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Russia: Iran 'Obstinately Dodged' Nuke Questions

Judging by the reaction to recent meetings, Russia may be souring on Iran's nuclear program. After 'recent diplomatic contacts' between the two states, the head of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Russia's upper chamber of parliament, Mikhail Margelov said to the Russian InterFax news service that "[t]he Iranians obstinately dodged straightforward questions about their nuclear program."

Ilen Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council reports that the Russian lawmaker added, "From this and other signs I had a feeling that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon." Margelov believes that Iran will test its own nuclear device within five years.

Chavez To Sell Iran Gasoline

Describing what prepared posters and banners called the "axis of unity," Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez said in Iran that "The two countries will unite to defeat the imperialism of North America." During his visit, he and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the two anti-American governments will work together on joint petroleum facilities in Iran and dairy facilities in Venezuela.

Amid Iran's deepening domestic crisis centered around the Iranian government's inability to meet domestic demands for gasoline, Venezuelan energy minister Rafael Ramirez also announced that Venezuela will directly supply Iran with gasoline to help it meet growing demands that its diminished and decaying refining capability cannot meet. Ramirez said, "Yes, Iranians have asked to buy gasoline from us and we have accepted this demand."

Foreign Muslim Doctors Center of UK Investigation

British intelligence sources have told CBS News that they increasingly believe that al-Qaeda in Iraq was behind the recent attempted bombings in the UK.

The CBS Report detailed that "[al-Qaeda in Iraq commander] Al-Muhajir [aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri] was told to recruit young men who could easily move into Western countries, assimilate and lay low until the time came to attack. Britain has a fast-track visa program for medical students which makes it easier for them to enter the country."

British police have confirmed that several foreign-born Muslim doctors are at the center of the investigation, including a Palestinian and an Iraqi. In addition, Australian officials confirmed that "a foreign doctor working there had been detained" in connection with the UK plot.

Bloodshed At Islamabad's Red Mosque

One Pakistani paramilitary Ranger was killed by gunfire from inside the mosque in fighting at Lal Masjid, or the Red Mosque. While Islamabad's deputy commissioner Chaudhry Muhammad Ali said there was no plan to raid the mosque, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said that police were "provoked into retaliation'' by the students who started the gunfire. The Pakistani government forces fired teargas into the mosque and adjoining madrassa.

Considered a potential flash point for an Islamist uprising, the Musharraf government has been extremely hesitant to crack down on the pro-Taliban Islamist mosque that has been enforcing their own law on shops in the adjacent areas, particularly movie and music shop owners. But it is also reported that "Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, gave his tacit support for the [Musharraf] government to confront the Taliban." The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) opposition is "also said to have agreed with Musharraf during a National Security Council meeting on Monday that extremism should be confronted with 'iron hands'."

The recent 2,000-strong reinforcement around Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) may be part of the "iron hand" Musharraf has in mind, though his track record of confronting the Islamists leaves some observers wondering if his actions at Lal Masjid will match the language.

Update: Thus far on Tuesday (03July07), at least 9 have been killed in the Red Mosque confrontation, including two members of the Pakistani police and/or paramilitary rangers.

Note: Reuters has a good background resource sheet: FactBox - Pakistan's Red Mosque in standoff with government.

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