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FarsiNet's Iran News
November 1997, Week 3

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Nationwide Rallies Held to Defend Supreme
TEHRAN -XINHUA - Massive rallies and demonstrations were held across Iran today in show of support for the country's supreme leadership Velayat-e-Faqih (Governance of Supreme Jurisprudent).

According to the Iranian official news agency IRNA, the rallies were held after the normal Friday prayer congregations in various cities.

The demonstrators attacked the recent remarks of some senior religious figures of the country, including Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the former designate successor of Iran's late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Rowhollah Masavi Khomeini.

They have reportedly said the supreme leader, whose duty was to supervise the country's affairs, had no right to directly handle concrete issues.

IRNA said that demonstrators today condemned the remarks about the supreme leadership and reiterated their allegiance with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

In the capital of Tehran, Iran's judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi also blasted the remarks over the issue, saying that it was a plot which had originated from the elements from outside Iran.

Ayatollah Khamenei is both the leader of Islamic revolution and one of the highest authorities among the world's Shiites, Yazdi said.

On Wednesday, hundreds of religious instructors and students stormed the office and residence of Ayatollah Montazeri in the religious city of Qom, showing their protest to his recent statement about the legitimacy of the supreme leadership.

Arshad Spoke after a One-Hour Meeting with U.S. Deputy

Ramsay said he had come to Kuala Lumpur to explain the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which requires the U.S. president to impose sanctions on any foreign company which invests more that $20 million a year in Iran's oil and gas sector.

Washington says a $2 billion gas deal in Iran involving Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) violates the U.S. law.

Ramsay told reporters that he was not on an investigatory mission and saw no particular need to meet Petronas officials. ``I am not going to try to give advice to a particular company. I am just suggesting that it does not make sense to legitimise the Iranian leadership by doing business as usual,'' he said.

Leading AYATOLLAH'S Office Attacked in Iran
TEHRAN- XINHUA - Hundreds of demonstrators today attacked the office of Ayatollah Houssein Ali Montazeri, former designate successor of Iran's late supreme leader Ayatollah Rowhollah Khomeini.

An informed source said the office of the leading religious figure in the city of Qom, some 90 kilometers south of Tehran, was stormed by angry theological instructors and students of the city.

The Iranian official news agency IRNA confirmed the incident in a dispatch, saying the demonstrators were rallying to condemn Montazeri's skeptical statement about the legitimacy of the country's supreme leadership, Velayat-e-Faqih (governance of Islamic Jurisprudence).

It said that police was forced to intervene, using tear gas to disperse the furious protesters.

Several policemen were injured in the scuffle, and the office and house of the Ayatollah are under protection of the security forces, it added.

Montazeri had been chosen by Khomeini as his heir-designate but was later disqualified for the job by the late leader before his death in 1989.

Iran Radio and Pope Condemn Egyptian Massacre
LONDON (Reuters) - The state radio of Islamic Iran and the Pope found themselves in rare agreement on Tuesday in condemning Monday's slaughter of about 60 mostly Western tourists by Moslem militants in Egypt.

But while the head of the Roman Catholic church urged all believers to shun violence, Tehran radio focused on the potential loss of sympathy for Arab and Islamic causes.

``The spread of this sinister phenomenon has served the interests of domineering and profit-seeking foreigners who have used the turmoil in the region to extend their influence,'' it said, lamenting the attackers' disregard for human life.

``So much so that some not think it is far-fetched to believe this operation was a foreign and Zionist (Israeli) plot. But no matter which particular persons were behind this incident, it only benefits the enemy.''

The Egyptian Moslem militant group al-Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attacks near the famed ancient tombs and temples of Luxor.

Egypt has accused Iran of backing Moslem militants fighting the Cairo government. Tehran has denied the charge, saying the militants were inspired by its 1979 Islamic revolution.

In Lebanon the attack was condemned not only by the government but also by the Jamaa Islamiye (Islamic Group), Lebanon's dominant Sunni fundamentalist movement linked with the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt.

It said the massacre was aimed at weakening Egypt and Arab and Moslem nations and ``harms Islam more than it harms any other party.''

The pro-Iranian Shi'ite Hizbollah, fighting to oust Israeli occupation troops from south Lebanon, said the attack ``serves neither the interest of the assailants nor the confrontation with the Zionist enemy.''

``We consider that attracting friendly foreign powers on the international level serves our cause in the confrontation and shocking public opinion within these forces by similar attacks would harm our plan and serve the goals of the enemy,'' it said in a statement.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat also condemned the attack, along with the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

``We reject the attack against foreigners who asked permission and safety to enter our countries,'' Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters.

The Vatican said in a message of condolence that Pope John Paul was asking God to instil in all believers the ``will and courage to definitively take up the path of peace and dialogue and to reject all violence, which does nothing but disfigure humanity.''

More than half of the tourists who died were from Switzerland.

Swiss President Arnold Koller told a news conference that ``anybody who wipes out lives in this atrocious manner makes themselves an enemy of all humankind.''

``This terrible act by the terrorists of Luxor shows that only a clear and decisive stance against every form of terrorism can free humankind from this scourge.''

U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat said the atrocity underscored the need to remove the basis for radicalism in the Middle East by boosting the region's economy.

``The situation yesterday in Egypt, which is tragic in the first order, is a reminder of what the real dangers in this region are -- and that is the dangers of radicalism and terrorism,'' he told Reuters at an economic conference in Qatar.

``If anything, it dramatises where the real dangers in the region are and where the real opportunities for dealing with those dangers can be found,'' he said.

IRAN's Moderates to Form Political Party
TEHRAN -XINHUA - Iran's moderate group "Servants of Construction" has decided to form a political party, the local English daily Iran News reported today.

In an interview with the daily, Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Iran's former moderate President Hashemi Rafsanjani, said that the group, also known as Group Six (G-6), will soon enter political arena "with a bright future."

The group is codifying its articles of association and holding meetings every week, said Hashemi.

She said that "one of the major factors contributing to the victory of President Mohammad Khatami was the strong support of the G-6."

Khatami, widely known as a moderate, won a landslide victory in the presidential elections on May 23 due to support of moderates, women and intellectuals.

Hashemi, a member of the Iranian Parliament, said that many members of President Khatami's cabinet are from the G-6.

Iran To Resume Pistachio Exports to Europe
TEHRAN -XINHUA - Iran will resume pistachio export to European countries from December 15 after a suspension of two months, local daily Tehran Times reported today.

Vice chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Asadollah Askarowladi, was quoted as saying that the European Common Market Commission has decided to allow Iran to export pistachio to its members.

Conditions laid down by the commission for granting export licenses to Iranian pistachio included testing of pistachio upon entry to Europe in addition to quality assessment by the standard and hygiene centers in Iran, Askarowladi said.

The European Union countries announced to ban the import of Iranian pistachio on September 9, fearing contamination by Aflatoxin B1, a carcinogenic substance produced by molds.

However, Iran defended the quality of its pistachio, saying that the export to Europe was not only uncontaminated but also was the healthiest type.

Askarowladi said the European boycott had no impact on the export of Iranian pistachio. Iran's pistachio produced this year totaled 70,000 tons and its export volume has not decreased.

Pistachio cultivation in Iran is about 300,000 hectares and the country expected to earn some 400 million dollars from pistachio exports.

Askarowladi also said that Iranian raisins and dates, 100,000 tons of each being exported annually, also would be tested by the European common market.

"Numerous experiments conducted up to now have shown Iran's products to be safe and free from contamination," he added.

Iran Bigger Danger than Iraq Netanyahu
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Iran could pose a bigger danger than Iraq and even end up with nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.

``The international community is rightly focused on Iraq,'' he said, offering solid support to President Clinton's diplomatic offensive over the U.N. weapons inspection crisis.

But he said ``at the same time Iran, unseen, unperturbed and undisturbed is building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles, actually ICBM's (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles).

``Stage One would reach our area, Stage Two it would reach Britain and Stage Three, believe it or not, they actually plan to reach the eastern seaboard of the United States, Manhattan.''

Netanyahu charged that Russian ballistic missile technology was still reaching Iran despite diplomatic efforts by Israel and the United States to halt it.

Russia has repeatedly denied charges from Israel and Washington that it is passing missile know-how to Iran.

Netanyahu, interviewed by BBC Television on a visit to London, said: ``This sounds fantastic but Iran wants to be a world power with a world ideology of fundamentalist domination, seeing the West as its great enemy.

``It seeks to have weapons to back up that ideology and that is even more dangerous than Saddam because there is a fanaticism, an ideological fanaticism attached to the acquisition of these weapons.''

Netanyahu, who has canvassed Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin on the issue, said: ``I hope that this stops because I think ultimately Russia would be the target of these very missiles that are built in Iran.''

Brushing aside British concerns about his hard-line approach to Mideast peace, he said the Palestinians must fight terrorism.

He said he had told Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat: ``Live up to your pledge to fight the terrorists and we will live up to all our pledges.''

Despite the stalemate in the talks, he said: ``We may be able to move forward.''

``You cannot have terror and peace coexisting. This is the crucial thing for us and I think we are making some headway,'' he told interviewer Sir David Frost.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is angry that Netanyahu defied her call in September for a ``time-out'' on the construction of new settlements in Arab east Jerusalem.

Suicide bombings in Israel by Muslim militants have deepened the deadlock and Israel says the Palestinians have to do more to catch those responsible.

Netanyahu wants to move directly to final status talks rather than take interim steps laid down under the Oslo, Norway, peace framework.

He complained in the BBC interview: ``We are stuck before the toll booth up to the highway that would get us to the final settlement.''

``The right thing to do is to go through the toll booth, get onto that highway and negotiate for six to nine months in an accelerated way,'' he added.

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