Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - November 2, 2004 [EST]- IRAN LIVE THREAD - "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 11/01/2004 9:23:30 PM PST by DoctorZIn
The US media still largely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. As a result, most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East. In fact they were one of the first countries to have spontaneous candlelight vigils after the 911 tragedy (see photo).
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
A TOP aide to Iran's supreme leader today declared Tehran did not fear being taken to the UN security council over its nuclear program and warned any resulting oil embargo would see world prices top $US100 a barrel.
Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, one of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's closest advisers, dismissed as "ridiculous" some suggestions from Europe aimed at persuading Tehran to end uranium enrichment to avoid being summoned by the security council.
But Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Tehran saw "positive signals" from the three European countries - Britain, France and Germany - with whom it has been negotiating to try to close its file with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"If we had not received positive signals, we would not continue negotiations," he said.
Mr Ramezanzadeh also said he was optimistic that negotiations, which resume this week in Paris, would end in an agreement. "There is little chance that the negotiations will end with nothing."
But he, too, repeated that Iran was prepared for all possibilities and would "stand up against threats". He warned, too, that taking Tehran to the security council and possible sanctions would affect more than Iran.
"We must not fear that such a decision will only affect one of the parties," he said, referring to Iran and echoing Mr Nateq-Nuri's words.
Washington charges that Iran is using its nuclear program as a cover for efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, allegations vehemently denied by Tehran which also points out it has the right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
But under international pressure, Tehran now has to prove to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that it is not pursuing the bomb or risk being hauled in front of the security council for possible sanctions.
Overnight, hundreds of Iranian university students created a human chain around the Islamic Republic's atomic organisation headquarters backing the resumption of uranium enrichment.
"Enrichment is our natural right," they shouted, along with the habitual "Death to America".
Earlier, Iranian lawmakers passed a Bill backing the resumption of uranium enrichment, as the Government left the door open for further negotiations with Europe over the controversial practice.
Mr Nateq-Nuri, in an interview with Iran News, said he saw no reason to fear the UN.
"Since our position is logical, right and consistent with the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and the international law, we do not fear the security council," he said.
Questioned about a possible UN embargo on Tehran's oil exports, the former parliamentary speaker said: "The big loser will be them, not us.
"If an oil embargo is slapped on Iran, the price of oil will exceed $US100 per barrel, with a potential to paralyse the West's economy."
World oil prices are near recent record levels at $US50 a barrel.
Mr Nateq-Nuri added: "If the No.2 producer within OPEC is prevented from selling its oil on the international market, it would spell disaster for all consuming nations.
"I believe even if we are referred to the UN security council, an oil embargo will not be placed on us right away."
Last week, Iran's influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the country would continue talks with Europe over its nuclear activities, but reject any threats aimed at depriving the country of peaceful nuclear technology.
"We agree to continue negotiations within the framework of international rules, but if the Europeans want to use threats, there is no more place for negotiations," he said on state radio.
1 November 2004
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has described North Korea as a serious challenge to nuclear non-proliferation efforts. In a speech to the General Assembly, agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei also urged Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment activities.
"The situation in the Democratic People's Republic of korea continues to pose a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime," Mr. ElBaradei says.
In separate comments to reporters, Mr. ElBaradei expressed frustration at the failure of the six-party talks aimed at pressing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic benefits and security guarantees.
"It is slow, I am frustrated it is not moving as fast as it should," Mr. ElBaradei says. "I am telling the North Koreans again the international community is ready to look into your security concerns, to your economic and humanitarian needs, but the prerequisite is for them to commit themselves to full and verifiable dismantlement of their weapons program."
On Iran, Mr. Baradei reported some progress. But he said movement was slow, and urged the Tehran government to halt its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
"Iran has reversed some of the suspension measures initially undertaken in November, 2003 and the board has called on Iran again to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as a confidence-building measure," Mr. ElBaradei says.
In his General Assembly address, Mr. ElBaradei did not mention the controversy over nearly 345-metric tons of explosives said to be missing in Iraq. His report last week that the explosives were unaccounted for at a military base near Baghdad has become an issue in the final days of the U.S. presidential campaign.
The U.N. nuclear agency chief did, however, express hope that his inspectors would be allowed to return to Iraq to settle once and for all the question of Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction.
The U.N. nuclear agency was ordered to stop its inspections in March of last year, after finding no evidence of any revival of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Referring to that conclusion, Mr. El Baradei told the Assembly that the international community is reassured that the agency's findings have been validated.
KUWAIT CITY: Iraqi President Ghazi Al Yawar accused Iran of orchestrating attacks in his country and declared his opposition to a threatened assault on the rebel hotbed of Fallujah, in an interview published yesterday.
Iran is playing a negative role in Iraq. It is behind the assassination of more than 18 Iraqi intelligence officers. It is also playing a negative role in southern Iraq, Yawar told Kuwaits Al Qabas newspaper.
The interview appeared while the Iraqi president was in Kuwait on a three-day visit, the first by an Iraqi head of state to the oil-rich emirate, which was invaded and occupied by Iraqi forces in 1990-91.
Yawar said he opposed any military solution to the situation in the rebel-held Fallujah city, one day after Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued an ultimatum to the city to surrender insurgents or face an all-out assault.
I totally differ with those who believe there is a need for a military solution to the (Fallujah) issue.
The management of the (US-led) coalition of the crisis is wrong, Yawar said, describing it as like the man who shot his horse to scare a fly, resulting in the fly escaping and the horses death.
The coalition should continue to have dialogue until the arrival of Iraqi troops... This will encourage neutral citizens to stop sympathizing with the rebels, most of whom are Saddam Hussein loyalists and forces which came from outside Iraq, Yawar said.
General elections will be held on time in January, Yawar said unless international observers say it cannot be held due to technical reasons.
Thirteen-year-old Sudabeh and her sisters sit glued to the television watching a Hindi pop star tossing her long silken hair around in time to the gyrating music.
It's the middle of the day and their Iranian friends are at school but as Afghan refugees they have to pay for education this year for the first time.
That meant only one child in the family could go to school and predictably Sudabeh's brother Khusrow was chosen.
For a man who works as a gardener in the municipal parks, $150 for every child is a lot.
"This decision by the Iranian government will force Afghan refugees to go back to their own country because we simply cannot afford these fees," says the childrens' father, Ghasser Nasseri.
Though he has a university degree he's spent the last 12 years in exile in Iran doing manual labour because he wanted his children to have a better future.
"Every time I see Iranian school girls in their uniforms going to and from school I get really upset. Tears come to my eyes because for an educated person it's very hard to have uneducated children," he says.
The family has reluctantly decided to return to Afghanistan next spring because of this problem of education.
At the Khane Koudak-e-Shoush (Shoush Childrens Home), a literacy centre for street children in South Tehran, the number of Afghan children has doubled this school year.
They have nowhere else to go and the centre offers free education.
Like the Iranian government, the organisers blame the United Nations refugee agency for creating the problem.
They say UNHCR's decision to withdraw their subsidies for refugee education triggered the crisis.
"When it comes to the facilities and budget that UNHCR should have allocated to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran... naturally when that's cut then education stops as a result," says Ali Akbar Esmailpour from the Society for Supporting Childrens Rights that runs the centre.
But the UNHCR says at best the subsidies were only about $8 per child, a tiny fraction of the real cost.
They say they withdrew the subsidy because the Iranian government said it was going to charge fees.
The huge difference in quality of life between Iran and Afghanistan means that UNHCR believes some incentives to repatriation are acceptable.
Denial of basic education is not, however.
"I think physical threats, psychological pressures are not acceptable - such as arrests and detention - and I would say that education - particularly primary education - are part of those pressures that are not acceptable," says UNHCR's head of mission in Tehran, Pierre Lavanchy.
Step by step Afghan refugees in Iran are being denied basic services - they're not allowed to buy medical insurance any more, to rent a house without government permission or open a bank account.
It's official Iranian policy that all the remaining one million Afghan refugees in Iran should go home within the next 18 months.
The education policy has sparked small protests by Afghan women and children outside UN offices and the Afghan Embassy.
"The sin of our children is only that they are refugees," read the banner in one such protest.
And in a sign of how desperate Afghan refugees are for education, informal schools have begun to open up in recent weeks.
They are given a licence to open to teach the Holy Koran - not offer a primary education.
In one such school in south Tehran nearly a thousand children study in two different shifts.
The building is a gymnasium with cotton curtains dividing the different classes. Younger children sit on the floor, there are no toys, no playground and only one toilet.
"They were always asking for money all the time and calling us Afghans," said one little boy who went to an Iranian school until this year.
Born in this country he now knows he no longer belongs here.
|10/30/2004||Clip No. 311|
An Iranian Animated Clip about the Bush-Kerry Race
|The following is an Iranian animated clip about the Bush-Kerry presidential race|
To view the video click here.
The entire Iranian government promote Bush fiasco was in direct response to the mass allegations against US based organizations like NIAC, and AIC under scrutiny for their ties to the Iranian government. [Mainly due to Namanzee's recent lawsuit and sudden flipflop and swap at the Iranian government, IRI trying to protect it's dearest agents in the US]
I just received this from a student inside of Iran...
Source: Iranian money financed suicide attack
Tel Aviv bombing killed 4 Israelis, wounded 30 others
By Aaron Klein
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Iranian money, funneled through Hezbollah, has been partially financing recent Palestinian suicide bombings, possibly including yesterday's suicide attack, Israeli security sources tell WorldNetDaily.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombing attack on the Carmel Market in the center of Tel Aviv. The attack, which occurred at a stall in the open Carmel Market in central Tel Aviv, killed four Israelis and wounded 30 others.
Israeli security sources say Iran has been financing Palestinian terrorist factions, including Popular Front and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. They say there is much documentation, including traced bank accounts and admissions from Palestinian and Iranian leaders.
In July, Iranian-backed Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah publicly admitted on Al-Manar Middle East TV there was a faction in his organization active in providing operational support for "Palestinian operatives."
Also at a recent memorial service for killed Hezbollah activist Ghaleb Awaleh held in the Sheikh Radwan suburb of Gaza and organized by the Popular Resistance Committees,local Popular Front/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades leaders were recorded talking about financial support from Iran and Hezbollah, security sources say.
Other high-ranking PFLP/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives have also made public the support they receive from Iran and Hezbollah. Prominent among them was Abu Mujahid, a nickname for a local senior operative in Nablus Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades who in an interview given to Ynet.com in August, said, "We do not hide the fact that some active operatives of our organization are financed and encouraged by interested parties, from senior Palestinians who finance operations to inflame the situation to operatives who are financed by Hezbollah and Iran.
Arafat, meeting with activists from the Israeli Peace Block, spoke about Iranian support of various terrorist elements in the PA-administered territories in relation to a cease fire. A statement from the Peace Block, reported by UAE, quoted Arafat saying "there are some operatives ... who claim that I [Arafat] am their commander, but they receive money from Iran through an officer named Munir al-Maqdah who left the organization [Fatah] in Lebanon several years ago."
And a security source told WorldNetDaily that in July, Israeli forces arrested Khaled Bassal Suliman Shashtari, a Fatah/Tanzim operative from Nablus, who, directed by Hezbollah, was planning to perpetrate a suicide-bombing attack against Israeli soldiers at a roadblock.
The charges come amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over Tehran's nuclear projects. It was recently announced Iran is nearing completion of a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. The facility is designed to convert uranium ore, or yellowcake, into uranium hexafluoride, a key component in the process of enriching uranium to produce nuclear weapons.
Israel has said it has completed military exercises for a pre-emptive strike against several of Iran's nuclear power facilities and is ready to attack if Russia supplies Iran with rods for enriching uranium.
| Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 02 November 2004 1632 hrs
Khatami rejects halt to uranium enrichment but optimistic on talks
By CNN Correspondent Kasra Naji
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 Posted: 6:27 AM EST (1127 GMT)
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's President Mohammad Khatami says he hopes the winner of the U.S. presidential election will not interfere in Iran's affairs.
Speaking to reporters hours before Americans headed to the polls Tuesday, he said he had no personal preference between Sen. John Kerry and U.S. President George W. Bush.
"But I hope whoever is the winner, either Bush or Kerry will act realistically and rationally in the long-term interest of the United States to reduce tension by not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries," Khatami said.
Most Iranian leaders and officials have shied away from commenting on the U.S. elections until now. But some believe a Bush victory may lead to greater tension in the Middle East and possibly a military attack against Iran, which Bush has branded as being a part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea. ...
Iran recently rejected proposals from European negotiators to indefinitely suspend its program in exchange for incentives.
During the talks in Vienna -- the headquarters of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- negotiators for Britain, Germany and France offered to supply nuclear fuel for Iran's planned power plants and enhance trade and political relations.
The proposals were a last-ditch effort before the next meeting of the IAEA board of governors scheduled for November 25.
Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the Iranian delegates told the Europeans that "restricting Iran's access to nuclear technology marks a red line for the country and it would not be acceptable at all."
Message from Shiraz
"Please let everyone know that most every young Iranian supports George Bush"
November 2, 2004
Few can forget President Bush's State of the Union speech in 2002 where he bluntly labeled the Iranian government alongside Iraq and North Korea as the world's leading advocates of terrorism. Not surprisingly immediately following the controversial speech Mideast experts, journalists, and politicians spewed forth an anchorage of viewpoints regarding its effects on the battle for the soul of Iran.
Predominately all leftist liberals contented support for democratic movements within the country aided the hard-line Islamists establishment while American conservatives strongly dissented arguing the exact opposite. Contrary to various propaganda polls inside of Iran drastically sided with the latter.
In polls stationed by reformists within the country, 75 percent of Iranians favor relations with the United States, 58 percent favor a separation of Mosque and State, 74 percent favor a referendum supporting a change of regime, and perhaps most importantly 52 percent of Iranians feel that Bush administration policy on Iran is 'somewhat correct'.
In 2003, President Bush once again renewed his support for the Iranian people. This time with a deeper sense of urgency and depth. "The government of Iran represses its people. Iranian citizens are risking intimidation and death to speak out for liberty, human rights, and democracy. Iranians have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny -- and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom."
In a message separating the good natured people of Iran with the government, the President won the hearts and minds of many Iranians demonstrating for human rights, democracy, and freedom against a ruthless dictatorship.
According to several publications several months before departing, a group of 127 Iranian reformist MPs launched a blistering attack on their powerful hard-line rivals, warning supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the political deadlock was threatening the very survival of the Islamic republic.
The letter stated that "Perhaps there has been no period in the recent history of Iran that was as sensitive as this one," warned the strongly-worded letter, citing "political and social gaps coupled with a clear US plan to change the geopolitical map of the region."
Furthermore, "If this is a glass of poison, it should be drunk before our country's independence and territorial integrity are put in danger," the letter said in its call for "fundamental changes in methods, attitudes and figures".
It also highlighted the Iranian people's desire for fundamental changes within the regime including calls for democracy and human rights. "Most people are dissatisfied and disappointed. Most of the intellectuals are either silent or leaving (and) foreign forces have surrounded the country from all sides."
According to the Iran Press Service, "perhaps one of the most striking sections of the letter spoke of the possibility of either internal revolution or foreign invasion if massive reforms aren't implemented. The unprecedented direct and uncompromising tone of the warnings to Mr. Khamenei reminded the last days of the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, when many nationalist personalities, forecasting the dangers ahead, would advise him to return to democratic rules, but he would not accept."
The President's support for freedom fighters inside of Iran has fueled virus debate at home. While Pentagon officials have been pressing hard for public and private actions that they believe could lead to the toppling of the government through a popular uprising, State Department officials are advocating supporting the lamed reformers surrounding President Khatami inside of Iran. But then again when has the State Department ever been correct regarding International Politics. They were predicting horrible consequences following our War on the Baathist party in Iraq, consequences which never came to be.
While no one believes that the current status quo can survive inside of Iran there is a lively discussion regarding the possibility of either an internal revolution or possibility of hard-liners relinquishing their power. Whichever the outcome of the mounting debate on US policy towards Iran President Bush' unrelenting support for the demonstrators in Iran has had an immensely positive effect.
The majority of Iranians inside Iran stand strongly behind President Bush while those ungrateful and those organizations with questionable ties with the Iranian government stand with the oppressors of the Iranian populace and John Kerry.
One young Iranian female in Shiraz eagerly told me to inform President Bush that "those who had visited Iran and spoken to the Iranian populace had consistently quoted our desire to support George W. Bush's efforts and show our solidarity with his unrelentess efforts for a free, democratic, Iran. We're quite aware, mainly due to the Internet and Satellite television that John Kerry and his supporters are apologists of the Iranian government and working to cut deals with the Iranian dictatorship.
Speaking for Iran's youth population, she addressed Mr. Kerry: "We refuse to be your paid-off pawns and we refuse to allow you to allow our slaughter for your selfish intentions in Iraq and Afghanistan.: We know the truth and the truth is that you, Mr. Kerry, are a great oppressor to our people and an enemy to a free Iran. Please let everyone know that most every young Iranian supports George Bush."
Indeed the devoutly pro-Bush young populace in Iran do, but how about the ungrateful pro-Kerry Iranian young populace in United States?
Shia look to dominate a new Iraq parliament
By Charles Clover
Published: November 2 2004 17:23 | Last updated: November 2 2004 17:23
Though he rarely leaves his house, has no armed militia, holds no press conferences or interviews and communicates largely through hand-written notes, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has somehow cornered the US into accepting his vision for the post-war destiny of his country.
Less than three months to go before planned January parliamentary elections, which the US reluctantly assented to under pressure from Mr Sistani, the elderly spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia Muslims is poised for the culmination of his strategy.
If they can unite, Iraq's majority Shia stand a good chance of dominating the first elected, sovereign government in Iraq, and overturn decades of Sunni domination that began in 1921 when the British put King Faisal on the throne. Mr Sistani is doing his utmost to see that they do.
Mahdi Karbala'i, Mr Sistani's representative in the holy city of Karbala, said Mr Sistani's goal was to create a unified list of candidates which is accepted by the Shia religious authority and by society as a whole, which will restore to the Shia their absent rights.
There is a good chance such a list would win a majority in parliament, giving the Shia clergy a leading role in writing Iraq's constitution and drafting legislation.
Preparations have been going on for at least a month. On October 18, Mr Sistani's representative, Hamid Khaffaf, announced the formation of a committee which would cobble together a single list of candidates to run in the election.
While the list would be open to all Iraqis, Mr Khaffaf said, it would be dominated by Shia religious parties the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq, and the Islamic Da'awa party, which boast the most popular politicians in the country, according to several recent polls.
Mr Karbala'i said on Saturday that secular parties would also allowed on tothe list provided they agreed to three conditions: that they maintain voting discipline within the Shia coalition; that they do not change the Islamic character of the Iraqi people; and that they do not support any legislation opposed to the Sharia [Islamic law].
In effect this would give power over what is likely to be the largest block in parliament to the Shia religious authorities, who are the ultimate arbiters of Islamic law.
The Shia religious authority has taken on a fatherly role for all Iraqis, but they must pay some specific attention to the Shia, so that they may take back some of their rights which have been stripped from them through the years, said Mr Karbala'i.
Mr Sistani has repeatedly refused to meet American and other western officials to discuss his plans, and they complain that his reclusiveness has forced them to interpret second-hand what he has said.
US officials are not entirely happy with Mr Sistani's plan. A Shia politician close to Mr Sistani said he was told by a US official that Washington did not want the election to create sectarianism.
The US government clearly has another worry: that a Shia-dominated government would forge close links with Tehran.
Instead of a Shia list, a senior coalition official in September spoke approvingly of a consensus list, including several US-backed parties, to run in the elections. This would be all but impossible if Shia parties joined Mr Sistani's project, as they have said they would. The US is loath to criticise the elderly cleric, who enjoys the highest popularity rating of any figure in Iraq, according to recent polls. They are also beholden to Mr Sistani for defusing the August siege of the holy city of Najaf, when he returned from surgery in London and persuaded radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to move his forces out of the city after a three week assault by US Marines had failed to dislodge him.
Mr Sistani has repeatedly sought to force US administrators in Iraq to accept elections rather than appoint governing officials a demand that the US, self-styled global guardian of democracy, has been hard pressed to deny.
Last November his objections led to the accelerated transfer of sovereignty to Iraq's interim government, and to the promise of elections in January to a parliament which will write Iraq's constitution. Hussein al Shahristani, a member of the six-person committee chosen by Mr Sistani, emphasised that the role of the committee was not to choose the individuals and movements on the candidate list but to act as a co-ordinating body
He also insisted the candidate list would not be a Shia list but would be made up of the entire spectrum of Iraq's population, who want to end the occupation through peaceful means and agree on a set of principles.
As for the fear that this could become a sectarian list, a Shia list, we are aware of such dangers and we are doing our utmost to open discussions with with other parties. As you know, Shias are the largest constituency in the country and those parties will have some influence, though I would not call it dominance.
Asked about US objections, Mr Shahristani said the committee would not be taking the views of foreign governments into account, and would not meet foreign officials before the elections.
We do not know the US position, but we have read in the media that the US is encouraging the formation of a national secular list. All I would stress is that our list will be open to all participants, he said.
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A controversial Dutch filmmaker accused by Muslims of ridiculing their religion has been stabbed and shot dead on his bicycle, shocking the Netherlands where the murder was denounced as an attack on free speech.
Theo van Gogh, a distant relative of 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, stirred controversy with newspaper articles, books and films voicing his contentious views on Islam after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Van Gogh, 47, was attacked near a park close to the centre of the Dutch capital in the morning on his way to work in what could be the second political killing in the country in two years after anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was shot.
Police arrested a man near the scene after an exchange of gunfire in which the suspect wounded a police officer. The suspect, who was wounded in the leg, was a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship.
Police said the murder was clearly premeditated.
A note was found at the scene and, Dutch media said, it contained lines from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
Van Gogh, who branded imams women-haters and ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad in his newspaper columns, was hailed as a champion of free speech by some Dutch but others called him an extremist, while Muslims said they found his work insulting.
He had received death threats but had rejected protection after a recent television programme, called Submission, about domestic violence in some Muslim marriages.
"Van Gogh was someone who joined the public debate with outspoken views. He was a champion of free speech. The Netherlands is a country in which people can speak their mind. We must all stand for that," said Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
Security for politicians was stepped up after the killing of Fortuyn by an animal rights activist ahead of a May 2002 election in which his party took second place.
The Netherlands is home to nearly one million Muslims or 5.5 percent of the population.
Several thousand people demonstrated on Amsterdam's central Dam square and railway drivers were urged to honk their horns to protest the murder.
People banged on drums, pots and pans and blew whistles for some 15 minutes, with some participants holding up signs saying "Muslims against Violence".
Abdou Menebhi, of the Amsterdam Moroccan council, urged his co-religionists to obey a minute of silence in the mosque in the evening during regular Ramadan holy month prayers.
The UMAH association of Moroccan-Dutch academics said they did not share Van Gogh's opinions but condemned his murder.
Police in the Hague, seat of the Dutch government, arrested several people who had been shouting anti-immigrant slogans.
Immigration, integration and Islam are burning issues in the Netherlands where outspoken parliamentarians such as Geert Wilders, an opponent of Turkish EU membership, have received death threats.
"In this country, nobody can be killed because of what he says, that is not what we want," Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told the crowd.
TORONTO, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Tuesday's slaying of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who criticized Islamic practices, reminds all of a nagging truth: More than 15 years after the government of Iran issued a death warrant against novelist Salman Rushdie, challenging Muslims remains a risky business.
As a Muslim dissident, I speak from experience. My book, "The Trouble with Islam," has put me on the receiving end of anger, hatred and vitriol. That's because I'm asking questions that we Muslims can no longer hide from. Why, for example, are we squandering the talents of half of God's creation, women? What's with the stubborn streak of anti-Semitism in Islam today? Above all, how can even moderate Muslims view the Koran literally when it, like every holy text, abounds in contradictions and ambiguity? The trouble with Islam today is that literalism is going mainstream.
Muslims who take offense at these points often wind up reinforcing them in their responses to me. I regularly get death threats through my Web site. Some of my would-be assassins emphasize the virtues of martyrdom, wanting to hurl me into the "flames of hell" in exchange for 72 virgins. Others simply want to know what plane I'm next boarding, so they can hijack it. Somehow, I don't feel the urge to share my schedule.
A few threats have been up-close and personal. At an airport in North America, a Muslim man approached my traveling companion to say, "You're luckier than your friend." When she asked him to explain, he turned his hand into the shape of a gun and pulled the trigger. "She will find out later what that means," he intoned.
But, for all of the threats, there's good news: I'm hearing more support, affection and even love from fellow Muslims than I thought possible. Two groups in particular -- young Muslims and Muslim women -- have flooded my Web site with letters of relief and thanks. They are relieved that somebody is saying out loud words they have only whispered, and grateful that they're being given the permission to think for themselves.
That's why I don't take my bodyguard everywhere I go. It may be necessary to have one when I visit France next week. But in my day-to-day life, I refuse to be closely protected. If I'm going to have credibility conveying to Muslims that we can, indeed, live while dissenting with the establishment, I can't have a big, burly fellow looking over my shoulder. I must lead by example. So far, so good.
To be sure, I haven't tried visiting Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan since the release of my book. (One challenge at time, please!) Still, the relative safety with which I've debated Islam in the West -- from Britain to Belgium, from Australia to Canada, from the Netherlands to the United States -- convinces me that Muslims in the West have a sterling opportunity. They are best poised to revive Islam's tradition of independent reasoning. Why in the West? Because it's here that we already enjoy the precious freedoms to think, express, challenge and be challenged -- all without fear of state reprisal.
I'm not denying that some Muslims have been targeted for harassment, profiling and discrimination by Western governments. I faced the same during the 1991 Gulf War when I was marched out of a federal building in Ottawa, Canada for no apparent reason. However, none of this negates a basic fact: If Muslims in the West dare to ask questions about our holy book, and if we care to denounce human rights violations being committed under the banner of that book, we need not worry about being raped, flogged, stoned or executed by the state for doing so. What in God's name are Muslims in the West doing with our freedoms?
I know what many young Muslim would like us to be doing -- thinking critically about ourselves and not solely about Washington. Indeed, a huge motivation for having written my book came from young Muslims on American and Canadian campuses. Even before 9/11, I spoke at universities about the virtues of diversity, including diversity of opinion. After many of these speeches, young Muslims emerged from the audiences, gathered at the side of stage, chatted excitedly among themselves, and then walked over to me.
"Irshad," I would hear, "we need voices such as yours to help us open up this religion of our because if it doesn't open up, we're leaving it."
They're on the front lines in the battle for the soul of Islam. Whatever the risks to my own safety, I won't turn my back on them -- or on the gift of freedom bestowed by my society.
(Irshad Manji is author of "The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith." She can be contacted through her Web site, www.muslim-refusenik.com.)
Tue Nov 2, 2:15 PM ET
VIENNA (AFP) - The European Union (news - web sites) is no longer explicitly calling for an indefinite suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment, diplomats said, outlining a compromise proposal ahead of a crucial meeting with the Iranians on their nuclear programme.
The diplomats said ambassadors from Britain, France and Germany were Tuesday to hand over in Tehran the EU's written offer, ahead of a scheduled meeting with Iran in Paris on Friday on Europe's request for Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.
"This paper fudges the uranium enrichment question by saying suspension needs to hold until the conclusion of negotiations over the long-term status of Iran's program," said a Western diplomat who requested anonymity.
It is "a very polished linguistic version, so to speak, to bypass that problem (indefinite suspension of enrichment)," another diplomat close to the talks said.
The EU, led by Britain, France and Germany, has until now said Iran must indefinitely suspend uranium enrichment, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, but Iran insists that its right to enrichment cannot be called into question, which would be the case in an indefinite suspension.
Top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian said in Tehran that Iran could agree to maintain a suspension of uranium enrichment for half a year.
But he added: "Cessation is rejected, indefinite suspension is rejected, suspension shall be a confidence-building measure and a voluntary decision by Iran and in no way a legal obligation, and this has to be clear in our understanding."
In Brussels, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier urged Iran to produce a "lasting" halt to its uranium enrichment activities, carefully avoiding the word "indefinite" as signs emerged of a compromise deal between Iran and the EU.
The United States, which is keeping a low profile on the European initiative, wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a meeting in Vienna on November 25 to take Iran before the UN Security Council for running what it claims is a secret nuclear weapons program.
The Council could then impose punishing sanctions.
The Western diplomat said the United States was "fully in waiting mode, waiting to see how the Iranians react" to the European offer, which is aimed at avoid taking Iran to the Security Council.
Europe's three major powers have vowed to offer nuclear technology, increased trade and help with Iran's regional security concerns if Tehran halts enrichment.
But Iran has said it wants these incentives to be given to it up front, instead of the Islamic Republic having to wait until the end of the negotiating process, diplomats said.
"Iran is willing to consider a suspension but wants to know what it will get in return," a non-aligned diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP Tuesday after a briefing by Iran's IAEA ambassador Pirooz Hosseini.
But of Friday's new round of talks, Khatami told reporters: "I am optimistic... Both sides are showing flexibility."
Moussavian has told the European trio that Iran's national security council is "pretty divided on the issue," a diplomat told AFP in Vienna.
Moussavian said the council has "a small majority in favor of suspension and some opposed to it," the diplomat said.
The diplomat said: "Iran now has the choice -- the Iranians can say yes (to the European offer) and things can move forward or they can say no and they know the consequences."
Ping. I voted. Best to you. Norski. (no reply nec.)
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