Political Barbs Welcome an Iranian Visiting France
January 15, 2004
The New York Times
PARIS -- With Iran embroiled in an internal political struggle, Hassan Rowhani, the head of that country's National Security Council, and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France clashed Thursday over the coming Iranian parliamentary elections and human rights.
Mr. Rowhani also criticized France's decision to press for a legal ban on the Islamic veil in public schools.
In blunt language unusual in diplomacy, Mr. de Villepin demanded that Iran's elections next month be free and fair and that people arrested for their political beliefs be released.
"We hope that a page will be definitively turned with the coming legislative elections," Mr. de Villepin said at a news conference after the two men met at the Foreign Ministry. He described them as "an important marker of democracy."
With parliamentary elections scheduled for Feb. 20, Iran is mired in one of the most serious political battles in the 25-year history of its Islamic Republic.
More than 60 members of Parliament began a sit-in on Sunday after the hard-line Guardian Council banned more than 3,000 potential candidates, including 80 of the current 290 members, from running. Most of the sitting lawmakers rejected were from the reformist camp, which won more than 70 percent of the seats four years ago.
In broadest terms, the confrontation reflects a brutal ideological and power struggle between conservatives, who preach adherence to a vision of an Islamic state in which order and security are the priority, and reformers who are determined to inject more freedom and openness into all aspects of political, social and economic life.
Coincidentally, the battle comes at a time of stock-taking in Iran as the country is poised to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its revolution next month. Twenty-five years ago on Thursday, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the country for Egypt. He never returned, and he died 18 months later.
Mr. Rowhani, who is on a three-day visit to France, strongly defended Iran's electoral process, saying, "In the course of the last 25 years, Iran has accumulated enough experience concerning the democratic process."
Without singling out France, he rejected what he called "the interference of any country in the internal affairs of our county."
He was specific, though, about criticism coming from Washington. "The United States never speaks uniquely out of its concern for the future of the Iranian people," Mr. Rowhani said. "It pursues its own interest and tries to show hostility toward the Iranian people."
He added, "The last American presidential elections, which took place in truly catastrophic and dramatic conditions, do not allow the United States to talk about elections in other countries."
On Monday the deputy State Department spokesman, J. Adam Ereli, called on Iran's government to disavow attempts by hard-liners to shape the outcome of the election.
As head of Iran's National Security Council, which is responsible for security, intelligence, military and strategic policies, Mr. Rowhani, a cleric, has emerged as one of the most influential political figures in Iran. He reports directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and the most powerful political figure in the country.
Mr. Rowhani negotiated an accord last October with Mr. de Villepin and his British and German counterparts that commits Iran to agree to more intrusive international inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency and a suspension of its activities to enrich uranium.
Mr. Rowhani insisted in his meeting with President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday and in the news conference on Thursday that Iran was respecting its agreements with the agency, despite strong suspicions that the country is continuing to assemble centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium.
Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday that the nuclear agency had "called on Iran to adhere to its pledge to suspend `all' all enrichment-related and reprocessing activity." He added that the United States would watch carefully to make sure that Iran complied.
Mr. Rowhani also defended Iran's human rights record, saying he had told Mr. de Villepin that there was "not one person in prison in Iran except when there is a judgment by a judge following a trial."
He turned the tables on his French host, accusing France of violating human rights by passing a law banning Muslim girls from wearing veils to school. "We hope that Muslims will be free to practice their religion," he said. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/16/international/middleeast/16IRAN.html
French shocked by program on Iran SMCCDI (Information Service) Jan 16, 2004
Millions of French were shocked, yesterday evening, by a program broadcasted on Iran. The program which was the famous "Forbidden Iran" was broadcasted by the governmental "Antenne 2" (A2) network and was seen by more than 20 millions. Tens of e.mails have been sent, in the first hours following this broadcast, to SMCCDI by expressing writers' anger of French Government's Policy in reference to Iran and the support of French citizens of the Iranian Resistants. One of these e.mails is stating: "fight , fight, for your freedoom and put an end to this horrible regime which by constantly violating the most basic human rights denies the existence of Allah and mankind.
I, as a french citizen ,how can i help you ??
Go ahead and remember this song of the french resistance during world war the second: IF YOU FALL, another will go out to fight.
Laurent". The program broadcasted by this French TV was the original 40 minutes documentary shown by the English "Channel 4" and not the 20 minutes censored program shown on the American PBS. The original program shows scenes of stonning and amputation processes along with interviews made with families of slained opponents, such as, the late Foroohars. The broadcast by the British "Channel 4" had already created anger among many British as was showing their Foreign Secretary as an ardent supporters of the mullahs oppressing Iran. Tens of e.mails were received as well following the broadcast. "Forbidden Iran" became possible due to the courage of "Jane Kokan" a maverick female reporter having traveled undercover to Iran. Aryo Pirouznia, speaking on behalf of SMCCDI, had expressed the Movement's deepest gratitudes, to Ms. Kokan and her team, during the reporter's interview on the Glen Mitchell Show broadcasted by the US National Public Radio (NPR) on January 7th. "Madam, we praise your courage for having accomplished what for many Iranians have died by trying to show the plight of the Iranian Nation to the World..." Pirouznia had said in part of program. http://www.daneshjoo.org/article/publish/article_3111.shtml