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Iranian Alert -- December 8, 2003 -- IRAN LIVE THREAD
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 12.8.2003 | DoctorZin

Posted on 12/08/2003 12:10:48 AM PST by DoctorZIn

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To: DoctorZIn


Hundreds of Iranian students celebrated the national Student Day on Sunday, calling for freedom of speech and the release of political prisoners.

Because the authorities had refused authorisation to organise demonstrations outside the universities and even in the open campuses, the students held their meetings inside auditoriums, preventing basiji students, the islamist vigilante who are on the payroll of the ruling conservatives from disturbing them, as they had done previously with Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace laureate for 2003.

The annual Student Day marks the death of three students during a protest at Tehran University against former U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to in 1970.

This year’s commemoration was named "Half a century of struggle against despotism".

Students have been at the forefront of protests against the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment in recent years, and a pillar of the surprise and landslide victory of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in both the May 1997 and his re-election in 2001.

But as Mr Khatami got closer to the ruling conservatives and the reformers who, thanks to the youngster’s votes, won the majority of the seats at the present Majles, or the Iranian Parliament, the students became more and more disillusioned.

For the second strait year, Mr. Khatami failed to show up at the ceremonies, bringing the divorce between him and the official reformists who support him to the point of no return, political analysts pointed out, as he offered a deft ear to the plight of hundreds of students arrested on orders from the Judiciary.

Under tight police security, protesters inside the Tehran University campus on Sunday carried pictures of their jailed classmates.

Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that police stopped thugs of the conservatives-controlled Ansar Hezbollah in plainclothes to attack students, but also prevented journalists and photographers to enter the universities.

"Also a lot of people tried hard to come to the University to check if anything would happen, something like the nightly demonstrations that took place last months when students, joined by local residents, would demonstrate against the regime, but were stopped by security forces", one Iranian journalist at the scene reported.

In protest to both Khatami and the reformists failing to stand firm to the conservatives stopping the application of the promised political, social and economic reforms, the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), the nation’s biggest student movement, withdrew its influential political support for Khatami and his allies.

According to political analysts, the bulk of the students would either refrain from voting in the forthcoming Majles elections, due next February, or if they do, they would not vote for the reformists, who faces a defeat similar of the one they suffered in the last February cities and villages elections.

''Reformists used our votes as a political tool and in return we got broken promises. They forgot us", Matin Meshkini, a student leader, told the British news agency "Reuters".

''Khatami and his allies will not receive our support due to Khatami's failure to use the opportunities to push the reforms ahead'', Meshkini said.

As the inside doors meetings and speeches ended, hundreds of students rallied outside universities doors, some chanting overt anti-regime slogans such as chanting slogans such as "Hashemi, Hashemi, Iran will not become Chili", referring to both Ayatollahs Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmood Hashemi Shahroodi, respectively hard line Heads of the Expediency Council and the Judiciary, or "Canons, Tanks, Basiji" would have no effects".

The students also denounced the attitude of the leader-controlled Radio and Television, shouting "The Voice and Visage of Larijani must be shut", referring to the openly biased policy adopted by Mr. Ali Larijani, the Head of the State-controlled public media, a former revolutionary guard who is also an adviser to the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.

In speeches at various universities, students denounced the violence of the pressure groups, including the so-called basiji students inside the universities, the regime’s injustices by dividing the society in the "khodi and na khodi" (those who are with the minority but ruling conservatives and the rest of the population), generalised corruption at the highest level of the theocratic system, free elections outside the control of the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians.

They also denounced the brutal behaviour of the authorities during the July 1999 students upraising that left several students killed and wounded and the arrest of hundred others on direct order of Mr. Khameneh’i and the approbation of Mr. Khatami.

21 posted on 12/08/2003 8:42:56 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran judge backs father in Belgian custody case

Mon 8 December, 2003 09:43

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian judge has cleared of any wrongdoing the father of two girls who have taken refuge in the Belgian embassy in Iran and want to return to their mother in Belgium, a newspaper reports.

Belgium has issued an international warrant for the arrest of Shahab Salami on charges of kidnapping for failing to return the girls to their mother after taking them on holiday to Greece in August.

Yasmine Pourhashemi, 15, and her six-year-old sister Sara went to the Belgium embassy in Tehran by taxi last Tuesday after eluding their father, who took them to Iran and stayed in the country after the holiday.

But the parents' divorce and the mother's custody rights granted by a Belgian court are not recognised in Iran. Nor does Iran recognise dual nationality.

"Iran's law does not consider either of the parents a kidnapper for taking the children even without informing the other one," criminal court judge Mohammad Erfan was quoted by the Etemad daily on Monday as saying.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said last Wednesday he had ordered the embassy to keep the girls until their case was resolved.

But the judge said the only solution would be to hand the girls back to their father.

He said that if the mother of the two girls had any complaints about custody of the girls she should pursue the case through the Iranian courts.

But the mother Zarah, who lives in the eastern Belgian city of Liege, has expressed concerns about travelling to Iran since, under Iranian law, she would then need her husband's permission to leave Iran.

The father told the Etemad newspaper he wanted the girls to remain in Iran.

"My daughters are Iranian and I have their custody and I want them here," he said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference on Sunday that Iranian and Belgium officials were discussing ways to find a solution to the problem.

"This is a legal, emotional and family matter and should not be politicised," he said.
22 posted on 12/08/2003 8:44:53 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
Iranian Laureate Praised in Oslo as Key to Reform
Mon December 8, 2003

(Reuters) - Norwegian politicians joined Iranian reformists in hailing Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi on her arrival in Oslo Monday to pick up the award, urging the world to open its eyes to human rights violations by Tehran.
Members of the Norwegian parliament said giving the 2003 prize to the Iranian lawyer for her work to promote children's and women's rights would help reinvigorate reformists in Iran, who under President Mohammad Khatami have struggled to overcome stiff resistance to change from powerful hardline clerics.

Ebadi was Iran's first female judge before the 1979 Islamic revolution forced her to step aside in favor of men and will be the first Muslim woman to win the prestigious award when she collects the $1.4 million prize at a ceremony Wednesday.

"The time has come to put some real pressure on the regime of Iran," Morten Hoglund of Norway's opposition Progress Party told a news conference.

"We need to help and support Shirin Ebadi in her struggle in the very difficult situation that she is in," Lars Rise of the ruling Christian People's Party told the news conference, hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled Iranian opposition group. "She is a great hero."

Ebadi, wearing no headscarf in unseasonally mild Oslo weather with temperatures just below freezing, smiled and waved to reporters at the Oslo airport, but did not make any comment before driving off in a black stretch limousine.

Perviz Khazai, Nordic representative of the NCRI, which is listed by Washington as a terrorist group, called for urgent international action in Iran and a referendum on power as a first step to wider democracy.

"There has never been a fair election in Iran. It has always been a choice between pest and cholera," Khazai said, accusing Khatami of showing a democratic face to the Western world while running a fundamentalist regime of lies and torture.

Ebadi, known for taking on legal cases no one else dares touch, has become a symbol of the fight for greater democracy and freedom in Iran, while conservative hard-liners label her a political stooge of the West.;jsessionid=TFKRJEAOC2JGYCRBAE0CFFA?type=worldNews&storyID=3956262
23 posted on 12/08/2003 10:42:23 AM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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To: DoctorZIn
I wrote a letter to the editors of this publication about the following article. A copy of my letter follows this post. -- DoctorZIn

Next Stop, Iran?

Don't these people ever learn?
by Alistair Millar

Is Iran next? Hasn't George Bush got enough to worry about in Iraq? Costs are escalating, troops are dying. Iraqi civilians are still deprived of their most basic needs, and the U.N. is relegated to the sidelines. Senior military officials and experts from both parties are increasingly vocal in their criticism of the administration. According to Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy, the invasion and occupation of Iraq "is one of the most ill-advised and reckless actions that the U.S. government has ever taken."

Nonetheless, hawks in the Bush administration are undaunted. They have waited for years to execute their strategy to "secure the realm" and reshape the Middle East. For them Iraq is just the first act.

Echoing charges that were used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has openly said he supports a policy of regime change in Tehran, saying that Iran is harboring al Qaeda members and developing nuclear weapons. At the same time the administration is limiting its diplomatic options by shutting down its back-channel communication with senior Iranian officials. U.S. officials are reported to have met on May 27 to discuss possible efforts to overthrow the government in Tehran.

America has had enough trouble building international political, financial, and military support for the war on—and occupation of—Iraq. A campaign against Iran will further isolate America. Even the U.K. government—which supports engagement with Iranian reformers and whose public is still extremely skeptical of claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction sufficient to justify war—has said they will not support a U.S.-led campaign against Iran.

The conservative magazine The Weekly Standard has opined that we must now "take the fight to Iran." The Project for the New American Century, which boasts its affiliation with many key administration officials, wrote an open letter to Bush just after 9-11. The letter strongly urged the president to pursue a "war on terror," invade Afghanistan, alienate Yasir Arafat, attack Iraq, and target Iran. While it does not seem politically, militarily, or economically feasible now, Tehran is still on the to-do list and may well be next if Bush is re-elected.

This sends the worst possible message to Iranians and will ruin the prospects for internal reform. Pro-reformists in Iran have been clear that if the Americans are belligerent, it will help the conservatives to rally the Iranian people behind them. It may encourage Iran to learn from the Iraqi regime's fate and take a cue from North Korea: Your only option for survival is to build a bomb as soon as you can. As David Albright, a former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in September: "You can end up driving Iran into a corner and causing it to embark on a crash nuclear program out of fear."

THERE IS NO doubt that uncertainties about Iran's nuclear program are a cause for concern. Iran is not being fully transparent about all of its nuclear activities and has not complied with previous IAEA requests to freeze its uranium enrichment program. The IAEA has just passed a unanimous resolution calling on Iran to provide a "full declaration" of its nuclear program, to open all nuclear sites for inspection, and to agree to environmental testing in advance of an IAEA meeting scheduled for November. There is a real danger that Iran could decide to drop out of a dialogue with the multilateral atomic agency and respond negatively to pressure generated by neocons from the United States.

To prevent that from happening, U.S. policy should take a more nuanced approach with Iran. America must reduce risks and ensure that several key objectives are met. U.S. policy must prevent weapons proliferation, increase cooperation in the campaign against terrorism, and encourage Iran's evolution toward a more democratic society. Iran is presently caught in an internal tug-of-war between a pro-reform, democratically elected government and a conservative, anti-American clergy that wields significant political power. The United States should design its policies in ways that strengthen the hand of reform constituencies and take a regional approach toward the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction across the Middle East.

Steps toward engagement should be taken and linked to reciprocal gestures of cooperation from Iran, such as acceptance of the IAEA resolution and concrete steps toward implementation of U.N. counterterrorism mandates. Over the past 20 years, incentives have been used to successfully encourage other emergent and existing nuclear weapons powers to forswear the bomb, making the world a much safer place. Increased dialogue and cooperation with Iran will increase understanding on both sides and create a basis for a gradual improvement in political relations and enhanced security on both sides. We don't have to look far to see how the option of regime change by force is working.

Alistair Millar is vice president and director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Fourth Freedom Forum, an independent research organization that works on global security issues.
24 posted on 12/08/2003 1:11:03 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Letter to the Editor:

The author of your recent article on Iran is uninformed, misinformed or deliberately attempting to mislead your readers.

I could write an entire article on the many problems in his report but please permit me to briefly focus on why Christians should support regime change in Iran.

Your author made the statement, "Iran is presently caught in an internal tug-of-war between a pro-reform, democratically elected government and a conservative, anti-American clergy that wields significant political power."

What he fails to tell your readers is in fact it is no longer a tug of war between two groups. The vast majority of Iranians do not support either the so-called reformist or conservative movements. This can be clearly seen by any careful observer of the events in Iran. In their last election the people of Iran chose not to participate in the election (approximately 10% of potential voters participated in their last elections in Tehran).

The reason for their lack participation in the elections is due to their belief that it would only legitimize an illegitimate government. They do not have free elections. All candidates must first be vetted by the ruling hard line conservatives. So the people of Iran do not have a real choice in selecting their leaders. They want that choice.

The vast majority of Iranians want a true democracy. They are angry that thousands of their journalists and students are imprisoned for seeking real change in their government.

The Iranian government is a cruel and dangerous regime and all those who care for human rights must not stand silent as these brave men and women suffer under such a regime.

The negotiations the author of your article supports is opposed by the majority of Iranians. Instead they plead with America to halt all such negotiations and provide moral support (not military) in their struggle.

The people of Iran understand that if the world community stands with them against the regime and stops all financial support for it, it will crumble and the people may finally have an opportunity to experience the freedoms we take for granted.

We need to support these efforts not undercut them. The article you published reflects the position of the Iranian regime that is attempting to crush its opposition. Please rethink your position.

I host a small website "Americans for Regime Change in Iran." It provides all the major news on Iran on a daily basis and regularly includes statements from students inside of Iran. It is hosted on a conservative website because they support our concerns, but we attract readers from a broad spectrum of political ideologies. Join us and learn what is really going on in Iran and how you can help.
25 posted on 12/08/2003 1:13:32 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Wonderful work, Doc!
26 posted on 12/08/2003 2:06:04 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iraq Signs Deal To Buy Iranian Kerosene, LPG

December 08, 2003
Dow Jones Newswires
Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD -- Iraq has signed an agreement for Iran to supply Baghdad with thousands of metric tons of kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas to alleviate the country's severe shortages caused by sabotage and power cuts, Iraq's local newspapers reported over the weekend.

The official al-Sabah newspaper said Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum reached the agreement with Iranian officials to supply Baghdad with oil products during his visit to the country in the third week of November.

"The agreement states that Iran will supply Iraq with 10,000 tons of kerosene a month from December this year," the newspaper said, quoting an Iraqi oil official.

Tehran would also start supplying up to 12,000 tons of LPG a month to address the shortage of cooking gas, the paper added.

The LPG and kerosene that Baghdad has already paid for in cash according to international oil prices would be shipped from Iran to Iraq by sea.

Sabotage, power cuts and wear and tear of power stations and refineries have all contributed to the acute shortages of kerosene, LPG and gasoline that Iraq is now experiencing.

Long lines at Baghdad's petrol stations have again reappeared three months after Iraq's oil ministry managed to solve the problem following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq eight months ago.

The oil ministry said production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene dropped to 20 million liters a day after the war, from 30 million liters a day before the war.

The oil ministry is also looking at importing these oil products from neighboring Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The paper also said officials from Iraq and Iran had discussed the possibility of Iraqi crude oil swaps with Iran of up to 700,000 barrels a day. Iraq's Basra Light crude would be sent to Iranian refineries in exchange for the Iranians supplying the same amount of its oil to buyers through its Kharq Island terminal in the Persian Gulf.

The paper didn't say when the swaps deal was likely to be agreed or implemented.

-By Hassan Hafidh, Dow Jones Newswires; +88216 218 03061;
27 posted on 12/08/2003 4:28:36 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Solana to be Asked to Visit Iran

December 08, 2003
Andrew Beatty

BRUSSELS -- The head of EU diplomacy, Javier Solana is expected to be asked today (8 December) to travel to Iran early next year, in a bid to further the EU’s engagement with the Islamic republic.

Although discussions are ongoing, diplomatic sources have told the EUobserver that members are agreed on the need to send a "positive signal to Tehran" and are set to ask Mr Solana to make an official visit.

The move comes after last month’s announcement from the Iranian authorities to sign up to tougher inspections of its nuclear facilities, after months of negotiation.

Despite that breakthrough, EU Member states are expected to stop short of calling for the resumption of formal, political economic and trade talks, which were earlier suspended because of fears over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

"We need to make sure we keep room for manoeuvre", said one EU source.

Europe’s capitals are keen to keep up the pressure on Iran to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency’s rules they have signed up to.
28 posted on 12/08/2003 4:29:21 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
US Renews Call for Iran to Turn Over al-Qaeda Members

December 08, 2003
Yahoo News

WASHINGTON -- The United States renewed calls for Iran to turn over al-Qaeda operatives on its territory but denied suggestions it might exchange Iraqi-based Iranian opposition figures to Tehran in return for members of Osama bin Laden's terror network.

"We believe Iran should turn over all suspected al-Qaeda operatives to the United States or to countries of origin or third countries for further interrogation and trial," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"It's essential that other countries have direct access to information these people may have about past and future al-Qaeda plans," he told reporters.

"We acknowledge that Iran has in the years past turned over some al-Qaeda to third countries, however, we're not aware of any progress with regard to al-Qaeda currently in detention, whom we suspect includes top al-Qaeda leadership," Boucher said.

His comments came in a response to questions about a weekend report that Jordan's King Abdullah II was quietly trying to broker a deal between the United States and Iran in which in Iran would surrender the al-Qaeda in exchange for US action on members of the Iranian group People's Mujahadin.

US troops in Iraq are currently interrogating members of the group, which is also known as the Mujahadin-e-Khalq and has been designated a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department, to determine whether to take legal action against them, Boucher said.

But he stressed that "the United States is not engaged in discussions regarding a swap of Mujahadin-e-Khalq members held by US forces in Iraq in return for al-Qaeda members held in Iran.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Jordanian monarch, who was in Washington last week on a private visit, is trying to revive a dialogue between the United States and Iran in a bid to prevent further destablization in the Middle East.

Iran has acknowledged holding a number of suspected al-Qaeda militants, including top leaders, but has refused to identify them and has ruled out handing them over to the United States.

Diplomats and Arab press reports have said they include bin Laden's son, Saad, al-Qaeda's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Gaith, and its numbers two and three, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Saif al-Adel.
29 posted on 12/08/2003 4:30:05 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Much to do Before Extent of Iran Nuclear Program is known

December 08, 2003
Yahoo News

STOCKHOLM -- Iran has been cooperative in disclosing information about its nuclear programme but more needs to be done before there is certainty about the full scale of its activities, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog said.

"I'm satisfied by the degree of cooperation we have seen from Iran for six weeks or so," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohamed El Baradei told reporters in Stockholm on the sidelines of a conference on nuclear waste management Monday.

"But I very much hope that this will be sustained because we still have a lot of work to do," he stressed.

The IAEA two weeks ago condemned Iran for 18 years of covert nuclear activities but stopped short of bowing to US demands of hauling Tehran in front of the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Tehran recently agreed to sign, in the "next couple of weeks", an additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NTP) that would authorise snap inspections of Iran's nuclear activities.

El Baradei is due to file a report in February on the full scale of Iran's nuclear activities, for which Iran has pledged to supply all information required by the IAEA.
30 posted on 12/08/2003 4:30:44 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Ebadi in Oslo to Receive Nobel Peace Prize

December 08, 2003

OSLO -- Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi arrived Monday in Oslo where she will officially receive the Nobel Peace Prize later this week, making her the first Muslim woman to win the prestigious award.

Ebadi, 56, who was chosen for her democracy-building efforts and her work to improve human rights in Iran, will receive the prize from chairman of the Nobel Committee Ole Mjoes at a formal ceremony on Wednesday at 1:30 pm (12:30 in Oslo's City Hall.

King Harald V of Norway, who is usually present at the ceremony, sent his excuses this time, as he was scheduled to undergo surgery for a bladder cancer on Monday.

But Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Regent Haakon Magnus, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit will attend the ceremony.

The peace prize committee's decisions are often controversial and while Ebadi enjoys wide support worldwide, the award has drawn fire from hardliners in Iran who have criticized Ebadi and even sent her death threats for what they perceive to be her Western and secular attitudes and behavior.

At the risk of enraging her critics further, Ebadi said on Sunday that she will attend Wednesday's ceremony without a headscarf, which is mandatory according to her country's laws for Iranian women even when they travel abroad.

"I will not be wearing the hejab," Ebadi told AFP in an interview. "My actions have always irritated some people, but that is not important."

"I want Iranian women to be free to wear or not to wear the hejab," she said, but added that she is just as opposed to moves in secularist France to ban the veil from schools.

Hours before her arrival in Oslo, Ebadi received support from the controversial National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in her struggle for the rights of women, children and dissidents.

"We hope that this Nobel Peace Prize will help the human rights situation in Iran (...) in the whole Middle East and, to a certain extent, in the Islamic world," Perviz Khazai, a NCRI representative in northern Europe said at a press conference in Oslo.

The NCRI, which is the political arm of the People's Mujaheddin Organization, the largest armed movement opposed to the Iranian regime, figures on a United States list of terrorist organizations, but not on the European Union's list.

Asked whether the organization's support may actually work against Ebadi, who is already facing harsh criticism from Iran, Khazai said: "We have to do our best in order to support this move by the Norwegian Nobel Committee because it is a historical chance for the Iranian people."

Khazai, who was the Iranian Ambassador to Sweden and Norway before defecting in 1982, insisted that the democratic reforms initiated by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami are only "cosmetic changes."

The Iranian regime has a "very, very peculiar interpretation of Islam," he said. "It's apartheid between men and women. It's apartheid between civilization and a medieval interpretation of Islam."

In Norway, the discussion over whether or not it is right to maintain economic ties to a country with so little respect for human rights has raged for a long time.

Christian Democrat Lars Rise, a member of the Norwegian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, has led the attack on public oil company Statoil, which has long been active in Iran, and which has recently been accused of trying to bribe its way to landing more business in the country.

"We cannot accept that a Norwegian state oil company does business with this regime, unless Iran starts to respect human rights, minority rights, women's rights, and the rule of law," he said.

Ebadi will probably be asked to comment on these issues at a press conference at the Nobel Institute in Oslo on Tuesday.

The human rights advocate is the third Muslim and the 11th woman to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

The prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal, and a check for 10 million Swedish kronor (about 1.4 million dollars, 1.1 million euros).

At a separate ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday, the winners of the Literature, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics prizes will receive their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm's Concert Hall.

That ceremony will be followed by a gala banquet for 1,300 guests at Stockholm's City Hall.
31 posted on 12/08/2003 4:31:30 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn

By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor

PARIS, 8 Dec. (IPS)

As the seventh legislative elections of the Islamic Republic approach, it appears that the leaders of the reformist bloc express certainty that the conservative-controlled monitoring mechanisms would reject most of the reformist candidates and this despite the majority of the reformist bloc shows more interest in taking an active part in the elections, scheduled for next February.

The announcement by the Office for the Consolidation of Unity (OCU), Iranian students largest organisation calling for changes in the present system that it would not support the reformists and has withdrawn from the front that backs the lamed President Mohammad Khatami in the next Majles elections, most political analysts express "fears" to see the reformists suffering a "crushing" defeat, similar the one they suffered in the past cities and villages councils last February.

The OCU played and instrumental role in the victory of Hojjatoleslam Khatami in the May 1997 election and his re-election four years later, as well in the victory of the reformists in the sixth Majles, but it decided to separate itself from the reformist wing of the clerical-led leadership after Mr. Khatami got closer to the conservatives, suffering an abysmal fall in the eyes of the majority of the young voters.

The divorce between the great majorities of students with both Mr. Khatami and the official reformists reached the point of non return after the President failed to show up at the ceremonies marking the national Student Day, ceremonies that were held inside closed-doors auditoriums in universities because of the authorities refusing to grant them permission to hold open meetings.

Nevertheless, the OCU has so far avoided calling upon citizens and students in particular to boycott the elections, while it is confident that the students, along with many more millions of citizens, will choose not to cast their ballots.

The leaders of the movement issued a call to hold a referendum on the future of the Islamic republic, and also Iran political organizations which in recent years have joined the ranks of the opposition (such as the Iran Democratic Front), are starting to voice their support of the boycott.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the President who is the leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) and vice-Speaker of the Majles, said that even though the reformists had had enough of the conservatives acts of repression, five thousand IIPF activists in 250 local offices across the country would put the difficult task of encouraging the citizens to come to the polls by the masses at the top of their concerns in the months left before the elections.

In an interview granted to the influential German news weekly "Der Spiegel", the younger Khatami said there is no stopping the momentum of the reforms, but the reformists "like a wise cat caught in a dead end" must exercise subtle manipulations in order to avoid falling into the "lap of the anarchists on the one hand, and not to become pawns in the hands of the tyrants on the other".

He asserted that most of the reformist-bloc candidates would not be able to run for the elections, as the leader-controlled Council of Guardians, the body that vets all candidates to all elections in the Islamic Republic, would screen them out.

"We have no intention to hide the fact that we, reformists, have miserably failed our supporters. We realise that the people and the millions of younger Iranians in particular are not happy with the results of our activities during the past seven years, and we also know that as a result of the gloomy atmosphere that has taken over millions of citizens, thousands of legitimate voters will choose not to exercise their franchise and will, in fact, vote with their feet", the Baztab news website that belongs to Mr. Mohsen Reza’i, the former Commander of the Revolutionary Guards and present Secretary to the conservatives-controlled Expediency Council quoted Mr. Khatami as having admitted.

For his part, Mr. Sa’id Hajjarian, considered as "the architect" of Mr. Khatami’s landslide victory in the 1997 elections warned the conservatives that their anticipated landslide victory in the coming elections would prove to be a most severe blow to the international image of the Islamic republic.

In an interview with the independent Iranian students news agency ISNA, Mr. Hajjarian, confined to a wheel chair and having difficulties speaking as a result of an assassination attempt on his life four years ago, explained that clearly, the world is aware that the elections in Iran are held under the watching eye of the conservative establishments, and thus, "should the conservatives win the elections, not a single person in the world will be able to accept the results as legitimate; therefore, any laws passed the next Majles (under conservative control) will not be acknowledged by any international bodies. As a result, the international criticism of the Islamic Republic will escalate and the Iranian relations with European countries will continue to deteriorate".

Hajjarian categorically rejected the conservative’s claim that voting is a religious and social duty that the citizens must fulfil, and said that it is "a right, not a duty".

"It is entirely up to the citizens to choose whether to exercise this right or not. The citizens must not be forced or intimidated", he observed.

Hajjarian compared the parliamentary elections to a funeral people choose to take part in and said that the body is left lying on the ground and nobody wants to bury it. He warned that if the people lose their faith in the reformists too, Iranian society might succumb to anarchy.

Hajjarian estimated that most residents of Tehran, Esfahan, Tabriz and other major cities will boycott the elections but fifty percent of the population in rural areas may come to the polls after all.

"However, there is no doubt that the outcome of the elections will be determined in the big cities, just as the uprisings in Tehran, Esfahan and Tabriz sealed the fate of the Shah’s rule during the revolution", he added.

Iran Democratic Front (IDF), led by Mr. Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, a former founder of the OCU who has been held in solitary confinement at Evin prison for the past five months, also supported the call for boycott of the elections.

"In order to convey to the ruling tyrants the clear message that the people want to see the existing regime in the garbage can of history, is necessary for the Iranian people to boycott the elections", IDF said in a recent statement on 21 November.

According to Mr. Tabarzadi, one of the first dissidents calling for national referendum aimed at changing the regime, not only President Khatami and the reformist bloc have failed to uphold their promised reforms, but "any citizen who expresses criticism of the regime is held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time and is denied fundamental rights, and even his family suffers from constant harassment".

Chairman of the students association at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, Mehdi Habibi, who was recently released from prison, also expressed his confidence that the students would not take part in the elections and said that it’s not the fixed game of the elections that the people care about.

"What people are concerned with is the problems of freedom, fundamental rights and democracy", he said, adding that after the turbulent times the students movement has seen these past several years, the movement has held in-depth discussions and has come to the unequivocal conclusion that it has to distance itself from the game the two regime factions are playing.

"This is why the movement does not present candidates and does not participate in the elections in any way whatsoever", Mr. Habibi told the independent Iranian Labour news agency ILNA two weeks ago.

In his opinion, changing the regime and shifting the reigns of power from the reformists to the conservatives or the Imam’s followers and the like is not a solution for the difficult problems that plague the country.

"Only a referendum can tip the scales. A referendum is the only way we can understand whether the Iranian people want this regime to carry on or not", he added, reiterating that the Constitution must be amended.

As long as the fundamental obstacles stipulated by the constitution exist, Mr. Habibi told ILNA, "no fundamental problem would be solved"

He severely criticised the reformists, observing that to defend themselves, the reformists make a weak claim by saying that if they were not able to realise the people’s will, at least they’ve done no harm. "This claim is quite ridiculous. The Iranian people are smart enough to understand that the Majles hasn’t passed a single substantial bill", he pointed out.

Therefore, the people have come to the conclusion that since the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council dictate the laws anyhow, there is no point in having the Majles around. Habibi, whose case in Tehran’s revolutionary court is still pending, said that students, like millions of other citizens in this country, will not take part in the elections.

"Even if the reformists held all 290 seats of the Majlis, none of the bills the majority of the people want to see approved would be passed since the Council of Guardians will never ratify the bills", another reformist Member of the Majles (MM) observed, referring to the fact that all laws passed by the Majles must be approved by the Guardians for their strict conformity with Islamic Canons.

"Common sense and logic dictate that we stay out of this game. Our call for a referendum is not only the significant issues, but the continued existence of the Islamic republic as well that must be put to question", he concluded.

The talkback columns in Tehran’s reformist newspapers are full of calls to boycott the elections. The readers say that there is no justification to bring the people to the polls once again, since the reformists, both in the parliament and in the government, have been a severe disappointment to the people and have even betrayed the people’s trust.

Reformist MM and former leader of the OCU, Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mousavi-Kho’einiha has gone even further in his criticism of the forthcoming parliament elections and publicly said that the biggest problem the Islamic Republic faces is the unlimited power held by the leader (Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i).

"Since the major branches of the regime operates under the control of a the single person of the Leader of the regime, that person stands in the way of any fundamental development and meaningful change", he noted, adding: "when the very person who stands at the pinnacle of the regime’s power opposes real change, what is the point in holding parliament elections?"

His view was confirmed by dissident Grand Ayatollah Hoseynali Montazeri, Iran’s and Shi’a Muslims senior religious authority, telling recently the Washington Post that there is no justification that a single person decides how 70 million citizens need to run their lives. "In today’s world, there is no longer room for tyrannical rule. Eventually, autocracy is bound to crumble and leave the arena "sooner or later".

In an interview granted to the editor-in-chief of the "Washington Post" who recently visited the city of Qom, considered as the "cradle of Shi’a militantism", Ayatollah Montazeri reiterated his criticism over the way the regime is run, as he has been doing for the past six years, unleashing fierce criticism at the way Ayatollah Khameneh'i rules the country.

Mr. Montazeri was placed under house arrest six years ago on orders of Mr. Khameneh'i, not tolerating the criticism had had made openly about the lavish life-style of the leader and the way he conducts the nation’s affairs, both on domestic and international fronts.

In the interview, Montazeri repeatedly stressed that the Islamic rule has forsaken the path of right and forgotten all promises made to the people during the revolution. He said that any person who expresses criticism finds himself behind bars.

"Those who hold the reigns of power even claim that there is not a single political prisoner in Iran! I ask the following, then: consider, among others, Abbas Abdi, Dr. Hashem Aqajari, Hojjatoleslam Hasan Yusefi Eshkevari. Are they criminals or murderers who need to be held in prison lastingly? The Constitution states that trials on political grounds should be transparent, held in the presence of jury while maintaining the rights of the defendants. Is this unequivocal directive being carried out in practice?", he observed.

A critic of the President’s lack of determination in face of the conservatives, Ayatollah Montazeri said the people are so exhausted and desperate that they do not want to bother themselves at all and called indirectly upon the Iranian people to stand up for their "legitimate rights".

Nevertheless, he expressed his hope that the Iranian people can overcome their despair and realise their civil, social and religious duty. He also said that we still hope that the leaders of the regime will be wise enough to come to their senses "before it is too late".

It should be noted that although the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) published the complete interview, all Iranian newspapers, including those who support the reforms, preferred to ignore the interview, presumably out of fear of being closed down.

In order to dissuade people, hard liners have instructed the pressure groups they control to disrupt systematically rallies, conferences and meetings organised by the reformers, accusing them of playing in the hands of enemies of Islam and the Islamic revolution.

In a a speech given to the demonstrators in Qom, Hojjatoleslam Ahmad Panahian strongly condemned the reformists and said that those who lay claim to the throne of reforms in Iran are "nothing but pathetic individuals who will stop at nothing to get their names mentioned in the Radio Israel news edition in Persian".

As a result, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the nation’s largest political organisation was forced to call off its election rallies.

Former Vice-President Ata’ollah Mohajerani cancelled his visit to Qom out of fear of fuelling the passions among the hardliners. The office of Naser Shirzad, the reformist deputy from the the central city of Esfahan had been ransacked and Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee at the Majles was beaten and injured in Yazd, the hometown of President Khatami.

Meanwhile, the conservative faction continues to apply significant efforts toward preparing for the elections. According to a reliable source who granted an interview to Tehran’s Baztab website, the loyalists of the revolution and the followers of Imam Khomeini are actively engaged in the formation of a broad coalition with the intention of winning most of the seats in the parliament. He says that the coalition will include 18 factions, all of which oppose Khatami’s government.


32 posted on 12/08/2003 4:35:12 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
As with Oslo and Wye, the Geneva hallucination will fail.

Terrorist Palestinians are unchanged and must first be defeated militarily.

Any "accord" acceptable to Arafat, Annan and Carter is a nonstarter.

33 posted on 12/08/2003 5:50:05 PM PST by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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To: DoctorZIn
Ebadi and Khazi wouldn't ever team up, would they?

The reason why I ask is it seems to me that Ebadi wants to work with the reform movement. And that causes me concern.

The baby needs to be thrown out with the bathwater, in Iran, to put it mildly.
34 posted on 12/08/2003 7:35:19 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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To: DoctorZIn
Tourists held for ransom in Iran

Dan De Luce in Tehran and Luke Harding in Berlin
December 9, 2003
The Guardian

Three European tourists have been kidnapped in a southeastern province of Iran plagued by rampant drug smuggling, western and Iranian officials said yesterday.
Two Germans and an Irish citizen were on a cycling trip in the Sistan-Baluchistan province when they were abducted, a western official who asked not to be named told the Guardian.

"They were cycling between Bam and Zahedan [near the Pakistani border]," the official said. It appeared the kidnappers had no political motive and were seeking a large ransom for the release of the tourists, the official added. Iranian policeconfirmed the abduction to news agencies.

The hostages were apparently taken by the same bandit groups that kidnapped three Spanish and an Italian tourist in 1999. The hostages were later released unharmed. Last night an Iranian official said that the group Schiruk was demanding a €5m (£3.5m) ransom. Germany's foreign ministry yesterday confirmed that several foreigners had been kidnapped. Antje Leendertse, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said there were no further details but the ministry had set up a special task force in the case.

Kidnapping is rare in Iran but the impoverished Baluchistan region is notorious for heavily armed drug gangs that ferry vast quantities of heroin from Pakistan and Afghan istan into Iran and on to Europe.

Tehran has struggled to contain the drug-smuggling trade, deploying thousands of military and police forces to the area. In the past eight months, 28 smugglers and 17 border guards have died in gun battles in the eastern region. In an attempt to keep the smugglers out, authorities have dug a network of trenches, concrete walls and sand barriers along the border.

During and after the US-led war in Afghanistan, members of the al-Qaida network fled to Iran and were suspected of exploiting the drug smuggling networks to move without being detected.,12858,1102905,00.html
35 posted on 12/08/2003 10:53:24 PM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: DoctorZIn
This thread is now closed.

Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

36 posted on 12/09/2003 12:38:24 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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