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September 1998, Week 1

FarsiNet FarsiNews

Mansour Pourhaydari Appointed Head Coach of Iran Sept 6
Iranian Troops Mass along Afghan Border Sept 5
Iranian President Condemns Assault Sept 5
Iran spent $100 million in year for jobs, infrastructure Sept 2
Iranian military exercises draw warning from Afghanistan Sept 2


Mansour Pourhaydari Appointed Head Coach of Iran
From:Persian Gulf Soccer Report by Hossein Sorooshi
Mansour Pourhaydari has been appointed by IFF as the new head coach of the Iranian National Team.

Last month Jalal Talebi, who guided Iran in France '98, turned down the job due to family reasons.

Prior to his new post as National Team head coach, Pourhaydari coached Iranian Club Shiraz Fajr-Sepass.

Pourhaydari's first duties as head coach is to prepare the Iranian National Team for the upcoming Asian Games in Thailand.

Pourhaydari will start the training on September 28th. The following friendlies are scheduled for the Iranian National Team:

Iran vs Kuwait on October 13th in Kuwait City
Iran vs Oman on November 11th in Tehran
Iran vs Russia on November 16th in Tehran
Iran vs Singapore on November 22th in Singapore

Iranian Troops Mass along Afghan Border
WASHINGTON(UPI) _ U.S. intelligence officials are warning the Pentagon and the White House that Iran is poised to send thousands of troops and dozens of aircraft into Afghanistan and that an attack was imminent.

The Washington Post reports today that in the past week under the guise of a military exercise, Iran sent about 35,000 troops, 25 attack aircraft, 80 T-72 tanks and 60 armored vehicles to its northeastern border with Afghanistan.

The troop movement coincides with escalating tensions between the two countries, fueled by reports that Taliban guards killed 10 diplomats in the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say any fighting between the two countries could be long and bloody because neither side possesses a definite military advantage and could destabilize the region.

The Post said U.S. analysts believe Iran wants to deny the Taliban recognition as a legitimate government of Afghanistan and was intent on breaking its hold over some territory it now controls.

The Taliban seized Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, in 1996, and now controls about two-thirds of the country. The Taliban took control of Mazar-e Sharif last month.

Iran, a Shiite-dominated nation, has been the principal backer of the chief anti-Taliban coalition, known as the Northern Alliance.

The Iranian government opposed the Taliban because of their insistence of an extreme form of the Muslim religion, which includes a ban on education for girls and jobs for women.

``They (the Iranians) are close to panic-stricken,'' a senior official told the Post. ``They are probably trying to intimidate the Taliban and there are certainly is a possibility they will cross the border.''

Two weeks ago, the U.S. military launched a cruise missile attack on what it called terrorist camps in southeastern Afghanistan in a effort to dismantle a movement led by exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden has been implicated by U.S. officials in the Aug. 7 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Iranian President Condemns Assault
By Afshin Valinejad
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami ordered police and judicial authorities Saturday to swiftly bring to justice the militants who assaulted a deputy president and a Cabinet minister.

About 80 hard-liners chanting ``Death to liberals!'' scuffled Friday with Deputy President Abdollah Nouri and Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, both close allies of Khatami, as they left Tehran University after prayers.

In a statement broadcast on national radio and television, Khatami said authorities should ``spare no effort against the ugly behavior of a small group of people who are grudgingly opposed to the establishment of freedom and justice.''

The militants knocked off Nouri's white cleric's turban, tore open Mohajerani's shirt and slapped both officials in the face.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said Saturday that the men were ``in good condition.''

Khatami also urged the judiciary, a stronghold of the hard-liners within the ruling hierarchy, to cooperate in bringing the assailants to justice.

Vigilantes suspected of acting on orders from hard-line officials have often resorted to violence to intimidate opponents and try to derail the reforms of Khatami, a moderate who has liberalized political debate and relaxed the Islamic social code since taking office in August 1997.

Friday's incident, however, was the first time that militants have attacked anyone of Cabinet rank. It is also rare for a clergyman to be physically assaulted.

Iran spent $100 million in year for jobs, infrastructure
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) -- Iran has in the past year spent 300 billion rials ($100 million) on more than 2,000 development projects in deprived rural areas in an effort to create jobs and improve infrastructure, state television said on Monday.

The projects have created 2,200 jobs and already provide services to 340,000 families, the head of rural affairs in Iran's government was quoted by the television as saying.

It was not clear what 12-month period he was referring to. The new Iranian year began on March 21, 1998.

The projects were announced on the final day of "Government Week" in Iran, seven days devoted to showcasing government services for the people.

As part of "Government Week," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami took part in a national telephone call-in, where he fielded questions from ordinary Iranians on a range of issues.

During the presidential phone-in which was aired on state television and radio, Khatami said: "We must do our best to eradicate poverty and improve living standards."

Khatami, who was elected last year on a broad mandate for social and political reform, has found his time increasingly occupied with economic concerns.

Low oil prices, high inflation and nagging unemployment have battered the country's economy, exacerbating the long-standing problem of rural poverty.

Officially, unemployment hovers around 9 percent, but independent analysts say it is closer to 20 percent.

Nearly a third of Iran's population of more than 60 million is aged between 11 and 24 and 800,000 job seekers enter the market each year, Iranian officials have said.

Other economists say that the number of jobs that must be created is closer to a million a year.

The government seeks to create more jobs in rural areas to prevent a mass exodus to Iran's overcrowded cities.

Iranian military exercises draw warning from Afghanistan
CNN-Thousands of Iranian troops have massed on the Iran-Afghanistan border for military exercises scheduled to begin Tuesday, promp ting Afghanistan to warn its neighbor against escalating tensions between the two countries. On Monday, Iran announced the exercises, which will cover 230 square miles (600 square kilometers) and involve 70,000 troops. The l ocation is about 60 miles from the Afghanistan border.

Iran said the exercises will test new weapons and equipment and are the largest military maneuvers since the 1979 revolution. The e lite Revolutionary Guards and Basij volunteer forces will take part in the maneuvers, Iranian state television said. Afghanistan warned that the exercises will escalate tensions between the two countries, which have been feuding over missing Irania n diplomats.

"Iran is holding military exercises close to the Afghan border, but we are saying be careful of our people and the territorial inte grity of Afghanistan," said a statement issued by the ruling Taliban militia's foreign ministry in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Iran has accused the Taliban of holding hostage 11 Iranian diplomats, a journalist and 35 truck drivers. According to Iran, the diplomats disappeared when the Taliban captured the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, where Iran maintained a consulate. Iran closed its embassy in Kabul when the Taliban captured the capital city in September 1996. The Taliban has acknowledged holding the truck drivers but says it does not know the whereabouts of the others. On Monday, it asked the United Nations to mediate the dispute.

"Maybe they are with Iran, which is seeking an excuse to create problems for Afghanistan," spokesman Wakil Ahmad told the Afghan Is lamic Press by telephone from the southern town of Kandahar. "Although the United Nations has not fulfilled its responsibility towards Afghanistan, we ask that it play the role of mediator be tween Afghanistan and Iran on the question of Iranian diplomats," he said. In its statement, the Taliban accused its neighbors, in particular Iran, of interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs by aiding Taliban opposition.

Iran has repeatedly denied aiding a coalition of small parties fighting the Taliban. The anti-Taliban coalition represents most of the country's minority ethnic groups, including Shiite Muslims. Most Iranians are Shiite Muslims, while most Taliban soldiers belon g to the majority Sunni sect of Islam.

The Taliban now control about 90 percent of Afghanistan, but the group is not recognized as a legitimate government by the United N ations, Iran or the United States. The United States is closely monitoring the current Iranian troop movements, officials say. U.S. intelligence reports suggest that "it is possible" at least some of the diplomats may have been executed, leading to concern that Iran may take retaliatory military action against its neighbor, U.S. officials told CNN. U.S. officials said there is concern that the massing of forces near the Afghan border may be a precursor to a military action agai nst the Taliban.

One official told CNN the range of options available to Iran include a terrorist-style strike or "even an armed incursion into Afgh anistan." The reports indicated that the most likely target for any assault appeared to be the "key provincial Taliban-held city" of Herat. Troop movements already observed include tanks and artillery pieces along with "thousands of troops" of the Iranian Revolutionary G uard, said the official. The exercises are expected to last for several days.


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