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May 99, Week 2
|No Pardon for Former Tehran Mayor
|Iranian Students Seek Freedom for Jailed Cleric
|Iran Air Says Will Buy Four Airbus
|Iran Welcomes ''Greater Realism'' from U.S.
No Pardon for Former Tehran Mayor
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday he would not pardon the former mayor of Tehran, who began serving a prison sentence last week for embezzlement.
A majority of deputies in the Majlis, or parliament, appealed to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week to pardon Gholamhossein Karbaschi.
But in a written reply read by parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, Khamenei said Karbaschi's fate rested with the judiciary.
``It would be best if the honorable deputies and other officials did not rile up public opinion, which is something desired by their enemies,'' Nateq-Nouri quoted the letter as saying, in comments broadcast by Tehran radio and monitored in Dubai.
Khamenei added: ``In any case, the authority responsible for resolving such affairs is the judiciary and it is in the interest of the country and the nation to ensure that judicial rulings are not tarnished.''
By law, the judiciary is answerable not to Iran's president, but to Khamenei.
Reformists have held rallies and written angry editorials to protest Karbaschi's imprisonment. The former mayor's supporters believe the power struggle between hard-liners and reformists, not corruption, landed Karbaschi in jail.
When Karbaschi became mayor of Tehran in 1989, Iran was reeling from the 1980-88 war with Iraq. The capital was a dirty, drab metropolis with few recreational facilities and huge traffic jams.
During his eight years as mayor, Karbaschi built parks and roads and developed 1,300 sports facilities and more than a dozen cultural centers.
He financed the improvements with taxes on wealthy merchants -- the same people who make up the hard-liners' power base. The hard-liners singled out Karbaschi after their candidate was routed in the 1997 presidential election by the moderate Mohammad Khatami.
Karbaschi ran Khatami's election campaign, and many Iranians viewed his trial as political revenge by the hard-liners.
Karbaschi was sent to prison Thursday to serve a two-year sentence for corruption. He had been free on bail since being convicted in July of embezzling public funds. His original five-year prison sentence was reduced by an appeals court, and the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal last month.
Iranian Students Seek Freedom for Jailed Cleric
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Several hundred Iranian students held a sit-in at Tehran
University on Sunday to demand freedom for a jailed reformist cleric who challenged basic elements
of Iran's Islamic system.
The 300 students, from Iran's biggest moderate university movement, rallied inside the university gates in support of Mohsen Kadivar, jailed last month after questioning the conservative establishment's interpretation of clerical authority under Islam.
"Arrest us, too. We think like Kadivar," read one placard. Police stood by outside the walls of the university but did not intervene.
The students said earlier they would rally outside the gates. However, officials were reported to have denied their application for a permit, forcing them to remain on campus.
Organisers said the protest was planned to stretch into the late afternoon.
Kadivar, an outspoken mid-ranking Shi'ite Moslem cleric, has angered traditionalists with lectures and articles stressing limits on clerical power over Iran's political system. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail by a special court dealing with offences by clerics.
His supporters say his arrest and conviction were designed to stifle free speech and block fresh interpretations of Shi'ite political thought. They say the court had no jurisdiction over "thought crimes."
But Iran's conservative judiciary chief recently denied there were political motives behind the case.
Iran Air Says Will Buy Four Airbus
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Flag carrier Iran Air plans to buy four Airbus
aircraft as part of a plan to renew its ageing fleet, the airline's head said
in remarks published on Sunday.
Managing Director Ahmad Reza Kazemi said the planned purchase, approved recently by a top state economic body, required the arrangement of financing, the daily Hamshahri reported.
He did not give details of the purchase's financing or when the purchase would be finalised.
Iran Air would be gradually retiring seven of its older aircraft, mostly Boeing 747s, Kazemi said.
Iran Air's fleet of about 32 aircraft, mostly Boeings, includes only eight planes bought after the 1979 Islamic revolution: six Fokker F100s and two Airbus A300-600s.
Iran Welcomes ''Greater Realism'' from U.S.
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran's foreign minister was quoted on Saturday as welcoming
"greater realism" from the United States towards the Islamic republic, but said Europe was doing
more to improve relations.
"We see greater realism from the U.S. administration towards Iran as of lately. Of course, Europe is more realistic towards Iran than America," Kamal Kharrazi told the English-language daily Kayhan International.
"If the U.S. president is sincere in his words, that's good. There has been a change in their tone but we have not seen a change in America's behaviour," Kharrazi said.
U.S. President Bill Clinton said last month Iran had been subjected to abuse from Western countries in the past and had a right to be angry.
Asked what Washington should do to open the way for a resumption of diplomatic relations, Kharrazi said: "The U.S. should look at Iran on the basis of mutual respect. We don't see this yet."
Kharrazi also said the recent lifting of a U.S. ban on exports of food and medicine to Iran was "good news for American producers," and reiterated Tehran's demand that Washington also allow imports of similar Iranian goods.
"Now, Iran-EU relations (are) based on a sound footing...based on mutual respect," Kharrazi said.
Relations between the United States and Iran, hostile since the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed shah, have thawed somewhat since moderate President Mohammad Khatami took office in 1997.
Tehran officials have repeatedly called on Washington to show its good will by lifting all U.S. sanctions against Iran and releasing Iranian assets frozen in the United States.