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Iranian Alert -- February 18, 2004 -- IRAN LIVE THREAD --Americans for Regime Change in Iran
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 2.18.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 02/18/2004 12:01:11 AM PST by DoctorZIn

The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, “this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year.” But most American’s are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.

There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. Starting June 10th of this year, Iranians have begun taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy. Many even want the US to over throw their government.

The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.

In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.

This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.

I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.

If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.

If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iaea; iran; iranianalert; iranquake; protests; southasia; studentmovement; studentprotest
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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”

1 posted on 02/18/2004 12:01:12 AM PST by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
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”

2 posted on 02/18/2004 12:05:19 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Woman joins Iran ballot

By Borzou Daragahi
18th Feb 2004

TEHRAN — Homa Nasseri will be a rarity in Friday's parliamentary election — a reform-minded woman who has been granted permission by the hard-line Council of Guardians to run for office.
Like thousands of other candidates, Miss Nasseri was originally barred from running by the council, an appointed body of clerics and jurists who vet all political candidates and laws.
But she appealed the ruling, prompting a representative from the council to come to her neighborhood and ask about her.
"They had strange questions," she said. "They wanted to know whether I prayed and whether I dressed modestly."
Apparently satisfied with what it learned, the council reversed its ruling and Miss Nasseri joined with seven other candidates who visit mosques, civic associations and studentgroups under the banner of the Independent Reformists.
There will be few others like them on the ballot Friday. Hundreds of reform candidates — including many current members of parliament — have withdrawn their names to protest the banning of like-minded politicians.
More than 100 of the reformist lawmakers yesterday put their names on an extraordinary protest letter accusing the nation's spiritual leader of rigging the election in support of hard-liners.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is generally considered above criticism in the theocratic state, has allowed freedoms to be "trampled," said the letter.
Numerous political groups have called for a boycott of the vote, suggesting the turnout will be far lower than in past elections. Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, announced yesterday that she will not vote.
Nevertheless, political campaign posters dot the streets of Tehran and ads have begun filling newspapers, many adopting the same secular, good-government themes promoted by the reformists.
"Honesty with people, confidence in the youth, management by professionals, social welfare," reads one ad for a political party.
And at a tiny mosque on a narrow side street in south Tehran, a crowd of about 50 potential voters waited one recent evening to meet Miss Nasseri, a well-spoken, unemployed doctor who has dabbled in journalism and social science.
"We're living in a country that has so many resources," she said after arriving an hour late, her grass-roots political campaign stymied by Tehran's nightmarish traffic congestion.
"We, the people of Iran, have a special history and a special culture that separates us from other nations. But we also have special needs."
Her reasonably polished stump speech touches upon all of Iran's contemporary social worries — inflation, unemployment, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and AIDS.
"I'm an unemployed doctor, and you're an employed worker," she says. "There's no difference."
Miss Nasseri has spent about $700 on her striking campaign posters, one of which shows her wearing a red rose on her black head scarf — a sly wink at those disillusioned with the morbid tones of Iran's ruling clerics.
"There are other candidates spending $60,000 or $120,000," she said. "There's a big difference between those on top and those on the bottom."
Another poster shows her smiling broadly in front of a map of Iran and next to a globe of the world. "I wanted to convey joy with my posters," she said.
Each sign includes her Web site (, designed by her tech-savvy sister, and her e-mail address, as well as the slogan, "Peace, human rights, democracy."
She says her phone rings constantly with curious voters such as Ali Moeni, a 27-year-old taxi driver and community activist who has plastered his rickety car with her posters and says he'll devote his week to campaigning for her.
Mr. Moeni said he spends his mornings on a dusty soccer field coaching disadvantaged youngsters. "If we could get a real field for them, all of this would be worth it."
3 posted on 02/18/2004 12:11:32 AM PST by F14 Pilot (Either you are with us or you are with the REGIME)
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To: DoctorZIn
Lawmakers Reprove Iran Leader

Open Letter Boldly Accuses Khamenei of Sanctioning 'Sham' Elections

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service [Excerpt]
Wednesday, February 18, 2004; Page A15

TEHRAN, Feb. 17 -- Outgoing Iranian lawmakers made a bold, direct challenge to the country's supreme leader Tuesday, issuing a tartly worded open letter accusing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of leading "a system in which legitimate freedoms and the rights of the people are being trampled on in the name of Islam."

The six-page letter was released to foreign journalists in the parliament lobby, where scores of reformist incumbents held daily sit-ins for more than three weeks protesting mass disqualifications of candidates for the legislative election set for Friday.

The letter makes clear that the banned lawmakers regard Khamenei, who holds the title of supreme leader of the revolution, as responsible for this Friday's "sham" election, which was technically engineered by the Guardian Council, a supervisory body whose 12 members were appointed directly and indirectly by Khamenei. The council also has the power to veto legislation.

"Institutions under your supervision, after four years of humiliating the elected parliament and thwarting bills and restricting the legislature, have now, on the verge of the parliamentary elections, deprived the people of the most basic right the right to choose and be chosen," the letter said.

"Do the members of the Guardian Council dare to resist your orders? Or is it that, as rumors say, despite your public statements, they were permitted by you to disqualify these people illegally and widely?"

The letter appeared to challenge the ban on criticizing the supreme leader, who under Iran's theocratic system is regarded as responsible only to God. The unique structure was established for Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic grand ayatollah who led the 1979 Islamic revolution. The lawmakers accused Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini in 1989 but holds a lesser clerical rank, of "petrified thinking." The letter was not reported by state-run media, whose editors have been scolded for covering the election controversy. Editors at an independent newspaper preparing to publish excerpts grimly predicted their own arrest or closure of the paper. Judges have closed more then 40 newspapers in recent years under a press law passed the last time conservatives controlled parliament.
4 posted on 02/18/2004 12:12:57 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
An Election Nobody Will Win

NYTimes Editorial
Published: February 18, 2004

ASHINGTON — It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict that Iran's ruling mullahs will be victorious in the parliamentary elections scheduled for Friday. After all, to protest the disqualification of thousands of candidates by the government's all-powerful Guardian Council, more than a third of Parliament has resigned and rival parties have vowed to boycott the voting. Still, no matter how many seats the clerical establishment gains, it will be a Pyrrhic victory — the regime is going to be far more vulnerable to the growing dissatisfaction of the Iranian public and less legitimate to the rest of the world.

This is not to say the official opposition will gain much, either. Seven years after Mohammad Khatami won the presidency on pledges of reform, few Iranians have any illusions about substantial changes under the current system. Everything that has played out in recent weeks — the three-week-long sit-in in Parliament by 80 disqualified incumbents, the widespread resignations of government officials, the Interior Ministry's refusal to organize the unfair elections — got lots of international press coverage, but it did little to reverse the Iranian public's widespread apathy about politics.

Average Iranians know that all this political wrangling is not really about their fundamental rights to free speech and representative government. Rather, it is an internal power play between the hard-liners and the reformists over who gets a bigger share of power in the current system.

In fact, Mr. Khatami's reformist rhetoric, with its sprinkling of quotations from Voltaire and Tocqueville, has done more to provide cover for European trade with Tehran than to improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. The public hangings, amputations, floggings of women and crackdowns on dissidents continue. According to the state-run news media, since the beginning of the year at least 31 people have been hanged. According to human-rights groups, economic misery, bureaucratic corruption, drug addiction and prostitution continue to rise.

The mullahcracy is so loathed that fewer than 10 percent of the electorate turned out for municipal elections last year — even though the vote was organized by President Khatami's forces. The electoral process is a self-serving practice where all candidates must declare allegiance to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Thus it was no surprise that despite an earlier pledge not to permit an unfair election this month, Mr. Khatami eventually capitulated to Ayatollah Khamenei and is allowing Friday's charade to go ahead.

In the end, it matters little whether the pro-Khatami candidates are on the ballot or not. As the Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said at a gathering of some 5,000 Iranian-Americans last month, "There is no question where the power lies in Iran today — it isn't through the electoral process, it isn't through those people who stand for elections, it's with a handful of self-appointed dictators."

There is only one way to change the situation: a United Nations-supervised referendum on regime change. Leading Iranian exiles including Maryam Rajavi have long called for such a measure, and there are now clear indicators that the Iranian people would welcome it. A government survey last year found that 45 percent of respondents wanted the political system totally changed, even if it involved foreign intervention. (And if nearly half of Iranians were willing to say this to official pollsters, you can imagine how strong the anti-mullah sentiment really is.) Last June, tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to demand a nationwide referendum on regime change.

Of course, a referendum is anathema to the mullahs, who know that given the opportunity, millions in Iran would vote them out of office. That's why 4,000 of those protesters were arrested and, according to Amnesty International, many have yet to be released.

Unfortunately, the United States has sent mixed signals to Tehran. While President Bush has been unequivocal in encouraging the democracy movement, the State Department has pushed hard for negotiating with the mullahs. The department arranged a travel waiver for Iran's United Nations envoy — who is usually confined to a 25-mile circle around New York City because of a lack of diplomatic relations between the countries — to fly to Washington in January to meet with a bipartisan Congressional delegation. It has endorsed sending a Congressional delegation to Tehran on the 25th anniversary of the clerics' rise to power. (The department has even classified the Iranian National Council of Resistance, an exile group of which I am a former official, as a "terrorist organization.")

To believe that the United States can do business with tyrants in Tehran is counterproductive. Not only would a new effort at diplomacy give the mullahs a shot in the arm precisely when they face growing popular opposition, but it would signal that America is willing to negotiate with a regime that uses terror at home and abroad.

The so-called reform movement is a spent force. Millions of average Iranians have shown courage in calling for the only thing that can bring about true reform: a referendum for regime change. Washington would do well to embrace that call.

Ali Safavi is president of Near East Policy Research, a consulting and policy analysis firm.
5 posted on 02/18/2004 12:24:29 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Rejected Iran Reformer Protests in Tehran

Associated Press Writer
February 16, 2004, 12:46 PM EST

MASHHAD, Iran -- Four times he's submitted his name as a candidate for Iran's parliament. Four times the watchdogs of the Islamic establishment have said no.

Each snub changed Mohammed Sadegh Javadihesari -- from surprised to stubborn to angry.

After the latest rejection -- being included among more than 2,500 reformers disqualified from Friday's ballot -- the teacher and activist traveled 540 miles to the capital, Tehran, to join a sit-in protest with lawmakers and become a spokesman for the drive to boycott the elections.

"The conservatives are trying to conduct an ideological cleansing," said the 44-year-old Javadihesari, flicking jade green worry beads.

The story of one recalcitrant reformer is just a speck in the momentous -- and possibly critical -- showdown between Iran's non-elected theocracy, which claims divine leadership, and liberals who say the popular will demands more openness and opportunities.

But to listen to Javadihesari is to understand better how it got it this point.

He jabs his finger as he talks about "the Iranian pyramid," ruling clerics at the peak with unlimited powers and answerable to no one. It's turned an unflinching supporter of the 1979 Islamic Revolution into an equally vehement critic of the system it produced.

"We insist on democracy instead of despotism," he said. "This is what the revolution was about. We have been betrayed."

There are millions like Javadihesari. They were eager foot soldiers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini against the Western-backed shah. Now, they are branded as dissidents by the Islamic regime for challenging their conduct.

Javadihesari was on the streets battling the doomed monarchy, then joined a volunteer militia at the front lines of the 1980-88 war with Iraq. He returned to teach high school in Mashhad, one of the strongholds of hard-line Islam in Iran and a place of pilgrimage for Shiite Muslims who visit the gilded shrine of Imam Reza, a 9th century Shiite saint.

But Imam Reza also carries another meaning for reformers. It's the colloquial name of a powerful Mashhad-based foundation run by clerics -- Astan e Qods e Razavi, or AQR. It controls more than 50 companies from construction to oil and is a symbol of the vast economic grip of the religious rulers.

Over the years, Javadihesari said, he became convinced that things were not right in Iran. The old activism began stirring inside him.

"I was always involved on the edge of politics by organizing student groups and teachers," Javadihesari said. "People kept asking me to run for parliament. I never expected what would happen."

The Guardian Council turned him down for the 1992 elections. The 12-member panel -- hand-picked by Khomeini's successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- has the power to block any candidate from running for high office.

Javadihesari said he demanded a reason for the rejection. "I was told I wasn't being loyal to the revolution," he said. "I was, frankly, shocked."

There was more to come. He had left teaching to become an editor at the newspaper Khorasan, named for the large northeastern province where Mashhad is the capital. He claimed conservative forces pushed him out of the job. He left to begin a rival paper, Toos, the ancient name of an area near Mashhad.

He tried another parliament bid in 1996. Again, he was stopped. Two years later, authorities closed Toos and Javadihesari spent 35 days in detention.

"These narrow-minded people have stolen our revolution," he said. "For us, the revolution was like our child. ... We were the ones who stopped the shah's tanks. We were the ones who faced his bullets. It was about freedom, not what is happening now."

Javadihesari often repeats the goal described by President Mohammad Khatami: an Islamic democracy. The concept is at the heart of the current duel -- acknowledging Iran's Islamic character, but allowing the will of the people to dictate policies and directions.

"These people running the country are still Muslims, but they have lost the spirit of Islam. It's about freedom and equality," said Javadihesari. "They are Muslims, but they are not faithful."

In 2000 -- when reformists backing Khatami took control of parliament -- Javadihesari was back on the Guardian Council blacklist.

He fully expected to be rejected for this year's ballot, but he refuses to back down. He believes the Guardian Council will cause a backlash against the regime.

"We don't have to make terror in the streets," said Javadihesari, who has returned to teaching at a high school. "We can just expose all the corruption and hypocrisy. We will defeat them through transparency. Different times require different medicine."

He expects no more than 20 percent turnout in Friday's elections -- an outcome that would be perceived as a resounding pledge of support for reformers and their boycott.

But in a statement issued Monday, President Khatami, while criticizing the disqualifications for barring many "competent" candidates, called on citizens to vote.

"People's lively presence in the polls will strengthen the relationship between the people and the government," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the statement as saying.

Javadihesari won't say whether he will try again for parliament in four years, but he believes the reformers will eventually prevail.

"This system thinks it can push us aside. It will fail," he said. "I don't know how long it will take, but it will fail."

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press,0,4215502.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines
6 posted on 02/18/2004 12:26:06 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
'200 killed' in Iran train blast

Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 10:37 GMT
BBC News, UK

More than 200 people are reported to have been killed in Iran when rail wagons carrying sulphur, petrol and fertiliser derailed and exploded.
Many more have been injured in the blast, which happened near the town of Neyshabur in Khorassan province, Irna news agency reported.

A local official said the explosion occurred when fire-fighters were trying to extinguish the blazing wagons.

Vahid Barakchi said five villages were destroyed by the blast.

"The scale of the accident is very extensive and the damage seems to be more than initial estimates suggested," he added.

The blast shattered windows more than 10km (six miles) away and could be heard in the regional centre of Mashhad some 75km from the scene.

Several firefighters are reported to be among the dead.

Rescue workers are struggling to take more than 350 injured people to hospitals in Neyshabur and Mashhad.

Some sources say the runaway train wagons - which included 17 wagons of sulphur, six wagons of petrol, seven wagons of fertilizers and 10 wagons of cotton wool - were set loose by earth tremors.

More than 40,000 people died in an earthquake on 26 December in the ancient city of Bam in south-eastern Iran.
7 posted on 02/18/2004 2:51:54 AM PST by F14 Pilot (Either you are with us or you are with the REGIME)
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To: freedom44

Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi beside an F-5 fighter/trainer jet in Lubbock AFB, Summer of 1978.

8 posted on 02/18/2004 3:01:38 AM PST by F14 Pilot (Either you are with us or you are with the REGIME)
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To: All

A frame grab taken from Iranian television shows a destroyed train wagon near the Iranian city of Nishapur, February 18, 2004. More than 200 people were killed when runaway fuel wagons exploded in northeast Iran, the state IRNA news agency reported. IRNA reported the 51 runaway train wagons, filled with petrol, fertilizer and sulfur products, were set loose by earth tremors. (Irib/Reuters TV)

9 posted on 02/18/2004 5:40:32 AM PST by F14 Pilot (Either you are with us or you are with the REGIME)
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To: F14 Pilot
"a reform-minded woman who has been granted permission by the hard-line Council of Guardians to run for office."

That's pretty much all you have to read .....
10 posted on 02/18/2004 6:02:58 AM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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To: F14 Pilot
Awful story.

Could they pack any more flammable and explosive materials on that train? SHEEEEESH!

Too bad it didn't explode outside Khamenei's home.
11 posted on 02/18/2004 6:07:29 AM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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To: DoctorZIn
Surprised Javadihesari isn't in jail right now. Or dead.
12 posted on 02/18/2004 6:13:40 AM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Announces Shahab-3 Upgrade

February 18, 2004
Middle East Newsline

NICOSIA -- Iran has announced plans to upgrade the Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile. Iranian officials said the upgrade project would replace previous plans to develop the longer-range Shihab-4. But officials said the range of the Shihab-3 would also be extended.

"We will be optimizing our Shihab-3 instead," acting Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said recently. "Such allegations [of developing the Shihab-4] are part of the U.S. and Israeli psychological war against the Islamic Republic."

Other officials said the upgrade of the Shihab-3 would extend the range of the missile to at least 1,600 kilometers. They said some of the improvements were demonstrated in a Shihab-3 launch in June 2003, when the missile reached a range of 1,380 kilometers. The Shihab-4 was planned for a range of 2,000 kilometers.
13 posted on 02/18/2004 7:55:51 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranian Youth, Skiing is More Attractive Than Voting for Cheats and Liars

February 18, 2004
Gulf News Online

Khosro zipped up his ski jacket against the cold wind and made a decision - like many young Iranians he wasn't going to vote in Friday's parliamentary election, he'd rather go skiing.

"What's the point? I voted in the last two elections but these leaders we have are just cheats and liars. I'm going to ski instead," he said, before joining a colourful queue of youngsters waiting to take a chair lift to the top of the run at the Shemshak ski resort about 57 km from Tehran.

Concerned about wide-spread voter apathy, Iran's clerical establishment has made repeated calls in recent days for a big turnout on Friday to send a message to enemies like Washington that Iranians still support the 25-year-old Islamic state.

But even a bitter political dispute over the mass disqualification from the ballot of reformist candidates by hardline clerics has failed to stir young Iranians, many of whom are disillusioned after years of failed promises of reform.

In a country where two in three are under 30 and the minimum voting age is 15, youngsters are a key constituency among Iran's 46 million voters.

Millions of youngsters voted for the moderate cleric Mohammed Khatami when he became president in 1997 and was re-elected in 2001 promising to relax social restrictions, bolster democratic institutions and reform the justice system.

But after seven years of political deadlock during which unelected hardline bodies have blocked Khatami's reform bills and jailed dozens of his sympathisers, many young Iranians now see Khatami as part of the problem.

Khatami on Monday urged Iranians to vote to prevent a conservative landslide. "Khatami had nice words but no actions," said Reza, 24, who is doing military service but wants to be a doctor. "He's part of the system, he doesn't really believe in change."

"Nothing has really moved forward here since the (1979 Islamic) revolution. Look at this ski lift - it was built by the shah. All of this resort was built by the shah. Nothing has changed, and it won't until this system collapses."

Shemshak and its sister resort Dizin are favourite getaways for well-to-do young Tehranis during the winter and spring months. Here in the Alborz mountains, away from the smog-choked streets of the capital, a relaxed atmosphere prevails.

Some girls flout Islamic dress codes by skiing bare-headed. Boys and girls squash next to one another on the ski lifts, ignoring laws that prohibit physical contact in public between unrelated members of the opposite sex.

In Tehran, too, restrictions have eased since Khatami's election. Girls wear make-up and bright headscarves, young couples can be seen holding hands. But few youngsters credit Khatami with these small changes.

"Whatever freedom we have now we earned for ourselves by resisting and no-one can take it away from us," said Kayhan, 29, as he sipped a soft drink with his girlfriend and brother in a popular fast food restaurant in upscale northern Tehran.

The political disillusionment cuts across social class, although for different reasons. For lower class youngsters like Hossein, 27, who works as a gardener for a wealthy Tehrani family, it's the lack of economic, not social opportunities, that drives his resentment against Iran's political leaders.

"Without connections or money you can't get a job or start a business," he said. "Our leaders can't be trusted. Everything here is ruined yet they tell us we're the envy of the world."
14 posted on 02/18/2004 7:56:56 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Japan, Iran Close to Reaching Deal on Oil Project

February 18, 2004
Kyodo News

TOKYO, Kyodo --- Japan and Iran may be close to reaching an agreement for a major oil development project in Azadegan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda indicated Wednesday.

''I heard (the two countries) are negotiating for a contract,'' the top government spokesman told reporters, referring to a newspaper report that Tokyo and Tehran are expected to seal an agreement for the project in the near future.

Asked about whether the negotiations have progressed since last year, Fukuda did not give a direct answer but said, ''I think an agreement will be reached at some point.''

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said at a separate press conference, ''We hope the negotiations will result in success.''

If Japan gains the rights to the oil field development, it will help diversify Japan's oil resources, Takashima said.

In Tehran, Oil Ministry sources told Kyodo News that Iran and Japan will likely reach an accord in negotiations on the project later in the day.

Japan and Iran are likely to reach a basic agreement that will grant Tokyo rights to development of the Azadegan oil field and sales of crude oil there, a major Japanese daily reported in its Wednesday evening edition.

Quoting informed sources, the Yomiuri Shimbun said the two countries will soon sign a contract, and Kazumasa Kusaka, director general of the Natural Resources and Energy Agency, has already been dispatched to Iran for further negotiations.

The Azadegan oil field is believed to have crude oil reserves of 26 billion barrels, one of the largest oil fields in the world. If the agreement is reached, it will be the largest oil field that Japan will develop independently, the daily said.

After obtaining preferential negotiation rights in November 2000, a government-backed Japanese consortium involving Tomen Corp., Inpex Corp. and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. have negotiated with the Iranian government over the oil field in southwestern Iran for over three years.

But the talks had been stalled due to pressure from the United States which has urged Japan to withdraw from the project due to its concern about Iran's alleged nuclear program.

The Azadegan oil field will start crude oil production in 2006 with estimated maximum output of more than 500,000 barrels per day, the daily said, adding the Japanese side will likely import 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day.
15 posted on 02/18/2004 7:58:13 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Khatami's Brother Backs Secular State in Iran

February 18, 2004
Middle East Online

MADRID -- The time has come for Iran to have a secular state in place of the Islamic regime in place since the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, Spanish daily El Pais on Wednesday quoted the brother of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami as saying.

Asked by an El Pais correspondent if the time had come for a government non-religious in composition Reza Khatami, parliamentary vice-president and leader of the main reformist party as well as the president's younger brother, responded simply: "Yes."

Reza Khatami is one of 80 sitting MPs whom the conservative and unelected Guardians Council watchdog have barred from standing in Friday's poll.

In the light of that decision Reza Khatami dubbed the election "illegal, unjust ... and "a farce without liberty."

He called on his brother "to be stronger in the face of the new conservative parliament" he expects to win the poll.

Asked by El Pais if he feared imprisonment for speaking out Reza Khatami said the regime "has sufficient tensions to bear and has no need to create more.

"They can fill the prisons but reforms will continue," he insisted.

Iranian reformists, grouped around President Khatami, are bracing for defeat in Friday's parliamentary elections amid pressure from the Islamic republic's hardline judiciary.

Mohammad Khatami appealed to Iranians on Monday to turn out for the vote, notwithstanding that they are unable to vote for some of the candidates of their choice.
16 posted on 02/18/2004 7:59:15 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Khatami's Brother Backs Secular State in Iran

February 18, 2004
Middle East Online
17 posted on 02/18/2004 8:00:04 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranians Find Outlet on Internet

February 18, 2004
Yahoo News

TEHRAN -- If Iran's hardline clergy has had little trouble barring reformist candidates from parliament, it is finding it much tougher to keep dissent from spreading on the increasingly busy Internet.

An expert scours the Web for the best free software around-- but beware the hidden cost of freebies.

Dozens of Farsi-language political websites have sprung up catering to Iranian web surfers hungry for news and views that go beyond the austere, official line of the Islamic Republic.

And while the ruling clerics look certain to tighten their hold on the political establishment in Friday's parliamentary election, they are fighting a losing battle to keep dissident websites in check, experts said.

"They are closing them down left and right," said one Internet executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But you close one, 10 more open."

Ali Shemirani, correspondent for the weekly magazine Assr-e Ertebat (Communications Era), estimated that between 20 and 30 major political websites were active in Iran and most of them were pro-reformist.

With some 20,000 Iranian "web logs," or online personal diaries, also sprouting up, he said, between 50 and 60 have become widely read for their overtly political content.

"Statistics show that these types of sites are growing," Shemirani told AFP. "The government may not be happy about it, but they can't stop it completely."

Reliable figures on the number of Internet users in Iran are hard to pin down, with estimates ranging from 2.5 million to four million, double the level of four years ago.

Experts say the number is likely to more than double again in the next five years in a country where two-thirds of the 66 million people are below 30 years of age and many are already technologically savvy.

Shemirani said users first zeroed in on chat rooms and e-mail but now are branching out into other areas, including current affairs. "People can now express their political ideas more freely than before," he said.

The capacity for carrying Farsi content on the Interent should also rise significantly in the coming months when Iran's first broadband services will be available, experts said.

One popular site currently available is Gooya, a directory of links to everything from news to Canadian immigration law. Another is the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), founded four years ago as an alternative to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

"Since the people want more and more to get their unvarnished news items from different sites, I think the number of people visiting ISNA is on the rise," said the head of the agency's information technology desk who asked not to be named.

Reformists are sponsoring a number of sites carrying political news, including Emrooz (Today), which has been dodging a government crackdown and is based outside of Iran.

Parliamentary candidates on both sides of the political spectrum are also tapping into the Internet, with some putting their names on cards offering one-hour web access as an electoral inducement.

"I think most of the candidates and political figures have websites. They realize this is a good way to get in touch with the public," said Abdolleh Fateh, president of the Internet provider Pars Online.

Even the arch-conservative Guardians Council, which was responsible for disqualifying more than 2,300 candidates from Friday's polls, has cottoned on to the power of the web.

The poweful council, controlled by religious hardliners, has its own site of news and background documents, preaching unabashedly from its homepage, "Don't let the revolution fall into the hands of scoundrels."

One of the sassiest sites is run by the reformist vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who keeps up a web log with his own musings, gossip, anecdotes and candid photos of Iranian politicans.

He is equally candid about his feelings on Friday's elections: "I don't give a damn."
18 posted on 02/18/2004 8:01:06 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

19 posted on 02/18/2004 8:01:57 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
"Our leaders can't be trusted. Everything here is ruined yet they tell us we're the envy of the world."

The lies just don't work any more.
20 posted on 02/18/2004 8:03:18 AM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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