Reuters: British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Europe was "not naive" about Iran's nuclear plans and would ensure Tehran fulfils an obligation to freeze work that could lead to making nuclear weapons. Blair spoke on Israeli television yesterday after a daylong visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to help revive peace efforts after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death Nov. 11.
Malteser Germany: People in Bam are still suffering from the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake that struck the town one year ago. Peter Staudacher, Malteser programme coordinator in Bam states that children in particular remain traumatised. Many lost either one or both parents over night and, in addition, had to realise that their playmates and friends and are no longer alive.
The Guardian: More than 100 of Iran's potentially most important but least examined archaeological sites, including fringes of Pasargadae, the city built by King Cyrus the Great, will be flooded in the next two years according to the UN, which appealed yesterday to international scientists to try to record what they can.
The Guardian: Iran yesterday confirmed that a court has sentenced a 21-year-old woman to death for prostitution, but denied reports that she had a mental age of eight. Leyla Mafi was sentenced to death more than a year ago for having illegal sex. The sentence is being reviewed by the supreme court. Hanging is the usual form of execution in Iran.
AFP: Reconstruction of Bam a year after the Iranian city was hit by a devastating earthquake is progressing slowly, with the historic citadel looking like it's been hit by heavy artillery and thousands of people still living in makeshift housing.
Amnesty International: An Iranian woman facing execution by stoning for adultery is believed to still be alive, even though the sentence was reportedly due to have been carried out on Tuesday 21 December. Hajieh Esmailvands death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court last month. Her unnamed co-defendant is at risk of imminent execution by hanging.
UPI: Iran closed its border with Iraq Wednesday and banned its citizens from traveling to the war-torn country where the Shiites' holiest shrines are.
The Iranian News Agency, IRNA, quoted an official statement as saying the border closure and the travel ban were dictated by the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
AFP: The Iranian military led by the air force has been ordered to stand ready to defend the country's nuclear sites in case of attack, army chief General Mohammad Salimi said Wednesday. "The air force has been ordered to protect the nuclear sites, using all its power," Salimi said, quoted by the government daily Iran.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Dec. 22 Two antique smugglers had their death sentences upheld yesterday by an Islamic revolutionary court in the southern town of Jiroft.
The religious judge, Dadkhoda Sallari, also ordered the confiscation and sale of their personal property to cover the cost of trial.
Reuters: Iran has arrested more than 10 people this year for spying on its atomic programme for Washington and Israel, three of them working within the state nuclear programme, the intelligence minister says.
Iran said in August it had arrested dozens of spies, several of them for nuclear espionage, but Ali Yunesi gave further details about their alleged paymasters.
Boston Globe - Editorial: It may be a positive sign that when campaigning began for elections scheduled for Jan. 30 in Iraq, the first hot-button issue raised by Iraqi politicians was the specter of Iranian influence. US officials as well as Arab leaders are breaking no new ground when they warn in public about Iranian meddling in Iraq. They are fearful of Tehran for geopolitical reasons. They don't want Iranian-style theocracy to spread beyond Iran's borders.
AP: Iran is continuing with a key process used to enrich uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, but it is not violating an agreement to stop such activities because of a loophole in the deal, diplomats said Tuesday. The diplomats told The Associated Press that Tehran is still turning tons of raw uranium into uranium metal. The metal is a precursor of uranium hexafluoride - a substance that can then be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Reuters: Iran's decision to keep preparing raw uranium for enrichment, a step on the way to making nuclear weapons, breaks the spirit though not the letter of its pledge to freeze all such activity, diplomats say. Under a deal Iran reached with three EU nations to freeze all enrichment activity as of November 22, preparing "yellowcake" uranium for enrichment is strictly prohibited.
RFE/RL: Along with China and the United States, Iran has one of the highest execution rates in the world. In the last two decades, thousands of political prisoners, drug traffickers, and drug addicts have been executed in the Islamic Republic. In 2003, more than 100 executions were recorded in Iran. Human rights groups, however, say the real number of people put to death is much higher. "Unfortunately, every year there are some 300 to 400 executions in Iran ," said Abdolkarim Lahiji ...
BBC: The UN General Assembly has censured Iran for human rights violations, in a relatively close vote. By 71 votes to 54, with 55 abstentions, the assembly on Monday said Tehran restricted free speech, used torture, and persecuted dissenters. The resolution is not legally binding but is an expression of world opinion. Meanwhile, Amnesty International says it fears an Iranian woman convicted of adultery may be buried up to her chest and stoned to death on Tuesday.
Reuters: Iran will continue preparing raw "yellowcake" uranium for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons, until the end of February, despite a recent pledge to freeze all such activity, diplomats said. "The Iranians have decided to continue UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) production until the end of February," a diplomat told Reuters. Two other diplomats in Vienna, where the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, confirmed the report.
AFP: A year after an earthquake killed 31,000 people in the southern Iranian city of Bam, thousands still need psychological help, the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies said Monday. The impact of the quake continues to manifest itself through "sleeping disorders, the inability to complete routine tasks, explosive behavior, domestic violence and a dramatic increase in drug dependence," said the IFRC.