Middle East News: Breaking news from Middle East - Iran

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Iran says it broke up US-backed cyber war networks

TEHRAN, Iran Iran says it has dismantled several U.S.-backed cyber warfare networks that were gathering information on nuclear scientists and provoking unrest in the country.

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A judiciary statement says the networks were set up by Iranian opposition groups, including the armed People's Mujahedeen, and that 30 of their members were arrested.

Iran has repeatedly accused the U.S. and Britain of provoking the unrest that followed June's disputed presidential election charges both countries have denied.

The judiciary said Saturday that the cyber campaign also involved a group seeking to restore Iran's monarchy. The statement said the networks sought to destabilize the Islamic ruling system in Iran, according to the official IRNA news agency.

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Iran's Ahmadinejad: Sept. 11 attacks a 'big lie'

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI | Associated Press Writer : TEHRAN, Iran Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday called the official version of the Sept. 11 attacks a "big lie" used by the U.S. as an excuse for the war on terror, state media reported.

Ahmadinejad's comments, made during an address to Intelligence Ministry staff, come amid escalating tensions between the West and Tehran over its disputed nuclear program. They show that Iran has no intention of toning itself down even with tighter sanctions looming because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

"September 11 was a big lie and a pretext for the war on terror and a prelude to invading Afghanistan," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state TV. He called the attacks a "complicated intelligence scenario and act."

The Iranian president has questioned the official U.S. version of the Sept. 11 attacks before, but this is the first time he ventured to label it a "big lie."

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Iran: US behind IAEA charge that Iran making bomb

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI | Associated Press Writer : TEHRAN, Iran Iran's supreme leader charged Sunday that U.S. and its allies are behind the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency's claim that Iran may be making nuclear bombs, despite its repeated denials.

The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, broadcast on state television Sunday, came 10 days after the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was concerned Iran may be working on nuclear weapons, echoing conclusions reached by the U.S. and several of its allies.

"Some IAEA reports and actions show that this international agency lacks independence," the television quoted Khamenei as saying. "The IAEA should not be influenced by the U.S. and some (other) countries because unilateral acts erode trust in the agency and the United Nations. It is also very bad for the prestige and reputation of these international bodies."

The language of the report the first written by Yukiya Amano, who became IAEA head in December appeared to be more directly critical of Iran's refusal to cooperate with the IAEA than most of those of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.

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Iran vows to stand by Hezbollah against Israel

By NASSER KARIMI | Associated Press Writer : TEHRAN,Iran Iran's president on Thursday said that if the Israelis launch a new war against Lebanon's Hezbollah, the militant group should retaliate strong enough to "close their case once and for all."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments, in a conversation with Hezbollah's leader, were the latest in a heated exchange of rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon and Syria this months in which all sides have been warning the other not to start a war.

Speaking by phone, Ahmadinejad urged Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to prepare his fighters to be able to retaliate strongly against any Israeli attack.

"The preparations should be of the level that, if they (the Israelis) want to repeated the mistakes of the past (by attacking), then their case should be closed once and for all and the region delivered from their evil ways forever," the Iranian president said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

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Iran sentences another activist to death

By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer : TEHRAN, Iran An Iranian court has convicted another opposition activist on charges related to the country's post-election turmoil and sentenced him to death, the judiciary said Tuesday.

The sentencing brings to at least 10 the number of those facing the death penalty in a mass trial over the unrest following Iran's disputed June presidential elections.

The Web site of the country's judiciary said the activist was convicted of Moharebeh, or defiance of God, and handed the capital punishment. The report also said that eight more people were sentenced to unspecified prison terms.

The eight were arrested following deadly clashes in late December between opposition protesters and security forces, it said. The report did not identify those convicted or say when they were sentenced.

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Iran leader orders new step in nuclear program

By NASSER KARIMI | Associated Press Writer : TEHRAN, Iran Iran's president on Sunday ordered his atomic agency to significantly enrich the country's stockpile of uranium, angering Western nations who want to the Islamic republic to halt its nuclear program.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad maintained, however, that Iran was also still willing to follow a U.N. plan to export its uranium abroad for further enrichment. Refining uranium produces nuclear fuel for a power plant but if carried out far enough can create material for a weapon.

The mixed messages from Tehran have infuriated the U.S. and its European allies, who claim Iran is only stalling for time as it attempts to build a nuclear weapon. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the international community to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said: "Today's statement shows that farce is being played out just like we have seen in the past, that the outstretched hand of the international community has not only not been taken but pushed back."

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Iran puts 16 opposition supporters on trial

By NASSER KARIMI | Yahoo News : TEHRAN, Iran Iran put 16 opposition supporters detained during anti-government protests last month on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran's state media reported.

The defendants face charges ranging from plotting against the establishment to violating security regulations, said the official IRNA news agency. Five of those on trial, including two women, were accused of "moharebeh," or defying God, a charge that could carry the death penalty, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

The new prosecutions, coupled with the execution on Thursday of two men accused of involvement in anti-government groups, could mark an attempt by Iran's hard-line leaders to intimidate the opposition before a new round of street demonstrations expected in February.

Those who stood trial Saturday including a follower of the Baha'i faith, an alleged communist and a student activist were detained during anti-government demonstrations on Dec. 27.

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Iran's leader predicts Israel's destruction

TEHRAN, Iran Iran's supreme leader predicted the destruction of Israel in comments posted on his Web site on Wednesday, in some of his strongest remarks in years about the Jewish state.

In the past, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called Israel a "cancerous tumor" that must be wiped from the map, but the new comments mark the first time in years he has openly speculated about Israel's demise.

"Definitely, the day will come when nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime," Khamenei was quoted as saying. "How soon or late (Israel's demise) will happen depends on how Islamic countries and Muslim nations approach the issue." He did not elaborate.

Khamenei, who made the comments during a meeting with the Mauritanian president on Tuesday, also accused Israel of trying to destroy the Palestinians "through continued pressure, blockades and genocide." He said the Jewish state will not succeed.

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Iran hails UN indecision over further sanctions

TEHRAN, Iran The failure of the six key powers at the U.N. to levy new sanctions on Iran was hailed on Monday by Iran as a sign of increased rationality in the discussion over its disputed nuclear program.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in a press conference that the lack of a decision over new sanctions means that Iran can continue working with the international community to allay concerns over the program.

Iran is "hopeful and ready to contribute to this rationality so that it will move in the right direction and reach the appropriate results," he said.

Mottaki added that "we now observe narrow stripes of rationality" by the foreign powers over the nuclear issue.

Iran argues that its nuclear program is aimed at creating a peaceful energy network to serve its growing population. The U.S. and other nations believe the goal of the program is to create weapons.

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