Some local media acting like ‘secret police’: Iran president
Iran to attend next round of Syria peace talks
TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani yesterday accused local media outlets opposed to his policies of behaving like “a secret police”. Iran’s most conservative newspapers have strongly criticized the moderate president elected in 2013 whose foreign policy in July led to Tehran signing a landmark nuclear deal with world powers. The accord seeks to curb Iran’s atomic drive in return for lifting sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The media benefits from “a permanent security margin... so that not only can they say whatever they want, but they also sometimes act like the secret police,” Rouhani told representatives of around 600 media outlets at a press event in Tehran. “You learn from some publications who will be arrested tomorrow, what is going to be closed down tomorrow, which individual’s reputation should be damaged,” he said, without giving any names. The speech came several days after the arrest of three pro-reform journalists, one of whom had recently been critical of Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to news agencies.
State television said the elite Revolutionary Guards had arrested “several members of an infiltration network linked to hostile Western governments who were working in the country’s media and social networks.” Rouhani told the press “some claim to be revolutionary” but “being revolutionary means not to lie... it means not to accuse others.”“Being revolutionary means giving hope to the people... reassuring people,” he said. Yet “from one part of the establishment, we attack the other part of the establishment.” “The government must be criticized, the judiciary must be criticized, the parliament must be criticized,” the president said. “But criticizing does not mean... smearing, insulting or lying.”
Also this week, state television reported the arrest of a Lebanese- American, Nezar Zaka, on suspicion of having links to the US intelligence community. The US State Department, while not officially confirming the arrest, said the suspect was Lebanese with permanent US residency papers. There are also four Iranian-Americans being held in Iran, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been detained since July last year on spy charges.
Syria peace talks
Meanwhile, Iran will attend the next round of Syria peace talks, a top advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying yesterday, a week after Tehran threatened to withdraw from the process. World and regional powers including Iran met in Vienna on Oct 30 to discuss a political solution to Syria’s civil war. Days later, Iran threatened to pull out of the next round of talks, blaming the “negative role” played by regional rival Saudi Arabia.
“Iran will be actively present in (Syria peace) talks, while announcing its standards and preserving its red lines,” Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s top foreign policy advisor, was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency. “We will support our ally, Syria, not only in defense field, but also in political arena,” he added. Iran supports Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad against rebels backed by regional powers including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Diplomats have said the next round of international talks is likely to begin later this week. The Oct 30 talks, which failed to reach a solution, marked the first time Iran and Saudi Arabia were at the same table to discuss Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions over nearly five years. The war has evolved into a wider proxy struggle between global powers, as Russia has joined the AssadIran axis and Western powers have stepped up support for Gulf Arabbacked rebels. Iran has said it could support Assad’s departure only if he is ousted in elections held after a ceasefire. Western and Gulf Arab powers say the Syrian strongman, whose crackdown on initially peaceful protests in 2011 triggered the war, must leave power as part of any credible peace process. —Agencies
TEHRAN: A handout photo provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him (right) meeting with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Tehran yesterday. —AFP
MARIB: Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, fire from a tank in the area of Sirwah, West of Marib city. —AFP