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Iran News

January 1998, Week 3

FarsiNet FarsiNews

U.S. Vows to Protect against Terror Attacks Jan 20
China Stops Supplying Anti-Ship Missiles to Iran Jan 20
Khatami Says Iran Does Not Need the United States Jan 19
Time said running out on US-EU Iran accord Jan 16
Iran Protests US for Violating Sovereignty Jan 16
Top Iran Cleric Rejects U.S. Talks Jan 16
New Conservative Iranian Paper Hits Newsstands Jan 15
Israel Sets up New Forum to Assess Iranian Threat Jan 15
At Least 32 Dead in Iran Avalanche Jan 15
Chelsea Clinton Gets Books on Koran Jan 15


U.S. Vows to Protect against Terror Attacks
WASHINGTON,(Reuters) - If the United States makes any adjustments in its visa policy to encourage exchanges with Iran, it would take care to ensure Americans are protected against possible terrorist attacks, the State Department said on Tuesday.

``The protection of Americans is the highest priority of the secretary (of state) and obviously the president,'' spokesman James Rubin said.

``And any adjustments (in U.S. visa policy) -- if any -- would take that into account,'' he told a news briefing.

Rubin noted that the United States has long maintained a ``watch list'' of persons suspected of terrorist acts or associated with terrorist groups.

There is a system in place ``to make sure that any proposals for visas from Iranians that are made in other countries, like Paris or wherever, take that watch list very much into account,'' he said.

Rubin assured that ``if we were to make any adjustments in our visa policy that we would take into account that issue'' of terrorism.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution during which militant students held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Since then relations between the two countries have been bitter with the United States accusing Iran of sponsoring state terrorism, trying to acquire nuclear weapons and undermining the Mideast peace process.

But earlier this month Iran's new more moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, fueled speculation of a possible thaw in relations by calling during an interview with CNN for a dialogue with Americans through cultural exchanges.

The United States wants an authoritative government-to-government dialogue, a point Rubin repeated on Tuesday and which Khatami has rejected. But U.S. officials have also said they are examining their visa policies as a result of Khatami's interview.

Khatami on Monday gave a sermon that sounded a harsher note than the U.S.-focused CNN interview, criticizing the United States for oppressing the people of Iran.

Rubin refused to be drawn out on the sermon and said ultimately U.S. policy would be affected only by a change in Iranian actions toward the international community.

Washington does not ban travel to Iran by Americans but a travel warning is in effect.

Officials have said privately there is great concern within the U.S. government that improved ties with Iran could trigger a terrorist attack by parties opposed to a dialogue between Washington and Tehran.

China Stops Supplying Anti-Ship Missiles to Iran
TOKYO,(Itar-Tass) - In the course of his Tuesday meeting in Beijing with U.S. Defence Secretary Wiliam Cohen, PRC Chairman Jiang Zemin assured the latter that China had stopped all the deliveries to Iran of anti-ship missiles and was not planning to help modernise those that Tehran already has. Cohen divulged this news to the journalists, who accompanied him when he flew from China to Japan. The Defence Secretary arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon in the course of his current Asian tour.

It was unequivocally stated that there will be no further sales of Chinese missiles to Iran, the Defence Secretary stated. In his opinion, this statement by the Chinese leader is of huge importance.

According to an official of the U.S. Defence Department, who accompanied William Cohen, Iran now has from 100 to 200 Chinese-made anti-ship cruise missiles of the S-801 and S-802 type, both sea- and land-based. According to his information they were bought from China over the past 4-7 years.

Khatami Says Iran Does Not Need the United States
TEHRAN, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Iran's President Mohammad Khatami said the Islamic republic had learned to rely on itself and did not need the United States to make progress.

``Today we do not need to have the United States at our side. We can go ahead without the help of the United States,'' Khatami told a crowd on Monday night at the shrine of late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

His comments, reported by the official news agency IRNA, was also broadcast on Iranian television, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Khatami this month made an historic televised address to the American people calling for a ``crack in the wall of mistrust'' between Iran and the United States.

Khatami made no direct proposal for government talks but stirred speculation about a thaw by suggesting a dialogue between the two academics, writers, artists and journalists in the two countries.

``Those who put coercive pressure on others and resort to force, and world powers that try to make oppressive pressure the basis of their relations with other nations... they cannot expect anything from the Iranian nation,'' Khatami said on Monday.

``...We have suffered the greatest harm from the unjust policies of America,'' Khatami said. ``Before the revolution, as you know, after the revolution, and even today, American politicians behave like the masters of the world. They impose sanctions on any place that does not bow to their interests and want to impose their sanctions by force on the world, not just on us.''

The United States thinks it can talk to Iran ``in whatever form it likes, and do whatever it feels like,'' he said. ``It not only puts pressure on Iran, it puts pressure on Europe, Asia, Japan, saying, for example, 'If you want to invest in Iran more than such an amount, we will impose sanctions on you'. It tries to impose its own domestic laws on the world. That is its domineering way.''

``The fruit of our revolution is that we have freed ourselves from the yoke of our masters, and we will never submit to any new one,'' Khatami said.

He said restrictions imposed on Iran by its enemies had hurt, but had also helped it to become self-sufficient. ``Today we are building our country ourselves, if we have shortcomings, they belong to us and we can remove them.''

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday rejected any ties or talks with the United States, but, in his first public comments on Khatami's January 8 television address on Cable News Network, he said Iran had no problems with the American people and expressed overall support for the relatively moderate president.

Khamenei's comments were a far cry from attacks by hardline and conservative newspapers on Khatami -- a Shi'ite Moslem cleric who is seen as a moderate politician -- for his conciliatory tone and his praise for American civilisation.

Iran's officials have repeatedly said Tehran would not consider a thaw in relations unless Washington dropped its hostility, released frozen Iranian assets and reviewed its ``unconditional support'' for Israel.

Washington blocked Iranian assets after militants occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. It broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980.

Time said running out on US-EU Iran accord
By Carol Giacomo
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - The State Department on Friday warned that time was running out on reaching an agreement with Europe that would avert U.S. sanctions on a French-led deal to develop an Iranian gas field.

Spokesman James Rubin said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told European Union officials on Thursday "we're getting closer to the point when such a decision of sanctionability" would be taken.

"They (EU officials) are quite aware of the fact that ... it is not going to go on indefinitely," Rubin told a news briefing. "They're quite aware that that day is approaching."

France's energy giant Total SA, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas are involved in the $2 billion Iranian gas project.

The U.S. Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) mandates sanctions against foreign firms that are determined to invest more than $20 million in the oil or gas sectors of those two countries.

U.S. and European officials have been seeking a possible way out of the sanctions under which Washington would declare itself satisfied with European steps to combat alleged Iranian support for terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

In such a case, the administration would make a finding that the Total deal merits sanctions but penalties would be waived, U.S. officials have said.

EU officials on Thursday presented the United States with a list of such steps and spoke out strongly on the need to oppose Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism.

Although Washington has sought such gestures as part of a compromise deal that could avoid Iran-related sanctions on foreign companies, Albright said the two sides still have not reached agreement.

"We and the EU have our differences over how to achieve the changes we seek, but we are working actively to achieve convergence in our approaches to Iran while faithfully implementing U.S. law," she told a news conference.

Albright spoke after talks with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, whose country just assumed the EU's rotating presidency, and Sir Leon Brittan, vice president of the European Commission.

Rubin said Albright was "encouraged" by the talks but he made clear the EU must do more to satisfy U.S. concerns.

He said the EU list of steps involved export control and other highly technical "end-user mechanisms to make sure that any technology or expertise that goes to another country is then not re-exported" in a way that would contribute to Iran's program of nuclear, chemical and biological arms.

The United States and Europe for months have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a compromise that would defuse a row over U.S.-mandated sanctions on foreign companies that do business in Cuba, as well as with Iran's energy sector.

The dispute has strained relations between the allies and led to threats of a trade war.

The election of a new, more moderate Iranian president in Mohammed Khatami has raised hopes that Tehran and Washington might some day end nearly 20 years of hostility.

Cook on Thursday stressed the need for Britain, the EU and the United States to forge a common position toward Iran, arguing that only Tehran wins when the allies are divided.

He also reiterated Europe's view that Washington's approach of trying to isolate the Islamic state would not work.

The 15-nation European bloc favors dialogue with Tehran while Washington imposes a broad sanctions regime.

Iran Protests US for Violating Sovereignty
TEHRAN- XINHUA - Iran has lodged a strong protest against the United States for "its violation of Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Tehran radio reported Friday.

It said that Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations sent two notes to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Thursday.

The notes said that the U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf "bothered and inspected Iranian ships for several times and a U.S. aircraft with four crew members also violated Iran's air space."

The notes elaborated the details of the U.S. aggressive actions, Tehran radio said, but giving no detailed about the actions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran announced its strong protest to the U.S. unjustified actions and strongly demanded an end to such actions which violates Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the notes said.

It was the first time for Iran to lodge such protest against the U.S. this year. During the past years, Tehran repeatedly accused Washington of violating Iran's sovereignty and stationing military forces in the Persian Gulf.

However, the U.S. regards Iran as the main threat to the regional peace and stability due to what it called Iran's policies of "supporting international terrorism, sabotaging the Middle East peace process and seeking weapons of mass destruction."

Top Iran Cleric Rejects U.S. Talks
By Afshin Valinejad
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's spiritual leader revealed his sharp differences with the country's president Friday, lambasting the United States as the ``enemy of the Islamic Republic'' and rejecting dialogue with Washington.

``Talks with the United States have no benefit for us and are harmful to us,'' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told hundreds of thousands of worshippers attending Friday services at Tehran University.

His remarks contrasted strongly with those of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who called last week for ``dialogue and understanding'' between Iran and the United States.

Khatami's overture, which included a call for cultural exchanges, was unprecedented for an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Since taking office in August, the new president has advocated healing rifts with Iran's Arab neighbors and better relations with the West.

The ayatollah's remarks were his first public response to Khatami's bid for warmer ties with the United States, and despite near freezing temperatures in the Iranian capital, crowds poured into the university to listen to him.

``We don't need any talks or relations with the United States. The regime of the United States is the enemy of the Islamic Republic. They are the enemy of your Islam,'' Khamenei said.

Chants of ``God is great!'' and ``Death to America!'' interrupted Khamenei's comments.

Most of Iran's senior officials and military officers attended the 90-minute sermon, but not Khatami.

After broadcasting the sermon live, Iranian television showed a movie about the 1988 shootdown of an Iranian commercial jet by a U.S. frigate, killing all 290 people aboard.

Khamenei, who has the last word on foreign policy, is considered more hard-line than the relatively moderate Khatami. His comments showed the deep fissure that runs through Iran's leadership over policy toward the United States.

It was not the first time the two leaders have disagreed in public. At an Islamic summit convened in Tehran in December, the two gave strikingly different speeches at the opening session. Khatami urged understanding of the West and greater democracy, while Khamenei preached confrontation with the United States.

Khamenei again highlighted those differences Friday.

In an interview with CNN on Jan. 7, Khatami had expressed regret for the hurt caused to Americans by the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Khamenei, however, blamed the United States for the incident, in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

``From the beginning of the Islamic revolution, they made the embassy a place for planning conspiracies and these activities led the students to attack and take over the embassy,'' Khamenei said.

``If somebody wants to write about the crimes of the United States, it would be a big book,'' he added.

Khamenei suggested that any dialogue that led to formal negotiations with the United States would mean a defeat for Iran.

``What is important for them is talks. The Americans want Iran to sit down at the table of talks. This propaganda campaign is aimed at showing that Iran has surrendered,'' Khamenei said.

However, Khamenei also tried to play down any policy differences with Khatami.

``I listened very carefully to that interview and I have to say that all of Iran's principal positions about relations with the United States and Israel were being expressed very well. He addressed all the matters that needed to be mentioned,'' he said.

Although Khatami has limited room to maneuver, he remains popular among Iranians -- many of whom would welcome a resumption of ties with the United States.

The United States has said it is ready for dialogue with Iran if Tehran is willing to discuss its opposition to the Middle East peace process, its alleged support for international terrorism and its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

New Conservative Iranian Paper Hits Newsstands
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - A new conservative newspaper has hit the newsstands in Iran, where moderate President Mohammad Khatami has promised greater press freedom.

Farda (Tomorrow) is published by Ahmad Tavakoli, a former minister of labor. He is a supporter of conservative Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri who was defeated by Khatami in the May elections.

In its editorial in the first issue, published Wednesday, the Persian-language paper said it would seek to ``provide the public with an independent source of information, upgrade the nation's awareness and play an active role in politics by criticizing errors.''

Since taking office in August, Khatami's government has licensed a large number of new publications.

Israel Sets up New Forum to Assess Iranian Threat
JERUSALEM, (Reuters) - Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai has set up a team to assess the threat posed by arch-foe Iran following remarks by its new president attacking the Jewish state, Ha'aretz newspaper said on Thursday.

The group, led by Mordechai's top adviser David Ivri who also heads a strategic forum surveying the long-term Iranian military threat, will convene next week, the newspaper said.

Iran and Israel had close ties until the Islamic revolution in 1979 when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown.

``Iran under the ayatollahs now poses the most ominous danger to our region and to the world,'' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu pointed to what he said were Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Earlier this month Iranian President Mohammed Khamati, viewed as a relative moderate, described the Israeli government as ``a racist terrorist regime'' and deplored U.S. support for the Israelis.

According to Ha'aretz the new team would monitor four points: Supply of equipment to the Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrilla group in south Lebanon; support of terrorism against Israel; opposition to the peace process; and non-recognition of the existence of the state of Israel.

The Defence Ministry would neither confirm nor deny the report but would only say ``among his other duties Ivri has also been charged with dealing with the threat posed by Iran.''

At Least 32 Dead in Iran Avalanche
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Rescuers pulled 32 dead bodies from the snow and were searching for more Thursday after an avalanche buried traffic on a mountain highway, Iranian media reported.

At least 80 people were injured in Tuesday's avalanche near Roudehen, 20 miles east of Tehran.

Relief teams uncovered a bus, two vans, a truck and three cars trapped under the snow, the head of the regional disaster headquarters, Rahnatollah Ahmadi, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

The snow swept about 35 cars into the neighboring valley, the Farsi-language newspaper Iran reported.

``Our bus came out of the tunnel and then suddenly we heard a horrible sound,'' survivor Hassan Eqtedaii told the newspaper. He said the bus then plunged 700 feet into the valley and broke in two.

``All the passengers were scattered in the snow. All I could hear was the sound of crying and shouting. Except for a few people like me, all the passengers were buried,'' Eqtedaii said.

More than 200 minor avalanches have occurred in the past week on the same mountain road that heads east from Tehran to Mashad.

Heavy snowfalls have cut off more than 150 villages in Iran's western province of Hamadan, the agency said.

Chelsea Clinton Gets Books on Koran
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An Iranian religious center has sent Chelsea Clinton several books explaining the Koran, Islam's holy book, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The Akhbar daily newspaper did not say whether Chelsea requested the books from the Amir Momenan Scientific and Religious Research Center, which is in the central city of Isfahan.

On Monday, another newspaper, the Tehran Times, reported that the center had sent a copy of the Koran to President Clinton's daughter at her request. Chelsea is a freshman at Stanford University.

The center has been known to send English-language translations of the Koran to people in the United States, Canada and Japan who have requested them. The Koran is written in Arabic.

The other books sent to Chelsea included three English-language texts explaining the Koran and a book of sayings by Islam's prophet Mohammed, Akhbar said.

The United States severed relations with Iran after Muslim militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The Islamic Revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah.


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