Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, DC – October 2, 2006 . . . Major stories this week included coverage of ongoing talks between the EU and Iran over the Iranian government’s controversial nuclear enrichment program, Iran’s support of Hezbollah and the beginning of strong anti-Hezbollah sentiment in Lebanon, and talks between President Bush and the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
VOA Persian reported on State Department spokesman Tom Casey telling the Washington Times that “Iran needs to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, and it needs to do so in a verifiable way. If it does, we can start negotiations. If it doesn’t, we move to sanctions.” He said Iran can call its actions whatever it wants, but “if it is a suspension, it has to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency and conform to and meet the standards laid out by the IAEA. Iran denied that a temporary suspension is on the agenda of the next round of IAEA talks.
But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the two rounds of talks in Berlin with Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Larijani, had led to some important progress in resolving Iran’s nuclear ambitions and that further talks will be held again this week.
VOA Persian interviewed Washington, DC-based political analyst Sohrab Sobhani on the likelihood of Iran’s compliance with UN resolutions on its nuclear program. Mr. Sobhani said he believes US policy will win the day if the USG is able to persuade France to fall in line. He said Russia and China will likely follow France’s lead, and that all three countries are more concerned with profitable economic relations with Iran than in strategic interests. He also said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mr. Larijani are not to be believed when they say Iran is interested in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; he said Iran wants a nuclear arsenal, just as the US fears.
From London, Iranian commentator and political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh told VOA Persian it is hard to rely on the words of President Ahmadinejad, Mr. Larijani or Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki when it comes to the nuclear stand-off. Mr. Nourizadeh said the main decision-maker in Iran is still Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. Mr. Khamenei, a hardliner, has said Iran has no intention of stopping its uranium enrichment program, despite looming UN sanctions. Mr. Nourizadeh said he believes sanctions – if they are imposed – could hurt the Iranian government.
A letter from 1988 in which Iran’s top commander says Iran could need a nuclear bomb to win the war against Iraq came to light in Tehran on September 29. The letter in which the commander is quoted was written by the father of Iran’s revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, to top officials in the final days of the war. It was made public by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, and seems at odds with Tehran’s statements that Iran is not seeking a bomb. Washington, DC-based political analyst Hormoz Hekmat told VOA Persian that Iran’s ambitions to have access to nuclear and chemical weapons is not new, and is clearly stated in one of the versions of the government’s published letter. He said if this version is authentic, it compromises the Iranian government’s position that its nuclear goals are peaceful.
Siamack Shojai, Dean of the School of Business at Georgian Court University’s in New Jersey, told VOA Persian that the Iranian people are anxious about the possibility of war over their country’s nuclear program. Mr. Shojai said government bonds are not selling and that President Ahmadinejad is replacing competent people with people who are guaranteed to be politically loyal. Capital is leaving the country, he said, at a rapid pace.
From Beirut, VOA reporter Saman Arbabi said wartime solidarity among the Lebanese people is dissipating, with some beginning to question Hezbollah’s state within a state actions – including the abduction of Israeli soldiers which led to the recent conflict with Israel. Former political prisoner Samir Jaaja – head of one of the strongest Christian militias during Lebanon’s civil war -- has been criticizing Hezbollah and his words are reverberating among the people, particularly his appeal that the Lebanese people “need to resolve their issues with Israel not by guns but by political discussion.”
VOA reporter Nazi Beiglari interviewed Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party. Mr. Jumblatt, a supporter of President Fouad Siniora’s government and a close friend of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, criticized Iran for supporting Hezbollah’s war with Israel – with “hundreds of millions of dollars, planning and implementation.” Mr. Jumblatt said he had been mistaken to support Hezbollah in the past, but was concerned that Hezbollah and Israel were not yet finished with each other. He asked the United States to intercede by encouraging political dialogue in the region, particularly on a resolution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestine dispute.
Nazi Beiglari also interviewed Christian leader Serge Tor Sarkissian about the pro-government/anti-Hezbollah rally in Beirut attended by over 10,000 Lebanese-Christians. Mr. Sarkissian, who is deputy head of Tayaar Al-Mustaqbal – the political party of slain leader Rafiq Hariri – told VOA that the Lebanese government is not weak, but that President Siniora’s government preferred diplomacy to war.
VOA Persian provided detailed coverage of the talks between President Bush, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. President Bush said both leaders understand what he calls the “ideological struggle of the 21st century.” The President also noted that both men have been the target of assassination attempts by extremists. Mr. Karzai told reporters that Iran and Afghanistan enjoy good relations and that Iranians do not oppose the US presence in Afghanistan, but that the Iranian position is tenuous.
Poet and writer Leila Farjami talked to VOA Persian live from our Los Angeles studio. Ms. Farjami’s articles and poems have been widely published in English and Persian inside and outside of Iran. The government denied her request to publish her newest book. She said the cultural minister wanted her to make changes or to delete entire poems before it was publishable – conditions she found unacceptable and leading her to publish the book in Sweden. Ms. Farjami said young Iranians are keenly interested in poetry and contemporary literature and that they are using the Internet to counter government censorship.
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VOA Persian Television broadcasts three hours of original Persian language programming to Iran seven days a week via satellite. On October 8, VOA will launch a fourth hour of daily programming called News Talk, a discussion program with a regular panel of experts that analyzes the day’s headlines.
News and Views is VOA Persian’s flagship evening newscast program featuring the top stories of the day from Iran, the United States and around the world. Correspondents from Washington, London, Paris and Bonn report on current affairs. Top experts provide analysis of key issues pertaining to Iran. Roundtable with You is an hour-long talk show with viewers calling in to studio live and responses to viewer e-mails. Guests include newsmakers, political experts and well-known Iranians. Late Edition is a late night news program that wraps up the day’s top news stories; it targets a younger demographic.
VOA's television shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA's Persian language Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.