Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – March 26, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous vote imposing further sanctions on Iran; Iran’s partial suspension of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning that Iran will use all its capabilities to defend itself against an attack; the growing dispute between Britain and Iran regarding Tehran’s seizure of 15 British marines; Russia exerting pressure on Iran to modulate its nuclear position; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s last minute decision not to address the U.N. Security Council; and an interview with Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi
U.N. / Sanctions
The 15-member U.N. Security Council voted unanimously March 24 to impose new sanctions on Iran over its refusal to end its uranium enrichment program. The resolution freezes the assets of more than 28 Iranian individuals, companies and institutions, including the state-owned Bank Sepah, commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and companies they control. It also places an embargo on arms exports and calls on members to voluntarily restrict loans and financial assistance to the government of Iran.
VOA Persian quoted British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry as saying the sponsors are pleased that the Council was able to act unanimously after weeks of negotiations to send a clear message to Iran that it must comply with its legal obligations. “This is a legal act by the Security Council requiring Iran to actually implement what we have said. We, therefore, incrementally increased pressure on Iran. It is an appropriate response, but our hope was, and our preference, was to see a negotiated outcome. That is to say that it is open to Iran if she accepts to suspend enrichment and research and development, then we want to get into negotiations, we want to find a better way forward. The choice is Iran's but the offer on the table includes undeniably the development of a civil nuclear capability in Iran.” the ambassador said.
Speaking though an interpreter, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told the Council that suspension is not an option or a solution. “Iran does not want confrontation nor does it want anything other than its own inalienable rights. I can assure you that pressure, intimidation will not change Iranian policy. The world must know, and it does, that even the harshest political and economic sanctions – or other threats – are far too weak to coerce the Iranian nation to retreat from their legal and legitimate demands.”
Mr. Mottaki filled in at the last minute for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader said he wanted to address the assembly himself, but cancelled at the last minute, claiming the United States had not provided visas in sufficient time.
State Department officials say despite Iranian claims to the contrary, visas were issued to allow President Ahmadinejad and his entourage to attend the decisive Security Council meeting. Spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. visas for the Iranian president and the others were handed over to Iranian officials Friday morning in Bern, Switzerland. Mr. McCormack said he anticipated a last-minute Iranian attempt to discredit the process. However, he said the rest of the world is losing patience with Iran's refusal to end uranium enrichment and return to negotiations over its nuclear program, which is widely believed to have a secret weapons component. “They will do a lot of arm waving, they will throw up a lot of smoke. They will try to obfuscate and obscure the issue,” he said. “But it gets down to one final irreducible point, and that is that Iran continues to defy the international community, and as a result we are going to pass a second U.N. resolution.”
Ambassador John Bolton, formerly U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says only regime change will cause Iran to halt its nuclear program. Speaking on CNN’s Late Edition March 25, Mr. Bolton said the Security Council resolution is a “useful” measure but will not, by itself, force Iran to shelve its nuclear ambitions. “Iran has made it clear they are going to continue to pursue their 20-year-long effort to get nuclear weapons,” he said. “I think they have shown their determination to resist the Security Council, and there is no sign that these resolutions are making them back away from that.”
Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said March 25 he hopes to revive negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. Mr. Solana told reporters he was seeking immediate talks with Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani. “We want to get in touch with Dr. Larijani, this morning if we can, to try to find a route that would allow us to go into the negotiations,” Mr. Solana told reporters on the sidelines of an E.U. summit. “The door is open for negotiations; let's see if together we can go through.”
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo tried to delay adoption of the sanctions, submitting a series of proposals March 19 aimed at weakening the sanctions against Iran. A copy of the South African proposals obtained by VOA shows that it would have deleted the names of several key companies and individuals from the sanctions list. Among the dropped names is that of the powerful Iranian Bank Sepah, as well as several defense industry firms run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Banking Committee, said he supports sanctions against Iran, but said the Bush administration should be doing more to engage Iran diplomatically. “Sanctions alone in my view are not sufficient,” he noted during a midweek hearing. “They must be used as effective leverage undertaken as part of a coherent coordinated, comprehensive, diplomatic and political strategy such that it is more beneficial for Iran to forswear its nuclear weapons ambitions and alter behavior that is undermining regional peace and stability.”
Political analyst Morteza Anvari, of Strayer University, told News & Views March 25 that the unanimous vote by the Security Council shows Iran’s failure to show the world her nuclear program does not have military intentions. He said December’s sanctions were intended to get Iran to the negotiating table in a bid to end its nuclear program. He said Saturday’s sanctions are still relatively mild as the U.N. tries to force Iran’s hand while sparing the Iranian people. But Mr. Anvari said the West will have more leverage and the situation will get tougher if a third set of sanctions is imposed in two months.
Iran Retaliates: Limiting Cooperation with the I.A.E.A.
VOA Persian reported on Iran’s announcement March 25 that it is partially suspending cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, because of the latest U.N. Security sanctions imposed on it. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told state television that the suspension would “continue until Iran's nuclear case is referred back to the I.A.E.A. from the U.N. Security Council.” Mr. Elham said the government in a Cabinet meeting Sunday decided to suspend “code 1-3 of minor arrangements of the safeguards” with the I.A.E.A. The provision expects a member to inform the I.A.E.A. on any new steps and decisions made concerning a country's nuclear program. Iran's measure is a response to “Saturday night's illegal and bullying resolution by Security Council,” Mr. Elham said.
British Forces Seized
VOA Persian reported on the growing tensions between Iran and Britain. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said March 25 that Iran is considering charging 15 detained British sailors and marines with illegally entering Iranian waters. In New York for the weekend’s U.N. Security Council meeting, Mr. Mottaki also spoke by phone Sunday with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who reiterated London's position that the British Navy personnel were operating in Iraqi waters when they were captured on March 23. The British Foreign Office also said Ms. Beckett called for the safe return of the 15 detainees and asked that British diplomats be allowed to meet with them. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that Iran's detention of the British sailors and marines is “unjustified and wrong.” Mr. Blair said the quicker the issue is resolved, the easier it will be for everyone. Iran's navy detained the crew on Friday after the British conducted a routine inspection of a merchant ship in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq. Iran says the British detainees confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters. Iranian military officials say they are in good health and are being held in Tehran, but British officials say they still have not been able to see the detainees or been told where they are being held. Britain and the European Union are demanding Iran free the 14 men and one woman immediately.
Interview: Reza Pahlavi
Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi gave an interview to NewsTalk March 21 saying, “My function is that of a catalyst – raising global attention to our national plight and helping bring the Iranian opposition together.” His goal, he said, is a free and transparent national election and “should the Iranian people embrace my vision of a secular, modern and democratic system of constitutional government, I will be honored to serve.” The Crown Prince rejected war as a policy option and pronounced “endless diplomacy equally ineffective. The best way to deal with the Iranian regime,” he said, “is by confronting it, pressuring it and at the same time, supporting the Iranian people. I am not asking the U.S. government to respond by either financing or arming the Iranian resistance. However, I am asking that the U.S. should speak with one voice so that indigenous elements capable of supporting the forces of freedom and human rights may be encouraged to play their role.”
U.S. / Iraq
VOA Persian broadcast President Bush’s brief address on the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq on March 19. He said that the United States can be victorious, but “only if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.” The President also warned the Democratic-led Congress not to pass a measure scheduled for a vote that would require troops to withdraw from the conflict. The House approved the measure in a close vote on Friday.
Russia / Iran
Russia denied reports on March 20 that it had threatened to withhold nuclear fuel for Iran's first atomic power plant unless Tehran complies with a U.N. demand to suspend uranium enrichment. The New York Times newspaper Tuesday reported that Russia informed Iran it will cut off fuel supplies for the Bushehr nuclear power plant if Iran refuses to heed U.N. Security Council demands to halt its suspect uranium enrichment program. The front-page story quoted European, American and Iranian officials as saying Russian National Security Council chief Igor Ivanov delivered the ultimatum in Moscow. The article elicited a strong denial from Russian diplomats. Speaking to reporters outside the Security Council chamber, Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin bluntly called the report “not true.” He said Russia sees no link between its financial dispute with Iran over payments for work at Bushehr, and the sanctions imposed on Iran by last December's Security Council resolution 1737.
Citing the dispute over the Bushehr plant, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told the Senate Banking Committee March 21 that Russia has begun applying pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Mr. Burns said Russia's action amounted to political pressure on Iran as the United Nations Security Council considered tougher sanctions on Tehran. “It has been very interesting to see the Russian government over the last week decide that they are not going to provide fuel for the Bushehr power plant,” he said. “They have delayed the implementation schedule in 2007. The very clear message, as we translate it, from the Russian government to the Iranian government, is that it is not going to be business as usual.”
“We Will Defend Ourselves”
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that his country will use all its capabilities to defend itself against an attack. In a national address March 21, Mr. Khamenei said that if the United States and others want to threaten Iran and enforce coercion and violence, then Iran will respond to an attack by enemies. He also is quoted as saying that Iran's nuclear activities have been in accordance with international regulations, and that Tehran will continue those actions, despite any action by the U.N. Security Council.
Roundtable with You March 25 focused on religious discrimination, particularly that suffered by Iran’s Zoroastrian community. Farhang Mehr, retired professor from Boston University said Zoroastrians are among the few “protected religious minorities” recognized by the Iran’s Islamic government – Article 13 of the constitution recognizes Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish religions as minorities – but noted that their freedom to conduct activities is based on “Islamic standards.” Religious minorities are forced to live in relatively self-contained communities as marriage with or conversion of Muslim believers is against the law. Mr. Mehr said despite legal recognition, Zoroastrians are effectively rendered second-class citizens because of inequities in Iran’s Islamic laws. Parviz Ravani, a former member of parliament representing Iran’s Zoroastrian community in the 1990s, told Roundtable that legal reform is quite arduous. Until 2005, injury or death of a religious minority was awarded half the value of a Muslim counterpart. Mr. Ravani said Zoroastrians enjoy no benefits of inheritance law unless they convert to Islam.
Lawyer and human rights activist Nasser Zarafshan was released from prison last week after five years in prison. He was tried and sentenced in March 2002 after a secret trial in a military court for his role in representing the families of two murdered political activists. Mr. Zarafshan appeared on News & Views via telephone from Tehran, and told VOA prison did not change his views. Talking about the recent abuse of protesting teachers, Mr. Zarafshan said, “How can those teachers be treated with violence and arrested just because they are protesting their low incomes, incomes that do not even permit them to pay their rents? Social movements in Iran will not remain silent. People will demand that their rights be granted and will increase their efforts to see those demands met. The government must know that clashing with these movements will radicalize people.”
U.S. Premiere of Bridge 13
Bridge 13 will have its U.S. premiere at the Method Film Festival (March 29-April 5) in Calabasas, California next weekend. The film is about Nargess is a seven year old girl. She and other children her age travel from the homes of their poor families to the city of Tehran where they are gathered together by two men Davar and Gholam, who put them to working begging in the streets and selling flowers and gum. She manages to escape and finds herself outside a beautiful house owned by old man who hates everything, including children. His daughter, who has returned from Canada to take care of him after a heart attack, is kind in contrast. When Nargess sneaks into the house and is discovered, the struggle begins between the father who wants to send Nargess into the welfare system and the daughter who wants to care for her as her own.
Roundtable with You on March 24 focused on Bridge 13 and children’s rights with the film’s director, Farhad Gharib (aka Steven Rush), and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. The Iranian government banned the film last year and Mr. Gharib decided to hold the film’s premiere in the U.S. “I had no intention of making any movies in Iran,” he told VOA, “but when I traveled to Iran in the aftermath of my father’s death, I bumped into a few street children, around the ages of 5 or 6, at three in the morning. I was driving, and it was snowy. I was stunned to see the children start a bonfire on the street to keep warm. That’s when I decided to give voice to these voiceless children and pay my debt to Iranian society.” Ms. Sotoudeh, a Tehran-based attorney for children’s rights, said “This phenomenon of homeless children and forced labor is commonplace all over the world. In Iran, these children also suffer from a lack of social consciousness . . . people don’t care about their welfare.”
Nowruz: Folk Music
Roundtable with You celebrated New Year’s – Noruz – March 20 with celebrated singer Sima Bina. Born in Khorasan, in the heart of a popular tradition, Ms. Bina started her career on Iranian radio at the age of nine, under the direction of her father, Ahmad Bina – a master of Iranian classical music and poet who wrote many of her early songs. During the show, Roundtable played several of her songs, and Ms. Bina would then tell the story behind their creation. She has focused on collecting, recording, writing and re-interpreting popular regional music, reviving a collection of almost forgotten songs and melodies and gaining a unique position in the history of Persian music.
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News Talk, an hour-long program featuring a panel of experts discussing the day's top news stories, had its debut in October. News Talk opens VOA's daily four-hour Persian-language television block every day with a brief recap of the day's top headlines. It features in-depth discussions of the issues of greatest concern to Iranians and closes with a segment on worldwide media coverage of Iran. News Talk is followed by News and Views, Roundtable with You, and Late Edition, all one-hour shows that constitute a four-hour daily block of Persian-language television broadcast by satellite to Iran. News and Views, which debuted in 2003, features correspondent reports, interviews, and the top news stories from Washington and around the world. Roundtable with You, which debuted on television in 1996, takes calls from viewers and features a wide variety of guests discussing issues ranging from popular culture to politics. Late Edition, a youth-oriented program which first aired in July, looks at major world events and issues of interest to young people.
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