News Brief:

Iran clerics blasted by academic
By Sadeq Saba BBC News regional analyst
Iran's clerical leaders have come under attack from one of the country's most influential conservative academics.

Ali Mottahari, a Tehran University philosophy teacher, has accused the clerics of creating a schism between religion and the people.
Iran reform politician goes online
By BBC News
Iranian authorities have recently clamped down on the rapidly growing popularity of weblogs, restricting access to major blogging sites from within the country.

Despite this, former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi - a reformist and current adviser to Iran's president - recently launched his own weblog.
Ebadi defies Iranian court order
By BBC News
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi says she has defied an order by the Tehran judiciary to appear in court.

She says she was not told the charges against her, which is contrary to the country's penal code.
Iran official denies women remark
By BBC News
A top official with Iran's electoral watchdog has denied saying women are eligible to contest the presidency.

An Iranian TV report had earlier quoted Gholamhossein Elham as saying women with the "necessary qualifications" would be free to run for high office.
Iran Was Offered Nuclear Parts
By Dafna Linzer Washington Post Staff Writer
International investigators have uncovered evidence of a secret meeting 18 years ago between Iranian officials and associates of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that resulted in a written offer to supply Tehran with the makings of a nuclear weapons program, foreign diplomats and U.S. officials familiar with the new findings said.

The meeting, believed to have taken place in a dusty Dubai office in 1987, kick-started Tehran's nuclear efforts and Khan's black market. Iran, which was at war with Iraq then, bought centrifuge designs and a starter kit for uranium enrichment. But Tehran recently told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it turned down the chance to buy the more sensitive equipment required for building the core of a bomb.
Iran and Russia Sign Nuclear Fuel Deal
By Ali Akbar Dareini The Associated Press
Iran and Russia signed a nuclear fuel agreement Sunday, paving the way for Iran to get its first reactor up and running.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, signed the agreement at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The signing was delayed by a day, and came after the two senior officials toured the $800 million complex.
Bush vows to force changes in Syria, Iran
By Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder Newspapers
The Kansas City Star

President Bush on Thursday listed Syria and Iran as top trouble spots in the Middle East and vowed to force changes in both, escalating tensions and raising fears that America may be headed toward another military confrontation.

In a news conference dominated by questions about the Middle East, Bush vented ire at Syria and pledged to back Israel in any showdown with a nuclear-armed Iran. He avoided talk of military action but said he would use a trip to Europe next week to rally pressure on Syria and Iran.
Bush has stern warning for Iran, Syria
By Finlay Lewis, Copley News Service

President Bush on Thursday warned Syria and Iran against menacing peace in the Middle East, while pledging to use diplomacy to avert developments that could threaten stability in the region.

At a White House press conference, Bush withheld judgment on Syria's alleged complicity in the bombing assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but declared that Damascus "is out of step" with pro-democracy trends in the greater Middle East.
Iran attack not first choice: Bush
MILITARY action against Iran's nuclear program was not the United States' first choice, but could never be ruled out, President George W. Bush said today.

"First of all you never want a president to say never, but military action is certainly not, is never the president's first choice," Mr Bush told Belgian television channel VRT.

"Diplomacy is always the president's, or at least always my first choice, and we've got a common goal, and that is that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon."
Iraq, Iran, Middle East on agenda for EU-US summit
By The Associated Press
Iran, Iraq and the Middle East are on the agenda of official subjects at next week's EU-US summit but European and US leaders are not scheduled to speak about China and the Kyoto protocol, an EU source said Friday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is slated to speak about the Middle East, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder about Iran and Slovakian Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda about Iraq, according to a list of themes to be touched on at the meeting, the source said.
Rosatom Head's Visit to Tehran To Help In Resolving Many Iran Problems
By Russian Information Agency Novosti
The visit to Teheran on February 26 by Rosenergoatom chief Alexander Rumyantsev will be a stride to resolve problems concerning Iran, State Duma international committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev told the RIA Novosti press conference on Friday.

To quote: "Rumyantsev's upcoming visit will be a stride in untying knots which have emerged in connection with Iran".

In the opinion of Mr. Kosachev, the Iran problem is the "sore point" in Russian-American relations. "Our points of view on the problem of Iran do not fully coincide, which only means such interaction is required", noted the Russian parliamentarian.
Bush to back strike on Iran
By Francis Harris The Telegraph - Calcutta
President George W. Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb.

Asked whether he would back Israel if it raided Tehran's nuclear facilities, Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran. But he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about whether Iran could make nuclear weapons.
Bush Says U.S. Won't Attack Iran
By Terence Hunt White House AP Correspondent
President Bush said Friday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear weapons project but added that "you never want a president to say never." He expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.

In interviews with European journalists at the White House, Bush was asked about an opinion poll showing that 70 percent of Germans believe the United States is planning military action against Iran.
Putin defends Iran nuke program
By Maria Golovnina
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given Iran a boost in its face-off with the United States over its nuclear programme, saying he is convinced the Islamic Republic is not trying to build atomic weapons.

He said on Friday Russia would press on with nuclear cooperation with Tehran, which involves construction of a reactor at Bushehr in southern Iran.
Putin: Russia will continue nuclear cooperation with Iran
By The Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he is convinced Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons and announced plans to visit the country, showing strong support for Tehran a week before a summit with President Bush.

Putin's bold expression of faith in Tehran starkly contradicts U.S. suspicions about the intentions of Iran, which Bush has labeled part of an "axis of evil" seeking weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorists.
Iran and Syria to form "united front" to counter threats
By The Associated Press
Iran and Syria, who both are facing pressure from the United States, said Wednesday they will form a "united front" to confront possible threats against them, state-run television reported.

"In view of the special conditions faced by Syria, Iran will transfer its experience, especially concerning sanctions, to Syria," Mohammad Reza Aref, Iran's first vice president, was quoted as saying after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari.
IAEA Head Disputes Claims on Iran Arms
By Dafna Linzer and Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff Writers
The head of the U.N. agency responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program said Tuesday that there had been no discoveries in the last six months to substantiate claims that the Islamic state is secretly working toward building a nuclear bomb.

In a wide-ranging interview with four U.S. newspapers, Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency also described White House policies on Iran and North Korea as inconsistent. Without greater U.S. participation in diplomacy, ElBaradei said, confrontation could increase.
Iran Says U.S. Spy Drones Flew Over Its Nuclear Sites
By The Associated Press
The United States has been flying spy drones over Iran's nuclear sites, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said Wednesday, commenting for the first time on media reports of U.S. unmanned surveillance craft over Iran.

"Most of the shining objects that our people see over Iran's airspace are American spying equipment used to spy on Iran's nuclear and military facilities," the minister said.
U.S. Reviewing Its Intelligence on Iran
By Dafna Linzer and Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writers
The intelligence community is conducting a broad review of its Iran assessments, including a new look at the country's nuclear program, the future of its ruling clerics and the impact of the Iraq war on Tehran's powerful position in the region, according to administration officials and congressional sources.

Two separate reports -- a wide-ranging National Intelligence Estimate and a second memo focusing exclusively on Tehran's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities -- will reflect an updated consensus within the intelligence community. The documents are meant to guide the Bush administration as it continues to deliberate on a policy for dealing with Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
Iran's top leader calls America "dragon head"
By The Associated Press
Iran's supreme leader on Thursday harshly condemned US President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, saying his administration would fail in its attempt to uproot the ruling Islamic establishment.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was responding to Bush's annual speech to the US Congress on Wednesday, in which he accused Iran of being "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."
Iran, Mideast, Iraq leading issues as Rice visits Europe, Middle East
By Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer
Iran's nuclear program, an upcoming Mideast summit and the next U.S. move in Iraq top a crowded agenda for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East.
U.S. denies regime change plan for Iran
By Washington Times
The U.S. State Department said Thursday it was not pursuing a policy of regime change in Iran. "The United States has been very clear, its officials have been very clear that we do not have a policy of regime change towards Iran," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.
Bush turns sights on Iran
By James Langton, Evening Standard
George Bush has issued a strong warning to the governments of Iran and Syria over their support for terrorists and attempts to build weapons of mass destruction.

Setting out his agenda for the next four years, President Bush spoke last night of his "ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" and pledged: "Pursuing our enemies is a vital commitment of the war on terror."
Official: Ukraine sold missiles to Iran, China
By Aleksandar Vasovic, The Associated Press
A senior lawmaker yesterday called for Ukraine's prosecutor-general to investigate alleged sales of nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in violation of international nonproliferation treaties.

The appeal, by Hrihory Omelchenko, follows allegations he made in a letter to new President Viktor Yushchenko. Omelchenko is a parliament member and is a reserve colonel in Ukraine's intelligence service.
Bush demands Iran dismantle nuclear program
By China View
US President George W. Bush on Wednesday demanded that Iran dismantle its nuclear program in his annual State of the Union address.

"We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment programand any plutonium reprocessing," Bush said.
Bush warns Syria and Iran over terror
By Mail & Guardian Online: Africa's first online newspaper
United States President George Bush on Wednesday night issued clear warnings to Syria and Iran that they were next in his sights in his declared mission to spread democracy around the world.
GE to turn down new business in Iran
By MarketWatch
"Because of uncertain conditions related to Iran, including concerns about meeting future customer commitments, we will not accept any new orders for business in Iran effective Feb. 1," the Associated Press quoted GE spokesman Gary Sheffer as saying. "This moratorium on new orders will be re-evaluated as conditions relating to Iran change."
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