By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 24, 2009
TEHRAN, Aug. 23 -- Iranian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Sunday for a bill creating a $20 million fund intended in part to expose human rights violations by the United States, the ILNA news agency reported.
Passage of the bill suggests the depth of mistrust that remains between the nations as Iran faces a September deadline to respond to President Obama's offer for talks. Iranian lawmakers said the legislation was in retaliation for what they consider similar action by the United States.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill in July that would allocate $30 million for technologies to allow the U.S. government's Farsi-language satellite and radio stations to bypass Iranian government efforts to jam their broadcasts. An additional $20 million would be set aside for developing Web sites and other technologies that will improve Iranian access to censored information. An additional $5 million is authorized for documenting information about human rights in Iran.
Alaedin Boroujerdi, the head of the national security and foreign relations committee of Iran's parliament, called the fund for investigating alleged U.S. abuses "necessary."
"We must respond in kind to America's injustice and tyranny and the interference of this country against Iran," Boroujerdi said, according to Press TV. The lawmakers need to vote again on the bill within six months in order to finalize it.
If approved, the ministries of foreign affairs, intelligence, information technology and Islamic culture will decide how to spend the money. The $20 million will be withdrawn from Iran's Foreign Reserve Fund, where most of the nation's oil income is kept.
Iran has accused the United States of organizing a popular uprising against the nation's leaders in the aftermath of Iran's disputed June presidential election, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially won in a landslide but which the opposition claims was stolen. The United States denies it played a role in the uprising.
The passage of the bill comes as international controversy swirls over Ahmadinejad's decision to appoint as defense minister a man who is wanted by Interpol in connection with the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina in 1994. The attack killed 85 and wounded more than 300 others.
Iranian officials said that criticism of the selection of Ahmad Vahidi represents a "Zionist plot" to undermine the new Iranian administration, the state-owned English language channel Press TV reported on its Web site.
Vahidi is a member of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps and was acting deputy defense minister during Ahmadinejad's first term. Iran has strongly denied any involvement in the attack in Argentina and does not recognize Interpol search warrants for five of its citizens.
Also on Sunday, Iran's Revolutionary Guard forces killed 26 members of Iranian-Kurdish insurgent groups, said Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The groups operate mainly from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, and Iranian officials often accuse the United States of supporting them with weapons and money.