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Bush Seeks Funds to Weaken Iran from Within

US Will ‘Actively Confront’ Iranian Policies

GUY DINMORE / Financial Times (UK) 1feb2006


Washington — The Bush administration on Wednesday set out a tougher policy towards Iran, asking Congress for an extra $75m this year to support opponents of the Islamic regime and fund the first 24-hour official US television station broadcasting in Farsi.

Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state - Bush Seeks Funds to Weaken Iran from Within: US Will ‘Actively Confront’ Iranian Policies GUY DINMORE / Financial Times (UK) 1feb2006

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“The United States will actively confront the policies of this Iranian regime and at the same time we are going to work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom in their own country,” Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, told the Senate foreign relations committee hearing.

Ms Rice, who will travel to the Gulf region next week to discuss Iran with its Arab neighbours, did not specifically use the words “regime change”. But her testimony revealed a dual policy of isolating Iran on the international front, including sanctions and interdictions of prohibited shipments, while seeking to weaken the clerical regime from within.

In testy exchanges, Ms Rice was probed by Democrats and Republicans as to how the administration’s pro-democracy drive benefited the US, following the electoral successes of Islamists across the Middle East, culminating in the victory of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, last month. Ms Rice replied that the world was a “better place”.

The “new effort” on Iran will be backed by $10m (£5.75m) already budgeted this year and a supplemental request of $75m. The State Department said money would go towards Iranian reformers, political dissidents, human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, political organisations and labour unions.

The bulk of the spending – $50m – is proposed to set up a 24-hour Farsi-language TV station. The US at present broadcasts only one hour a day of Farsi television.

An undisclosed sum will also go to “independent” Farsi networks based in the US that have so far proved largely irrelevant inside Iran.

US officials said possible recipients inside Iran had not been indentified and acknowledged difficulties in finding them. The initiative was seen by analysts partly as a response to domestic US pressures, particularly influential Christian lobby groups.

Analysts advising the Bush administration say the US has realised that significant opposition to Tehran is unlikely to be generated from exiles so it has sought ways to destabilise the Islamic regime from within.

The funding is reminiscent of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 which benefited Iraqi opposition groups, mainly the alliance led by Ahmad Chalabi, whose current group failed to win a single seat in the Iraqi elections.

The US’s move risks damaging the diplomatic unity it has achieved at the United Nations in confronting Iran over its nuclear programme. The Security Council is due to take up the issue next month

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who met EU ministers in Vienna yesterday, warned of opposition to sanctions.

“In modern history, sanctions do not help resolve conflicts,” Interfax quoted him as saying. “Many countries do not want sanctions on Iran. A number of European countries, Russia and China do not support this.”

Additional reporting by Neil Buckley in Moscow

source: http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ed2f9012-9e52-11da-b641-0000779e2340.html 15feb2006

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