- - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IRAN

Defector applies for asylum in Norway

OSLO | An Iranian diplomat who quit his job in Belgium said Tuesday he will seek political asylum in Norway — the latest of three Iranian emissaries in Europe to defect this year over Tehran’s post-election crackdown.

Farzad Farhangian, who stepped down as press attache at the Iranian Embassy in Brussels, told reporters in Oslo that he wanted to “take a stand in support of the Iranian people and the [opposition] movement.”

Mr. Farhangian left his post Friday and flew to Norway, where he joined Mohammed Reza Heydari, a former Iranian diplomat in Oslo who defected in January and was granted asylum by Norway.

On Monday, the No. 2 man at Iran’s mission in Helsinki said he would apply for political asylum in Finland after resigning last week.

The defections follow last year’s presidential election in Iran, which resulted in large-scale protests and accusations that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won by fraud. Iranian security forces responded harshly, arresting numerous people.

Since the disputed vote, authorities have tried more than 100 activists and opposition members on security charges. More than 80 of them have been sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years, and 10 of them have been sentenced to death.

The crackdown has given impetus to opposition forces — including the Europe-based Green Wave movement, which works to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

SYRIA

U.S. envoy Mitchell to meet Assad

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt | U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell was due in Syria later this week for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The official told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Mitchell would have “consultations” with Mr. Assad after participating in negotiations in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank.

In the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday, Mr. Mitchell joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mrs. Clinton was due to hold similar talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday and then visit Mr. Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Thursday, the day she travels to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.

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