Iran Focus: Baghdad, Jan. 20 Iraq's Minister for Provincial Affairs accused Iran of spreading its "sphere of influence" throughout Iraq, in preparation for the January 30th elections. "Many Iranians are producing fake Iraqi identity cards to be able to take part in the elections", Wa'el Abdol-Latif said, speaking to the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (Middle East) daily yesterday.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Jan. 20 There are currently "200,000 sufferers of the Hepatitis C virus in Iran", according to the head of the Iranian Medical Association. Speaking to a state-run news agency, Dr. Iraj Khosronia warned, "One of the most dangerous viruses affecting human society is Hepatitis C but people's awareness about this disease is very limited".
Iran Focus: Tehran, Jan. 20 - A young man who was accused of killing a member of Irans security forces when he was a minor was hanged in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
Iman Farrokhi who was 17 at the time of the offence was on death row in the Tehran Centre for Reform and Education (Juvenile Prison).
The Independent: The spiritual leader of Iran has reaffirmed the fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie in a message to Muslim pilgrims.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, declared that Rushdie was an "apostate" whose killing would be permitted by Islam. He made the comment to crowds of pilgrims on their way to Mecca.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Jan. 20 Homes in the city of Mashad (northeast Iran) were raided over the past few days by State Security Forces for "illegal satellite dishes". The SSF Public Relations Office announced that two individuals were arrested, on charges of installing satellite dishes, during the raids. Some 45 satellite dishes and receivers were confiscated thus far.
AFP: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has labelled British author Salman Rushdie an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, according to message carried by Iranian media Wednesday. Khamenei's reference to Rushdie was made in a message to Muslims making the annnual pilgrimage to Mecca, and was part of a lengthy tirade against "Western and Zionist capitalists" and the US-led "war on terror".
Reuters: Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice articulated a firm U.S. line against Iran's ruling mullahs, whose nuclear ambitions the Bush administration considers a major threat, in testimony at her Senate confirmation hearings. In two days of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings that ended on Wednesday, Rice repeatedly emphasized differences with Tehran's clerical leaders, saying: "It's really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished."
Reuters: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says there is no alternative to Europe's approach of using diplomacy to try to persuade Iran to give up any technology that could be used make nuclear weapons. In an interview with the Financial Times, Straw defended the policy of Britain, France and Germany to talk to Iran rather adopt Washington's more hardline stance.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Jan. 19 - Fourteen people were killed yesterday and eleven others left injured when a bus and a truck collided in Fars province (southern Iran), according to the state-run news agency IRNA.
New York Times: A number of Iranian officials declared Tuesday that Iran would not be intimidated by threats, a day after President Bush refused to rule out military action against Iran if it continued to pursue nuclear weapons.
Iran Focus: Paris, Jan. 18 Iranians are planning a massive rally in Paris on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the 1979 Iranian revolution to call for an end to theocratic rule in their country. Organisers are expecting a huge turnout in the event scheduled for February 10 at Place Trocadero in central Paris.
We are going to call every man and woman of conscience in the world to join us on February 10, said Elham Parsafar of the Paris-based Committee in Defense of Human Rights in Iran.
The New Yoker: George W. Bushs reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state.
Xinhua: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has urged Iranian leaders not to block the talks mediated by European countries in a bid to curb Teheran's nuclear program.
"It is the hope of the world this year... that a comprehensive and lasting accord can be reached," said Schroeder, noting that progress had been made at talks led by Britain, France and Germany,the so-called "Big Three" in the European Union (EU), since last year.
The following press release has been sent to Iran Focus by Sara Safeed (Persian Mirror): Internationally renowned recording artist Andy has put his talented song-writing skills to a new project called Babak and Friends A First Norooz. The famed pop star, who has just returned from a world tour is heading into the studio to record the new Norooz song next week. Andy joins a cast of talented artists and actors, including legendary actor Parviz Sayyad and Ali Pourtash in this first-time Norooz project for children and adults alike.
The Times: Shirin Ebadi, Irans Nobel peace prizewinner who has defied a summons to appear before the feared Revolutionary Court, yesterday called on her countrys authorities to ban the use of solitary confinement. The practice amounted to torture and was a tool of unpopular governments, she told a rare conference where several former prisoners gave accounts of their experiences in solitary confinement.
New York Times: The Bush administration imposed penalties this month against some of China's largest companies for aiding Iran's efforts to improve its ballistic missiles. The move is part of an effort by the White House and American intelligence agencies to identify and slow important elements of Iran's weapons programs. The White House made no public announcement of the penalties, and the State Department placed a one-page notice on page 133 of The Federal Register early this month listing eight Chinese companies affected.
Reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush says he will not rule out military action against Iran if that country is not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons programme. "I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the table," Bush said in an interview with NBC News when asked if he would rule out the potential for military action against Iran "if it continues to stonewall the international community about the existence of its nuclear weapons program."