BBC: Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said the death sentence on writer Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy will remain in force. He rejected the author's repentance and recent decision not to publish a paperback edition of the novel The Satanic Verses which was deemed offensive to the Islamic faith.
Iran Focus: Tehran, Dec. 26 Iranian press have reported the public execution of at least four women in the past year, with at least 14 more to be publicly hanged or stoned to death.
Iran Focus has obtained the names and particulars of the four executed women, among them a 16-year-old girl. They were:
AFP: Iran reiterated on Sunday that it was not interested in direct talks with arch-foe the United States over its nuclear activities and said a US role in negotiations with Europe would not be "beneficial." "There is no such thing on the agenda of the Islamic republic," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters. "Iran is not interested in an American role in its discussions with Europe and we do not consider a US presence in the talks to be beneficial," he added.
AFP: Iran said Sunday that Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi might boycott a meeting of Iraq's neighbors in Amman next after the Jordanian king charged that Tehran was meddling in Iraq's affairs. "It is possible that he might not take part (in the January 15 meeting)," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters, adding that Iran would be reviewing its level of participation.
Washington Times - Op/Ed: The U.N. General Assembly took a step in the right direction on Monday by passing a resolution criticizing the Iranian government's abysmal human-rights record. The General Assembly voted 71-54 with 55 abstentions to condemn the regime's repression of free speech and use of torture against political opponents.
Los Angeles Times: Their cheeks were bitten by the threat of snow, but the sisters didn't have anywhere else to go. They'd coated their faces with makeup and painted their eyelashes until they looked too heavy to blink, gaudy faces to offset drab denims and black coats. This afternoon, their spirits hung as low as the brooding clouds over the mountains.
Reuters: Mourning Iranians have flocked to the southeastern city of Bam in recent days to mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake which killed tens of thousands and left the ancient Silk Road city in ruins. Bam, a date palm oasis in Iran's southern deserts built around an ancient citadel, was flattened by an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the ...
Iran Focus: Tehran, Dec. 25 The acting director-general of the workers union of the city of Shahre-Rey (southwest of Tehran) yesterday said that workers were currently living below the poverty line. Ali Tarkashvand said that workers desire to work with dignity with the hope of earning salaries to be able to have a reasonable lifestyle.
Iran Focus: Baghdad, Dec. 24 - The Iraqi Defence Minister stated that Iraq would soon display footage of Iranian meddling throughout the country. Hazem Shaalan said that Iraqi security forces were able to obtain foreign satellite footage of 50 suicide vehicles entering the country from Iran.
Amnesty International: The case of Leyla Mafi, who faces execution on account of charges including sexual intercourse with blood relatives, giving birth to an illegitimate child and acts contrary to chastity, flies in the face of justice and human dignity. It also breaches Iran's own obligationsunder international law, Amnesty International said.
AFP: Despite President George W. Bush's stern warnings to Iran and Syria against "meddling" in Iraq, Washington has shown no sign of readying new sanctions and appears to have little leverage with either state. Bush raised eyebrows last week when he issued the threat to the two countries accused by the US-installed Baghdad government of orchestrating attacks in Iraq ahead of next month's crucial elections.
The Globe and Mail: An election will be held on Jan. 30 in Iraq. Later in the year, another will be held next door in Iran. The Iraq election will produce a Shia-led government, because Shiites make up about 60 per cent of the population. The hope must be that such a government, resented by the Sunnis and barely tolerated by the Kurds, will not be the first step in Iraq's unravelling through political conflict and/or civil war.
AFP: A year after one of the worst earthquakes in modern history, residents of the Iranian city of Bam are to pay their final respects Saturday to the 30,000 dead and bring an end to the traditional 12 months of mourning.
People from Bam and the surrounding region are to converge on cemeteries where loved ones were hastily buried after the earthquake that measured up to 6.7 on the Richter scale and reduced the town's magnificent citadel to rubble.
Daily Telegraph: A year after surviving an earthquake that destroyed his town, 10-year-old Hossein still cannot sleep indoors. "We've tried to persuade him to sleep inside," said Maryam Ghasemi, who heads the Mahshiz Institution for Boys, located on an arid tract of land a mile south of Bam. "But every time we persuade him to spend the night indoors, we get a tremor that triggers the miserable memories of last year."
The Australian: Iran's historic ambitions to be the dominant regional power mean it will not be dissuaded from its long- term goal of nuclear weapons, creating the prospect of an eventual showdown with the US and its allies. That is the view of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who also says the Iranian ambition to be the world centre for Shia Muslims is driving its "dangerous game" in neighbouring Iraq.