Thursday, September 16, 2004

Rafsanjani ready for Iran presidency - (United Press International)

Rafsanjani ready for Iran presidency - (United Press International): "Rafsanjani ready for Iran presidency

Tehran, Iran, Sep. 16 (UPI) -- Former president and powerful cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani Thursday said he was leaning toward running in Iran's next presidential election.

"I prefer that another person enters the race, but if the society and political figures reckon that I can do a better job, I am ready to run in the next presidential elections," the Iranian News Agency, IRNA, quoted Rafsanjani as saying.

"I will announced my final decision in due time since there are still several months separating us from the elections," he added.

The Iranian presidential election is scheduled for June.

Rafsanjani, a former two-term president, is currently chairman of the powerful Expediency Council as well as a deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts.

The Expediency Council arbitrates in disputes between the Majlis, Iran's parliament, and the Guardian Council, which can block legislation. The Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani Considers New Run

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani Considers New Run: "Former Iranian President Rafsanjani Considers New Run
VOA News
16 Sep 2004, 18:24 UTC

Iran's influential former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, says he is considering running for president next year when President Mohammed Khatami's term expires.
Mr. Rafsanjani told reporters in Tehran Wednesday that he would rather someone else run. But he said if the public decides he is the best candidate, he will enter the race.

He said he will announce his decision at a later time.

Mr. Rafsanjani was Iran's president from 1989 to 1997. He now heads the powerful Expediency Council, which is the country's top arbitration body.

Iran's constitution only bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.

Other possible candidates who have been mentioned include former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati as well as Iran's top security official and nuclear expert Hassan Rowhani."

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - Iran's mullahs are smiling as America struggles in Iraq

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - Iran's mullahs are smiling as America struggles in Iraq: "Iran's mullahs are smiling as America struggles in Iraq

By Karim Sadjadpour
Friday, September 17, 2004

In the spring of 2003, shortly after U.S.-led forces captured Baghdad with surprising speed, more than a few Western analysts began to foretell winds of change blowing toward Tehran.

Reconsider the possibilities: Iraq's burgeoning (secular) democracy would serve as a model for Iran, or perhaps inspire envious Iranians to rise up against their anti-democratic mullahs; Baghdad's fall and the subsequent envelopment of Iran by U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms would frighten Tehran's ruling mullahs into improving their behavior; Iran's most respected Shiite scholars and clerics - the majority of whom are opposed to Khomeini-style theocratic rule - would take flight from Qom to Najaf, where they could freely criticize the Islamic Republic's religious legitimacy and, potentially, incite the masses. For those familiar with the depth of popular discontent in Iran, such scenarios did not appear outside the realm of possibility.

However, they also assumed a smooth postwar transformation in Iraq. While Bush administration officials talked of how success in Iraq would change the political culture of the Middle East, few seemed to contemplate the regional repercussions for Washington if things didn't go as planned. In the case of Iran, the chaotic state of postwar Iraq has served not to intimidate Tehran's mullahs but rather to embolden them. Today, nearly 17 months after the fall of Baghdad, Iran's Islamic regime appears more entrenched than it has been in over a decade.

According to many analysts, postwar American difficulties in Iraq are due in large part to Iranian meddling. While on its own the explanation is overly facile, there is certainly some truth to it. Given that various Bush administration officials and advisers intimated that Tehran should be next after Baghdad, it was logical that Iran would do its best to make sure that the postwar transition in Iraq was anything but smooth. At the same time, however, Tehran's leadership has been cognizant of the fact that a civil war in Iraq - with the potential to spill over the Iranian border - would not be in its interest either. Hence Iran's de facto policy of "contained chaos:" generate enough unrest in Iraq to dissuade the U.S. from contemplating regime change in Iran, but refrain from supporting a full-fledged insurrection.

Rather than put its money on one specific horse, Iran has diversified its Iraqi portfolio. Both Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric who advocates an Islamic republic in Iraq, and Ahmad Chalabi, the secular Shiite expatriate with close ties to Bush administration officials, have links to Tehran. Above all, however, Iran seems to support the will of the seemingly moderate, respected Iranian-born cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Given a one-person, one-vote democratic election in Iraq, it is widely assumed that those aligned with Sistani would emerge victorious. And given Sistani's religious and cultural ties to Iran, Tehran is confident that a Sistani victory would ensure that its influence in Iraq exceeds that of Washington. For this reason, the idea of a democratically elected Iraqi government seems cause for greater concern in Washington than in Tehran.

Iran has displayed a similar combination of duplicity and cunning with regard to its nuclear strategy. Despite U.S. and Israeli threats and the risk of European condemnation, Tehran has shown little sign of retreat. Iranian officials - from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to President Muhammad Khatami to the influential Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - have consistently insisted that Iran is not interested in pursuing a nuclear weapons program. "We are ready to do everything necessary to give guarantees that we won't seek nuclear weapons," Khatami said recently. "As Muslims, we can't use nuclear weapons. One who can't use nuclear weapons won't produce them."

Given Iran's dubious track record with the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, few are convinced. "What they're doing is the equivalent of buying a $25,000 ball point pen," one nuclear analyst familiar with Iran's program told me. "If their sole interest is to build a civilian nuclear energy program, they're doing far more than what's necessary."

In addition to its nuclear ambitions, the vacuum caused by the Americans' removal of Saddam Hussein allows Tehran to pursue its ambitions for regional hegemony. The former head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaii, succinctly summed up Tehran's aspirations: "Why shouldn't Iran be the flag-bearer of peace, justice, development and democracy in the region? The region cannot have stability and security in the absence of Iran, and all nations need Iran's presence, even the Americans."

After years of putting intangible Islamic interests ahead of national interests, Iran's ascendant conservatives have ironically begun to use the same rhetoric once used by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi three decades ago. Then as now, Iran's neighbors are likely to view Tehran's self-anointed role as policeman of the Gulf with a certain degree of wariness.

But while Iran's hand seems to have been temporarily strengthened, it is still far too early to predict the ultimate reverberations of the Iraq war. Just as Iraq's future hangs in the balance, so too does that of its neighbors. So far, however, Tehran's ruling mullahs have far more reason to smile than their counterparts in Washington. Rather than extinguish Iran's Islamic regime, the Iraq war seems to have given it new life.

Karim Sadjadpour is a Middle East analyst based in Tehran and Washington." with a decidedly Zionist approach to spinning the news.

Daily Times - Iran losing ‘capacity for compromise’ on N-issue

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran losing ‘capacity for compromise’ on N-issue

* Rafsanjani says Iran’s aim is to achieve its rights

TEHRAN: Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned on Thursday that the country’s willingness to compromise on its nuclear programme was under pressure from the hardening European stance.

“If they keep on behaving like this, it is obvious that our capacity to compromise will decrease and we will act more independently,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

He was referring to efforts by the three main European Union powers — Britain, France and Germany — to pass a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seeking to limit Iranan’s nuclear activities.

“Our aim is to achieve our rights,” Rafsanjani said, adding that “those who stand against us now will have to step back within a couple of months.”For the past year the EU’s so-called “big three” have been trying to convince Iran to give up dual-use activities in the nuclear fuel cycle. The process of mining uranium, converting and then enriching it is legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as long as it is for fuel for reactors.

But once mastered, the fuel cycle can also provide Iran with the “option” of developing a nuclear bomb. Iran denies accusations it is trying to develop such an arsenal and says it is determined to master the full cycle to provide its own fuel for a planned atomic energy programme.

Meanwhile, in Vienna the US-EU rift over a resolution on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions that has paralysed this week’s UN atomic agency meeting narrowed on Thursday and talks will continue until the weekend, diplomats on both sides told the news agency. “We are narrowing differences,” a European diplomat at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. “We are making progress, but you can’t say yet we’ll reach an accord by Thursday night, or even Friday,” he said.

The European diplomat said the European Union states “remain firm” in their refusal to bow to US wishes that the IAEA impose a tough ultimatum with an October 31 deadline requiring Tehran to allay concern that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The negotiations are being pursued on the sidelines of the IAEA board of governor’s plenary session, which began on Monday and adjourned late Tuesday over the stalemate. The meeting is scheduled to resume early on Friday."

Khaleej Times Online: "Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice

"Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice
"Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice

16 September 2004

TEHERAN — Iran yesterday warned that any attempts to impose ultimatums on the country’s controversial nuclear programme could be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

“If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided to impose an ultimatum to suspend any form of enrichment or even bring the case to the United Nations Security Council, then Iran would refer to the International Court,” Iran’s former IAEA envoy Ali Akbar-Salehi told the news agency Mehr.

Mr Salehi said that any such ultimatum would deprive Iran of the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology and would therefore be a breach of the 1969 Geneva convention. The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN and arbitrates in legal disputes submitted to it by UN member states.

Iran has long denied accusations of developing a nuclear weapons programme and the country’s file is currently under IAEA investigation. The IAEA board of governors meeting opened on Monday in Vienna with Iran topping the agenda.

Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran’s delegation at the IAEA board of governors meeting, said that the IAEA was not entitled to order Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Mr Mousavian, however, pointed out that the leadership in Iran should decide about further steps to take. President Mohammad Khatami, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani are the main decision-making sources in Iran on the nuclear issue.

The United States has called for the dispute to be taken directly to the UN Security Council, which unlike the IAEA has the power to impose sanctions.

The European Union, however, says Iran should be given until November 25 to supply information on all its nuclear activities.

Meanwhile, Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Monday he was expecting little of the European Union in his country’s standoff with the United States over allegations of covert nuclear weapons development.

“We can’t place much confidence in the Europeans even if they are more intelligent than the Americans,” Mr Rafsanjani told the student news agency Isna.

Britain, France and Germany submitted a draft resolution to the IAEA in Vienna on Monday proposing a November deadline for Iran to allay US and Israeli suspicions about its nuclear programme.

The three European governments had been instrumental in obtaining a series of concessions from Iran last year that headed off a previous US-led push for Security Council enforcement action. Mr Rafsanjani, who retains enormous influence as head of the Expediency Council, Iran’s final arbiter on legislation, insisted Teheran would press ahead with its nuclear programme whatever the UN watchdog decided.

“We will continue on our present course and will not renounce out rights” under both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol to acquire nuclear technology for civil purposes, he said.

“It is clear that our goal is the peaceful use of atomic energy ... We are trying to convince other countries of that so that they do not make ill-founded assessments of us.”

Meanwhile, new allegations that Iran’s nuclear activities are more widespread than it has made public come from a group that has been right before on this subject — and one that wants to topple the regime in Teheran.

Days before the IAEA board of governors opened its meeting on Monday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a news conference in Paris claiming to have uncovered more about Teheran’s nuclear activities.

Iranian officials have simply ignored the charge. That is their long-standing practice when it comes to the opposition, which has an armed wing accused of sabotage and other attacks in Iran. Iran recently announced a crackdown on what it called the council’s attempts to spy on nuclear programmes it insists are peaceful. The US accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb, has lumped it into an "axis of evil” along with Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea, and is lobbying for UN sanctions.

The opposition’s most dramatic allegation in Paris was that Iran has a hidden uranium processing plant near Bandar Abbas, a major industrial port in southern Iran that is home to a missile production facility. William Samii, editor of Iran Report, a newsletter funded by Radio Free Europe, said it was becoming increasingly clear that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, but that it would be hard to confirm a piece of the puzzle like the latest opposition allegations without a visit to the area. "