October 1998, Week 4
|Egypt Upgrades Diplomacy in Iran
|Khatami Tries to Push Iran Reforms
|Conservatives triumph in Iran election
|Iran complains to Dutch over opposition protest
|Iran Releases Liberal News Editor
Egypt Upgrades Diplomacy in Iran
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Egypt has upgraded its diplomatic mission in Iran in a sign of thawing ties, Egyptian and Iranian diplomats
Egypt and Iran severed ties after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Egypt maintains an interests section in Tehran, which works from the Italian Embassy.
Mohammed Rifa'a, a career diplomat who holds the rank of ambassador, was sent to Tehran last month to head Egypt's interests sec tion. He is the highest-ranking Egyptian diplomat to serve in Tehran since the revolution and replaces a junior diplomat.
Rifa'a was appointed after a series of meetings between the foreign ministers of the two countries, which have been working to u pgrade relations.
Egypt is eager to improve relations, but wants Iran to end its alleged support for fundamentalist Egyptian groups trying to topp le the secular regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Iran has denied supporting the Egyptian radicals.
Khatami Tries to Push Iran Reforms
By Scheherezade Faramarzi
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Outfoxed in a national vote for a powerful clerical assembly, allies of Iran's modera te president are now turning to upcoming city and town elections to try to push forward his reforms.
Supporters of President Mohammad Khatami said Tuesday that because a hard-line council will not have to ap prove candidates -- as it did in last week's balloting -- moderates will stand a better chance in the elec tions in Iran's 10,000 municipalities.
A victory by moderate candidates in balloting for municipal offices, the first such vote since the 1979 Is lamic revolution, could amount to an endorsement of Khatami and create a broad base of support for his eff orts to create a less restrictive society.
``The vote will be a chance for Mr. Khatami to fulfill his pledge to the people to draw them into the poli tical arena,'' said Majid Ansari, a moderate member of Parliament.
The elections, scheduled for Feb. 26, could be the next big clash in the running battle that conservatives and moderates have fought since Khatami was elected in May of last year.
At every step, hard-liners have resisted Khatami's efforts to grant more freedom to the press and the arts and to reduce Islamic strictures on average Iranians -- reforms that have earned Khatami widespread publi c support.
Moderates were trounced in last Friday's elections for the Assembly of Experts, gaining only 13 seats in t he 86-seat assembly, compared to 54 for the conservatives.
The assembly appoints and oversees the country's supreme leader and spiritual authority, Ayatollah Ali Kha menei. Khatami's allies had hoped to use the assembly to curb the powers of Khamenei, who effectively has final say in political decisions.
Moderates blamed their poor showing on the Council of Guardians, a body dominated by conservatives that ba rred most progressive theologians from becoming candidates. The council pared the candidate list from 396 to 167.
The Interior Ministry will be in charge of the municipal elections, approving 200,000 candidates from amon g an expected 800,000 applicants.
``The local elections are very important. The criteria for running are much easier. Candidates are ordinar y people. They don't have to be experts on religion,'' Mohammad Sadeq Husseini, adviser to the information minister, told The Associated Press.
Ansari, the moderate lawmaker who squeaked through to a seat on the Assembly of Experts, predicted that th e president's backers will ``achieve noticeable victory ... God willing.''
The moderates are hoping the municipal elections will produce a huge turnout similar to the one that gave Khatami his own victory.
In last year's presidential vote, 30 million of Iran's 38.5 million voters cast ballots, 20 million of the m for Khatami.
By contrast, only 18 million voters turned out last week, and many Iranians said they had boycotted the vo te because the Council of Experts had destroyed any real competition.
Conservatives triumph in Iran election
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Even the losers praised the election for an
assembly of Iran's ruling clergy, calling it a triumph for
However, the victory for hard-liners announced Sunday could set back moderate President Mohammad Khatami's reforms.
Conservatives won at least 54 places on the 86-seat Assembly of Experts in Friday's vote. Moderates won only 13 seats in the assembly, which oversees the country's supreme leader.
Sixteen seats went to candidates whose affiliation was unclear but who probably lean toward the hard-line camp, and three others went to independents who are believed closer to the moderates.
"We took a step, however small, toward the democratization of Iranian society in a reformist manner," said Saeid Laylaz, of the Executives of Construction party, which supports Khatami.
Sunday's results came as no surprise because most moderate candidates had been dropped from the ballot in advance by the Council of Guardians, which determines eligibility and is dominated by hard-liners.
Even with just 15 percent of the seats, Laylaz said the moderates will still have a substantial say in the oversight of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the choice of his eventual successor.
The moderates will form "a powerful faction" to make sure the assembly works harder and better than before, Laylaz told The Associated Press.
Assadollah Badamchian, a leader of the ultra-conservative Islamic Coalition Group, saw the vote itself as the real success. He said the Assembly of Experts always has functioned according to the country's constitution."The elections showed that democracy in Islam exists in the true sense," said Badamchian, whose faction wants to maintain the absolute powers of Ali Khamenei, the country's top Shiite Muslim cleric.
"It proved that Iran is the most democratic country in the region."
In recent months, hard-liners like Badamchian have fought Khatami's popular efforts to grant more freedom to the press and the arts and reduce Islamic strictures on the average citizen. Khatami's tenure has posed the biggest challenge to conservatives since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Nationwide, about 18 million, or 47 percent, of the 38.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in Friday's vote.
Many Iranians were skeptical of the numbers, even though there was no significant indication of vote rigging.
In Tehran, the capital, only 1.68 million of the district's 7.1 million eligible voters cast ballots, official figures showed.
Voters in Tehran could choose up to 16 candidates. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who remains influential and has sided with moderates, had 1,682,882 votes, the most of any candidate.
But hard-liners grabbed 11 of the 16 seats in Tehran, and moderates only five.
Some contrasted the vote with last year's presidential elections when some 30 million people cast ballots, 20 million of them for Khatami. "Then, there was competition. This time, people didn't care very much because there was no real contest," said Farshid Moeini, 21, a watch salesman at a shop in western Tehran.
Moeini said he voted because "I felt it was my duty."
Iran complains to Dutch over opposition protest
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Tehran on Sunday lodged a formal
protest with the Netherlands over the disruption by Iranian
opposition demonstrators of a speech by a prominent Iranian
parliamentarian in a Dutch city last week.
The daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Faezeh Hashemi, had to cancel a scheduled speech at the opening of an Islamic institute on Tuesday after protesters invaded the auditorium.
A handful of Iranian demonstrators entered the hall, police said. Another 250 shouted slogans outside the auditorium, part of Leiden University, as Hashemi arrived.
"The Foreign Ministry here on Sunday summoned the Dutch ambassador to Tehran to convey its strongest protests over the 'seditious acts' of some anti-Iran groups, including the MKO (Mujahideen Khalq) terrorist organisation, in the Netherlands," the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
The ministry said that the incident was "unjustifiable" because the ceremony had been scheduled and Hashemi had been formally invited to speak.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran demands the arrest and punishment of those responsible for the disturbing incident," the agency quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.
Dutch police said last week that no arrests had been made. In a statement, the Dutch office of the National Council of Resistance -- the Iraq-based Mujahideen's political arm -- had accused Iran's government of using Rafsanjani's daughter to cover up alleged crimes against women.
According to a spokesman for the council, the protesters had no quarrel with the new institute's planned scientific and educational programmes.
"But (we do have a problem) if they invite an agent of the Iranian regime to give a lecture about the merits of the Republic of Iran," the spokesman said.
Iran Releases Liberal News Editor
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The editor-in-chief of a banned liberal paper has been released from detention, a
news agency reported today.
Mahmoud Shams, editor-in-chief of Tous newspaper, was released on bail Wednesday night, the Islamic Re public News Agency said. IRNA did not report the amount of the bail.
He was the last of four key figures at the paper to be released after they were arrested Sept. 16 on c harges of activities against Iran's security and interests.
Earlier Wednesday, Ebrahim Nabavi, a columnist at the paper, and Mohammed Sadeq Javadi Hesar, a direct or, were freed on bail.
The managing director of the paper, Hamid Reza Jalaipur, was released on bail last week on the orders of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following an appeal by Jalaipur's mother.
The newspaper had angered hard-liners by questioning the authority of Khamenei. Hard-liners in the jud iciary have shut down six publications in recent months and detained six journalists for allegedly pub lishing lies.
The crackdown is stymieing the efforts of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, who has promoted press freedom since taking office in August 1997.
No date has been set for a trial of Shams and the other Tous journalists who were arrested and then re leased.