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March 2000, Week 3
|Albright Readies Iran Announcement||Mar. 17|
|Moscow Criticizes New U.S. Law||Mar. 17|
|Doctors Hopeful for Iran Reformer||Mar. 16|
|Iran Starts Satellite TV Broadcasts to N.america||Mar. 15|
|Iranians Mark Ancient Festival as Police Stay Away||Mar. 15|
Albright Readies Iran Announcement
By Barry Schweid|
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration is setting the stage for a major policy announcement designed to encourage reformists in Iran.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will make a major speech here Friday to the American-Iranian Council, a private group based in Princeton, N.J., that seeks better relations with Tehran, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said today.
He offered no preview of what she would say.
Even as President Clinton this week extended sanctions against Iran, the administration explored ways to encourage reformists there.
One way under consideration is lifting a ban on imports of such Iranian goods as carpets, caviar and pistachio nuts.
"Sanctions can be modified at any time," James B. Foley, a State Department spokesman, said Tuesday.
"We believe there are important changes in Iran, and we are considering ways to respond to those changes," he said.
Conciliatory statements by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and then the election last month to parliament of candidates considered moderate by some American analysts have accelerated moves within the administration to open talks with Iran after more than two decades of estrangement.
Iran has not responded to the overtures. Some analysts have questioned whether an easing of sanctions would elicit a response or simply amount to a unilateral U.S. concession.
An easing of sanctions also would suggest that U.S. attempts to isolate Iran economically have not succeeded.
Albright and other top U.S. officials have stressed that the administration would level charges that Iran supports terrorism, is trying to sabotage Middle East peacemaking and seeks weapons of mass destruction in any formal meeting.
Last April, the United States exempted agricultural and medical products from sanctions on Iran and other countries.
"We are looking for ways to respond to changes in Iran, and to advance prospects for a better relationship," Foley said. "It is something that is under internal consideration how best to respond."
Moscow Criticizes New U.S. Law
The Associated Press|
MOSCOW -Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of overstepping its powers by adopting a bill that would cut U.S. payments to Russia's space agency if Russian firms were found to have helped Iran develop nuclear arms.
President Clinton signed a bill Tuesday barring "extraordinary payments" to the space agency for the International Space Station unless the United States confirmed Russia did not transfer missile technology or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to Iran in the previous year.
Clinton said he wanted "to make it clear that Russia continues to be a valued partner in the International Space Station." Clinton vetoed a stronger version of the bill in 1998.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that officials in Moscow "have, of course, noted the comment by the U.S. President ... that the new legislation will not block the continuation of Russian-American cooperation, including in space."
But the ministry said the new bill "represented yet another attempt to give internal U.S legislation an extraterritorial nature, which goes completely against international law."
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Khlebanov said he "expressed Russia's disagreement with this discriminatory law" during a meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore's security adviser Leon Fuerth, the Interfax news agency reported.
The foreign ministry said Russia intended to continue arms-reduction cooperation, but said bills such as the new Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 could "significantly undermine" U.S-Russian arms reduction efforts.
Doctors Hopeful for Iran Reformer
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran-Doctors treating a prominent Iranian reformer who was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt said Wednesday that hope for his survival was growing, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Saeed Hajjarian's reflexes have improved slightly and the medical team is hoping that he will be able to breathe without a respirator soon, said the agency, quoting Dr. Seyed Mohammed Qodsi, spokesman for Hajjarian's medical team.
Hajjarian, who is in his late 40s, has been in a coma with a bullet lodged in the back of his neck since Sunday's attack, which pro-reform newspapers and Hajjarian's allies blamed on hard-liners.
The agency quoted Qodsi as saying that though Hajjarian suffered two brief convulsions since Tuesday, the medical team is hopeful he will regain all his mental functions.
Hajjarian, appointed as a senior adviser by President Mohammad Khatami shortly after his 1997 election, was among the key founders of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, a reform party that swept most of the seats in last month's legislative polls.
Hajjarian angered powerful hard-liners by making what they considered to be provocative statements during the elections, which the hard-liners lost for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution brought the Shiite Muslim clergy to power.
Hajjarian was shot in the face outside the council building by a gunman riding a motorcycle driven by an accomplice. Both fled, and are still at large. They were riding a 1000-cc motorbike, to which only security forces and police have access; civilians are restricted to 250-cc engines.
Hard-liners have routinely used the police and surrogate vigilantes for violence against opponents.
Iran Starts Satellite TV Broadcasts to N.america
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday launched satellite television broadcasts for the large Iranian communities in the United States and Canada.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani inaugurated the 24-hour channel beamed to an estimated 1.5 million Iranian-Americans and the smaller community in Canada. |
"Patriotism...should be preserved in the hearts of the good Iranian people living abroad despite the passage of time," state television quoted Rafsanjani as saying in the first broadcast of the Jam-e Jam 2 network.
Iran in 1997 launched the external network's first channel, which covers Europe and parts of the Middle East and Asia. Most of its broadcasts are in Persian. The programme is run by Iran's conservative-run state television, which is often accused by reformist backers of President Mohammad Khatami of being politically biased.
Reformists blame the state television's bland programming for the popularity of foreign stations in Iran despite a ban on satellite TV equipment.
Iranians Mark Ancient Festival as Police Stay Away
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Thousands of Iranian youths jumped over bonfires in Tehran into the early morning hours of Wednesday to celebrate a pre-Islamic festival, which has been frowned on by officials since the 1979 Islamic revolution.|
Residents said police kept a low profile and largely refrained from attempts to break-up the festivities, as they have in past years.
Young men and women mixed and danced in the streets to Iranian and Western music, flouting Iran's Islamic rules on public behavior. Police, for the most part, looked on. Residents said the atmosphere at the festival, which dates back to Iran's pre-Islamic Zoroastrian past, was much less tense than earlier years after city officials asked police not to interfere. Other officials rejected any such policy change.
The festival has often been the scene of clashes between youths keen to have fun, and police, dominated by Islamic hardliners who see the popular tradition as a pagan rite. State radio said a 13-year-old youth died as a result of accidental injuries sustained during the festival of fire. Another 40 were hurt.
Authorities in the capital reported more than 70 fires and an explosion at a house, suspected to have been used as an unlicensed firecracker factory, the official news agency IRNA reported. The festival is held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Iranian year, which this year ends Sunday.
Authorities have in the past few years tried, with little success, to curb the festivities on grounds of safety, citing numerous fires and injuries. Although formally led by a reformist interior minister, Iran's police are commanded by hardliners who are close to powerful establishment conservatives opposed to moderate President Mohammad Khatami.