FarsiNet's Iran News
U.S. Warns Five Companies of Sanctions Over Iran
By Jude Webber|
ROME, (Reuters) - The United States on Friday warned five non-U.S. companies that they were running the risk of real sanctions if investigations found any of their business dealings with Iran contravened U.S. law.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Trade Stuart Eizenstat said the action was aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring technology Tehran could use to build long-range or medium-range missiles, especially chemical and biological warheads.
Speaking at the end of a transatlantic business conference in Rome, Eizenstat emphasised that no evidence of such business dealings by the five companies had yet been found, but if they were, sanctions were a ``real option.''
The five companies he referred to were: Russia's Gazprom , Malaysia's Petronas , France's Total SA , Canada's Bow Valley and Indonesia's Bakrie Group .
``We are investigating those (companies) thoroughly, completely and calmly...if they are found to be sanctionable, which has not been found yet because we are still investigating, sanctions are a real option,'' he told reporters.
Eizenstat said U.S. sanctions teams had been in Paris, Moscow and Ottawa this week and would travel to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur by the end of the month.
The action was being considered under U.S. legislation designed to curb foreign investment in Iran, one of the countries Washington considers to be sponsoring terrorism.
He said if the companies were found to be contravening the law, three courses of action were available -- to impose sanctions, to waive sanctions or introduce a 90-day provision to allow for a diplomatic initiative.
The United States was working closely with European Union states, Russia and China to try to curb the threat of proliferation, Eizenstat said.
``We are trying to work to develop a multilateral regime which the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act admonishes us to do...to deter Iran from the capacity of acquiring long-range and medium-range missiles and, in particular, chemical and biological warheads,'' he said.
The U.S. trade envoy held bilateral meetings with European Union officials, including European Commission Vice-President Sir Leon Brittan, during the two-day Transatlantic Business Dialogue meeting (TABD) in Rome.
``I hope it (our dealings) will bear fruit over the ensuing months,'' Eizenstat said.
Discussions also focused on the Helms-Burton Act, which seeks to tighten a 35-year-old U.S. trade embargo against communist Cuba, which has been a thorn in the side of transatlantic relations since it came into force in 1996.
In a final communique, the TABD said it hoped for prompt resolution of the problems raised by sanctions so that ``governments will not be forced to take defensive measures under national and international law.''
Brittan said earlier that firms were increasingly worried that the sanctions legislation designed to curb foreign investment in Cuba, Iran and Libya was hurting them too.
While reaffirming its position that any economic sanctions should be taken on a multilateral basis, the TABD added:
``The U.S. and EU should intensify their consultations to develop effective, concerted responses to threats to common interests and arrive at an agreed approach.''
France Welcomes IRAN'S Chemical Weapons Move
PARIS -XINHUA - France today welcomed the ratification
by Iran of the convention banning the production and ownership of
chemical weapons, describing the move as "a positive and appreciable
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said that France received, with satisfaction, news of the ratification which "makes up an important step toward the universalization of the convention."
"In a general way, we encourage all states which have not yet made the decision to ratify the convention, notably in the Middle East, and to rally themselves to this dynamic," said the spokesman.
Israel, Egypt, Syria and Iraq are among the major Middle East countries which have not yet ratified the Convention on Interdiction of Chemical Arms.
Signatories must destroy their chemical weapons and production plants within 10 years, and provide detailed information about the production and exports of listed chemicals which could be used to make such weapons.
They are also obliged to open their chemical plants to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for routine and short-notice inspections.
Armenian Delegation Visits Iran
YEREVAN, (Itar-Tass) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met Armenian government chief of staff Shagen Karamanukyan who gave him a message from President Levon Ter- Petrosyan on Wednesday.
Khatami and Karamanukyan, who is in Iran on an official visit, discussed the state of and prospects for the development of multifaceted relations between Armenia and Iran.
In particular, they stressed the need to restore peace and stability in the region in order to facilitate economic integration and cooperation.
Karamanukyan also conferred with Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh and Minister of Economics and Finance Hossein Namazi. They agreed to implement several joint projects.
The Armenian delegation also had talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Minister of Construction Mohamad Saidikia to discuss economic programmes, cooperation in the fields of trade, energy, communications, industry, and road construction.
The sides noted that the two countries have a great potential for developing cooperation in these areas and furthering their relations.
U.S. Open to Iran Dialogue-U.S. Govt Academic
LONDON, (Reuters) - The U.S. government is open to a
dialogue with Iran but sees no reason to ease sanctions against
Tehran, a senior U.S. government academic said on Wednesday.
``The U.S. government is open to dialogue with Iran. That is not the case with Iraq,'' Patrick Clawson, a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. government's National Defense University in Washington, told an oil conference.
``I'm not an optimist, but I think there would be quite a bit of interest in Washington in seeing that happen,'' he said, adding he was speaking in his personal capacity.
Clawson, who teaches at the university's Institute for National Strategic Studies, said he understood Iranian politicians regarded contact with the United States as a betrayal of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah.
``Iran is the only government in the world that refuses to talk to the U.S,'' he said.
Clawson said he saw no evidence that Washington wanted to change sanctions against Iran because Tehran had given no sign that it would change those aspects of its behaviour to which the U.S. government objected.
The United States considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism that is undermining Middle East peace and trying to acquire nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Iran denies those accusations. The 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) mandates sanctions against companies investing more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector. It bars U.S. banks from making direct loans of more than $10 million to violators.
Clawson said sanctions could even be hardened if Washington found evidence to support suspicions that Iran had developed missiles with a range of 1,500 to 4,000 km (932 to 2,485 miles).
Iranian Says Living Happily with Eight Wives
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - A 38-year-old illiterate Iranian
shopkeeper is living happily in the same house with his eight
wives and 25 children, a newspaper said on Tuesday.
Mohammad Reza Bigdel had married 12 times, the first time at age 15, but had divorced four of his wives because of what he called their ``bad temper,'' the daily Iran News said.
Bigdel, five of whose children are adopted orphans, said he had married so many times not for ``debauchery'' but to support widows and orphans, the English-language newspaper said. It did not say how many of the wives had been widows.
He said he was able to live happily in his 10-room house in rural northeastern Iran with all his wives because he did not discriminate between them.
Under Iran's Shi'ite Islamic laws, a man can have up to four wives and any number of ``temporary wives'' simultaneously. Iranian Islamic leaders stress recommendations that only men who can treat their wives with absolute equality may be polygamous.
Iran Marks Anniversary of U.S. Embassy Takeover with Burning Flags
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Thousands of Iranian protesters burned
American flags and beat effigies of Uncle Sam before setting them
ablaze on Tuesday, the 18th anniversary of the seizure U.S.
The government celebrates the anniversary as if it were a religious feast. The day began with school bells pealing and students trooping outside to chant "death to America" and "death to Israel."
Speakers at the rally told the 30,000 demonstrators that their presence showed there was no chance that Iran would moderate its hostility toward the United States.
"Demonstrators, remember that the U.S. warships are in the (Persian) Gulf," said rally leader Mahmoud Mortezaifar. "You must shout loud enough for your cries of `death to America' to ring throughout the Gulf."
On Nov. 4, 1979, nine months after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted the U.S.-supported Shah of Iran and set up an Islamic government, militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy and took dozens of hostages. Many were released shortly thereafter, but 52 Americans were held for 444 days.
The United States severed ties with Iran after the takeover, and relations between the two countries remain frozen 18 years later.
Today, streets were closed around the former embassy to allow the thousands of high school and university students to assemble.
Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri told the crowd they had struck a blow against Washington's hopes that the new president, Mohammad Khatami, would improve relations.
"They were hoping that the new government would be lenient toward the United States, but now they see that we remain as anti-American as ever," said Nateq-Nouri, a hard-liner who lost to Khatami in the presidential vote.
U.S. Sanctions against Iran Come to Failure: Kharrazi
JOHANNESBURG -XINHUA - Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi today described the United States' sanctions against Iran as "a total failure", noting superpowers were no longer able to impose their will on the rest of the world.
Kharrazi said that his country enjoyed good relations with many countries around the world, and was in most respects self-sufficient.
"Therefore, I would like to declare that the Amercian sanctions and pressures on Iran have not been effective, and have been total failure," he told reporters after meeting his South African counterpart Alfred Nzo in Pretoria.
"The only thing that happened was that the Amercian companies were deprived of a lucrative market."
The U.S., which accused Iran of sponsoring international terrorism, imposed a unilateral economic embargo on Iran in June 1995, and has sought to persuade other major powers to end their military and nuclear cooperation with the country.
In fact, the U.S. had since the 1979 Islamic revolution been vying to isolate Iran, Kharrazi said.
However, he said, this campaign was faltering because the U.S. was acting mostly on its own. Even some of its allies, such as the European Union, was not supporting the economic embargo.
"This proves that the world has changed," Kharrazi said, "I believe the time that one or two powers can dictate policies against other countries has passed."
Kharrazi said that different groupings and different central powers have emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. "All the groupings, like the European Union, the Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have the right to claim a greater share in the administration of the world," he noted.
One could expect them to play a more important role through the United Nations in the way the world was being run, he said.
Kharrazi said his talks with Nzo earlier in the day also focused on the role developing countries could play in international relations within the framework of the NAM.
Iran was ready to support South Africa in this mission when it assumed the chairmanship on NAM next year, Kharrazi added.
IRAN'S Border Guards Kill 8 Mko Members
TEHRAN- XINHUA - The Iranian border guards Sunday killed
eight members of the Iranian outlawed Mujahiden Khalq Organization
(MKO) who entered Iran by crossing the frontier line with Iraq.
The official news agency IRNA said that the Iranian border guards seized a machine-gun, a Klashinkov rifle and rocket propeller grenade from the MKO members.
Another team of three MKO members who had entered the Iranian territory two days ago gave up themselves to the Iranian border guards, IRNA said.
Last Thursday, four MKO members were killed on the Iranian border when they tried to penetrate into Iran through the country's southwestern border of Mehran.
The MKO was one of the main opposition groups which fought against the former Shah regime but it was outlawed after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979.
During the past years, the MKO launched a series of military actions against the Iranian government and in a retaliation, the Iranian air forces raided the MKO bases inside Iraq for several times.
U.S. Computers Flow to Iran despite Ban -Traders
By Firouz Sedarat |
DUBAI, (Reuters) - U.S. computers, from everyday PCs to sophisticated servers, are finding their way into Iran without major difficulties despite U.S. sanctions, Iranian traders said on Monday.
The traders said Dubai had become a major conduit for U.S. computers and related equipment into the Iranian market because of the emirate's proximity to, and extensive trade ties with, Iran across the Gulf.
``You can get just about any kind of American computers in Iran now. A PC would be immediately available. For a server you would have to wait a couple of months,'' said a trader, in Dubai for the Gitex information technology show which ended on Sunday.
``U.S. sanctions slowed things down and forced importers to use middlemen, so prices jumped some 30 percent, but they really did not stop much,'' the trader said.
The United States imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Iran in 1995, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism and of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations.
The United States is the largest exporter to Dubai, trade centre of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, supplying goods worth nearly $1.9 billion in 1996. In the same year Dubai re-exported goods worth $780 million to Iran, its biggest buyer.
The traders said most U.S. computer exports to Iran went through Dubai, base for a large community of Iranian traders with extensive ties in the Islamic republic of 60 million people.
``I know of Singapore-based traders who sell U.S. computer parts to Iran where they are assembled. These people have had to set up a representative in Dubai because this place is so central to the Iranian market,'' another Iranian trader said.
``There is actually very little control from Dubai officials. I have declared shipments as going to Central Asian states via Iran and they have not questioned it,'' he added.
Traders said it was hard to value the U.S. computer exports to Iran, but gave an estimate of at least $100 million.
``Last year we imported about $1 million, and we are one of the larger firms among 200 to 300 computer companies,'' a Tehran-based computer importer said. ``So $100 million is probably a conservative estimate, if you include peripherals.''
``Actually Iranian import controls, which force importers to smuggle in up to 70 percent of computer equipment, are more of a (hindrance) than the sanctions,'' the trader added.
Iran has in the past few years seriously restricted imports to save hard currency needed to repay a large foreign debt.
The smuggling is a complicated process where computers are taken out of their boxes, shipped across the narrow Gulf to Iran, where they are repackaged and sold, a trader said.
``Sometimes the packaging does not make it across so the customer gets a computer at a bargain price,'' he said.
Pirated software is widely available, he added. Some computer firms in Iran still advertise as being agents for U.S. firms, but traders said this was not really the case.
``They (U.S. companies) probably know about our advertising, which of course is untrue as we, for example, cannot offer any warranty. But they have never asked us to stop,'' said a trader who markets his company as being the agent for a major U.S. computer maker. He asked that the firm not be identified.
``I am sure they have a hunch about continued exports to Iran, but their policy seems to be to formally adhere to the sanctions and do no more. They do not want to lose a market potentially worth 200,000 PCs a year,'' the trader said.
``They just look the other way,'' said another. ``I think where the sanctions have hurt is in limiting sales of services by Iranian software companies on the international market,'' he said. ``That is an area Iran has a lot of potential.''