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FarsiNet News - April 1997

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Israel Millionaire Linked to Iran (4/16//97)
By KARIN LAUB, April 16, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) -- An Israeli millionaire linked to the illegal sale of chemical weapons components to Iran appeared before a judge Wednesday, 20 days after being secretly arrested on his return to Israel from abroad. Israeli security agents led Nahum Manbar out of a Tel Aviv courtroom after the closed-door session, his head covered by a jacket. The judge ordered Manbar held for nine more days and partially lifted a news blackout on the case. Manbar was raised in talks last week in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including the acting CIA chief, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.

It said U.S. officials asked Israel to stop Manbar's activities and the CIA gave Israel new evidence of Manbar's links with Iran. Netanyahu's senior aide, David Bar-Illan, said Wednesday he was not aware of any U.S. requests in connection with Manbar. In 1994, the State Department accused Manbar of violating a U.S. trade embargo against Iran by selling chemical weapons components used to make mustard and nerve gas, and barred him from entering the United States, Israeli media reports said.

Questions about Manbar's whereabouts were first raised this week in front-page stories in Israeli newspapers. Some reports said Manbar, who has homes in Switzerland and France, boarded a Rome-Tel Aviv flight on March 27. Israel radio said Wednesday it was not clear whether Manbar got on the flight voluntarily. As part of the restrictions on journalists, Tel Aviv Magistrate Dan Arbel barred revealing the precise accusations against Manbar. Manbar's attorney, Amnon Zichroni, said his client was linked to a ``serious offense against state security.'' Haaretz said Manbar built a $200 million business, starting with arms deals in Poland in the late 1980s, and eventually made contact with Iran. An Iranian minister connected to the weapons industry was appointed to deal directly with Manbar, and the two met dozens of times in Europe, the newspaper said.

In a December 1995 interview with Haaretz, Manbar said he was not the only Israeli dealing with Iran. ``No one here is stupid enough to believe that Nahum Manbar, on his own, can make connections with Iran out of thin air. Somebody caught me in their net, but I am far from the only one... You have no idea how many Israelis are involved,'' Manbar said. In that interview, Manbar denied he sold Iran materials that originated in China and were used in making poison gas.

Iran: We May Cut Ties With Germany(4/16/97)
Iran: We May Cut Ties With Germany

By AFSHIN VALINEJAD, April 16, 1997

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader warned Wednesday that Germany will pay for a court ruling that blames Iranian leaders for 1992 murders of dissidents. He said Tehran is not afraid to cut ties with Germany.

But despite the tough talk, Iran and European nations seem to be trying to avoid escalating the crisis in order to protect business interests. Germany is Iran's top European trading partner. `The Germans have lost something major: the trust of the Iranian people,'' Tehran television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying. ``Bonn should know that Iran is not even afraid of severing ties with Germany.'' ``The German government is responsible for this charade and must pay a high price for it,'' he said. Khamenei did not elaborate on how Germany might be punished. All European Union countries except Greece recalled their ambassadors after the German court issued its ruling Thursday. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Finland also have called home their envoys.

Iran has threatened to cancel trade agreements with some countries, including New Zealand. Iran imports $120 million in meat, dairy products, fish and wool from New Zealand every year. Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, said Wednesday that it may not order its ambassador to Iran to return there after he finishes a visit to the United States. The ambassador, Rudolf Weiersmueller, represents Washington's interests in the Islamic Republic. Also Wednesday, 6,000 disabled war veterans gathered outside the German Embassy in Tehran in the latest of almost daily protests since the Berlin court blamed Iranian leaders for the 1992 killings of political dissidents.

Some walked, others pushed themselves in wheelchairs or hobbled on crutches. Dozens were pushed to the site in wheeled hospital beds, some equipped with oxygen tanks. About 300 riot police stood in rows three deep in front of the embassy. Iran has accused Germany of supplying chemical weapons to Iraq and has encouraged veterans disabled in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war to sue German companies.

Strains of Trade(4/15/97)
Tuesday, April 15,1997

The Washingtom Post

IT bothers Americans that the Europeans, their eye on trade, seem insensitive to acts of terrorism and repression conducted by the likes of Iran and Cuba. But of course it bothers America's trading partners in Europe that the United States wields s anctions against them when they do not support American foreign policy in such places. These tensions are a well-etched feature of the post-Cold War scene. Fortunately, sometimes something positive happens to ease the strain.

In a particularly raw case, the United States had penalized the European Union, in the so-called Helms-Burton legislation, for dealing in expropriated Cuban property. The EU responded by filing a complaint against Washington, in the dispute-settling World Trade Organization, for attempting to extend American embargo law beyond American territory. No party has acted entirely from high principle in this dispute. But both finally accepted the need to head off a major collision that could have spoiled a fledgling trade institution -- the WTO -- critical to American as well as European free-trade interests. Key legislators remain skeptical, but the Clinton administration and the EU have bought time to work out joint and improved standards for the protection of property rights.

Meanwhile, American efforts to enlist the Europeans in isolating Iran have gotten a boost. A German court convicted three Iranians for the murder of three Kurdish dissidents in Berlin after finding the killings had been ordered by an Iranian body including the country's president and its paramount spiritual leader. Faced with these facts from one of their own, the Europeans had no choice but to terminate the "critical dialogue" by which they had spun the trade-protecting illusion of Iranian moderation, and to expel Iranian ambassadors. Now, if reluctantly, they are to consider targeting other items of Iranian travel and commerce.

These deliberations will go on under the shadow of a fresh report linking a senior Iranian official to the Saudi group suspected of the bombing in Saudi Arabia last June that took 19 American lives. A finding that Iran was as directly responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing as the Berlin court found it was in the Mykonos restaurant bombing would have implications extending beyond trade. These include possible American military reprisal. Europeans who shy from that possibility can best discourage it by getting tough on the economic side.

Iran long-range missile threat (04/15/1997)
From "The Times of London" www.the-times.co.uk


IN A far-reaching strategic development with implications beyond the Middle East, Iran, with the help of Russian experts, two weeks ago tested components of a long-range missile capable of hitting Israel, the Israeli Air Force's commander has said.

According to Israel, the missile will have a range of 950 miles, more than twice that of any now in Tehran's arsenal. Earlier, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, gave a warning that Iran was trying to develop ballistic missiles to strike not only at Israel but also at Western nations.

Last night senior diplomatic sources said that the rapid advance in Iran's missile capability, combined with its efforts p again with Russian help p to acquire a nuclear capability, had increased the chances that Israel may launch a pre-emptive strike similar to that mounted against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981.

According to Israeli publications, Iranian missile plants exist in Shiraz, Kuramabad, Farhin and Semnan. Israel's ability to mount a successful strike has been boosted by a $2 billion deal for 25 McDonnell Douglas F151 long-range strike aircraft due, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, to be delivered from this year.

Major-General Eitan Ben Eliahu gave details of the missile test in a broadcast on Israel army radio.

Iran slams German court verdict, expels diplomats(4/11/97)
Iran slams German court verdict, expels diplomats
03:47 p.m. Apr 10, 1997 Eastern

DUBAI, April 10 (Reuter) - Iran on Thursday rejected as biased a German court ruling that Tehran ordered the 1992 killings of four Kurdish dissidents, and withdrew its ambassador to Germany for consultations and expelled four German diplomats.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi said the court verdict was unfounded and influenced by a propaganda campaign against Iran , the official Iranian IRNA news agency reported.

He said the ruling had been made ``in an unjust and biased manner based on the false claims of counter-revolutionary elements and hostile political propaganda of the Zionists.''

He said Iran had recalled ambassador Hossein Moussavian for consultations and was waiting for an official text of the verdict.

Iran also summoned Germany's ambassador to its foreign ministry over the verdict and expelled four German diplomats, the agency said.

In its sentence on Thursday, the court avoided citing names but gave the positions of the Iranian officials it believed were behind the murders as members of a committee which included the state president and Iran 's religious leader.

Iran 's parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, speaking in Moscow, dismissed the court verdict as political.

Iran 's ties with Germany, Tehran's main trade partner, have been strained over the German charges that spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ordered the murders. Iran has denied being involved.

Iran 's moves came as Germany announced it was recalling its ambassador from Tehran and expelling four Iranian diplomatic staff. Bonn also said it was ending its policy of ``critical dialogue'' with Tehran for the foreseeable future.

IRNA said security measures around Germany's embassy in Tehran were intensified. Residents said dozens of riot police and several police cars on Thursday night stood around the embassy compound located in central Tehran at the corner of Berlin street and a major avenue.

The embassy had been closed all day even though it is usually open on Thursdays, the residents said.

Iran has repeatedly denied all responsibility for the killings which it blames on infighting among opposition groups.

It has condemned the trial as politically motivated, citing that a main witness was Abolhassan Banisadr -- Iran 's first president who fled to France after being deposed in 1981. Banisadr is accused by Tehran of hijacking and other crimes.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati said on Wednesday a ``negative'' verdict could damage ties with Bonn and denied reports the 500 German nationals living in Iran were at risk.

He was reacting to reports that pro-Iranian groups might attack German interests or that German nationals in Iran were under threat if the court backed the charges against Iran .

Velayati said Iran had good relations with Germany and drew a distinction between the court and the Bonn government.

Germany has been Iran 's most important Western friend and has resisted pressure, mainly from the United States and Britain, to shun Iran which they accuse of state terrorism, a charge Tehran denies.

Iranian analysts said they believed Iran would issue strongly worded protests against the court's ruling but doubted it would go as far as jeopardising its vital ties with Germany.

They referred to comments by Khamenei late last year as the row broke that the United States and Israel were Iran 's main enemies and disputes with other countries were secondary. They said the comments looked like an attempt to defuse the row.

The court gave life sentences to Kazem Darabi, an Iranian, and Abbas Rhayel, a Lebanese. Two other Lebanese received prison sentences of between five and 11 years as accomplices.

It found a fifth man innocent of complicity charges.

The Germany foreign ministry has warned Germans not to travel to Iran unless absolutely necessary and to remain in constant contact with the embassy in Tehran. In November, protesters marched on the embassy, pelted it with eggs and stones and called for the death of German state prosecutor Bruno Jost.

Bonn last year issued an arrest warrant for Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahiyan, accusing him of masterminding the murders.

Tehran Ordered Exile Killings (4/11/97)

Verdict Blaming Top Iranians Ruptures Ties
By William Drozdiak
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 11 1997;
The Washington Post

A German court found today that the highest levels of Iran's Islamic fundamentalist government gave orders to carry out the gangland-style slaying of three Kurdish dissidents and their translator here nearly five years ago.

The long-awaited verdict caused a rupture in relations between Iran and Germany, its biggest trading partner in the West. The German government expelled four Iranian diplomats and recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultation. Iran angrily denied that its leadership was behind the killings, recalled its own ambassador from Bonn and expelled four German diplomats in retaliation.

"The participation of Iranian state agencies, as found in the court verdict, represents a flagrant violation of international law," the Foreign Ministry in Bonn said in a statement.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the court ruling "corroborates our long-held view that Iran's sponsorship of terrorism is authorized at senior levels of the Iranian government." In Brussels, the European Union invited its 14 other members to emulate Germany in recalling their ambassadors from Tehran.

In today's ruling, a three-judge tribunal sentenced an Iranian grocer and a Lebanese accomplice to life in prison for their roles in gunning down the Kurdish exiles at the Mykonos restaurant here in 1992. Two other accessories to the crime were given jail terms of five to 11 years.

Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said the four defendants harbored no personal motives but were fulfilling an assassination decree issued by Tehran's Committee for Special Operations. The court did not cite names but said the secret council consists of Iran's president, its top religious authority, the minister of intelligence and other senior security= officials.

It was the first time that a Weste rn court directly implicated Iran's top leadership in the killing of Iranian dissidents who have sought refuge in Europe. Iranian opposition figures say at least 20 people in European countries have been killed by hit squads operating on Tehran's instructions since the Islamic theocracy took power in 1979.

The United States has often exhorted its European allies to isolate Iran as a pariah for its alleged role in sponsoring terrorism abroad. But Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government, which has pursued a policy of "critical dialogue" with Iran, balked at taking any punitive steps that could jeopardize the interests of German enterprises that do nearly $2 billion in annual trade and hold $5 billion in debts from Tehran.

France and several of Germany's other European partners also argued in favor of maintaining contacts with Iran, but the court's findings could seriously threaten those relations. EU governments are expected to discuss further punitive measures against Iran, including possible trade sanctions, in weeks to come.

Kubsch insisted the judges were not seeking to indict the Iranian government. But he said that after months of sifting through evidence -- some of which they did not fully disclose -- they reached an inescapable conclusion that the slaying of the Kurdish exiles was part of a terror campaign to eliminate political dissidents abroad and could only have been orchestrated by Tehran.

"The Iranian political leadership is responsible," Kubsch declared. "It is proven that there was an official liquidation order."

"This accusation is not true," Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri told reporters during a visit to Moscow, Reuter reported. "We have asked the German leadership many times if there is any evidence and if so to present it to us. But until now they haven't. The trial had a political tinge," he added.

The German government warned its citizens today not to travel to Iran in the next few days in view of possible security problems.

Last fall, when prosecutors first charged that Iran's paramount spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, and its president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were personally involved in ordering the killings, a wave of anti-German street protests erupted in Tehran.

Iranian officials were particularly incensed that the prosecution based its case on testimony by turncoat exiles such as former president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr and former security official Abolhassem Mesbahi. Both defectors drew on their intimate knowledge of the Iranian hierarchy to assert in court that assassinations could be approved only at the highest levels of the Tehran government.

The defectors' testimony was confirmed by information obtained by German intelligence, the court said. The nature of this evidence was not= disclosed.

Delivering the court opinion over six hours, Kubsch said the judges were struck by boasts from Iran's leaders whenever they wanted "to silence an uncomfortable voice." He cited a television interview given by Iran's intelligence minister, Ali Fallahiyan, in August 1992 -- one month before the Mykonos killings -- in which he bragged about Iran's ability to launch "decisive strikes" against its opponents abroad.

According to the court, Fallahiyan was delegated by the Committee for Special Operations to execute the plan. He contacted Kazem Darabi, an Iranian grocer in Berlin known to German police as an Iranian agent and former Revolutionary Guard with close links to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that receives arms and training from Iran.

Darabi recruited four Lebanese accomplices, according to the documents. They targeted three leaders of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan -- an important opponent of the Iranian regime -- attending a Socialist International convention here.

The Kurds were tracked by Darabi and his group to the Mykonos restaurant, where they were said to be plotting anti-Tehran strategy over dinner in a back room. Two masked gunmen burst into the room and fired bullets into the Kurdish victims at close range before speeding away in a blue BMW.

Police immediately focused their attention on Darabi, who had previously come under suspicion for attacks on Iranian dissidents in which no one was seriously injured or killed. He had been arrested previously but released when police could not make the charges stick. Darabi and his accomplices were arrested just weeks after the shooting. Police seized guns used in the murders that were identified as coming from Iranian army arsenals.

Darabi and his chief accomplice, Abbas Rhayel, were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two other men, Youssef Amin and Mohamed Atris, were given jail terms of 11 years and 5 years 3 months. A fifth defendant, Atallah Ayad, was acquitted.

German police issued an arrest warrant for Fallahiyan in March 1996, once his role as the architect of the assassinations was established by German intelligence. Fallahiyan cultivated close ties with Bernd Schmidbauer, who is Kohl's adviser on intelligence matters, and was even received at the chancellery on a visit in 1993 when he implored Schmidbauer to stop the Mykonos trial from taking place.

Investigators tried to file charges against Fallahiyan during the visit but were told he was a "state guest." Since then, Schmidbauer has come under criticism for touting the "critical dialogue" as the best way to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The Berlin court found that good relations between Bonn and Tehran did not deter and may have even encouraged Iran to pursue its opponents on German soil.

As the verdict was read, hundreds of Iranian exiles who had gathered in and around the courthouse cheered, clapped and danced. Massoud Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, declared the German court had confirmed beyond any doubt that Iranian leaders were guilty of waging terror on foreign soil.

"For years, there has hardly been any doubt about the role of the criminal mullah regime's leadership in terrorist acts," Rajavi said in a statement. "Now a European court has for the first time named Khamenei and Rafsanjani as the masterminds of the attack in Berlin and Tehran's state terrorism."

Driven by Oil and Spite for US, Iran Reaches for Dominance (04/08/1997)
Driven by Oil and Spite for US, Iran Reaches for Dominance

Scott Peterson, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

ON THE CASPIAN SEA- Below the platform of Iran's Meghdad oil rig, the late-winter swells of the Caspian Sea churn toward a bleak north coast A length of pipe is added to the drilling column, so the whole platform shakes as oil workers drive it into the seabed with a large engine. Iranian oil man on Meghdad rig reflects the pride of the national oil company as it rebuilds from Iran's 1980s war with Iraq.

Iranian oil workers speak of this exploratory rig with pride, because the expertise is all-Iranian, and because they know that it is part of a larger game plan by Iran for regional influence. Situated near 70 percent of the world's oil and gas reserves, Iran is making the most of its strategic location, expanding its role from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia.

Through pipeline links connecting the Caspian with the Persian Gulf, new trade routes tracing the ancient Silk Road from Asia to Europe, and efforts to mediate in neighboring conflicts, Iran is trying to rejuvenate the historic role that ancient Persia once had as an "indispensable" nation. Analysts note that first-world pretensions have made Iran - despite strong American allegations of state terrorism and destabilizing neighbors - a crucial player in a troubled region.

But Western diplomats say such strategic notions are "overrated" by Iranians. Such thinking is often a product of a "Persian arrogance that sees Iran as the center of the universe," says one Western diplomat. "It is a fact of life that Iran has always been strategically important," said an Iranian analyst with close ties to the Islamic regime. "Iran is emerging again as a power in the region, and will exert strong political influence," he says.

Islamic leaders, or mullahs, are building Iran's military and economic profile, but they are wary of recent lessons. Russia's military might, for example, is seen to be limited by a collapsing economy. And Japan's economic prowess is far from matched by its military weakness.

Expanding influence

Iran can be strong in both, Iranians say, and it is increasingly wielding its clout across the region. "Iran has a very significant strategic value, and it is taking advantage of that," the analyst says The American policy of "dual containment" of Iran and Iraq, formulated in 1993, is designed to counter such an expansion of Iranian influence. It accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear bombs, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and of sponsoring terrorism.

US officials say that Iran has tripled the number of missiles on its Gulf coast in the past two years, and by fitting Chinese cruise missiles onto patrol boats is more capable of shutting down the Gulf shipping lanes that are crucial for the flow of oil to the West. But the 20,000 US troops deployed in allied Gulf Arab sheikhdoms - which almost universally fear Iran as a malevolent bully bent on exporting its Islamic revolution - can do little to prevent Iran from making friends elsewhere. The threat of US sanctions against those who invest more than $40 million in Iran's energy sector, for example, did little to deter NATO-ally Turkey from concluding a $20 billion natural gas deal last year.

And a new rail link Turkmenistan is expected to reopen the ancient Silk Road. In anticipation of a trade boom, Iranians are building a 600-room hotel and an airport at the border. That route - already more than 2,000 years old and active with camel caravans laden with spices until the 16th century - connects Central Asia and China to Europe.

Much of the region's oil and gas wealth - and Iran - lies in between. Just last year Kazakstan signed a deal in which Kazak oil is supplied to Iran across the Caspian. In exchange, Iran exports an equivalent amount from its refineries on the Persian Gulf and returns cash from the sale to the Kazaks.

US fears-

The Clinton administration is so worried about these ties that the US has reportedly put forward the idea to Turkey of bypassing Iran altogether by building a new pipeline across the Caucasus that would pass beneath the Caspian Sea. Though such a project would be a costly way of avoiding Iran, the US - along with Israeli political and financial support - has said it would help fund it. Iran's gas line to Turkey also worries Russia, which views the plan as undermining Russia's huge gas market in Europe. But it also is anxious about Iran opening up former Soviet republics to the south.

Already Ukraine has tried to cultivate ties with Iran to lessen its dependency on Russian oil and gas. Still, Iran has been careful not to anger Russia. It has deliberately - and surprisingly, critics say - kept out of the conflict in Chechnya, where Muslim Chechens have fought Moscow's rule. But Iran has bigger strategic interests at heart: It now buys the bulk of its weapons from Russian arms dealers, which reportedly include sensitive parts for long-range ballistic missiles . And despite pressure from Washington to sever all ties with Iran, Russia is finishing work on a nuclear reactor at Beshahr, a few miles inland from the Caspian shoreline. In Tehran, this shift toward Russia and China is seen as a direct result of the US policy of isolating Iran. During a visit to Tehran in December, then-Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Iranian officials complained that the US military presence in the Gulf was "incompatible with peace and stability."

"Iran has always been in a troubled neighborhood," says Said Hadjarian, a political analyst at the University of Tehran. "How could it be hostile to its neighbors?"

'Benevolent influence' That attitude has led to one new approach, as Iran has tried to cast itself as a regional peacemaker. Tehran has hosted peace talks for feuding Kurdish leaders from northern Iran - much to the chagrin of Washington - and factions from civil wars in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran also hosts more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees alone. Mosque building

But benevolent influence is spread in other ways: Iran pays for mosque building in Central Asia, and the best library in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku - itself likely site of the next oil boom - is Iranian.

Why Iran Sees Itself as 'Indispensable'

-Sits at the regional nexus of 70 percent of the world's known oil and gas reserves.

-Is alone in directly linking the oil and gas of the Caspian Sea and Central Asia with the Persian Gulf.

-Expects a trade boom from reopening East-West trade routes, including the ancient Silk Road from China.

-Signed a $20-billion gas deal with NATO ally Turkey last year in defiance of US sanctions.

-Has largest and most-feared conventional military force in the region, prompting a US policy of "containment."

-Is increasingly accepted as a mediator in neighboring conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurd areas, and Tajikistan).

"It is natural for Iran to fight against any attempt to isolate it," says Javad Zarif, the deputy foreign minister. "It is in our interest to see calm and stability in the region, because uncertainty causes tension." "There is tremendous potential in the region and it needs cooperation, not competition," he says.

Still, Iran seems already to be winning that competition, despite obstacles from the West. "It is difficult to see any future scenario in which Iran doesn't dominate the region, either as a threat or a power," says a Western diplomat. "The alternative is perpetual conflict." Though European nations have been less hard on Iran with their policy of "critical dialogue," many Iranians ultimately look to the United States as a kindred spirit. They hope that Iran will soon be too important for the world's one remaining superpower to ignore. "It is only a question of time" before America and Iran are close again, says one US-educated Iranian. "In political science we were taught that no friend is forever, and no enemy is forever. Only the mutual interest is forever."

Germany ready to review ties with Iran after trial (04/07/1997)
Germany ready to review ties with Iran after trial

09:52 a.m. Apr 07, 1997 EST BONN, April 7 (Reuter) - Germany said on Monday it was ready to review its relations with Iran, depending on Tehran's reaction when a Berlin court rules this week in the trial of men accused of killing Kurdish opposition leaders on Iran's orders.

Iran has repeatedly expressed its anger with the German prosecutors who have accused Iran of ``state terrorism'' and issued an arrest warrant for Iran's intelligence minister, Ali Fallahiyan, in connection with the killings. Depending on the outcome of the so-called Mykonos trial, a review of the whole spectrum of German relations with Iran could become necessary,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann said. ``In the light of this, we are preparing for the verdict.''

Iranian Kazem Darabi and Lebanese Abbas Rhayel are accused of murder for the gangland-style assassination of three Kurdish Iranian opposition leaders and their translator in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin on September 17, 1992. Three other Lebanese are accused of complicity. Iran, which denies any role in the killings, has at various times accused the German judiciary of insulting Iran or playing an evil game at the behest of the United States and Israel, and asked it to withdraw its allegations against Iranian leaders. The news weekly Der Spiegel said the government had put together a working group of security experts to develop scenarios for Iran's reaction to the judgment due on Thursday.

It said the experts believed that, if the court judgment only named Iran in general terms as the originator of the attack, Tehran's reaction would be limited. But, if the court named President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- both accused in court by ex-president Abolhassan Banisadr of ordering the attack -- the experts believed Germany would have to brace itself for ``revenge for an insult against Islam.''

The three and a half year trial has proved to be a severe test of Germany's policy of ``critical dialogue'' with Iran, much criticised by Western allies the United States and Britain, which accuse Iran of state terrorism and want to see it shunned. Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who has said the trial may force Germany to rethink that dialogue, was due to meet foreign policy experts on Monday to discuss its possible consequences. The head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's anti-extremist watchdog, has already said authorities are preparing for trouble and that Germany must expect ``demonstrations, riots in Iran and considerable disturbance in...relations with Iran.''

Last November protesters marched on the German embassy in Tehran, pelted it with eggs and stones and called for the death of state prosecutor Bruno Jost. The Foreign Ministry warned Germans late last year not to travel to Iran unless absolutely necessary, and to remain in constant contact with the embassy there. Der Spiegel said Khamenei had taken part in the conference of a religious commission whose members had called for the establishment of committees for the punishment of ``enemies of God in Germany.''

Israel-Lebanon-Iran : Four Iranians held in Israeli jails
NICOSIA, April 2 (AFP) - Four Iranians kidnapped 15 years ago in Lebanon and long given up for dead are alive and being held in an Israeli jail, an Israeli human rights activist said Wednesday.

"I have confirmation from the Israeli side that these four Iranians have been detained in Israeli prisons for at least two years," said Ahmed Habiballah, director of a Nazareth-based prisoners' rights association. "I know that these are the four men kidnapped in Lebanon," he told AFP in a telephone interview.

The four Iranians are Mohsen Mussawi, who was the charged'affaires at Iran's embassy in Beirut, diplomat Ahmad Motevasselian, embassy driver Taghi Rastegar-Moghaddam and a photographer for the official Iranian news agency, Kazem Akhava. The four were kidnapped on July 4, 1982 at a roadblock held by the Lebanese Forces militia north of Beirut.

In November 1990, the militia's chief Samir Geagea told relatives of the four that they were killed shortly after their kidnapping on the orders of the movement's intelligence chief Elie Hobeika, who is now a Lebanese government minister. In November 1994, Iran's ambassador in Beirut, Hamayun Alizade, said he believed the four were still alive despite a report several days earlier in an Iranian newspaper that they were dead.

Habiballah said lawyers working with his association were drawing up a legal petition to force Israeli authorities to reveal information about the Iranians. "The Israelis confirmed that they are holding them, but they refuse to say in which prison," he said. <./td>

Under the cherry trees
By Nora Boustany, Washington Post Foreign Service, Now that Washingtonians have finished hanami, Japanese for "the viewing of flowers under the tree," a seasonal distraction imported from Japan, it is time to file those tax returns. But it was nice while it lasted. The Japanese ambassador here, Kunihiko Saito, kicked off the Cherry Blossom Festival at a celebration by the Tidal Basin Easter Sunday, saying: "Hanami is just another excuse for the Japanese to have sake and to party under the trees." After 12 harpists strummed "Sakura," Japan's cherry tree tune, 100-year-old stone lanterns were lighted and gospel music rose over the Mall, nobody doubted that a gesture to help beautify the Potomac 85 years ago has flowered into a common custom.

"Do you think any other two countries share that sort of event?" asked festival director Toshitsugu Uesawa. The seasonal changes of the cherry tree are symbols of the passages of love and life in ancient Japanese poetry, he explained, adding: "Though trees bloom with their own energy, life is very short." A New Iranian Era?

Is Iran entering the post-fundamentalist era? Almost 20 years after the revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, one of its ideologues has come here to air his evolving views. Philosopher and writer Abdel Karim Soroosh, one of the early "thinkers" of the revolution and now one of the advocates for modernizing the interpretation of the Koran, gave a series of lectures in Washington last week. In a presentation at American University on Thursday, Soroosh said a new model is needed. "As we know it, the language of religion is the language of obligation," he said of Islam. But human rights activists, he explained, talk about rights, demands and entitlements. To communicate, "we need a paradigm shift . . . a shift that makes a synthesis from obligations to rights." He argued that in general, people tend to talk much more about freedom and rights than about justice. "Rather, we are obsessed with liberties," he said.

Soroosh publishes Kiyan in Tehran, a journal of philosophy, sociology and politics, a platformfor enlightened views that are tolerated by the religious government. In the early '80s, he was on a committee in charge of purging academic institutions by expelling certain university professors. Now he is connected to those few elements in the government who favor contacts with the West, and he is pushing for a revision of Islam and its adaptation to modern ways.

Radical religious elements in Iran are opposed to him because he is emerging as a Luther of Islam who would like to reduce the monopoly of one group, the clerics, and give the prerogative of interpretation to the people. He proposes that religious leaders should not hold political positions or political titles or be tied by temporal interests such as salaries, because it would compromise them. He has a following among intellectuals, although he is a product of the regime. During a discussion that followed his lecture at American University, Soroosh would not commit himself to an absolute separation of church and state. Remembering Rabin's Legacy In lectures here to promote her book "Rabin: Our Life, His Legacy," Leah Rabin, widow of Israel's slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, stressed that the Middle East peace process was set up in stages to be tested by both Palestinians and Israelis, to see how they interact with each other. She dismissed proposals by Israel's present leaders to leap to final-status talks before allowing the process to be tested in phases. She did not condone the violence ravaging Israel and Palestinian towns but said Israel's actions provoked the unrest. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "did not change his policy," she told Yedioth Aharonoth's correspondent here, "we changed ours."

In answering a listener on the Diane Rehm show Monday, Rabin said all religions would be respected in Jerusalem, but it should remain the city of the Jewish people. "This is our eternal city . . .and has remained the symbol of [our] national aspirations," she added. "Muslims pray to Mecca, we pray to Jerusalem. This is a symbol in our national life." Rabin said tennis was the one thing she and her husband really loved doing together, and that was their weekly date, every Saturday morning. After the period of mourning, she said yesterday at a National Press Club luncheon, she went to visit her husband's grave. Someone had left a tennis racket and two cans of tennis balls. Rabin said it was hard to start again, but she has resumed the sport. Worried About Hong Kong

Martin Lee, the head of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, the territory's largest and most popular, told Washington Post editors yesterday that the forecast is "bad" for the rule of law after the British colony is transferred to Chinese rule on July 1. Businessmen are satisfied, he said, but there is unrealistic speculation on real estate. The Chinese are eager not to lose face, and should the stock index drop they will dump foreign exchange to bring it up, he predicted. Lee said a Chinese official told one of his colleagues: "Don't you worry, because we have set aside millions of dollars." The Chinese mean well, Lee said, but he added that they will be interfering in a free-market economy in a country where success depends on the respect of liberties.

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