Los Angeles Times: Four Iranian brothers jailed as threats to national security were freed from an immigration detention facility Wednesday after more than three years in custody. The sudden release of the Mirmehdis Mohammed, 34, Mohsen, 37, Mojtaba, 41, and Mostafa, 45 was announced at 6:15 p.m. and came in time for the beginning of the Persian new year early Sunday.
Bloomberg: Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, said it's "unacceptable" for the Islamic republic to halt its nuclear enrichment program as demanded by the EU and U.S. Iran is building a heavy-water nuclear reactor that it says is for generating electricity. It has rejected calls by the U.S. for it to abandon the program.
Bloomberg: President George W. Bush said the U.S. and its European allies are prepared to seek sanctions against Iran if the government there rejects a proposal offering economic incentives in exchange for ending nuclear development. "We go to the Security Council if they reject the offer, and I hope they don't," Bush said at a news conference today in Washington.
Reuters: Iranian authorities beat up and tear gassed exuberant young revellers as they breathed new life into a pre-Islamic fire festival with a night of dancing, flirting and fireworks. The Islamic Republic, which has an awkward relationship with its ancient Zoroastrian religion, only gave guarded recognition to the "Chaharshanbe Souri" festival last year.
AFP: Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, said on Wednesday that Iranian nuclear negotiators have definitively and officially told Europeans that Iran will never accept a permanent halt to its enrichment programme.
Reuters: The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog Wednesday hailed last week's offer by Washington of political concessions in European-led talks with Iran but said Tehran must open more to inspections for diplomacy to succeed.
New York Times: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to press President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan for more information on the help a rogue Pakistani scientist, A. Q. Khan, is believed to have given Iran to develop a nuclear weapons program, a senior administration official said Tuesday. Speaking on the eve of talks that Ms. Rice plans to hold with Indian and Pakistani leaders on the first leg of her trip to Asia, the official said that Pakistan had been helpful in the past on sharing information from its own investigation of Dr. Khan, but that the administration wanted more.
Washington Times - Editorial: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an exclusive interview published in this newspaper on Saturday, said that the United States is prepared to join with Europe in offering incentives for Iran to halt its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and end its support for terrorism. Within hours, the Iranian regime gave its answer: The Western democracies can in effect go jump in a lake.
UPI: A proposed natural gas pipeline from Iran to India has raised the ire of the U.S. Bush administration, concerned with existing sanctions against Iran.
The $4 billion project, which could be operational by 2011, would run through India's historic rival Pakistan, leading some in India to refer to the system a "peace-pipeline," the Washington Times reported Tuesday.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Mar. 15 Tehran was left in a standstill this evening as the population poured into the streets to mark the national 'fire' festival of Chahar-shanbeh Souri despite intense pressures by the Iranian regime to prevent a possible uprising. Eye-witnesses reported that full-size puppets of high-ranking officials, such as the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the regime's president Mohammad Khatami, were set on fire by youths at numerous locations throughout the Iranian capital.
Toronto Star - Editorial: Ayatollah Ali Khameini and Iran's ruling clerics seem perversely bent on plunging their nation of 68 million into an international black hole. The murder of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in a Tehran jail in 2003 was symptomatic of what Human Rights Watch calls a general deterioration in respect for rights.
Bloomberg: The lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran, while building confidence, won't make the country give up nuclear fuel enrichment, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said today. Kharrazi also rejected a U.S. offer to support Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization and to consider sales of commercial aircraft parts to Iran if the country abandons its nuclear ambitions.
AFP: A senior Iranian nuclear negotiator said Monday that the European Union must accept Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme, Iranian student news agency Isna reported. "The Europeans have continuously demanded a halt to enrichment but this demand was not included in the agreement... The Europeans must accept Iran's uranium enrichment," said Sirus Nasseri, referring to an initial deal reached with the EU last year.
AFP: The United States has given Europe what it expected by making trade concessions to Iran to help resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Monday. "These gestures made recently by the United States give us what we expected and show that the United States, like Russia and China . . . wants to give negatiations a chance," Barnier told reporters in Geneva.
Reuters: Iran, complaining of the slow pace of negotiations with the European Union over its nuclear program, said on Monday it may soon present the EU with a take-it-or-leave-it proposal to finalize the talks. Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful power generation, but the EU and United States fear the country may be seeking to develop atomic weapons.
Toronto Star: Canada's foreign affairs minister will today demand that Iran take action to improve its record on human rights. "The human rights violations in Iran are serious and they must stop," Pierre Pettigrew will say in a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The country has failed to implement many of its international obligations with respect to human rights, the foreign minister will say, according to a text of his speech obtained by the Toronto Star.
AP: President Bush's national security adviser insisted Sunday the United States is not making concessions to Iran, even though Washington has softened its stance against the nation that Bush recently labeled "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."
Stephen Hadley, in his first television appearances since becoming national security adviser last month, said the United States is supporting European allies as they try to negotiate an end to Iran's suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.