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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Iran Condemns Deadly Attack
Terror in Boston

BOSTON (Dispatches) --- Boston was battered but vigilant on Tuesday as an army of federal agents raced to find out who attacked the city’s historic marathon, leaving three dead and more than 100 injured amid a war zone of shattered glass and bomb debris on Patriots Day.
As of Tuesday morning, no persons or group had claimed credit for twin explosions at the finish line near Boston’s Copley Square. The Pakistani Taliban, a group that has threatened the United States in the past, denied participation, according to the Associated Press.
Law enforcement officials questioned an injured Saudi national at a local hospital, but news stories indicated that the individual appears to have no connection to the case. The Boston Globe reported that he was simply a frightened spectator who had tried to flee but was tackled and restrained by bystanders.
On Monday night agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and other law enforcement agencies raided a unit in a high-rise apartment on Ocean Drive in the seaside Boston suburb of Revere, according to information posted online by a participating local fire department. Several bags, including what appeared to be a large duffel bag, were removed from the scene. Authorities were mum as to the specifics of their suspicions but confirmed that the Revere search was related to the case.
Police searched the Revere residence of a Saudi Arabian student who was injured in the blasts, according to law enforcement sources. One of the sources said the student was the main lead investigators are looking into, but he has not been labeled a suspect.
Rep. William Keating (D) of Massachusetts, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a local CBS reporter that the two bombs at the finish line, which exploded seconds apart, had been stashed in trash receptacles and were clearly a “coordinated attack”. Authorities have discovered two other unexploded devices, he told Boston’s WBZ News.
Other reports said no unexploded devices had been found. A reported fire at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library turned out to be the result of an electrical problem and was unrelated to the marathon bombs, according to Boston police.
NBC News reported that the explosive devices near the finish line had been packed with ball bearings to enhance their lethality. Doctors treating some of the 126 wounded at local hospitals said many had been hurt by metal shrapnel, though they added it was unclear whether the metal in question had simply been part of the environment or was the result of a shredded trash receptacle.
Police have issued an alert for a rental van that may have tried to gain access to the finish line area and for a man in dark clothing and a hood seen leaving the scene shortly before the blast, reported NBC. Surveillance video shows a hooded figure carrying two backpacks at about that time.
Among the dead is 8-year-old Martin Richard, whose father was running in the race. The boy's mother and sister were also gravely injured, according to a Boston Globe report. The family had gathered at the finish line for cheers and celebrations.
Although President Obama did not use the word “terrorism” in remarks to the nation Monday evening, other U.S. officials made it clear that the bombing is being treated as a terrorist attack. That would make it the first such strike on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, and a deadly reminder that it is impossible to armor all national activities against a terrorist threat.
One thing is clear: The bomber or bombers were not highly skilled. The explosive devices were relatively crude compared with those produced overseas by Al Qaeda or other radical Islamist terrorist groups, RAND Corp. terror expert Brian Jenkins told Los Angeles television. They were much smaller than the powerful truck bomb that Timothy McVeigh used to devastate the federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.
In that sense they were analogous to the pipe bombs that killed two and injured 100 in 1996 at Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the Olympics.
The fact that the target was an event of great significance to Boston but not particularly significant to the wider world could indicate that the bomber was a local or at least a native of the United States. The explosions occurred on April 15, tax day, which could be a further indication of a domestic connection.
But the bombs were not directed against a government building or institution, which is often a hallmark of disaffected, lone-wolf domestic terrorists, noted some terrorism analysts. And the style of the attack, in which one explosion was closely followed by another, mimics that used by numerous groups in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, a large area of Back Bay Boston remained sealed off as an enormous outdoor crime scene. Police were working their way through a mountain of bags and other debris left by the fleeing crowd in an effort to ensure that no further explosives will detonate. Cities across the U.S. tightened security, just in case – New York City dispatched police critical response teams to guard sensitive sights, while in Washington the Secret Service expanded the security perimeter around the White House.
In London, authorities were reviewing security plans for Sunday’s London Marathon, the next such major international race.
The annual Boston Marathon, held since 1897, attracts an estimated half-million spectators and some 20,000 participants every year.

Iran Condemns Bombing

The Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned the bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon. Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the Islamic Republic strongly condemns any measure that endangers the lives of innocent people.
He described the deadly incident as a "source of sorrow" and called for greater global efforts to eradicate terrorism.
“We believe all governments must try to maintain calm and security for everyone. Acts of extremism and terrorism have to be uprooted across the world and no effort should be made to justify violence,” he stated.
The official criticized some politicians and governments who at points support extremist groups for their own political benefits.
“Allowing terrorist groups to operate, and delisting them from the blacklist of terrorist organizations under the pretext of supporting freedom will eventually lead to instability and disorder, and will affect all people,” he warned.
Tehran has repeatedly criticized the Western governments for backing the anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).

Reuters Says Sanctions Failing
IMF: Iran Economy to Grow

DUBAI (Dispatches) -- Iran's economy should emerge from a recession caused by U.S.-led sanctions, but not until 2014, according to the IMF.
The sanctions have hurt trade and largely frozen Iran out of the international banking system since late 2011.
But the International Monetary Fund said Iran was avoiding any balance of payments crisis, in a report suggesting sanctions remain far from having the "crippling" effect on the Iranian economy that U.S. leaders have said they intend.
Analysis from the IMF, which has remained in touch with authorities in Tehran, may be among the most accurate available indications of the state of its economy, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The country's gross domestic product is forecast to shrink 1.3% this year after contracting 1.9% last year, the IMF estimated in a report forming part of its half-yearly analysis of the world economy.
That was a downgrade from the IMF's last report in October, when it estimated Iran's GDP would shrink only 0.9% in 2012 and grow 0.8% in 2013.
The international body forecast unemployment in Iran would rise to 13.4% this year and 14.7% in 2014 from 12.5% in 2012.
But the IMF also predicted GDP would resume expanding in 2014, at a pace of 1.1%. This suggests the economy will be able to find domestic sources of demand to at least partly compensate for its damaged export industries.
The sanctions have thrown tens of thousands of people out of work and cut living standards over the past year, but the nearly $500 billion economy is large and diverse enough to continue functioning in many areas, businessmen operating in Iran say.
The IMF also estimated Iran was continuing to run external surpluses; the current account surplus, which covers trade in goods and services, was forecast at 3.6% of GDP in 2013 and 1.9% in 2014, after 4.9% last year.
"If these figures are accurate, they suggest the sanctions are failing to push the country's foreign reserves down to dangerously low levels," Reuters said.
"Many of the sanctions have targeted Iran's balance of payments as a vulnerable area of its economy," it added.
Iran has continued much of its trade through barter deals and a web of front companies. It has also imposed capital controls while a plunge of its currency, which lost about two-thirds of its value against the U.S. dollar in the free market over 15 months, seems to have helped its balance of payments by deterring some non-essential imports.
The IMF predicted that the average inflation rate in Iran would fall moderately to 27.2% in 2013 and 21.1% in 2014, from 30.6% last year. Inflation began rising
sharply at the end of 2010 when the government slashed food and fuel subsidies; since then the sanctions have added to upward pressure on prices by weakening the currency.

Strong Quake Hits Sistan Baluchestan

TEHRAN (Dispatches) — A major earthquake described as the strongest to hit Iran in more than half a century struck the sparsely populated region on the Pakistan border, swaying skyscrapers and buildings as far away as New Delhi.
The Fars news agency said the Iranian city of Saravan, which lies near the center of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake, has not seen serious damage.
Fars quoted Fariborz Rashedi, the head of medical emergencies for Sistan and Baluchistan, as saying the situation in his province was "normal", with only three people injured.
It was the second deadly quake to hit Iran in less than a week after a magnitude 6.1 temblor struck near Bushehr, on Iran's Persian Gulf coast, killing 35 people.
The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude at 7.8 and at a depth of 15.2 kilometers (nine miles).
Iran's Red Crescent said it was facing a "complicated emergency situation" in the area with villages scattered over desolate hills and valleys.
Ahmad-Reza Shajiee, the deputy head of Iran's Red Crescent, told the IRNA news agency that there was a complicated emergency situation in affected areas in Sistan and Baluchistan.
"Soon after we received the news about the quake, a crisis meeting was held and a group of rescuers from the Red Crescent society were dispatched to Sistan and Baluchistan province," he said.
Though the area is largely desert and mountains, there are several major cities, including Zahedan, 125 miles away, which has more than half a million inhabitants.
One Iranian told the Guardian that the small town of Hiduj, which had a population of around 1,000 according to a 2006 census, had been badly damaged.
State-run Pakistan Television said at least six people were killed on its side of the border and at least 47 others were injured. Up to 1,000 mud homes were damaged, it added.
The quake was felt over a vast area from New Delhi to Persian Gulf cities that have some of the world's tallest skyscrapers, including the record 828-meter (2,717 -foot) Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Officials ordered temporary evacuations from some high-rises as a precaution.
A resident in the quake zone, Manouchehr Karimi, told The Associated Press by phone that "the quake period was long" and occurred "when many people were at home to take a midday nap".
Pakistani news channels showed buildings shaking in the southern city of Karachi, where people in panic came out from offices and homes.
In a message posted on Twitter, British Foreign Secretary William Hague sent condolences to families of those lost in the Iran earthquake.
In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a magnitude 6.6 quake that flattened the historic southeastern Iranian city of Bam.

New Ballistic Missile Tested

TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran test-fired a new land-to-sea ballistic missile in the Persian Gulf, a senior official said on Tuesday, days before an annual ceremony meant to showcase its defense capabilities.
"The defense ministry has been able to test a new missile in the Persian Gulf which has a high ability to hit targets," General Majid Bokaei, Iran's deputy defense minister, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA, which described the missile as a ballistic missile.
"This new missile, which has been equipped with a surface-to-surface missile system, exits the atmosphere after being launched, re-enters it at high speed, and completely destroys the target vessel or warship."
Bokaei did not say when the missile was tested or give a specific indication of its range. "When this missile was tested, all the enemies' destroyers and ships retreated from near our borders," he said, according to IRNA.
The Islamic Republic will mark its National Army Day on April 18, an occasion meant to celebrate its armed forces and likely unveil military advances.
In August Iran test-launched a more accurate short-range missile capable of hitting land and sea targets within a range of around 300 km (180 miles).
Iran has made "robust strides" in developing its ballistic missile capabilities, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote in a 2010 assessment.
All of Tehran's ballistic missiles would be capable of carrying a nuclear payload, the IISS said at the time.
On Tuesday, Iran's armed forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said the country's strong defense capabilities and military achievements, which have been acknowledged by international experts, prove the failure of the enemies’ plots against the Islamic Republic.
“Today, the enemy is battling against the country with maximum force in all fronts, and this fight is more severe when it comes to the armed forces,” he said.
Firouzabadi noted that economic sanctions imposed against Iran's armed forces since the end of Iraqi-imposed war on Iran in 1988 were aimed at undermining Iran’s military strength and defense achievements.
Meanwhile, commander of Iran’s army Major General Ataollah Salehi said the Iranian military is completely prepared to respond to potential outside threats, highlighting that even thinking about an attack on Iran will bring irreparable damage to the enemies.
Major General Ataollah Salehi said the defensive capabilities of Iran’s army are at such a level that if enemies even think of attacking the Islamic Republic, they will regret their decision.
Salehi also stated that the Iranian army carefully monitors the regional and trans-regional developments. He said Iran’s Army now stands more powerful than ever.
On Monday, commander of the army’s ground forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said the Iranian army is set to unveil three major achievements in the fields of communications, simulators and air defense on the occasion of Iran’s Army Day.
Deputy commander of the army's ground forces Kiumars Heidari said the forces plan to showcase their new armored personnel carriers on April 18.
Furthermore, the missile and rocket-launching units of the ground forces of the Iranian army plan to stage a one-day missile drill in central Iran on the same day.
The maneuver, in which new indigenous missile systems are to be launched, is aimed at maintaining the preparedness and enhancing the defensive capabilities of the forces.

Oil Minister: Sanctions Ineffective

TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Tuesday that an upcoming high-profile oil show in Tehran will prove the failure of U.S.-led sanctions against the Iranian energy sector.
The minister said the 18th International Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition, scheduled to kick off on Thursday, is a “clear manifestation of the failure and ineffectiveness” of sanctions engineered by the U.S.
“They (the sanctions) have not only failed to paralyze Iran, but also contributed to the blossoming of national domestic talents in the light of self-sufficiency campaign,” Qasemi stated.
The minister went on to say that Iran’s oil sector will face no obstacle in playing its “strategic role as the most secure source of energy supply to the world”.
Qasemi added that the oil show will put on exhibit the “technical and industrial strength” of Iran’s energy sector.
More than 1,000 Iranian and foreign companies are expected to attend the four-day exhibition.
At the beginning of 2012, the U.S. and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
Washington and the EU used the false claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program to impose the illegal sanctions. Iran, however, categorically rejects the allegation.

New Jet to Patrol Persian Gulf

TEHRAN (Fars) -- The main mission of Iran's newly-unveiled fighter jet, Qaher- 313, is guaranteeing security in the Persian Gulf, Deputy Defense Minister General Majid Bokayei said on Tuesday.
He said the enemies claimed the aircraft was just a paper model when it was unveiled but later they said the aircraft had been designed by the Islamic Republic to attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

Russian MPs to Visit Tehran

TEHRAN (Fars) -- A Russian parliamentary delegation is planned to arrive here later this week to discuss bilateral ties with Iranian officials.
Deputy head of the Russian Federation Council Ilyas Umakhanov will head the delegation during the visit which will take place between April 21 to 24. They will meet with Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.