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Iran reawakens Arab Spring? Opposition calls for new protests

Iran's opposition Green Movement called for Iranians to take to the streets this month as the country marks the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran's Green Voice of Freedom reported.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Iran's opposition Green Movement called for Iranians to take to the streets this month as the country marks the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran's Green Voice of Freedom reported.

"Iranians are faced with one of the most difficult periods in their history," the Green Movement said in a statement according to the Voice of Freedom report. "The incompetence of statesmen has squandered and will continue to squander national resources and assets."

The statement called for protesters to gather on February 14, one year after Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi led demonstrations in support of the Arab Spring movement, the Voice of Freedom reported.

Iranian security forces cracked down on those protests and at least two people died, according to the report. Mousavi and Karroubi were placed under house arrest.

Earlier this week, the Iranian government organized a conference on "the Islamic Awakening" in an effort to rebrand the Arab Spring movement, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The government invited young activists from the Arab world for the conference, which apparently attempted to draw similarities between the uprisings of last year with Iran's revolution in 1979, the Times said.

However, no delegates were invited from Syria and a protester disrupted the conference by holding up a signed that read, "Syria?" It reportedly prompted shouts of support from the audience, as well as pro-Assad chants.

According to the Times, journalists were then barred from the conference.

Meanwhile on Friday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic would not yield to international pressure to abandon its nuclear course, threatening retaliation for sanctions aimed at Iran's oil exports.

"Threatening Iran and attacking Iran will harm America ... Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course ... In response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats to impose at the right time," Khamenei told worshippers in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"I have no fear of saying that we will back and help any nation or group that wants to confront and fight against the Zionist regime (Israel)."

Story: Panetta report fuels concerns that Israel will attack Iran

The news comes a day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there was a "strong likelihood" that Tel Aviv will launch an attack on Iran in April, May or June in an attempt to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Also Friday, state media reported that Iran successfully launched a new small satellite into orbit, the latest in the country's ambitious space program that has raised concerns because if its possible military applications.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called in to the launch site, saying he was "hopeful this act will send a signal of more friendship among all human beings," the state IRNA news agency reported.

IRNA said the home-made satellite, Navid, or Gospel, was designed to collect data on weather conditions and monitor for natural disasters.

It said the satellite weighs about 110 pounds and would orbit the earth at an altitude of up to 234 miles, circling the planet 15 times a day. It's of a type known as miniaturized or microsatellites, which are cheaper to produce and allow for less costly launch vehicles.

Four atomic bombs
On Thursday Israel estimated that Iran could make four atomic bombs by further enriching uranium it has already stockpiled, and could produce its first within a year of deciding to build one.

But in his rare public remarks, Major-General Aviv Kochavi, chief of military intelligence, held out the possibility stronger international sanctions might dissuade Tehran from pursuing a policy he had no doubt was aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Iranian denials.

Citing figures similar to those from the U.N. nuclear agency, Kochavi told Israel's annual Herzliya Conference on strategic affairs: "Iran has accumulated more than 4 tons of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and nearly 100 kilos at an enrichment level of 20 percent.

"This amount of material is already enough for four atomic bombs."

Nuclear bombs require uranium enriched to 90 percent, but Western experts say much of the effort required to get there is already achieved once it reaches 20-percent purity, shortening the time needed for any nuclear weapons "break-out."

One former U.N. inspector said last month Iran could have enough 20-percent uranium for one bomb - about 250 kg of the material - in about a year from now.

Tehran says it will use 20 percent-enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a research reactor making isotopes to treat cancer patients. Western officials say they doubt that the country has the technical capability to do that.