Tuesday, August 17, 2004

UN refugee agency halts convoys of Iraqi refugees from Iran

UN refugee agency halts convoys of Iraqi refugees from Iran
Agence France-Presse
Geneva, August 17

"Violence in southern Iraq and a shortage of housing in the north have forced the United Nations' refugee agency to halt convoys of Iraqi refugees from neighbouring Iran, said UN.
"Crossings into both the south and the north of the country have been suspended," the UNHCR said in a statement.

Fierce fighting in the holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, and a lack of security in the region prompted the temporary suspension in the south.

The repatriation programme has been interrupted several times for similar reasons since it started in November last year, the agency said

"Security is a major concern," UNHCR spokeswoman in Geneva, Jennifer Pagonis, told a news conference.

"In the south it is a situation of trying to make sure the security situation can be met so you can get these people back to their country safetly," she said.

In contrast, some Iraqi Kurdish refugees wanting to return to northern Iraq do not appear to have homes to go to, raising concerns among the local authorities in the cities of Sulaymaniah, Erbil, Dohuk and Rania, UNHCR said.

"A shortage of housing is a crucial issue in northern Iraq, where UNHCR has been working with its partners to help build houses, provide local people with building materials and help the rehabilitation of public buildings," it said.

The UN agency said it would hold a meeting with the local authorities to try to solve the housing problem and restart the convoys in early September.

Since UNHCR started helping refugees return to the largely Kurdish north in June, it has made five convoys carrying 543 people who had been living in refugee camps in Iran.

The organisation does not encourage Iraqi refugees to return home for the time being, but it is helping those who insist of going back to their violence-ridden country.

As a result, some 13,000 people have returned to Iraq from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in recent months. More than half of this number came from Iran which holds the largest Iraqi refugee population in the world."

Haddad-Adel: Cooperation with Government is a Working Principle

"Gholam Shire'i" vows cooperation with govt.

"Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel known as "Gholam Shire'i" in majlis said here on Monday cooperation with government is a working principle of the seventh Majlis and this is by no means a slogan.

In a meeting with all deputy ministers in Majlis affairs, he said, people get tired of conflicts and their tolerance has a limit, and after a while they may get disappointed.

He said if people conclude that Majlis and government have mutual cooperation, they will get hopeful to the regime.

Majlis speaker and deputy ministers also discussed the ways of increasing the interaction and cooperation between government and Majlis in the meeting."

Tehran calls on Islamic states to react promptly toward horrific events in Iraq

Tehran calls on Islamic states to react promptly toward horrific events in Iraq
TEHRAN (MNA) -- In a special message to his counterparts in Islamic states Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel condemned the brutal behavior of the occupation forces toward the Iraqi people and the desecration of the holy places in the cities of Najaf and Karbala and called on the international community especially the Organization of the Islamic Conference to react promptly toward these atrocities.

The message said the Islamic Consultative Assembly closely monitors the developments in Iraq and calls for a probe into the ongoing sad events there.

The Islamic world’s expectation was that the noble Iraqi people would experience freedom and independence after decades of suffering and would embark on the reconstruction of their country given the abundant resources bestowed upon them by the Almighty God, but, the worrying news about the cruel massacre of the defenseless people especially in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala on one hand, and the torture of the Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison in a savage and medieval-era manner on the other hand, have caused serious concerns in the Islamic world especially among the Iranian nation, the message added.

The condition in Najaf is so awful that it has raised the reaction of the International Committee Red Cross, the message quoted the Iranian Majlis speaker as saying.

Iraq is an important part of the Islamic world and the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other international bodies bear great responsibility toward the Iraqi problems and there is no justification for the organizations’ idleness toward the events going on in this country."

South Africa, Iran discuss defense cooperation

South Africa, Iran discuss defense cooperation
By AMIR MIZROCH

"South Africa's Defense Minister Patrick "Terror" Lekota and his Iranian counterpart Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani met on Monday to discuss an expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries, especially in the domain of defense, the Islamic Republic's news agency (IRNA) reported.

At the conclusion of the meeting the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral cooperation, which included an arrangement for South Africa to sell uranium to Iran, Channel 1 TV reported.

A South African spokesman for the Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the claim.

SA Defense Minister Lekota stressed that making peaceful use of nuclear energy "is the legitimate right of the Islamic Republic," the IRNA reported on Tuesday.

Lekota's visit to Iran was the first such visit by a South African defense minister since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Both the United States and Israel are convinced that Iran is adamantly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The IDF military intelligence branch issued a revised assessment on Tuesday saying that Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities will allow it to manufacture atomic bombs by 2007. Military intelligence's previous assessment put the date at 2005.

In June the International Atomic Energy Agency reiterated its concerns about Iran's nuclear programs.

In the past Iran has reportedly made use of North Korean and Pakistani expertise to develop its nuclear program, which the Islamic Republic swears is for peaceful energy purposes only.

South Africa has a domestic nuclear energy and research program as well as large natural deposits of uranium. During the Apartheid era South Africa had a covert nuclear weapons program that developed at least six nuclear warheads, along with a variety of missiles and other conventional weapons. These projects were undertaken with some cooperation from Israel."