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Iranian Student Protests Continue as the UN’s Nuclear Agency Calls on Iran to Allow Inspections

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While President Bush praises the anti-government student protests in Tehran, demonstrators are critical of the U.S., the U.S.-backed monarchists as well as the current Iranian government.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, today called on Iran to accept strict inspection of its atomic program to help dispel Washington’s fears that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Reuters reports that IAEA board members have already received copies of a harsh report on Iran by ElBaradei which points out that, “Iran has failed to report certain nuclear material and activities.” The report will be discussed during a board meeting running this week.

ElBaradei also called on Iran to sign an Additional Protocol with the IAEA to grant inspectors wider access and more intrusive, short-notice inspections.

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization told Reuters that Tehran might be willing to sign it, though he reiterated Iran’s demands for access to nuclear technology in exchange for the government’s signature.

Meanwhile, student protests in Tehran continued for a sixth night in a row and spread to three smaller cities.

President Bush praised the demonstrators yesterday, calling their protests a positive step toward freedom.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry responded by accusing the U.S. of: “Flagrant interference in Iran’s internal affairs” and said the significance of the protests was being deliberately overstated by U.S. officials.

The Washington Post reports the Pentagon and the State Department are strongly divided over whether the United States should take an active hand in destabilizing the Iranian regime.

Demonstrators vow to stay in the streets until July 9, the anniversary of the pro-democracy student revolts that were put down four years ago. This according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The protests began Tuesday to oppose a proposal to privatize Tehran University but then swelled into a more general protest of Iran’s poor economy, the lack of jobs and the failure of President Khatami to deliver on promised reforms.

From the outset the protests were marked by particularly strident and daring language with some students calling for the head of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On Saturday, a few hundred pro-government vigilantes, wielding clubs, knives and chains, attacked a dormitory of Allameh Tabatabaei university. 100 students were injured, with one stabbed in the heart and 50 taken to hospital. This according to the Financial Times.

The pro-reform President called on the government to protect the students, but Khatami has himself been the target of the protesters frustrations.

Khamenei has accused the U.S. of fomenting unrest and orchestrating the demonstrations. Washington has accused Iran of backing terrorism, pursuing nuclear weapons, harboring Al Qaeda, and encouraging anti-US forces in Iraq.

For their part, reformists in Iran have disavowed any suggestion that they are allied with the U.S. But the Iranian expatriate community in the U.S. and abroad is sharply divided about whether external pressure would help or hurt the opposition in Iran.

  • Shirin Vossoughi, journalist and activist. Vossoughi is a 23-year-old recent graduate from UCLA, where she majored in history and international development. She recently returned from a trip to Tehran where she worked with NGO’s focusing on the rights of women and children. She is the daughter of Iranians who emigrated to the U.S. She currently sits on the advisory board of CWAME- Coalition of Women from Asia and the Middle East.
  • Ian Traynor, Guardian reporter, reporting from Zagreb.

The Guardian newspaper

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