Allawi Stand Eases Iran-Iraq Standoff
August 15, 2004
TEHRAN -- Irans official media yesterday hailed what it described as conciliatory remarks from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi following a spate of angry accusations from other members of his US-backed government.
In an interview with the state IRNA news agency in Iraqs Shiite holy city of Najaf, Allawi welcomed an invitation to visit Iran and said he looked forward to constructive relations between the former foes.
We want establishment of good relations with neighbouring countries, especially Iran, and believe that our bilateral ties are based on common interests, IRNA quoted him as saying.
Allawi distanced himself from US-led accusations, voiced by some in his administration, of Iranian interference in the new Iraq, notably by abetting infiltration of militants across the border.
If there are any complaints, they are pointing to unofficial figures. We do not accuse the Iranian government of interference in Iraqs domestic affairs, the premier said.
Some individuals penetrate Iraqi territory through neighbouring states, and that is true for Iran too.
Relations between Tehran and Baghdad were severely strained earlier this month when Defence Minister Hazem Al Shaalan accused the Iranian authorities of trying to kill democracy in his country by fomenting unrest.
Shaalan also charged that Tehran had abandoned its longstanding favouring of the mainstream Shiite religious parties in Iraq and was arming the rebel militiamen of radical leader Muqtada Sadr in their deadly clashes with US-led troops.
IRNA also reported reassuring comments from Iraqs charge daffaires in Tehran, Khalil Salman Al Sabihi, about three of the news agencys journalists detained in Iraq.
The Iraq embassy is following the affair closely, IRNA quoted the envoy as saying.
We have asked the Iraqi foreign ministry for information about the circumstances of, and reasons for, the arrests, as well as the latest news of the three detainees.
IRNAs Baghdad bureau chief Mostafa Darban and journalists Mohammed Khafaji and Mohsen Madani were detained by Iraqi police on Monday night.
The news agencys foreign editor Hassan Lavasani said yesterday that he still had no idea why his staff had been detained. The Iranian journalists association demanded an explanation from the interim Iraqi government on why the three were detained, in a statement carried by IRNA, whose journalists also signed a petition seeking their release.
There has been no word either on the fate of an Iranian diplomat who went missing on the road from Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Karbala on August 4 and whose kidnapping was later claimed by a Sunni militant group.
Relations between Tehran and Baghdad have also been inflamed over the past week by a US-backed offensive on militia strongholds in Najaf, which is revered by the Shiite majority in Iran as well as Iraq.
Israel is in our range, says Iran
Reuters in Tehran
Monday August 16, 2004
An Iranian military chief said yesterday that Israel and the US would not dare to attack his country since it could strike back anywhere in Israel with its latest missiles, a news agency reported.
"The entire Zionist territory, including its nuclear facilities and atomic arsenal, are currently within range of Iran's advanced missiles," the Isna students news agency quoted Yadollah Javani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards political bureau, as saying. "Therefore, neither the Zionist regime nor America will carry out its threats" against Iran, he said.
Officials have highlighted Iran's military capabilities in recent weeks in response to some media reports that Israel or the US could try to destroy its nuclear facilities.
Last week Iran said it had successfully tested an upgraded version of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile. Military experts said the unmodified Shahab-3 was capable of striking Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
America and Israel have accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. Defence experts say air strikes are unlikely to disable Tehran's nuclear capability.
Missing Iranian envoy faces "punishment" threat: Iran TV
TEHRAN, Aug 15 (AFP) - An armed Iraqi group has threatened to "punish" an Iranian diplomat missing since August 4 unless Iran releases within 48 hours 500 prisoners still said to be held since its 1980-88 war with Iraq, Iranian state television said Sunday.
But Tehran denied it still held any prisoners of war, saying the last had been sent home more than a year ago.Iran's Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Alam said the threat came from the Islamic Army in Iraq, which claimed a week ago to be holding Fereydun Jahani but had made no demands.
The same group is believed to have executed two Pakistanis last month for "collaboration" with the US-led occupation forces in Iraq.
"The government must respond within 48 hours, otherwise Fereydun Jahani will be punished," Al-Alam quoted the group as saying.
"There are no more Iranian prisoners of war in Iraq and Iran sent home the last group of Iraqi prisoners of war it was holding in May 2003, after the US attack" on Iraq, the student news agency ISNA quoted a senior Iranian official as saying.
General Abdollah Najafi, head of the Iranian POW commission, said they had been handed over through the Red Crescent.
Iraqi charge d'affaires Khalil Salman al-Sabihi told ISNA that Iran and Iraq were cooperating over Jahani's case.
But he added, "We have no information on the measures taken" to try to free the diplomat, and "no information on those who call themselves the Islamic Army."
Asked about prisoners of war, he said that joint commissions were still winding matters up."Some Iraqi women claim that their children are still missing or prisoners in Iraq," Sabihi said.
The Islamic Army of Iraq said on August 8 that it had detained Jahani "for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties".
He had disappeared as he was travelling to the central Iraqi city of Karbala to open an Iranian consulate.The Iranian government said Monday it was working around the clock to secure his release, but it believed he was "alive and well".
Jahani's disappearance came amid an ongoing war of words between Iraq and Iran over the latter's alleged interference in Iraqi affairs, which Tehran denies.
Sabihi was summoned twice last week following remarks by Iraqi officials critical of Iran and in the wake of Jahani's abduction and the reported arrest of three employees in Iraq of the official Iranian news agency IRNA.
An interior ministry official alleged that four Iranian spies had been arrested, while Defence Minister Hazem al-Shaalan branded Iran Iraq's "number one enemy" and accused it of arming rebel Shiite militia fighting government and multinational forces.
Iran denied the allegations but the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological spearhead of the Iranian regime, called on Shiites to resist, amid strong emotions in the Shiite-majority Islamic Republic over fighting around holy sites in Iraq.
A video announcing Jahani's detention showed the diplomat's business and identity cards, some bearing the logo of the Revolutionary Guards, often accused of leading Iranian operations in Iraq.
Iran insisted however that he was a veteran career diplomat.
IRAN FREEDOM BUMP