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February 1998, Week 2
|Iran Cleric Says Rushdi Must Die||Feb 13|
|Iran Cleric Says World Should Restrain U.S., Iraq||Feb 13|
|France warns of showdown on U.S. laws on Iran||Feb 13|
|Revolutionary Iran turns 19 after year of surprise||Feb 12|
|Iranians Brave Snow to Mark Revolution Anniversary||Feb 12|
|US Urged to Be out of Gulf||Feb 11|
|Iran stops paper with photos of Clinton's women||Feb 11|
|Candidates Sign up for Iran By-Election Showdown||Feb 10|
|Former Hostages Say it Is Past Time||Feb 9|
|Key Iran, U.S. Dates||Feb 9|
|Moslem Body, Iran Urge Peaceful End to Iraq Crisis||Feb 8|
|US Strike against World Norms: Iranian Speaker||Feb 8|
|Iran Says Will Not Tolerate Sovereignty Violations||Feb 8|
Iran Cleric Says Rushdi Must Die
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's chief prosecutor insisted today that
author Salman Rushdie still must die for allegedly blaspheming
Islam, reinforcing the death edict nine years after it was issued.
``The shedding of this man's blood is obligatory,'' prosecutor Morteza Moqtadaie declared.
In a fatwa, or Islamic decree, on Feb. 14, 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that Rushdie should be killed for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed in his book, ``The Satanic Verses.''
Since then, Rushdie has lived largely in hiding and under the protection of the British government.
``Any Muslim who hears an insult to the prophet must kill the person who commits the insult. It is better that those closest to that person try to kill him first,'' Moqtadaie said in a sermon today at Tehran University.
Worshippers shouted ``Allahu Akbar,'' or ``God is great,'' when he said ``Rushdie must die.''
Moqtadaie, a senior cleric, said that during his lifetime Mohammed had sent two people to cut the throat of a man who had insulted him. ``What Imam Khomeini did is exactly what the prophet did, and this (death sentence) must be preserved,'' he said.
Moqtadaie is a hard-liner whose faction opposes the moderate president, Mohammad Khatami. Since he took office in August, Khatami has been trying to moderate Iran's foreign policy and improve ties with the West.
Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader, died of cancer four months after issuing his decree. Iranian leaders insist the fatwa cannot be revoked. The issue has long strained relations with Britain and other Western countries.
Iran Cleric Says World Should Restrain U.S., Iraq
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - A senior Iranian cleric said Friday
international pressure should be brought on both the United
States and Iraq to resolve the crisis over United Nations arms
``The Muslim world and the world of humanity should tell the White House: 'Stop your bullying!,' and say to Iraq: 'Submit to Security Council resolutions!','' Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani said in a prayer sermon broadcast on Tehran radio.
Thousands of worshippers gathered at the Tehran University campus responded by chanting ``Death to America.''
``Unfortunately, the people of Iraq and the region have become playthings ... in the hands of the Iraqi regime, which flouts United Nations and Security Council resolutions, and America's government with its bullying and domineering,'' said Emami Kashani, spokesman of Iran's powerful Guardian Council.
Tehran has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution of the crisis in the face of the growing threat of U.S.-led military action against Baghdad. It has opposed any military strikes against Iraq.
Iran has also said Iraq, its foe in an eight-year war that ended in 1988, must comply with Security Council resolutions on arms inspections.
Tehran often expresses opposition to the presence of U.S. and other Western forces in the Gulf and says regional states should join to guarantee the oil-rich region's security.
Iran Thursday urged U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to visit Iraq to look for ways of ending the crisis.
Tehran remained neutral in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War which ended Baghdad's occupation of Kuwait.
France warns of showdown on U.S. laws on Iran
By Christopher Noble
PARIS (Reuters) - France warned the United States Thursday
that it would face a showdown if it used its extraterritorial
laws to condemn a French oil company for investing in Iran.
``In the hypothesis in which U.S. discussions ended with a condemnation of Total, we could not associate ourselves with it and it would be the object of serious discussions with our American partners,'' Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a news conference.
Strauss-Kahn, repeating long-standing French opposition to U.S. laws punishing companies for investing in countries which Washington says sponsor terrorism, did not say if retaliation against U.S. companies would be considered.
``As the Americans say, 'one should never answer hypothetical questions','' he said.
The warning came as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pondered whether a U.S. law that is contested in Europe justifies sanctions against Total, and two other non-American firms, for investing in Iran.
A spokesman for Albright said Wednesday the decision would be made soon.
Strauss-Kahn said France would withhold approval of a key international investment accord over the issue of extraterritoriality.
``The French government is totally determined not to sign an accord that in one way or another legitimizes American extraterritorial laws,'' he said, referring to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
``The European Union, not only France, has made its position on extraterritoriality very clear,'' he said. ``We've always said we opposed this practice and we will not sign up to a deal which allows it to exist.''
He said this position also applied to the D'Amato law, which is formally know as the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA).
``Better to have no agreement than a bad agreement,'' he said.
OECD member countries hope to reach a deal on the MAI, which further liberalizes international investment, at their annual ministerial meeting in Paris in April.
Since last autumn, the U.S. State Department has been reviewing whether a $2 billion deal entered into by Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas to develop a major Iranian gas field violates the U.S. law, which seeks to punish companies that invest $20 million or more in the energy sector of Iran or Libya over a 12-month period.
If the deal is found to fall under the ILSA, Albright can impose sanctions immediately, waive sanctions for reasons of national security, or enter talks with the relevant foreign government to resolve the issue.
ILSA allows an initial 90-day period for talks and a further 90 days if Washington decides there is progress. France has said ILSA does not apply outside the United States.
Revolutionary Iran turns 19 after year of surprise
By Firouz Sedarat
DUBAI, (Reuters) - Iranians on Wednesday celebrated
the 19th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, after a
watershed year marked by the surprise election of a moderate
Large crowds braved heavy snow in Tehran to take part in marches marking the revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed shah, and hear an address by President Mohammad Khatami.
Khatami's landslide victory last May despite opposition from ruling conservative clerics, and some of the ensuing events which marked Iran's domestic scene and foreign policies were unimaginable for most Iranians a year ago, Iranian analysts and Tehran residents said.
``The surprises have come one after the other. Besides the election, who could have imagined a year ago that, for example, a student group would get a permit to hold a rally to question the authority of the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)?,'' an Iranian analyst said.
``Few could have imagined that an interview would be published in which a university professor proclaims that negotiating with the United States is not treason,'' he said.
Conservative deputies summoned Khatami's interior minister to parliament over the decision to allow the October rally, a rare public criticism of Khamenei. But the minister defended the move, saying it was in line with Khatami's vow to reinforce the rule of law and guarantee liberties granted by the constitution.
``Khatami's 'rule of law' idea has been basically adopted by everyone, in words at least. His opponents in parliament and elsewhere still attack him but they are more legalistic now, less confrontational,'' a Tehran-based journalist said.
``Of course, some things have not changed: hardline groups still attack meetings of opposition groups, except now they do not claim responsibility for the attacks,'' he said.
Tehran University political science professor Sadeq Zibakalam, whose published interview on talks with Washington drew harsh criticism from hardline newspapers, said there was a mood of hope and expectation in the country.
``The atmosphere today is in many ways like the mood after the revolution with aspirations of building free political parties and having a society based on the rule of law,'' Zibakalam told Reuters by telephone from Tehran.
``But then came eight years of war (with Iraq) and people had to put all that on hold.
``These aspirations surfaced again after the end of the war. But we had to give top priority to economic reconstruction, so political reforms were put on a back burner again,'' he said.
``Just like we are reforming our domestics politics, I think we need to look over our foreign policies. We have to find new friends and move towards easing tensions,'' he added.
Zibakalam's interview, in which he said conservatives were using confrontation with Washington as political capital, was published in the same week in January as a landmark television address to Americans by Khatami.
The president sparked wide speculation about a thaw in relations with the United States by praising American civilisation in his CNN interview and calling for cultural exchanges between the two hostile countries.
The United States broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980, after militants seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage. Fifty-two of them were held for 444 days.
The more hardline Khamenei, who is ranked above the president and has supreme power over all state institutions, has opposed any improvement in ties. But he expressed general satisfaction with Khatami's television address, which was sharply criticised by conservative newspapers.
``I think Khamenei has realised Khatami's popularity and has asked his backers not to confront the president but to find ways, for the time being at least, of working with him,'' the journalist said.
Khatami was elected with 20 million votes, nearly 70 percent of the total, on a platform of boosting liberties and easing tension in Iran's foreign relations. His closest rival, conservative parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, received 25 percent.
``A year ago I was sure Nateq-Nouri would win and the atmosphere would get restrictive. After about 20 years in the country, I was seriously thinking of packing up and leaving,'' said a U.S.-trained engineer who returned to Iran after the revolution.
``Things have definitely opened up culturally since the election: there are more musical and theatre events, for example. These are pretty exciting times,'' he said.
Iranians Brave Snow to Mark Revolution Anniversary
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iranians braved heavy snowfall in
Tehran on Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979
revolution which set up the Islamic republic.
Large crowds marched to the huge Azadi (Freedom) square to hear President Mohammad Khatami condemn any military strike against Iraq and call for unity among Iranians despite political differences.
Marchers chanted ``Death to America'' and ``Death to Israel,'' while waving flags and bearing portraits of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, his successor, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Khatami.
Many marchers carried umbrellas against the snow and rally organisers had to cancel a scheduled flyover and parachuting display because of the weather.
``Today the Moslem nation of Iraq, the dear and oppressed people of Iraq, is under serious threat and could at any moment become subject to an attack,'' Khatami told the crowd.
The United States has threatened military strikes against Iraq unless Baghdad co-operates fully with U.N. arms inspectors. Iraq has barred inspections of 'presidential sites', some of which it says are palaces used by President Saddam Hussein.
``While we recommend...that the Iraqi government submit to international laws and resolutions, we strongly condemn any attack which would only harm the oppressed people of Iraq,'' Khatami said.
Khatami also condemned the presence of Western navies in the Gulf, which he said was an ``affront'' to the region's nations, and called on Iran's neighbours to join in efforts to safeguard regional safety and stability.
``The Islamic Republic of Iran supports peace, freedom and justice for all the world's nations...But a real peace is one in which all human beings are respected and their rights are recognised,'' said Khatami, who had to brush away snowflakes from his glasses and beard.
Iran condemns the Middle East peace process as a sellout of Palestinian and Moslem rights.
Turning to domestic issues, the relatively moderate Khatami urged efforts to manage disputes with conservative opponents.
``Differences are natural. Through solidarity these natural discords can be handled within the framework of the law and turned into an element contributing to social progress and development,'' Khatami told the crowd.
``We should show more solidarity and tolerance towards each other, while uniting over the country's central interests, acting within the law and following the leadership (Khamenei),'' he said.
Khatami, elected by a landslide last May, has faced stiff opposition from the defeated conservatives and hardliners who still control many state institutions.
The Tehran rally was part of nationwide demonstrations marking the revolution which toppled the Western-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
US Urged to Be out of Gulf
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian demonstrators Wednesday urged
the United States to pull out their forces from the Persian Gulf.
The demonstrators, turned out to mark 19th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution which founded the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, called the U.S. "the Great Satan" which is the center of various plots against Iran and the major supporter for state terrorism in the world.
A 12-point resolution read at the end of the rally in Tehran restated opposition to any talks of the government with the United States, saying that "we demonstrators reject and condemn any talks with the United States, 'the Great Satan' in the mind of the Iranian nation.",
Despite of heavy snowfall, Iranians turned out Wednesday morning in the capital to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
Demonstrators marched from six main avenues to the Azadi Square, carrying placards supporting the Islamic system and condemning the United States and Israel.
The demonstrators reiterated their loyalty to the Islamic system and their supreme leader Ali Khamenei, shouting "Death with America," "Death with Israel," "America, go out of the Persian Gulf."
It announced support for Islamic movements in the world, particularly the Palestinian struggles against Israeli occupation, voicing opposition to the Middle East peace process.
For the first time at the ceremony to mark the victory of the Islamic Revolution, women singers appeared beside a military orchestra, singing a paean for the Islamic Revolution along with their male accompanists.
Iran stops paper with photos of Clinton's women
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have seized
copies of a magazine carrying pictures of U.S. President Bill
Clinton's alleged lovers, saying the photographs were
``obscene,'' a newspaper said on Tuesday.
The daily Kayhan said the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry ordered the seizure of the latest issue of Fakour weekly saying the pictures were obscene, apparently because the women's clothes did not meet Iran's Moslem standards of modesty.
Issa Saharkhiz, the ministry's top official for domestic press affairs, said the case had been turned over to a state commission which oversees the country's publications, it added.
Iran enforces a strict Islamic dress code requiring women to wear a loose garment covering their body and hair and showing only their face and hands. The few photographs of foreign women that Iranian magazines print often show them wearing hats and long dresses.
Iranian media have widely commented on the scandal over Clinton's alleged relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, saying it was proof of moral decay in the United States. Some papers said the scandal was the result of a plot by ``Zionists'' against Clinton.
Iran's President Mohammad Khatami, a relative moderate, has promised greater press freedom. His government has licensed a number of new publications since taking office in August.
Candidates Sign up for Iran By-Election Showdown
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Nearly 230 people have signed up
to run in parliamentary by-elections in March expected to become
a major showdown between conservative and moderate factions,
newspapers said on Tuesday.
The daily Hamshahri said 229 people, including 23 women, had registered to run in the March 13 polls to fill five empty seats in the 270-member Majlis, or parliament.
The candidates will be vetted by the Guardian Council, a body of lawyers and Shi'ite Moslem clerics, which will check their adherence to Islamic faith, belief in Iran's Islamic state system and allegiance to the country's supreme leader.
Campaigning is officially allowed only in the week before the elections which will be held in Tehran, the central cities of Isfahan and Khomein, and Salmas in the northwest.
Newspapers said prominent figures were expected to run in the elections, the first showdown between Iran's political factions after the moderate Mohammad Khatami trounced conservative candidates in presidential elections last May.
No official list of those who have signed up has been published.
Former Hostages Say it Is Past Time
WASHINGTON (AP) A funny thing happened this Freedom Day, and
the one before that and the one before that. The date came and went
and few people noticed, not even most of the 52 Americans once held
hostage in Iran.
"We don't usually celebrate it anymore," the top diplomatic hostage, Bruce Laingen, said of the anniversary of their Jan. 20, 1981 release after 444 days in captivity. "Most of us have put it behind us a long time ago."
If only Iran and the United States could do the same, former hostages say. Most have long advocated the U.S. government reopen an official dialogue with the Islamic state and, one day, renew relations.
"It's long overdue," said Kevin Hermening, a former Marine sergeant who at 21 was the youngest hostage.
Married now with two children, the financial planner and school board president in Wisconsin said his life is far removed from those dark days of occasional beatings and mock executions, boredom and bad meals.
Of their captivity, the former hostages say past is past not ever really forgotten nor perhaps even forgiven, but history all the same.
"The political fallout continues, but the emotional fallout should have been put aside 15, 16 years ago," said Mike Metrinko, 51, a political officer held hostage. "So much has happened since."
The two governments are making moves toward making up. In a Jan. 7 CNN interview, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric, came close to an apology for the hostage-taking by student militants. He expressed regret for the defining event of the Islamic revolution that deposed the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, whose authoritarian family rule spanned more than a half-century. The overthrow also severed official U.S.-Iran ties.
"Not only do we not harbor any ill wishes for the American people, but in fact we consider them to be a great nation," Khatami said, suggesting more cultural and educational exchanges to open "a crack in the wall of mistrust" between the two countries.
President Clinton has expressed dismay over the diplomatic rift. After Khatami's surprising election last May, Clinton said: "I have never been pleased with the estrangements between the people of the United States and the people of Iran. I hope the estrangements can be bridged."
On Jan. 29, Clinton used the end of Islam's holiest month of Ramadan to reach out to Iranians and endorse Khatami's call for more people-to-people exchanges.
"We have real differences with some Iranian policies, but I believe these are not insurmountable," he said in a videotaped message. "I hope that we have more exchanges between our people and that the day will soon come when we can enjoy once again good relations with Iran."
But the United States insists that government-to-government dialogue won't happen until Tehran renounces terrorism, opposition to the Middle East peace process and weapons of mass destruction. That is something neither Khatami nor the Ayatollah Ali Khameinei, the supreme religious leader, appear ready to do in a nation fueled for two decades by Islamic fervor and the slogan "Death to America!"
In fact, on Jan. 20 the 17th anniversary of the hostages' release Khatami played to that hardline audience when he visited a shrine marking revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini's grave. "In today's world we do not need the United States to come close to us and help us," he said.
Laingen, the charge d'affaires when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, said he expects backdoor diplomacy between the United States and Iran, in neutral countries and through third parties much like with China and America in the 1970s. "There's a strong compulsion on both sides to do something about this estrangement. But I expect they'll move rather slowly, carefully," said Laingen, 75.
Barry Rosen, 53, wants to speed things up, even suggesting that he and other former hostages go back to Iran as a symbol of a new era.
"The governments are dancing around each other," said Rosen, who was an embassy public affairs officer and earlier a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran. "The mistrust is very strong. But somebody has to make the first move."
Victor Tomseth, who was the embassy's chief political officer, said there is an "emotional barrier" Americans and Iranians must overcome. Most of his fellow hostages have done so, he said, comparing them to former American prisoners of war in Vietnam who pushed for renewed U.S.-Vietnamese ties.
"People who weren't as close to it are much more bitter about things than we are," Tomseth said, expressing hope for a breakthrough. "I suspect this process will be two steps forward and one step back."
Tomseth recalled a story an Iranian protocol officer told him during the early days of the hostage crisis when he, Laingen and a third diplomat were being held at Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A pious peasant, whose days were filled with little but trouble, went to the village mullah for guidance. The religious leader told him, "Hamisheh nemimuneh," Farsi for "Nothing stays the same forever."
"For nearly two decades now it has sometimes been difficult to believe that things would ever change in Iran," Tomseth said, noting no one could imagine the Berlin Wall would fall or the Soviet Union would collapse. "We can't keep Iran in the outer darkness forever."
Key Iran, U.S. Dates
By The Associated Press |
Key dates in Iran's history and dealings with the United States.
--1921 -- Successful coup led by Reza Khan, an Iranian officer of the Persian Cossack Brigade.
--1925 -- Reza Khan is crowned and rules as Shah Reza Pahlavi.
--1941 -- Britain and the Soviet Union invade to counter threat of expanding German influence; the shah abdicates in favor of his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi.
--1951 -- British-owned oil industry nationalized; Mohammed Mossadeq becomes prime minister.
--1953 -- Mossadeq is ousted in a clandestine CIA-backed coup to re-install the shah as a pro-American bulwark against communist expansion into the Middle East. Vice President Nixon visits Iran, establishing enduring U.S. relations with the shah, who assumes a more authoritarian rule.
--1961 -- Widespread political, economic and social reforms under the shah's White Revolution, modernizing one of the most ancient countries.
--1963-65 -- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, religious leader in Qom, arrested for speaking out against the shah. He is exiled to Turkey, then takes up residence in Iraq, where he remains until 1979.
--1978 -- Domestic rebellion sweeps the country in opposition to the shah's rule and programs, sparking the Islamic revolution.
--Jan. 16 -- Shah departs.
--Jan. 31 -- Khomeini returns to Iran after 15-year exile, appoints provisional government, proclaims Islamic Republic.
--Feb. 14 -- Militants seize U.S. Embassy, but Khomeini orders Revolutionary Guard to oust attackers -- a prelude to the hostage crisis.
--Oct. 22 -- President Carter reluctantly agrees to admit the shah to the United States for cancer treatment.
--Nov. 4 -- Student militants occupy U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
--Nov. 6 -- Provisional government falls, Revolutionary Council takes over. Khomeini backs student militants' hostage-taking. Later, Khomeini orders most women and black hostages released; only two women and one black are among the 52 Americans who remain in captivity.
--December -- The shah goes to Panama.
--March -- The shah goes to Egypt, where he dies in July.
--April 24 -- American military rescue attempt fails after mission over Iranian desert is aborted amid high winds; eight servicemen die in helicopter crash. Most hostages unaware of effort.
--September -- Iraq attacks Iran, starting eight-year war.
--Nov. 4 -- Carter loses re-election bid to Ronald Reagan.
--Jan. 20, 1981 -- With the help of Algerian mediation, the hostages are released, minutes after Reagan is inaugurated president.
--1988 -- Cease-fire ends 8-year Iran-Iraq war.
--1989 -- Death of Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran's top religious leaders chose then-president Ali Khameinei to succeed Khomeini.
--1991 -- Iran maintains effective neutrality during Persian Gulf War, accepts more than 1 million refugees from Iraq.
--May 23 -- Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric, wins presidential election with a surprising 70 percent of the vote.
--May 29 -- President Clinton calls Khatami's election a ``hopeful sign,'' insists U.S.-Iran relations aren't possible until Tehran renounces terrorism, opposition to the Middle East peace process and weapons of mass destruction.
--Aug. 4 -- Khatami assumes presidential office.
--Jan. 7 -- In an interview with CNN, Khatami suggests increased people-to-people contact between Americans and Iranians. He also expresses regret for the hostage-taking, something no other Iranian leader has ever done.
--Jan. 11 -- White House national security adviser Sandy Berger says the united States will review its tough visa restrictions on Iranians.
--Jan. 20 -- Playing to hard-liners, Khatami visits a shrine marking Ayatollah Khomeini's grave and declares Iran doesn't need to establish and relationship with the United States.
--Jan. 29 -- Clinton uses the end of Islam's holiest month of Ramadan as an occasion to reach out to the Iranian people and endorse Khatami's call for cultural exchanges, although there's no formal agreement.
Moslem Body, Iran Urge Peaceful End to Iraq Crisis
DUBAI, (Reuters) - The head of the world's largest
Moslem body and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called for
increased efforts to avoid a military confrontation between the
United States and Iraq.
The Jeddah-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said in a statement over the weekend that its secretary general Azeddine Laraki held talks with Khatami during a visit to Iran from February 4-6. Khatami is the current OIC chairman.
``The Iranian president and the secretary general stressed the necessity of intensifying efforts exerted by the organisation aimed at averting recourse to military force in the present crisis between Iraq and the USA, while urging Iraq to abide by continuing to implement all the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,'' the statement said.
Khatami took over as OIC chairman for three years at the organisation's summit in Tehran in December.
US Strike against World Norms: Iranian Speaker
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Ali
Akbar Nateq Nouri said Saturday night the possible U.S. military strike
on Iraq runs counter to international norms, practices and codes, the
Iranian official news agency IRNA reported Sunday.
Upon his return from a five-day visit to Syria and Lebanon, Nouri said the two countries shared common views with Iran over the issues of the region, the threat of the U.S. against Iraq in particular.
All the three believe the U.S. threat against Iraq is not within the international norms, practices and codes and will disrupt the tranquillity and stability of the region, he said.
Iran has expressed grave concern over possible U.S. military attacks on Iraq, and called on the international community and regional countries to continue diplomatic efforts to avoid military confrontation.
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Sunday at a press conference here that Iran would cautiously monitor the developments in the region and would defend against any possible aggression.
Nouri stressed that international norms would not allow a country to take military measures against another nation unilaterally.
He also expressed concern over military cooperation between Turkey and Israel, saying that Iran, Syria and Lebanon, like other Muslim nations, could not remain indifference to the war games and military treaties between Turkey and Israel.
Nouri's visit to Syria and Lebanon was aimed to coordinate stances with their leaders over the stalled Middle East peace process and current Iraqi crisis.
Iran Says Will Not Tolerate Sovereignty Violations
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it would not
tolerate any violation of its airspace or territorial waters as
the United States continued a military buildup in the Gulf in
preparation for possible strikes against Iraq.
``We will not tolerate any violation of Iranian airspace or territorial waters,'' Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani told a news conference in Tehran. ``We will not allow any power to violate our territorial sovereignty in this regard,'' he said.
Iran has repeatedly called for intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis. It frequently voices opposition to the presence of U.S. and other foreign forces in the region.
Iran says Iraq, its foe in an eight-year war that ended in 1988, must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions on weapons inspections. But it opposes military strikes against Baghdad.
Iranian television said Shamkhani had said Iran was trying to prevent attacks on Iraq and urged other Moslem countries to do the same.
The commander of Iran's air force was quoted on Sunday as saying Washington was looking for a showdown in the Gulf.
``The U.S. is certainly after a showdown in the region and pursues the continuation and intensification of its presence in the Persian Gulf,'' Brigadier-General Habib Baqaei said in an interview with the daily Tehran Times.
The United States has massed hundreds of warplanes on the ground and aboard its three aircraft carriers in the Gulf in a display of military might.
U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen, who begins a tour of Gulf Arab states on Sunday, has ordered six stealth fighter- bombers, six B-52 bombers, six F-16 fighters, one B-1B bomber and 23 support aircraft to join U.S. forces in the Gulf and on Britain's Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia.
The additional weaponry will bring the number of U.S. warplanes in the region to about 375. Scores are aboard the three aircraft carriers.
Baqaei, referring to Iran's domestic military industry, said the Islamic republic had reached the mass production stage for the Azarakhsh (Lightning) plane, the first locally produced fighter-bomber.
He also said the Tondar (Thunder) jet fighter trainer was scheduled to carry out test flights within two weeks.
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