister of Power Majod Namjou said that he is working with the Ministry of Oil to supply the needed natural gas, in order to prevent such drastic actions to save electricity. Despite making strides in electrical production, Iran still suffers from chronic shortages.

The construction of a large petrochemical complex in Ilam, near the Iraqi border, has stopped. Forty-nine percent of the company's share is controlled by the government through the National Iranian Petrochemical Company, and the rest by some firms that are supposedly in the private sector. But lack of funds and the private sector's lack of interest in investing more in the complex have forced the work stoppage. One shareholder, the Ghadir company, has invested in another petrochemical complex in southern Iran instead of providing the funds needed to complete the Ilam projecr.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh resigned from the post of deputy foreign minister and was arrested soon afterward. He had also been serving as secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Iranian Expatriates, founded and headed by Mashaei. In his place, Mashaei appointed Meysam Taheri. But he too was interrogated by what was referred to as "responsible organs" and documents were confiscated at the council's headquarters.

The Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, which overseas the universities, has announced that 27 universities will have new seminaries, so that the students can receive religious education along with their other studies, if they choose to. The first of these seminaries has already been established at Khajeh Nasir Toosi University in Tehran.

Majles deputy Abdolreza Torabi said the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is supposed to begin full operation within two months, is totally uneconomical. He added that, despite receiving a very large contract to complete the nuclear reactor that was left incomplete by Germany, Russia has repeatedly postponed bringing the plant online and that completing it has cost the country billions of dollars. He argued that the project had gone forward on the presumption that, as the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East, it will bring prestige to the nation.

Reza Rousta, chancellor of Sharif University of Technology, one of Iran's two technology universities, said that, beginning with the fall 2011 semester, the university will hold separate classes for male and female freshmen. Rousta said that this is part of the plan by the ministry of sciences. According to him, freshmen experience culture shock when they begin their studies and, therefore, it is necessary to separate male and female students.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the human rights division of the judiciary, which is led by his brother Sadegh Larijani, said that Iranian Baha'is are free to practice their religion, but are not allowed to try to propagate it. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, the Baha'i religious minority is not recognized by Islam. Larijani also said that the United Nations' appointment of a special rapporteur for human rights in Iran is a "political game" about which the Islamic Republic is not concerned. Meanwhile, two Baha'i students have reportedly been expelled from Gheshm University. And two other Baha'i citizens, Mona Rezaei and Anisa Dehghani, have been arrested.

The military, for the first time, acknowledged that it has underground missile silos. The revelation was made during a maneuver codenamed Prophet Six. Colonel Asghar Ghelichkhani, maneuver spokesman, said that the technology for building the missile silos is completely indigenous and that the first ones were built 15 years ago. The missiles in some of them are controlled remotely, without any need for the presence of military personnel in the silos, he added.

Brigadier General Haji Zadeh said that Iran's missiles can strike Israel from a base in the town of Damghan, 210 miles east of Tehran. He added that the range of Iran's missiles is currently 1,250 miles, and that although it could make the range even greater, "we do not need it."

Gholam Hossein Esmaili, head of the organization of the prisons, said that the number of incarcerated people is four times larger than the capacity of the prisons. The current capacity is 55,000, while according to Esmaili the number of people currently incarcerated is 220,000. Ezatollah Yousefian, member of the Majles Commission for Judicial Affairs, said that the number of incarcerated people is, in fact, eight times greater than capacity.

Ahmadinejad refuses to work with Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, whose forced resignation was overturned by Khamenei. According to Mojmal News, Moslehi has tried to maintain a cordial working relationship with Ahmadinejad, but has been rebuffed. Mojmal added that the minister recently made a written request to Ahmadinejad for a meeting about important security issues and was told to submit a report instead.

Khabar Online, the website that is close to Ali Larijani, said that the conservatives should not be afraid to confess that voting for Ahmadinejad in 2009 was a mistake. The website said that making the confession would not be tantamount to admitting that the conservatives should have voted for Ahmadinejad's competitors -- meaning Mousavi and Karroubi. "The sky will not fall if the principlists admit their mistake. Rather, it would be an indication of their courage," the website added.

Twenty-six people were secretly executed in the notorious Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad on June 15. Most of them had been convicted of narcotic trafficking. The executions took place in violation of the laws of the Islamic Republic, because the families and attorneys of the condemned were not informed beforehand, and even the executed people themselves were not told of their fate until a few hours before they were put to death.

Hamid Reza Katouzian, chairman of the Majles Commission on Energy, said that the explosion in the Abadan refinery a few weeks ago occurred because the unit was brought online prematurely. Katouzian added that although the report on the explosion and its causes has not been finalized yet, preliminary investigations indicate that technical problems had caused the explosion. The unit is supposed to be fully automated, but worked manually on the day that Ahmadinejad officially brought the unit online, and due to human error and the technical problems that had not been addressed the explosion occurred.

Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, member of the Majles special commission on the elimination of the subsidies on food items and energy, said that the second phase of the plan will not be implemented in the current Iranian year, which ends March 20, 2012. This has been interpreted as meaning that the price of energy will not be allowed to increase further this year, after it rose steeply over the past several months.

Reformist Majles deputy Mostafa Kavakebian mocked the hardliners among the Revolutionary Guards who claim that the reformists are implicit allies of Ahmadinejad and the "perverted current." "It is interesting. We were the ones who were his critics, but [now] they claim that we are linked with him," Kavakebian said, adding that Khamenei himself has never made the accusation.

The Majles Commission on Cultural Affairs rejected a plan to merge the Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The attempt to merge the two was originated with some of the deputies that are Ahmadinejad's critics and want to wrestle the control of the organization, a bastion of Mashaei's power, from him.

After receiving a vote of confidence from the Majles, Ali Nikzad was appointed minister of roads and urban development. The new ministry he now heads was created from the merger of the Ministry of Roads and Transportation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

George Busztin, Hungary's ambassador to Tehran, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry. Hungary currently leads the European Union, and the Islamic Republic strongly protested the new E.U. sanctions on three senior Revolutionary Guard figures -- its top commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari; Quds force commander Major General Ghasem Soleimani, and intelligence unit chief and former Basij commander Hossein Taeb, who played a major role in the violent crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.

The second session of the trial of human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi was held on Tuesday. Mohammadi has been charged with membership in the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, which was founded by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, collusion for committing security offenses, and propaganda against the state. Mohammadi -- wife of nationalist-religious journalist Taghi Rahmani, who has spent 17 years in the Islamic Republic's prisons -- was arrested last June. She was released after posting $45,000 bail. During her imprisonment she became ill, although the judiciary claims that she was already sick when she was detained.

Political activist Farzin Rahimi, a computer science student at the University of Tabriz, has been summoned to the Revolutionary Court. He was previously convicted of "insulting the president" and sentenced to 16 months of incarceration. He has also been accused of founding a group called Iran-e Maa (Our Iran).

Four political prisoners incarcerated in Karaj's Rajaei Shahr Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement. They are Behrooz Javid Tehrani, Mohammad Ali Mansouri, Farzad Madadzadeh, Saleh Kohandel. The reason for the transfer is not yet clear.

Jafar Ghaderi, member of the Majles Commission on Economic Affairs, said that Mahmoud Bahmani, governor of the Central Bank, told the commission that the bank increased the rate of exchange between the Iranian toman and the U.S. dollar to earn more money for a large government housing project. The bank increased the rate by more than 11 percent, creating a shockwave in the Iranian market, and then pulled back after a few days and lowered the rate, although not to its previous level. The bank apparently made about $6.8 billion from the temporary increase.

An accident in Tehran's Shahid Tondgooyan oil refinery killed four people. The exact cause of the accident is not yet clear. Over the past year, 50 people have lost their lives in various accidents in Iran's oil industry.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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