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Persian tv weekly highlights 2/23

Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. (February 23) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tour of Asia – her first trip abroad – led the news for this week. Other major stories included PNN analysis of a new report on Syria’s chemical weapons productions as relations between the U.S. and Syria appear to be improving; a five-part series on the environment with footage derived from viewers in Iran; and, in human rights news, the surprise release of Egyptian dissident Ayman Nour.


News and Views February 19 – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted on Wednesday as saying he expected U.S. President Barack Obama to send an ambassador to Syria soon to make good on a dialogue offer to countries previously shunned by Washington. President Assad said in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper that he hoped for a new relationship with the United States after the George W. Bush era and that Washington would act as the "main arbiter" in the stalled Middle East peace process. "An ambassador is important," said the Syrian President. During the previous administration, the United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The U.S. held Syria responsible for allowing Islamist fighters to infiltrate Iraq. President Assad is expected to meet U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, the most senior American to visit Damascus in years and an advocate of restoring ambassador-level ties. "Sending these delegations are important. The number of congressmen coming to Syria is a good gesture. It shows that this administration wants to see dialogue with Syria," said President Assad. On Sunday, Syria’s ambassador to Washington said that the U.S. Treasury Department has authorized the transfer of $500,000 to a Syrian charity in a sign that it is easing its economic embargo on the country. Imad Mustafa told reporters in Syria’s capital that the money is for the Children with Cancer Support Association and was raised by Syrians living in the U.S. There was no immediate comment from the Treasury Department. In other news, a top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan declared that Iran clearly plays a vitally important role in Afghanistan. Robert Holbrooke’s remarks were made during an interview on Sunday with a private Afghan television network.


News and Views February 19 – News and Views reported Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) called on Syria yesterday to end its three-decade alliance with Iran as Washington reviews its policies towards the Middle East. After talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Senator Cardin urged the Damascus government to seize the opportunity of a new U.S. administration to end the support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups that earned it sanctions from President George W. Bush. "Syria has isolated itself by its partnership of terrorism, by providing safe haven to terrorist organizations, its relations with Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad, and a troubled relationship with Iran," Sen. Cardin said. "The question we came here to try and answer is whether Syria is ready to make important and significant decisions that will bring us closer together and move forward,” he added. Meanwhile, London-based Jane's Information Group said on Wednesday that Syria has increased activity at a suspected chemical weapons production site, a move likely to increase tension with Israel. According to a respected intelligence organization, satellite imagery of the Al Safir site in northwest Syria does not suggest that Damascus is arming for an offensive but this level of activity will fuel concern in neighboring Israel.

News and Views February 17 – PNN reported on possible new dialogue with Syria during an upcoming visit to Damascus by a high-ranking congressional delegation. Early reports indicate the U.S. may even lift certain sanctions against the country. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will travel to Syria this week as part of a tour of the Middle East. Sen. Kerry, the democratic presidential candidate in 2004, is expected to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Kerry will be accompanied by Rep. Howard Berman, his counterpart in the House of Representatives. The delegation will not officially represent President Obama, but it could open the way for later contacts with the Syrians on the part of administration officials. Sen. Kerry met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday morning over breakfast, presumably to discuss the upcoming trip to Damascus, according to State Department Spokesman Robert Wood. Unlike House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went to Damascus in April 2007 to meet with President al-Assad against the wishes of the former president, Sen. Kerry said he had received a green light from Secretary Clinton. Senator Kerry is challenging Syria to demonstrate its seriousness about encouraging peace and stability in the Middle East. The U.S. has accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq, though Syria denies that. In the past, Sen. Kerry has spoken of his concern about what he said was the flow of "money, weapons and terrorists" through Syria into Iraq and Lebanon. In Egypt on Sunday, the senator said the U.S. is eager to talk to Syria, whose president said last month he also wants a dialogue with Washington, but without preconditions.

News and Views February 17 – In another sign of a thaw with Damascus, the Commerce Department recently authorized aeronautics giant Boeing to sell parts to Syria to upgrade two Boeing 747s belonging to state-run Syrian Airlines, according to the English website of the Sana news agency. According to Forbes magazine, the provisional suspension of some U.S. sanctions against Syria date to February 2, two weeks after President Obama assumed office. However, the U.S. at the same time warned it will not abandon the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri. His killing has been widely blamed on the Syrian regime despite its denial of any involvement. Senator Kerry's trip coincides with the fourth anniversary of President Hariri's February 14, 2005 killing. President Obama has said he "fully supports" the Special Tribunal "to bring those responsible for this horrific crime and those that followed to justice." Secretary Clinton backed it up by promising that the United States will provide six million dollars to finance the tribunal, which begins work March 1 in Leidschendam, near The Hague. The contribution will be on top of 14 million dollars already provided by the previous administration, she noted in a statement.


News and Views February 19 – In a surprising move, the Egyptian government released Ayman Nour from prison on Wednesday. In 2005, Mr. Nour challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the September presidential elections. He finished a distant second in a race that was criticized as flawed and in which many voters stayed away from polling stations. Mr. Nour was convicted Dec. 24, 2005, of forging signatures on petitions to register his Al-Ghad party in 2004. Mr. Nour alleged he was prosecuted to eliminate him from politics. His allegations received wide support among human rights groups. The U.S. had pressured the Egyptian government to release Mr. Nour for many years. Speaking of his release to the Associated Press he commented, “Why they did this is unknown...I am coming out with an open heart and am ready to work and nothing has changed. A lot of things have been put on hold over the past years.” U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the ranking republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on the Egyptian Government’s decision to release imprisoned dissident Ayman Nour. On an official visit to Egypt in April of 2007 as part of a bi-partisan delegation, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen met with Mr. Nour’s wife. During the congresswoman’s visit, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also personally asked Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to free Mr. Nour. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has signed several letters and petitions calling for Mr. Nour’s release and has authored or co-authored resolutions focusing on violations of human rights in Egypt – and on Mr. Nour’s case specifically. "Ayman Nour’s release is a badly-needed step in the right direction. We hope this decision will be part of a trend towards greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Egyptian Government,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. She also said Mr. Nour’s release is a victory for those who refuse to allow their love for freedom to be silenced by intimidation and imprisonment.


News and Views February 19 – Iran's environmental challenges are spotlighted in a five- part series on PNN. Journalists focused on the broad and severe problems of air and water pollution in Iran, sturgeon overfishing in the Caspian Sea, deforestation, and decreasing biodiversity in Iran’s pristine land. The in-depth series was developed after PNN's audience in Iran responded to an on-air request with photos and video of the country's environmental challenges. The inclusion of this viewer-sent imagery formed the foundation of the series and PNN will continue to request and broadcast imagery showing the depth of the pollution problem in Tehran and beyond as it is received. "This series is unique because it was made possible by the direct participation of the audience who shared their environmental concerns," said VOA Director Danforth Austin. PNN spent months collecting and sifting through significant amounts of both still imagery and video from inside Iran sent by viewers responding to an on-air call for help. Besides focusing on the scope of Iran's environmental problems and associated health concerns, the series provides examples of how citizen coalitions can play a role in pushing for environmental changes. The pieces presented Iranians with a guidebook on building a grassroots movement by introducing them to the history of citizen based U.S. environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. "VOA is keen to help its audience confront challenges," stated Mr. Austin. The pieces contained interviews with representatives from the Sierra Club, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Environmental Protection Agency. Ultimately, the goal of the series is to raise awareness of both the scope of Iran’s environmental problem as well as the health concerns associated with the reality of dirty air and water. Another goal of the series is to empower viewers by providing resources and examples about how citizen coalitions can become forces for environmental change in their homes, communities and ultimately their countries. The series began airing Monday, February 16, 2009 and ended on Friday, February 21. All of the pieces will be available on line at http://www.voanews.com/persian/. PNN’s commitment to this issue will not end at the conclusion of the series and viewers should stay tuned for continued coverage of the environment both in Tehran and around the world.


News and Views February 19 – Senator John Kerry Spokesperson Frederick Jones confirmed that the senator visited the West Bank to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad before heading to Damascus. Senator Kerry (D-MA) on Thursday made a rare visit to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, but stressed this does not reflect a change of policy towards the territory's Islamist rulers listed by Washington as a terror group. The visit "does not indicate any shift whatsoever with respect to Hamas," said Sen. Kerry, who heads the Senate's powerful foreign relations committee. His first stop in the impoverished Palestinian enclave was the American school left in ruins by the deadly 22-day Israeli offensive that ended on January 18. Talking to a Palestinian lawyer amid the dust and rubble, Sen. Kerry defended Israel for responding to almost daily rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. Sen. Kerry briefly toured Islet Abed Rabbo, a northern Gaza community ravaged by the Israeli offensive and he held talks with UN officials in Gaza City. The Senator’s visit coincided with a similar trip by U.S. representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison, who expressed dismay at the plight of the overpopulated coastal strip. "The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering," Rep. Baird said in a statement issued jointly with Rep. Ellison. The visits were the first by U.S. officials in more than three years. None of the Congressmen met with Hamas, the Islamist movement which seized control of Gaza in June 2007 and which Washington blacklists as a terrorist organization. "What has to change is behavior. What has to change obviously is Hamas's consistent resort to instruments of terror," Senator Kerry said in the Israeli city of Sderot before entering the Palestinian enclave aboard a UN vehicle. "We feel very deeply that no one should have to live under this threat," he said after he and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni inspected rockets fired by Gaza militants that are exhibited in a Sderot police station. Senator Kerry said on Wednesday that the new U.S. administration will press Syria to help disarm the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as it forges ahead with a fresh diplomatic approach in the region. "We want Syria to respect the political independence of Lebanon. We want Syria to help in the process of resolving issues with Hezbollah and with the Palestinians," said Kerry after meeting President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. "Unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe you have to engage in a discussion," Senator Kerry said. "So we are going to renew diplomacy but without any illusion, without any naivety, without any misplaced belief that, just by talking, things will automatically happen. They will happen when things are met on both sides and you have to talk with people in order to understand those expectations and reach agreements," he added.

News and Views February 17 – Jordan's King Abdullah II held talks on Monday with visiting Senator John Kerry on ways to resume Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, the palace said. "The king and Kerry discussed efforts aimed at the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis," according to a brief palace statement. According to the White House Monday, President Barack Obama had two separate phone conversations with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The president emphasized the importance of the United States' alliance with Turkey and said he looks forward to working with both President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan on a broad agenda of mutual strategic interest. The president emphasized his desire to strengthen U.S.-Turkish relations and to work together effectively in NATO. In both calls, the leaders discussed a number of current issues, including U.S. support for the growing Turkish-Iraqi relationship, the importance of cooperation in Middle East peace efforts, and the U.S. review on Afghanistan and Pakistan policies. Meanwhile, during a visit to Rome on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said The U.S. administration is committed to a "new era of cooperation" with its allies. "You can look forward to that new era of cooperation and that possibly will start with Afghanistan," Rep. Pelosi said at a news conference, adding tongue in cheek, "not necessarily alphabetically." Flanked by her Italian counterpart Gianfranco Fini, the Italian-American Pelosi said, "There is no way that we will establish a policy that then imposes upon others obligations for which they have no consultation." The United States plans to double its presence in Afghanistan, adding a further 30,000 troops to bolster forces fighting a Taliban-led insurgency alongside 50,000 NATO troops. Some 70,000 international troops are currently based in the country. In December, Italy said it would increase its number of troops in Afghanistan by 500 to 2,800 for six months this year in the face of a "delicate operational situation" in western Herat province bordering Iran. Rep. Pelosi defended the United States against accusations of protectionism during a trip to Italy, following concerns about a "Buy American" provision in the U.S. stimulus plan. "Somewhere in the mix of things, someone has decided that America has become, is becoming, more protectionist. I don't think that is the case," Rep. Pelosi told reporters at the Italian parliament. In a move likely to stoke more controversy about whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are in line with the church, Pope Benedict XVI has granted an audience to Rep. Pelosi. The Catholic News Agency confirmed Monday that Pelosi is to meet Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI, who has said supporters of abortion rights should not receive Communion.


News and Views February 19 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has voiced concerns about North Korea's leadership situation. Speaking with reporters while en route to the South Korean capital of Seoul, Secretary Clinton said the administration of President Obama is deeply concerned about a possible change in Pyongyang's ruling structure. Just hours before Secretary Clinton arrived in the South Korean capital, North Korea released a fresh warning stating it is prepared for war with South Korea. In a statement released Thursday by the official Korean Central News Agency, North Korean military officials said their army is ready for an all-out confrontation. The nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran and Syria are among the issues a new IAEA chief will have to deal with as of December 2009. Yukima Amano and Abdul Samad Minty, permanent representatives of Japan and South Africa to the IAEA respectively, are the two candidates hoping to succeed Mohamad El-Baradei whose 4th term will expire in November 2009. During her visit to Indonesia, Secretary Clinton briefly held talks with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In her free time, she visited a poor neighborhood that is being revitalized with U.S. assistance funds. She also took part in a youth musical show interview. In the interview she promised that the U.S. would increase its efforts to resolve the Mideast issue and spoke about plans to participate in an upcoming International Donors' Conference for rebuilding Gaza which is scheduled to take place in Cairo on March 2, 2009.


News and Views February 18 – The United States will put pressure this week on its NATO allies to increase their commitments to Afghanistan. However, the administration is not optimistic that allies will contribute troops. President Obama has ordered 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan to battle a worsening insurgency. He announced the move ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Krakow, Poland, on Thursday and Friday. The president said the troops were needed to "stabilize a deteriorating situation." The U.S. troop increase will bring U.S. numbers in Afghanistan to around 55,000. Allies from 40 other mostly NATO countries have contributed 30,000 total troops. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) praised the announcement to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and said "Commanders in Afghanistan have been calling for more troops to meet mission requirements... This announcement committing additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan signals that we are restoring American leadership to the coalition effort to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban and to support the government of Afghanistan. I hope our NATO allies will take our example to heart and provide more assistance as well." However, the call for additional troops put pressure on the president to articulate answers to questions about which policies those forces will be implementing. Questions of how much emphasis to place on securing populations and fostering development and democracy, versus limiting the focus to a mostly lethal exercise in attacking al Qaeda and the Taliban, are some of the concerns raised by lawmakers. A major concern is the exact role of Pakistan and other powers in the region. Analysts question the extent to which regional tribal leaders, versus the central government, become a linchpin of security. Complicating the picture further is the fact that the supplies needed for a growing allied force are increasingly imperiled by attacks on convoys in Pakistan. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the ranking republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said more troops alone will not lead to success in Afghanistan. "I believe the president must spell out for the American people what he believes victory in Afghanistan will look like and articulate a coherent strategy for achieving it," Sen. McCain said in a statement. He added, "Today, notwithstanding the administration's ongoing policy reviews, there still exists no integrated civil-military plan for this war – more than seven years after we began military operations. Such a strategy should spell out the way forward, including the additional resource requirements for its execution." John M. McHugh of New York, the ranking House republican on the Armed Services Committee, echoed that theme. "While the deployment of additional U.S. personnel is welcomed, our commanders on the ground and the secretary of defense have consistently indicated that additional troops would be required in the future," Rep. McHugh said in a statement. He added, "We need to involve all elements of national power in this struggle and develop a balanced, comprehensive strategy for the region and the issues involved." House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), took another tack on that issue. "Democrats have long said that the center of the war on terror is Afghanistan, and this renewed commitment to our fight there demonstrates the president's appreciation for this challenge," he said in a statement. He added, "The conflict in Iraq has taken our eye off of a resurgent global network of terrorists, and this action responds to requests from commanders on the ground to increase their ability to effectively combat those who seek to harm us.”


News and Views February 20 – PNN continued coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s four-nation tour of Asia. Secretary Clinton arrived in China, her final stop on a trip through Asia that has focused on the global economic crisis, climate change and North Korea's nuclear program. Before arriving in Beijing Friday, Secretary Clinton used a visit to South Korea to stand together with Seoul and urge North Korea not to take any provocative actions. Speaking at a news conference with her South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan, she urged the North to return to border talks and re-open its dialogue with Seoul. Tensions have been increasing on the Korean peninsula. U.S. and South Korea have warned that North Korea is planning a test launch of a long-range ballistic missile possibly capable of reaching the United States. Secretary Clinton warned that any such action would violate a United Nations resolution imposed after a similar test in 2006. Speaking on the matter, she stated, “I make the offer again right here in Seoul. If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic and humanitarian needs of the Korean people." While in South Korea, Secretary Clinton announced that Stephen Bosworth will be Washington's new special envoy to North Korea and the chief negotiator to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Mr. Bosworth, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, recently made a five-day visit to North Korea where he said officials told him they are willing to talk to the Obama administration. The veteran diplomat said North Korea expressed willingness to move forward with long-stalled denuclearization talks and he downplayed reports about the possible missile test. During her stay in China, Secretary Clinton is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. She will also hold talks with her Chinese counterpart. Secretary Clinton is scheduled to leave China for Washington on Sunday, February 22.

News and Views February 18 – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Indonesia on the second stop of her tour of Asia. She met with her Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda. During her visit, Secretary Clinton toured the headquarters of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Her visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation is part of President Obama's goal to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim world. The president is personally popular in Indonesia, having spent four years of his childhood there. A group of children from the president’s elementary school in Jakarta greeted Clinton at the airport. Indonesian political analyst Bantarto Bandoro said President Obama's experience in Indonesia has given him a good perspective of the country. Mr. Bandoro said, “I think this is a great chance for Indonesia to really improve its relationship with the United States. Also from a U.S. perspective it is also a good momentum for the Obama government to improve…to rebuild the trust among third world countries, the Muslim world especially." Mr. Bandoro commented on the importance of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach out saying, “We have to really support the way President Obama is handling the international problem. What I am trying to say is, without the support of the Muslim world, without the support of other members of the international community, I think whatever policy President Obama is going to initiate will not be successful.”

News and Views February 17 – Secretary Clinton met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, the foreign minister, and the empress during the first day of her visit to Japan. She also attended a ceremony in her honor and spoke to students at Tokyo University. Secretary Clinton's agenda included a host of bilateral and international issues; however, developments out of North Korea seemed to loom over the visit. After signing an agreement on the transfer of eight thousand U.S. Marines from Okinama to Guam, Secretary Clinton warned Pyongyang against taking action that might jeopardize relations with the U.S. and the world. To underscore the U.S.-Japanese alliance, Secretary Clinton invited Prime Minister Aso to visit Washington next week. He will be the first foreign leader to visit President Obama at the White House. At the U.S. Embassy, Secretary Clinton also met with the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s. Earlier she called on Pyongyang to open the case again.


48 Hours February 20 – Nosratollah Vahedi, a former professor of nuclear physics at Munich University, offered his insights into the reasons behind Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Vahedi said the reason Iran has slowed the pace of installing and bringing centrifuges into operation is that it does not have enough hexafluoride to enrich. "They bought a lot from China, but now they're running out. They are now relying on Iran's own resources which are not plentiful and take more time to turn into yellowcake," he said. Mr. Vahedi mentioned another important factor in that Iran replaced P1 and P2 centrifuges with IR-1 and IR-2. “These machines are not as efficient as their predecessors," he added. "Iran has not been transparent on the budget allocated for their nuclear program. They have not been forthcoming to the IAEA about their heavy-water reaction. They have not even disclosed to the IAEA the location of their nuclear waste," he said. On the international reaction to the report, Mr. Vahedi added that Europeans are extremely troubled by this report because they see the danger of terrorist groups sponsored by Iran acquiring nuclear technology and building smaller bombs that can be carried in a suitcase.

News and Views February 20 – A PNN update on the periodic IAEA report regarding Iran's nuclear program informed viewers that the U.S. Department of State believes Iran has given up another opportunity to resolve international concerns on its nuclear program. The Department of State conveyed its opinion that until Iran abides by UN Security Council resolutions and works transparently with the IAEA, the international community cannot have confidence that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.


News and Views February 20 – News and Views spoke with Sukria Dellawar about the current situation in Afghanistan. Ms. Dellawar is an Afghan expert with L3 Communications. She said that more robust diplomacy is needed to reach some sort of accommodation with the Taliban. "Some moderate elements of the Taliban are amenable to laying down their arms and entering negotiations and NATO countries should take advantage of this opening," she said. "Unfortunately, the government of Afghanistan has not done much to encourage the political participation of the Afghanis. The people of Afghanistan have become disillusioned about politics because they perceive their leaders as corrupt and ineffective," Ms. Dellawar said. We need to find more peaceful ways to move the country forward and that means engaging the warlords who control swaths of the country. Some are already in the government but more can be brought in," she said. Ms. Dellawar believes Afghan President Hamed Karzai has earned the support of the Afghani public by criticizing NATO's military attacks which have resulted in civilian casualties.


News and Views February 18
– PNN’S Iraq and Turkey correspondent reported that the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is in Iraq on a two-day visit. Mr. Steinmeier met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and signed several bilateral memoranda of understanding with the Iraqi leader. He was also present for the opening of the German consulate in Irbil, where he held talks with leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region. Mr. Steinmeier touched down in Baghdad amid tight security and pledged more commerce between the two countries, promising to help Iraq in technology and science. Iraqi lawmakers selected two candidates for the new Speaker of Parliament. It is expected that the new Speaker will be elected tomorrow.

News and Views February 17 – During the daily press briefing, Department of State Spokesman Gordon Duguid responded to a question from VOA as to whether the sale of Russian air defense missiles to Iran was brought up during Ambassador Burn's visit to Moscow last week. Mr. Duguid said he was unaware of the development. This is in light of the reports that the Iranian defense minister was in Moscow to press for the sale that was agreed to between the two countries last year. Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Glyn Davies elaborated on the significance of the secretary of state's trip to Asia as her first overseas trip. He said the U.S. is not only a transatlantic power, but a transpacific power seeking to solidify alliances and cooperate with allies on the other side of the Pacific. On North Korea's activities, Mr. Davies reiterated the U.S policy and its extended hand if North Korea abides by its agreements.

News and Views February 16 – PNN's Iraqi correspondent reported that Iraqi Kurds and Christians are growing increasingly concerned about an early withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani said the U.S withdrawal would destabilize the region, creating conditions that increase the chance of war between Arabs and Kurds. Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders announced that they have reached an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran to stop the attacks that have been taking place in the northern region of Iraq.

News and Views February 21 – International analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba provided a run-down of the top stories across the globe this week. Speaking about the new IAEA report, Dr. Diba was asked whether the report would have any impact on Iran. He does not believe this report will have any effect on Iran and expects that the U.S. will try to increase sanctions as Iran becomes more militarized. Turning to Israel and the likely formation by Benjamin Netanyahu of a new Israeli government, Dr. Diba believes Mr. Netanyahu’s government would oppose any compromise towards Palestinians and that the new government will have a stronger stance against Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Because of this, he believes the probability of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear establishments will increase. Dr. Diba does not believe former President Mohammad Khatami stands a real chance of winning the upcoming presidential election in Iran. Moreover, he does not believe that Iran’s policies will change significantly if he were to win.

48 Hours February 21 – PNN interviewed Khosrow B. Semnani about his organization’s recent advertisement in the Washington Post. Mr. Semnani said that his organization, Omid for Iran, recently wrote President Obama a letter that took a half-page of the Washington Post last week. "I call on Mr. Obama to support and publicize the cause of Iran’s civil rights movement. The more international media coverage Iran’s civil rights leaders receive, the more emboldened the Iranian people will be in their demands for democracy," he said. He thought it was important to address the new president and warn him about the risks involved in attacking Iran militarily. "Despite the Islamic Republic’s belligerent rhetoric, the Iranian people are a proud and peaceful people whose faith binds them to principles of justice, tolerance, mercy and compassion," he said. "Having experienced the scourge of war, tyranny and oppression, the Iranian people are resolute in promoting peace and determined in their quest for freedom," he added. The idea that military strikes will moderate the Islamic Republic’s conduct or promote the cause of peace in the region is a fallacy. The fear of war enables fanatics to fuel anti-Americanism in the name of protecting Iran and Islam against the “Great Satan.” Mr. Semnani said he currently heads the Islamic Council in Utah which includes mosques and Islamic organizations for Muslims from diverse countries such as Somali, Pakistan and Bosnia. Mr. Semnani is also involved in philanthropic work across the world. "In 1993, I felt a strong desire to follow the guidance of my grandmother, Maliheh, to reach out and help others less fortunate. As a result, my wife and I created the Semnani Foundation as an international foundation committed to helping solve some of the most troubling women and children's global health and education issues," he said. Mr. Semanani concluded that, despite existing tensions in U.S.-Iran relations, there is still a need to provide more charitable assistance to ordinary Iranians in Iran so that they can improve their lot. "I'm convinced that despite the enmity that has been in existence between Tehran and Washington, the people of the two countries can remain friends," he said.


48 Hours February 22 – London-based journalist Alireza Nourizadeh discussed Iran’s top news stories during today’s 48 Hours. On the rhetoric becoming heated between Tehran and Tel Aviv, Mr. Nourizadeh said that Iran does not have any intention of getting into a military conflict with Israel because Iranian leaders know that they don't have the aerial capability to intimidate the Jewish state. "Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to appeal to the Arab on the street.” The recent IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program claimed that inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran has slowed the expansion of the underground centrifuge facility. This is the facility where Iran makes enriched uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs. Mr. Nourizadeh said he doubted that the slower pace was some sort of a conciliatory gesture in advance of any diplomatic overtures by the Obama administration. "The problem that Iran is having right now is technical difficulties in installing more centrifuges," he said. He said that with Israel and Iran's Arab neighbors adamantly opposed to an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, the Obama administration cannot afford to let Iran become a nuclear power. "It would touch off a nuclear arms race that the United States cannot find acceptable," he added. "IAEA Director General Mohammad Al-Baradei has shown a great deal of good faith toward Iran, and it's unfortunate that Iranian leaders have not reciprocated," he said. Mr. Nourizadeh also commented on the hottest topic of conversation in Iran – the head of the Iranian parliament's Budget, Planning, and Accounts Commission has said that more than $1 billion in oil revenues are missing from the state treasury. "I think it will become clear in the next few months that Ahmadinejad either has given this money to the Lebanese Hezbollah or Hamas. The other scenario might be that he has spent the money buying votes in the run up to his own re-election," he surmised.

NewsTalk February 19 – London-based journalist Nasser Mohamadi and Heshmatolah Tabarzadi, the leader of the Iranian Democratic Front in Tehran, joined Newstalk to discuss Iran’s economic news. Mr. Tabarzadi commented on the importance of oil exports. Although Iran profited greatly when oil prices were high, the oil export economy is currently creating problems in Iran’s economy because of the fluctuating price of oil. Mr. Tabarzadi stated that one of the largest problems has to do with the lack of autonomy in the private sector. “The Iranian government has monopolized many imported commodities such as food and industrial products. Internal resources like oil, bread and natural water sources are also monopolized,” he added. According to Mr. Tabarzadi, this has caused an increase in political pressure on Iran's population because the government does not have any other solution for its economic problems. Mr. Mohamadi agrees with Mr. Tabarzadi that the only solution for Iran's economic problems is to have a free market and economy. Mr. Mohamadi stated, “Of course there are also economic problems in western countries like the U.S., but the difference is that they try to solve these problems with experts. In Iran you do not see strong efforts to fix problems.” Mr. Mohamadi described the Iranian economy as a mixture of socialism, capitalism, Islamic laws and other elements. “It is because of this mixture that we have reached the point where we are now,” he stated.

Roundtable February 16 – A prominent Iranian author and historian joined Roundtable to discuss his new book on Iran’s constitutional revolution. Dr. Mashallah Ajoudani noted that revolutions are almost always considered a major part of a nation's history. He described why analysts cite the Iranian Constitutional Revolution as a major step towards justice, security, development and independence. He discussed his recent book, "Iranian Constitutional Revolution," remarking that analysis in the book demonstrated the great disservice to the country if academics do not pay attention to the major role that the movement played in shaping the Iranian nation. He commented on how Iranian culture and society is interwoven with religion, especially Shiite Islam, and he described how this plays out in leadership capacities. Some consider the 1979 revolution as a one-issue movement, whose foundation was religious fundamentalism mixed with economic dissatisfaction and a class war in the society. Dr. Ajoudani remarked that Iran in the post-1979 revolution was promised by Ayatollah Khomeini to have independence and freedom for all its people, yet what the folks received were more stifling of ideas, more torment, and further torture of minds and souls.


Today's Woman February 21 –The show included a lively debate concerning the issue of ‘sighe’, or temporary marriage, in Iran. In-studio guests included activist and journalist Fariba Davoudi Mohajer and Iranian analyst Mohamad Borghi. First, the discussion focused on the relationship between sighe and prostitution, highlighting a recent article written by Hossein Baqerzadeh in which he argues that the act of sighe is worse than prostitution. Mr. Borghi contended that in the past, sighe and prostitution have been related, whereas Ms. Mohajer argued that sighe is currently a form of legalized prostitution. He suggested that in Iran, five percent of married men partake in sighe. Ms. Mohajer argued that the act of sighe, which allows only men to practice polygamy with multiple sighed wives, is a statute that prohibits gender equality. Mr. Borghi argued that sighe allows women and men to comfortably have relations without being harassed by authorities. Ms. Mohajer challenged this point by stating that women and men should not be harassed in the first place for having public relations. She argued that sighe cannot be an isolated issue and that by legally permitting men to have multiple wives the legal system promotes cheating. The two guests did agree that the act of sighe is a personal decision that should not be encouraged by government.


Roundtable February 17 – International best-selling author Azar Nafisi’s book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” can be found in many homes around the world. Her book gained immediate international popularity when it was published in 2003. Ms. Nafisi has written a second memoir titled “Things I Have Been Silent About.” Those “things” she refers to in the memoir’s title revolve around the difficulties of family life, which are set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. Ms. Nafisi is now a visiting fellow and lecturer in the United States at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She left Iran permanently in 1997. Most Iranians are raised to never discuss family secrets with outsiders, especially strangers. But Ms. Nafisi felt compelled to write a book to break down the weight of silence and to give readers an insight into her past life growing up in Iran. A New York Times’ book review on Ms. Nafisi’s memoir noted that Iranians never want to air their dirty laundry, even within family, let alone writing for the public. The review praised Azar Nafisi’s ability to weave her feelings of anger, deception, and shame, and has called the book a “literary revenge whose main aim is the author’s mother.” Significant portions of the book depict the life of Ms. Nafisi’s mother, Nezhat Nafisi, who was amongst the first group of women to enter the Iranian Parliament. Reading Lolita in Tehran has been translated into 32 languages and has won diverse literary awards.

Late Edition February 21
– Late Edition introduced Antonya Nelson's latest short story collection titled "Nothing Right". Antonya Nelson, who is known as one of "twenty young fiction writers for the new millennium" by the New Yorker, has won several awards and her work has appeared in anthologies such as the O. Henry Awards and the Best American Short Stories. Late Edition reviewed "Nothing Right" and focused on three of the stories in this collection – “Party of One", "Shauntrelle" and "Kansas". Antonya Nelson's prose, vision, message and power of storytelling were discussed in Late Edition’s weekly book club segment. Late Edition has received many viewer requests from Iran asking for more information on the books and authors covered in the book club segments. As a response to their request, PNN will be providing a brief profile of each author and his or her previous works on the book club blog, which was launched earlier this month at http://pnnketab.blogspot.com.


Late Edition February 21 – PNN was granted exclusive access to New York fashion week. Viewers got a firsthand look at the 2009 fall designs. PNN spoke with various members of the fashion industry including fashion photographer Maani Zarinkhaneh, an international fashion editor named Roberto, and a young Moroccan designer who calls himself Omleel. The models showed off an array of designs in muted colors with bright bursts of colors in accessories like hats and gloves. PNN spoke with fashion commentators who noted the current state of the economy as a reason behind the focus on affordable accessories. Designer Carmel described how the economy has encouraged designers to create fashions with longer staying power. Roberto, the fashion editor, said fashion week allows ordinary people to meet with designers up close and personal. Maani Zarinkhaneh talked about the hats, color and the retro 80's look. Omleel expressed his joy at being in New York saying, “That's the beauty of this country and the world of fashion…you can be from anywhere and you feel welcomed and you can also advance in the industry.”

Late Edition February 19 – From Bonn, Germany, film critic Sheyda Shirazi joined Late Edition to give viewers a run-down of the films at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. Sheyda Shirazi is a journalist and film critic who writes for different magazines and websites. Late Edition covered the 59th International Berlin Film Festival. The Club of Iranian and European Filmmakers protested outside the screening of "Letters to the President," a film about Iranian citizens writing to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ms. Shirazi commented on the Silver Bear award for best director, which went to the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi for “About Elly.” The film depicts a group of Iranians who take a trip to the Caspian Sea that turns tragic. Next week, Arman Nadjm will join Late Edition to speak about the protest against the film “Letters to the President.”

Late Edition February 20 – Late Edition interviewed Shahin Najafi from Bonn, Germany. Shahin Najafi is a musician, lyricist and singer who lives in Germany. Mr. Najafi left Iran to continue his career as a rap artist. He described Persian Rap styles and the underground music scene in Iran. Mr. Najafi is perhaps the most popular Iranian rapper. He is also an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic and theocracy. Mr. Najafi supports women and student movements, freedom and democracy. He spoke about the popularity of rap music in Iran and about the many talented artists who work underground to protest against the Islamic Regime.

Late Edition February 21 – From Edinburgh, Scotland, Reza Dolatabadi joined PNN to talk about his latest project. Mr. Dolatabadi is a digital artist and motion graphic designer who lives in Scotland. His latest project Khoda, which means God, won several animation awards such as the Royal Television Society Award and awards at the Flip Animation Festival Award and Canary Warf Film Festival. He described the vision behind the film saying, “What if you watch a film and whenever you pause it, you face a painting? This idea inspired me to make Khoda.” Over 6,000 paintings were painstakingly produced during two years to create a five-minute film.

Late Edition ­February 17 – Late Edition produced a segment on the performers Shabnam Soraya, a famous female Tajik singer, and Jonibik, who is a well known male Tajik singer. Shabnam is especially well-known in the Afghan and Persian communities. The segment included an interview with the two singers as well as concert footage from their shows. The interview provided insight into the life of Jonibik, who is on the path to stardom. The performers recently gave a concert in Tysons Corner, Virginia on January 31. Shabnam made a dramatic entrance onto the music scene in 2006 when one of her songs became the most played song in Tajikistan. Following this success, she hit international stardom amongst Persians and Persian-speakers around the globe. In 2007, Shabnam Soraya was nominated as the Goodwill Ambassador for Tajikistan and helped raise the awareness of AIDS. Her new album is called “Allo Hu.”

Roundtable February 20 – In honor of “International Mother Language Day,” which takes place on February 21st, Roundtable devoted today’s programming to celebrating language. This day was set forth during UNESCO's General Conference in November 1999 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Roundtable invited social affairs analyst Nader Paymaei and Fakhteh Zamani, the Chairwoman of the Azeri Language & Heritage Foundation, as guests onto the show. Mr. Paymaei quoted UNESCO's declaration and stated, "Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.” He commented on the statement, which encourages the dissemination of mother tongues in order to promote diversity and cultural traditions. Mr. Paymaei also spoke about the merits of encouraging tolerance and dialogue. In its declaration, UNESCO asked member nations and governments to allow their ethnic groups to use their mother language in their teachings and schooling. Ms. Zamani stated that, although Article 15 of the Iranian Constitution explicitly mentions that teaching and learning in mother languages of various ethnic groups is permitted, the government has not been enforcing it. “Even during the administration of former President Mohammad Khatami there was an order by the Department of Education in this regard, yet it went un-noticed by the schools and lower level officials who disagreed with the language freedom in ethnic areas,” she added.

On the Record February 20 – PNN's senior managing editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman answered questions from our audience. Friday's questions pertained to a topic that has come up before. Namely, viewers have asked why we invite guests with views that differ vastly from those of our other guests. Dr. Mahmoudi stated, "PNN follows the VOA Charter and has absolutely no political agenda. We are a news broadcasting organization, not an outlet adhering to the views of a political group." Dr. Mahmoudi further added, "Perhaps this question has roots in the Farsi terminology – in that policy, procedure and political agenda have one or two interchangeable translations." Dr. Mahmoudi stated that while VOA does indeed have policies dictated by the VOA Charter and Journalist Code, this ought not to be mistaken by a political agenda. Dr. Mahmoudi explained that, as an independent news agency, VOA works diligently to report current events and to present views from all sides. Dr. Mahmoudi stated that some viewers may not always agree with a particular view expressed by one or more of our guests, saying, "We do our best to be neutral. We are messengers, not the message designer." He explained that it is the duty of VOA's anchors and hosts to provide balanced news coverage and to challenge opinions expressed by program contributors.

This week on the History Channel…The week began with a second look at General George S. Patton, Jr. A half century after his death, when the names of other great WWII commanders have faded into the history books, the name "Patton" rings out in the national consciousness with all its old resounding force. General Patton was one of the military’s more colorful generals. Mention of his name calls up a profane, go-for-the-throat, hell-on-wheels commander whose slashing armored columns dismembered Hitler's "Thousand Year Reich" with matchless thunder and dash. He swore and wept, was vilified and deified. He slapped soldiers and cried over them. He over-dressed, over-postured and over-spoke, often to the point of comic opera. But when it came time for the bloody business of war, an enemy, listening fearfully to the roaring diesels and guns of his onrushing tanks, found nothing funny about General George S. Patton, Jr. Some say his death so close to the moments of his final and greatest triumph fulfilled the warrior's destiny he had dreamed for himself. In the instant of his passing, even those he had prickled with his many reckless transgressions joined in a spontaneous outpouring of heartfelt sorrow. They remembered only the peerless American patriot, with a personality bigger, tougher and noisier than one of his fire-spitting Sherman tanks. Traveling back a few centuries, BIOGRAPHY took an updated look into the mind of Renaissance genius, Leonardo Da Vinci. The bastard child of a middle class notary born in the Tuscan town of Vinci in 1452, Leonardo could not join his father's profession. Neither did he get the schooling of a legitimate child. Instead the boy filled his days studying the trees and flowers and developing his life-long passion for the wonders of nature.

In 1467, Leonardo's father used his influence to arrange an apprenticeship with Andrea del Vericchio, one of Florence's most important artists. In only six years, Leonardo had the task of painting the angel in Vericchio's Baptism of Christ, and created a figure so lifelike that everyone agreed he had surpassed his master. With his recognized talents, Leonardo moved to Florence where he was in the midst of Florence's most brilliant thinkers, from astronomers to philosophers to musicians. Leonardo took a sketchpad with him wherever he went, from taverns to brothels. BIOGRAPHY explored the mind of this complex genius in his rich legacy of notes. BIOGRAPHY looked at the rivalry between the two most celebrated artists of the Renaissance, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. In 1518, embittered, Leonardo left Italy for good. He died in the court of French King Francis I in 1519, having spent his last days in obscurity, not knowing that he would be hailed as the original Renaissance man.

Next up, the life story of Warren Buffett could read like a Horatio Alger novel. Like the heroes in Alger's books, Buffett exemplifies bedrock American values, optimistic belief in the compatibility of success and virtue where prominence and riches come through perseverance, honesty, thrift, and a can-do attitude. Despite being the second richest man in the world after Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Buffet started from scratch and remains true to his Midwestern values of modesty and honesty. The last feature of the week, “Hippies”, was a vivid, mind-expanding exploration of one the most explosive, controversial and misunderstood periods in modern history. In the first part of this two-part series, viewers learn how the roots of the Hippie movement go back to the communal experiments of the 19th century and to the aggressive non-conformity of the Beatniks. While the popular take on the hippies is that they were spoiled middle class kids who over indulged in sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, the truth is far more intriguing and complex. For many of those who tuned in, turned on and dropped out, the hippie movement was the last hope for a world gone mad.

PNN’s question of the week was “How hopeful are you about the Iranian officials’ public statements regarding their readiness to be directly engaged by the United States?” Out of 23,194 respondents – 21,620 are pessimistic – 1,069 are optimistic – while 505 expressed no opinion.


The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.

PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of newsbreaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, featuring influential women from around the world who discuss a full spectrum of social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business topics. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health.
Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails. Late Edition begins with a wrap-up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.


Sahar from Iran writes: “People of the world suffice to know that the despotic Regime in Iran has three assemblies (“Parliament”): The first one is “Expediency Council” which is entrusted with changing the laws according to the desires of the Regime leaders. The second assembly is Assembly of Experts, which has the duty of appointing the upcoming Supreme Leader, without involvement of the people of Iran. The third one is Council of Guardians, with the main duty of qualifying or disqualifying the candidates of general and local elections. Thus, people have not voice in running the country. Still Khamenei claims to be the best leader in the world!”

A Today’s Women viewer writes: “I do not care if you read my email in your show or not. I just wanted to thank Today’s Woman for the efforts you are doing for women’s rights in Iran.”

Fariborz from Iran: “Self-immolations outside the Parliament and outside the office of the President indicate that people, because of repression, find no other choice but to commit suicide. Any criticism is suppressed. Khamenei should know that no oppressor has been able to survive for a long time.”

A Canadian viewer writes:
“As a woman who decided not to get married or have kids unless and until the laws of our land accepts equal rights between men and women: I believe that SIGHEH “Temporary marriage “only if it was legal between NON-Married persons, and without Gaurdians' permission, could be acceptable for young women. But no sane person would accept " khianat" Cheating between couples as a good thing or legal. Thanks for your great Today’s Woman programs. A Feminist from Canada”

Mehdi suggests: “To whom it may concern. In some pages of VOA Web sites Vertical Scroll bar in docked to right side while in some pages it is docked to the left. Most designers of Persian web sites dock the VSB to the right side. Because reading these pages is right to left enabled it is more convenient to click VSB buttons on the right. so I recommend dock all scroll bar to the right side of pages.”

Amir writes:
“Dear Sirs, please be informed that, the new proxy addresses issued by you cannot open any site through the new browser made at the top of the page, it is linked to a site called ‘freegate’ which is free of charge only for the Chinese users. If possible, please continue the old system.”

Hussein writes:
“My name is Hussein. I’m a 21-year-old boy from Esfehan, Iran. I always watch Today’s Woman Program. I have to tell you that I am a steadfast viewer of this program. Especially on Tuesday when Mr. Nabavi [Satarist] is on your program. I laugh a lot.”

Saeed from Shiraz requests: “I would like to participate in your programs by phone, and give an analysis about the subject hereunder: [the subject the viewer is suggesting is an Iranian government economic policy which has created stagnation, recession, and Inflation.]”

Korosh from Tehran:
“To me, Khatami-like policies are doomed to failure. During his presidency, Khatami could not pass even one bill through the Council of Guardians. Reforms in Iran is impossible so long as there are such entities as Velayat-e Faqih, Council of Expediency, Council of Guardians and dependent Judiciary.”

Ardeshir from a Tehran suburb comments: “If Ahmadinejad is re-elected, he will offer the project of “suicide” – and he will succeed! According to this project people will be put under so much pressure that they will find no way but to kill themselves. This project will also bring justice and equality for the whole governing body of Iran.”

Cyrus from Iran: “The response of the Regime to the people’s need is repression, torture and imprisonment. Violation of human rights, particularly during the past months, clearly indicates that the Regime is not able to solve the problems of the Nation. Their harassment of religious minorities is, also, disgraceful.”