World News Brief, Thursday December 24

Montazeri death anniversary violence; Ahmadinejad support weak as it's ever been; no proof Iran close to having nuclear weapons; Chinese dissident's trial begins tomorrow; Mexican drug violence continues; Ford sells Volvo to China; and more

Top of the Agenda: Clashes over Montazeri's Death


Iranian security forces clashed (Reuters) with opposition supporters commemorating the death of dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, signaling escalating tension in Iran six months after the country's disputed presidential election.

The reformist website Jaras said many demonstrators were injured and arrests were made during clashes in the city of Isfahan, during a day of mourning for Montazeri, a fierce critic of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. Reformist website Parlemannews said at least fifty opposition backers, including four journalists, were arrested in Isfahan. Jaras also reported clashes in Najafabad, the city where Montazeri was born.

The BBC reports that the confrontations are part of a build-up to a big series of demonstrations expected over the weekend. Authorities have not yet confirmed the unrest in Isfahan, but the country's police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam told the semi-official Fars news agency that protests would not be tolerated.  "We advise this movement to end their activities," he said. "Otherwise those who violate the order will be fiercely confronted, based on the law."


A Washington Post editorial says Ahmadinejad's decision to defy the Obama administration's year-end deadline on nuclear negotiations is politically risky, since internal popular support is "as weak as ever."

In the Guardian, Norman Dombey says nothing in published intelligence documents shows Iran is close to having nuclear weapons.


A CFR Backgrounder examines Iran's nuclear program.

PACIFIC RIM: Chinese Dissident's Trial


The trial against prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo begins (NYT) Wednesday on accusations of subversion.

Japan: Japan set a May deadline (GlobalTimes) for resolving the dispute over relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa.


- Mexican drug violence continues.
- Russia resolves Turkmen gas dispute.
- Ford to sell Sweden's Volvo to China.

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