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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 40      October 19, 2009


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(lead article)
Iran: students resume
protests for more rights
Demonstration of 1,000 students at Tehran University September 28 forced Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cancel visit for celebration of new school year.

Thousands of university students in Tehran demonstrated for democratic rights at the opening of the school year. “The university is still alive” read one banner, referring to the unsuccessful efforts of the government to intimidate those fighting for free speech and press, the right to assemble, freedom of political prisoners, and more rights for women.

About 1,000 students protested September 28 at Tehran University, forcing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cancel his visit for the celebration of the new school year. They chanted “death to the dictator” and demanded the release of jailed political activists.

The day before, hundreds of students protested a talk on campus by Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, a right-wing member of parliament. “You are against the people, traitor!” they shouted.

On September 29 more than 1,000 students at Sharif University, also in Tehran, demonstrated against a visit by Kamran Daneshjoo, the minister of science and higher education, forcing him to leave early.

The government arrested 18 student leaders October 2 while they were holding a discussion in a park. According to the New York Times, they are members of the Office for Consolidating Unity, a student organization that has fought for democratic rights. The group released a statement denouncing the arrests.  
Nuclear inspections
Meanwhile Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN nuclear enforcement agency, announced October 4 that Tehran has agreed to allow an inspection October 25 of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facility. A meeting with Iran, the United States, France, and Russia to discuss Iranian purchase of enriched uranium from abroad is scheduled for October 19.

Representatives of Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany met about Iran’s nuclear program October 1 in Geneva. Leading up to the Geneva meeting, U.S. president Barack Obama was joined by his counterparts in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany in threatening further sanctions if Iran did not cease enriching uranium. Enrichment is a step in the nuclear process necessary to produce fuel for power generation, but it can also be used to manufacture a weapon. Moscow has tacitly supported the idea of further sanctions.

The same day as the Geneva meeting, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure that bars the U.S. Energy Department from extending contracts to foreign companies for crude oil delivery to the U.S. Strategic Reserve if those companies sell or ship gasoline to Iran. Iran is unable to refine sufficient oil to supply domestic fuel demands. It imports as much as 40 percent of its gasoline.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department is stepping up its enforcement of already existing sanctions. “The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency spearheading enforcement, has beefed up its investigative and enforcement teams, officials say,” reported the Wall Street Journal October 2. Among the targets are “foreign subsidiaries, distributors or customers who are improperly reselling goods into Iran.”

The Treasury Department announced October 1 that it had fined a Florida financial services firm $3 million for violating restrictions on trade with Iran. According to the government, Gold and Silver Reserve, Inc. opened accounts with more than 56,000 residents in Iran for e-currency services.

Iran’s most prominent oppositionist, former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, has opposed imposition of new sanctions on Iran. Calling Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies “wrong and adventurist” he argued that “sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers.”  
Uranium enrichment
The Iranian government has insisted up to now on its right to carry out all enrichment of uranium on Iranian soil. A proposal to enrich the uranium in Russia made years ago had elicited no positive response from the Iranian government. But while in New York to address the United Nations, Ahmadinejad issued a request to ease sanctions on Iran’s purchase of low-grade enriched uranium in order to fuel its research reactor.

At the October 1 talks, according to U.S. and European officials, Tehran agreed in principle to send most of its uranium to Russia for processing and France for bundling into fuel assemblies to be used for medical purposes. The Times cited “Western officials” saying the amount of uranium to be sent to Russia “could be as much as 75 percent of Iran’s declared nuclear stockpile.”

The following day, however, Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili held a news conference in Iran to deny that such an agreement was made during the talks in Geneva, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. He said Iranian negotiators had conveyed their request to buy enriched uranium but that “there was no discussion over Iran’s suspension of enrichment.”

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner dumped cold water on Iran’s announcement that it would allow inspection of the new enrichment facility. “We are ready to no longer speak about sanctions, but we need to discuss what we call the heart of the matter, that is to say: is this uranium enrichment dangerous or not?” Kouchner told RTL radio and LCI television.

Asked whether Iran might be pursuing nuclear weapons, Kouchner said, “Everything leads us to think that they were at least tempted to do this and we are trying to put an end to this.”
Related articles:
Letter from Tehran

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