Sunday, August 22, 2010


The Resolve of Ariel Sigler

Sunday, August 22, 2010
A must-read story in The Palm Beach Post:

Former Cuban freedom fighter now confined to wheelchair
There's a stranger in the photograph that friends have placed in Ariel Sigler's hospital room.

The muscles in the stranger's shoulders merge with the ones in his neck, and his chest swells through a plain white T-shirt. His eyes are bright, energetic. He looks like a human fighting machine, a man who once was a heavyweight national boxing champion in Cuba.

The man in the hospital bed at Jackson Memorial has deep inkwells for eye sockets, like a man who hasn't seen the sun for years. His sallow skin stretches tight over the bones in his face like a fist through a plastic bag. And it's impossible to reconcile that these two images — the vibrant boxer and the frail, newly released political prisoner — are the same man.

"He was a tronco, a tree trunk of a man," a new friend and Cuban-American blogger, Valentin Prieto, says later.

Cuba trained Ariel Sigler to fight. He learned discipline, endurance, and how to take a punch. But Sigler also learned to think on his own, and that's when the trouble started [...]

It was this resolve that led him to another dissident's house on the morning of March 18, 2003, to witness the secret inauguration of a private library, a collection of contraband such as the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the complete works of Cuban patriot Jose Marti.

Police arrested Sigler that day. He waited 39 days in jail before he was arraigned, tried and convicted of treason — all in the same day. They gave him 20 years in prison. Labeled a traitor of ideas, he was housed alongside rapists and murderers. His first cell, where he spent a year and a half, was a 7-by-5-foot cage with a hole in the concrete floor for a toilet.

He was awakened at night by rats racing across his lap, roaches tickling his face. For 10 minutes a day, he had running water with which to bathe and drink and rinse the rags he had for clothes. He was fed an unwavering diet of rice and a gruel nicknamed patipanza, which literally means "feet and belly," consisting of leftover animal parts, pig eyes and snouts complete with tough, stray hairs.

"Living in one of Castro's jails is a living hell, befitting something less than a human being," he said.

S: Capitol Hill Cubans

Havana Times on the luxurious apartments built in Havana for high-ranking officers of the Cuban Army and the Ministry of the Interior (State Security) contrast sharply with housing units constructed barely a few miles away in the capital’s community of San Agustin.
In the last couple of weeks there has been an increase in the intensity of repression by the MININT (Ministry of Interior) in the eastern zone of the island, especially against young members of dissident group, Eastern Democratic Alliance (Alianza Democrática Oriental). [Martí Noticias]

August 22, 2010

More power to the people, columnist urges

In a direct but cautiously worded analysis, a columnist for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde outlines what needs to be done to reverse, or at least slow down, the Cuban economy's decline.
To José Alejandro Rodríguez, "unless Cuba works with zeal and (fot) intelligence, it may not emerge from the black hole of inertia, which mixes dogmas, errors and design insufficiencies in the socialist economy we planned."
"There is talk about our incapacities, and especially about the people who do not work; also about the many who have held their jobs despite the multiple disincentives in these years of crisis," Rodríguez writes. "Appeals to the work ethic proliferate, along with questions about 'sloth on the island of Cuba,' but the situation [...] does point to root problems in the economic model."
The basic problem, as the writer sees it, is that "pursuing the dream of 'full employment,'" Cuba has fostered "an inefficient use of its main resource – human capital.
"For a long time now, where two or three sleepy workers suffice, seven sleepy workers labor. And now, our economy is entering a labor restructuring that [...] will involve drastic cuts in the state payrolls, exceeding one million workers."
The problem won't be solved with only "unilateral cutbacks" or "a centralized administrative fiat," Rodríguez contends. Also needed is "an opening of self-employment, family employment, cooperative employment, leasings and other non-state economic modes that can absorb the surplus" of jobless people.
Private or semiprivate enterprise "will ease the state's burdens and pressures while promoting creativity and personal initiative, without so many hindrances." But beware "under-the-table corruption," Rodríguez warns.
One important caveat: "The downsizing of state payrolls [...] will not bring about the miracle of productivity and efficiency [...] if we don't subvert the traditional, highly centralized economic model that binds with disincentives the hands of entrepreneurs and collectives when making decisions on the production, distribution and ownership of the goods."
Protecting the labor force "involves decentralizing many functions, and stimulating the results of the economic body that supports the country – the workers, the collectives and their chiefs – so property may be truly social and is not alienated as 'state-owned,'" Rodríguez says.
And to stimulate the workers, "the nation could turn to the Socialist Distribution Act and consolidate the results-based wage system," which rewards workers according to their output.
The article is noteworthy because it is blunt. Ten months ago, Rodríguez wrote a similarly blunt column in Juventud Rebelde criticizing the government's iron-fisted management of news. It was expunged within days. (See our Oct. 17, 2009 blog item "A Cuban reporter's frustrations boil over.")
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.
Posted by Renato Perez at 04:58 PM in Economy & Trade, Media
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August 21, 2010

Don't ease travel ban; end it, paper says

From an editorial Sunday in The Louisville Courier-Journal.The (pic1) Obama administration seems poised to announce the easing of some restrictions on Americans who wish to visit, study in or even do business with Cuba. This would particularly apply to academic and cultural groups and institutions. If this pans out, it would be a good and long overdue development, even if it won't play well with some Cuban Americans, especially in Florida, where anti-Castro sentiment remains strong and politically charged. [...]
Actually, a new approach ought to be to eliminate travel restrictions, not simply moderate them. Americans are permitted to travel to most other totalitarian and undeveloped countries around the world. The Cuban embargo reflects a failed effort to dislodge Fidel Castro's regime and pandering to Florida voters who oppose any relaxation in U.S.-Cuban relations. [...]
The Cold War is over. Cuba's government is a threat to no one, except perhaps its own people. It's time to move on.
To read the entire editorial, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 09:53 PM in Travel, U.S.-Cuba relations
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S: Cuban Colada

Zapata 's mother said she could leave the house after the cessation of harassment...

Havana , Aug 22 ( EFE ) .- Reina Luisa Tamayo , mother of the deceased opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, today confirmed that he could attend Mass and visit the grave of her son without causing harassment against him by authorities and supporters of the Government, as had happened in previous days.
Reina Luis Tamayo said in a telephone interview with Efe from the eastern town of Banes , where he lives , which accompanied by seven women and one granddaughter could go " up to the church and bring flowers "to the grave of his son Orlando Zapata , who died Feb. 23 following a hunger strike for 85 days to demand better prison conditions for prisoners.
The cessation of the harassment that occurs after the Catholic Church on the island has brokered with the Government to cease this harassment , as reported by dissidents Damas de Blanco (family members of 75 opposition figures convicted in the spring of 2003).
Today, in Havana , Laura Pollan , leader of the Ladies in White held this Sunday Queen " has not been suppressed or received abuse and harassment, " told reporters after attending Mass and making progress with that demand the release of prisoners.
Pollán thanked " all governments, NGOs, the Catholic Church and all people of goodwill who have made possible through the cessation of the harassment complaint against Queen. "
He also said that at the meeting held by a representative of the White Ladies Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega on Friday he confirmed that the process of releases of political prisoners in the group of 75 "will continue as has been done up now. "
"He (Cardinal ) raised us to be the release of all in a period of three to four months , so we are almost half ( of the 52 who remained in prison ) and are off Cuba half (26 ) "said Pollan .
However, the female group leader Cardinal Ortega said he had not much details about when they start to follow the remaining will be released or when those who have decided to stay in Cuba and not travel to Spain or another country once released .
"We assume that prisoners who want to stay (on the island ) are leaving for the end to see if any changes of opinion, as happened already with some "he said.
The commitment of the release is the result of dialogue between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church on the island and the government of Raul Castro, who has been supported by Spain, and provides four months of release all political prisoners of the Group of remaining 75 opponents in prison.
As has been happening since 12 July have been released only prisoners who agree to leave immediately to Spain with his family , after being consulted about the Church.
Pollan took the opportunity to refute versions according to which the "Ladies in White " could disappear , saying " not true " and that they will be in the streets calling for the release of political prisoners while there is one in Cuban jails .
A member of the so called "Ladies of Support "to the female group , Sara Marta Fonseca , reported that on Monday, 16 was arrested along with four opponents when they made a protest on the steps of the University of Havana.
According to Fonseca , she and one of his companions were freed hours later but still in a police station Labrador Luis Enrique Diaz , Eduardo Perez and Michel Rodriguez Flores Ruiz , who were initially accused of public disorder.
For its part , Berta Soler , a member of the team that won the " Sakharov "2005 European Parliament , insisted in pointing out that the Ladies in White " are not divided "or are "political" , but " human rights defenders " and freedom .

Iowa delegation split over easing travel to Cuba

Posted on Aug 22, 2010 by Admin.
Iowa’s senators are at odds over President Barack Obama’s expected move to allow more Americans to travel to Cuba.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, thinks opening the door to more American travel to Cuba is a great idea.
‘I am encouraged by the current discussion at the White House to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, and … I am hopeful that the embargo will be lifted entirely,’ Harkin said.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, does not think it is time to change U.S. policy toward Cuba.
‘Travel restrictions shouldn’t be eased until Cuba holds free elections and releases all political prisoners,’ he said.
Currently, only Cuban Americans visiting family and certain other Americans, including journalists, religious leaders and government officials, can legally travel to Cuba. Most wouldbe travelers must apply for a license from the Treasury Department to spend money on travel to Cuba, which is otherwise considered a violation of the embargo.
Obama is expected to soon announce changes to U.S. policy so that more Americans can travel to Cuba and those who qualify will have an easier time getting Treasury Department permission.
That would probably result in thousands of new American visitors to the island, but not represent a sweeping change in U.S. policy. Any substantive lifting of the embargo would require congressional action.
After Obama moved last year to increase Cuban American travel and remittances to the island, Grassley called the initiative ‘a mistake’ in light of Cuba’s totalitarian system.
‘Until we get Cuba to move, I think we’ll be played for a sucker,’ Grassley said.
Grassley is one of several Iowa lawmakers, including Republican Rep.
Steve King and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, who have received campaign money from the Hialeah, Fla.-based U. S- Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee.
The PAC, which gave $5,000 to Grassley this year, was created by Cuban Americans who oppose any easing of the 49-year-old economic embargo on Cuba.
‘Senator Grassley has always been very supportive of conditioning changes in the embargo to an end of human rights violations in Cuba,’ said Mauricio Claver-Carone, who runs the PAC.
But Claver-Carone called Harkin’s support of Obama’s expected policy change, and of an end to all restrictions on U.S.
travel to Cuba, ‘nonsensical.’ ‘It’s all based on agricultural pressure, not good foreign policy’ he said.
Iowa farmers scored a victory when Congress voted in 1999 to allow the sale of U.S. food and agricultural products into Cuba, opening a new market.
Now the nation’s farm interests are promoting the bill that would end the travel ban.
‘U.S. tourism in Cuba will boost demand for American (farm) products,’ said Darrin Ihnen, president of the National Corn Growers Association in written testimony to the House Agriculture Committee.
Ihnen said Cuba was the 10th largest importer of U.S.-grown corn in 2008-2009.
Harkin is a co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would eliminate all barriers to American travel to Cuba, and make it easier for the Cuban government to purchase U.S. farm products. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, is a sponsor of a similar bill in the House.
By Ana Radelat, Capitol News Connection


`Facts' about Cuba often not easy to ferret out

Reporting and writing on Cuba under the Castro brothers is like The Perils of Pauline. Dangers abound. Make a mistake, and the train might run you over.
The basic challenge is that information is often unreliable and sources are hard to find.
In the past two weeks, the damsel in distress has been Juan Tamayo, who, if not quite grizzled, is about as veteran a reporter as you will find from the days when reporters were mostly scuffed-shoe males.
In two major front-page articles in The Herald and El Nuevo Herald, he reported on the divisions between Fidel and Raúl Castro in one and, in the other, about apparent plans in the Obama administration to lift some travel restrictions to the island.
Careful readers will note that the articles rely largely on sources who are either unnamed in Washington or once-removed from decision makers in Havana.
For some information, Tamayo went swimming in the turbulent waters of the Cuban exile community, where there are many informed experts, and also many axes to grind, too.
Can we trust the articles? The question takes on particular weight because The Herald is the country's leading mainstream media source on Cuba, and both stories dealt with major matters.
Here is the top of one: A clearly revived Fidel Castro marks his 84th birthday Friday, officially out of government yet holding veto power over brother Raúl's plans for economic reforms and hopes for improved U.S. relations.
That much is pretty certain, said analysts in Cuba and abroad who have watched Fidel make a dozen unusually public appearances after a near-fatal health crisis in 2006 that forced him out of the limelight.
What remains less clear is the balance of power between Fidel and Raúl, amid reports of tensions between the brothers and hints that the succession from the older to the younger Castro is far from settled.
Here is the beginning of the other: The Obama administration will soon ease some restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba and other sanctions following Havana's promise to free political prisoners, according to people close to the administration.
Two people told El Nuevo Herald on Friday the decision has been made and will be announced in the next two weeks. Another said he has heard the reports but cautioned they could be trial balloons.
Who are these ``analysts in Cuba and abroad'' who know about the mysterious power relations between Fidel and Raúl? Quite possibly, only the two brothers know.
Tamayo named five sources. One was Vladimiro Roca, a dissident in Havana itself and son of a founder of the Cuban Communist Party. The report cited statements by Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega to The Washington Post, plus an unnamed ``Cuba analyst who asked for anonymity to protect his sources'' about what the cardinal told U.S. officials in a recent visit to Washington.
Armando F. Mastrapa, a blogger on Cuba's political-military affairs, was quoted. So was Domingo Amuchastegui, a former foreign policy analyst with Cuba's Interior Ministry now living in Miami. Norberto Fuentes, a former member of the Castro brothers' inner circle who now lives in Miami, was the last of the analysts.
I don't know any of them, and I suspect few readers do either. We are asked to take Tamayo at his word that these named sources -- and one unnamed one -- have reliable, informed insights.
The American democratic government is more open than the Cuban dictatorship, yet Tamayo used all unnamed sources for the Washington revelation. He wrote, moreover, that the sources were ``close to the administration,'' not even in it. He added: ``All asked for anonymity because they did not want to be seen as preempting a White House announcement.''
Tamayo did get an administration statement, from Mike Hammer, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, but it neither confirmed nor denied Tamayo's information. Tamayo also got a number of on-the-record responses from political and other leaders. His exclusive story later was copied by other news outlets.
We will know in a few weeks if the administration will indeed ease travel restrictions to Cuba. Tamayo was careful to pass on the caution from one source who said some of the information might be a ``trial balloon'' to test what the political reaction might be.
We may not know about the relation between the elderly Castro brothers until after they die, if then.
But we as readers want to know what we can now. The Castro government usually refuses to allow Herald reporters into the country, and so they regularly sneak in.
Tamayo told me that he has been covering Cuba off and on since 1978. He said that every day, concerning Cuba, he reads some five to 10 unsolicited reports, a half dozen blogs, Granma, Juventud Rebelde and mainstream news sources. He has built up a string of sources he trusts in both countries. He said he is careful to vet that they are not simply circulating rumors among themselves. Tamayo said that he sat on some of the information concerning the brothers for months until he got enough corroboration.
``Cuba is one of most opaque countries in the world,'' Tamayo said, but ``the Straits of Florida are not an insurmountable barrier.''
``There is much more of a flow of information than one imagines,'' he said. ``Are my sources always right? Probably not, but at least you get a sense of what is being talked about in the country.''
Tamayo, who has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Herald, is now a reporter at El Nuevo Herald whose work appears in both papers.
``We have always strived for on-the-record sourcing,'' Manny Garcia, executive editor of El Nuevo, told me. ``We know it's a matter of credibility. There are certain beats -- in this case Cuba -- where getting people on the record on the island is harder. The same holds true with the long-standing battle of the Beltway to get D.C. sources to speak for the record.''
Garcia said that reporters and editors are extra cautious on Cuba stories because Herald readers analyze them ``line by line.''
``The advantage we have is that Juan has decades of experience dealing with these thorny stories,'' Garcia said. ``He reports to City Editor Andres Reynaldo, who also is a Cubanologist so to speak, as are our desk editors.''
This will get me in trouble with the journalism establishment and some readers, but I think that Tamayo and The Herald bent over further than needed to explain their use of anonymous sources. It doesn't help me to know that some unnamed source didn't want to upstage the White House, for example.
Such explanations have become de rigueur in recent years as a way to build trust with readers, but they are as formulaic as the old ``sources say.''
The Herald is right to avoid anonymous sources, but I trust Tamayo's stories because he tells me what he doesn't know as much as what he does, with an evident sense of honesty, deep information and intelligence that leads me to trust him.
Some gurus says that the future of the news business is one in which reporters, not companies, will be brands. These two stories support that possibility.
The Miami Herald

U.S. ready to welcome Cuban dissidents

El canciller español, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, y un sacerdote
The release of prisoners took place through the mediation of the Cuban Catholic Church and the Spanish government .
The Secretary of State , Hillary Clinton , said in a telephone conversation with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos , the willingness of U.S. to welcome Cuban dissidents.
The U.S. government would be ready "within the regulations " to receive those Cuban dissidents released through the mediation of the Catholic Church and the Spanish government to express their voluntary desire to live in that country.
Clinton made the remarks in the context of a conversation in which he congratulated the Spanish executive for their efforts "in the process of fostering the dialogue between the Church and the government of Cuba " that resulted in the commitment of the release of 52 dissidents arrested the so-called Black Spring of 2003 .
So far 26 of those 52 prisoners have been released and were initially transferred to Spain , once there , decide their fate.
click Read : Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

U.S. Destination

One of these 26 convicts, Arturo Pérez de Alejo, announced his desire to travel to the United States and is awaiting final approval by the embassy of this country , as he informed the agency Europa Press.
This could be for some others who are still in prison who refused to travel to Spain and showed his desire to be transferred to the U.S. or to stay in Cuba.
The first dissidents arrived in Spain on 13 July and is expected to release the rest of remaining in prison is due within four months.
released alongside 26 members also traveled from his family and according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain to the dissidents a total of 150 people who have been accepted in that country.
click Read : The Cuban dissidents accused the Catholic Church
Special Traslate LPPNEWS Front Line

Orlando Zapata dissident died six months ago...

Orlando Zapata 's mother thanked the Church of Cuba at the end of official harassment

Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of former political prisoner Orlando Zapata, on Sunday welcomed the mediation of the Cuban Catholic Church put an end to harassment exercised against her government supporters since the death of his son six months ago, after a hunger strike 85 days.
Writing World - 08/22/2010
Reina Luisa Tamayo , mother of the late dissident Orlando Zapata
"I thank the world and the voice of the Cuban Church raised its voice for rejecting the harassment of the mother " Tamayo told AFP by telephone from the town of Banes, Holguín province (760 km northeast of Havana). So , has stated that "Today along with brothers opponents could go to the Church of Our Lady of Charity of Banes and then went to the cemetery to put flowers Zapata , without sieges . " God grant that this is the purpose of harassment, " cried the woman .

Tamayo complained that the Cuban authorities not allowed to go to church and the cemetery along with other dissidentsBut only with his family, and the government supporters harassed during the hikes regularly carried out in memory of his son , who died on 23 February.

The harassment of Tamayo was denounced by the Cuban opposition and organizations such as Amnesty International (AI ), which on Tuesday urged the Taiwan authorities to "act" to end the practice.

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega , leader of an unprecedented dialogue with President Raul Castro that led to the release of 27 political prisoners, received on Friday to four Damas de Blanco , relatives of the detainees and assured them he would do "everything" possible to that ended the harassment .

After attending Mass on Sunday in Santa Rita Church in Havana , the women's group leader Laura Pollan , told reporters that he had the news that Tamayo "had been " go to church and graveyard "Without being repressed and do not receive abuse or offenses. "

"We thank all Governments, all NGOs and the Church who have made possible the harassment has stopped , " Pollan said .
S: traslate LPPNEWS Front Line

US troops to return only if Iraqi forces fail

David Petraeus, Ray Odierno AP – FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2008, file photo Gen. David Petraeus congratulates Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who …

WASHINGTON – It would take "a complete failure" of the Iraqi security forces for the U.S. to resume combat operations there, the top American commander in Iraq said as the final U.S. fighting forces prepared to leave the country.
With a major military milestone in sight, Gen. Ray Odierno said in interviews broadcast Sunday that any resumption of combat duties by American forces is unlikely.
"We don't see that happening," Odierno said. The Iraqi security forces have been doing "so well for so long now that we really believe we're beyond that point."
President Barack Obama plans a major speech on Iraq after his return to Washington, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because details were being finalized. The speech will come shortly after Obama returns to the White House on Aug. 29 from his Martha's Vineyard vacation.
About 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011 to serve as a training and assistance force, a dramatic drawdown from the peak of more than 170,000 during the surge of American forces in 2007.
Obama will face a delicate balancing act in his speech between welcoming signs of progress and bringing an end to the 7-year-old war without prematurely declaring the mission accomplished, as former President George W. Bush once did.
U.S. involvement in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, Odierno said, probably would involve assisting the Iraqis secure their airspace and borders.
While Iraq forces can handle internal security and protect Iraqis, Odierno said he believes military commanders want to have the U.S. involved beyond 2011 to help Iraqis acquire the required equipment, training and technical capabilities.
He said Iraq's security forces have matured to the point where they will be ready to shoulder enough of the burden to permit the remaining 50,000 soldiers to go home at the end of next year.
If the Iraqis asked that American troops remain in the country after 2011, Odierno said U.S. officials would consider it, but that would be a policy decision made by the president and his national security advisers.
Odierno's assessment, while optimistic, also acknowledges the difficult road ahead for the Iraqis as they take control of their own security, even as political divisions threaten the formation of the fledgling democracy.
On Thursday, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division began crossing the border from Iraq into Kuwait, becoming the last combat brigade to leave Iraq. Its exodus, along with that of the approximately 2,000 remaining U.S. combat forces destined to leave in the coming days, fulfills Obama's pledge to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31.
In interviews with CBS' "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union," Odierno said it may take several years before America can determine if the war was a success.
"A strong democratic Iraq will bring stability to the Middle East, and if we see Iraq that's moving toward that, two, three, five years from now, I think we can call our operations a success," he said.
Much of that may hinge on whether Iraq's political leaders can overcome ethnic divisions and work toward a more unified government, while also enabling security forces to tamp down a simmering insurgency.
Iraq's political parties have been bickering for more than five months since the March parliamentary elections failed to produce a clear winner. They have yet to reach agreements on how to share power or whether to replace embattled Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and amid the political instability, other economic and governmental problems fester.
Fueling that instability is neighboring Iran which, Odierno said, continues to fund and train Shiite extremist groups.
"They don't want to see Iraq turn into a strong democratic country. They'd rather see it become a weak governmental institution," said Odierno.
He added that he is not worried that Iraq will fall back into a military dictatorship, as it was under the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Associated Press writer Erica Werner in Edgartown, Mass., contributed to this report.

Iran inaugurates nation's first unmanned bomber


TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday inaugurated the country's first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft, calling it an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.
The 4-meter-long drone aircraft can carry up to four cruise missiles and will have a range of 620 miles (1,000 kilometers), according to a state TV report — not far enough to reach archenemy Israel.
"The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship," said Ahmadinejad at the inauguration ceremony, which fell on the country's national day for its defense industries.
The goal of the aircraft, named Karrar or striker, is to "keep the enemy paralyzed in its bases," he said, adding that the aircraft is for deterrence and defensive purposes.
The president championed the country's military self-sufficiency program, and said it will continue "until the enemies of humanity lose hope of ever attacking the Iranian nation."
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo and now produces its own tanks, armored personnel carries, missiles and even a fighter plane.
Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
State TV later showed video footage of the plane taking off from a launching pad and reported that the craft traveled at speeds of 560 miles per hour (900 kilometers) and could alternatively be armed with two 250-pound bombs or a 450-pound guided bomb.
Iran has been producing its own light, unmanned surveillance aircraft since the late 1980s.
The ceremony came a day after Iran began to fuel its first nuclear power reactor, with the help of Russia, amid international concerns over the possibility of a military dimension to its nuclear program.
Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity.
Referring to Israel's occasional threats against Iran's nuclear facilities, Ahmadinejad called any attack unlikely, but he said if Israel did, the reaction would be overwhelming.
"The scope of Iran's reaction will include the entire the earth," said Ahmadinejad. "We also tell you — the West — that all options are on the table."
Ahmadinejad appeared to be consciously echoing the terminology used by the U.S. and Israel in their statements not ruling out a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities.
On Friday, Iran also test-fired a new liquid fuel surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, with advanced guidance systems.

Israeli PM: Peace 'difficult but possible'


JERUSALEM – Israel's prime minister spelled out his opening position for the new round of Mideast peace talks set to begin next week, insisting Sunday on key security conditions and saying an agreement would be "difficult but possible."
Netanyahu said a future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized, recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and respect Israel's vital security interests. Some of his demands have already been rejected by the Palestinians.
"We come to the talks with a genuine desire to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples, while protecting Israel's national interests, chiefly security," Netanyahu told his Cabinet.
His comments were his first since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that the sides would resume direct talks at a summit in Washington next week.
"Achieving a peace agreement between us and the Palestinian Authority is difficult but possible," he said.
"We are talking about a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state, and this state, if it is established at the end of the process ... is meant to end the conflict and not to be a foundation for its continuation by other means," Netanyahu said.
He did not elaborate on any additional security demands, but in the past he has said that Israel would have to maintain a presence along the West Bank's border with Jordan to prevent arms smuggling. The Palestinians, who claim all of the West Bank as part of their future state, reject any Israeli presence.
In addition, he said, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people just as Israel would recognize the Palestinian state as that of the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, but refuse to take a stand on the nature of the country. They say that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state could prejudice the rights of Israel's Arab minority and compromise the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes vacated in the fighting around Israel's establishment in 1948.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu's comments were "dictation, not negotiation."
"If he wants negotiations, he knows that these conditions won't stand," Erekat said.
The comments indicated just how much work lies ahead for President Barack Obama, who hopes to resolve one of the world's most intractable conflicts within a year.
The Western-backed Palestinian government in the West Bank, wary of engaging with Netanyahu's hard-line government, has resisted entering direct peace talks, which they fear won't be productive. Friday's announcement came after months of American diplomatic efforts to get the sides talking again.
The Palestinians want a commitment from Netanyahu that he will allow them to form a state that includes virtually all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Netanyahu has refused to signal whether he is prepared for a broad withdrawal from the West Bank, and has said that east Jerusalem must remain Israeli.
The new talks could also sharpen the differences in Netanyahu's fractious ruling coalition. Some analysts have suggested they could potentially force the prime minister to change its makeup to exclude some of the more hard-line members in favor of moderates like his rivals from the opposition Kadima party.
In a key test, an Israeli slowdown on settlement construction in the West Bank is set to expire next month, and some of the coalition's hawkish members have said the government's stability will be threatened if Israeli construction in the West Bank does not resume in full.
"If you start negotiations, unconditional negotiations, one cannot accept a condition that the freeze should continue," Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau of the hard-line Yisrael Beitenu said Sunday.
Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said that if the slowdown ends, Israel "will have closed the door to negotiation."
In the West Bank, papers greeted the new talks with pessimism. "Direct talks destined for failure before being launched because of Israeli hardening on continuation of settlement building," read a headline Sunday in the daily Al-Ayam, which is closely linked to the Palestinian government.
In Israel, the news of the renewal of peace talks was greeted with scant interest. One leading daily paper, Maariv, mentioned it Sunday only on page 10.
One commentator, Nahum Barnea of the daily Yediot Ahronot, wrote that after 17 years of peace talks interspersed with violence Israelis had little optimism left.
"We've seen that movie. We've seen it again and again and again. It is hard to believe that this time it is going to have a happy end," he wrote.