Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend roundup - Monday 28 September 2009

  • It's all about semantics. In an interview with Time Magazine's Managing Editor Richard Stengel on Friday, Mahmoud Amadinejad could hardly contain his gleeful grin as Stengel questioned him on the new urnaium enrichment facility which Iran has been building near the holy city of Ghom, and whose existence came to light last week. The new plant would endow Iran with at least two enrichment facilities -- the other known plant is in Natanz -- and would mean that the country is even closer to obtaining enough nuclear material for a bomb. According to reports, Iran divulged the existence of the Ghom plant in a letter addressed to the IAEA last Monday. Hence Ahmadinejad's grin and his ability to tell Stengel that the site is 'not secret', as President Barack Obama announced in Pittsburgh while he was flanked by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Iran has always contended that as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is only bound to reveal a major nuclear site's existence once nuclear material has been injected into it. The international community's reading of the treaty is that such sites must be declared as soon as construction begins. This morning, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi underlined this position by claiming that Iran had expected to be praised for its transparency because it had revealed the site's construction 18 months before any gas is to be injected into it. Iran may have tried to preempt international censure by sending the letter to the IAEA. According to sources speaking to the Associated Press, American, British, and French intelligence services had discovered the site several years ago and were waiting for construction to be sufficiently advanced before making a surprise announcement.

  • With the start of the Iranian academic year, the regime will have to contend with new organized fronts in the opposition movement. Students in Tehran University convened in front of the offices of the faculty of philosophy to protest the presence of Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, former Majlis Speaker and member of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution. Haddad Adel's daughter is married to Mojtaba Khamenei, Leader Ali Khamenei's son. According to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi, Haddad Adel did not emerge from the conference room, so the students began chanting, 'Anti-nation Majlis representative, shame, shame!', 'Haddad Adel, supporter of a murderer!' and 'Whoever is uneducated is with Ahmadinejad!' (Har ki ke bisavadeh, ba Ahmadinejadeh!)

    According to the opposition Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi, a much bigger crowd marched elsewhere on the campus today. Waving green ballons, the students called for the resignation of the 'coup government' and shouted 'Death to the dictator!'

    Another source posted a video purporting to be from the same demonstration today, this time in front of the main library building, and claimed that the number of protesters was growing by the minute.

  • The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) bought a controlling stake in the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI or Sherkat Mokhaberat Iran) in a half-hour operation on Sunday whose outcome was inevitable. The two rival bids were advanced by groups controlled the IRGC. The Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin consortium, linked to the IRGC's social affairs mutual fund, bought 50% plus one stock in the state telecom for 340.9 toumans a share which brought the amount of the deal to 7.8 trillion toumans (about $8 billion), the largest transaction in the history of the Tehran stock exchange.  

  • Parviz Meshkatian, santour virtuoso and composer, passed away on Tuesday of heart failure at the age of 54. Masters of Iranian music spoke at his funeral service on Friday and lamented the loss of their fellow musician. But the presence of government representative, Deputy Minister for Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hossein Imani Khoshkhou, was too much for the participants, who prevented him from speaking by clapping loudly and continuously.

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