Number 2788
Thu, Feb 22, 2007
Esfand 3 1385
Safar 4 1427

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Published by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
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Nuclear Guarantees
On Offer
Discrimination Damages Credibility Of Int’l Bodies
VIENNA, Austria, Feb. 21--Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani expressed his country’s readiness to give guarantees that its peaceful nuclear activities would not be diverted to non-peaceful uses.
Larijani, who is also secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), made the remark to reporters on Tuesday following his two-hour talks with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, IRNA reported.
He said the proposal for creating a consortium to conduct uranium enrichment for Iran was among such guarantees that should remove concerns of the opposite side.
Larijani noted that suspension of uranium enrichment was a political and not a technical decision.
“Iran does not regard suspension of uranium enrichment as the most important issue,“ he said.
Pointing to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory, he said, “Nowhere in the NPT can one find a chapter on suspension. Rather, it talks about monitoring and inspections.“
He said IAEA inspectors are currently supervising Iran’s nuclear activities and there are “no problems in this regard“.
“Political decisions have nothing to do with the IAEA,“ he said. Earlier, Larijani conferred with EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, on phone as well as with Belgian Foreign Minister Karl de Gucht, who is the head of the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee.
Larijani said he also talked with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Munich, Germany.
“We had useful talks and discussed how negotiations can be resumed,“ he said.
“Different sides are interested in resumption of talks. We have a positive view to the move.“
Larijani said Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and the use of force to settle the nuclear issue will be met with an “appropriate response“.
“I think certain countries are seeking adventure on Iran’s nuclear case. You know that some countries until now have not signed the NPT, but are conducting nuclear activities,“ he said, regretting that no action has been taken against such countries while the UN Security Council has passed a resolution against Iran.
Larijani warned that “double standards will severely damage the credibility of international bodies“.
Ahead of an expected report on Friday by ElBaradei reggarding Iran’s compliance with the deadline set by UN Security Council Resolution 1737 for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, Larijani warned that no attempt should be made to use “force or pressure“ to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, Larijani arrived in Rome Wednesday after his visit to Vienna. Larijani is scheduled to confer with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on international developments as well as issues of mutual interest.
The Iranian official will also meet Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema.
This is Larijani’s third visit to Italy this year.

Peaceful Atomic Program Will Continue
Feb. 21--President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday access to the full nuclear fuel cycle will move the Iranian nation forward by 50 years, stressing the country’s resolve to continue its peaceful nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad, who is currently in northern Gilan province for a three-day visit, was addressing residents of Siahkal, located east of the provincial capital Rasht, IRNA reported.
“We can understand the significance of the nuclear issue from the opposition raised by corrupt powers,“ he said.
Referring to the importance of the country’s nuclear program, the president said, “Access to peaceful nuclear energy is so important for the country’s progress and power that there would be no need for the country’s two five-year plans if it has the ability to produce nuclear energy.“
“It can generously cancel all other activities for the next 10 years, if it were to have the ability to produce nuclear energy,“ he said.
Ahmadinejad stressed that Iran will continue its plans to achieve progress with full power and strength, with the grace of God and in cooperation with the nation and the government.
“Iran will not retreat one iota in its path toward nuclear victory. The Iranian people are vigilant and united in their determination to defend the country’s nuclear rights,“ he said.
Addressing a large gathering in Langroud, Gilan province, the president noted that the Iranian youth and scientists are conquering the heights of science and technology one after the other, citing production of AIDS herbal medicine by Iranians on the occasion of the anniversary of the victory of Islamic Revolution.
On his plan to alleviate poverty in the provincial city, Ahmadinejad said the government has earmarked 420 billion rials for extending loans to the youth at low lending rates for creating jobs.
“Banks have been assigned to provide the youth with the loan without any discrimination and favoritism,“ he said.
The current visit is his 25th to various provinces since the start of his initiative to bring the government closer to the people.
Gilan province has a population of 2.4 million people.

US Cannot Ignore
Iran’s Role in Region
TEHRAN, Feb. 21--Commander of the Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday Americans cannot change the Middle East’s security structure unless they consider Iran’s role in the region.
Speaking at the Ninth Salman Farsi Festival in Tehran, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi said Iran has the final say in restoration of security in the Middle East and Americans cannot ignore the country’s role in the Middle East’s political equations, IRNA reported.
“The Middle East is at a sensitive juncture and Iran is in the center of the Middle East,“ he said.
“We should do more for defending our country,“ he said.
Safavi pointed out that IRGC is fulfilling its defense duty by holding military maneuvers throughout the year.
“Vigilance and military preparedness of all armed forces are prerequisites. The armed forces, security and information institutions should have a high level of information under the sensitive conditions,“ he said.
Safavi noted that the Armed forces, including IRGC, should be fully prepared to defend the country against any foreign threat. He argued that this is particularly vital since “the Bush administration is unpredictable“.
The Ninth Salman Farsi Festival was held in Tehran to honor researchers of the Armed Forces and encourage their participation in innovative industrial activities.

Blair Announces
Iraq Withdrawal Plan
LONDON, Feb. 21--Britain will withdraw around 1,600 troops from Iraq in the “coming months“, aiming to cut its force to below 5,000 by late summer if Iraqi forces can secure the southern part of the country, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday.
British troops will stay in Iraq until at least 2008 and work to secure the Iran-Iraq border and maintain supply routes to US and coalition troops in central Iraq, Blair told the House of Commons, AP reported.
“The actual reduction in forces will be from the present 7,100--itself down from over 9,000 two years ago and 40,000 at the time of the conflict--to roughly 5,500,“ Blair said.
He told lawmakers that “increasingly our role will be support and training, and our numbers will be able to reduce accordingly.“
Blair said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki had agreed to the plan.
Dependent on Iraqi capability Britain would draw down further, “possibly to below 5,000“ once a base at Basra Palace is transferred to Iraqi control in late summer, Blair said.
“What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be. But it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis,“ Blair said.
Denmark also said Wednesday it will withdraw its 460-member contingent from southern Iraq by August. The decision had been made with the Iraqi government and Britain, under whose command the Danish forces are serving near Basra, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
He added that Denmark would replace the troops with surveillance helicopters and civilian advisers.
And a government spokeswoman in Lithuania said the Baltic nation is “seriously considering“ withdrawing its 53 troops from Iraq.
Blair and President Bush talked by secure video link Tuesday about the proposals, US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. Bush views Britain’s troop cutbacks as “a sign of success“ in Iraq, he said.
“While the United Kingdom is maintaining a robust force in southern Iraq, we’re pleased that conditions in Basra have improved sufficiently that they are able to transition more control to the Iraqis,“ Johndroe said.
Blair said “the situation in Basra is very different from Baghdad; there is no Sunni insurgency, no Al-Qaeda base, little Sunni on Shiite violence,“ adding that the southern city is nothing like “the challenge of Baghdad“.
Blair, who has said he will step down by September after a decade in power, has seen his foreign-policy record overshadowed by his role as Bush’s leading ally in the unpopular war.

Jazayeri on the Run
Shahram Jazayeri-Arab
TEHRAN, Feb. 21--The prime suspect in the high-profile economic corruption case, Shahram Jazayeri-Arab, has escaped from prison, Special Judicial Complex for Economic Affairs announced on Wednesday.
Jazayeri-Arab, who was accompanied by police officers en route to a court session, managed to escape, IRNA reported.
Measures are presently underway to arrest Jazayeri-Arab, with arrest warrant issued by Public and Islamic Revolution Prosecutor and circulated among all institutions.
The negligent police officers are currently facing prosecution.
Mohammad Sadeq Aal-e Mohammad, Jazayeri’s lawyer, said on Wednesday he regretted hearing the news of his client’s escape.
“By escaping from prison, Jazayeri has made the things more complicated, because the court was going to issue a verdict,“ he said.
Jazayeri was arrested in 2001 on charges related to economic corruption, interference in export system, bribery, forgery and misappropriating governmental assets.

Israeli Army Chief Looking for a Fight
BEIT-UL-MOQADDAS, Feb. 21--Israel’s new army chief said Wednesday that Israel may have to confront Hezbollah to halt the guerrilla group’s attempts to rearm after last summer’s war in Lebanon.
Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi boasted Israel delivered a tough blow to Hezbollah during the 34-day war, but the group, and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, are rapidly trying to refortify the militia, AP reported.
“I think we all understand that...he (Nasrallah) is not able to do the things that he could do before,“ Ashkenazi told reporters. “We see here and there smuggling and other things to bring weapons,“ he said. “We are following this and we apparently have to deal with this.“
He spoke while observing a military exercise on the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau near the Syrian and Lebanese borders captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.
Hezbollah currently possesses more than 10,000 short-range rockets, down from between 12,000 and 14,000 before the war, according to Israeli intelligence estimates.
Attending Wednesday’s military exercise, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel was trying to avoid a further confrontation with Hezbollah.
“There’s no doubt that this exercise...doesn’t demonstrate any intention to get involved in any confrontation or friction,“ Peretz said.
Peretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Ashkenazi’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, have been heavily criticized in Israel for their management of last year’s war. Israel launched the war in response to a cross-border raid by Hezbollah that killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two others.
Israel failed to reach its two main objectives destroying Hezbollah and returning the captured soldiers.
Reserve soldiers returning from the battlefield also complained of poor preparations, confused orders and lack of food, water and ammunition.
Halutz resigned last month in light of the criticism and Ashkenazi took his place last week. A commission investigating the war has yet to present its findings.
Olmert was called before the commission to testify earlier this month, the last witness following a parade of top Cabinet ministers and military officers.

Top Iraqi Official Fired
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 21--Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki on Wednesday fired a top Sunni official who had called for an international investigation into the rape allegations leveled by a Sunni Arab woman against three members of the Shiite-dominated security forces.
A statement by Al-Maliki’s office gave no reason in announcing the dismissal of Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour Al-Samaraie, head of the Sunni Endowments. Al-Samaraie, whose organization cares for Sunni mosques and shrines in Iraq, had joined other prominent Sunnis in criticizing the government’s handling of the case, AP reported.
Al-Samaraie, speaking from Amman in neighboring Jordan, disputed Al-Maliki’s right to fire him, arguing that only Iraq’s Presidential Council, which comprises President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies, has that authority.
He said the woman who made the rape allegations was one of many who he said are sexually assaulted by the security forces.
“Many girls are raped but they refuse to appear in the media so as not to tarnish their reputations,“ he said.
The 20-year-old woman said she was assaulted Sunday at a police garrison where she was taken on suspicion of helping Sunni insurgents. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the chief US military spokesman, said the woman was admitted to a US-run medical facility Sunday and was released the next day. He refused to divulge details of her medical treatment or examination for privacy reasons, and said she left the hospital with her medical reports.
Caldwell also told reporters that Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, ordered an inquiry into the case and appointed an investigating officer who already has begun collecting information on the allegations.
He said that if the Iraqi authorities needed it, US officials would make that information available “once the Iraqi government makes a decision on how they are going to move forward“.
Al-Maliki’s office released what it said was a medical report indicating no signs of rape. The grainy document was marked as page two of three and did not have the name of the patients or any of her personal details. A handwritten note in English said she had no bruises or injuries.
Al-Maliki has said the rape allegations were being used by his critics to discredit the security forces and undermine a major, US-led Baghdad crackdown.