Iran won't retreat "one iota" from its nuclear program, but the world is being misled by claims that it seeks atomic weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in his first reaction since a United Nations watchdog reported that Tehran is on the brink of developing a nuclear warhead.
Ahmadinejad also strongly chided the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, saying it discredited itself by siding with "absurd" accusations by the United States.
"This nation won't retreat one iota from the path it is going," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Shahr-e-Kord in central Iran. "Why are you ruining the prestige of the (UN nuclear) agency for absurd U.S. claims?"
The 13-page annex to the IAEA's report released Tuesday included claims that while some of Iran's activities have civilian as well as military applications, others are "specific to nuclear weapons."
Among these were indications that Iran has conducted high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, as well as computer modeling of a core of a nuclear warhead. The report also cited preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test, and development of a nuclear payload for Iran's Shahab 3 intermediate-range missile -- a weapon that can reach Israel.
Ahmadinejad repeated Iran's claims that it doesn't make sense to build nuclear weapons in a world already awash with atomic arms.
"The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two bombs against 20,000 (nuclear) bombs you have," he said in comments apparently directed at the West. "But it builds something you can't respond to: Ethics, decency, monotheism and justice."
The U.S. and allies claim a nuclear-armed Iran could touch off a nuclear arms race among rival states, including Saudi Arabia and could directly threaten Israel. The West is seeking to use the report as leverage to possible tougher sanctions on Iran, but Israel and others have said military options have not been ruled out.
The bulk of the information in the IAEA report was a compilation of alleged findings that have already been partially revealed by the agency. But some of the information was new -- including evidence of a large metal chamber at a military site for nuclear-related explosives testing. Iran has dismissed that, saying they were merely metal toilet stalls.
Iran's official IRNA News Agency quoted lawmaker Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash saying the report shows that IAEA "has no powers and moves in the direction" of the U.S. and allies. Another parliament member, Parviz Sorouri, accused IAEA chief Yukiya Amano of tarnishing the agency.
"The report was drawn up by Americans and read by Amano," the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
The UN Security Council has passed four sets of damaging sanctions on Iran, but veto-wielding members China and Russia oppose further measures and are unlikely to change their minds despite the report's findings.
China has not publicly commented on the UN assessment of Iran's nuclear program, a likely sign that it will wait for Washington and Moscow to signal their intentions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that Beijing was studying the report and repeated calls for dialogue and cooperation.
In Paris, France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said his country is ready to push for new sanctions of "an unprecedented scale" if Iran refuses to answer new questions about its nuclear program.
Turkey Calls for Dialogue between Iran, West
Iran and the Western powers should engage in a new round of dialogue to solve their problems over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, according to Ankara, who is openly against military action in the region.
Turkey's advice came on the day when the United Kingdom and France called on tougher sanctions against Iran in the light of the Unite Nations nuclear watchdog's latest report that said Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb.
"We are constantly advising both sides to solve their problems peacefully and through dialogue," a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News Wednesday. Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has expressed Turkey's views and recommendations to his Iranian counterpart Ali Akhbar Salehi and the European Union's Catherine Ashton in his meetings.
The issue will also be on Turkey's agenda next week when French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe will pay a visit to Turkey on Nov. 17 and 18.
The official said Turkey was still evaluating the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, report, saying it was still too early to comment on its content.
"We have two main principles: We are against the proliferation of any sort of these weapons of mass destruction in our region and in the world. Second, we believe these problems must be solved peacefully as one can see it in our past efforts," the official said.
Turkey played an important role in an unfinished swap deal for enriched uranium between Iran and the Western powers in late 2009 and early 2010 in an effort to diffuse the tension. Later, it voted against a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against Iran in an indirect protest of Western powers, mainly the United States, who overlooked Turkey's efforts in this process.
Besides growing diplomatic tension between Iran and the West, Turkey is also concerned with the timing of the release of the IAEA's report and international media's reports on possible military action against Iran.
"The fact that these discussions coincided with the UN report is very much attention grabbing," the Turkish official said without further elaborating.
Turkey's ties with Iran deteriorated following its decision to deploy an early warning radar system in its territories as part of NATO's missile defense project, which the U.S. claims targets potential Iranian nuclear capability. The two countries are also in different camps on Syria, whose leadership is using all military means to crack down on protesters.
Al-Assad to Play 'Kurdish Card against Turkey'
Syria is looking to destabilize Turkey by providing greater autonomy to the Arab republic's Kurdish population in the wake of Ankara's demands that Damascus heed the demands of the country's opposition, the French daily, Le Figaro, reported.
In an attempt to pose a threat to Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has begun to support the Kurdish people living in Syria's north, which is reportedly home to 1.9 million Kurds, the daily Hürriyet reported Wednesday.
The president has been preparing the ground for a Kurdish autonomous regional administration by opening Kurdish schools in the country's north, Le Figaro reported, adding that the language of instruction was Kurdish and that the Kurdish anthem was sung every day.
The daily also claimed that al-Assad permitted Kurdish politician Muhammad Salih Muslim, the head of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, which is seen as a PKK affiliate, to return to Syria as a message to Turkey. Muslim was in exile in Iraq until the protests against al-Assad began in Syria earlier this year.
The PYD is reportedly organizing local elections in the north.
The newspaper said accepting the Kurdish politician into Syria must be seen as an action to "punish [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan for harshly objecting to Syria's crackdown on its dissidents."
"It is no coincidence that Muslim has been elected as the deputy head of the Democratic Change Committee Coordination, which was founded by the Syrian regime, shortly after returning from exile," the newspaper wrote. "The PYD is staying away from the Syrian National Council [SNC, which was founded in Istanbul, because it believes that the SNC is backed by Western powers and is against the PKK."
The assassination of Mashaal Tammo on Oct. 7, a Kurdish opposition leader in Syria, was also a message to Syrian Kurds that a "good Kurd" was one supported by the regime, according to Le Figaro.
PKK to Raise Power in Germany, Report Says
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is likely to increase the size of its support network in Germany in the coming years, according to a recent report authored by a German foundation.
An estimated 11,500 people in Germany are already believed to provide the group with millions of euros in support every year, but the number is expected to rise, according to a recent report from the Institute to Protect the Federal Constitution.
"A significant financial source for the PKK consists of the donations collected from sympathizers in Europe, particularly in Germany. The revenues of the annual Kurdistan festival while sales of books [and other items] also provide significant contributions to the PKK," the report said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted the report's findings when he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week and asked the German leader to lend greater support to Turkey's war on terror.
The PKK is the largest non-Islamist terror organization in Germany, the report said, adding that all its activities were banned on Nov. 22, 1993, in the federal republic. Recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States, the PKK was also added to the European Union's terror list in 2002.
'PKK has a Finance Office'
The report said the PKK had a finance and economy bureau in Germany to facilitate the transfer of money from to the organization for its 30-year-long fight against Turkey. Because the organization is banned from engaging in activities under the name of the PKK, the group operates under aliases such as the Federation of Kurdish Associations in Germany, or YEK-KOM.
YEK-KOM gives open support to the PKK's fight against the Turkish army, the report indicated.
Other organizations, such as Komalen Ciwan and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, or TAK, are also working under different names to increase the number of young PKK sympathizers.
The report also said some of these young people were sent to northern Iraq to receive training from PKK militants. Komalen Ciwan also organized a festival on July 10, 2010, in Cologne that attracted 5,000 sympathizers. In Europe, the PKK presents itself differently than in Turkey, the institute said.
"The organization depicts itself as an unarmed group searching for its rights through the democratic means," the report said. "However, it shows its real face by failing to commit to its cease-fire declarations and by fighting against Turkey along the country's border with Iraq."
Turkish Prime Minister Vows Further Crackdowns on Kurdish Group
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday that his government will not ease its crackdown on a Kurd political movement and warned the media that criticizing his actions against the KCK amounted to supporting terrorism.
"Regarding the latest operations targeting the KCK, no one should expect them to end," Erdoğan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia News Agency.
Turkey claims that the KCK is the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, an outlawed rebel group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. Ankara further alleges that the KCK wants to replace Turkish government institutions in the southeastern Anatolia region, which is majority Kurd, with its own political structures.
"There is one state in Turkey: The state of Turkey. There cannot be a second," Erdogan said. "Whether in the media or elsewhere, you must be careful what you say about the KCK. This amounts to supporting terrorism."
Since 2009, some 700 people have been arrested over alleged links to the KCK, according to government figures.
Erdogan's comments came amid escalating clashes between Anakara and the PKK rebels. The Turkish military launched an operation in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region after a PKK attack last month that killed 24 soldiers, the army's biggest loss since 1993.
PKK Increases Pressure on BDP for not Defending Organization
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has increased pressure on the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, accusing it of being ineffective in defending detainees who were arrested on charges of being members of the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, an umbrella organization including the PKK, and a lack of communication between units, the Bugün Daily reported Wednesday.
Prosecutors' recent arrests of KCK members and military pressure on the PKK led to self-criticism among PKK leaders, who began to evaluate where the organization had made mistakes. In this respect, the PKK held the BDP responsible for several failures. According to a recent report prepared by the National Police Department, the PKK has criticized the BDP, accusing it of being disorganized at a time when it needed to defend the detainees who stand accused of being KCK members.
The report covers dialogues between PKK leaders and includes their criticism of the BDP, which sheds light on how they reacted to the prosecutors' recent decisions targeting the KCK, the daily reported. In this regard, the PKK slammed BDP deputies for not being in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which is seen as the center of Kurdish political movement, when the arrests took place. According to the PKK, the Kurdish deputies did not speak out vehemently against the arrests of KCK members.
Beyond self-evaluation and criticism, the report also reflects the terrorist organization's demands of the BDP. On the order of the PKK, BDP deputies must visit several NGOs based in the Southeast that sometimes call on the terrorist organization to lay down its arms or to declare an open-ended cease-fire in order to emphasize that the calls of the NGOs do not correspond to the PKK's position.
According to the report, the PKK demanded that the BDP organize meetings with villagers and pay home visits to people to convince them to participate in BDP protests. The rallies must be staged first in Diyarbakır, and then in the surrounding provinces, the report noted.
The Diyarbakır City Council, a KCK department, many NGOs and the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, will have to declare that they accept the new plans and orders, as the PKK issued a list of orders to be carried out in response to insufficient mobilization.
The major demand was about activities to promote the Kurdish language in public service. According to the demand, phone and electricity bills must be distributed in Kurdish in the southeastern provinces. This campaign must also be carried out in Diyarbakır by petitioning the Diyarbakır branch of the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company, or TEDAŞ, in addition to the southeastern province of Hakkari's Yüksekova district, where the campaign to promote Kurdish in public service is already under way.
After lodging petitions to TEDAŞ, the DTK and NGOs must stage rallies against TEDAŞ and municipalities that refuse to distribute bills in Kurdish.
Government Sent Forged Documents to European Human Rights Court
After a visit to jailed deputies in Silivri Prison, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, said the judicial system in Turkey is "under the control of the political authority, and the prison in Silivri is a 'concentration camp.'"
Speaking to reporters after visiting the jailed deputies at Silivri Prison near Istanbul, Kılıçdaroğlu said the venue was a concentration camp in 21st-century Turkey.
"In countries where there is no logic and wisdom, where there is no developing concept of democracy and freedom, those who speak out about their opinions are being held in concentration camps," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "People elected by the votes of the citizens are held in these camps."
Kılıçdaroğlu said there was no equal distribution of justice and that the judicial process in Turkey was under the control of political authority.
"They call this democracy and justice. Can you call him a judge, a judge who does not act with his conscience? If you set out with the logic, 'I take my own way,' you cannot dispense justice," he said.
Criticizing that journalists, scientists, researchers and writers are held in prisons, Kılıçdaroğlu said the only common denominator of all of them is their opposition to the government.
"The price of opposing the government is being held in the concentration camp at Silivri. This is a shame of democracy. This doesn't suit Turkey. If this process is mentioned in the European Union progress reports, if the speaker of Parliament complains about it, and if some government ministers complain about it, then it should be questioned: Why can't you end this process? Turkey must recover from this democracy shame."
European Court Process
Kılıçdaroğlu also said Mehmet Haberal was complaining about forged documents that have been sent to the European Court of Human Rights.
"Balbay and Haberal wish to be freed as soon as possible. They want to be on duty and they want to explain what democracy and freedom demand," he said. "Haberal does not know why he was arrested. He complained about forged documents that have been sent to the European Court of Human Rights. It does not suit Republic of Turkey to send forged documents to an international court," Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Haberal, who remains under arrest as part of the investigation into the alleged Ergenekon criminal gang, had gone to the European court in July to apply to be released from prison; his application was rejected.
Balbay and Haberal are in prison on charges of participating in an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
5.7 Quake Kills at Least 7, Dozens Trapped in Eastern Turkey
Rescue workers have pulled out 24 survivors from the rubble of three buildings that collapsed after another earthquake hit eastern Turkey, authorities said Thursday. At least seven were killed and dozens of others trapped.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Wednesday's quake toppled 25 buildings in the city of Van, but only three of them were occupied since the others have been evacuated after suffering damages in last month's powerful temblor. The magnitude-5.7 quake was a grim replay of the previous magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Oct. 23, killing more than 600 people.
Rescue workers sped up their search for survivors by daylight on Thursday and pulled out a man out of the wreckage of a pancaked hotel, a live NTV television broadcast showed. He became the 24th person to be found alive so far.
The workers had used the glare of high-powered lights to work throughout the night despite several aftershocks. Atalay said the rescue work was concentrated at the site of two collapsed hotels and one apartment building. One of the collapsed buildings was the Bayram Hotel, Van's best-known hotel. It was at least 40 years old, and had been renovated last year.
Some of the guests were journalists who were covering the aftermath of the previous temblor, which left thousands homeless and led a number of countries to send tents, blankets and other supplies to assist Turkey in the aid effort.
Turkey's Dogan News Agency said two of its reporters were missing.
Some foreign rescue workers who scrambled to help the survivors of the previous quake were also staying at the same hotel. Japan's Association for Aid and Relief said one of its staff members, Miyuki Konnai, who rushed to Turkey to help the victims of the previous quake, was pulled out of the hotel rubble, but another staffer, Atsushi Miyazaki, was missing.
"We spoke with her briefly, she is in a hospital at the moment," Ikuko Natori told The Associated Press by telephone from Tokyo, Japan, in reference to the 32-year-old Konnai. "She had a slight injury but it is not life threatening." Natori, however, said they were not able to reach Miyazaki, 41, yet.
"We tried calling him on his mobile, it rings but he is not answering," Natori said.
Ozgur Gunes, a cameraman for Turkey's Cihan News Agency, told Haber Turk television that some of the trapped journalists had sent text messages to colleagues asking to be rescued.
"There was dust everywhere and the hotel was flattened," he said. He told Sky Turk television that the building had some small cracks before the quake, but that he and other guests were told that there was no structural damage.
The exact number of people at the Bayram Hotel was not known, but dozens are believed to be trapped, authorities said. CNN-Turk television reported that a number of people were also waiting at an office of an inter-city bus firm under the hotel when the quake hit.
The government dispatched hundreds of rescue teams from across the country aboard military and civilian planes, NTV television said. Schools in the region are closed until Dec. 5. Authorities said schools and hospitals will be closely inspected for damage.
The Turkish Red Crescent immediately dispatched 15,000 tents as well as some 300 rescue workers, the state-run TRT television said. There was no damage in the town of Edremit, the quake's epicenter.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.7 and that its epicenter was 16 kilometers (9 miles) south of Van. It struck at 9:23 p.m. (1923 GMT, 2:23 p.m. EST).