TEHRAN - Iran's hardline judiciary has declared it intends to "detoxify" the Islamic republic's movie industry in a bid to eliminate what it described as "corrupt" artists, according to a statement carried in the press.
The announcement of a new anti-vice drive targetting the bustling film sector comes amid criticism of the judiciary over its arrest of the organisers of an independent film festival on the grounds that female members of the audience had shown too much flesh or hair.
"As long as the culture ministry does not act to clean up the cultural field of disgraceful elements, the judicial apparatus is obliged to act to detoxify the cultural field of corrupt elements," said the judiciary's message.
Abolhasan Davoodi, head of the non-governmental Cinema House, was summoned and interrogated by police last week for "repeated protests over non-observance of the Islamic dress code" during the movie award festival.
He was then sent to a Tehran hospital with suspected heart failure after his arrest. Several other organisers were also detained and then freed on bail.
But the judiciary defended the arrests, arguing that "during the ceremony we witnessed a number of insults against the sacred rules of Islam as well as the propagation of immorality."
"These acts were committed deliberately," and "unfortunately the deputy culture minister in charge of cinema and other officials present at the ceremony gave their approval by smiling at these abominable and insulting acts," it said.
Organisers of the independent Cinema House festival have apologized for the attire of some women attending the event and acknowledged "with deep regret" that "some of those invited did not abide by the notices" reminding women to cover up properly.
At the event, film clips are shown and a series of awards handed out. It is often labelled as Iran's answer to the Oscars.
But this year the festival came under fierce attack by two hardline newspapers, Jomhuri Islami and Kayhan, which plastered pictures of several women at the festival wearing flimsy headscarfs, three-quarter-length trousers and skimpy coats.
Many of the women were also plastered in cosmetics.
Every post-pubescent female in Iran, regardless of her nationality or religion, is obliged to observe the Islamic dress code and cover her hair whenever outside the home.
Iran to launch test satellite with missile
Sep 20, 2004, 21:10
Iran will use a modified version of its Shahab-3 missile, which defence experts say can reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf, to launch a test satellite before March 2005, a defence industry source says.
He said the missile would carry a 20 kg (44 lb) experimental satellite to an orbit of 250 km (155 miles) above the earth.
"It is just an experimental satellite which will send a simple signal," he said on Monday, adding that the project was called Safir-313. Safir is Persian for emissary.
This would be Iran's first launch of a test satellite into space. It announced in January that it wanted to be the first Islamic country to go into space and added that it was building a launchpad, without elaborating.
Iran last month carried out tests of what it described as an upgraded version of the Shahab-3 medium-range missile. Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 810 miles (1,300 km), which would allow it to strike anywhere in Israel.
Military analysts say that countries often use their satellite launch programmes as inroads to weapons technology.
"There is a powerful motivation for emerging missile countries to branch into satellite launching," said Uzi Rubin, adviser to Israel's Defence Ministry on missile technology.
"Unlike ballistic missiles, regarded as adjunct to nuclear weapons and viewed with suspicion by the international community, there is no international norm against satellite launchers," he told Reuters in Jerusalem.
Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani said in August that Iran was working to improve the range and accuracy of the Shahab-3 in response to Israel's moves to boost its anti-missile capability.
Iran says its missile programme is purely for deterrent purposes. Tehran also denies U.S. and Israeli accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear warheads which could be delivered by the Shahab-3.
Washington says Iran's attempts to improve its missile capability were a threat to the region and U.S. interests.
The defence source said Iran planned to send another 170 kg satellite up to an orbit of 700 km by March 2005. This would be launched by a Russian rocket and be used for meteorology and cartography.
US spies play out strikes on Iran
Sep 20, 2004, 12:52
US spy agencies have conducted "war games" to consider possible pre-emptive strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities and concluded that such action would not resolve the standoff with Tehran, according to a report in Newsweek magazine.
The report comes amid renewed concerns over Iran's nuclear program after the Islamist state rejected a UN demand that it suspend work on uranium enrichment technology.
The US, which believes Iran is secretly building
nuclear weapons, has been urging the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency to refer the matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
But in a compromise resolution passed at the weekend, the IAEA set a November 25 deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran immediately rejected the resolution.
Newsweek reported that the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency played out the possible results of pre-emptive strikes.
"The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating," an unnamed US air force source told the magazine.
Hawks within the Bush administration are advocating regime change in Tehran, through covert operations or force if needed, Newsweek said.
But with US-led forces facing almost daily attacks in Iraq, no one in George W. Bush's cabinet had taken up the cause, the report said.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes such as power generation. Uranium is enriched through centrifuges to make what can be fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or explosive material for atomic bombs.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said yesterday Iran's program did not present an "imminent threat", but said Tehran must reassure the international community about its intentions.