Iran dismisses Chalabi spy charges
TEHRAN: US allegations that Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi spied for Iran are unfounded and designed to divert attention from Washingtons problems in Iraq, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Sunday.
These espionage allegations are obviously lacking any foundations, ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.
The Americans are trying to cover up their massive problems, owing to their political unilateralism and their refusal to listen to the opinions of others.
The United States is investigating accusations that Iraqi Governing Council member and former Pentagon favourite Chalabi passed sensitive information to Iran, a US official said on Friday.
There is evidence Ahmed Chalabi passed sensitive information to Iran and an investigation is ongoing, a US official said.
A furious Chalabi, who was once considered a Washington favourite to become a post-war leader of Iraq, said he had broken ties with the US-led coalition authorities and has denied the spying allegations as bilge.
Iran does not need us to get information on the United States, he said. Washington and Tehran severed diplomatic ties in 1980 after the Islamic revolution in
Asefi also sent sent a formal warning to the United States over American policy in neighbouring Iraq, as he branded Washington immoral and deceitful.
The situation in Iraq is serious and this is why we have addressed the necessary warning, he told a press conference.
Washington has no diplomatic relations with Tehran and the warning the first to be made public at least since the Iraq war began was passed by diplomatic channels through the Swiss embassy here, which represents US interests in Iran. We want several things for Iraq, the most important of which are the departure of the occupation forces as quickly as possible and the restitution of authority to the Iraqi people themselves, Asefi said.
The United States accuses Iran of influencing Iraqs own Shiite majority to destabilise the country, and allowing foreign fighters to cross its borders into Iraq.
Asefi also insisted that the Peoples Mujahedeen, the main armed opposition organisation to the Islamic republic, be expelled from Iraq, where they have been held in a base under US guard.
They should already have been expelled from Iraq, though they are still under American protection, Assefi said.
What we see here is the hypocrisy and immoral approach of the Americans. Asefi said the situation in Iraq had changed following the torture of prisoners by US troops and attacks on the holy places.
Meanwhile, an AFP journalist witnessed demonstrators attempting to storm the British embassy in Tehran on Sunday clashed with riot police guarding the building in the fourth such incident in a week.
Some 400 Islamist students pelted stones at the embassy, demanding the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq and the expulsion of the British ambassador from Iran. Hundreds of police formed a cordon around the embassy to stop the demonstrators approaching. Agencies
Wedding Guests Spark Iran Protest
May 23, 2004
From Correspondents in Tehran
Iran has protested to Spain over the presence of two members of its ousted imperial family at the royal wedding in Madrid. "Inviting people like them who are banned by the Iranian people is not an appropriate gesture," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.
The late shah's wife, Farah Diba, and son Reza Pahlavi joined some 1600 invited guests in the Spanish capital.
"These individuals have no place, not only among our people, but among all peoples of the world," Mr Asefi said.
"The Spanish will eventually realise that these two guests represent nobody at such ceremonies."
Some 30 reigning monarchs attended the marriage of Crown Prince Felipe and divorced former journalist Letizia Ortiz in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral.
The late shah fled Iran at the outset of the 1979 Islamic revolution. He died in exile in Egypt the following year.
Iran Chides Spain for Hosting Iranian Royals
May 23, 2004
Islamic Republic News Agency
Tehran -- Iran sternly admonished Spain Sunday for inviting the son and widow of the defunct shah to the wedding of Crown Prince Felipe.
"Inviting such individuals, who have been banished by the Iranian people, was not a suitable move," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters here in a weekly news briefing.
Iran`s embassy in Madrid, he said, had formally protested to the Spanish government for inviting Reza Pahlavi and Farah Diba to the wedding.
"These individuals have no place not only among our people, but among other people around the world and the Spaniards will realize later that the individuals invited are not used as delegates in any such ceremonies," Asefi added.
Crown Prince Felipe married former television presenter Letizia Ortiz Saturday amid tight security in the wake of the March 11 train bombings, which killed 191 people.
The 36-year-old heir to the crown exchanged vows with Letizia, a 31-year-old divorcee, before 1,400 guests at the Roman Catholic Almudena Cathedral.
There were reports of protests held before wedding, including by several hundred republicans who staged a parody of a wedding and chanted sloagans "Tomorrow Spain will be a republic!".
According to AFP, the protest passed off without incident under the watchful eye of a large police presence.
Another grouping, the news agency said, denounced this `waste of money`.
Iran`s `Peacock Throne` was overthrown following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which was led by late Imam Khomeini and forced Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to flee.
He died one and a half years later after being denied asylum by one after another government, including by his own closest ally -- the United States.
U.S.-Iranian 'Wrestling Diplomacy' Takes a Knock
May 23, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iranian wrestlers will boycott a pre-Olympic bout with arch-foe the United States in protest at its actions in Iraq, Iran's wrestling federation said Sunday, putting a stranglehold on hopes of sporting rapprochement.
Wrestling has an ancient pedigree in Iran and is one of the country's most popular sports. Iranian wrestlers are tipped for medals at the Athens Olympics in August.
Iranian Wrestling Federation spokesman Majid Rajabi said Iran would not be sending a team to the Titan Games in Atlanta because of fighting around Shi'ite Muslim holy sites in Iraq.
"Iran's wrestling federation decided yesterday to refuse to attend...in protest at the disrespect to the holy shrines and the continued occupation of Iraq by U.S. and British forces," he said, adding that the Iranian team had obtained U.S. visas.
After coming to power in 1997, reformist President Mohammad Khatami hailed sporting ties as a way to build trust with the United States.
The notion of "wrestling diplomacy" seemed to bear fruit in 1998 when the Stars and Stripes greeted the U.S. team in Iran in what was believed to be the flag's first outing since the two nations severed diplomatic relations in 1980.
Mohammad Reza Taleghani, president of the Iranian Wrestling Federation, has been quoted in Iranian media as saying he felt a shared passion for wrestling could nurture a rapprochement between the political sparring partners.
The U.S. Olympic Committee Web site hailed the Titan games as a perfect opportunity for the world's burliest wrestling trio -- the United States, Georgia and Iran -- to measure their strength against each other in the run-up to Athens.
"Iran, which will be competing with the U.S. for the fourth time in the last eight years, has a great rivalry on the mats in the U.S.," the Web site said.
The bouts, according to the site, had been scheduled for June 18-20.
U.S.-Iranian wrestling matches have always been tricky to organize, with the U.S. team nervy about security in Iran and one Iranian team incensed that it was fingerprinted in Chicago.
Iran's most treasured sporting encounter with the so-called "Great Satan" was a 2-1 victory in the 1998 soccer World Cup, which sparked delirious street celebrations.
Hoover organizes controversial closed door meeting on Iran
SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 23, 2004
The US based "Hoover Foundation" organized, on Friday, a very controversial closed door meeting on Iran in the Californian City of San Francisco. It is beleived that elements, at the Hoover Foundation, are intending to promote some very questionnable individuals as the future alternative of the sham "reforms from within the frame of the theocratic system".
The main organizer of the gathering has been reported as to be Abbas Milani a Historian-Writer, Teacher and member of Hoover.
The main guests of this gathering were several Iranians who some of them have a very dark past and were part of the bloody repression in Iran, such as, the so-called open minded "reformist or Lutherian" Abdol-Karim Soroush who was the head of the repressive Islamic Cultural Revolution in the early 80s. Several students and teachers were killed by Soroush agents, in Tehran and Ahwaz, and thousands of others were purged from Iranian Universities.
Some of the other guests were Shrin Ebadi, Azam Taleghani and Simin Behbahani. It's to note that while Ebadi is known by many Iranians as the "new mouthpiece of the regime's Islamist reformers", Azam Taleghani is known as a very backwarded women who has a dark record of repressive actions in the first years of the Islamic revolution.
The only astonishing point is the participation of Simin Behbani, a poet, who was till now known for her integrity and opposition to the regime.
The news of the presence of Behbahani, in the closed door panel of San Francisco, and her future participation beside the controversial Shirin Ebadi in the May 27th gathering of IAPAC in WDC, is so astonishing that forced Hossein Mohri of KRSI to censor these two informations in his today's Radio program.
Mohri who's more of an 50-80s ideologist than a genuine wise journalist, most likely feared to report all the information for his auditors who are already angered by Ebadi and the work of the regime's well known apologists, such as, Nemazee and Ghahary the two main founders of IAPAC. It's to note that Mohri who's also subject to sharp critisism, made by many Iranians, has promoted individuals which were later used, by some circles in order to promote the baseless theory of "possibility of reforming the regime".
In this line, Mohri can be named as the main responsible for the promotion of questionnable individuals, such as, Kazem Alamdari, Nayereh Tohidi, Ahmad Karimi-Hakak, Abbas Milani and Ali Keshtgar who some of them are former members of leftist terrorist groups or their supporters. These individuals who most of them have close friendship with Mohri, since before the 1979 revolution, were pulled off from dark by the latter and promoted as credible individuals for thousands of unaware auditors.
Ex-hostage-taker named chief of Iran TV
AP - World News
May 23, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader on Sunday appointed a former captor in the 1979 hostage crisis as the head of state-run radio and television.
Conservative Ezzatollah Zarghami, 45, was promoted by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from his post as deputy head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
Zarghami was among militant students who overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 embassy staffers hostage for 444 days in 1979.
Zarghami joined Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards as a senior officer in the early 1980s and served for a decade there.
IRIB enjoys a monopoly over Iranian broadcasting. It has 12 domestic television and radio channels and offers radio programs in 25 languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.
Khamenei appoints the head of IRIB and other key officials.
Isn't that interesting, especially when further down this is posted: "TEHRAN: US allegations that Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi spied for Iran are unfounded and designed to divert attention from Washingtons problems in Iraq, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Sunday.
These espionage allegations are obviously lacking any foundations, ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.
The Americans are trying to cover up their massive problems, owing to their political unilateralism and their refusal to listen to the opinions of others.
Umm-Ummm! Baghdad Bob is apparently alive and well and so is every TV camera from CNNABCCBSNBC France, Germany and the BBC in Iraq reporting in the grand old style of BB and people like spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi...freedom just isn't their style, however it is the style of the Iraqi people and the Iraian folks. It isn't the Americans who are trying to cover up stuff; it is the media and the socialists in this country. Socialists encourage oppression, they don't want success for Iraq, Iran or any countries where people must live in constant suppression. Crazy world, ain't it? Freedom and liberty, law and order are such wonderful entities.
Keep Out of Iran So Long as The Mullahs Reign
May 24, 2004
The News Journal
There is an expectation that if Sen. John Kerry is elected president, relations between the United States and Iran would be restored. Sen. Joseph Biden, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is considered to favor rapprochement.
It is ill-advised. Here are a few reasons why such a policy would be wrong for the United States.
U.S. policy must be based on long-term results. In the long run, Iran will become a democracy. Iranians have good memories. Any rapprochement today will be seen by virtually all Iranians as positive recognition for a brutal and oppressive regime, and reaffirm widely held views that the U.S. government has maintained secret relations with Iran for a long time. When Iranians gain their freedoms, future representative governments will not be pro-American.
Do not be fooled. There is no democracy or goodness within Iran's current theocratic regime. Hundreds of newspapers have been closed down. There are thousands of political prisoners, serious human rights violations and democratic abuses. The mullahs have no real popular support. The United States cannot be a party to oppression. Now is the wrong time to kiss and make up, especially after Iran's sham elections.
It is not an argument to say we're falling behind the Europeans on this. This argument has never held weight in relations with North Korea or Cuba. Britain is widely hated in the Middle East and is seen as the principal architects of all the misery in the region, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and puppet sheikdoms in the Persian Gulf. Today, after failure, the British are trying to leverage the United States' vast resources to achieve their own strategic goals.
Consider, for example, 8,200 British troops in Iraq vs. 120,000 American troops -- with the British sitting on about half of Iraq's oil reserves in the south near Basra. The British have pushed the United States to the fore in the Middle East. America is now hated at center stage, not them.
U.S. history and principles are substantially different than Britain's. It stands for liberty and democracy. Do not be fooled. A British push to engage Iran with the United States will serve British interests, not ours. I believe that standing on the side of liberty will in the long run bring larger dividends to America.
The Democratic Party must also differentiate itself from the Republican party, which contrary to President Bush's rhetoric has been quietly reinforcing other regional oppressors for access to oil. Note the re-established dictatorship of Azerbaijan, whose leader was anointed an honorary Texan by Bush; former Communist cronies and presidents for life in Uzbekistan or Tadzhikistan; continued support for the Saudi royals and virtually every other Arab dictatorship.
The Democratic Party must by its actions and rhetoric support real democracy. The Republican strategy of supporting oppressors is a short-term tactic, and plays into all the wrong images of Americans abroad.
Above all, it's simply bad business for our companies to invest in those regions, especially in long pay-back projects like pipelines or oil field projects, signing contracts with governments that have no legitimacy. In this day and age, no force is large enough to arrest liberty anywhere indefinitely. These regimes will fall and oil companies will end up empty-handed. We're better off fixing the political environment first, then investing. And their populations will help us.
Such change will not come by getting close to regimes or pushing for slow evolutionary change. The Iranian regime has been playing good cop/bad cop with the West for more than 26 years. Reality was revealed with the recent sham election, secret nuclear programs, human rights abuses and general oppression.
I believe it is in everyone's interests to bring about immediate change. It can be done by supporting a global embargo of Iranian oil, and freezing all Iranian assets overseas. Such an embargo would give Iranians the confidence to topple Iran's government without engaging American troops.
There is a need to increase oil imports to the United States and substantial growth in demand for oil in the Far East. Central Asia's vast, untapped hydrocarbon reserves will play a significant role in the world's energy supply for decades to come. Demand for oil will begin to outstrip supply within a few years.
Iran sits squarely in the middle of that region. Even if a large pipeline is placed through Afghanistan, or if the Caspian Sea is exploited from its northern shores, or Iraqi oil comes on full force , there will be serious shortcomings on bringing oil to market. The scenario is even bleaker without Iran on natural gas, where elaborate regional trades might be needed into a combined pipeline system. Basically, every play in the region supports Iran's transformation.
With Iran transformed, the region will become an engine driving global economic growth, especially as new refineries, oil rigs and chemical plants are ordered. Prosperity would then yield new hospitals, roadways, airports -- you name it.
The United States must maintain and expand its global presence through decency, fair play, respect and compassion for the people of these nations. With Iran especially, the United States has a debt of decency. Consider President Dwight Eisenhower's CIA-backed coup to eliminate democracy in Iran in 1952; Jimmy Carter's role in deposing the shah and promotion of Islamic militants in 1979; and Ronald Reagan's backroom deals with the militants that delayed the release of hostages to win the 1980 presidential election. Arms sales to both sides extending the Iran-Iraq war, resulting in one million dead and injured.
Iran's mullahs have grown very rich and remain symbols of success for other Islamic militants. The United States cannot support, assist or recognize Iran's theocracy in this age of terrorism by Islamic militants.
Jalil Bahar, a real estate investor in Sussex County, lives in Chester, Md. He retired from the Iranian Foreign Service in 1980 after more than 20 years of service under both the shah and post-revolution government.
Stumbling in the Dark
May 24, 2004
Dan de Luce
Nothing is straightforward in Iran. When the bureaucracy that oversees foreign journalists told me last week I had to leave the country, there was no written order. The department issued different deadlines as to when I had to depart. First I was given a week, then a month, then 72 hours.
I had reported from Bam, three months after a devastating earthquake practically levelled the city, without official permission. Other journalists had filed stories from Bam without approval, but were not punished. I asked for a written decision, and was told that would only make matters worse.
A reform-minded politician tried to intervene. Senior government officials agreed to his request and assured him the ban would be reversed. When an Iranian journalist informed the official that the decision had gone ahead anyway, and that I had flown out of the country, he was shocked. "What kind of country is this?" he asked.
Iran is a country where repression is arbitrary, not systematic as in many other states in the Middle East, and it is not as efficient either. Some laws are never enforced, some murders are never solved and some critics of the regime are left alone while others are locked up. Iranians never know where the boundary is, allowing the "system" plenty of room to manoeuvre as it pleases.
Arbitrariness makes life unpredictable and allows for a degree of debate and political ferment. But sometimes it is merely cruel.
Student leaders have been arrested and released, while some of their followers are kept behind bars indefinitely. Ahmad Batebi fell victim to the whims of the Islamic republic. He held up the bloodstained T-shirt of a fellow student demonstrator, and a photographer captured his gesture on film. A court ruled that Batebi had jeopardised Iran's national security because of that photo, and he has been in jail since 1999 serving a 15-year prison sentence.
Iran's foreign policy is equally contradictory. One arm of the leadership sends out moderate messages, while another allows members of al-Qaida to take refuge in the country. Iranian envoys promise to cooperate with the UN, then inspectors find evidence that Iran has been deceiving the world about its nuclear experiments.
Arbitrary, unwritten rules discourage foreign journalists from venturing into sensitive subject matter. Only a handful of news organisations have managed to secure visas for resident foreign correspondents. Reporting outside the capital, Tehran, often requires elusive written permission, so much of the news coming out of Iran ends up being based on official statements broadcast by the state media. Restrictions on domestic journalists are much more severe, and those who push too far are persuaded not to write what they know or they are imprisoned.
Stifling the flow of information means that the nuances of Iranian society are often obscured to the outside world. Any foreigner who visits Iran is struck by the gap between the reality of Iranian society and the image cultivated by the regime.
The clerical establishment, with its dour state television and interminable political-religious sermons, likes to present a picture of a society dedicated to Islamist militancy. The reality is something else entirely.
The ideological extremism that accompanied the revolution in 1979 has virtually expired, except among a dwindling minority. While Arab regimes have sought to suppress Islamist political movements, militancy was given free reign in Iran. As a result, it has run its course.
Contrary to the fantasies of neo-conservatives, Iran is not on the verge of revolution and, if it was, the US wouldn't be able to orchestrate it. There is no coherent political opposition or leader able to harness public discontent. A significant number of Iranians are profiting from an economic boom and are not ready to risk their livelihood for democracy protests.
If more foreign journalists were allowed to work in Iran, western societies would see that Iran is no longer trying to export its theocracy. It has enough problems of its own now, including an epidemic of drug abuse, and rising inflation and unemployment.
I was ordered to leave the country for three months because I tried to document the anger and frustration of earthquake survivors. It was not unlike similar situations in other countries. There were allegations of mismanagement and suspicions of corruption. By banning journalists from Bam, the authorities merely feed those suspicions.
On my journey out of Iran, the flight attendant was so embarrassed at my expulsion that he gave my wife and me special treatment, saying he wanted our last Iranian experience to be positive.
Too bad the regime won't let more foreign journalists experience the warmth and humour of the Iranian people. And too bad the regime tries so hard to keep the rest of the world, and its own people, in the dark.
· Dan de Luce has been the Guardian correspondent in Iran since January 2003. The ministry of culture and Islamic guidance ordered him to leave Iran for three months
This just in from a student inside of Iran...
There was a conference in Tehran, Yesterday in IRIB compound in north of the city.
A new terrorists theorisian addressed the crowd on vulnerable points that US might have. His name is Hassan Abbasi.
Good to mention that he is a former IRGC commander and he is know the chief of National Security & Strategic reasearch center.
He said that we have found 29 weak points inside the US to start attacks through those points and we gave the details to terrorists group for free.
He added that we cooperate with every regime that has got problem with the US.
He also mentioned that we work hard to destabilize the US in Iraq.
Abbasi continued that the regime also has plans for 6000 Nuke Warheads of the states to explode them in a suitable time."
Iran is One Day Closer to an Atomic Bomb
May 24, 2004
There are two choices before us: Dealing with the mullahs without an atomic bomb today or dealing with them with an atomic bomb tomorrow.
When you wake up in the morning, remember that the mullahs of Iran are one day closer to an atomic bomb. Days are going by, wasted in negotiations that seem to have no end. Does the world have enough time? No. We don't have the luxury to play hide and seek with the mullahs any more. Tehran is getting closer and closer to the point of no return in its nuclear endeavor.
With all the information about Irans plan of making nuclear weapons, the international community will be as responsible for such a disaster as the mullahs for taking no action when it could.
Are we prepared for the consequences of our appeasement policy toward Tehran? Are we prepared to tell our children and grandchildren that we knew what was coming but we did not do anything about it? Let's face it: There are two choices before us: dealing with the mullahs without an atomic bomb today or dealing with them with an atomic bomb tomorrow.
The U.S. Congress passed a resolution last week to condemn Iran's policy of denial, delay and deception. It demanded that Japan, Russia and the European Union cut trade with Iran. Even Mohammad ElBaradei, the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency chief, is losing patience and told the French parliament last Thursday that the world would not wait forever for the Islamic republic to divulge the full extent and nature of its nuclear program.
Just last week, Iranian exiles in Brussels revealed that Iran was pursuing two parallel nuclear programs. The public program is used as a camouflage for the main, top secret nuclear project, which works to produce nuclear weapons.
Apparently this top secret nuclear weapons project is being conducted in military bases and under close supervision of Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The same report says that 400 Iranian nuclear scientists working on this project are now being overseen by the Revolutionary Guards to prevent any leak of any kind.
Iran's tactic is to buy more time through more negotiations. It is also demanding that the EU and Russian offer assistance for its nuclear program. The sad part is that Russia and the EU countries such as France, Italy and Germany might actually consider lucrative offers from Iran, as they have done in the past.
Another important tactic by Iran is to get out of the spotlight by cracking fires somewhere else in the world. Iran sent thousands of Revolutionary Guards, intelligence agents and millions of dollars to Iraq to destabilize the country, right on time, when Iran is under immense pressure to come clean for its nuclear power programs.
How long is the world going to tolerate these games from mullahs in Iran?
As the mullahs in Iran are the root of the problem, the world community must severe its ties with Tehran and lend support to the democratic opposition to Tehran. A majority of Iranians displayed their distrust of the mullahs by boycotting the parliamentary elections last February and by frequent protests all over Iran.
Iranians want a UN-monitored referendum on regime change. A free and democratic Iran without mullahs means peace and democracy for the region and a future without fear of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
The world has to keep the pressure on Iran and not let the issue be overshadowed by developments in Iraq. Iran's dossier has to be sent to the UN Security Council to take effective measures. But no action would be effective in and of itself unless it is coupled with support for a democratic regime in Iran.
Hedayat Mostowfi is the Executive Director for nationwide Committee in Support of Referendum in Iran.
Iran bars UN inspectors from military sites
Reuters - World News
May 24, 2004
VIENNA - Several Western diplomats on the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog accused Iran of barring U.N. inspectors from military sites, though Tehran said the agency was getting full access inside the Islamic republic.
Diplomats who follow the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said IAEA inspectors had been prevented from inspecting around a dozen workshops at three locations.
"They have yet to allow access to the military sites," one Western diplomat said. "This will probably be the topic of one of the inspection visits" by IAEA officials.
"They (Iranian officials) have been obstructing visits to military sites," said another diplomat, adding U.N. inspectors were being escorted by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
The United States says Iran has two nuclear programmes -- a public one it has declared to the U.N. and a secret one aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran rejects this charge, saying its plans are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Pirooz Hosseini, denied that the IAEA was facing access problems.
"This is not correct information...from these unnamed diplomats," Hosseini told Reuters, adding that there were "discussions" between Tehran and the U.N. about site access.
"They're not problems. (The IAEA) will have access to the sites they want to visit. Everything is going in a smooth way."
IAEA officials declined comment.
But a third diplomat close to the IAEA said the agency had the right only to what is called "managed access" to sensitive sites, not the "anytime, anywhere" powers U.N. weapons inspectors had in Iraq.
But a fourth Western diplomat said any delays caused by discussion of "managed access" would only deepen suspicions that Iran is hiding something.
"Iran's got to throw open the doors," the diplomat said.
The IAEA began looking closely at Iran after an exiled Iranian opposition group said in August 2002 Tehran was hiding a massive uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and other facilities from the U.N. Iran later declared these sites to the IAEA.
NO HARD EVIDENCE
"There's a general hardening of opinion" against Iran on the 35-nation IAEA governing board, the second diplomat said. "The pattern of behaviour suggests they're trying to hide something."
However, he acknowledged there was no hard evidence that Iran was concealing anything, just suspicions.
He said a number of countries wanted IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to criticise Iran's less-than-adequate cooperation in his new report on Iran, due out soon. But he said ElBaradei, concerned about Tehran's reaction, was putting up resistance.
The diplomat close to the IAEA disagreed, saying ElBaradei felt strongly about the importance of the IAEA being objective and would not withhold criticism for fear of anyone's reaction.
The first diplomat said Iran may grant the IAEA inspectors access to the sites right before ElBaradei's report comes out -- so ElBaradei would not need not to mention access problems.
ElBaradei's report will be discussed at a meeting of the IAEA's board of governors beginning on June 14, at which the United States is expected to push hard for a resolution that harshly condemns Iran's nuclear programme.
Iranian FM Cancels Spanish Visit Over Wedding Invite For Shah Family
May 24, 2004
Agence France Presse
MADRID -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi on Monday cancelled a planned visit to Madrid for talks with Spain's government in protest at the invitation to last weekend's royal wedding of the widow and son of the late shah, Spanish diplomats said.
Kharazi had been due to meet Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos, who took office last month when the new Socialist government was sworn in.
"In response to an Iranian request Monday's meeting has been postponed," a Spanish foreign ministry statement said.
Speaking in Brussels on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers' meeting on the future European constitution, Moratinos played down the significance of the decision by Tehran.
"The king and the royal family have every right and legitimacy to invite whoever they feel is appropriate," he said, quoted by Europa Press.
"For our part we must also have good relations with Iran, and for that reason the meeting will take place in the near future. I do not think this will have major consequences," he said.
The Iranian embassy earlier formally protested over the invitation to the wedding Saturday of Crown Prince Felipe and former journalist Letizia Ortiz of Reza Pahlavi and Farah Diba, son and wife of the late shah, exiled following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran to Get In-law of Supreme Leader as Speaker
May 24, 2004
BBC Regional analyst
The conservatives who dominate Iran's parliament have nominated an academic to be the its first non-clerical speaker since the Islamic revolution.
The politician, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, is also an in-law of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Conservatives won Iran's controversial general elections in February after thousands of reformist candidates were disqualified from standing.
The new parliament is due to be officially sworn in on Thursday.
Since the Iranian revolution 25 years ago all speakers of parliament have been clerics.
This is an influential position in Iran's power structure and the ruling clergy never trusted anybody outside their own ranks to assume it.
But times are changing and now there is a new generation of conservatives who are as dedicated to the Islamic system of government as the official custodians of religion themselves.
The selection of a non-cleric as head of the legislature is also an attempt to give a new image to the Islamic republic, where people often complain that clerics are keeping all important positions of power for themselves.
Mr Haddad-Adel was nominated by a majority of the incoming conservative MPs in an informal session.
He is a professor of literature and philosophy at Tehran University and leader of the minority conservative faction in the outgoing reformist-dominated parliament.
His daughter is married to Ayatollah Khamenei's son.
Mr Haddad-Adel has tried to give the conservatives a moderate image since their controversial victory in April.
He famously said that the main objective of the conservatives now was to turn Iran into an "Islamic Japan".
'In Our Rush to Leave we Barely Got a Chance To Say Goodbye'
May 22, 2004
The Irish Times
Caitriona Palmer, who has been reporting from Tehran for The Irish Times, describes how she and her journalist husband were forced this week to leave Iran.
Last week in Tehran, the telephone in our small apartment rang. On the line was a secretary from the ministry of Islamic guidance and culture, our 'minders' in Iran. The secretary seemed nervous and overly apologetic for calling. The news wasn't good, she said.
"You have a week to leave the country," she told my husband, Dan De Luce, correspondent in Iran for the Guardian. "Your visa has been denied for three months. There is nothing further I can do. I'm very, very sorry."
So were we. Iran had been our home for the past year and a half. We had a cosy apartment overlooking the Alborz mountains, a large group of friends and a great enthusiasm to tell the outside world about the real Islamic Republic.
As two of just a dozen resident foreign correspondents living in Iran we were aware that we occupied privileged positions in a country that was deeply suspicious of the foreign press.
Despite our complaints about Tehran's pollution and its choking traffic congestion, Iran still felt like home. And now the Iranian government was telling us that we weren't welcome anymore.
A recent article by Dan about the reconstruction efforts in the city of Bam, devastated by an earthquake on the December 26th last year, seemed to be the cause of our problems.
In late March, Dan and I had travelled to Bam to volunteer for an Iranian charity that was providing rehabilitative care to earthquake victims. It was the Iranian new-year period and we had a week off. We'd travelled to Bam six weeks earlier to cover Prince Charles's visit and had been moved by the enormity of the human suffering there. We were eager to return to help out and curious to see how the reconstruction efforts were progressing.
As is customary, we applied to the authorities for permission to travel to Bam as journalists and volunteers. Word came back that we could volunteer but not report. This seemed strange. In a city that had been the focus of so much recent international attention and foreign aid, it was odd that the foreign press were not welcome.
But once in Bam, it became clear why the Iranian government was so keen to keep foreign journalists away. More than three months after the earthquake, the city remained a mass of devastation and confusion. Over 70,000 homeless were still living in appalling conditions in synthetic tents by the road. Stinking fly infested roadside latrines and showers were the only means of available sanitation.
Relief workers and earthquake survivors told us that the reconstruction efforts were plagued by mismanagement and alleged corruption. Survivors complained that they were not seeing the fruits of the massive influx of foreign aid and that there was too much bureaucracy and red tape standing in the way.
"We know that other countries have helped," said one 45-year old woman who lost her husband and young daughter in the quake. "But there is no money coming to us."
And it wasn't just the Bam residents who were complaining about mismanagement. Government agencies were trading accusations. A week before we visited Bam, the Iranian Red Crescent Society alleged that some $10 million of foreign aid had yet to be fully accounted for.
Wherever we went in Bam, angry residents approached us demanding that we report about the slow pace of reconstruction, the lack of temporary housing, and the deafening silence from the Iranian government. Frustration at the slow pace of reconstruction was palpable on every street.
Just a few weeks before our visit, people took to the streets, burning cars and banks and beating up the governor general. An international relief worker told us that several Bam residents were shot in the ensuing riots. But barely a word leaked out in the foreign or domestic press.
Back in Tehran, perturbed and depressed by what we'd seen, we felt we had to write stories about the situation in Bam, even without official permission. And so the fateful Guardian piece was published on April 2nd while I filed reports for RTÉ.
By expelling Dan for reporting about Bam, the Iranian authorities have simply reinforced suspicions about mismanagement of the aid effort and the regime's commitment to freedom of expression.
By forcing foreign journalists to apply for permission to conduct interviews or travel around the country, the authorities try to restrict the flow of information coming out of Iran. By keeping the rules vague and unwritten, the authorities can at any time choose to penalise a particular journalist in an arbitrary manner.
By allowing the intelligence services routinely to interrogate and intimidate the interpreters who work for foreign correspondents, the regime seeks to discourage journalistic inquiry. By forcing foreign correspondents to renew their visas every three months, the regime retains the right to expel any correspondent that it believes is pushing the envelope.
But foreign correspondents are lucky. We just get expelled. Last July, Zahra Khazemi, an Iranian photographer who held a Canadian passport, was beaten to death while in custody in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. According to Reporters San Frontiers, there are more journalists in jail in Iran than in any other Middle Eastern country. On the day that we left Iran, another two Iranian journalists were arrested and yet another newspaper shut down.
In our rush to leave Iran, we barely got a chance to say goodbye to our Iranian friends. And that is our deepest regret. Those who heard the news were deeply embarrassed and ashamed to hear of Dan's expulsion. One Iranian friend broke down in tears as she explained her powerlessness in challenging the clerical establishment.
The Iran Air steward on our flight to London was so worried that our view of Iran would be ruined forever that he fed us a constant stream of snacks and drinks throughout the journey. "I didn't want your last Iranian experience to be a negative one," he explained at the end of the flight.
And his plan worked. For his kindness, and that of ordinary Iranians, remains our most enduring memory of Iran. That the generosity and friendliness of the Iranian people is so far removed from the repressive nature of the Iranian regime. That ordinary Iranians are good, honest, hardworking people who are embarrassed by their government and the negative image it receives around the world.
So by expelling and restricting foreign correspondents, the clerical establishment in Iran is playing a counter-productive game. Their paranoia is preventing the world from appreciating the true nature of Iranian society. It is not a nation of terrorists or militants. Perhaps if more foreign journalists were allowed to work in Iran, the country's image might improve.