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posted on 10/04/2003 12:06:32 AM PDT
AYATOLLAH MONTAZERI CALLS FOR MORE FREEDOM FOR IRANIANS
PARIS 3 Oct. (IPS)
As the Islamic Republic faces growing international pressures over its controversial nuclear programs and the ruling clerics more delegitimized at home, mostly by the young generation, Grand Ayatollah Hoseynali Montazeri, Iran's leading dissident cleric urged ruling authorities to ease restrictions on a restless population.
Speaking with the British news agency Reuter's correspondent at his home on Wednesday, Mr. Montazeri, 81, said "If officials really want to solve the crisis and satisfy the people, they should put aside their strictness. People should be free to express their ideas", he said in a rare interview with a foreign journalist.
Ayatollah Montazeri also criticised the powerless President Mohammad Khatami for having failed to capitalize on the huge mandate he had won for reform.
Khatami, despite the large mandate he won in 1997 and 2001 elections, has been unable to overcome resistance to change from powerful unelected conservatives who control the judiciary, armed forces and veto-wielding constitutional watchdogs.
"Khatami made a lot of promises to the people, he had the backing of 22 million voters and people were hopeful, but he was not able to fulfil his promises and this has caused people's disappointment," Montazeri said.
Jailed and tortured under the former Shah for his close ties to Grand Ayatollah Roohollah Khomeini before the 1979 Islamic revolution, he spent five years under house arrest for criticizing Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the present leader of the Islamic Republic.
Freed conditionally about two months ago, he nevertheless continue to express his criticism of the way the clerical leaders govern the country and urging them to be more careful to people's demands for greater freedom.
"This country and the revolution belong to the people and the officials are their servants. If the officials review their behavior, everything will be fine", he said told Paul Hughes, seated in his study in the city of Qom, the center of religious studies in Iran and cradle of Shi'a militants.
Montazeri said the restrictive climate in Iran, where scores of liberal publications have been closed and dozens of writers, students and political activists jailed in the last four years, was forcing thousands of Iran's best minds to leave the country.
He highlighted the actions of the judiciary, where the Special Court for Clergy and Revolutionary Courts have jailed dozens of Khatami supporters in recent years, often after closed-door trials without a jury.
"We do not have Special Courts and Revolutionary Courts in our constitution, both have been invented. They should close these courts and stop the judiciary's harshness. Then many things could become better", pointed out the Grand Ayatollah who was instrumental in the writing of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic.
Montazeri, sidelined by Khomeini in 1988 for criticizing the mass execution of political prisoners, has recently returned to teaching after a bout of heart problems leading up to and following his release from house arrest in January.
Analysts say hard-line officials released Montazeri because of fears that his death while under arrest could become a lightning rod for protests against the political system.
Around 300 men, including many senior reformist clerics, packed into a simple classroom Wednesday to listen to Montazeri's message of tolerance and equality.
"My point is that all human beings, no matter whether they are believers or not, or whether they are Muslims or not, should be respected", he told the attentive audience.
Friends say they are not surprised Montazeri, who wears large black-rimmed glasses and sports a pointed white beard, has returned with vigor to teaching and making his opinions known.
"He cannot be changed, everyone knows that. He has never been scared of prison or exile or torture. They described him like that in the SAVAK files", said Ayatollah Hoseyn Mousavi-Tabrizi, referring to the Shah's feared secret police.
"If the situation continues like this, yes the turnout (in the February parliament vote) will be low," he said. ENDS MONTAZERI REUTERS INTERVIEW 31003
Editor's note: Highlights and some editing works and phonetisation of names are by IPS http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2003/Oct-2003/montazeri_reuters_interview_31003.htm
posted on 10/04/2003 12:08:00 AM PDT
IRAN ALIGNS CONDITIONS FOR SIGNING PROTOCOLS ON THOSE OF THE US
TEHRAN 3 Oct. (IPS)
As inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog are expected to arrive in Tehran tonight for making sure that Irans claim that its atomic programs are for peaceful projects, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani shed more light on Irans conditions for signing the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), saying they might be the same as those set by the United States.
"We also have conditions [for signing the additional protocol] and our conditions may be the same as those which the US has declared in its talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)", Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshipers in a sermon at Tehran Friday prayers.
He recalled US conditions that its signing the protocol must not jeopardize its security, values and sanctities, and that it must not lead to investigation of issues that are not related to the nuclear energy.
"We have not yet declared our conditions, but I think these are the cornerstone of our conditions", said the influential cleric, considered as the regimes number two man, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
The Islamic Republic is already a signatory to the NPT. However, the IAEA is refusing to provide Iran with the nuclear expertise that under the agencys regulations it is entitled to receive, IRNA observed in its dispatch.
On 12 September, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors gave Iran until the end of October to sign the Protocol and stop immediately all its uranium enriching programs.
But Iran says it needs to receive guarantees before signing the Protocol that allows atomic inspectors unrestricted access to all Iranian atomic sites and projects at will and without prior warnings.
The 12 September Resolution, formulated by Australia, Japan and Canada also warns Iran that if it fails to comply with the IAEAs demand and is not able to convince that its nuclear programs are not for military purposes, the matter would be sent to the United Nations Security Council for final decision, that could includes imposing international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani called the IAEA Board of Governors "hypocrite, deceitful and opportunist", stressing that this issue is "very ugly and dangerous" for world powers and their image in the international arena.
Afraid of an embargo that could lead to possible uprising by the Iranian population against a clerical-led regime that is rejected by the majority of the population, mostly the young generation, Iranian officials are doing their best to avoid the issue being treated at the Security Council.
We must do our best to see that the problem (of Irans nuclear programs) is not sent to the United Nations, stressed foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Wednesday on his return from New York, where he attended the UNs General Assembly.
We might sign the Protocol if the sanctions imposed by the West are removed and that nuclear powers help the Islamic Republic attain nuclear technology to satisfy its energy needs, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani repeated during the traditional Friday prayers.
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani further refreshed vows that Iran would not pursue atomic weapons, stressing that these weapons are against the religious teachings of Iranians and all the Muslims.
"Just as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenehi has declared, we consider using atomic weapons as haram (forbidden) according to the Islamic sanctities and the principles of our religion", he said, but without explaining when Islam forbade an arm that had not been discovered, nor spelling out why Pakistan, the first Islam-based nation, has developed its atomic bomb.
"We have always been committed to this. Yet, it is regrettable that there is a ballyhoo against Iran in the world even though we have explicitly announced that the Islamic Republic only wants to use the nuclear technology for peaceful purposes".
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani spelled out for the first time Irans conditions for signing the controversial Protocols as Dr. Mohammad el-Bradehi, the Egyptian director of IAEA had said that the Protocol is not the central issue, but Irans nuclear programs and above all, its enriching uranium activities.
Meanwhile, the British news agency Reuters quoted Friday U.N. experts saying that if Iran has an atomic weapons program they will find evidence of it.
Technical experts from the IAEA flew into Iran ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline to prove the country has no secret atomic bomb program.
Washington alleges that it does while Tehran says it does not.
"If you handle weapons-grade materials, trace amounts get out", said Therese Renis, a technical specialist at the IAEA, quoted by Reuters.
Such inspections have already yielded suspicious results in Iran -- traces of arms-grade highly enriched uranium at two nuclear sites. This has fueled suspicions that Tehran has been secretly purifying uranium for use in a bomb, which Iran denies.
The Iranians say the uranium came from contaminated machinery purchased abroad. But this explanation has met with widespread skepticism.
But IAEA experts say Iran is not the first country to claim that the discovery of arms-grade material is due to contamination. ENDS IAEA IRAN INSPECTIONS 31003 http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2003/Oct-2003/signing_protocols_31003.htm
posted on 10/04/2003 12:15:01 AM PDT
Hard-liners in Iran soften their edges
Christian Science Monitor - By Scott Peterson
Oct 3, 2003
Battles between conservatives and reformers may be yielding a new political pragmatism.
TEHRAN, IRAN Iran's hard-line conservatives are smelling victory over the once-popular reform movement led by President Mohammad Khatami.
The Khatami era has been marred by a political civil war - as violent sometimes as it has been full of hope - in which reformers fought for the rule of law, a civil society, and the marriage of democracy and Islam. After a long struggle against hard-line conservatives unwilling to trim their absolute power, former Khatami supporters now declare bitterly: "The battle is over."
Yet, as February parliamentary elections approach, there are signs that conservatives - even as they continue to crush the reform camp - are taking on elements of the reform agenda and showing a new pragmatism.
Some argue that the clash of ideas has resulted in a drawing of Iranian politics toward a new center, as extremists are shunted aside. Despite admitting crucial mistakes and mourning goals unmet, reformers say that their glass is half full, because the reform agenda will inevitably dominate Iran's future, regardless of who wins at the polls.
"Revolution means changing everything, and some thought [reform] was another revolution to replace the current regime," says Taha Hashemi, chief editor of the conservative newspaper Entekhab. "But now reforms have been established in society, and conservatives have no choice but to be compatible with them, or be isolated," says Mr. Hashemi, a black-turbaned cleric. "Most reformers are thinking of their failures, and conservatives also distance themselves from extreme hard-liners. No doubt, this new balance of moderate conservatives and reformers will take the future of Iran in their hands," Hashemi says.
If it materializes, such a realignment could help ease the political tension that has overshadowed Iranian politics for more than half a decade. Reform leaders say that, even if they and Khatami become "victims" of the conservative comeback, reform moves can't be turned back.
"Reforms did not fail, because they have taken root among the people," says Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a vice president and close Khatami adviser, in an interview. "I predict that the conservative camp will use reformist slogans in all elections - that is what we are looking for. If they are sincere, this is what we want."
A sense of betrayal
Still, a feeling of disappointment among reformers - and disillusionment with - reformers is palpable.
"The history of the last 1-1/2 years is the fall of Khatami's popularity: People used to adore him, and now you rarely hear a person who will defend him," says Reza Alavi, a former managing editor of the Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review, now in Tehran. "Right now, no one knows what direction to go," he adds. "A collective depression has set in."
Saraj, a young attendant at a Tehran sports complex, voices a common anger among Iran's youthful majority, which pinned its hopes on reform and today sees no result. "It was a mistake to vote for Khatami in 2001. It was a waste," he says. "I won't vote again."
Their sense of betrayal is due to a collapse of high expectations of social change and caps on clerical rule that swept across Iran after Khatami's unprecedented election victory in 1997. He won again on a wave of popular goodwill, with 79 percent of votes cast, in 2001.
But reform efforts have been blocked at every turn by unelected conservative bodies, allied militias, and security services with no allegiance to Khatami, that feared for their own future if they gave up the levers of power.
Some 90 newspapers have been shut down in recent years, several activists have been killed, and scores more arrested and intimidated. Protests - which most recently in June voiced direct criticism of Khatami, as well as Iran's Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei - turned violent, then fell apart.
Khatami reportedly admitted defeat last month, telling students: "If you had pinned your hopes on [the reform movement] and we were defeated ... at least know that we did not lie to the people and we did not betray them."
The Khatami era is a testament to the difficulties of bringing democracy to Iran - an ancient nation that has know nothing but monarchy and absolutist rule for 2,500 years. "When people ask: 'Mr. Khatami, why don't you do anything against your opponents' in a despotic, authoritarian way, it means that [democratic] culture does not yet exist here," says Mr. Abtahi. "In the West, you built this culture over 300 years, and had two world wars."
One problem, Abtahi says, may have been that reformers wanted too much too fast. "If we criticize ourselves, some reformers used a lot of pressure to move very fast" with a speed "that led the conservatives to believe that we wanted to eliminate them."
"Our main enemy now is our disappointment," says Mohammad Reza-Khatami, the president's brother and leader of the main pro-reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, in an interview. "With the passage of time, those against reforms will disappear, because inside they are not dynamic. The movement has infiltrated all our homes, and turned our children into a generation completely different from us. Maybe this is our biggest achievement."
One sign of a surviving impulse for change could be the dismal 12 percent turnout in municipal elections in Tehran last February - a protest vote of apathy, some argue, that could be repeated in the parliament vote. A similar result, especially if conservatives take control of the majlis, could spark a crisis.
"For sure, 12 percent can't legitimately act for 100 percent of the country ... their [parliamentary] decisions would be useless - a scandal!" says editor Hashemi, adding that such a low turnout would force a "referendum on the Islamic Republic."
Some observers say the critical mistake of reformers was the June demonstrations, when unrest sparked by student complaints led to days of violence on Tehran's streets. Disorganized, the demonstrations quickly fizzled.
"They used their last card when they took to the streets. They couldn't do anything, and lost the biggest tool of politics: the bluff," says Amir Mohebian, a conservative commentator with the Resalat newspaper. After that, "we understood they lost all chances."
Still, reform will continue to define Iranian politics, many here say. "The reformers failed, but reforms succeeded, because all of us realize that reforms are necessary," Mr. Mohebian says.
Lasting echoes of reformers?
But it is unclear whether hard-liners see the reform movement as a lasting influence, though there are some signs of change. For example, the leading dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri - once the designated successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution - was permitted to teach last month for the first time, after five years under house arrest.
"If people are not satisfied, the establishment is not legitimate," Mr. Montazeri told the Associated Press. "The authorities should increase their tolerance...and allow the new generation to choose its future."
Iranians also note easing enforcement of some social restrictions to allow head-scarves that reveal more hair, the use of cosmetics, and hip-hugging gowns - items on the wish list of Khatami's restless electorate, the majority of them under 25 years of age. Today forbidden alcohol is more available.
"The conservatives are getting their act together in a very serious way. They learned from their mistakes, and learned from Khatami that they have to bring down expectations of utopia," says an Iranian analyst who asked not to be named. "It's no secret [alcohol, drugs, and social liberties] are out there. But they know they can't control it. They are looking the other way. This is what people want."
Despite some easing, though, hard-liners are taking no chances. Last week, the leading reformist daily Yas-e No was ordered to shut down for 10 days, for not printing a rebuttal statement from the judiciary prominently on the front page, after it had already run on inside pages.
Alarms are also being raised by the opening of offices in every province by the Guardian Council, the unelected conservative body that vets all political candidates, and has been used in the past to winnow out reformers. Even the interior ministry has declared these offices illegal, siding with critics who say they are tasked with digging dirt on opponents.
"What [hard-liners] say is true: They want reforms," says an Iranian academic who asked not to be named. "That doesn't mean the rule of law or sovereignty of the majlis - the big bosses want a pure Mohammaden society" recalling the early days of Islam in the 7th century. "They want to slowly marginalize all institutions with a quasi-populist root-the majlis and the presidency," the academic says. "They believe in the divine right of [clerical] rule. And they believe in the people, only so long as the people follow the leader."
Despite such prospects, reform leaders say they have made some progress - as well as mistakes that require a rethink. "Instead of using our energy to establish social institutions, we used it in fights," says Reza-Khatami. "Sometimes they were so intense that people believed we wanted power in our hands. People asked: Is reform the path we want to take?" http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1003/p01s04-wome.html
posted on 10/04/2003 12:18:09 AM PDT
Powell Says US Responding to Iranian Signals
October 03, 2003
The Washington Post
Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin
Full Transcript: Washington Post Reporters Interview Powell
QUESTION: On Iran. The Iranians seem to be all but begging to restart the talks that have been going on in Geneva so that they can be brought in on the discussion of Iran -- I mean, Iraq. Why has the administration not taken them up on that -- all these open suggestions -- and restarted those talks?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have heard all these suggestions, and we have received a number of indications from Iran and we are responding to those indications. And I won't get into the details of it, but there are some outstanding issues that have to be resolved. But I think it's encouraging that they are sending out these signals and we are responding to the signals. It's something that may well come together.
QUESTION: I see. When you say "responding," do you mean in terms of --
SECRETARY POWELL: They know -- they are getting a response. Their signals are not simply going into the ether. They're hitting a reflector and going back, and a signal's going back.
QUESTION: And if they were to sign the advance -- they say they will sign the advance protocol if they're assured --
SECRETARY POWELL: There were saying it. Additional protocol.
QUESTION: -- Additional protocol [an amendment to Iran's nuclear nonproliferation agreement that would provide for unannounced inspections and enhanced safeguards] -- if they were sure that that would be the end of the --
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the end of it is when they have assured the international community that they are not doing anything that could lead to a nuclear weapons development program or a nuclear weapon. The additional protocol certainly moves you in the right direction, but I think the international community, through the IAEA, will be seeking additional assurances and all of the questions answered. And that's why we're taking the next several weeks to see what answers the IAEA does receive from Iran. And there'll be, you know, an opportunity for the IAEA to speak again at the end of them, and then for the Security Council to decide whether it's appropriate for it to take any action.
But what we're looking for is not a confrontation or crisis with Iran. We're looking for Iran to demonstrate to the world, to the international community, that it is not intending to develop a nuclear weapon. And it's the United States that first called attention to this problem at the beginning of this administration, and then ever since then.
In recent months, more and more people have come to the realization that there is a problem. The IAEA has come to that realization with a strong vote recently. And my European colleagues have found it sufficiently persuasive that they sent a letter -- France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- to Iran, laying out concerns; and even Russia has expressed concerns. http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=04&a=1
As President Putin said the other day, he wants answers, and he's concerned. But at the same time, he doesn't see any reason not to provide support to [nuclear power facility under construction at the Iranian port of ] Bushehr, and to complete Bushehr, but I think he recognizes it's really not Bushehr so much as it is the fuel cycle that will cause Bushehr to operate. And that's where we all have a concern, to make sure that fuel cycle, if the plant is continued, that the fuel cycle is provided in a way that we have absolute assurance that the fuel is not being diverted or used in any way, and being reprocessed in any way, into material that can be used for nuclear weapons.
UN, Iran form Plan to Show Nuclear Program Peaceful
October 04, 2003
The Associated Press
The Jerusalem Post
Representatives of the UN nuclear watchdog have left Iran after reaching "total agreement" on measures to prove the country's nuclear program is peaceful, Iran's representative to the IAEA said Saturday.
Ali Akbar Salehi said the International Atomic Energy Agency delegation left Tehran on Friday "with complete satisfaction."
"The two sides reached total agreement and approved a plan of action on the basis of which we will work together on a timetable to achieve the expected results," Salehi told The Associated Press.
The IAEA has set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to prove it is not producing nuclear weapons - as the United States strongly suspects. Iran has protested the deadline and said its nuclear program is to generate electricity as its oil reserves decline.
Pierre Goldschmidt, an IAEA deputy director general, and another top official from the Vienna-based agency held two days of talks in Tehran.
Salehi said Iran agreed to provide the IAEA with a list of imported equipment that had been contaminated.
"The train has started to move and we have agreed to push the train to move faster," Salehi said.
In recent weeks Iran has twice confirmed that particles of weapons-grade uranium had been found in separate places in the country. The government said the particles came from imported nuclear equipment that had been contaminated.
Iran has not said whether it will respect the Oct. 31 deadline.
"The Oct. 31 deadline is not the plan of action for us," Salehi said. "The important thing is that we've reached agreements to work together and there was a breakthrough in the talks."
He said Iran has already addressed some of the IAEA's questions about its nuclear program and would respond to new questions "in the shortest possible time."
He did not elaborate.
He said an IAEA inspection team has arrived in Tehran to carry out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1065252420670&p=1008596981749
Iran May Assist With Reconstruction in Iraq
October 04, 2003
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON Despite a quarter-century of tension with Iran, the United States has reached out to the Islamic Republic for help in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq and is getting it, according to U.S. and Iranian officials.
Iran will participate in an international donors conference this month in Madrid, and may end up as one of the few aid contributors. It is already offering to provide water, electricity and technical assistance to Iraq, a top Iranian diplomat said Friday. He said his government was prepared to pledge additional aid, although probably not cash.
Iran's possible role in Iraq comes as Washington and Tehran try to resume the behind-the-scenes discussions they aborted in May, senior U.S. officials said.
"We've seen some signs and heard from others that the Iranians want to talk," a senior State Department official said Friday. "We're sending some signals back."
Although the countries differ on many issues, the key steps toward resuming talks are working together on Iraq and Iranian cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on inspections, amid U.S. charges that Tehran is secretly developing a weapon off its new energy program.
After months of allegations about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the State Department sounded almost conciliatory this week about Tehran.
Iran is supportive of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council, and Washington hopes Tehran will "step up to the plate big-time" in pledging reconstruction funds, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told a House Appropriations subcommittee this week.
"On the question of Iran, as much trouble as we have on the nuclear question, we have a slightly different relationship with them on the question of Iraq. They have welcomed the Governing Council," Armitage told the panel.
"They will participate in the donor conference," he said. "They have big interests in stability in Iraq."
Washington, which severed ties with Tehran in 1980, has been deeply concerned about an Iranian role in Iraq amid fears that Tehran might meddle in the political situation there.
A senior Iranian official confirmed that Iran recently accepted an invitation to attend the donors conference, at which Spain will be host but which has been orchestrated largely by the United States. So far, Britain, Canada and Japan are the only other countries to have indicated they will provide aid, even though dozens of countries may attend, U.S. officials say.
Some U.S. officials suggest that an agreement by Tehran to sign a new protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency could end the standoff and facilitate new discussions.
"We also know the Iranians are looking to know that if they sign the protocol and abide by the IAEA that that resolves the question," the senior State Department official said. "They'd have to sign it, answer all the questions and cooperate fully and ensure they don't have a nuclear program, then that could resolve the nuclear matter."
But deep divisions remain within the Bush administration about Iran policy. They were underscored when the same Pentagon officials who urged a war against Iraq met this week for the first time with the grandson of Iran's revolutionary leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who advocates U.S. support for regime change in Iran.
The Ayatollah Hossein Khomeini, who left Iran this year and now lives in Baghdad, is calling on the administration to help mobilize opposition to the religious government that his grandfather led to power when the U.S.-backed shah was ousted in 1979.
At a meeting at the Pentagon attended by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, Khomeini asked the United States to hold a conference of Iranian opposition figures, U.S. officials said Friday.
Tehran is ruled by a "ruthless dictatorship," Khomeini said during a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute last month.
The Pentagon's interest in Khomeini also contrasted with an Armitage statement that hinted at a new openness in the Iranian government. Armitage told the subcommittee that a top Iranian official had publicly complained that Al Qaeda operatives were plotting from inside Iran to hit targets in other countries activities the official said were hurting Iranian interests.
"[Kamal] Kharrazi, the foreign minister, said for the first time, I believe, that Al Qaeda has committed crimes against Iran's national security by establishing cells to plot operations elsewhere," Armitage said.
"His comments were the first public admission that members of the network headed by [Osama bin Laden] were more than just fugitives from Afghanistan. So something is going on there," Armitage added, calling the comments "rather fascinating."
Iran insists its interest in attending the donors summit and helping reconstruct Iraq is consistent with long-standing policy, reflected in the fact that it dispatched the first delegation to meet with the Governing Council after it was formed. Iran is predominantly Shiite Muslim, as is Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Shiites were brutally repressed.
"It would be interesting if you listen only to the propaganda coming out of [L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. civilian administrator in Baghdad], but if you look at Iranian interests, it will be a continuation of our policy to help stabilize Iraq, welcome the Governing Council and strengthen it as the first step for restoring sovereignty for the Iraqi people," the senior Iranian official said.
Tehran has been providing water and other humanitarian supplies to Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in March, he said. And U.S. officials say Iran has offered significant amounts of badly needed electricity, although no arrangement has yet been made.
Washington broke off relations with Tehran after the U.S. Embassy there was seized, and various behind-the-scenes efforts to promote diplomatic rapprochement in the intervening years have failed.
After three meetings this spring, discussions between U.S. and Iranian diplomats were cut off after three suicide bombings against American targets in Saudi Arabia.
Washington charged that suspected Al Qaeda agents had a brief telephone conversation with another agent in Iran, an allegation repeatedly denied by Tehran.
The administration also remains deeply concerned by Iranians and others who have crossed the long and porous border from Iran into Iraq. They include Iranian intelligence agents, U.S. officials say.
More Aid Sought
The United States has hoped that all six of the countries bordering Iraq would provide assistance in Iraq.
Washington has been in talks with Turkey about the potential for providing troops, while Turkey and Syria are possible suppliers of electricity. Jordan has promised to help train Iraq's new police force.
And talks continue with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as other Persian Gulf states.
It is not known what if anything Iran might want in exchange for its help.
But Iran's presence at the donors conference, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will attend, is particularly striking as the only one of the six without diplomatic relations with Washington. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/la-fg-usiran4oct04-1,1,6759673.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Tehran Court Fines Coca-Cola Company
October 04, 2003
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
Tehran -- A court in Tehran has levied a fine of 7.150 million dollars against the Coca-Cola company for violating its contract with an Iranian soft drinks counterpart, the press reported here on Saturday.
The Persian-language newspaper `Entekhab' quoted the Managing Director of the Iranian company as saying that the Coca-Cola company, under such names as Coca-Cola International, Coca-Cola Export and Canco Limited, had concluded a contract with his company in 1993 for an investment project of 15 million dollars in Iran.
However, the director said, Coca-Cola had breached all obligations included in the contract and had taken the possession of all the properties of his company after paying 7.850 million dollars in two batches.
He added that Coca-Cola had blamed US economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic for suspending its investment project in his company.
The director, who was not identified by the paper, said his company had repeatedly urged Coca-Cola to determine the fate of its investment, and to lift the block on the assets of his company over the past years.
"Yet, our efforts produced no result. Therefore, we lodged a complaint against Coca-Cola Export, Coca-Cola International and Canco Limited at the branch 49 of Tehran public court, and the court issued a ruling against those companies," he said. http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=04&a=4
Get ready for Irans drive to be national suicide bomber
The Political Life
October 1, 2003
After 60 years of the threat of nuclear war, we have become a bit blasé when other nations such as Israel, India and Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons.
But if Iran gets the bomb, as it appears to be in a headlong rush to do, it will be a very, very different world in which to live. President Bush needs to be far more aggressive in alerting the American people to that danger and in pressuring Russia to cut off its aid to Iranian nuclear reactors.
As shocking as the actions of individual suicide bombers are to Western sensibilities, imagine what could happen if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons. Would the ethos of men and women willing to die to kill Israelis and Westerners transfer to a nation willing to ignore the constraints of deterrence in its desire to wage a global jihad against the Great Satan?
Once, the very tactic of suicide bombing by individuals was so incomprehensible to the American way of thinking that our security measures took no account of the possibility that fanatics would willingly lose their lives to pursue their religious agenda.
The recommendations of the Gore Commission on Air Safety in 1997 focused largely on ensuring that all passengers who checked baggage on a flight actually were on board. The idea that one of them might happily enter a plane that he had arranged to destroy and die with the heathens was so far from the ken of the commission that it did not even address the possibility.
If Iran gets the bomb, do we seriously believe that the concept of deterrence will effectively preclude its use? What is to prevent the logic of the homicide/suicide bomber from functioning at the nation-state level? Is it beyond the realm of possibility that the Iranian ayatollahs might, indeed be willing to sacrifice the faithful in Tehran to obliterate the infidels in New York, London, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles?
In the 60s, much was made of Chinas huge population and the willingness of its leaders to accept huge casualties in a nuclear exchange with the United States. But China never had elevated suicide to an art form as the radical Muslim community has done.
Anyone who doubts Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons need only ask one basic question: Why is this nation with among the worlds largest oil reserves seeking to develop nuclear power if not for a bomb? It cannot be a need to replace oil. Iran is drowning in enough oil to last it for decades if not centuries.
Bush seems to have been finessed by worries that he will be accused of crying wolf if he stands up and accurately warns us of the danger we face from an Iranian bomb. But the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will appear to history to have been an odd reason for complaisance in the face of determined Iranian efforts to go nuclear.
North Korea, while also a deadly nuclear threat, is susceptible to pressure from China, its leading source of food and fuel. But Iran is not subject to pressure from anyone. The insanity of the regime and the fanaticism of its religious devotion to countering the infidel make it the very worst country to get the bomb.
But the instability in Iran, the massive student demonstrations, the overt rejection of the theocracy by three quarters of the voters in the last two elections, all show the vulnerability of the Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khameneis regime. Strong American pressure, economic sanctions (enforced on other countries through the DAmato Amendment of 1996), television broadcasts into Iran and saber rattling by American troops next door in Iraq could work together to solve this problem for the world.
Bush just needs to get it going. His relative silence on the subject and reluctance to elevate it to its proper place in presidential rhetoric is not just bad politics (inexplicably so) but poor policy, as well.
Dick Morris is the author of Off With Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks, and Obstructionists in American Politics, Media, and Business. http://www.thehill.com/morris/100103.aspx
Iran's President calls for massive turnout in next parliamentary elections
President Mohammad Khatami stressed in Tehran on Friday the need to prepare grounds for the people's massive turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections, IRNA reported.
In a meeting with the coordination council of the Second of Khordad groups, Khatami reviewed the very sensitive domestic and foreign issues and said the active presence of people in the upcoming parliamentary elections will defuse all threats and would be considered as a moral backing for materialization of their aspirations.
Khatami called on the Second of Khordad political groups to be united and embark on a very close cooperation in meeting people's demands.
The Second of Khordad movement has acted in line with religious yardsticks defined by the late Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, he said.
Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi who was present in the meeting, also called for a massive turnout by all groups in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
He said a democratic system in the framework of the Islamic Republic defined by the late Imam Khomeini to respect people's dignity and honor is what the Second of Khordad groups are seeking. The 6th Majlis (Parliament) has attained remarkable achievements in the political and economic arenas, he pointed out.
Karroubi called on all political parties to raise hope among people and foil the efforts of enemies who seek to disappoint them. http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1018.html
Iran says attackers of British Embassy were "adventurers"
Two people arrested in connection with a series of shootings near the British Embassy in Tehran were adventurers, claims Iran's intelligence minister.
He says Iran is committed to its responsibilities to protect foreign diplomatic missions in the country.
"Those who have been arrested for a series of attacks on the British Embassy were two aggressive individuals seeking adventure," Ali Yunesi said.
"These people have confessed that they had carried out three separate armed attacks on the embassy," Mr Yunesi said.
The Intelligence Ministry announced Friday police had identified and detained the "elements" behind a September 14 shooting near the British Embassy, which caused no injuries.
On Sept. 3, five bullets were fired at the British Embassy in central Tehran, two days after a protest outside the embassy over Britain's role in the occupation of Iraq.
Almost a week later, shots were again fired near the building.
There were no casualties in either incident.
Britain's Foreign Office complained to Iranian authorities over the shootings.
The incidents coincided with tensions caused over Britain's August 21 arrest of former Iranian ambassador Hade Soleimanpour, who is wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina.
Story filed: 13:39 Saturday 4th October 2003 http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_825798.html
Iran 'Optimistic' After Nuclear Talks
October 04, 2003
A first phase of crucial talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has ended in Tehran, with the Iranians optimistic about the outcome.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi - who is in Tehran for the talks - told the BBC that agreement and mutual understanding had been reached on a plan of action to clarify the issues of concern to the agency.
The aim, he said, was to speed up co-operation, so that all the questions the IAEA is asking could be dealt with as swiftly as possible.
Dr Salehi said that there were no serious sticking points, but he cautioned that it was a dynamic process and he hoped that nothing unusual would come up.
The most senior IAEA official involved in the talks, deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt, has returned to Vienna, but other officials and tactical experts have stayed on.
They will be engaging in detailed discussions and some inspections as the agreed programmes of works gets under way.
So this first and crucial phase of talks has ended with the Iranians in an optimistic and positive mood.
On its side, the IAEA itself is being much more cautious.
In fact, it is saying virtually nothing at all.
Clearly much will depend on what actually happens in the coming days, and how forthcoming and convincing the Iranians turn out to be in meeting the agency's concerns.
These include questions about how traces of highly enriched weapons grade uranium came to found at two Iranian facilities.
By the end of the month the agency wants to have a full understanding of all Iran's past and present nuclear activities so that it is in a position to certify that the country has been abiding by its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty.
If it cannot do that, the issue may be referred to the United Nations Security Council where Iran could face sanctions. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3163968.stm
US and Iran in Secret Peace Talks
October 05, 2003
Jason Burke and Dan de Luce
Secret 'back-door' diplomacy involving some of the Middle East's most influential figures has led to unexpected signals of a rapprochement between America and Iran despite angry public rhetoric on both sides.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high, particularly over the question of Iran's nuclear programme and alleged attempts to destabilise the US occupation in Iraq, but a tentative dialogue has been established.
One go-between has been King Abdullah II of Jordan, who visited Tehran shortly before meeting President Bush at Camp David last month. King Abdullah is understood to have been briefed by Mohammed Khatami, the Iranian president, and Kamal Kharrazi, the foreign minister, and to have transferred their 'analysis of the regional situation' to the Americans.
Last week US officials confirmed that they had received 'positive signals' from Iran. 'There is some indication that the Iranians want to talk to us about a range of issues and we are responding appropriately,' one State Department official said.
However, analysts say that different groups in Iran are reacting to the country's new security situation in different ways, and the seemingly contradictory stances reflect deep divisions within Iranian politics and society. Religious hardliners, who control many of the key institutions, are taking a firm stance over Iran's nuclear programme and are working to cause problems for the US-led forces in Iraq. However, Iranian reformists, such as Khatami and Kharrazi, are taking a more conciliatory position.
Iran is expected to attend an international donors conference on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq in Madrid later this month, while continuing to take a hard line on the nuclear issue.
'As much trouble as we have with them on the nuclear issue, we have a slightly different relationship with them on Iraq,' Richard Armitage, the American deputy secretary of state, said last week. 'They have big interests in stability in Iraq.'
Another issue causing tensions is the alleged presence of senior al-Qaeda figures in Iran. Here differences in the US administration mirror those in Iran. American hawks, particularly those close to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, claim that Iranian hardliners are harbouring militants and facilitating their terror campaign. Their opponents in Washington say that any Sunni Muslim Islamic militants held by the Iranian regime are in prison and unable to operate.
The most pressing issue for all remains the suspicion that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has asked for prompt access to sensitive nuclear sites, giving Iran one last chance to come clean about the true nature of its nuclear programme.
Inspections last summer found traces of weapons-grade uranium and obstruction of the IAEA's work could lead to UN sanctions. The IAEA has demanded that Iran cease all uranium enrichment activity and prove it has no weapons programme by 31 October.
Senior Iranian conservatives last week dismissed the terms of the 31 October deadline. At the weekly Friday prayers ceremony at Tehran University, the powerful former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, condemned the IAEA resolution.
'The hypocritical policy of the Americans and Westerners has no justification,' Rafsanjani told worshippers amid chants of 'Death to America', though he did indicate that Iran would be willing to meet some international demands in return for guarantees protecting Iran's sovereignty.
Dr Ali Ansari, lecturer in Middle Eastern history at the University of Durham, said that the nuclear issue united many reformists and conservatives. 'Many believe it is their national right to develop a nuclear programme,' he said. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1056324,00.html
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