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December 99, Week 1
|Iran Said To Reject U.S. Overtures
|U.S. Probing for Dialogue With Iran
|Iran Repeats Call for U.S. Sincerity in Ties
|Iranians Warned of Y2K Breakdowns
|Iran Cleric Backs Jailed Reformer
|Iran: U.S. caused Y2K bug
Iran Said To Reject U.S. Overtures
By Barry Schweid
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON -The Clinton administration said Friday its persistent push for a dialogue with Iran was not paying off. "We have not received from the government of Iran the kind of responses we have been hoping for," the State Department spokesman said.
The overtures, promoted by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a way to settle longstanding differences, included a message last summer from President Clinton. He sought Iran's cooperation in solving the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded hundreds of others.
"The Iranian response has tended to be hidebound and unimaginative," said State Department spokesman James P. Rubin.
The United States accuses Iran of reneging on promises to abandon support for terrorism. Clinton's message to President Mohammad Khatami, who some administration officials perceived as a moderate, was delivered in August by Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk and Bruce Reidel of the National Security Council, an administration official said Friday.
Iran's response was to deny involvement in the bombing, which has never been solved, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We have not reached a conclusion regarding whether the attack was directed by the government of Iran," Rubin said Monday.
The jailing last week of cleric Abdollah Nouri, a former interior minister and close ally of Khatami who had called for more democracy and free debate, indicated Iran was not ready to move toward moderation and an end of 20 years of icy distance from the United States, once a close ally.
Iran also has rejected overtures to send U.S. officials to Tehran for extended periods to handle visa requests from Iranians wishing to visit the United States.
Still, Rubin noted that senior Iranian officials had publicly denounced terrorism. He said it is "reasonable for us to expect that the actions and policies of the Islamic Republic should reflect these statements."
And Khatami is believed to have intervened to postpone the spy trials of 13 Iranian Jews. They remain in jail, however, and could be executed if convicted.
U.S. Probing for Dialogue With Iran
By Barry Schweid
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON -After months of probing for a dialogue, the Clinton administration is losing its patience with Iran.
The United States is accusing Iran of reneging on promises to abandon support for terrorism and disclosing its refusal to cooperate in solving the bombing of Kohbar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
A message from President Clinton to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who some administration officials perceived as a moderate, was delivered in August by Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk and Bruce Reidel of the National Security Council, an administration official said today.
Iran's response was to deny involvement in the bombing, which also wounded hundreds of American servicemen and has never been solved, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We have not reached a conclusion regarding whether the attack was directed by the government of Iran," State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Monday.
The jailing last week of cleric Abdollah Nouri, a former interior minister and close ally of Khatami who had called for more democracy and free debate, indicated that Iran was not about to move toward moderation and an end of 20 years of icy distance from the United States, once a close ally.
Iran also has rejected overtures to send U.S. officials to Tehran for extended periods to handle visas requests from Iranians wishing to visit the United States.
Still, spokesman Rubin noted that senior Iranian officials had publicly denounced terrorism. He said it is "reasonable for us to expect that the actions and policies of the Islamic Republic should reflect these statements."
And Khatami is believed to have intervened to postpone the spy trial s of 13 Iranian Jews. They remain in jail, however, and could be executed if convicted.
Iran Repeats Call for U.S. Sincerity in Ties
TEHRAN -XINHUA - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi reiterated here on Wednesday that the United States should take concrete steps to show its sincerity in improving relations with Iran.
Speaking at a press conference, Kharrazi said the statements by U.S. officials during the past two years showed some changes from the U.S. side, but the statements were contradictory and were not enough to satisfy Iran.
"The U.S. has not shown a national will to improve relations with Iran," he said, and the contradictory statements by U.S. officials indicated differences inside the U.S. government toward Iran.
The "wall of distrust" still exists between Iran and the U.S. since Washington did not take specific steps to show a national will to have ties with Iran, Kharrazi said. He underlined Washington should make some fundamental changes in its policies toward Iran with specific actions, adding specific actions surely will bring about some development. Kharrazi noted that the U.S. should lift sanctions on Iran, stop pressures on countries having economic cooperation with Iran, particularly on the issue of transferring Caspian energy through Iranian territories, put an end to interference in Iran's internal affairs and support to the anti-Iran terrorist groups.
Over the past few months, several senior U.S. officials extended overtures to Iran for "unconditional dialog" to improve relations between the two countries which were severed in 1980. However, Iranian officials repeatedly claimed that the U.S. must take positive steps to change its hostile policy toward Iran, otherwise any talks on relations would be "meaningless."
Kharrazi also rejected a U.S. call for sending consulate officials to Iran, saying that there is no suitable condition for the U.S. to take such a step. The U.S. recently proposed to send a consulate official to the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which takes care of the U.S. interest in Iran, with an aim to facilitating travels of Iranian and American nationals between Iran and the U.S.
The U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin on Monday once again accused Iran of reneging on promises to abandon support for terrorism in an attempt to destroy hopes among Arabs and Israelis for a comprehensive peace. "We have made clear to Iran that there cannot be an improvement in relations until Iran takes meaningful steps to end its support for terrorism and cooperates in the fight against terrorism," Rubin said, "there cannot be a lifting of the sanctions we imposed in the absence of meaningful steps to those ends."
Iranians Warned of Y2K Breakdowns
The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran -he government is warning Iranians they could face breakdowns in public services at the end of the year because of the Y2K bug.
"It is expected that with the arrival of the year 2000 some unexpected incidents may happen and some public services may be disrupted," Mohammad Sepehri-Rad, head of the Supreme Council for Information Technology, said Tuesday.
Speaking on television, Sepehri-Rad suggested there could be breakdowns in the oil, electricity, communications, transport and health sectors, saying his team had singled out these industries for attention.
Any disruptions in Iran's petroleum industry are likely to have international repercussions.
Most of Iran's computer-controlled systems were bought from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution. But it has been unable to get U.S. help to modify the computers for the millennium bug because of hostile relations with Washington dating from the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by revolutionary militants in 1979.
The average plane in Iran's fleet of commercial airliners is about 20 years old. The aircraft are likely to be affected by the Y2K bug. It is not known what steps have been taken to repair the planes.
Sepehri-Rad said his team had accomplished its goal to a large extent and hoped that few problems would be faced.
"However, it should be remembered that no 100 percent guarantees can be given concerning the solution of this problem anywhere," he said.
Iran Cleric Backs Jailed Reformer
By Afshin Valinejad
Associated Press Writer
ISFAHAN, Iran - senior dissident cleric has spoken out in favor of a jailed Iranian reformer, calling him the "pride of every freedom-loving cleric," the Sobh-e-Emrouz newspaper reported Thursday.
Abdollah Nouri's "conviction by an illegal court only boosted his credibility and honor," Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri said in a telephone conversation Wednesday with Nouri's father, the paper reported.
Nouri's conviction was seen as an ambitious bid by hard-liners to cling to power despite waning popularity in a power struggle against Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's reform-minded supporters.
Montazeri himself has been under house arrest since 1997 for challenging the authority of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, leader of the hard-liners. Montazeri is one of the country's most popular reformist clerics.
"Be patient, because your son was imprisoned in the struggle for religion and free thought. He is the pride of every freedom loving cleric," the paper quoted Montazeri as saying.
Nouri, a former interior minister and close ally of Khatami, was imprisoned last week on charges including religious dissent. He had called for more democracy and free debate.
Nouri, 50, received a five-year sentence Saturday. He was sentenced by a clerical court controlled by hard-liners.
Nouri's father told The Associated Press today that he was surprised by his son's arrest because "he's done so much in the service of the country." Mohammad Ali Nouri said he's received a lot of support since his son's arrest Saturday.
"I've received dozens of calls from senior clerics condemning his arrest and telling me what a great and honest cleric he is," Mohammad Ali Nouri said at his modest home in the middle-class Masjed Sayed neighborhood.
During the trial, Abdollah Nouri turned the case around to focus on Iran's Islamic establishment, charging that the 1979 revolution in the name of democracy had gone astray.
His greatest challenge had been to the legitimacy of Iran's unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who leads the hard-liners and has used his absolute powers to stall reforms initiated by Khatami.
Ten thousand copies of his defense have been sold in Isfahan, said a bookstore owner Thursday. He requested anonymity.
A senior cleric was quoted as saying on Thursday that during his trial, Abdollah Nouri said what all clerics had wanted, but lacked the courage, to say.
"He has gained respect in the eyes of God, and his honor is now higher than any official post," Arya newspaper quoted former chief judge Abdol-Karim Mousavi Ardebili as saying.
The charges against Abdollah Nouri included publishing sacrilegious articles and opposing the teachings of Iran's revered revolutionary leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, through his now banned newspaper, Khordad.
The Tehran court banned Nouri from holding any media-related position for five years, fined him $5,000 and ordered his newspaper to close.
Hard-liners were at risk of losing the presidency of the Parliament which they dominate if Nouri ran in the Feb. 18 elections.
The guilty verdict bars him from contesting the post.
Since his landslide election in 1997, the president has pushed for political reform, calling for an easing of strict social codes and greater freedom of speech.
Iran: U.S. caused Y2K bug
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's 20-year-old breach with the United States has
come back to haunt it in the form of the Y2K computer bug, an obscure
legacy of Western technological domination.
Islamic Iran's unique solar calendar may read year 1378, but it must grapple nonetheless with the feared after-effects of a Western computer shortcut timed to the start of the next Christian millennium. Experts worry that an old method of recording dates on software and chips controlling electronic systems could go haywire when clocks strike midnight on Dec. 31.
Most at risk, say Iranian engineers, is the large installed base of aging U.S. technology, largely dating back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Much of it involves so-called embedded systems, monitors and controllers largely hidden from view and long-forgotten. The lack of ties with Washington and the strict U.S. technology embargo against Iran mean experts here are engaged in a game of hide-and-seek -- often without a map.
Most other developing countries face related challenges. Some overseas vendors have gone out of business, abandoned old product lines, or are simply unable to meet all requests for help from their customers. However, technology sanctions imposed by the United States, routinely denounced here as the "Great Satan," have added an extra challenge to Iran's Y2K effort.
"We received a letter from the telecom ministry that they were looking for some information from Hughes company... to tell them whether they are Y2K-compliant or not," said Mohammad Sepehri-Rad, Iran's Y2K coordinator. "But they have not been successful in getting it," he told Reuters in a recent interview.
Sepehri-Rad, secretary of the High Council of Informatics, said similar problems have been encountered at Iran's two newest oil refineries, which have U.S.-sourced equipment. "None of our refineries, except two, has any problem (because) they have no date-related embedded systems. There are only two such refineries, one in Arak and one in Bandar Abbas."
No help available
A spokesman for Hughes Electronics, a unit of General Motor (GM)s, said the firm had turned down an upgrade request for Iran, relayed by INTELSAT, the global satellite cooperative. The Y2K fixes were intended for Hughes' VSAT private networks used by Iran's telecommunications authority and its central bank. "We had to turn them down because that's not permitted under U.S. regulations," said Richard Dore, a spokesman in Los Angeles for Hughes Electronics.
Despite these difficulties, Iranian experts are cautiously optimistic they will manage the changeover to 2000. In fact, they say, the turmoil of the 1979 revolution, the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, and general isolation from the outside world has insulated Iran from some of the dangers of Y2K.
Iran suffered from a "technology gap" due to the revolution and the war, said Parviz Naseri, a private Y2K consultant to the Iranian government.
Many of the oldest systems are less automated and thus less vulnerable, while the most recent ones are already Y2K-ready, he said. "Most technology is pre-1979, or very recent. Also, many of the features in industrial process control, reliant on date and time, are not being used here." Naseri said. "In the power ministry we have examples of this. They have the instruments, but they have not used all the fully-automated features."
Iran can also take comfort in the low-tech nature of banking, government services and most industry. Even the U.S. embargo has had a bright side: forced to rely on their own devices for so long, many state organizations wrote their own programs from scratch, basing them on the Iranian calendar. Where old IBM mainframes were involved, they have been traded for newer models or third-party solutions. Desktop PCs have been upgraded, or swapped to non-critical uses.
"In our view, only 10 percent of the difficulty lies in IT (information technology). It is a problem, it is being treated, and it has been mainly solved," Naseri said.
Air travel, missiles are safe
Boeing (BA) and Airbus, chief suppliers to Iran Air, have guaranteed their aircraft as ready for the changeover. However, doubts remain about the Russian-built marine fleet. As a precaution, the oil ministry has ordered all liquid fuel tanks at Iran's power plants, which generally run on natural gas, to be filled ahead of Jan. 1.
Health workers are concerned that some high-tech medical devices may stumble on Jan. 1, a fear common to many countries. And banks plan to print all customers' balances just ahead of Jan. 1, in case their systems fail. For his part, Y2K guru Sepehri-Rad is confident Iran is as prepared as it can be for what is, in the final analysis, a largely unpredictable event.
Still, he says Iran might declare Jan. 1, normally a working day, a one-time holiday. "It has been suggested to the government to make it a holiday," he said. "Just to be on the safe side."