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Saberi's conviction is Iran's "bargaining chip" in relations with West

Statements by Michael Bauer

22.04.2009 · Trend News (Azerbaijan) / D. Ibrahimova

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American-Iranian Journalist Roxana Saberi's arrest and conviction is a "bargaining chip" of Iran in relations with the West, experts believe.

"Iran wants to use Saberi's arrest as another bargaining chip in the negotiations with the West," German Expert on Iran Michael Bauer told Trend News.

Saberi who worked as a journalist in Iran for 6 years was sentenced to 8-year imprisonment with charge of espionage at the closed juridical meeting in Tehran on April 18.

Several months ago, Saberi was arrested for buying wine in Tehran which was banned by the country's legislation. Then she was charged of being engaged in journalism activity without a license. Later she was charged with espionage. Saberi was sentenced due to this accusation.

The resolution caused anxiety of the West which urged to re-consider Roxana's suit. The European Union officially stated that the juridical process was not fair and transparent. In response to this, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad urged the juridical bodies to re-consider Saberi's suit. U.S. President Barack Obama, in turn, expressed his confidence that the journalist was not a spy.

Experts believe a reason for Saberi's arrest and "quick" juridical investigation was Iran's desire to use the case as "bargaining chip" in the relations with the Western countries.

The relations between the West and Iran are aggravated due to Tehran's nuclear development program. The United States and some European countries fear that Tehran is developing nuclear to make a weapon, while Iran insists on peaceful character of developing the program.

Examples for the similar "exchange" of prisoners make us think that Iran wants to use Saberi's case as an "element of bargaining", experts believe.

"I believe the arrest has "exchange" character as it was earlier," Head of the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders' Department on Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan Reza Moeni told Trend News in a telephone conversation.

American-Iranian journalists Hala Isfandiyari and Nazi Azimi were arrested with charged of espionage in 2008, Moeni said. Time of their release coincided with discharging several "sepahs" in Iraq which reminds exchange.

The day before Ahmadinejad appealed to the United States with a request to free five employees of the Embassy of Iran in Iraq, who were arrested by the United States on suspicion of supporting terrorism. His appeal was followed immediately after he ordered to reconsider the case of Saberi.

It could well be that Iran will amnesty Saberi sometime in the not too far future as a "gesture of its good-will" and to demonstrate its "good intension" etc, Bauer said.

Diplomatic contacts between the two countries have been absent for 30 years from the date of the seizure of U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian students.

Moeni said that nearly 200 journalists were arrested in Iran on suspicion of espionage, but the fault of the majority of them was not proved.

The allegations and the trail were lacking transparency, the sentence is very harsh, Bauer, fellow of Center for Applied Policy Research, told Trend News via e-mail.

However, he says that the sentence is not harsh enough yet to force the US and Obama to take back the offer to negotiate directly.

Barack Obama became the first President of the United States, who talked about the possibility of negotiating with Iran without preconditions.

However, American expert on Middle East Mark Katz sees other reasons for Saberi's accusation.

He says that her conviction is linked with the unwillingness of the Iranian establishment, holding hard-liners in Iran's politics, "to begin negotiations with the United States. Another reason of unwillingness to begin negotiations with the United States is the recent appeal of the President of Iran to the UNO with a request to protect from "Israeli threats".

Obama Administration is not going to allow the UN to take any action against Israel, Katz, professor of George Mason University, said. The Iranian government is well aware of this. This would negatively affect the negotiation process between the countries, the expert considers.

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