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Iran won't pay ransom for seized Western cyclists

Dec 10th, 2003

TEHRAN, Dec. 10 — Iran will not pay a ransom to drug-runners who have kidnapped three European cyclists in the rugged border region with Pakistan and Afghanistan, Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said on Wednesday.

Iranian officials said the kidnappers demanded five million euros ($6.1 mln) for one Irishman and two Germans seized on December 2 near the city of Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province.
When asked whether Iran had any intention of paying Mousavi-Lari replied: ''Not at all.''
Deputy Interior Minister Aliasghar Ahmadi said recent drug seizures had left the traffickers strapped for cash.
''This is the price we pay for the war on drugs,'' he said.
Ahmadi said telephone calls from the kidnappers could have come from abroad, suggesting a cross-border gangster network.
Drug-runners use Iran's porous eastern borders to traffic opium and heroin along the transit route to Europe.
Security officials say firefights have killed 17 border guards and 28 smugglers on the border in the last eight months.
Although the Iranians refuse to pay, rumours abound that Germany has paid ransoms for release of its citizens, fuelling speculation that German tourists could be lucrative targets.
Western media have named the Irish cyclist as Aidan James Leahy, a mechanic in his 30s living in London.
Most European countries advise their citizens Iran is safe country for travel, but urge caution on the borders.
Iran's leading tourism official said there was no need for alarm.
''This could happen in any country. It is completely natural. The hostage-taking of three people on our border areas is not a sign of insecurity. We will nonetheless press for their release,'' Taha Abd-e Khodai told the Farhang-e Ashti newspaper.
Kidnapping is rare in Iran which is trying to promote tourism as a way of diversifying its oil-dependent economy.
Ten Europeans were kidnapped in three separate incidents in 1999. The hostages were freed unharmed and three of the kidnappers publicly hanged in 2001.
8 posted on 12/10/2003 4:03:50 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: F14 Pilot
Why Iran might be wise to build the nuclear bomb
by Iqbal Siddiqui
Tuesday 09 December 2003

"Although they are classified as weapons of mass destruction, and the US makes much of their terrorist potential, history suggests that the real value of nuclear weapons is in having them as a deterrent. Certainly the Cold War was much cooler than it might have been had one of the two side had an advanage in terms of nuclear weapons."

The tortuous saga of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s inspection of Iran’s nuclear program finally reached a conclusion of sorts on November 25, when it was announced that the powers represented on the body and of the UN Security Council had agreed the text of a new resolution accepting the conclusions of an IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program. The resolution is due to be considered at a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors on November 26. Reports suggest, however, that a compromise has been reached by which any Iranian breaches of the resolution would be referred to the IAEA for consideration. The original draft apparently did not threaten any specific action in case of an Iranian breach of the resolution.

The controversy over the resolution had arisen a week earlier, when the IAEA finalised their report, based on months of investigations and talks with Iranian officials, concluding that although Iran had had a covert nuclear program for 18 years, there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons programme. This conclusion, based on intense scientific scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear facilities, was immediately rejected by the US, whose top arms control official, John Bolton, said on November 13 that the IAEA’s conclusions were "impossible to believe". Totally ignoring the detailed findings of the investigation, he went on to say that "a massive and covert Iranian effort to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities only makes sense as part of a nuclear weapons program."

The US, which had originally demanded the investigation into Iran’s nuclear programme in order to put political pressure on Iran, had apparently been demanding that any suspected breaches referred to the UN Security Council, which it dominates. This possibility was strongly rejected by Iran, which knows that the US wants to manipulate and exploit the issue, as well as by Britain, France, Germany and other Western powers, nervous of the US deciding on war and forcing its will on the international community, as happened over Iraq. Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is only for peaceful power-generation, but has been wary of the IAEA investigation, both because it represents a gross invasion of Iranian sovereignty, and because of the US’s proven ability to manipulate international organisations.

The question that arises, however, is whether it might be wiser for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Although they are classified as weapons of mass destruction, and the US makes much of their terrorist potential, history suggests that the real value of nuclear weapons is in having them as a deterrent. Certainly the Cold War was much cooler than it might have been had one of the two side had an advanage in terms of nuclear weapons.

This, of course, is what the US is eager to avoid. At the moment it feels free to act as a global bully, exploiting its massive military and political hegemony to impose its will on international institutions, other western powers and other countries alike. The last thing it wants is for a country such as Iran to be able to defend itself, and therefore feel free to defy the US writ. It can be argued that not only did the US not attack Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction, but in fact the US only attacked because Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

Although Iran is strong compared to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and other Muslim countries, its determination to maintain its independence and avoid being subverted, infiltrated or undermined by a hegemonic foreign power makes it a major target for an aggressive, out-of-control superpower like the US. Some people argue that Iran would be foolish to try to develop nuclear weapons under the beady eyes of the US and its subordinate international bodies. But we have seen, in the very recent and high-profile case of Iraq, that not developing weapons of mass destruction, and attempting to cooperate with the international bodies as far as possible, is no defence once the US decides it wants a war and is determined to find excuses for one. That is not, of course, to advocate that Iran should develop nuclear weapons; that is not for us to say. But certainly no-one should be surprised if, under the circumstances, some in Islamic Iran do feel that that might indeed be the wisest thing to do.
9 posted on 12/10/2003 4:32:13 AM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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