Thursday, August 28, 2008



Hezbollah presence in Venezuela feared

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Marcelo Garcia / AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, greets his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, last year.
The Lebanese Shiite militia, linked to deadly attacks in Argentina in the 1990s, may be taking advantage of Chavez's ties with its ally Iran, terrorism experts say.
By Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 27, 2008
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- Western anti-terrorism officials are increasingly concerned that Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militia that Washington has labeled a terrorist group, is using Venezuela as a base for operations.

Linked to deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s, Hezbollah may be taking advantage of Venezuela's ties with Iran, the militia's longtime sponsor, to move "people and things" into the Americas, as one Western government terrorism expert put it.

As part of his anti-American foreign policy, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has established warm diplomatic relations with Iran and has traveled there several times. The Bush administration, Israel and other governments worry that Venezuela is emerging as a base for anti-U.S. militant groups and spy services, including Hezbollah and its Iranian allies.

"It's becoming a strategic partnership between Iran and Venezuela," said a Western anti-terrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the issue's sensitivity.

Several joint Venezuelan-Iranian business operations have been set up in Venezuela, including tractor, cement and auto factories. In addition, the two countries have formed a $2-billion program to fund social projects in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.

Those deepening ties worry U.S. officials because Iranian spies around the world have been known to work with Hezbollah operatives, sometimes using Iranian embassies as cover, Western intelligence experts say.

In June, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon said Iran "has a history of terror in this hemisphere, and its linkages to the bombings in Buenos Aires are pretty well established."

"One of our broader concerns is what Iran is doing elsewhere in this hemisphere and what it could do if we were to find ourselves in some kind of confrontation with Iran," Shannon said.

Fears about the threat from Hezbollah's global networks intensified after the slaying in February of Imad Mughniyah, a notorious leader of the militia, in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Hezbollah and Iran accused Israel and promised revenge, putting Western authorities on guard against attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets around the world.

Although the Bush administration is embroiled in political conflict with the Chavez government, allegations that Hezbollah and Iranian spies operate in Venezuela date to the 1990s, before Chavez took office.

The most concrete allegations of a Hezbollah presence in Venezuela involve money-raising. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelan citizens as Hezbollah supporters and froze their U.S. assets.

Treasury officials formally accused Ghazi Nasr al Din, a Venezuelan diplomat of Lebanese descent, of using posts at embassies in the Middle East to support financing for Hezbollah and "discuss operational issues with senior officials" of the militia.

Nasr al Din "facilitated the travel" of Hezbollah members to and from Venezuela and to a "training course in Iran," according to Treasury officials. The president of a Shiite Muslim center in Caracas, he served as a diplomat in Damascus and later in Beirut, authorities say.

The second Venezuelan targeted by Treasury is Fawzi Kanan, a Caracas-based travel agent. He is also alleged to have facilitated travel for Hezbollah members and to have discussed "possible kidnappings and terrorist attacks" with senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon. The Treasury allegations did not specify whether the alleged discussion involved plots for kidnappings in Venezuela or elsewhere.

In comments to a Venezuelan reporter, Kanan dismissed the charges as lies. The Venezuelan government has strenuously denied that it is harboring militants.

In March 2007, the intensified ties between Venezuela and Iran led to the start of weekly IranAir flights from Tehran to Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, that stop in Damascus.

The flights were highlighted in the State Department's annual assessment of global terrorism, which noted in April of this year that Venezuelan border officials at the Caracas airport often neglected to enter the arriving passengers into their immigration database and did not stamp passports. The Venezuelans have since tightened up on their procedures, informed sources say.

Despite those improvements, the IranAir flights also feature in recent intelligence gathered by Western anti-terrorism officials. Agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah have allegedly set up a special force to attempt to kidnap Jewish businesspeople in Latin America and spirit them away to Lebanon, according to the Western anti-terrorism official. Iranian and Hezbollah operatives traveling in and out of Venezuela have recruited Venezuelan informants working at the Caracas airport to gather intelligence on Jewish travelers as potential targets for abduction, the Western anti-terrorism official said.

The allegations were reinforced by a statement last week by the Israeli government, issuing an alert to citizens warning that Hezbollah plans to kidnap Israelis around the world to retaliate for the Mughniyah assassination.

Hezbollah has long operated in the Lebanese communities of Latin America. In addition to receiving a multimillion-dollar infusion from Iran, the militia finances itself by soliciting or extorting money from the Lebanese diaspora and through rackets such as smuggling, fraud and the drug and diamond trade in South America and elsewhere, Matthew Levitt, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Congress in 2005.

Three years ago, police in Colombia and Ecuador broke up an international cocaine-smuggling ring that functioned in Latin American countries, including Venezuela, and allegedly sent profits to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The lawless "tri-border" region connecting Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina has been a center of organized crime activities and finance linked to Hezbollah, Western anti-terrorism officials say.

Hezbollah operatives based there participated, along with Iranian spies, in the car bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and a Jewish community center two years later that killed a total of 114 people, an Argentine indictment charges.

In the aftermath of that indictment, filed in 2006, Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors, chiefly the Revolutionary Guard, decided to shift from the increasingly scrutinized tri-border area to other countries, including Venezuela, Western anti-terrorism officials say.

"It preserves the capability of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard to mount attacks inside Latin America. . . . It is very, very important to Iran and Hezbollah right now."

Kraul reported from Bogota and Rotella from Madrid.


Russia is Selling Hezbollah surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles

Russia is Selling Hezbollah surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles
By: Elias Bejjani

August 28/08

Hezbollah's Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned that his terrorist armed militia is now much, much, stronger than before the devastating war that took place in 2006 between his militia and Israel. He rhetorically and pompously alleged that his militia would destroy Israel if its army wages any attacks against Lebanon.
Nasrallah issued this threat last Saturday at a Boy Scout ceremony in Beirut, as a response to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remark last week that "if Lebanon becomes a Hezbollah state, then we won't have any restrictions" in striking the country.  Olmert claimed that during the last war, Israel did not use all of its firepower because the enemy was Hezbollah and not its host country Lebanon.
Nasrallah would not have been in this threatening position if the free world countries, Arab nations and the UN General Council have been seriously addressing the numerous violations against the UNSCR Resolutions 1559 and 1701 Hezbollah, Syria and Iran committed.
Israel and the rest of the Middle East countries, as well as the USA and its European allies, are all fully aware that Hezbollah has been stockpiling all kinds of lethal weapons in its huge arsenal, and preparing for another war against Israel once the Iran masters instruct its leadership to instigate it.
Nasrallah, other prominent Hezbollah Military and religious dignitaries, as well as the Iranian Mullahs, are not keeping their hostile and aggressive schemes a secret. On the contrary they all have made them public and in crystal clear straightforward warnings and threatening messages. They have been saying loudly that in case Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked by Israel or the USA, Israel will be an actual target for Hezbollah's missiles.
One wonders why, for heaven's sake, all the free world countries and the UN are cajoling and appeasing this terrorist militia, and accordingly succumbing more and more to its threats and blackmails. They all with deadly silence have witnessed time after time Hezbollah's blatant infringements on all the UN Resolutions regarding Lebanon, especially UNSCR 1559 and UNSCR 1701 that stipulates the disarmament of this militia, and for the implementation of the Armistice Accord between Lebanon and Israel.

Not even one free world country lifted a finger when Hezbollah recently conquered West Beirut, and attempted to take over Mount Lebanon. And now they are again so indifferent while Hezbollah is adding to its arsenal Russian advanced surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles.
The Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" reported last week that Hezbollah's terrorist organization representatives visited Russia in early July, and signed a deal to purchase surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles. The newspaper stated that three high-ranking Hezbollah officials showed great interest to buy Russian weapons which have been effective in the recent 2006 war with Israel.
Noting that the three men entered Russia with Iranian passports, and visited the Sixth International Russian Weapon Exhibition under the status of distinguished guests.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper "Maariv", the Italian reporter who broke this piece of news stated that Hezbollah's representatives kept a very low profile during the visit, and did in fact sign a number of private contracts to buy air defense systems and anti-tank missiles after the exhibition was closed.

Very briefly, and without any personal opinion or analysis, this important report states openly that Hezbollah, the terrorist organization is violating clause eight of  the UNSCR 1701 which stated: "No sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government."

UNSCR 1701 clause eight :"
8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:
*Full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
*security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed *personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
*Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed *groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
*No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;
*No sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government;
Provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession;
Click here to read the text of the UNSCR 1701 in both Arabic and English

Why are the UN and the Lebanese authorities turning a blind eye to this dangerous matter, which is a clear breach of UNSCR 1701 and Lebanese laws?
We call on the UN Security Council and the Lebanese government to open an immediate judicial inquiry into what was published in regards to the Hezbollah-Russian missile deal

Meanwhile Hezbollah that recently was given veto power in the newly appointed Lebanese government keeps openly and on daily basis carrying on its illegal activities at all levels and in all domains.
Hezbollah, the Iranian Army in Lebanon, is devouring Lebanon's institutions bit by bit through force, money, terrorism and intimidation, and enforcing day after day the Iranian Mullah's "Wilayat al-Faqih" religious-sectarian education, doctrine and culture.

In the same context of  Hezbollah's on going flagrant violations to all Lebanese and international laws, it has for the last two years been publishing media reports and announcements about the death of  its fighters "under the Martyrdom operations" tag.
Not even one of these mysterious reports and announcements indicated how, when and where these fighters "martyrs" were killed. The Lebanese Government, the Lebanese politicians, and the country's judiciary have all been keeping silent about this "Martyrdom" phenomenon. Meanwhile some reports stated lately that these so called "fighters" are dying either during training they are undergoing in Iran, or through guerrilla operations in Iraq against the US army.
The last of these mysterious reports was published by the Lebanese National Agency on August 23/08 under the title:" The Islamic Resistance carried a burial procession for a Martyr In Arab Saliem". The Arabic report stated that the "Islamic Resistance" and the Arab Saliem southern town residents participated in the burial procession that was carried out for "Martyr Jihadist", Ali Hassan Abu Zayied, who was killed while performing his Jihadist operation". The report did not say where, how or when this "Hezbollah Jihadist" was killed. 
In this same context, but in the regional realm, Jim Kouri, in a report he published in the "Renew America web site", wrote on August 23/08: "Coalition forces picked up two suspected associates of the Kataib Hezbollah criminal network during operations this morning in Baghdad's New Baghdad district, military officials reported during a teleconference with bloggers and Internet journalists. Acting on intelligence tips, coalition forces raided the home of a suspected Kataib Hezbollah propaganda expert who is believed to have uploaded more than 30 attack videos to the criminal ring's now-defunct Web site. Coalition forces entered the house, where they detained two of the wanted man's brothers, who are believed to be involved in his criminal enterprises. Coalition forces have detained more than 15 suspected members of Kataib Hezbollah in the last two months, officials said. Kataib Hezbollah is reported to receive funding, logistics, and weapons such as improvised rocket-assisted mortars from Iran. The group also is believed to receive guidance or direction from the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps". To read Jim Kouri's report Click here

The crucial question here, does Lebanon really has a functional and free Government and a Judiciary? If so, both and with no hesitation must prove their authority in practice by pursuing these critical reports with impartially, courage, seriousness, national conscience, and in full accordance with the country's law. The same applies to the UN General Council who should immediately look into the matter and address the UNSCR 1701 violations committed by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, we would like to bring to the attention of the Russian government that it is a signatory to all the key international resolutions on Lebanon, most important of them are resolutions 1559 and 1701. We also would like to remind the Russian Authorities that Russia is one of the most threatened nations in the world by terrorist organizations, and therefore should reconsider it positions, reassess its political middle east calculations, and fully refrain from arming those organizations and in particular Hezbollah..

Elias Bejjani

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Egypt cops stop Copts from repairing church: right group

Egypt Police Prevent Copts from Repairing Church: Rights Group  

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) claimed that Egyptian police used violence on August 17 prevent villagers from repairing the only church in their area, a rights group said on Monday, warning of a rise in sectarian tension as a result.

"A policeman assigned to guard the Archangel Michael Church in Deshasha, in Bani Soueif province south of Cairo, hit three women while they were taking sand into the church to fix the floor which was cracked as result of water collection underneath," the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) stated.

Subsequently, rumors spread in the village that Copts had locked up the policeman inside the church, beaten him and torn his clothes, leading to the brief arrests of several Copts and to threats of retaliation from Muslim villagers, the group claimed.

"The worrying rise in sectarian tension that we have seen in Deshasha is a direct result of violations committed by the police," EIPR director Hossam Bahgat said.

"This incident must be investigated and those responsible held accountable."

Egyptian law allows the repair of churches without a prior permit, but church officials notify provincial authorities in writing, in advance. However, officials of the Archangel Michael Church claimed that the state security police (Mukhabarat) have prevented repair from being carried out at the church for the past 11 years.

The church is the oldest in the region, built in 1895 according to clerics. It was last renovated in 1930 and serves 100 Christian families in the Deshasha village.

"The Archangel Michael Church in Deshasha is but one example of the futility of any efforts to reform and unify construction and renovation laws for places of worship so long as security agents continue to violate existing laws in a discriminatory manner and with complete impunity," EIPR said.

Egypt's Copts -- the largest Christian community in the Middle East -- account for about 10 percent of the country's 76 million inhabitants and suffer from documented  systematic discrimination and harassment.

Israel and Palestinian Authority protest Jordanian cuddling up to Hamas

According to an AP story, Israeli Embassy spokesman Itai Bardov in Amman called Jordan's contacts with  Hamas "unhelpful to the peace process.

"We're against any negotiations with Hamas because we regard it as a terrorist movement," he said. "We should find ways to strengthen the Palestinian Authority instead of legitimizing Hamas, which made an illegal military coup in Gaza."
The Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas agrees. Abbas sent  interior minister, Abdel Razak Yehiye, to Jordan last week to "find out what the Jordanians are up to and if their contacts with Hamas meant dropping support for the Palestinian Authority," according to anonymous Palestinian official in Amman. Needless to say, the United States is not happy either.
Jordan has been cuddling up to Hamas of late, a strange phenomenon noted in several places and given different interpretations. Rami Khoury, writing in the Daily Star, asserted that it is a sign Jordan believes the day of the PLO are numbered, and that the PLO is unpopular according to its polls. That is strange, because the polls seem to show Palestinians prefer the Fatah to the Hamas by about 2 to 1. Jordan's behavior is even stranger considering it has always been a client state of the United States and Britain, supporters of the PLO. But then again, Jordan has been
A different interpretation is offered by AP. They quote former Jordanian parliament speaker Abdul-Latif Arabiyat as saying  "We're at a crossroads and Jordan must protect itself and its national

According to the AP story, which does not give sources, Jordan fears that the possible failure of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks backed by the Bush administration, which leaves office early next year, could embolden Hamas in the neighboring West Bank, as well as Muslim extremists in Jordan and across the Mideast. Quiet contacts with Hamas could mollify any fallout for Jordan if that happens.

Also, according to AP, Jordan is worried a failure of talks will revive Israeli hardliner calls for ejecting West Bank Palestinians to Jordan or for parts of the West Bank to form a confederation with the kingdom as an alternative to an independent state.

Of course, the way to ensure the talks fail is to legitimize Hamas, so the whole AP-Jordanian aplogetics fall apart.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Islam and Saudi Arabia, champions of dialogue?

Islam and Saudi Arabia, champions of dialogue?

Samir Khalil Samir
Saturday 23 August 2008
The Saudi king takes more steps to show openness towards Christians, Jews and other religions. The most urgent reason is to rectify Islam's violent image but also stems from a new attitude towards inter-faith dialogue towards the People of the Book (Jews, Muslims and Christians), but also atheists, Hindus and Buddhists.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Muslim world is showing increasing signs that it wants to engage others in dialogue. Greater tolerance is increasingly visible in Muslim countries, signs like the opening of a new church in Kuwait or one in Qatar, greater openness towards the Vatican, the letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars to Benedict XVI, the creation of a joint Islamic-Catholic commission; Saudi King Abdullah's visit to the Holy See . . . .
More signs of openness and tolerance have come from the Saudi monarch himself like the intra-Muslim meeting in Makkah (4-6 June 2008) and the inter-faith conference in Madrid (16-18 July 2008) as a start to inter-faith dialogue, one that includes Jews as well.
Dialogue seems to be the order of the day in a religion that since 11 September 2001 and the attack against New York's twin towers has come to be regarded by the general public as the most intolerant religion. What is going on? Here is the analysis of Islam expert Fr Samir Khalil Samir.
I am certain that all these signals mean that something is changing and there are political and religious reasons for it. In this case the union between the two is not necessarily a bad thing.
First of all, religion has become an important factor in international politics. The whole world is in turmoil; all sorts of shocks seem to be produced by religion or anti-religious atheism. Whatever the case may be, religion is challenging past ideas and positions.
Let us take the collapse of Communism. It was a shock that pushed many people to ask themselves whether religion was the opium of the masses or its opposite, namely that ideology was the real opium of the masses. We also see this in China, thanks to news reported by AsiaNews for example, and the reaction and differences in the world over the issue of Buddhism in Tibet, over Nepal or Myanmar. In India fanatical Hindu and ultranationalists groups are pitted against other (Christian and Muslim) communities . . . .
Islam's new image
In Europe Islam has unsettled the way Europeans look at religion. In France everyone was untroubled by French secularism based on the dogma of the absolute separation between faith and life with religion as a private affair. Now people realise that the link between faith and public life is still strong in Islam and this undermines some certainties in modern secularism. Along with this "discovery" has come religious fanaticism. For political and cultural reasons this has manifested itself with an unprecedented level of violence that was never reached in the past in the Muslim world.
Plus interest in the Muslim world has to do with its numbers since a billion and more people have a huge weight on world politics and demographics.
Similarly, there are pressures and violence in the Jewish world as a result of the collusion between Zionism and politics. Likewise among Hindus Hinduism and Indian identity are seen as one and the same.
Correcting Islam's (bad) image
For years now in the Muslim world, at the meetings of the Arab League, at those of the World Islamic League, endless debates have focused on violence and terrorism in order to assert that neither has anything to do with Islam, that Islam is a religion of tolerance, etc.
Yet at the same time ministers from Muslim countries have claimed that their main task is to fight this same terrorism rooted in fundamentalism (the literal, de-contextualised interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, i.e. the traditions associated with the prophet) and in Muslim religious radicalism.
Unfortunately, all decisions taken so far have not led to a decline in terrorism, which remains alive and well; perhaps because one of the causes of Islamic radicalism is precisely that corruption, dictatorship and social injustice are so pervasive in Muslim politics. This might explain why Muslim political leaders, especially presidents and kings, are in favour of change. "If we want to defend Islam from the negative image that it is acquiring around the world we cannot go on like this. We must positively show that Islam is a religion of peace and dialogue," they say.
The drive for dialogue thus rises from this attempt to show a new image of Islam.
According to a recent survey in the United States, 45 per cento of Americans view Islam as the most threatening religion that exists; in 2005 they were 36 per cent. If surveys were conducted in Europe we would probably get the same results.
Even in the Muslim world, albeit not openly, everyone knows that armed and militant form of Islam is the most terrible thing. In the Muslim world people have come to realise that Islam must protect itself against its own bad image.
This happened first at the 2005 Makkah conference (7-8 December) when Muslim government said "enough is enough!" and opted to fight Islam's negative image and Islamophobia.
A word like Islamophobia has spread far and wide. For Muslims fear of Islam is a mistake, an unfair reaction. And yet it is true that much of today's violence can be traced back to Islam, at least to its radical variety.
In Europe there is Christophobia, which might be even worse than Islamophobia. Still in the last few years Muslims and Europeans in Spain have come together to condemn Islamophobia. Even a UN document condemned Islamophobia (bit it said nothing about the contemptuous attitude towards all religions) . . . .
One common thread that comes up all the time in the Makkah and Madrid documents is as follows. We [Muslims] must fight against the false image that the (Western) media convey about us. No mention is made of "Islamic terrorism." Thus for those who drafted the Makkah document, terrorism is not Islamic, even if people blame Muslims for violence.
Faced with such a situation Saudi King Abdullah has begun to act. In his meeting with the Pope last 6 November, he made an important statement in which he called for openness to engage Christians and Jews in dialogue as well as a willingness to cooperate with these religions on matters of the ethics and spirituality.1 It is interesting to note that whilst participating Muslim countries addressed Muslims at the Makkah meeting (4-6 June 2008) on inter-Muslim dialogue, they also tried to speak and open up to the entire world.
Muslims for 'dialogue'
In the final declaration of the Makkah conference dialogue is justified as "central to Islam" because it was used by the prophet Muhammad. "Dialogue represents an authentic Qur'anic methodology and a prophetic tradition through which the prophets communicated with their people. The biography of the Prophet Muhammad presents a clear methodology in this regard through the dialogue of the Prophet and the Christians of Najran"2 as well as "his correspondence with great emperors and monarchs;"3 hence the statement that "dialogue is one of the most important mediums of spreading Islam throughout the world." At face value such words are charged with much ambiguity. In order to convince Muslim countries that there is value in dialogue, the participants in the Makkah conference refer back to what the prophet did, and a bit disingenuously, confess that this serves the purpose of spreading Islam a little bit more.
The "Madinah society that was established by the Prophet is the optimal model of positive coexistence of the followers of divine messages,"4 says the Makkah document; words that are heavy with meaning. The optimal model of coexistence of the people of the Book (Jews, Christians and Sabians) is thus that structure, the precursor of the Dhimmi system.
It is clear that the Muslim world cannot free itself of the idealised model of the 7th century. This leads to contradictions such as what to do with atheists who are present in our modern societies. In Muhammad's times atheists were fought and they could either submit to Islam or be killed.
Of course, none of this was mentioned in Madrid in the presence of representatives of other religions. But in Makkah, among Muslims, this is language that was used. Is it doublespeak or "pedagogical' discourses?
It must be said that in the 7th century such coexistence had some positive aspects, but it was based on a political pact, not a religious one.
At present the issue is how to leave behind the 7th century Islamic system, which lasted through the Middle Ages, in order to build a new one of living together. Short of this the term "dialogue" remains ambiguous.
Some openness
Out of Makkah came a 12-point document. The first two are about rectifying Islam's bad image, in a defensive mode. The third point is interesting because it "deals with challenges and offers solutions to humanity's problems which are seen as the result of abandoning religion and estrangement from its principles."
This is an idea that we Christians share but which must be closely looked at in all its nuances. The document for example emphasises that problems are "result of abandoning religion", but no one should forget that some problems are associated with bad interpretations of religion. Card Jean-Louis Tauran, who was invited to Makkah and Madrid, made a reference to this aspect in his final address when he said: "Religion is accused of being the cause of violence. Religion is not the cause of violence; the cause is its [violent] use by its followers". Modern society is not only afflicted by the decline of religion but also by the deformation and politicisation of religion. This has not yet been understood in the Muslim world.
The fourth point refers to human rights, namely the need to "support and defend the right causes in relation to human rights violations." This, too, sounds very good, but it is essential that we define "human rights," and accept the current universal definition. I refer here to the fact that in the Muslim world on several occasions human rights have been seen through Muslim eyes as in an Islamic charter, an Arab charter, etc. This means that for Islam there are no universal human rights. By contrast, I think it would be a good idea to take a closer look at what human rights are.
The document moves on to the clash of civilisation. The sixth point calls for the rejection of accusations that Islam is "the enemy of contemporary civilisation." Accusations come however in different sizes; if a certain type of Islam sees itself as the enemy of modern civilisation, then the accusations are accurate.
According to the former, "such accusations lead to the hatred of Islam". Once again we are back to the idea of "Islamophobia", Islam's self-victimisation, which has become a fixation in today's Muslim world. As long as Muslims think that way, there will be no self-criticism and thus no in-depth reform.
Point seven is a good one because it calls for "learning to know people of other faiths and other cultures and establish common principles that allow for peaceful coexistence and provide human society with security."
This is certainly something positive but it should have come at the beginning of the document. Perhaps those who drafted it psychologically felt it more important to respond to the criticism that Muslim world makes at the rest of the world, in order to later start building more solid bridges for dialogue.
Point number eight focuses on "mutual cooperation in spreading ethical values, truth, benevolence and peace to challenge hegemony, exploitation, moral degenerations, harm to the family and other evils that threaten society." This is good as long as it is understood that such characteristics are not exclusive to any one group but are in fact found in all societies, in the West and in the Muslim world.
Point 11 looks at "understanding human cultures and civilisations", a well-meaning idea calling upon Muslims "to take part in agreements between humanity's civilisations to protect peace in the world."
Point number 12 looks again at ecumenism within Islam, namely the "interaction and communication with the followers of [different] Islamic schools of thought to reach the unity of the Muslim Ummah and weaken fanaticism and antagonism." The point on intra-Muslim fanaticism is a very strong one, especially if we consider that Saudi Arabia, main backer of the Makkah and Madrid conferences, is the stronghold of Wahhabism, a religious movement that has tried to exclude all other Islamic interpretations, whether Sunni or Shia. Perhaps this is an attempt by King Abdullah himself to push his own community towards greater tolerance.
Invited to Madrid
The Makkah meeting set the stage for the Madrid conference. In looking at the latter I should like to make a few remarks.
First of all let us take a look at the participants. More than 200 of the 288 who were invited showed up. But who were they? They were people with social and political functions, not strictly religious figures.
For instance, in the case of Belgium, three people were invited: two orthodox metropolitans and Abdul Aziz Muhammad Yahya, director of the Islamic Centre of Belgium; in short no Catholics, but a couple of Orthodox (who can hardly be said to be representative of Belgium).
In the case of France the list is surprising. Altogether 11 people were invited. No liberal Muslim was among the Muslims invited; instead we had the director general of UNESCO, four rabbis, and a representative of the Armenian Church. Not a single Catholic bishop or cardinal. I wonder what criteria were used to come up with that list.
On the other hand, many people came from the United States and Great Britain, 56 and 46 respectively, including many rabbis.
I can only guess that people with cultural ties to the English-speaking world drew up the list of invitations.
There were people from other religions as well, but Catholics were picked by and large from those who tend to hold an idealistic view of Islam and are never critical of it. Famous Catholic scholars like John Esposito of Georgetown University were among the participants as were many of those who during Islamic-Christian meetings always take the side of Islam.
I wonder whether for the future it would not be better to have people drawn from a wider spectrum, letting each religious group choose whom to send; this way participants could actually be representative of a real community.
Even for the Middle East, the choice of participants was unbalanced. A small country like Lebanon had nine representatives, like Spain, but not people as important for dialogue as Orthodox Bishop Georges Khodr. From Syria only one person came, a bishop (a former student of mine). From Sudan came Gabriel Zubeir Wako, the archbishop of Khartoum, know for his resolve, a choice that is something of an exception.
Generally speaking I think that the meeting had one main concern, Islam's image. Only famous people were invited, like Tony Blair, or people who would not make waves for Islam.
Except for the opening ceremony, the Madrid meeting was in camera and thus little is known about its conclusions. I did try though to vet the reactions of some participants.
Cardinal Tauran's thoughts
I was very touched by Cardinal Tauran's final address when he quoted the Pope's encouragement, convinced that "dialogue based on love and truth is the best path to bring happiness and harmony to the peoples of the earth."
Cardinal Tauran said that he was happily surprised by two facts that emerged during the meeting:
1) "we have made our rich traditions and thoughts to the members of the other communities to which we belong;"
2) believers are something precious, a gift to society.
He added that it "is imperative that religious freedom include the possibility of believers to actively take part in the public debate by being given social, political and cultural responsibilities."
This is very close to Muslim perceptions with regards to Western secularism. His focus is in line with what Benedict XVI has very often said.
For Cardinal Tauran dialogue has three simple but important objectives:
a) increase mutual awareness;
b) encourage the study of religion in an objective manner;
c) train people to engage in inter-faith dialogue.
In cardinal Tauran's concluding address there is something else that I personally deem important. In it the prelate said: "I don't mean that all religions are equal but that all those who seek God have equal dignity." This is an unambiguous distinction.
Often Christians and Muslims are into wishy-washy "ecumenism." Ultimately people end up believing that the two religions are equal and that conversion from one to the other is either unnecessary or secondary. Instead for him religions are not equal.
Then again saying that "those who seek God have equal dignity" is an important point in the Islamic-Christian dialogue. It means that all people of good will have equal dignity; every believer, not only Muslims, Christians and Jews (as it seems in the Muslim world).
From this point of view, one positive thing that came out of Madrid meeting was the fact that members of all religions were present and that conference sponsor was the king of Arabia. For that reason I think that this event will have an important impact on the dialogue between religions.
But the most important step in this meeting was the invitation of rabbis. Some rabbis, like two from the 'Shalom Center' in the United States, were very enthused for being able to talk freely during the meeting. It was a giant step forward in modern history. I believe that at this point in time the Muslim world is tired of the situation of endless war in which the Middle East and Islam are mired, namely the open wound that is the Palestinian problem to the entire Muslim world.
But it was not without ambiguities; for instance few women took part in the event (only one Spanish Muslim woman actually gave an address). Still the step was an important one. And every step with which we build world peace, especially between East and West, is welcome.
1. Cf AsiaNews, 6 November 2007, Pope and King Abdullah talk about inter-faith dialogue and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
2. Najran is located in southern Arabia where Christians concluded a deal with Muhammad and his group. However, the agreement was ambiguous, at least as an example of dialogue since it was an act of submission. Christians could keep their life, hierarchy, etc., but every year had to pay a tribute in the form of camels, cloth, slaves, etc. This shows how questionable it is to idealise matters that concern Muhammad.
3. The quote here is also curious. The prophet said: "I invite you in the name of Allah to submit to Islam," etc. It is hard to see this as an example of dialogue.
4. This point is also ambiguous. If in Madinah Muhammad founded the first Islamic society ruled by the Qur'an, he also made a pact of submission with local Jews after slaying hundreds of them.

Musharraf resigned, why is Bashir waiting?

Musharraf resigned, why is Bashir waiting?

By Mahgoub El-Tigani
Friday 22 August 2008

In Egypt, the official al-Ahram Printing House refused to print an issue of the left wing "al-Badil" because of a cartoon on the resignation of president... Musharraf. Another issue was banned as it contained accusations that the fire which destroyed the parliament building was intended to destroy files on major corruption cases.

In Khartoum,police arrested a bus driver for painting the word "Okambo" on his bus! In the meantime, authorities confiscated the printed copies of Sudan Tribune for the last four days, accusing it of "going over the limits" (!) and "charging president Beshir with crimes". Such as in the following editorial:


August 19, 2008 - The Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned "to spare Pakistan from a dangerous power struggle." This resignation might as well save his face from a parliamentary impeachment strongly planned by the opposition.

Ironically, the seizure of political power by the army chief in 1999 was "justified" by the need to salvage the nation from "corruption, terrorism, and civilian chaos." Following nine years of power struggles between the general and his people, however, the chief's resignation took place to save Pakistan from "a dangerous power struggle"!

The fact of the matter is that Musharraf coup has been harshly received from the start to the end with roars of protest by a majority of the Pakistani people that resisted the military politics and finally managed to force the dictator to quit the presidency.

Apparently, the resignation will help the democratically elected parliament to carry out constitutional plans to adjust the presidency to a national popular agenda based on consistent removal of presidential powers over the Judiciary and the legislature to stabilize the democratic state of Pakistan.

True, the Musharraf supporters might struggle to reinstate a presidential authoritative system of rule vis-à-vis the parliamentary controlled government. Such attempts, however, might hardly succeed because of the pragmatic nature of the Musharraf coalition, which also characterizes the triumphant opposition groups that forced the president to resign in the first place.

For the same reason, the Msharraf strongly-opposed groups, especially the anti-secularist Islamic groups, of which a sizeable ethno-regional segment of Pakistan is organically related to the Afghan armed movements, will have to come to terms with the constitutional body of the Pakistani system of rule to survive as a political entity.

All in all, the non-constitutional acts, whether by a military coup or by acts of terrorism across the border, will cease to exist only by a stable popular democratic rule supported by sustainable development programs to alleviate poverty in Pakistan and the neighboring nations more than any military or ideological dispute.

Expectedly, the international role Musharraf strongly played to combat terrorism throughout the difficult years of his reign might resume under tight judicial and legislative powers of a democratic government accountable to the people that brought it to the seats of power.

It will be interesting to watch the development of the Pakistani economy and security affairs under the anticipated system of popular democratic rule, compared to the Musharraf presidential governance.


The Sudanese presidential experience under the former dictator Ja'far Nimeiri (1971-1985), especially the years embodying his "religious" alliance with the Brotherhood (1978-1985), and the succeeding "Islamic" government of his kindred Bashir (1989 to the present) seems quite different from that of Musharraf.

True, the army officers who destroyed the former elected governments of Pakistan and the Sudan justified their non-constitutional actions by a common claim, that the democratic government was "chaotic;" hence the army's intervention "to maintain the security and national unity and to boost the economy."

The military governments of Sudan, nonetheless, were never challenged by terrorist groups; on the contrary, the civilian populations of Sudan have been terrorized by succeeding military regimes with civil wars in almost all regions of the country to subdue popular resisting movements.

The Sudanese government's attacks on people included a state-incited scourge of enslavement followed by well-documented acts of genocide for which President Bashir is currently indicted by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The case of Pakistan indicates the determining role that free elections play to check, balance, and stabilize the power struggle between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary branches of democratic governance. Of prominent significance, President Musharraf allowed the opposition to compete with his state-party and other allies in fair elections by which the opposition gained influential representation in the parliament.

Although Musharraf abused the presidency to repress the independence of the judiciary to fix his own power, his desperate search for constitutional legitimacy to combat international terrorism forced him to realize the national realities of Pakistan, modify his stands, abandon the decisive post of army chief, and finally surrender to the elected Will of People.

In the case of Sudan, Bashir continues to rule over a police state managed by costly military and security bureaucracies supported by hand-picked Brotherhood parliamentarians in the National Assembly. Moreover, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), an internationally recognized treaty body to bring about democratic transition in Sudan, empowered the Bashir presidency and its ideologues, the NIF/NCP, at expense of the democratic opposition.

Unlike the case of Musharraf resignation, this absolute monopoly of power relations by the Brotherhood junta, which has been amazingly supported by the CPA partisan provisions, blocked the necessary opening for the democratic opposition to influence effectively the state affairs vis-à-vis the anti-democratic junta.

Differently from the Musharraf political alliance in Pakistan, the Bashir presidency has been consistently oriented by the Brotherhood international and national institutions (specifically, the Islamic Call and the NIF/NCP organizations); hence, the president's lacking of successful initiatives or presidential decisions apart from the dogmatic adventurers and strategists of his political clan.

Thus enabled to overrule the National Assembly, the executive, and the judiciary since January 2005 up to this moment, the Bashir-Brotherhood dictatorship was never able to mask its repressive nature since it has been using and abusing the 51% CPA majority vote to interrupt the peace process, obstruct fair sharing in power and authority with the South, expand rape and genocide in Darfur, and harass the democratic opposition in the North.

In nationalist terms, the case of Sudan is not comparable to Pakistan: Whereas Musharraf prepared a save clause in his relations with the opposition to secure reasonable withdrawal within the advancement of democratic rule in his nation, the Sudanese dictator excluded persistently the democratic opposition from active participation in national decision making, which brought the country to a real impasse, subjected the president to international indictment, and escalated poorly calculated confrontations with the international order.


The NIF/NCP caliber often claims major credits concerning "the peace, development, and international dynamism" their ruling regime "established as a legitimate authority of the Islamic Movement (the Muslim Brotherhood's)," irrespective of any formal constitutional obligation.

Most recently, the presidential adviser leader of the NIF/NCP parliamentarians in the National Council Ghazi Salahaddin affirmed "the great success of his government in the peace making and peace keeping process in Darfur and in South Sudan, and the massive development projects accomplished in different parts of the country."

"We, the Islamic Movement, built a New Sudan with new political deals that never existed before… The political reconciliation nowadays occurring had no precedent… The leap in the living standards and the national unity; and the Arab, African and Islamic solidarity with us testify to the high levels of achievement in our national and foreign policies, regardless of difficulties and problems," emphasized the presidential adviser (Jazeera T.V., August 2008).

Observers have often questioned the tone of confidence in the NIF/NCP official statements or personal opinions whenever asked to comment on the increased misery among the Sudanese due to the Chinese-Russian oil deals for arms sales to the Brotherhood militias and army troops, or the unabated struggle between the government and the United Nations about the political and humanitarian crises in Darfur.

Another questionable mode of the government's response centers on the elusive attitude of the ruling party and its president to water down the impact of the escalated crises, as they pretend to adopt "nationalist stands" versus "foreign intervention," etc., without any real steps to enable the Sudanese large opposition body to participate in the conflict resolution.

It is possible that some Muslim audiences might be carried by religious sentiments to sympathize with the Brotherhood's Jazeera interviews. But the Sudanese popular movement is quite aware of the government's responses and its 'ulama (scholars) and media efforts to deceive the public: "It is the same cheating nature of the al-Jabha (i.e., the NIF/NCP) that the country knew for decades before the 1989's military coup."

Most recently, the al-Harak al-Islamiya (another name for the NIF/NCP Brotherhood) vowed to enforce the same policies that ravaged the country by civil wars and suppressed the opposition by security laws in the next post-elections era. The commitment of the al-Haraka to implement the same exclusionary policies might explain the immediate NCP negativity towards the announced candidacy of the First Vice President, Mr. Salva Kiir, in the upcoming presidential elections.

The Brotherhood partisan plans in the name of a state-enforced Islamic Call over Sudan are well-documented in an official publication most recently issued by the Supreme Council of Islamic Call about the International Expert-Group's Scholarly Forum on Islamic Call in the Sudan held in Khartoum, 13-15 February, 2008, "under the auspices of President Marshal Omer al-Bashir."

Without a word to condemn in the strongest terms possible the criminality of the ruling junta in Darfur, according to the Qur'an and the Sunna, the Forum refers intensively to the sacred verses of the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith that guarantee justice, equality, religious co-existence, and the good life for all humans in peace.

Society is composed of "individuals, groups, clans, tribes, institutions, organizations, associations, and voluntary societies such as scholarly assemblies, literary and cultural groups, and community service as the natural constituencies of society."

And yet, the notion of society "definitely doesn't include parties or the groups that renegade from the social order or the formations alien to the concept of the [Islamic] Umma" (Issues of Originating Islamic Call: p. 14).

This flat exclusion of all political parties, other than those committed to the "purpose and orientation of the government's Islamic Call," is consistent with the practical practices and post-elections plans of the NIF/NCP governance.

Guided by these anti-nationalist teachings of their Islamic Movement, the NIF/NCP ruling elites will most likely unify their factions in the upcoming elections (specifically the Turabi and the Bashir groups), as many observers noted recently, regardless of the apparent media shows of hostilities between the two ideologues.

The NIF/NCP "Guardian of Islamic Call in Sudan, the most authoritative body of the supreme Musli Umma (nation)," on behalf of the other Haraka Islamiya organizations all over the world, has been targeting the Muslim Sufi constituencies of the Ansar and the Khatmiya, that antagonize the Brotherhood alien ideology. The NIF/NCP, however, continues to weaken the political parties of these Sufi groups, the Umma and the Democratic Unionists.

All other parties, namely the secularists who are not committed to the Islamic Call in public or private activities, are categorically placed under the Forum's definition, "as formations alien to the concept of the Umma,"

This non-constitutional polarization of the Sudanese society divides the Sudanese nation into a dual system of citizenship by which only those adherents to the NIF/NCP Islamic Call (technically political ideology) enjoy full benefits and rights versus the rest of the repressed population. It is the real enforceable law of the NIF/NCP, which controls the state and inhibits any real transition to democratic rule in the country.


Would the al-Harak exclusionary policies ensure the regime's striving to monopolize the political power in the post-elections period?

A major fact is the Brotherhood determination to sustain the CPA privileged formula for the NIF/NCP. The same formula of the Islamic Call governance will continue to engineer, gear, and overrule the formal institutions of the State, if the Bashir-led regime wins the next elections.

That is why Bashir has been strongly supported by the al-Haraka al-Islamiya, especially the Egyptian and the Jordanian groups, Palestinian Hamas, members of the Islamic Conference, and others with complete disregard to the criminal rule of their Sudanese Brothern and the deep political and cultural hostilities between the Sudanese spiritual orientations and the Brotherhood dogma.

Little wonder, the Musharraf responsible resignation to save Pakistan the risks of national crises had he stayed in power has been happily received by the NIF/NCP allies, at the time Bashir's most genuine indictment by the ICC for the most heinous crimes committed under his direct command against humanity and the Muslim population of Darfur still receives irresponsible reactions from the so-called "Islamic" entities.

Bashir will never act as Musharraf did simply because the former is supported blindly by a dogmatic ruling elite blind to all objective criticisms, adamantly deceptive, ultimately non-democratic, and irrevocably committed to abuse Islam as it writes and talks in the name of the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Hadith while applying exactly the opposite.

It suffices to mention the massacre of the Armed Forces in April (Ramadan 1990), the large scale acts of genocide and forced displacement in the South, Eastern Sudan, and Darfur, and the ongoing suppression of the Manasir and the Nuba of the Northern region.


The concluding words of the Minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments at the Forum are self-evident: "The Islamic Project in the Sudan resembled a sincere intellectual effort to introduce the Project of Economic and Social Renaissance by the Principles of Islam…"

"Put on siege and fought against in an unprecedented manner, the Project was able to confront gallantly the Atlantic Project and to manifest its presence in the international and regional arenas, debating, arguing, and putting forward its defense and thesis" (The Forum's 7th Panel, The Horizon of Islamic Call in The Sudan, p. 4).

The spokesperson for the Haraka affirms: "The Project engaged in military battles while offering at the same time ideas for peace and conflict resolution. The Project was able to handle both soft and harsh diplomacy, and was able to rescind international resolutions one after another."

Similar to the presidential adviser's speech to the Jazeera T.V., the Islamic Call minister ascertains: "The Islamic Project presented a political project on the formula of diversity by a constitution, a contract based on citizenship, justice, freedoms, and division of power and wealth that incites the building of political coalitions, national reconciliations, and the practice of a government founded on Shura [consultation], democracy, and the respect of the free choice of the people."

This dual governance of the Islamic Call minister over the Interim Constitution of the Sudan by the same and one state-party is the causal reason for the perpetuated misery of the country. The minister and his scholarly expert group ignored the most fundamental fact about Islamic Call, that it is a genuine community-based activity free of authority patronage, according to the true mission of Islam and the centuries history of Sudan.

KNOWING THE TRUE ISLAM IS TOP AGENDA The Sudanese people with their diverse religions and spiritual orientations have never succumbed to the succeeding police-states, including the al-Haraka al-Islamiya authoritative rule.

A nation deeply rooted in community life and the love of individual and public freedoms, especially the free-will of each single individual to choose her/his own religiosity, will inevitably force the Haraka president and his beneficiaries and external allies to give way to a free government faithful to the Constitution above all partisan projects or ideological claims.

The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party would have to collaborate closely with one another to strengthen political ties with the democratic groups of Sudan vis-à-vis the ruling elite. Historically known as the largest Muslim constituencies of the country, these two parties must take a principled public stand against the NIF/NCP deceptive plans and the abusive management of the State under the manipulative banners and strategies of the Haraka.

The need to differentiate between the genuine principles of Islam, which support in multiple ways the fundamental rights and civil freedoms and emphasize the dominance of justice, social equality, and the rule of law on the one hand, and the political manipulation of these sacred principles by the NIF/NCP ruling junta and its Islamic Call to monopolize power and wealth at expense of the vast majority of people is top agenda.

This enlightening campaign should go hand in hand with the parties' deep concerns with the next elections. Equally importantly, the secularist organizations in the country should raise the necessary awareness about the CPA and the Interim Constitution.

All civil society groups, furthermore, should coordinate their workaday activities to respect constitutionality of the CPA in the public domain, the most important obligation on all political groups, especially the opposition and the ruling parties.

To help the Sudanese to ensure a stable and democratic rule in the national and regional levels of governance, the International Community, in general, and the CPA Friends, in particular, is urged to show the strongest support possible to the People of Sudan in their ongoing struggles to establish the permanent and just peace with a non-discriminatory democratic state.

* The author is a sociologist at the Department of Social Work & Sociology in Tennessee State University, Nashville TN, USA. He can be reached at

Syrians suppress Kurdish protest in Qamoshli

Qamoshli is in northwest Syria, which has a large concentration of Kurds who are denied national rights. It has been the site of various disturbances in the past few years.
BREAKING NEWS: Syrian Authorities Prevent a Large March in Qamoshli
Washington DC - August 24, 2008//RPS Staff// -- RPS has learned from sources within Syria that a march of unity by many different Kurdish political organizations in northern Syria in support of Mashaal Tammo who has disappeared 10 days ago was prevented by the Syrian security.

Up to 2,000 military and security personnel have surrounded the house of Tammo where the demonstrators were heading. Many were dispersed using various inhuman methods but about 200 of the demonstrators managed to confront the authorities with chants of unity for Tammo.
Mashaal Tammo heads the Kurdish Future Movement and is regarded by many with respect and admiration for his work. It is believed that the Assad regime saw danger in his charisma and secular position that would trample upon their attempt at making only the rising voices of Islamists be heard.
No one knows if Tammo is still alive or has been killed by the Assad regime.

Iran to build second nuke plant - What is the purpose of Non-proliferation agreements?

It seems pretty certain now that Iran is set to build a second nuclear power plant, though the first one at Bushehr is not yet operational.
It is also certain, despite the US National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is going about the business of creating nuclear weapons. This is shown by the reply to IAEA inquiries about the subject:
Iran has been holding several rounds of talks with senior IAEA officials for clarification about intelligence reports that suggested Iran illicitly tried to design atomic bombs. Iran has said it is not the IAEA's job to delve into such allegations.
Asked about the talks, Saeedi said: "Iran will try to answer the agency's questions within the framework of its commitments. Our ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency are continuing and are on the basis of our legal commitments."
If it is not the purpose of the IAEA and the non-proliferation agreements to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, than what might be the possible purpose?
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 17:29 24/08/2008       
Iran building second nuclear plant, says top Iranian official
By Reuters
A senior Iranian atomic official said Sunday that Iran has chosen the site for and started designing a new 360 megawatt nuclear power plant.
Iran has yet to complete construction of its first nuclear power plant and has previously sent conflicting signals about the state of work on a planned second plant. An Iranian official said this year construction work had already begun.
The Islamic Republic is embroiled in a dispute over its nuclear plans, which the West says are to build atomic warheads but Tehran insists are aimed at generating electricity.
"We are involved in the design phase of this power station," the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saeedi, said, referring to plans for a second plant to be built in the area of Darkhovin in southwest Iran.
"Gradually the complementary design phase and its building will begin," Saeedi said of the 360 megawatt plant, in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"The site has been chosen and the preparation process is under way," he added.
The country's first nuclear power plant, with 1,000 megawatt capacity, is being built by Russia in the port city of Bushehr. Iran has said it wants to build nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 20,000 megawatt by 2020.
Iranian officials say Iran, which sits on the world's second biggest reserves of gas and oil respectively, wants nuclear energy so it can export more of its hydrocarbons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which carries out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, has mentioned the Darkhovin project in previous reports on Iran.
Bushehr power plant has been hit by years of delays. Russia delivered fuel for the plant this year. The head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, is expected to visit Iran in September to discuss a start up date, IRNA reported.
Asked about Kiriyenko's visit, Saeedi said: "We are negotiating in order to determine the time of his trip to Iran."
Iran has been holding several rounds of talks with senior IAEA officials for clarification about intelligence reports that suggested Iran illicitly tried to design atomic bombs. Iran has said it is not the IAEA's job to delve into such allegations.
Asked about the talks, Saeedi said: "Iran will try to answer the agency's questions within the framework of its commitments. Our ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency are continuing and are on the basis of our legal commitments."

The problem of Hezbollah

Hezbollah represents a strategic threat because of their alliance with Iran. Israel would have to find a way to deal with Hezbollah so that in the event of a confrontation with Iran we do not face a war on several fronts.
The threat becomes more material as Hezbollah assumes control of the Lebanese government.
The prospect that Hezbollah could receive nuclear weapons from Iran at some time in the future is unappetizing to say the least.
The good news is that the assertion by Nasrallah that the next victory over Israel will be indisputable is an admission that the Second Lebanon War was not a decisive victory as he often claims.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 18:17 24/08/2008       
Nasrallah: Hezbollah's next victory over Israel will be indisputable
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that the Lebanon-based militant group would respond in a firm and decisive manner to any future Israeli aggression against Lebanon, and that its future victory over Israel would be "indisputable."
Nasrallah warned that the results and repercussions of another war will exceed that of the 34-day Second Lebanon War, which took place in the summer of 2006.
More than 1,200 Lebanese - most of them civilians - were killed in the 2006 war, which began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a cross-border raid. [the "captured" soldiers were dead - A.I.]
Nasrallah's televised remarks, aired on Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television at a graduation ceremony, came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last Tuesday that Israel would "unleash all its force" if Hezbollah guerillas attacked again.
Olmert said Israel would utilize the massive firepower at its disposal if Lebanon were to become a terrorist state under the domination of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah responded Sunday, saying, "I tell you as someone who knows the resistance [Hezbollah] and its arsenal, and its quantitative and qualitative development following the July 2006 war... The Zionists will think not one thousand times but tens of thousands of times before they attack Lebanon."
Meanwhile, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc on Sunday said that Israel will be targeted by thousands of rockets if it attacks Iran.
There has been speculation that either the United States or Israel could attack Iran's nuclear facilities, although both have said force should be a last recourse in curbing Tehran's nuclear program, which they suspect aims to build atomic weapons.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity, is the main backer of Hezbollah.
"The first shot fired from the Zionist entity toward Iran will be met by a response of 11,000 rockets in the direction of the Zionist entity. This is what military leaders in the Islamic republic have confirmed," said the Hezbollah official Mohammed Raad. His remarks were reported by Lebanon's National News Agency.
Hezbollah has not said what it would do in the event of a conflict between Iran and Israel. Analysts count Hezbollah, which shares Iran's Shi'ite Islamist ideology, as a major asset for the Islamic republic in the event of conflict.
Tehran has said it will respond severely to any attack. Israel staged an air force exercise in June that triggered speculation about a possible assault on its nuclear sites.
Both Hezbollah and Israel have said the group has expanded its missile capability since the 2006 conflict