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May 1998, Week 2

FarsiNet FarsiNews

Change Would Aid Iran, US Relations May 13
Iran knows it must improve by june May 13
Hezbollah Wants Dialogue With U.S. May 13
Iran and U.S. edge closer May 12
Azizi among Asia's best players(SPORT NEWS) May 12
Update in Iranian Soccer team(SPORT NEWS) May 11
Iran says U.S. firms can attend trade fair-papers May 11
Head of Iran's news agency to face court charges May 11
Iran Court Upholds Editor's Death Sentence-Paper May 10


Change Would Aid Iran, US Relations
Change Would Aid Iran, US Relations WASHINGTON (AP) -- Iran can have a constructive relationship with the United States but only after making real changes, including giving its moderate president more control over national security policy, an administration official said Thursday.

``Our basic purpose is to persuade Iran that it cannot have it both ways,'' Assistant Secretary of States Marti n Indyk told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian affairs.

``It cannot benefit from participation in the international community while at the same time going around threa tening the interests of its member states,'' he said. Iran also ``cannot improve its relations and standing in the West and in the Middle East while at the same time pursuing policies that threaten the peace and stability of a vital region.''

Although Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is challenging conservatives on important issues, he does not yet h ave power over national security policy, the military, the police, the security or intelligence services or the Revolutionary Guards, Indyk said.

These remain controlled by Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has led hard-liners in opposing improved ties with the United States, he said.

``If ... Khatami is able to turn his constructive rhetoric into real changes in these areas ... that would lay the foundation for an appropriate response on our side, including better relations between our two countries,'' said Indyk.

Formal relations between the United States and Iran, broken off in 1979, have warmed slightly since Khatami's e lection last year. But the State Department still considers Iran the most active state sponsor of terrorism.

Thursday's hearing came as the Clinton administration neared a decision on whether a $2 billion oil contract th at Iran signed last September with a consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian oil companies violates America 's Iran and Libya Sanctions Act.

The 1996 law lets the United States impose sanctions on foreign companies that invest $20 million or more a yea r in Iran's oil and gas sectors.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the subcommittee's chairman, mentioned ``pretty reliable rumors'' that the administ ration may grant a national interest waiver of the sanctions.

``The new leader of Iran seems to have some good intentions, but I also believe that the United States foreign policy is not about intentions; it's about actions,'' said Brownback. ``And in terms of actions, there's been n o change.''

Indyk said he could not respond in detail because no decision has been made. But whatever it turns out to be, h e assured the senators that the administration would remain committed to uphold the law and its purposes.

Iran Knows It Must Improve By June
RENNES, France -- World Cup finalist Iran is happy with its first mat ch in France in 22 years despite going down 1-0 to first division En Avant Guingamp.

"Since our arrival in France we had only had training (sessions) but a match is the best form of practice," Iran's Croatian coach Tomislav Ivic said.

"Our No. 1 problem is organizing our defense. We are on the right track," Ivic said after Tuesday's match in Brittany.

The Iranians' previous match in France was a friendly against the French in Toulouse in 1976.

Iran beat Australia in a playoff to become the last team to qualify for the finals, which begin in France on June 10. It is the first time they have reached the finals since the 1978 tournament in Argentina.

In France since the weekend, Iran is the first of the 32 finalists to go on a practice tour of the country.

Iran was able to count on only one of its three German-based forwards, Khodadad Azizi. The two others, Ali Daei and Karim Bagheri, were unavailable.

"In the first half, we did well coming out of defense playing the ball," former Paris St Germain coach Ivic said.

"But in the second, it wasn't as good. There are several solutions we must use but the players haven't had much practice yet. I must work.

"The defense stay back too much. You can't win if you don't take risks.

"In this match, there was a lack of continuity in attack. But these players have talent and we still have three months in which to improve."

Iran meets Yugoslavia in its opening World Cup group match in St Etienne on June 14. The Iranians face the United States in nearby Lyon a week later and Germany in Montpellier on June 25.

The Guingamp players, who scored their goal four minutes from time, found the Iranians worked hard at their game but -- although quick out of defense -- got bogged down in midfield.

There was a majority of Iranian expatriates in the 1,500 crowd on whom the team can count for support during the World Cup finals.

Iran will be looking to improve when they meet Nantes in another friendly on Friday. They close their tour against Montpellier next Tuesday and return home two days later.

Hezbollah Wants Dialogue With U.S
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- The Iranian-backed Hezbollah declared Tuesday that it wants a dialogue with Americans and a better image in the West -- a dramatic shift for a movement linked to the kidnappings of Westerners and the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks.

But the overture, a reversal of years of bloody emnity, goes only so far. Better ties with the U.S. government, which the radical Islamic group still regularly derides, are impossible as long as Washington supports Israel, said Nayef Kraim, the Hezbollah spo kesman.

Like Iran, which made a similar overture earlier this year, Hezbollah made clear it was speaking directly to the American people and not seeking ties to the U.S. government.

``I don't think there is the possibility for considering official relations with the United States of America,'' Kraim said in an interview.

``As for American society and the American people, there is no problem at all,'' he said. In fact, making such contacts were ``a required task.''

The State Department said as recently as last month that Hezbollah was still active in terrorism.

A leading force in Lebanon, where its network of schools, hospitals and welfare services brings it popularity, Hezbollah is fight ing a guerrilla war to oust Israel from a strip of land it occupies in southern Lebanon to protect its northern border.

With Iranian and Syrian support, Hezbollah fighters have launched hundreds of attacks on Israeli forces and their allies this yea r, increasing pressure for Israel to withdraw from rugged hills and valleys it has controlled for more than 20 years.

In Lebanon, its fight has brought it support. But the movement, created during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, is still try ing to play down a terrorist image born of kidnappings and horrific bombings -- events seared into the minds of many Americans. < P> Hezbollah has long denied any role in the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 240 people, or the abdu ction of at least 50 Americans and other foreigners at the height of the anarchy that reigned during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. But groups that claimed responsibility were widely believed to be operating under Hezbollah's umbrella.

Today, it has transformed itself into one of Lebanon's most successful political movements. Its leaders can draw tens of thousand s of Shiite Muslim supporters into the streets. Seven members sit in parliament, and its message is carried by its own television and radio stations, a weekly newspaper and a web site.

That transformation is part of Hezbollah's attempt to change what Kraim describes as ``its distorted image,'' particularly in the West, and contacts with Americans stand as a logical step.

Such a dialogue ``will help in improving the image of each other and, at the same time, the perception of the American people,'' he said.

Its ideology -- support for an Islamic state in Lebanon, a country with 18 officially recognized religious sects -- has not chang ed, Kraim said.

But it will usher in the idea by persuasion, not force, he said.

Still, occasionally the rhetoric of the past resurfaces.

At a march last week to commemorate the death of Shiite Islam's most revered saint, thousands of Hezbollah supporters chanted ``A merica is the great Satan!'' At the front of the rally, a banner read, ``Our enemies forever: America and Israel.''


Iran and U.S. edge closer
DUBAI(Reuters) - Step by step, Iran and the United States are cautiously finding ways to edge closer together after two decades of mutual hostility and suspicion.

The latest move comes from Iran, which is to permit U.S. companies to take part in the country's biggest trade fair.

American business, prominent in Iran under the pro-Western shah, suffered in the aftermath of his overthrow during the 1979 revolution.

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980 after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and seized Americans hostage.

Since June 1995, when President Bill Clinton imposed oil and trade sanctions against Iran, U.S. firms have been effectively frozen out of trade with the Islamic republic.

With the world's second largest gas reserves and third largest oil exports, the stakes in Iran are high.

European, Japanese and other Asian companies have stepped in to sign up deals for which U.S. firms would otherwise bid.

The cost to American firms in terms of lost business opportunities and jobs has been high, as the U.S. oilfield service and supply industry noted last week.

Now U.S. companies are to be allowed to take part in this year's Tehran International Trade Fair, a nine-day event due to begin on October 1.

But the United States would not be officially invited, Deputy Commerce Minister Mojtaba Khosrowtaj was quoted as saying in remarks published in the newspaper Tehran Times on Sunday.

"Iran will invite all world nations except the United States and Israel to participate in the 24th Tehran International Trade Fair," the newspaper quoted Khosrowtaj as saying.

"However, the American companies will be allowed to participate in the fair if they intend to do it of their own (accord)."

Khosrowtaj said he expected a large number of countries to participate in the fair "in view of...Khatami's initiative to open up dialogues between civilisations," the newspaper said.

Relations have been improving since the election last May of President Mohammad Khatami, a Shi'ite Moslem clergyman seen as a moderate in the context of Iranian politics.

In December, he publicly praised the American people, saying he hoped for a thoughtful, rational "dialogue of civilisations" with them.

In a U.S. television interview in January, Khatami called for a dialogue between the American and Iranian people to bring about a "crack in the wall of mistrust." But he ruled out contacts between the two governments for the present.

The first U.S. sportsmen to visit Iran since the revolution competed in an amateur wrestling tournament in Tehran in February and were treated like heroes.

U.S. officials have encouraged Americans to visit Iran in what U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin has described as valuable "people-to-people" exchanges which could potentially help prepare the ground for government-to-government talks.

Former U.S. government officials and academics have visited Tehran to take part in seminars on relations between the two countries and American tourists in Tehran and the ancient Persian cities of Isfahan and Shiraz are no longer a novelty.

U.S. government restrictions on travel by Iranian diplomats at United Nations headquarters in New York have been eased.

Still, the familiar accusations and counter-accusations continue to mar ties.

The United States accuses Iran of sponsoring "terrorism," trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and supporting violent opposition to the Middle East peace process.

Iran denies the charges, saying it opposes the peace process as a sell-out of Palestinian rights but does nothing to hinder it. It also says its nuclear power programme is for peaceful power-generation purposes.

Iranian leaders regularly criticise the U.S. for policies they say are aimed at dominating the Gulf region and favouring Israeli interests in the Middle East.

Another major obstacle to restoring relations at government level is a U.S. law banning foreign investment of $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector each year.

A consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian companies defied the law last September by signing a $2 billion contract for investment in Iran's natural gas industry.

U.S. oil major Conoco, owned by DuPont Co , was forced to withdraw from its proposed stake in the project by the White House.

Washington has been slow to enforce the law, apparently fearing a backlash by European and Asian countries which oppose it strongly. They argue that its investment restrictions should not apply to foreign companies beyond U.S. borders.

A bi-partisan group of 13 U.S. senators last week urged President Bill Clinton to enforce the law and impose sanctions against the three foreign firms -- Total SA of France, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas.

If he does so, British Petroleum Co Plc could potentially be at risk.

BP, the largest oil producer in the United States and a major investor and employer there, said last week it was opening a representative office in Tehran but would wait for normalised international relations with Iran before resuming business.

Other British energy firms -- Monument Oil and Gas Plc , Enterprise Oil Plc, LASMO Plc and gas giant BG Plc -- are looking at exploration openings in Iran. But as they lacking U.S. assets they are sheltered from the threat of American sanctions.

Azizi among Asia's best players
By Afshin Molawi
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranians routinely make journeys to holy sites in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, but legendary Iranian soccer star Ali Parvin headed there several years ago on an entirely different pilgrimage.

He went to see Khodadad Azizi, a soft-spoken, teenage soccer sensation who was turning heads and frustrating defenders with his brilliant skills.

Parvin, later a national team coach, became an instant convert. He urged Azizi to move to the capital Tehran to hone his skills among the country's best players.

Azizi soon thereafter joined Bahman, a powerful Tehran side which played in Iran's top division.

Azizi picked up where he left off in Mashhad, frustrating defenders with his deft dribbling skills and finding the back of the net regularly.

Soon after he joined the national team, Azizi starred in Asia-wide tournaments and was named Asian Player of the Year in 1996. He was also on the shortlist for the 1997 award.

The 26-year-old's rise to the top of Asian soccer was completed in November's decisive World Cup playoff second leg with Australia in Melbourne.

With Iran 2-0 down, Azizi created one goal and scored a dramatic second in the last 14 minutes of play to catapult his country to the World Cup finals via the away-goals rule.

For that performance alone, Azizi is guaranteed a place Iranian soccer folklore for life.

Playing for Cologne in Germany's Bundesliga, Azizi combines technical skills on par with Europe' best players, with an uncanny ability to slink through opposing defenses and create one-on-one situations with goalkeepers.

And his time in Germany has taken his game to a new level since joining Cologne in September last year.

Azizi forms part of Iran's so-called 'German troika' along with striker Ali Daei and midfielder Karim Bagheri, both of whom play for Arminia Bielefeld.

update in Iranian Soccer team
ESPN(SportZone)TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's World Cup soccer squad leaves next week for training camps in Italy and Croatia, Iranian television said on Friday.

A 24-man squad will travel to Italy on Monday (May 11) and Iran will announce its final squad of 22 after the Italian training camp.

Iran will play two warm-up games in Italy -- against first division teams AS Roma on May 19 and Inter Milan on May 23. There will be a friendly against Croatia, the home country of Iran's coach Tomislav Ivic, on June 3.

The squad then travels on June 7 to France, a week before its first Group F match, against Yugoslavia in St Etienne.

Iranian squad

Goalkeepers: Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, Nima Nakisa.

Defenders: Parviz Boroumand, Mohammad Khakpour, Javad Zarrincheh, Naeem Saadavi, Ali Akbar Ostad Asadi, Afshin Peyrovani.

Midfielders: Mehrdad Minavand, Alireza Mansourian, Hamid Estili, Mehdi Pashazadeh, Nader Mohammadkhani, Farshad Falahatzadeh, Reza Shahroudi, Sirous Deenmohammadi, Karim Bagheri.

Forwards: Sattar Hamedani, Farhad Majidi, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi, Behnam Seraj, Ali Latifi.

Iran Court Upholds Editor's Death Sentence-Paper
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran's supreme court has upheld a death sentence against an Iranian journalist on adultery and spying charges, a newspaper said on Sunday.

The conservative daily Farda said a branch of Iran's supreme court rejected the appeal by former Iran News editor Morteza Firoozi, who has been in custody since last May.

"Firoozi was arrested for spying for South Korea, France, and Japan and for several cases of adultery by the courts of first instance. This was upheld by an appeals court and now the supreme court has rejected a re-examination of his case," the daily Farda said. There was no official confirmation of the Farda report. Only Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now has the authority to overturn or reduce the sentence.

The daily Qods newspaper reported earlier this month that Firoozi might face stoning on the adultery charges.

Under Iran's Islamic laws, a man convicted of adultery with a married woman faces a possible sentence of stoning.

Earlier press reports said that Firoozi had admitted to working as a consultant for unnamed countries but denied the spying charges.

Head of Iran's news agency to face court charges
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - The director general of Iran's official news agency IRNA is to appear in court on Monday to answer charges levelled against him by a parliament deputy and a conservative group, the agency said.

"Fereydoun Verdinejad is to appear in a press violations inquiry court to answer yet unannounced charges against him by private persons and by a number of law enforcement officials," IRNA said on Sunday.

Among the charges were one made by a Majlis deputy and another raised by a conservative group, IRNA said. It gave no further details on the charges.

Verdinejad is also the publisher of the Persian daily Iran, which is affiliated with IRNA.

Iran says U.S. firms can attend trade fair-papers
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - U.S. companies will be allowed to participate in a trade fair to be held in Iran in October but the United States will not be officially invited, an Iranian official said in remarks published on Sunday.

The Tehran Times newspaper quoted Deputy Commerce Minister Mojtaba Khosrowtaj as saying Iran planned to invite all countries except Israel and the United States to the nine-day Tehran International Trade Fair, scheduled to open on October 1.

"Iran will invite all world nations except the United States and Israel to participate in the 24th Tehran International Trade Fair," the newspaper said, quoting Khosrowtaj.

"However, the American companies will be allowed to participate in the fair if they intend to do it of their own (accord)," it said.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has called on all Moslems to back the Palestinians against Israel. Iran regularly refers to Israel as the "Zionist regime" or the "Zionist occupiers."

Relations between Iran and the United States have been icy since the revolution. The two countries broke off diplomatic ties after militants stormed the U.S. embassy that year and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

But there has been a step-by-step thaw in relations since the election of President Mohammad Khatami, who in January called for a dialogue between the American and Iranian people.

Khosrowtaj said he expected a large number of countries to participate in the fair "in view of...Khatami's initiative to open up dialogues between civilisations," the Tehran Times said.


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