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IRAN: Europeans call for action against Islamic Republic for jamming of international satellites

March 18, 2010 |  3:54 pm

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British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French and German counterparts think it's high time for Europe to step up measures against Iran for its alleged jamming of foreign channels such as BBC Persian and Deutsche Welle, which are broadcast by satellite into the Islamic Republic.

"Iran has been regularly jamming the broadcasting by satellite of a number of foreign televisions and radio stations . . . since December 2009, a repetition of its practice in the run-up to the disputed elections earlier that year," Miliband, along with counterparts Bernard Kouchner of France and Guido Westerwelle of Germany wrote in a recent letter to the EU's foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton.

"The objective was clearly to prevent the people of Iran from freely exercising their right to information," read the letter. "We cannot remain silent. It seems to us to be essential that the European Union should make known in the strongest possible terms its condemnation of such unacceptable actions."

The three powers suggest that a declaration condemning Iran for its alleged electronic interference be adopted at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, scheduled to be held in Brussels on Monday. 

Aside from condemnation and demanding that Iranian authorities stop tampering with international satellites, the ministers call for a number of other actions, including figuring out how to un-jam the blocked satellites and pulling the plug on exports of technologies the Iranian authorities are believed to use for censorship purposes.

The French daily Le Figaro reported that potential sanctions could include stopping companies such as Germany's Siemens or Finland's Nokia from delivering technologies to Tehran that allow the interception of cellphone and e-mail conversations.

On Tuesday, Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi blasted Nokia Siemens Networks, a subsidiary of Siemens and Nokia, saying the company supplied Iran with software used to suppress dissent in the Islamic Republic.

"Unfortunately, a certain number of firms support the Iranian regime in its repression and censorship," Agence France-Presse quoted her as saying on France Culture radio. "It's clearly the case with Siemens and Nokia when they send the Iranian state software and technology that it can use to monitor mobile telephone calls and text messages," she said.

Another suggestion is to boot Iranian programs from Eutelsat, the leading French satellite operator which is said to have been specifically affected by the Iranian jamming. Eutelsat carries more than 70 foreign radio and TV programs, including some from the Iranian government.

"Another measure of retaliation would be to request that Eutelsat blocks in response to the interference of Iran in international channels, IRIB's programs (Iranian state television), which it oversees the distribution of in Europe" a diplomat familiar with the matter told Le Figaro.

Iran's Arabic-language channel, Al-Alam, and the English-language Press TV, would be affected, Le Figaro's report said.

The jamming violates the principles of the International Union of Telecommunications, to which Iran is a party.

Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo:British Foreign Secretary David Miliband is one of three EU foreign ministers who want the EU to step up its measures against Iran for allegedly jamming international satellites. Credit: Derek Blair/AFP/Getty Images

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