US to exploit Iran unrest for sanctions
New Delhi: US President Barack Obama plans to focus fresh sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the military force that oversees its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Revolutionary Guard has also been prominent in the recent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Mr Obama gave Iran a deadline of the end of 2009 to make progress on complying with United Nations resolutions and suspending its uranium enrichment programme. Tehran has not been daunted by previous sanctions but an Obama administration official said the current turmoil in Iran granted “a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear programme isn’t worth the price tag”. The administration believes that Iran’s hopes of secretly enriching uranium have faltered since the disclosure in October of a secret enrichment plant under construction near Qom, the Shia Muslim holy city.
Iran suffered a second setback when international nuclear inspectors reported that the number of machines operating at the Natanz plant, used to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, had dropped by 20 per cent since the summer because of technical problems. Some European officials believe the problems may have been partly caused by secret sabotage and other covert action by Western intelligence agencies. US officials have said these factors resulted in the extension of how long it would take Iran to achieve what nuclear specialists term “covert breakout”, the capacity to produce functioning weapons secretly. “For now, the Iranians don’t have a credible breakout option, and we don’t think they will have one for at least 18 months, maybe two or three years,” said one senior administration official who deals with Iran. Effective sanctions that do not have counter-productive effects would be difficult for the US to achieve. Three previous rounds of sanctions have not deterred Iran and stopping Western goods would dismay Iranian demonstrators and pro-Western reformists. The Revolutionary Guard, however, has extensive business interests that could be targeted. Iran cried foul at the threat of new sanctions and said the West had given it until the end of January to accept a deal over swapping enriched uranium. It insisted that it would continue with plans to produce more enriched nuclear fuel if there was no agreement.
FM spokesman denounces harsh attitude of French police
Tehran, Jan 4, IRNA – Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mihman-Parast on Monday denounced the harsh attitude of French police and security forces towards people in that country. Such an attitude is against human rights norms, he said, adding that behavior of the French police is a clear indication of violation of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights of the French people. Their attitude is also against international commitments of France as a member of international human rights conventions, Mihman-Parast noted. The recent unrest in various French cities is an indication of the lack of justice and equality throughout this country, he said, adding that such an approach is rooted in incorrect policies of the French statesmen. Referring to a human tragedy in France in 2009, he regretted that 353 homeless people died last year in a country which is the so-called advocate of equality and democracy in the world. Mihman-Parast further voiced Tehran’s great concern over the performance of the French government and called for serious change in the attitude of the country’s statesmen. He also urged the international bodies to investigate such unfair approach in France.