Reprinted from

Iranian Opposition to Hold Paris Confab

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Tuesday, June 5, 2007

 A broad cross-section of Iranian political activists and organizations plans to hold a loya jirga-style meeting in Paris to create a new "coordinating council" that could become the face of tomorrow's Iran.

 They are calling their movement "Solidarity Iran." And just like the Solidarity movement in Poland during the Soviet occupation, they are hoping to build broad popular and international support for the struggle of Iranian labor unions, women's groups, students' organizations, and ethnic minorities.

 "Solidarity Iran aims to bring together activists and organizations from across the political spectrum to build a bridge between groups working outside Iran and those working inside," Dr. Hossein Bagher Zadeh told NewsMax from London.

 It took nearly two years of intense and often frustrating political work before Zadeh and other conference organizers got to this point.

 During two earlier meetings in Berlin and London, they hammered out a common platform acceptable to Iranian opposition groups that range from supporters of the monarchy to Marxists and to former members of the Islamic regime.

 "Some groups can't accept the new political realities that requires reaching across party lines, and have said they will not come," said Zadeh. "But we are not closing the door."

 The U.S. government shut down its assistance to Iranian exile groups in 1995, after more than a decade that was dominated by often vicious political squabbling.

 When a "reformist" cleric, Mohammad Khatami, was elected president of the Islamic Republic in 1997, the State Department was hoping it would mark the end of Iran's radical days as the main supporter of Islamic terror around the world and the return of Iran to normalcy.

 Those dreams evaporated in July 1999, when Khatami ordered a brutal crackdown on student demonstrators at Tehran University who were demanding more freedom. Several students were thrown to their deaths from third-floor dormitory windows by paramilitary units.

 The creation of Solidarity Iran is not the first time that Iranian opposition groups have come together across party lines. But earlier attempts to create a broad-based coalition, dating back to 1997, all failed when one party tried to dominate the others. Others never quite reached critical mass.

 "We're saying to everybody who wants to come, ‘Check your politics at the door,'" one of the organizers told NewsMax. "Keep your political identity and your political philosophy, but stand together as we support the social and professional movements inside Iran. Stand together before world public opinion."

 Organizers in Holland, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States who spoke to NewsMax on background, say they expect more than two hundred delegates to the invitation-only conference, which will be held from June 15-17.

 Among the participants are well-known leftist activists, such as Kambiz Roosta and Dr. Hassan Massali, who opposed the former Shah and for years have been vilified by the monarchist camp.

 Sitting next to them will be conservative former monarchists such as Dr. Shahin Fatemi, or Dr. Cyrus Amouzegar, a former government minister under the shah.

 Also at the table will be Mohsen Sazegara, a confidant of ayatollah Khomeini who helped to found the dreaded Revolutionary Guards but who broke with the regime in the late 1980s and was jailed repeatedly and tortured because of his calls for change.

 "That is what Solidarity Iran is all about," one of the organizers said. "It's a new spirit of cooperation."

 A broad range of tribal associations have agreed to send representatives, and NewsMax has learned that several representatives of trade union and women's groups from inside Iran will also be coming to Paris. Their identities will be kept secret for reasons of security.

 "This is something we will be following with interest," a White House official engaged in formulating U.S. policy toward Iran told NewsMax. "If these are the leaders of Iran tomorrow, clearly these are people we will want to get to know."

 In a discreet nod in the direction of the conference organizers, Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, appealed to European nations last week to support the struggle for human rights and political freedom in Iran.

 Writing in the French daily Le Figaro, Pahlavi appealed to the Europeans to "engage in this third way, the least costly and the most beneficial, to resolve the Iranian crisis, which is the key to the regional crisis."

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