Iran authorities should listen to popular demands: Ex-president Khatami

This file photo taken on July 14, 2004 shows former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during a press conference in Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Iran authorities should listen to popular demands: Ex-president Khatami

TEHRAN: Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami on Tuesday called on authorities to listen to popular demands after a wave of deadly unrest over economic woes.
Authorities “should try to identify people’s problems and hardships” instead of “humiliating” them, the reformist said in a statement published online.
He called for “an environment in which people could express their wishes and demands in all security without feeling intimidated” and without undermining the country’s stability.
Khatami spoke after deadly protests across the country from December 28 to January 1 over the dire state of the economy during which some demonstrators called for regime change.
Twenty-five people were killed in the unrest, according to the authorities.
Iranian leaders of all political stripes have accused the country’s “enemies” of fomenting the unrest.
“The enemy seizes any opportunity” to harm the country, Khatami said, but “all institutions must recognize their share of blame” for the “shortcomings” highlighted by the recent protests, Khatami said.
Despite being barred from public appearances over his role in 2009 protests, Khatami remains one of the most popular figures in Iranian politics.
His endorsement was seen as crucial to President Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013 and 2017.
Rouhani, who secured a key 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has pushed for greater civil liberties in the wake of the unrest.
On Tuesday, Rouhani called for “reinforcing democracy and listening to people’s opinions.”
The recent protests have exacerbated tensions between Rouhani and ultra-conservatives, who criticize the government’s policy of outreach and accuse the president of neglecting the poorest members of Iran’s population.


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.