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FarsiNet News - June 1997

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    Iran said moving closer to nuclear capability(June27 ,1997)
    Iran is moving closer to nuclear weapons capability and is likely to have such destructive arms within only a few years, the general in charge of U.S. forces in the Gulf said on Thursday.

    "I would predict to you that would be sometime at the turn of the century, in the near end of the turn of the century," Army Gen. Binford Peay told reporters. He said such capability would be based only on Tehran's ability to obtain fissionable material for nuclear arms.

    Peay, who heads the U.S. Central Command with responsibility for American forces in the volatile region, declined to say exactly when Iran might get nuclear weapons. But he voiced some concern that Tehran's current conventional arms buildup of submarines and anti-ship missiles could cause an accidental confrontation in the Gulf.

    "I wouldn't want to put a date on it. I don't know if it's 2010, 2007, 2003. I'm just saying that I think it's (nuclear weapons) coming closer," he said in response to questions.

    He said Iran could not build nuclear weapons without fissionable material for a chain reaction, but that they were actively working on nuclear development and "with the advent of their engineering capability, you will see them be able to bring that to some form of weaponization."

    "Your instincts tell you that that's the kind of speed that they are moving on today across the board in their biological and chemical and nuclear and conventional fields," Peay said in a breakfast interview with reporters.

    Plea by Saudi Dissident Postponed(June26 ,1997)
    By Brian Witte
    Associated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge postponed a plea deal from a Saudi dissident accused of plotting to kill Americans, giving his new attorney time to study the case and explain it to his client.

    Frank Carter, who took over Wednesday as counsel for Hani al-Sayegh, said after a court hearing with Judge Emmet Sullivan that he was ``not trying to deep six'' a plea deal arranged by al-Sayegh's previous lawyer, Michael Wildes.

    However, Carter said he was uncertain al-Sayegh understood important aspects of how his case was being resolved. The court appearance was rescheduled for July 10.

    ``Constitutional rights are not in his experience,'' said Carter, a court-appointed attorney.

    Al-Sayegh, who has been linked to a truck bombing that killed 19 Americans in Saudi Arabia a year ago, was to have pleaded guilty to an earlier unsuccessful plot against Americans in the desert kingdom.

    He appeared with a translator in the courtroom, where spectators watched proceedings through bullet-proof glass.

    Al-Sayegh's original attorney, Michael Wildes, said his client was under pressure from his family not to agree to anything that might implicate Iran.

    Although al-Sayegh denies any involvement in the bombing that killed the 19 airmen at Khobar Towers a year ago, government officials, requesting anonymity, have said his plea bargain with prosecutors called for him to tell what he knew about that attack.

    Carter said it was ``unclear'' whether his client knew anything about the bombing or what connections he had with Iran, if any.

    Canadian authorities, who denied him asylum, alleged in court documents that al-Sayegh drove a car that signaled a bomb-laden truck when to pull alongside Khobar Towers.

    Al-Sayegh is a member of the Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite Muslim minority and has been ``outspoken on behalf of democracy'' there, Wildes had said earlier.

    Last week, Wildes said the deal with U.S. prosecutors was ``in the best interests of my client,'' who he said is afraid to return to Saudi Arabia.

    When arrested in Canada last March, al-Sayegh denied he was in Saudi Arabia at the time of the Khobar bombing and said he was not involved. U.S. officials want to see if al-Sayegh can corroborate Saudi government claims that Iran was behind the Khobar attack.

    Wildes withdrew from the case because he specialized in immigration law rather than criminal law, Carter said.

    Earthquake Rocks Iran Again
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A powerful earthquake rocked a region of northeastern Iran early Thursday, forcing residents to spend the night outdoors for fear of more tremors.

    State-run Tehran radio said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the 6.2-magnitude quake that struck Khorasan province, where at least 2,400 people were killed by an earthquake in May.

    The epicenter of Thursday's quake was about 210 miles southeast of Khorasan's provincial capital, Mashhad.

    A resident of the town of Qaen in Khorasan said the earthquake had caused only minor damage there.

    ``The quake jolted the town, but the powerful noise it made was far scarier than anything we felt,'' motorcycle shop owner Hossein Qassemzadeh said by telephone from Qaen.

    Qassemzadeh, 27, said the town's residents slept out in the open all night for fear of another earthquake.

    An official at the governor's office in Qaen said there had been no reports of casualties or major damage so far.

    The Khorasan region has been hit by 475 aftershocks since last month's devastating earthquake. That 7.1-magnitude quake struck May 10, causing minor damage and no casualties in Qaen, but killing at least 2,400 people in poor villages nearby.

    Iran, in one of the most earthquake prone regions of the world, is jolted by thousands of quakes every year.

    A Feb. 28 quake with a 6.1 magnitude killed more than 3,000 people and left 40,000 more homeless in northwest Ardabil province.

    A magnitude 6 earthquake can cause severe damage in populated areas.

    OPEC Heads to Meet This Week
    By Dirk Beveridge
    AP Business Writer
    VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- With oil prices slumping, OPEC ministers are expected to be in damage-control mode as they meet this week to discuss production quotas that some members are blatantly ignoring.

    There likely will be grumbling about some members, particularly Venezuela and Nigeria, cheating on their production caps. But leaders of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will be careful to avoid any words or action that could further upset markets.

    ``Probably OPEC is hanging on and hoping this is as bad as it gets,'' said Peter Bogin, associate director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Paris.

    OPEC is getting about $17 a barrel for its oil, down from an average of close to $19 a barrel in May and more than $20 per barrel during the first quarter.

    Analysts predict that OPEC will maintain its production ceiling of 25.033 million barrels a day -- and hope to avoid any disputes that could prompt traders to sell oil.

    OPEC's official cap on oil production is largely symbolic, because the oil states are believed to be pumping closer to 27 million barrels a day.

    Since the price has not collapsed, there is no incentive for the cheaters to cut back and, as usual, there is little the rest of the group can do about it even though OPEC is far short of its target price of $21 per barrel.

    ``There's no more `they' in OPEC,'' Bogin said. ``It's really 11 different countries with 11 different views on the oil market. OPEC doesn't speak with its own voice.

    ``It's hard to come to any conclusions on something as important as the quotas,'' Bogin said.

    But Iran's oil minister, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said cheating could be an important topic of discussion at the meeting that formally opens Wednesday. Ministers will hold a variety of sessions in smaller groups before that.

    ``In spring, the oil market normally faces a slump but the improvement of the situation depends on OPEC itself,'' Aghazadeh said in remarks carried Sunday by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

    The Iranian minister acknowledged OPEC cannot punish its quota-busters but hoped a ``political understanding'' might prompt them to cut back.

    The price of crude has gotten a short-term lift from a dispute between the Iraqis and the United Nations.

    Iraq said recently that it would suspend all oil exports to protest what it called meddling by the United States in its efforts to use the proceeds to buy food for its people.

    Iraq's oil exports were shut down by the United Nations after it invaded fellow OPEC member Kuwait in 1990, but a U.N. deal now lets the Iraqis sell limited amounts of crude to get food and medicine for suffering citizens.

    OPEC members are Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

    13 Killed in Iran Flooding
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Flooding caused by heavy rains has killed 13 people in northeastern Khorasan province, which also was jolted by two earthquakes.

    The official Islamic Republic Agency reported Saturday that the flooding destroyed 8,300 acres of farmland. Two people died Friday and 11 earlier in the week, it said.

    A 4.9-magnitude quake hit the province Saturday, causing no damage or injuries, the agency reported. The first temblor Friday had a magnitude of 5.9 and destroyed about 60 houses.

    In May, Khorasan was struck by a 7.1-magnitude quake that left more than 2,400 people dead and 60,000 homeless.

    Lesser quakes have hit the region since then.

    Iran Lashes Out at Cohen
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran on Thursday condemned as ``poisonous propaganda'' recent remarks by U.S. defense secretary that Tehran was a threat to its neighbors in the Gulf.

    During his tour of the Gulf nations, Secretary William Cohen delivered the message that Iran poses a danger to its militarily weaker neighbors and should not be accepted as a normal member of the world community.

    Quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi, state-run television said Cohen's remarks were aimed at creating concern and worry in the region. The broadcast was monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

    The report described Cohen's words as ``a continuation of Washington's poisonous propaganda against Iran.''

    The United States has been trying to isolate Iran, accusing it of sponsoring international terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations.

    Last year, President Clinton signed a law that threatened punitive action against foreign companies that invest more than dlrs 40 million a year in energy projects in Iran.

    Cohen, during a stop Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates, said Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction, improving missiles that can strike neighboring nations, and is boasting of its ability to close the Straits of Hormuz that is used by the Gulf nations to move their oil exports.

    Echoing the foreign ministry's statements, the Iran News daily said in an editorial Thursday that Iran has never adopted an aggressive posture toward its neighbors in the Gulf.

    It said Cohen's words were aimed at selling U.S. weapons to the region, but ``the U.S. sales pitch ... on the Arab sheikdoms has lost its logic.''

    Cohen Says Iran Testing Missile(June 17, 1997)
    By Robert Burns
    Associated Press Writer
    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran has started test-firing a new cruise missile designed to strike ships, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Tuesday, citing it as evidence of a sinister intent in Iran's military buildup.

    At a news conference in Bahrain before flying here, Cohen said Iran is testing a Chinese-made anti-ship missile that can be launched from aircraft. Iran already has cruise missiles based on shore and aboard ships.

    Cohen's disclosure fit with the message he has delivered on each stop of his five-nation Persian Gulf tour: Iran poses a danger to its militarily weaker neighbors and should not be accepted as a normal member of the world community. Cohen also pressed the case for keeping sanctions on Iraq.

    ``Iran continues to sponsor terrorism. In addition, it is developing weapons of mass destruction, improving missiles that can strike neighboring nations, and boasting of its ability to close the Straits of Hormuz,'' he said.

    His sharp rhetoric was in contrast to the more restrained tone adopted by President Clinton after Iranians elected a moderate cleric, Mohammad Khatami, president last month.

    Clinton had called Khatami's election ``a hopeful sign'' but added that Iran must make massive shifts in its operations abroad and halt attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    Khatami takes office in August.

    Cohen's disclosure that Iran is testing Chinese-made missiles comes at the same time the Clinton administration is pushing for extending normalized trade relations with Beijing.

    Though pledging to continue to press China on its exports of weapons to Iran and other countries, the administration has argued that revoking normalized trade relations would undermine its ability to work with China on these and other issues.

    Cohen did not address the China trade issue in his remarks, but focused instead on Iran's new missile capabilities.

    In Abu Dhabi, which has a long-running dispute with Iran over control of Abu Musa island in the straits, Cohen apparently found an agreeable audience. He spoke for two hours with President Zayed bin Sultan, and the UAE leader agreed there should be no softening toward Iran, Cohen's spokesman Kenneth Bacon said.

    ``He expressed discomfort and concern about the amount of money they (Iranians) are putting into their military,'' Bacon said. ``They're very worried.''

    Cohen later traveled to Muscat, Oman, the final stop on his Gulf tour. He planned to return to Washington on Wednesday.

    The administration is concerned about Iran's increasingly sophisticated military weapons, particularly its arsenal of cruise missiles. Because they fly low, such missiles are difficult to detect on radar.

    ``Iran's words and actions suggest that it wants to be able to intimidate its neighbors and to interrupt commerce in the Gulf,'' Cohen said. ``The United States will not allow this to happen.''

    U.S. allies in the Gulf are urging a more accommodating approach to Iran, despite U.S. misgivings. Cohen told reporters, however, that he found the Gulf states ``solidly united'' with the United States' hardline approach.

    Iran has always seen the Gulf as its window on the world and its major artery of commerce. Militant elements in Iran's leadership still favor exporting Iran's revolutionary Islamic ideology and have sought to undermine weaker Gulf Arab states.

    Iran has had shore-based cruise missiles for more than a decade and last year acquired its first ship-launched version, a Chinese-made missile called C-802. Now it has begun testing a version that is fired from aircraft, Cohen said.

    A senior U.S. military officer who elaborated on Cohen's disclosure on condition of not being identified told reporters that Iran conducted an initial test of the air-launched version on June 3. A second test launch three days later used a live warhead fired at a barge in the Gulf, the officer said.

    The Chinese-made cruise missiles, called C-801K, were launched from F-4 fighters, the officer said. He declined to predict when they would be fully operational.

    Radar aboard U.S. ships in the Gulf is capable of detecting, identifying and tracking any cruise missiles in Iran's arsenal, the officer said. The U.S. fleet is equipped with missiles that can shoot down cruise missiles; as a last resort the ships' Phalanx gatling guns can be used.

    Cohen said the air-launched cruise missile ``complicates somewhat'' the military operations of U.S. forces in the Gulf, ``but not to the extent that it can't be overcome.''

    Money in US-Iran Relations(June15, 1997)
    Christian Science Monitor

    Opinion & Essays

    By David D. Newsom

    In his first press conference as Iran's president-elect on May 27, Mohammed Khatemi made an interesting omission. He placed the onus on the United States for the current impasse between the two nations, repeating Tehran's charge that the US remains hostile to Iran's revolution. He did not, however, repeat a common Iranian demand - that the US release Iran's frozen assets.

    By contrast, in a "60 Minutes" interview, broadcast in March, Mr. Khatemi's predecessor, Hashemi Rafsanjani, repeated an Iranian theme, mentioning the "return of Iranian frozen assets in the United States" as a possible "gesture" that would permit Iran to engage in discussions with the US. The financial issues, although complex, are being resolved within an agreed legal framework.

    Money has been a significant issue in US-Iran tensions since the 1979 hostage crisis. The US froze Iranian assets in US banks and their overseas subsidiaries as measures of retaliation and pressure. Of four conditions for the release of the hostages set by Iran on Sept. 12, 1980, three related to money: release of the frozen assets, cancellation of US claims against Iran, and return of the deposed shah's assets believed to be in US banks.

    The negotiations in Algiers in early 1981 dealt with each of the three Iranian demands. The final agreement determined the disposition of the frozen assets and established a US-Iran Claims Tribunal to adjudicate US citizen claims against the Iranian regime. Of the $10 billion, $1 billion was set aside to pay awards to US nationals and the US government; $5 billion was designated to meet debts to US banks; and the remaining $4 billion was transferred to Iran. Though not all cases have been settled, the US-Iran Tribunal, located in The Hague, has proceeded in a quiet, orderly fashion to implement the Algiers decisions.

    The question of the shah's wealth was more difficult. The Iranians were sure the shah had $25 billion deposited in US banks. Lengthy discussions were required to convince Iranian negotiators that the US government could neither locate nor effect the release of private bank accounts. Given the generally satisfactory implementation of the Algiers agreement, the Iranian demand for the US to release the frozen assets has been puzzling. In further conversation with interviewer Mike Wallace, however, Rafsanjani clarified the point by saying he was referring to funds related to the purchase of military equipment under the shah.

    Those claims arose from the financing of Iranian purchases of US military equipment during the shah's regime. Tehran had paid into a revolving trust fund, from which disbursements to US suppliers and contractors could be made. At the time of the 1979 revolution, the fund covered 2,800 sales and services contracts valued at more than $20 billion. The US was authorized to divert equipment contracted to Iran to other suppliers and thus reduce the US obligations under the trust fund. Iran has since filed claims for the remaining balance, for compensation for equipment purchased but not exported from the US, and for alleged overcharges. These problems are being arbitrated at The Hague. The political issues that stand in the way of better US-Tehran relations are serious and complex. Many in Iran's leadership remain opposed to improved relations. Each new revelation of Iranian activities relating to terrorism, the peace process, or weapons of mass destruction makes any ultimate rapprochement by the US even more remote.

    The financial issues, though complex, are being resolved within a legal framework. If the Iranian president's omission of reference to the frozen assets suggests he is prepared to leave the resolution of such issues to The Hague, this could remove at least one contentious issue from future diplomatic efforts to resolve more sensitive political problems.

    * David D. Newsom, former undersecretary of state, is Cumming Memorial Professor of International Affairs at the University of Virginia.

    The 2nd International Non-Renewable Energy Sources Congress
    The 2nd International Non-Renewable Energy Sources Congress in Iran which was scheduled to be held during December 16-21, 97 is re-scheduled for December 12-17, 1998. The reason for this delay is its overlap with the major inter-governmental international ISLAMIC CONFERENCE that is going to be held in Iran during December 97 which apparently will require the conference facilities and resorts in Iran.
    For more info, contact:
    G.Ali Mansoori, PhD
    Professor of Chemical Engineering
    University of Illinois at Chicago, 202 CEB, M/C 110
    810 S. Clinton Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7000, USA
    Phone: (312) 996-5592; FAX: (312) 996-0808
    INRESC '98 URL:

    Iranian VP To Visit Vietnam
    HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- An Iranian vice president starts an official three-day visit Thursday to Vietnam to discuss expanding relations, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

    The visit by Hassan Habibi marks the first by an Iranian official of his rank to unified Vietnam. Habibi is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet to discuss promotion of economic cooperation between the two countries.

    Iran is eager to speed up implementation of several trade and investment agreements. The vice president plans to pay a courtesy call on communist party chief Do Muoi and President Le Duc Anh.

    He will also meet Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the military leader who orchestrated the defeat of the French colonial forces and later the U.S. military in what was then called South Vietnam.

    Iran Link To Swiss Killing Alleged
    BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- Swiss lawmakers are accusing Iran's government of involvement in a 1990 political assassination in Switzerland, saying the evidence is even stronger than that of a similar case in Germany.

    Parliament members demanded Thursday that a Swiss court try two Iranian agents in absentia in the April 1990 killing in the Swiss canton of Vaud, if Iran refuses to extradite them.

    Swiss authorities accuse Mohsen Sharif Esfahani and Ahmad Taheri in the slaying of Kazem Rajavi, a senior member of the Baghdad-based Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq.

    The two agents were arrested later in Paris. But France sent the pair back to Iran, infuriating the Swiss.

    Human rights groups say scores of Iranian dissidents have been killed abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

    In the German case, an Iranian and three Lebanese were convicted April 10 in the 1992 slayings of four Iranian dissidents in Berlin.

    A Berlin court contended the order to kill came directly from Iran's top leaders, an allegation Tehran has denied. The case brought a crisis in relations between Iran and European nations.

    Swiss lawmakers did not detail the evidence in the Swiss case. Eugen David, chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Human Rights, would say only that there was 10 times more evidence than in the German case.

    Trials in absentia are legal in some of Switzerland's cantons, including Vaud, which is next to Geneva. Roland Chatelain, the case's investigating judge in Vaud, said he would take steps in the matter during the summer, but declined to elaborate.

    Qatar Emir Urges U.S.-Iran Dialogue
    AP Diplomatic Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The emir of Qatar is new to the nation's capital, but he is not shy about urging President Clinton to open a dialogue with Iran and about the future of democracy in his own Persian Gulf country.

    ``The Americans should make a dialogue with Iran,'' the 47-year-old Arab leader told a small group of reporters over dinner Wednesday night. ``Business will lead to cooperation and the whole region would benefit, would be more secure.''

    On Iraq, though, which the United States also is trying to isolate, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani was cautious. He said Qatar was observing sanctions applied by the United Nations.

    And yet, the emir said, ``as a small country, we are trying to have good relations with Iran, Iraq, Israel, with everybody.''

    Last year Israel arranged to purchase natural gas from Qatar and the two countries decided to open matching trade offices.

    In his first visit to the White House, the emir urged Clinton to consider softening his tough line on Iran because ``people have suffered enough.''

    The White House reaffirmed its policy. ``We think our strategy for bringing the international community's concerns to bear on both countries ... because of their reprehensible policies is a correct one,'' presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said.

    Today, the emir tries again with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    Basing his approach on the recent election of a more moderate leadership in Tehran, the emir told the reporters: ``I think it would be wise for the American administration to move a step forward.''

    Isolation is not working, he said, and the approach of some European countries -- trade plus dialogue -- may lead to reconciliation.

    Clinton, himself, found reason for hope in the Iranian election and stressed the United States had no argument with the Iranian people. He called on Iran to stop supporting terrorism and abandon a program of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    The emir said ``it is now clear to me the Iranians are now thinking about themselves'' and their position in the world.

    But he said he understood the Untied States has a different perspective. ``For us,'' he said, ``we are next to Iran.''

    Qatar could be on the verge of an economic upsurge, based largely on the discovery of what could be the world's largest reserve of natural gas. U.S. investment in the small Gulf country has jumped dramatically in two years and now approaches $5.5 billion.

    At the same time, the emir said he had appointed a commission to prepare for municipal elections -- the first balloting in the country -- by the end of the year. And, he said, women would be voting.

    ``No one can stay away from democracy,'' he said. ``It's coming. we are going to vote. We are changing.''

    Apart from his meetings here with senior U.S. officials, the emir is looking forward to a trip to Disneyland in Orlando, Fla., later in the week.

    He also is looking forward to Qatar's participation in the Olympics in the year 2000. A small country, Qatar has already won a silver medal.

    Unfortunately, he said, Qatar does not have the best equipment. It has ballet dancers, for instance, but cannot turn them into ice skaters because there is no ice.

    Iran Seizes More Than A Ton of Drugs
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Anti-narcotics agents seized more than a ton of drugs after a shootout with traffickers in eastern Iran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.

    It said one trafficker was killed in the shootout on Tuesday and that 17 were arrested.

    The drugs -- weighing 1,116 kilograms (2,455 pounds) -- were seized in the towns of Torbat-e-Jaam, Taibad, Neishabur, Torbat-e-Heidarieh, Kashmar, Bojnourd, Birjand and Mashhad. All are in the eastern Khorasan province.

    The agency did not give specifics of what kinds of drugs were seized, saying only that they were narcotics.

    Large drug hauls are common in Iran, which lies on a route used by smugglers from neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan to transport drugs to the oil-rich Gulf and Europe.

    Convicted drug smugglers get a mandatory death sentence under Iranian law.

    Voters Opt for Clinton Clones(June 10, 1997)

    Associated Press Writer

    An AP News Analysis

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The election returns are in and the winner is ... another Clinton clone. Or at least a win-alike.

    From England to Iran, voters are opting for change and favoring candidates who exploit the trends and employ the tactics that put President Clinton in the White House.

    The comparison is most apt with Tony Blair, England's new prime minister, and Ehud Barak, just elected head of Israel's Labor Party. The victory of Lionel Jospin in France also had elements of the way Clinton won office five years ago.

    It does not stretch the imagination too far to include Mohammad Khatami, the Muslim cleric recently elected president of Iran -- not that he or Clinton would relish any such comparison.

    The explanation for the recent election results may be as simple as one of those periodic rejections of the status quo, be it on the left or the right.

    It was not that long ago that voters seemed to be looking in the opposite direction. Margaret Thatcher became British prime minister in 1979 and Ronald Reagan was elected president the next year. Through most of the 1980s their conservative views set the tone for Western policy.

    Clinton ran against that conservative status quo in 1992. But first he had to change the Democratic Party's image as too beholden to special interests and as too prone to nominate old-style liberals like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.

    Blair took the same course, working to convince British voters that the Labor Party had moved to the political center. Like Clinton, Blair benefited from his youth and his ease with television. It also helped both politicians that they were running against parties that had been in power so long that voters were looking for change.

    During the British election campaign, Blair was often dubbed ``Tony Clinton.''

    Clinton joked about the comparisons when he and Blair met last month in London.

    ``A lot of the columns that were written about (the similarities) were not altogether flattering to either one of us,'' the president said.

    ``I would pay tribute to the way that Bill Clinton blazed the trail,'' said Blair. ``This is a new era which calls for a new generation of politics and a new generation of leadership.''

    Hoping to emulate the successes of Clinton and Blair, Barak has assumed the leadership of Israel's opposition Labor Party. A former armed forces chief of staff, Barak defeated the more dovish Yossi Beilin for the party post.

    The perception that he would take a firmer stand than Beilin in peace negotiations is seen as making Barak a stronger candidate in a future election challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Jospin's Socialist Party took control of the French parliament from conservatives who lost favor with voters upset by record unemployment and a government austerity program. Jospin made job creation the centerpiece of his campaign.

    The French contest had echoes of the 1992 U.S. campaign in which Clinton capitalized on voter dissatisfaction with how the Bush administration was handling the economy.

    Khatami received two-thirds of the vote in the Iranian presidential election, a result seen as a startling upset and a sign of popular discontent with the hard-liners in control of the Islamic state. Khatami is seen as a moderate by Iranian standards. But he made it clear he does not expect any improvement in the hostile relations between his country and the United States.

    Nonetheless, Khatami's victory was taken as a mandate for easing the social restrictions imposed by more hard-line clerics.

    Like Clinton, the winners around the world got their electoral edge from a sense they would bring about change.

    That is a promise, as Clinton discovered, that can be hard to fulfill.


    EDITOR'S NOTE: Donald M. Rothberg has covered national and international affairs for The Associated Press in Washington since 1966.

    Eight Arrested in Iran Drug Bust(June 8, 1997)
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Police seized half a ton of illegal drugs and arrested eight people in central Yazd province, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.

    The agency did not identify the drugs confiscated last week.

    Large drug hauls are common in Iran, which lies along a route used by smugglers in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan to transport drugs such as opium, hashish and heroin to Gulf Arab states and beyond.

    Drug smugglers face the death penalty under Iranian law. Thousands have been hanged since the law was passed nine years ago.

    Iran's moderate
    U.S. News

    Moderation? Up to a point Iran's moderate President-elect Mohammed Khatami won a surprising 70 percent of the vote by promising--or at least hinting at--new freedoms after two decades of stifling theocratic rule. But fulfilling that mandate is sure to prove difficult: Constrained by conservatives in powerful positions, Khatami is unlikely to make any sudden shifts in either foreign or domestic policy. The most Iranians can expect is "incremental change toward freedom, rule of law, and cultural tolerance," says political science professor Nasser Hardian of Tehran University.

    But Khatami may make one gesture to his core supporters--women and youths--by naming a popular, progressive, young woman to a ministerial post. She is parliament member Faezeh Hashemi, 34, daughter of outgoing President Hashemi Rafsanjani. She advocates women's athletics, particularly bicycling and horseback riding, which conservatives consider un-Islamic. "For centuries, women did not have any significant role in our society," she says. "A change in public opinion will require a change in generations. We cannot expect our grandfathers, grandmothers--maybe even our mothers and fathers--to change so quickly."--Alan Cooperman

    Edited by Carey W. English

    Iran To Ease Tension in Relations
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP)

    Iran favors easing tensions with others countries, the president-elect was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

    ``Iran has always strived for an honorable peace and to this end it has followed and will follow a policy which favors easing tension in relations with other countries,'' said Mohammed Khatami.

    Khatami, who won a landslide victory in last month's presidential elections, was addressing mourners during a ceremony to mark the eighth anniversary of the death of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    Khatami did not name the countries or elaborate on the policy to improve relations.

    Shiite Muslim Iran is a major power in the predominantly Sunni Muslim Gulf and is eyed suspiciously by its neighbors, mainly Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    Iran has been linked with the June 1996 bombing of a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen and wounded hundreds others.

    Iran has criticized Gulf states for their close ties with the United States, which it considers along with Israel, as its arch-enemies.

    Bomb Suspect: America is 'Evil

    Associated Press Writer

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- A prime suspect in the bombing that killed 19 Americans in Saudi Arabia admits that he wants American ``forces of evil'' to leave his country -- but says he had nothing to do with the attack.

    Hani al-Sayegh, now in custody awaiting deportation from Canada, made the statement in letters to a Muslim human rights group. He also said he was tortured as a youth by Saudi authorities.

    The 28-year-old's letters to the Saudi Observation Center in London outline his deep resentment over treatment of his Shiite Muslim minority by Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim regime.

    Canada has not yet decided whether to deport al-Sayegh to his homeland -- where he could face beheading if convicted -- or to the United States, where the bombing still baffles investigators a year later.

    Canadian officials say he belongs to a terrorist group, Saudi Hezbollah, and may have driven the car that signaled a bomb-laden truck to approach the U.S. military housing complex on June 25 at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

    Al-Sayegh, a bespectacled father of two, admits being a Shiite agitator but says he was not involved in the bombing and was in Iran at the time.

    In his letters, he ties his anger at the Saudi regime to a brutal crackdown on the kingdom's 2 million Shiites in the early 1980s.

    Inspired by the 1979 Islamic revolution in mainly Shiite Iran, al-Sayegh was among hundreds who marched through the dusty villages of eastern Saudi Arabia, demanding more religious freedom and an end to American influence in the Gulf.

    ``I was 12 years old then,'' he said in one letter. ``The National Guard attacked us with the help of the Americans. Around 50 of my people fell before me and were martyred. ... Thousands were wounded, and over six thousand were put in prison.''

    Other accounts suggest al-Sayegh's figures are exaggerated. Both Saudi and dissident figures say U.S. forces were not involved, but al-Sayegh's belief that they were underscores his animosity toward the U.S. role in Saudi Arabia.

    ``I want the forces of evil out of the land of the two holy mosques,'' al-Sayegh said, referring to Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

    Al-Sayegh also recalled Saudi secret service agents scaring his ailing mother and dragging him and his brother away in midnight raids on his family's home in the village of Sayhat.

    ``In one attack on my house, I was taken away and tortured,'' he wrote.

    By al-Sayegh's account, he attended a military school in Iran after high school, but left because of asthma. He then turned to religious studies in the holy city of Qom, a major center of Shiite theology.

    He drifted over the years between Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain, working part of the time for a Lebanon-based Shiite opposition newsletter, Al-Haramain.

    In 1992, when Saudi Arabia declared a general amnesty for Shiites, al-Sayegh returned home. Last August, he decided to flee to Canada. His wife and children, aged 3 and 5, were not allowed to leave because he was wanted by authorities. They remain in Sayhat with his elderly parents.

    In his letters, al-Sayegh claims he resisted being recruited into Iranian-led opposition groups. He said he only worked for the dissident newsletter and agitated Saudi Shiites to demand more rights.

    Some analysts say al-Sayegh may prove a convenient scapegoat.

    Blaming him would not directly implicate Iran. And it would also shoot down the theory that home-grown Sunni dissidents set the bomb and thus are a potent internal opposition.

    Iran: No need to export its revolution
    Remarks come as nation marks Khomeini's death


    TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has no need to export its Islamic revolution, the country's supreme leader said Wednesday as the Islamic republic marked the death eight years ago of the revolution's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Beside a banner proclaiming "Western arrogant powers feel endangered by Islam," Khomeini's successor as Iran's most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recalled the late cleric's movement against the U.S.-backed shah and said: "We do not believe in the export of our revolution as the Marxists of the 1950s believed. Since our revolution is Islamic all the Muslims in all corners of the world feel a deep affinity for it. This is how our revolution goes to all corners of the world." Khamenei spoke to hundreds of thousands of Iranians under scorching sun at Khomeini's mausoleum at the Beheshte-e Zahra cemetery south of Tehran. Government offices, shops and businesses in Iran, which has been immersed in religious mourning for the past month, closed for the day, flags flew at half-mast, and no newspapers were published. Black flags and banners gave the streets a somber air. Tehran radio broadcast excerpts from Khomeini's speeches, epic poems and funereal music, and Iranian television showed archive footage from the turbulent days of the 1979 revolution to the chaotic scenes at his funeral 10 years later. The scene at Beheshte-e Zahra was a multitude of mostly black - the men in black shirts and the women covered in black chadors, the shapeless shroud that conceals all but the face. Rosewater was sprayed on mourners to cool them down but many people fainted and were carried away on stretchers. Iran's president-elect, Mohammad Khatami, and Khomeini's grandson Hassan, himself a cleric, attended the eulogies. Foreign diplomats and military attaches were also present. In the days leading up to the anniversary officials and religious figures reiterated their continued commitment to Khomeini's moral and political heritage. But there has also been an undercurrent of debate among various factions in the speeches and eulogies. Conservatives have stressed that the Islamic state set up by Khomeini reflected God's will but Khatami, a moderate elected by a landslide two weeks ago, has highlighted the late leader's ability to mobilize the people as a key element of government.

    Mourners Surround Khomenei Shrine
    By AFSHIN VALINEJAD Associated Press Writer BEHESHT-E-ZAHRA, Iran (AP) -- Beating themselves with chains and their bare hands, tens of thousands of mourners converged Wednesday on the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to mark the eighth anniversary of the revolutionary leader's death.

    Cars and buses carrying mourners from around the country crowded the highway to the glittering, golden-domed shrine of Khomeini, who led the country's 1979 Islamic revolution.

    A sea of men and women dressed in black and beating their heads and chests in the Shiite Muslim manner of mourning packed a courtyard outside the shrine in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, 10 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

    Volunteers squeezed through the crowds with aluminum kettles, handing out glasses of ice water to cool mourners in the 86-degree heat. Aid workers retrieved dozens who fainted from exhaustion or the crush around them.

    The anniversary usually is held inside the cool, carpeted tomb containing the grave of Khomeini, whom many Iranians revere. This year, it was held outside, possibly because of construction work inside.

    ``Iran's Islamic revolution was the result of the will and courage of the imam and the huge following of the Iranian nation,'' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini as spiritual leader, said in a speech at the shrine.

    Millions poured into the streets in frenzied grieving when Khomeini's death from cancer was announced June 4, 1989, the day after he died. But with revolutionary fervor easing, crowds have thinned each year at the anniversary.

    On Wednesday, Iran's top leaders and guests from around the world attended the annual ceremony at the shrine, which for many Iranians has become a place of pilgrimage.

    Khomeini led the revolution that toppled U.S.-supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

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