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July 1997

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    Iran's_Rafsanjani Seen Keeping Central Role
    TEHRAN, July 31 (Reuter) - Outgoing President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is widely expected to remain at the forefront of Iranian politics when he steps down next week after two terms which have won him the title of ``Commander of Reconstruction.''

    Credited with rebuilding an economy devastated by the 1980-88 with Iraq, Rafsanjani has been a pragmatist trying to reconcile Islamic revolutionary ideals with Iran's urgent need to solve daunting economic problems in a hostile world.

    After acting as the right-hand man of late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a decade of revolution and war, Rafsanjani championed Iran's quest to rebuild its shattered economy and break out of international isolation.

    ``The general expectation in Iran is that Mr Rafsanjani and the people close to him will still be at the centre stage of state affairs as they have been in the past decade or more,'' said Tehran-based Iranian economist Fariborz Raisdana.

    ``If the other faction (conservatives) had succeeded in the presidential elections things might have been different, but as the vote went, I think Mr Rafsanjani will be very much involved in state affairs at a high level,'' Raisdana told Reuters.

    President-elect Mohammad Khatami defeated conservative parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri by a landslide in May with the support of moderate politicians close to Rafsanjani.

    Khatami, elected on a platform of moving towards a more open and democratic society, is due to take the oath of office on Monday.

    Asked about his plans, Rafsanjani has said he intends to act as adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and be active on Iran's aid programmes for developing countries, particularly in Africa which he toured last year. He would also be writing a book on the Koran, he said.

    Khamenei in March reappointed Rafsanjani as head of a powerful council which will draw up long-term policies and advise the leader, who has supreme power over all state bodies.

    Rafsanjani served nine years as parliament speaker before he was elected president in 1989 and again in 1993.

    Although his promises of an early end to the war-time economic austerity proved an illusion, he pressed on with free-market reforms, saying they were the only way to build a prosperous economy as the base for a model Islamic society.

    But his reforms were slowed by conservatives who feared that public discontent would hurt the Islamic state's popular base.

    Hardliners said the reforms had led to increased corruption and materialism. Rafsanjani's backers replied that the problems were due to the failure to carry through the reforms and reduce the huge state bureaucracy, seen as the graft's centre.

    In the 1990-91 Gulf crisis and war over Kuwait, Rafsanjani kept Iran neutral, resisting pressure by hardliners pushing for Iran to join Iraq's anti-American crusade.

    That and Tehran's pressure on Shi'ite Lebanese militants to free their remaining Western hostages won praise in the West but failed to produce a thaw in relations with the United States, Khomeini's ``Great Satan.''

    Iran's economic and diplomatic woes sharpened after Washington imposed economic sanctions on Iran in 1995. The U.S. move also reinforced the hand of Rafsanjani's critics.

    Iranian analysts said Rafsanjani's weakened position made it impossible for him to move towards fulfilling his promise of granting more social and political freedom.

    ``Rafsanjani was elected with the same great expectations of moving towards a democratic society as now with Khatami,'' London-based Iranian journalist Alireza Nourizadeh told Reuters.

    ``But this time there is a great popular mandate demanding change. This is much more powerful.''

    Born in 1934 in a southern pistachio-growing village, Rafsanjani went to the Shi'ite Moslem holy city of Qom to study theology at the age of 14.

    He joined Khomeini's Islamist movement against the pro-Western monarchy in the early 1960s and was jailed five times in the next 15 years.

    He was a relatively obscure figure at the onset of the 1979 Islamic revolution, but Khomeini appointed him to the ruling Revolutionary Council.

    He escaped an assassination attempt with minor injuries in 1979 and was unhurt when a man fired shots at him in 1994.

    A Shi'ite cleric, Rafsanjani is married and has two daughters and three sons.

    His daughter Faezeh is a parliament deputy and an outspoken proponent of women's rights within an Islamic framework.

    One of Rafsanjani's sons, Mehdi, heads two subsidiaries of Iran's state oil company. Another son, Mohsen, is secretary of the presidential office.

    Saudi Suspect Backs Out of Plea
    By Michael J. Sniffen
    Associated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Saudi dissident, once thought willing to shed light on a bombing that killed 19 U.S. airmen, backed out of a plea bargain with the government Wednesday and instead pleaded innocent to an earlier plot to kill Americans in the desert kingdom.

    During a 22-minute hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, Hani al-Sayegh, dressed in a white T-shirt and dark slacks, said only ``not guilty.'' Sullivan set trial for Nov. 3.

    Prosecutor Eric Dubelier said the government considered ``the plea agreement has been breached. One of our remedies is to try the case and, at least as of today, that's what we intend to do.''

    But al-Sayegh's court-appointed lawyer, Frank Carter, contended the agreement ``was invalid to begin with.''

    After court, Carter complained that al-Sayegh, a 28-year-old father of two children still in Saudi Arabia, was under duress and had inadequate legal advice when the agreement was made. He said the government's only evidence is in statements illegally obtained from his client that he would try to exclude from trial.

    A Shi'ite Muslim involved in political protest against the Saudi ruling family, al-Sayegh was deported to the United States from Canada in early June after reaching a deal with U.S. prosecutors while in Canadian custody.

    Government officials have said the still-secret deal called for him to tell everything he knew about last summer's truck-bombing at the Khobar Towers housing complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

    The FBI has been trying to corroborate Saudi claims that Iran fomented that attack.

    In return, al-Sayegh was to plead guilty to one count charging a separate, 1994-95 conspiracy -- never carried out -- to kill Americans in Saudi Arabia.

    The Saudis have claimed al-Sayegh drove a car that signaled the bomb-laden truck when to pull up beside Khobar Towers. Since arriving in this country, al-Sayegh has claimed through lawyers that he was in Iran in June 1966 when the Khobar complex was bombed.

    His former attorney, Michael Wildes, who still represents him in immigration matters, said al-Sayegh ``feels he was set up by Saudi intelligence to take the fall'' for the Khobar attack.

    Outside court, Carter told reporters that his effort to negotiate a better agreement with the government for al-Sayegh broke down Monday.

    Al-Sayegh has said through attorneys that he fears execution if he were returned to Saudi Arabia. It was not clear whether the plea agreement protected him from deportation to Saudi Arabia after serving any sentence he would have gotten had he pled guilty.

    Carter said the government was scrambling to get evidence of al-Sayegh's involvement in the uncompleted 1994-95 plot.

    ``All they have at this time are his statements,'' Carter told reporters. ``Those were illegally obtained. He didn't understand U.S. jurisprudence. He had only a Canadian immigration lawyer, and he was under pressure,'' believing he had to choose between coming to the United States or being sent to Saudi Arabia for execution.

    ``The government has no documentary evidence of anything involving him in this crime or any other crime,'' Carter said. ``The U.S. government is looking for documentary evidence from the Saudi government to proceed in court.''

    Government officials said they also could resume plea bargain negotiations or drop the charge and deport al-Sayegh to Saudi Arabia.

    A deportation case would go to an immigration judge whose ruling could be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, a U.S. Circuit Court and even the Supreme Court. That process could take two years or more, during which al-Sayegh would remain behind bars, according to a Justice Department official.

    Carter said al-Sayegh might seek political asylum here or in a third country. Wildes said he has drawn up an asylum application at al-Sayegh's request and was waiting for instructions from his client to file it.

    But the Justice official said asylum was unlikely to be granted.

    Judge Sullivan ordered that al-Sayegh continue to be held without bond at the District of Columbia Jail.

    Steven Farina, representing The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, argued that Sullivan should unseal the aborted plea agreement. The government and the defense opposed that, and Sullivan ordered written arguments submitted in September.

    Paper: U.S. Should Befriend Iran
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Having failed to isolate Iran, the United States should work toward a reconciliation with the Islamic Republic, a pro-government newspaper said Tuesday.

    The Tehran Times said the United States' decision not to oppose a natural-gas pipeline running through the country proved that its continued efforts to ostracize Iran were fruitless.

    ``The U.S. decision not to oppose the pipeline did not stem from its altruism, rather (it) sprang up from its helplessness as it could not oppose a group of countries who are partners in this huge project,'' said the English-language daily, which has close ties to the government.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday that the Clinton administration's decision to allow the pipeline to cross Iran should not be viewed as a warming toward Iran's more moderate government that will come to power next month.

    ``There is no attempt here to change policy,'' Albright told reporters in Singapore at the end of a week-long Southeast Asian trip.

    She said the pipeline, running from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to Turkey and on to Europe, did not violate a U.S. law forbidding U.S. and foreign investments of more than dlrs 40 million into Iranian energy projects, because the project doesn't really benefit Iran.

    The law was passed last year in an attempt to isolate Tehran, which Washington accuses of sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

    The 3,200 kilometer (2,000 mile) pipeline, built at a cost of dlrs 1.6 billion, would transport 3 billion cubic meters of gas a year initially, but the volume could eventually grow to as much as 30 billion cubic meters annually.

    The project marks the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that Iran has been allowed to participate in a major international energy project.

    Albright Cautious on Meaning of Pipeline Decision
    SINGAPORE, July 29 (Reuter) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Tuesday cautioned against interpreting too much into the Clinton administration's decision not to oppose a $1.6 billion pipeline from Central Asia to Turkey through Iran.

    She reiterated the administration's public assertion that the decision was not a diplomatic gesture toward Iran but rather ``a way to help Turkey and Turkmenistan.''

    However, she also kept open the door to potential future contacts between the two countries -- bitter enemies -- if Iran moved to assuage long-standing U.S. concerns that Teheran has so far failed to address.

    ``I think that we have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves,'' Albright told reporters who travelled with her to Asia.

    ``There clearly was an interesting election in Iran -- unexpected to the Iranians and unexpected to those who follow it (Iran) carefully. But so far we have not seen anything,'' to suggest Iran is willing to meet U.S. concerns such as ending support for terrorism, she said.

    ``We're not going to operate on faith. We're going to look for specific actions,'' she added, repeating the U.S. call for Iran to stop support for terrorism, undermining the Middle East peace process and trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

    The remarks were Albright's first on the subject since the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday that the administration had decided not to block the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) pipeline project.

    Coming five days before a relatively more moderate president is sworn into office in Teheran, the comments -- which came in response to questions -- also constituted a fresh sign of high-level U.S. willingness to engage with Iran if Teheran takes what Washington considers appropriate measures.

    Experts outside government have increasingly called for the United States to reconsider its harsh policy of trying to isolate Iran internationally, which many argue has failed.

    But many congressmen not only oppose weakening the U.S. position, they have called for a tougher global policy against Teheran.

    Officials have been quoted as saying that while the administration does not endorse the pipeline it has concluded that such a project does not technically violate the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA).

    The law bars U.S. and foreign investments of more than $40 million in the development of Iran's energy sector but does not address pipelines carrying another country's gas or oil across Iran, the Post quoted one official as saying.

    U.S. officials said last Wednesday the threat of sanctions under ILSA had deterred foreign companies from investing in oil and gas fields in Iran but European allies were not cooperating enough to isolate Tehran.

    The LA Times reported that while the U.S. position mostly was aimed at Turkey, some officials believed it had the ``side effect'' of signalling to Iranian President-elect Mohamed Khatemi that the U.S. wanted to work with him.

    ``It's incorrect,'' Albright said when asked if the decision was a gesture to Iran.

    ``The pipeline deal is one that is basically a way to help Turkey and Turkmenistan. It does not trigger to ILSA legislation. There is no attempt here to change policy,'' she said.

    The decision reportedly reflects the administration's heightened priority for helping the former Soviet states in central Asia assert their independence from Russia, as the Caspian Sea region holds the largest oil and gas reserves outside the Persian Gulf.

    It also signals U.S. interest in cooperating with Turkey's new secular government run by President Mesut Yilmaz.

    Khatemi, who was involved previously in relaxing the regime's strict Islamic practices, won a stunning victory in May over the regime's preferred candidate.

    But despite considerable fascination in Washington and other world capitals about what the changes might mean for Iran, Albright stressed that Khatemi had not yet taken office ``so we have to see.''

    ``I think it is a mistake to get ahead of ourselves. We have some very very serious problems with Iran, not ones that are figments of our imagination,'' she added.

    The government of Turkey lost billions of dollars since the closing of a pipeline from Iran in 1990 because of U.N. sanctions on Baghdad.

    The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran,

    Report: Clinton Backs Iran Pipeline
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A pipeline that would carry natural gas from the former Soviet state of Turkmenistan, across Iran to Turkey has received reluctant support from the Clinton administration, according to a published report.

    Although the 2,000-mile pipeline cross Iran, the administration has concluded it would not violate the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, unidentified sources told The Washington Post.

    The act forbids U.S. and foreign investments of more than $40 million into Iranian energy projects.

    The $1.6 billion project is to begin in Turkmenistan, wind through Iran, deposit gas to Turkey and eventually continue on to Europe. The pipeline will transport 3 billion cubic meters of gas a year initially, but the volume could eventually grow to as much as 30 million cubic meters annually.

    The report was not clear whether any Iranian gas would be transported in the pipeline, although Iran is expected to collect transit fees.

    The project marks the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that Iran has been permitted to participate in a major international energy project.

    Administration officials said they were hesitant to allow the pipeline to go through Iran, but felt the 1996 law didn't give them enough leeway to oppose the project, according to the Post.

    ``We don't have the tools to do anything about'' it, an administration source told the newspaper.

    In addition, by supporting the project, the United States is supporting the former Soviet state of Turkmenistan by allowing it to expand its economic base.

    Three European companies are vying to build the pipeline, while companies such as Mobil Corp. -- which has a production-sharing contract in Turkmenistan -- also stand to profit.

    Iranian Spiritual Leader Dead at 78
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Rouhani, a leading Shiite Muslim cleric, died Friday in Iran. He was 78.

    Rouhani died in the Shiite holy city of Qom, his birthplace and a center of religious learning. He suffered from internal bleeding that followed an undisclosed illness, said a statement by the Al-Khoei Foundation, a London-based philanthropic group.

    Rouhani was a student of the Grand Ayatollah Abul Qassim al-Khoei, who set up the foundation. Al-Khoei, the spiritual leader of the world's 200 million Shiite Muslims, died in 1992.

    Rouhani followed Al-Khoei's principle of separating religion from politics and remained apolitical. That position distanced him from Iran's ruling clergy.

    Grand ayatollahs are the top clerics in the Shiite sect and carry great prestige. Only a handful of clerics hold the title.

    Rouhani is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters. Funeral arrangements were not released.

    2200 Iranian Couples Wed at Once
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- In a series of mass ceremonies, 2,200 couples exchanged wedding vows and the government picked up the tab, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.

    It said the ceremonies, held Wednesday in several central Iranian cities, were financed by a government-run committee, but it did not say how much the mass weddings cost.

    IRNA said the newlyweds received a total of $670,000 in household appliances as presents.

    Such weddings are held from time to time in Iran for couples who cannot afford customary fancy celebrations.

    U.S. Suspicious of Iran's Actions
    By Harry Dunphy
    Assoociated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States suspects Iran's motives in seeking to develop relations with eight newly independent nations in the Caucasus and central Asia that were once part of the Soviet Union, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

    ``We have all too much experience with Iranian support for terrorism, efforts to obtain weapons by all possible means and other unacceptable behavior, not to be deeply concerned,'' Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat told the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

    He said the United States must promote democracy and human rights as well as rapid development of market economies and energy resources in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

    Eizenstadt said that while neighboring Iran might have some ties with these countries, ``a political vacuum would only give Iran the opportunity to fill it.''

    He also cautioned Russia to be a ``good neighbor, not a big neighbor.''

    Eizenstadt praised the constructive role Turkey was playing in a region where it has strong cultural and historic ties. As a secular Muslim nation, Turkey could serve as a better role model than Iran for the central Asian republics, he said.

    Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan, who presided at the hearing, urged the administration to move rapidly to help these countries develop so they can resist Iranian and Russian influence.

    Brownbeck said developing open access to the Caspian Sea was of critical importance to the United States in order to develop an alternative energy source to the Middle East.

    The Caspian Sea contains one of the world's largest oil and gas reserves, rivaling the Persian Gulf. There are an estimated 200 billion barrels of oil worth $4 trillion.

    Eizenstadt said one of the administration's objectives was the rapid development of these resources ``with robust U.S. commercial participation, including construction of multiple pipelines.''

    Iranian Outgoing President Vows to Remain Soldier
    TEHRAN- XINHUA - Iranian outgoing President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani vowed here today to remain a soldier of the Islamic Revolution for the years to come.

    "I will work for the revolution under the guidance of the Supreme Leader of the revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," Rafsanjani said at his farewell ceremony to Parliament honoring his eight years of presidency.

    Rafsanjani, who also served as parliament speaker between 1980 and 1989, thanked the Parliament for its cooperation with his government.

    "The Parliament modified only two or three percent of our programs," he said.

    "All of our government's goals which were called too ambitious by experts have been achieved because of this cooperation," he added.

    "I hope that this cooperation would continue during the administration of His Excellency Mr. Khatami (the president-elect). We hope that we can achieve the revolution's goals despite a sea of mischiefs," the 64-year-old president said.

    Iran's President-Elect Mohammad Khatami won a landslide victory over his arch rival Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri on the May 23 presidential elections.

    Rafsanjani, who took office in 1989 after the end of Iran's war with Iraq (1980-88), could not take part in the elections because the constitution does not allow him to run for a third consecutive term.

    "When I took over, Iran had a 16 percent unemployment. Now we have reduced unemployment to 9.1 percent," he said.

    "We have nothing to worry about. Inflation is gradually reducing, production has increased, and the distribution network has been organized," he said.

    As for his government's record on the developments of culture and education, Rafsanjani attacked domestic and international criticism of the reduction of the quality of cultural activities and education in Iran.

    At the end of the ceremony, Rafsanjani was awarded a letter of commendation signed by the parliamentary deputies.

    Khatami, foreign ambassadors, representatives of the international organizations and government organizations attended the farewell ceremony.

    Iran Seizes Large Amount of Smuggled Goods
    XINHUA - Iran Seized 207 billion rials (69 million U.S. dollars) worth of smuggled goods in the past three months, according to a report issued by the Interior Ministry here today.

    Interior Minister Ali Mohammad Besharati said in the report that positive impact of the fight against smuggling goods on the country's economy has been achieved, adding that the campaign would continue in accordance with the laws of the country.

    Besharati stressed the importance of controlling the entry and exit points of the country, describing as "positive" the performance of law enforcement forces in the fight against contraband smuggling.

    However, the report gave no detail about what kinds of smuggled goods were seized in the past three months.

    According to an early report, the seizure of smuggled goods was largely made in Iran's southern coastal provinces of Hormuzgan and Bushehr and in Chahbahar, Sistan Baluchestan province.

    Publisher Fined for Mismanagement Article
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) An Iranian court fined a publisher $1,650 for printing a report accusing a Cabinet minister of mismanagement, the official news agency reported Sunday.

    The court on Saturday also suspended the publication of Mehdi Nassiri's hardline Islamic monthly, Sobh, for a month, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

    Nassiri had published an article accusing Mohammad Gharazi, the minister of post and telegraph, of financial mismanagement, the agency said.

    Iran wants Iraq Oil for Reparations
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iraq should give Iran 1 million barrels of oil a day toward reparations for their 1980-88 war, an official Iranian newspaper said Saturday.

    Iran says it suffered $97.2 billion in damage during the war. The United Nations says Iraq started the conflict, which killed an estimated 1 million people.

    Iraq should allow ``Iran to (take) a million barrels of oil per day until its economic situation improves and cash reparations are possible,'' the Iran Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

    Iraq has not been forced to pay war damages to Iran because the two never signed a formal peace treaty. A million barrels of oil would be worth about $18 million at current prices.

    U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 allow it to sell only $2 billion in oil during a six-month period to buy food and medicine.

    Saudi Says Will Never Sever Ties with Iran
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuter) - Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Prince Sultan said his country would never cut off ties with Iran, the daily al-Hayat newspaper said Thursday.

    ``Ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran will never be severed,'' he said, as quoted by the London-based, Saudi-owned paper.

    Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of the world's biggest oil producers, have had strained ties since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Riyadh and Tehran severed diplomatic relations from 1988-1991.

    Differences focus on the presence of Western forces in the Gulf, Tehran's arms program, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca and charges that Iran meddles in its neighbor's affairs.

    Shiite Moslem Iran denies the charges and its leaders have repeatedly said they want to rebuild trust with their mostly Sunni Muslim neighbors.

    Ties were cut between the two states after 402 people, mostly Iranians, died in riots during the 1987 Mecca pilgrimage.

    Relations were restored after the 1991 Gulf War, in which Iran remained neutral over Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

    A rare visit to Tehran by an envoy of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd earlier this month was seen as a new sign of thawing in relations between the two regional powerhouses.

    Administration Seeks Exemption for Syria from Terrorism Sanction
    WASHINGTON (AP) The Clinton administration will try to get Syria exempted from legislation that prohibits U.S. citizens from doing business with nations that condone terrorism, the State Department said Thursday.

    Spokesman Nicholas Burns said Syria should be exempted because it has at least participated in the Middle East peace process.

    "To treat Syria as we treat, say, Iran, we think there has to be a distinction," Burns said. "It would not be accurate or fair" to put them in the same group.

    He said administration officials were discussing their differences on Syria with members of Congress as the Senate and the House move toward reconciling two bills that deal with the issue.

    The House voted overwhelmingly July 8 to revoke the administration's authority to make exceptions to a law that bars U.S. citizens from conducting business with nations that support terrorism.

    The law covers financial transactions involving "pariah" states designated by the State Department Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

    A similar measure was included in a State Department authorization bill that the Senate passed June 18.

    Burns said the United States had a difficult relationship with Syria, which is on the department's terrorist and drug lists. There is no U.S. assistance program with the Damascus government.

    He said the United States still was discussing Middle East peace issues with the Syrians, and "Syria, at least as of today, has not rejected the peace process as Iran has done."

    Burns said if it were proven that Syria was involved in the bombing last year of a barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 servicemen, the United States would change its position. But he said "the evidence is not conclusive and the investigation is not over."

    Jerusalem Film Festival Rejects Iranian Criticism
    JERUSALEM(Reuter) - The organisers of a Jerusalem film festival said on Thursday they were proud to show Iranian movies whose screening at the Israeli event was described by Iran's state cinema foundation as ``arts banditry.''

    Iran's official news agency IRNA said on Wednesday the Farabi Cinema Foundation had denounced the screenings as ``a plot hatched by Europe and the illegal state of Israel.''

    The foundation, which controls much of Iran's film industry, said the showings were ``open arts banditry, and ...incompatible with the most basic principles of international and cultural regulations.''

    In a statement, the Jerusalem festival organisers said the Iranian films ``Gabbeh,'' ``Salaam Cinema,'' ``Moment of Innocence'' and ``Time of Love,'' all directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, were being shown because of their ``high artistic merit and humanitarian message.''

    ``The directors of the festival are proud to show the films in Jerusalem, especially in consideration of the fact that they were legally purchased for commercial distribution in Israel,'' the statement said.

    It was not immediately clear if foreign distributors of the films needed to get prior permission from Tehran officials over showings outside Iran.

    ``Gabbeh,'' a poetic film about nomadic carpet weavers, was screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival and has been shown since in art film houses in Europe and the United States.

    Iran says Israel has no right to exist. Tehran condemns the Middle East peace process as a sellout of Palestinian rights.

    Rafsanjani's Entourage Survive Chopper Accident
    TEHRAN (XINHUA )- Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani's entourage escaped unhurt as their helicopter crash-landed soon after taking off today in Kerman, 660 kilometers southeast of Tehran.

    According to the official news agency IRNA, the chopper, which developed a technical problem, came to an emergency landing and suffered slight damages.

    Those on board included Rafsanjani's son Mohsen Hashemi, who is head of the Presidential Office, Parliament Member Hussein Mar'ashi and a high-ranking official from the office of President-elect Mohammad Khatami.

    Rafsanjani, who was currently touring Kerman province, was not on board the helicopter, the report said.

    "Fortunately, Rafsanjani was on board of another chopper," an editor of IRNA, who refused to be identified, told Xinhua on telephone.

    The news agency said that the incident took place after the inauguration of a leaching process unit of the Sarcheshmeh Copper Complex in Kerman province.

    All the passengers were evacuated to the city of Kerman after the incident, the report said.

    Bank Officials May Be Sanctioned
    By Barry Schweid
    AP Diplomatic Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Officials of Germany's Westdeutche LandesBank could be penalized severely by the U.S. government if the bank grants Iran a loan of $90 million to help reconstruct an offshore oil field in the Persian Gulf.

    State Department officials today raised the prospect of sanctions after a report of the loan was published by the Iran, a daily newspaper in Tehran. ``We have raised this proposed loan to Iran with German officials at appropriate levels,'' the department said in a statement.

    Quoting Iranian oil officials, the newspaper said Saturday the loan would be granted to the state-owned Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co. for the reconstruction and renovation of the 60,000-barrels-a-day Soroush oil field in the gulf. It was heavily damaged during a war with Iraq in the 1980s.

    The projected cost of the project is $200 million and is expected to take three years or more tp compete.

    The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act provides for sanctions on officials of foreign companies that sell a share of ownership in the development of Iran's petroleum reserves or take earnings from such development.

    The United States has tried for years to arrange an economic boycott of Iran, and also Iraq, as states that sponsor terrorism. Support from U.S. allies, particularly when there are profits to make, has been spotty.

    ``What we've got to do, if this deal does go through, is assure ourselves of the specifics of the deal, and then to see if it does fit in the framework of the sanctions,'' department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Monday.

    ``And if it does, I'm afraid the United States would have to take action. But we have not yet made that decision,'' Burns said.

    Under the law, sanctions can be imposed upon individuals. They include banning U.S. Export-Import bank assistance, export licenses for certain goods and technology, loans from U.S. financial institutions, imports and sales to the U.S. government.

    U.S. Navy Rescues Iranians in Gulf
    MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- The U.S. Navy rescued two Iranian seamen found in the Persian Gulf on Monday clinging to debris from their wooden boat.

    Two U.S. helicopters searched for eight other missing crewmen, according to the statement issued by the Bahrain-based U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

    The two men were spotted by the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, which launched a rescue boat to bring them aboard, the Navy said. They were to be transferred ashore.

    The Iranians said they had been adrift for about five days since their cargo ship broke up in rough seas.

    The Navy said it had no information on the Iranian vessel's home port, destination or cargo.

    First International Symposium of CS and DSP
    For more info:School of Engineering, Sheffield Hallam University 6-8 April 1998
    Technically Co-sponsored by: IEEE & IEEE Communications Society Hosted by:
    School of Engineering, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- PURPOSE OF THE SYMPOSIUM:
    Over the past few years the pace of technological changes in communication systems and digital signal processing has been extremely rapid and these areas are continuing to evolve and converge. It is the aim of this International Symposium to bring together engineers and scientists to discuss the progress made in both fields and provide a focus for future developments. The organising committee invites you to submit original papers addressing research topics of interest for presentation at the symposium and inclusion in the symposium proceedings.

    - Modulation, demodulation and synchronisation
    - Communication theory
    - Modelling and simulation techniques
    - Coding and error control
    - DSP algorithms and applications
    - Adaptive signal processing
    - VLSI for communications and DSP
    - Multiresolution analysis
    - Optical communication systems and networks
    - Wavelet transforms
    - Mobile & optical wireless communications
    - Low rate image transmission
    - Multimedia and broadband services
    - Artificial neural networks
    - ATM systems and networks
    - Any other related topics
    Prof. R J Clarke (Heriot-Watt Univ. UK) - Chairman
    Dr Z Ghassemlooy - Symposium Secretary
    Dr R Saatchi (SHU, UK)
    Dr N L Seed (The Sheffield University, UK)
    Dr B Wilson (UMIST, UK)
    Dr I Darwazeh (UMIST, UK)
    Prof. H Aghvami (Kings College, London, UK)
    Prof. A C Boucouvalas (Bournemouth Univ., UK)
    Dr R S Chan (T J Watson Res. Cent., IBM, USA)
    Dr L Chao (Nanyang Tech. Univ. Singapore)
    Dr L Dittmann (Technical Univ. of Denmark)
    Prof. C J Georgopoulos (Univ. of Patras, Greece)
    Dr D J T Heatley (BT, UK)
    Dr S Kartalopoulos (AT&T, USA)
    Dr M Kavehrand (The Pennsylvania State Univ. USA)
    Dr C Qiao (State Univ. of N.Y. at Buffalo, USA)
    Dr H Razavi (Curtin Univ. of Tech. Perth, Australia)
    Dr U Schiller (Philips, Switzerland)
    Prof. R T Valadas (Univ. of Aveiro, Portugal)
    Prof. K Wesolowski (Poznan Univ.of Technology, Poznan, Poland)

    Prospective authors are requested to send an abstract of 250 words typed double space for review by the International Scientific Committee. All abstracts must be written in English.

    The abstract should include:
    1- Title of proposed paper
    2- Authors names, affiliations, addresses, e-mail, telephone and fax numbers for correspondence
    3- Topics which best describe the paper (max. 5 keywords)

    * Abstract due: 15 September 1997
    * Notification of acceptance by: 30 October 1997
    * Camera ready paper due: 09 February 1998
    Papers may be presented in the following forms:
    + Oral presentation (15-20 minutes) + Poster Contributions by MPhil/PhD students are particularly encouraged.
    It is recommended to submit abstracts by electronic mail (ASCII text) to: or else by fax or mail (1 copy) to the following address:

    Dr Z Ghassemlooy
    Symposium Secretary CSDSP 98
    School of Engineering
    Sheffield Hallam University
    Pond St., Sheffield S1 1WB, UK
    Tel: +44 114 253 3274
    Fax: +44 114 353 3306

    All papers will be incorporated into a bound volume of proceedings which will be available on arrival at the symposium. Authors of a selected number of innovative papers may be invited to submit extended manuscripts for journal or book publication.

    The best paper presentations will be presented with an award.
    Includes a copy of the Symposium Proceedings, lunches, and Symposium Dinner on the 7th.
    Residential delegates: ?250.00
    Non-residential delegates: ?175.00
    Day delegates: ?70.00 per day

    Sheffield is England's fourth largest city, with a population of well over half a million. It is situated right in the middle of England. The city is set in the Peak District, at the foot of the Pennine Way, and surrounded by breath-taking scenery. Sheffield itself is covered in greenery, with over 50 parks, and more woodland than any other English city. Long famous as a city of steel making, Sheffield in the 1990s is enjoying a time of great change and regeneration with new hi-tech and service industries. The city now boast a selection of new large scale developments to match any city in Europe.

    There is a lot to do in Sheffield with its fine central and out of town shopping areas and a selection of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. The city has a wealth of arts and sport facilities. Sheffield's proximity to Derbyshire and the Peak District National Park, means that there are ample opportunities for touring, walking, rock climbing, caving, hang gliding and a host of other pursuits in spectacular surroundings.

    Contact: Dr Z Ghassemlooy
    Symposium Secretary CSDSP 98
    School of Engineering
    Sheffield Hallam University
    Pond St., Sheffield S1 1WB, UK
    or Tel: +44 114 253 3274
    Fax: +44 114 353 3306

    Iranian Dissident Deals With Threats
    By Anwar Faruqi
    Associated Press Writer
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The last time Abdolkarim Soroush lectured at Tehran University, thousands turned out to hear him.

    But in the exuberant crowd was a rowdy group of pro-government toughs carrying a noose. Their idea: lynch the gentle, bespectacled professor on the spot. He barely got away.

    Such is the reaction to the ideas of Soroush, Iran's leading dissident thinker, who is asking the dangerous questions that the Islamic Republic's mullahs would prefer not to hear.

    His thoughts have made him one of Iran's most beloved and reviled figures -- and his precarious survival is a symbol of the fragile political freedom in today's Iran.

    Prominent in Iran since the 1979 revolution that toppled the monarchy, Soroush disputes what the clergy consider their God-given right to be the sole interpreters of Islam, a role they use to justify their rule.

    In large part, Soroush's ideas are part of a growing protest of the clerics' hard-line rule. One face of that protest showed up in the May presidential election in which a moderate reformer, Mohammed Khatami, routed the establishment's candidate.

    Soroush is another face, the intellectual side.

    His supporters see him as the architect of an Islamic renaissance. But he poses a serious threat to a religious establishment struggling to justify itself to the majority of Iran's 60 million people who have been born since the shah's ouster.

    Within the clergy's ranks, no one can match the charisma of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late religious leader who led the Islamic revolution then held its disparate and often competing elements together through its turbulent first 10 years.

    That leadership void provides an opening for the radical ideas of Soroush.

    Once an ideologue of the new Islamic establishment in the early 1980s, Soroush now insists religion should teach submission to God and cannot be reduced to a mundane ideology to govern -- a message almost the reverse of the ideas he once preached.

    ``Islam, or any religion, will become totalitarian if it is made into an ideology, because that is the nature of ideologies,'' Soroush, 52, said in an interview.

    Like other Muslims, Soroush considers the Koran, Islam's holy book, to be God's word. But he also believes the clergy's interpretation of it has little to do with religion and more to do with preserving their power and interests.

    ``The clergy earns its living from religion. If your interests are secured through religion, then you will defend your interests first and religion will become secondary,'' Soroush said.

    His writings, which say every believer is entitled to his own understanding of Islam, are widely read by Iran's university students, intellectuals and even members of the clergy. Many of his 20 or so books are best-sellers, and his numerous articles have an audience in other parts of the Muslim world.

    ``The young see Soroush as someone who offers something different from the traditional teachings of religious leaders or teachers,'' said Mohammad Hashemi, a law professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

    Soroush, who studied chemistry in Britain and pharmacology and religion in Iran, bases his elaborate arguments on intellectual influences ranging from the medieval to the modern.

    The 13th century Persian mystic Jalaluddin Rumi is one. Like the iconoclastic Rumi, Soroush speaks of a lofty, liberating Islam that would hardly be recognized by most Muslim clergymen.

    Some people describe Soroush as a Muslim Martin Luther whose ideas could generate an Islamic reformation. They believe he offers an alternative to what they see as pedestrian debates over whether neckties or satellite dishes are permissible under Islam.

    They also are inspired by his belief that Islam is compatible with democracy and human rights -- concepts sometimes disparaged by conservative Muslim clergy as foreign.

    Those ideas have landed him in trouble.

    His lectures used to draw thousands, but he stopped speaking for a while after he was beaten twice by pro-government militants last year. He says he narrowly escaped with his life when the lynch mob turned up at the Tehran University lecture a year ago.

    Militants have also attacked the office of the monthly magazine Kiyan, which first published Soroush's ideas.

    ``The people punch individuals who say such things in the mouth,'' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader, warned in an angry speech following the publication of one article.

    Soroush recently returned after 11 months in Europe and the United States, where he went to let things cool off at home. He has spoken just once since then, when he gave a lecture in June that drew 3,000 people.

    ``When I have an idea, I'm like a pregnant woman. I just have to deliver,'' Soroush said grinning.

    Bombing Suspect: I'm Not a Terrorist
    NEW YORK (AP) -- A suspect in an attack on an American military complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 servicemen last year says he was in Iran during the bombing, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

    Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein Sayegh, accused of serving as a driver and lookout in the attack, said an airline manifest and his passport show he went to Iran shortly before the June 25, 1996, blast at al-Khobar Towers and flew from there to Kuwait a short time later.

    ``I have no information, I don't even know the location of al-Khobar,'' Sayegh told the newspaper.

    Sayegh spoke with the Times on Monday by telephone from an undisclosed location in the Washington area where he is being held by U.S. marshals. The Times said the conversation was monitored by a marshal and Michael Wildes, Sayegh's immigration lawyer.

    Sayegh recently was extradited from Canada to the United States in an arrangement under which he is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy for his part in a separate, unsuccessful plot to scout American installations in Saudi Arabia for possible attack. In a federal indictment unsealed last month, Sayegh was accused of traveling within Saudi Arabia to look for guns and explosives for that plot.

    Federal officials have said Sayegh told them he could shed light on the Khobar Towers bombing. But according to the Times, Sayegh's denials and shifting statements indicate that the legal arrangement that brought him to the United States could unravel as early as this week, when Sayegh faces a court hearing on the conspiracy indictment.

    The Times said the Saudi government provided information to American and Canadian officials indicating that Sayegh was involved in the bombing, but the suspect told the paper he was being made a scapegoat. He said he was a Saudi political dissident who once lived in Iran.

    ``No, I am not a terrorist,'' said Sayegh. ``If anything, the Americans are terrorists when they went in and bombed children in Iraq supporting the dictatorial authority of Saudi Arabia.''

    Wildes, the immigration lawyer, said he believes the Saudi government handed over his client to the United States to placate American officials unhappy over their inability to gain access to suspects detained by the Saudi government.

    ``They are going to use him,'' Wildes said of the Saudis, adding that his client had misled his lawyers and FBI agents about his knowledge of terrorism inside Saudi Arabia. Wildes seemed to suggest that Sayegh might have lied in the hope of being sent here, rather than to Saudi Arabia, the Times said.

    Sayegh told the paper, ``I would fear I would be guillotined'' upon being returned to Saudi Arabia.

    The Times said federal officials declined to comment publicly on Sayegh's activities, but several government lawyers said they still expect Sayegh to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge and hope he can provide accurate information about terrorist activities in Saudi Arabia.

    Iran to Operate Nuclear Plant Soon
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's first nuclear power plant will begin operating shortly, the director of the country's Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.

    The nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr is being completed mostly with Russian equipment in a $1 billion deal with Moscow.

    ``Soon the first unit of the Bushehr power plant will produce 1,000 megawatts of power,'' director Reza Amrollahi said. He did not give the date the plant would begin operations. The facility has two units, each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

    The United States opposed construction of the plant, maintaining that training and technology supplied for it could be used to build nuclear weapons. Iran has said its nuclear program is peaceful.

    The German firm Siemens started the Bushehr project in the 1970s, but work was interrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and its 1980-88 war with Iraq, during which the facility was badly damaged.

    Iran Dismisses Lockerbie Report
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran on Sunday dismissed as ``unfounded and ridiculous'' a report that the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

    Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported Saturday that German officials were looking into information that Khomeini ordered the bombing after a U.S. warship shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people. The United States has said the U.S. jet mistook the airliner for a warplane.

    The information came from Abolghassem Mesbahi, a former co-founder of the Iranian intelligence agency who later went into exile.

    Der Spiegel said Tehran asked Libya and top terrorist Abu Nidal for help in carrying out the attack.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that Mesbahi was ``fabricating unfounded and ridiculous allegations against Iran.''

    According to U.S. and British investigators, the bomb was in an unaccompanied bag that had been checked on to an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt where it was transferred to Pan Am, and then put aboard the 747 in London -- all on the same day.

    The explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

    In 1991, U.S. prosecutors indicted two Libyan intelligence agents on charges related to the bombing. The United Nations has imposed economic sanctions on Libya because of leader Moammar Gadhafi's refusal to turn them over for trial.

    In 1992, the Palestine Liberation Organization also claimed that Iran was responsible, but U.S. and Scottish authorities have said they have found no links to Tehran.

    Anti-Israeli Demonstration in Iran
    By Afshin Valinejad
    Associated Press Writer
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- More than 3,000 Iranians marched on the U.N. office Sunday in the latest protest against fliers distributed by an Israeli woman that depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a pig.

    The crowd chanted ``Death to Israel'' and ``Death to America'' and carried posters saying Israel should be destroyed. Demonstrators, who walked or were bused from across the capital, also burned several U.S. and Israeli flags.

    The protest rally was organized by the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, a government-run group charged with promoting Islamic values.

    The woman who produced the offending poster has been jailed in Israel, and Israeli leaders have publicly apologized for the incident.

    But Syed Ahmad Khatami, who led Sunday's demonstration, called for killing everyone involved in producing or distributing the leaflets.

    ``We tell Muslims around the world that anyone in any position who insults Islam must be put to death,'' said Khatami.

    The call by Khatami, a middle-ranking cleric, does not carry the weight of a religious decree but could inspire action by an extremists. The cleric is not related to Iran's President-elect, Mohammad Khatami.

    Iran's chief judge on Friday blamed the Israeli government for the leaflets and said Israel should be destroyed. Several Muslim clerics, including the sheik of Al-Azhar in Egypt, have said that blasphemy against the prophet should be punished by death.

    The leaflets were distributed in the West Bank town of Hebron on June 27. They set off riots in the Palestinian town and drew strong protests from a number of Muslim countries.

    The leaflets characterized the Muslim prophet as a pig stomping on the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

    The Israeli woman who distributed them, Tatiana Susskind, was charged Thursday by an Israeli court in Jerusalem with insulting others' religious sensibilities.

    Sunday's protest was held outside the U.N. headquarters because there are no Israeli or American diplomatic missions in Tehran. Iran does not recognize the Jewish state and relations with the United States have been cut since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants.

    Dozens of policemen stood outside the U.N. office in central Tehran, where a fence was put to to keep the crowds at a distance from the building.

    The area was closed off to traffic, and ambulances and fire trucks stood nearby.

    There no reports of violence or arrests during the demonstration.

    Report: Khomeini Ordered Plane Bomb
    HAMBURG, Germany (AP) -- German officials are looking into information from a former top Iranian spy that the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, a magazine reported.

    The weekly Der Spiegel said the investigation was being led by the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Frankfurt prosecutor's office. Neither would comment today on the report.

    According to Spiegel, the tip came from Abolghassem Mesbahi, a co-founder of the Iranian intelligence service who later went into exile.

    Mesbahi's testimony last year helped German prosecutors link the 1992 killings of four Iranian dissidents in Berlin to Iran's rulers in a verdict announced in April.

    Spiegel said Mesbahi told investigators Khomeini ordered the terror attack as retaliation for the downing of an Iranian passenger jet over the Strait of Hormuz by a U.S. warship in July 1988.

    It said Tehran asked the Libyan government and top terrorist Abu Nidal for help.

    According to the report, Iran Air's representative in Frankfurt at the time smuggled parts for the bomb through airport security in Frankfurt. Then the bomb was assembled in London and placed on board Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York.

    According to U.S. and British investigators, the bomb was in an unaccompanied bag that had been checked on to an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt where it was transferred to Pan Am, and then put aboard the 747 in London -- all on the same day.

    The explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

    In 1991, U.S. prosecutors indicted two Libyan intelligence agents on charges related to the bombing. The United Nations has imposed economic sanctions on Libya because of leader Moammar Gadhafi's refusal to turn them over for trial.

    In 1992, the Palestine Liberation Organization also claimed that Iran was responsible, but U.S. and Scottish authorities have said they have found no links to Tehran.

    458-Year-Old Persian Rug Returned
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A 16th century Persian rug worth more than $4 million has been returned to Iran three years after it was smuggled out of the country, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

    Iranian authorities began a campaign two years ago to retrieve the Ardabil Rug, woven in 1539.

    The precious rug was smuggled out by a 35-member gang, the English-language Tehran Times reported. It did not say where the carpet ended up or how it was retrieved.

    The rug is the largest of three from the same era. One was stored in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the other is thought to be in the United States, the paper said.

    The Ardabil Rug will be displayed in the Iran Carpets Museum in the capital, Tehran.

    Carpets are Iran's most important export after oil, generating an estimated annual revenue of $2 billion.

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