Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 6 Feb 2000 to 7 Feb 2000 - Special issue

There are 15 messages totalling 1273 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. Iranian-American_Professionals_&_Iran What_is_our_responsibility
2. The Lighter and Darker Side of Elections
3. Mohajerani: President Only Has the Right to Dismiss Me
4. Countdown to Final Ballot
5. Iranian Scientist Wins WIPO Award
6. Iran Builds 26-Man Hovercraft
7. RADIO FREE EUROPE-IRAN WEEKLY REPORT-PART1/2
8. RADIO FREE EUROPE-IRAN WEEKLY REPORT-PART2/2
9. Zoulfaqar-2 Military Exercise Launched in Western Iran
10. Rafsanjani on Mohajerani's Side?
11. Divided reformist camp agrees to some common candidates for elections
12. Iran reformers hit back at conservative cleric with defamation action
13. Iranian Jews are Iranian before they are Jewish, says Jewish MP
14. Iranian Guards chief threatens reprisals for Tehran blasts
15. Militants battle the wind of change in Isfahan

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:12:46 -0400
From: Johns Hopkins Iranian Health Forum <iacs@SMARTY.SMART.NET>
Subject: Iranian-American_Professionals_&_Iran What_is_our_responsibility=3F=94?=

The Johns Hopkins Iranian Health Forum lecture series entitled
"Public Health and Medicine in Iran"
continues with the following lecture:

“Iranian-American Professionals & Iran— What is our responsibility?”

An Evening with Asghar Rastegar, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Associate Chair for Academic Affairs, Yale
University Medical School, and
Former Vice-Dean, University of Shiraz Medical School (formerly Pahlavi
University)

Come join us for an exciting dinner and evening presentation with Dr.
Asghar Rastegar, distinguished
member of the Yale medical faculty and a former Vice-Dean of the Shiraz
University School of Medicine. Dr. Rastegar is widely known for his
involvement in medical education and health issues in Iran and the United
States, and is in high demand as a speaker and consultant. We are delighted
that he has agreed to join us for what promises to be an excellent evening.

Monday, 7 February 2000
7:30 to 10:00pm (includes Dinner)

Becton-Dickinson Lecture Hall, Hygiene Building, Johns Hopkins School of
Public Health
615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD USA

Please note that the dinner—of delicious Persian food, including chelo
kebab and more—is being provided by House of Kabob at the discounted price
of $10 per person.

SPONSORED BY THE JOHNS HOPKINS IRANIAN HEALTH FORUM.

For further information, contact Mr. Arash Koochek at akoochek@jhpsh.edu
or visit http://www.zeba.com/iacs/jhihf.htm#upcoming_events and
http://www.zeba.com/iacs.htm

If you wish to be excluded from our mailings,please reply to this message
with "unsubscribe" written
in the subject heading

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:43:45 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: The Lighter and Darker Side of Elections

IRAN NEWS EDITORIAL FEBRUARY 07, 2000

The Lighter and Darker Side of Elections

There are only eleven more days left before the eventful election of the
Sixth Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis). The countdown has already
started but the final list of candidates is a moot point! The Council of
Guardians (CG) is still preoccupied with putting the finishing touches on the
approved list of candidates. Time is running out for the candidates to start
on their already much circumscribed campaign activity period! Tehran's main
thoroughfares have been rigged out for the fateful event. The participating
groups and political parties are painstakingly at work to notify the public
of their manifestoes on hoisted posters and placards. They intend to put up a
good and fair fight in a favorable climate! Alas! the hopes may appear to be
a little premature! Within the last few days, certain pieces of news have
brought to light cases of ripping of campaign posters, physical assaults on
meetings and speeches.

Should these extreme reactions persist, especially during the final week when
campaign activities reach their climax and candidates are permitted to
identify themselves and their political mentors, the probabilities of taut
nerves giving way to confrontations may not be too farfetched.

At this juncture, it is definitely incumbent on the Ministry of Interior and
the law enforcement forces to nip these unlawful acts, which pollute the
healthy climate of election, in the bud. It is also imperative that these
nefarious felons, no matter how they are disguised, be dealt with as quickly
as possible and the public be informed of their true inauspicious identity.
Most of these individuals are professionals in their ugly trade and have
amply manifested in the previous election run-ups the sort of ominous
characters they are. There is no doubt that there are certain low profile
individuals manipulating these gangs. These men too must be found out and
their identities made public.

We hope the aforementioned expedient measures will be taken in good time to
allow our citizens to enjoy a constructive and healthy election.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:45:40 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Mohajerani: President Only Has the Right to Dismiss Me

Mohajerani: President Only Has the Right to Dismiss Me

IRAN NEWS POLITICAL DESK

TEHRAN -- Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ataollah Mohajerani, said
here yesterday that the people staging a sit-in at Qom Theological School
last week had in the beginning objected to a caricature printed in `Aazad'
newspaper, and that the case of the caricature had been fast taken care of by
the supervision council in charge of the press.

Later on, however, he said, the same people sitting in Qom presented certain
other demands. "The ouster of Ershad minister was the minimum demand of those
people. At times, the topics of their speeches and conversations were so
markedly political that the act tended to connect the sit-in and their
criticism of the cultural matters with the upcoming elections for the sixth
term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly," he noted in response to a
question by IRAN NEWS. Mohajerani was talking in a news conference.

He also said he had no plans to step down. "Quitting is not in my nature,"
the minister said.

Mohajerani said he was "open to any criticism on the issue of the cultural
work" of his ministry but clearly ruled out resigning.

"If the Supreme wants me to resign, President Mohammad Khatami only has to
give me the word," said Mohajerani.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mohajerani said: "In the event such scholars of
high standing and fairness as Javadi Amoli and Meshkini should bother to step
in and participate in a parley in the presence of representatives of the
print media in Qom, I would be ready to respond to the objections of
protesting theological students, and I will trust Messrs Javadi Amoli and
Meshkini as arbiters.

"Things must be cleared up. It would not be fair for one party to be allowed
to enumerate and publish problems without the other side being allowed to
offer an answer...

"I have invited Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, and he has accepted my invitation,
and I would like the Iranian Radio and Television to volunteer to organize
that debate (and air it on radio and television) in which case many
ambiguities and misunderstandings would be cleared..."

Asked about the arrest of the Azad paper's cartoonist, Nik Ahangh-Kosar, who
was remanded in custody Saturday, Mohajerani refused to comment, saying he
would "respond later".

On the upcoming legislative elections, due to take place February 18,
Mohajerani said he believed "the current conservative majority would be
replaced by reformers."

The courts' decision on the Azad issue was taken "in view of social
sensitivities," the minister said, in reference to the lively campaign
mounted by religious conservatives in recent days.

Theology students had gathered in Qom since February 2 to protest against
"insulting" newspaper cartoons of Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi.

They had demanded stronger press controls and the removal of Mohajerani,
whose ministry is responsible for issuing press permits.

The demonstrators ended their protest Saturday evening, after an appeal by
Ayatollah Khamenei.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:47:04 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Countdown to Final Ballot

Countdown to Final Ballot

Head of the joint staff of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) General
Hussein Alaie said that the IRGC will take stance neither for nor against any
hopeful for the sixth Majlis elections.

Alaie said any person managing to win public votes would be their
representative. He added that IRGC invites people to massively turn out at
the elections.

Commander of the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Brigadier General Hedayat
Lotfiyan said that 120,000 forces under his command are to maintain safety
and security of the Sixth Majlis Election.

Speaking at the flag hoisting ceremony of the LEF, Lotfian urged Majlis
deputies to support law and pass laws in order to help remove people's
economic and cultural problems and stand against hegemonic powers.

He also opined that it is the right of all Muslims to prevent election of
incompetent candidates.

Cooperatives minister and member of the Central Council of Islamic Iran
Participation Front (IIPF) Morteza Haji said that presence of the Expediency
Council (EC) chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at sixth Majlis is positive
from government's point of view.

Haji said that Rafsanjani had held key posts for years and has a good
experience.

Asked whether Rafsanjani's presence at Majlis would give heavy weight to the
segment of government that believes in the plan for downsizing government,
Haji gave a positive answer.

He has been identified as "spiritual father" of the Executives of
Construction Party (ECP) and he himself believes in the plan, he added.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:46:37 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iranian Scientist Wins WIPO Award

Iranian Scientist Wins WIPO Award

TEHRAN (UNIC) -- On behalf of Director General of World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) Kamil Idris, U.N. Resident Coordinator Francesco Bastagli
today gave WIPO's gold medal to an Iranian scientist, Akbar Zartab, for his
work on axial internal combustion engines.

Also, during the 13th Kharazmi International Award-Giving Ceremony, Bastagli
presented WIPO's gold medal to Russia's Iliya Blekhaman for his discovery,
investigation and the practical use of the phenomenon of self-synchronization
of rotating bodies.

Bastagli told the audience of WIPO's view that giving public recognition to
the achievements of inventors would provide a stimulus to the rapidly growing
inventive activities in the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the numerous
inventors whose efforts were of utmost importance in strengthening the
intellectual and industrial base of this country.

"We hope that the WIPO awards will contribute to a wider recognition of the
inventors' work and their role in social and technological development," the
U.N. official added.

"The United Nations continues to develop Iran's research and applied research
capabilities," Bastagli said in his speech in the presence of President
Mohammad Khatami, several ministers and senior government officials.

"I expect to sign soon a memorandum of understanding(MoU) with the Ministry
of Culture and Higher Education providing an overall framework for mutual
support between the United Nations and the universities as well as research
institutions of Iran", he added.

The United Nations in Iran is pursing several initiatives to promote the flow
of scientific and technical knowledge within and without the country. This
includes the United Nations Development program (UNDP) and Transfer of
Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) projects with the government
of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which have brought 313 experts to give
advisory services and conduct advance teaching courses in Iran for short
durations.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 07:47:43 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran Builds 26-Man Hovercraft

Iran Builds 26-Man Hovercraft

IRAN NEWS NATIONAL DESK

TEHRAN -- Ministry of Defense and Logistics of the Armed Forces has built a
hovercraft capable of carrying 26 troops and two tons of cargo, the
production line of which will come on stream soon.

The hovercraft is designed to move at 80 km per hour on land, at sea and in
the marshlands with a capacity to travel 600 km without refueling.

Defense Minister Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani said construction of the 26-man
hovercraft is a turning point in the defense industry, because the department
had already produced only two-man and four-man hovercrafts.

Shamkhani said, quoted by IRNA, the vehicle is capable of carrying logistical
operations, reconnaissance and relief missions.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 21:47:06 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: RADIO FREE EUROPE-IRAN WEEKLY REPORT-PART1/2

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
_____________________________________________________________
RFE/RL IRAN REPORT
Vol. 3, No. 6, 7 February 2000

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional
Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

**************************************************
HEADLINES
* KHATAMI URGES YOUTH TO UNDO CANDIDATE REJECTIONS
* CANDIDATE LISTS ANNOUNCED
* WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT PRECLUDES REVOLUTION'S 'IMPLOSION'
* THREE JEWISH PRISONERS RELEASED ON BAIL
* MILITARY 'SELF-SUFFICIENCY'
* TEHRAN AT ODDS WITH ISLAMIC COMMUNITY ON CHECHNYA
* RFE/RL IN IRANIAN PRESS
**************************************************

KHATAMI URGES YOUTH TO UNDO CANDIDATE REJECTIONS.
Young voters are a powerful constituency in a country
where the voting age is 16 and approximately half of the
population is under 25. In Iran, these young voters tend to
side with reformists, and they voted in overwhelming numbers
for President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in May 1997. In
comments at the end of January, Khatami urged Iran's young
people to participate in the 18 February parliamentary
elections. At the same time, he made comments that can be
interpreted as a criticism of the Guardians Council's
rejection of candidates.
Khatami discussed the Guardians Council power of
"advisory supervision"--it rejects or approvesof
"advisory supervision"--it rejects or approvesof
"advisory supervision"--it rejects or approves candidates for
elected office--in a 25 January meeting with the Islamic
Students Association's Central Council. Khatami said he
believes that "even if we leave this society alone and do not
place supervision or conditions over it, the choice of most
of the people would be religion, independence, and honor,"
according to state broadcasting. In what can also be regarded
as a criticism of tough standards for social conduct imposed
in the name of Islam, he said: "We should refrain from
useless pressure and strictness, which are called for neither
by religion nor by law."
In a 31 January interview with state broadcasting,
Khatami urged people to vote. He pointed out that in the face
of mass action, "all efforts and all powers are humbled
before the will of the nation." Khatami went on to say that
the public still wants Islam, but it is "an Islam that has
respect for these people...[one] that wants to see the
establishment of a popular government and to have the people
decide for themselves and determine their own destiny."
Khatami acknowledged that the younger generation did not
participate in the 1978-1979 revolution, so it may not
understand what its parents fought for. The Iranian president
said that the revolution was about sovereignty, and by
voting, the youth are continuing the revolution. "Everyone
who has a right to vote, and young people especially...must
go to the polling stations." Khatami recognized that some
people might be unhappy about the Guardians Council's vetting
process, but "Even if some people are upset about some
things, they must not allow this to detract from the
liveliness of the elections."
Khatami's closing comments were also critical of the
Guardians Council, although he was less direct than he was
when criticizing it before the October 1998 Assembly of
Experts election. This time he said that "Some people may
like this law, some people may not like this law, but the
right thing for us to do is to respect the law." Khatami
added that "no right should be trampled, neither the right of
the voter, nor the rights of the people being elected."
Khatami's comments, however, can be interpreted another
way. He recognizes that young voters may be unhappy about
candidate disqualifications and about the system generally,
and he is concerned that they will not vote as a form of
protest. The regime cites voter participation as a mark of
its legitimacy, so a boycott of any sort could undermine such
claims. Thus, he is encouraging participation to avoid
embarrassment of the regime.
This interpretation finds support in Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's statement on 2 February that through
their massive participation, the Iranian people will "slap
America's face." Khamenei said "the enemy is trying to
prevent people from massively participating in the
parliamentary elections so as to claim that people have
distanced themselves from the revolution and system," IRNA
reported. (Bill Samii)


CANDIDATE LISTS ANNOUNCED.
Interior Ministry Deputy for Socio-Political Affairs
Mustafa Tajzadeh, who heads Iran's election headquarters,
said that even though the Guardians Council confirmed the
rejection of 668 potential candidates for the parliamentary
election, it had not heard all appeals by the candidates. He
added that some of the candidates were not even told why they
were disqualified, IRNA reported on 2 February, and he
wondered why those whose candidacies were approved in
previous elections were rejected this time.
Mohammad Rezai-Babadi, Tehran deputy governor for
political and security affairs and head of the Tehran
Province Election Headquarters, named a number of those who
had been rejected, "Iran" reported on 31 January. One of the
better-known names is Abdullah Nuri, who subsequently asked
people not to write in his name on their ballots because it
would void them. The rejection of sitting parliamentarian
Yadollah Tahernezhad from Chalus was met with a demonstration
by several hundred of his supporters, "Iran" reported on 2
February.
Some reformist journalists also had trouble. The
candidacies of Heshmatollah Tabarzadi and Hussein Kashani of
the banned "Hoviat-i Khish" were rejected. Hamid Reza
Jalaipur of the banned "Neshat" also had his candidacy
rejected. He complained that "I heard in the news reports
that I had been disqualified again by the Guardians Council,
but I have not been given any reasons or explanations,"
according to the 2 February "Akhbar-i Eqtesad."
Nationalist figures like Ezattolah Sahabi, Habibollah
Peyman, and Ebrahim Yazdi (of the Freedom Movement) were
rejected, too. They protested in a public statement and asked
President Mohammad Khatami and the 2nd of Khordad coalition
to respond. But the nationalists again promised that despite
the rejections, they will "use every other legal and
legitimate means to restore the trampled rights of themselves
and other candidates," Asr-i Azadegan" reported on 31
January. Former Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar
Mohtashemi-Pur argued that the Freedom Movement should not be
allowed to enter the government because "That faction will
establish a dictatorship," "Fath" reported on 31 January.
Parliamentarian Faezeh Hashemi, on the other hand, told the 2
February "Asr-i Azadegan" that the Freedom Movement should be
allowed to enter the government.
Many 2nd of Khordad candidates, including Ahmad Burqani,
had their candidacies confirmed, but others, such as Islamic
Iran Participation Party founders Abbas Abdi and Ali Reza
Farzad, were rejected. Theoretically, the presence of many
candidates from the 18-member pro-Khatami coalition will help
it at the polls. A 2nd of Khordad leader, Said Hajjarian of
the IIPP, explained that the coalition is fielding 30
candidates and it hopes to win 20 seats, "Abrar" reported on
3 February. But there are splits in the coalition over
preferred candidates, and Hajjarian said that the coalition
would issue five different lists. Indeed, the lists of the
Office for Strengthening Unity, Executives of Construction
Party, and the relatively moderate Militant Clerics
Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mobarez) have been
announced, and they are far from identical.
The Khatami government needs for reformists to win a
majority in the parliament if its policies are to succeed.
Ken Katzman of the U.S. Congressional Research Service
explained this by using the example of relations with the
U.S., always a hot topic in Iranian politics. He told RFE/RL
that "If Khatami allies are able to gain a majority in the
Majlis, we could see some forward progress resuming because
then Foreign Minister [Kamal] Kharrazi would be relatively
immune from impeachment if he decides to take some risks and
move forward.... There could be some minor steps that could
lead to bigger things.... The key point is that Khatami will
then have a cabinet which cannot then simply be removed by
his opponents." (Bill Samii)


WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT PRECLUDES REVOLUTION'S 'IMPLOSION.'
Iran's government appears to be on "the verge of
imploding," an article in the January/February 2000 "Foreign
Affairs" observed. "The revolution is imploding," argued a
"Foreign Policy" article three and a half years earlier.
That the implosion has not occurred yet, according to
the author of both articles, to some extent can be attributed
to the revolution's empowerment of the Iranian people. A
particularly noteworthy aspect of this empowerment is the
women's movement, according to "Foreign Affairs." This, in
turn, is demonstrated by women's part in electing President
Khatami, the "brazen" stance of women's publications on
reform issues, and their presence, both as students (40
percent of the total number) and as teachers (about one-
third), at universities.
Not only were Iran's roughly 32 million females a factor
in Khatami's election, they will be important in the February
parliamentary elections, too. Some 504 women registered as
candidates. Leading political figures are urging women to
vote, and candidates are propounding gender issues.
Expediency Council chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi-
Rafsanjani, for example, told the parliament that its recent
passage of a bill on separate facilities for medical
treatment was inappropriate for the current era, the "Tehran
Times" reported on 31 January.
It is not just medical treatment facilities that are
gender-based. Medical education is also. In mid-January,
student's from Qom's female-only Fatemieh Medical School
demonstrated against the poor quality of instruction and
facilities at their institution (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 24
January 2000). The teaching hospital affiliated with Fatemieh
also is segregated on the basis of gender, so the number of
patients per student is inadequate.
Gender-related problems exist at the primary levels of
education, too. Rural attitudes and traditions hinder
governmental literacy promotion programs. Parents are
reluctant to send daughters to schools with male teachers,
for example. And when illiteracy of mothers is widespread,
illiteracy of daughters is a natural consequence. Also, girls
in the provinces are forced to marry at a younger age than
their urban counterparts. It is not just a traditional
background that results in early marriage. Maryam told the 10
January "Qods" from Mashhad why she quit school: "The reason
I quit my studies was that my father was addicted to drugs
and forced me to marry at the age of 15."
Zahra Shojai, Khatami's adviser on women's affairs,
complained that facilities available to men and to women are
of an uneven quality. She also said that the government is
considering creation of a ministry to deal with women and
youth affairs, IRNA reported on 30 January, and currently,
113 non-governmental organizations and 200 cultural centers
provide legal, psychological, and other services for Iranian
women. Shojai did not, however, think that this is adequate,
adding that more special women's institutions must be
created, IRNA reported on 28 December. She reminded officials
that they are "duty-bound to prepare the grounds for women to
enjoy their own rights." On a somewhat encouraging note,
Shojai went on to say that the budget for next year allocates
20 billion rials (between $2.5 and 11 million, depending on
the exchange rate) for handling women's affairs.
Public empowerment is being seen in the cultural sphere,
too, specifically in questions of artistic freedom versus
government standards. "Iranian cinema has led a major
counter-cultural revolution since the early 1990s," according
to "Foreign Affairs." Films now tilt at all the inadequacies
of the system, including gender-biased laws. The greater
freedom enjoyed by the movie industry can be attributed to
Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani,
who has been severely criticized by hardliners for his
efforts.
There is more to do in this field. Batul Mohtashemi,
speaking at a mid-January seminar on women in the Iranian
film industry, said females must be portrayed more
realistically in the movies.
Conservative parliamentarian Nafiseh Fayyaz-Bakhsh has
come out strongly against pictures of women appearing in
publications, however, because she believes that "anybody who
uses the picture of a woman has some ulterior motive." She
explained her logic further in the 23 October issue of
"Zanan" monthly: "Any person who prints the picture of a
woman on his publication intends to exploit the beauty of
that woman and not to glorify her artistic talent. If you
want to glorify or discuss the artistic talent of a woman you
could do so by writing about it." She did not say how she
felt about women in movies. Using pictures of a male athlete
or star is acceptable, she said.
Gender equality has a way to go in other cultural areas.
Female parliament deputy Faezeh Hashemi, who tends to be
outspoken, said she advocated girls being able to propose
marriage to boys. She also called for changes in the dress
code for women. Hashemi even said women should be allowed to
bicycle in public, "Sobh-i Imruz" reported on 22 December,
admitting "I myself ride the bike late at night."
Fayyaz-Bakhsh is not as well known as Hashemi, but she
has served in the fourth and fifth parliaments. Fayyaz-Bakhsh
described some of the legislation specific to women. Among
these is a family protection bill which makes provisions for
insolvency and hardship, a bill on child custody, and a bill
stating that the New Year's bonus (Eidi) for male and female
pensioners and civil servants must be equal. There are 12
female parliamentarians of various ideological persuasions,
but according to Fayyaz-Bakhsh, "on issues related to women,
we are all unanimous." (Bill Samii)


THREE JEWISH PRISONERS RELEASED ON BAIL.
Judiciary spokesman Hussein Mir-Mohammad-Sadeqi
announced on 2 February that three of the 13 Jews arrested
last spring for espionage have been released from Shiraz
prison on bail, state broadcasting reported. He said they
were released because the charges against them were
relatively minor. The three were later identified as Navid
Balazadeh, Amin Taflin, and Nejatollah Borukhimnezhad. The
trial of the other prisoners will start next week, Sadeqi
said.
Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Yunesi told
"Entekhab" on 12 January that whatever the verdict, it will
be implemented: "If they are condemned to hang, they will be
hanged, if they are acquitted, they will be freed."

<< Continued to next message >>>

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 21:48:04 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: RADIO FREE EUROPE-IRAN WEEKLY REPORT-PART2/2

<< This message is part 2 of a previous message >>>

Harun Yashay, head of the Jewish Association in Iran,
said "the case is in the hands of Iran's judiciary and we
trust it." He added, according to London's "al-Hayah" on 3
February, "Iran's Jews will comply with the court's decision
whatever it is, though they hope that the trial will not
cause unrest in their circles and also hope to see the
defendants acquitted." (Bill Samii)


MILITARY "SELF-SUFFICIENCY."
Iranian officials make claims about military self-
sufficiency in research, development, and production during
special events. Recent developments cast doubt on these
claims.
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, commemorating the Ten-
Day Dawn (the anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's
return to Iran in 1979), said the most important lessons
"learned from Imam's guidance and Islamic revolution has been
the value of self-sufficiency and breaking from the chain of
dependence," state television reported on 2 February. During
last year's Sacred Defense Week (commemorating the war with
Iraq), Brigadier General Olfati, head of the Seventh
Department of the Office of the Joint Staff (charged with
research and self sufficiency), described his unit's 470
projects. Among these are fire control systems for
helicopters, optical guided missiles, tanks, and aircraft. He
also discussed "other efforts aimed at attaining technical
and scientific self-sufficiency," according to the 21 October
"Saff" military journal.
This self-sufficiency is based on foreign know-how and
supplies. Deliveries of Russian Mi-171 helicopters (the
export version of Russia's Mi-8AMT) to the Iranian Navy were
announced on 13 January, ITAR-TASS reported. They can be used
as ground-assault and fire-support helicopters, and even if
not supplied with weapons systems they can be upgraded
easily. North Korea and Iran are cooperating on improving a
naval cruise missile purchased from China, the London "Times"
reported on 11 January. This will be an improved version of
the Chinese C802 missile, which resembles the Exocet.
Previously, Iran purchased the C801 missile from China.
In January, executives of 1 missile from China.
In January, executives of Japan's Sunbeam company were
arrested for shipping RPG-7 sighting lenses to Iran, Tokyo's
Kyodo news service reported. Tehran denied the reports.
Executives of Wisconsin's Siraj International pled guilty on
charges of shipping military aircraft parts to Iran, AP
reported last October. Mehrdad Banimostafavi of Texam
Holding, Ltd., a holding company in Switzerland that
forwarded the parts to Iran, was on the run. (Bill Samii)


TEHRAN AT ODDS WITH ISLAMIC COMMUNITY ON CHECHNYA.
Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov told an 18
January press briefing at RFE/RL that despite Moscow's
massive propaganda effort, Chechnya is gaining international
understanding and support. But this claim is undercut by
Tehran's relatively subdued reaction to the war. Russia's
official RIA-Novosti agency said it all on 14 January: "It is
very important for Moscow that Iran has again confirmed its
pro-Russian position on Chechnya... and recognizes its right
to punish terrorists and bandits."
Tehran's stance stands in sharp contrast to criticism of
Russian conduct from other parts of the Islamic world. For
that matter, Iranian media and religious officials have not
been taken in by Russian propaganda, although RIA-Novosti
claimed on 27 January that "Iran's leading news media approve
of [Tehran's] stance on the Chechnya problem." Yet Tehran's
financial and military interests are overriding its
humanitarian--and, as head of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, religious responsibilities.
Some of the sharpest criticism came in an editorial in
"Al-Sharq al-Awsat," an influential, Saudi-owned London daily
whose editorials reflect official Saudi foreign policy views.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is guilty of
"stabbing the Chechen Republic in the back," the Arabic daily
said on 27 January, referring to his statements that the
conflict is an internal Russian affair. As for the OIC trip
to Moscow to review the humanitarian situation, the daily
said it was timid and Kharrazi should have stayed home.
Commentary from other sources in the Islamic community
was gentler with Tehran, but they obviously saw through
Russian propaganda. Allahshukur Pashazade, head of the
Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, told Baku's ANS
TV on 8 January that despite Russian statements to the
contrary, "from the very beginning up to now the Russian
empire has been against the Muslim religion and Muslims."
The Cairo-based World Islamic Council for Call and
Relief condemned what it called Russian troops' "use of
Chechen civilians as human shields in Grozny," and it
appealed to Muslim countries and major powers to help bring
about a halt to the fighting. Egyptian Islamic scholar Sheikh
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi urged Arab and Muslim countries to expel
their Russian ambassadors and to recall their ambassadors
from Moscow, Qatar's Al-Jazeera television reported on 17
January. Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa commented on
Chechnya after he met with Kharrazi in Davos, Switzerland,
IRNA reported on 28 January. In what can be interpreted as a
criticism of Iranian leadership of the OIC, Musa said that
"In the future meeting of the OIC foreign ministers, top
priority should be given to the Chechnya crisis, and it is
essential that the Islamic states should adopt united stances
on this issue."
From Kabul, Afghan Voice of Sharia radio said, "The
Muslim country of Chechnya...is subject to fierce attacks by
the barbaric Russians...The Russians...cannot tolerate the
independence of the Muslim people of Chechnya." Kabul
officially recognized the government of Chechnya in mid-
January, and Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Motawakkil
urged the rest of the Islamic community to do the same in a
27 January interview with "Al-Sharq al-Awsat."
Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel Meguid told
journalists that "an urgent political settlement to the
Chechen crisis must be reached," AFP reported on 28 January.
He called for a halt to the Russian invasion.
Some Iranian religious leaders, such as Ayatollah Abdul
Vaez-Javadi-Amoli, are criticizing Russian conduct, too.
Javadi-Amoli said during the 15 January Friday Prayers in
Qom: "Finally, the Red Army should understand that it has
failed. It should end the killing of innocent people,
particularly Muslims in Chechnya, otherwise it will find
itself in a worse situation." He continued: "[Russia] will be
destroyed and disgraced if it continues with the killing of
the innocent Muslims in Chechnya." After the Friday Prayers
in Tehran, a demonstration was held in front of the Russian
embassy and a protest letter was submitted to the ambassador,
"Kayhan International" reported on 24 January. The letter
said, "we savagely condemn the savage killings of defenseless
people of Chechnya."
Although the Russian government has resorted to
imprisoning journalists, such as RFE/RL's Andrei Babitsky,
information about reality in Chechnya is still getting out
and sections of the Iranian media are continuing their
criticism of Russian conduct. On 15 January, the "Iran News"
announced "credible reports of Russian atrocities." The
conservative "Jomhuri-yi Islami" described the Russian
Federation's acting president, Vladimir Putin, as the
"butcher of Chechnya" on 6 January. "Kayhan International"
reported on 22 January that Putin is prolonging the war
because he fears a defeat will harm his March election bid.
Even state television said on 19 July that the war was
transforming from "a blitzkrieg to a war of attrition," and
the Russians cannot differentiate between terrorists and
ordinary people.
Tehran has stayed relatively silent on the issue from a
unilateral perspective, although it is claiming otherwise.
Kharrazi supposedly told visiting Deputy Foreign Minister
Grigory Karasin, Iranian state radio reported on 27 January,
that "Continuation of the war and bloodshed is a catastrophe
unacceptable to the Islamic world and it would bring an
unpleasant picture from Russia to the region and the Muslim
world."
Moscow did not take this as a criticism, if Kharrazi
actually said it. Karasin said, "The Iranian leadership is
well aware of the entire complexity of this struggle,
particularly after a link between the Chechen terrorists and
Afghan Taliban has manifested itself," ITAR-TASS reported on
28 January. Moscow's "Kommersant" on 28 January did not
interpret Kharrazi's statement as a criticism, either, and it
suggested that Tehran is interested in opposing "militant
Wahhabites and organized international terrorists," also.
Meanwhile, Iranian aid for Chechen refugees continues to
flow, with the sixth planeload being delivered in the first
week of February. Also, the Imam Khomeini Assistance
Committee launched a charity appeal for aid donations for the
refugees on 20 January. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu
recognized Iran as the top donor on 14 January. "Al-Sharq al-
Awsat," however, said the Russian Federation is diverting the
aid to people other than the Chechen refugees. (Bill Samii)


RFE/RL IN IRANIAN PRESS. The Iranian press continues to quote
RFE/RL's Persian Service, despite government instructions to
the contrary. The 29 January issue of the conservative
"Entekhab" quoted "Radio Liberty" on Iranian customs
officials and free trade. On the same day, two different
items in the hardline "Jebheh" quoted a "Radio Overthrowing
Liberty" report about the annual commemoration of nationalist
figure Mehdi Bazargan's death and "the CIA organization's
radio" report about Kish Free Trade Zone. Often, Iranian
newspapers quote RFE/RL interviews without citation of the
original source. (Bill Samii)


*************************************************
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:24:28 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Zoulfaqar-2 Military Exercise Launched in Western Iran

Zoulfaqar-2 Military Exercise Launched in Western Iran

IRAN NEWS POLITICAL DESK

TEHRAN -- The Ground Forces of the Army of the Islamic Republic yesterday
launched their largest airborne exercise in Western Iran.

Commander of Zoulfaqar 1-2 exercises Brigadier General Mahmoudi said hundreds
of paratroopers on board a C-130 hercules landed at 120 points at Ilam,
Saleh-Abad and Mehran, all in western Iran and the Air Force entered the
scene to support the Ground Forces.

He said the military exercise aims to evaluate the operational capacity of
the young officers adding that 35 stations have been set up to control
communication security in exercising electronic warfare.

The commander said the four-hour Zoulfaqar-2 exercise is unprecedented in
Iran. The troops will remain in western and southern Iran for the next 15
days, he said.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:29:24 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Rafsanjani on Mohajerani's Side?

PRESS REVIEW

Rafsanjani on Mohajerani's Side?

HAMSHAHRI * This daily affiliated to Tehran Municipality, reported that some
participants at the recent meeting of the Expediency Council (EC) tried to
urge other members to issue a statement to condemn the minister of culture,
Ataollah Mohajerani. However, thanks to the efforts of EC chairman, Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani, and those who were not willing to go along with the move,
no such decision was made.

Latest Conservative Tactic

SOBH-E EMROOZ * This leftist daily quoted Reza Hojjati, a senior member of
the Unity Consolidation Office (UCO), as saying that the conservatives are
trying to resort to tactics such as creating social tension ahead of the
upcoming parliamentary elections to force Mohajerani to resign.

They did the same, it should be noted, with President Mohammad Khatami when
he was hold the same job in the last decade. Therefore, these people are
trying to avoid defeat in the elections through such ploys.

UCO is a leftist student organization, founded by the members of the Islamic
Association of University Students.

Saints Ought to Stay Away from Politics

SOBH-E EMROOZ * A cartoon published in a reformist daily has been considered
offending a certain individual. It is though quite dangerous to make saint of
politicians [no matter who they are]. If someone thinks he is a saint and
should be immune from criticisms, he or she must not enter the political
scene. "It is not acceptable that a politician is allowed to insult [the
press], levels allegations against anyone he likes and then says that the
criticism against him mount to sacrilege." then says that the criticism
against him mount to sacrilege."

You Will See What We Can Do!

ASR-E AZADEGAN * This reformist daily quoted former chief of Judiciary,
Mohammad Yazdi, as saying: "We never tell lies or create tension.

But it has now been two years since you came to power, told lies and created
tension. We can easily create unrests and destabilize the society if we want
to. You are not aware of the power of the clerics who rule this country. If
the Leader permits us, we will show you what we are capable of doing."

Mesbah Going to London, Dailies Getting Hammered!

FATH * This reformist daily said that while hundreds of theology students
have staged a sit-in in Qom to protest against a caricature, published in
Azad daily, which is said to have depicted their teacher, Ayatollah Mesbah-e
Yazdi, in an unflattering way, Yazdi is in London to make speeches. Further,
he has made the trip at a time that the press has been highly critical of his
recent remarks when he said they have been receiving funds from the United
States (CIA). Meanwhile, Issa Saharkhiz, former Ministry of Culture official
in charge of press affairs, said Yazdi has visited America several times in
the past years.

Mesbah's Weekly Shut Down

FATH * The weekly Parto, under the management of Mahammad-Taqi Mesbah-e Yazdi
was closed following the publication of a cartoon which was perceived
insulting the dissident cleric Ayatollah Hussein-ali Montazeri.

Mohajerani Is a Traitor!

AKHBAR-E EQTESAD * This pro-Khatami daily reported that the governor of Bahar
and other city officials had left the Friday Prayers in protest to the
remarks of the prayer leader who called the Culture Minister Mohajerani a
traitor, a mercenary and worse that the defunct Shah.

Petition Demanding Dismissal

ABRAR * This rightist daily reported that a group of writers intend to sign a
petition in support of Mohajerani's suggested by the clerics in Qom, Tehran,
Mashhad and Tabriz.

Mohajeri to Replace Mohajerani?

JAVAN * This rightist daily reported that negotiations were held with Masih
Mohajeri, managing director of the fundamentalist Jomhouri Eslami daily,
regarding his appointment as minister of culture and Islamic guidance after
the possible firing of Mohajerani. Observers believed this move was aimed at
reducing the public (right-wing) pressure on the ministry.

FENM Warns of More Murders

AKHBAR-E EQTESAD * This pro-Khatami daily reported that the organization of
Fadaeeyan-e Eslam-e Nab-e Mohammadi (FENM) said in a statement that it has
tried six person in absentia and ruled that they are "corrupt" and must
therefore be executed. The organization said it would implement the verdict
in due course.

They also addressed the head of the Armed Forces Judiciary Organization,
Niazi, saying: "Mr. Niazi, you were a member of the Intelligence Ministry.

Why then do you undermine the Ministry along with those who were turned away
from the agency? You probably have breathed the "poisonous air" of the May 23
reform movement when you said the accused (those who committed the
assassinations) did not have a religious decree [for their acts].

The so-called FENM has claimed responsibility for the last year's political
killings and have emphasized that they had had religious decrees which
authorized them to go ahead with the murders.

Disparity in Coalition

MOSHAREKAT * This daily affiliated to Islamic Iran Partnership Party (IIPP)
said the Executives of Construction Party (ECP) has refused to place Mehdi
Karrubi, Seyed Mohammad-Reza Khatami, Mohsen Mirdamadi and Mohsen Armin in
their list candidates for the upcoming Majlis elections. This decision came
after fruitless negotiations with the IIPP regarding the May 23 Front's
support for Rafsanjani.

Referendum for Resumption of U.S. Ties

ENTEKHAB * Mohammad Javad Bahonar, rightist MP, said some reformist
newspapers said if their candidates secure the majority in the Majlis, they
would hold a referendum for resumption of ties with the United States, the
approbatory supervision and the Special Court for Clergy.

They want to eventually hold a referendum on whether to set aside Islam (to
separate state from religion).

Rafsanjani Started Political Reforms?

HAMSHAHRI * Hassan Rowhani said the Construction Era, initiated during the
presidency of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was due to the efforts made by the
government and the entire nation in a historic period.

Therefore, bringing the achievements of the period under question is doing
disservice to the country. The May 23 reform movement was, it should be said,
the product of Rafsanjani's presidency.

Complaint Against Fath

FATH * Ali Fallahian, former intelligence minister, has lodged a lawsuit
against the Fath daily, Akbar Ganji and Emadeddin Baqi.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 20:33:40 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Divided reformist camp agrees to some common candidates for elections

TEHRAN, Feb 7 (AFP) - Moderate Iranian reformers announced Monday that
they had achieved some common ground with their radical rivals ahead of a
key election battle with conservatives in parliamentary polls later this
month.

The Executives of Construction, a moderate grouping established as a
support base for former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, said it was
fielding more than half its 230 candidates for the February 18 polls in
common with the combined reformist coalition.

The grouping's deputy secretary general Hossein Marashi told the official
IRNA news agency that 145 of its candidates would be in full coalition
with the Second of Khordad reformist umbrella group, named after the day
according to the Iranian calendar of moderate President Mohammad Khatami's
sweeping 1997 election victory.

Some of these common candidates would be "in coalition with some other
groups and a number are independent," Marashi told the news agency.

The Executives have been split from other supporters of the reformist
president over Rafsanjani's candidacy for the key parliamentary elections
in which the reformers hope to end their conservative opponents' control
of the legislature.

A former ally of Khatami, Rafsanjani has won support for his candidacy
from the president's conservative opponents, infuriating the radicals who
accuse him of betraying their standard-bearer, former interior minister
Abdollah Nuri who remains in jail following his conviction for
"un-Islamic" activities by a hardline court.

Marashi said that a full 15 of the moderates' 26 candidates for the
capital also had the support of the biggest reformist grouping, the
Association of Combattant Clerics.

He said all but one of these also had the backing of the main radical
grouping, the Islamic Iran Participation Front led by the president's
brother, Mohammad-Reza.

Just three of the Executives' candidates were being fielded in common with
the main conservative coalition, the Association of Combattant Clergy, of
which Rafsanjani remains a member, Marashi said.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 20:32:48 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iran reformers hit back at conservative cleric with defamation action

TEHRAN, Feb 7 (AFP) - Iran's reformers hit back Monday at a conservative
cleric who is the complainant in a libel prosecution against a leading
cartoonist, demanding that he too be dragged before the courts for
slandering them in his sermons.

No fewer than 19 reformist dailies carried a petition signed jointly by
their editors calling for the prosecution of Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi
Mesbah-Yazdi for making the "defamatory" suggestion that they were in the
pay of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

"The Iranian justice system is facing a serious test ... it must summon
Mesbah-Yazdi before the courts and so restore the trampled rights of
journalists," the editors said.

The conservative cleric last month charged in a sermon at the main weekly
Muslim prayers in the capital that the CIA had infiltrated Iran's
reformist government and bribed moderate journalists.

His accusation prompted the cartoonist of the Azad daily, Nik
Ahangh-Kosar, to portray the cleric as a crocodile -- in a Farsi pun on
his name -- weeping at being a victim of "mercenary writers."

The cartoon sparked three days of protests by hardline students and earned
Ahangh-Kosar a summons before the conservative-controlled press court
which remanded him in custody in the capital's Evin prison on Saturday.

Under the strict system of Islamic law in force here since the 1979
revolution, defamation is considered a criminal offence punishable by a
jail term of between a month and a year, and in serious cases up to 74
lashes of the whip.

As a clergyman, Mesbah-Yazdi falls under the jurisdiction of the hardline
Special Court for the Clergy, which is considered extremely unlikely to
entertain the reformers' complaint of slander.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 20:34:05 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iranian Jews are Iranian before they are Jewish, says Jewish MP

TEHRAN, Feb 7 (AFP) - A prominent Iranian Jew hit out Monday at those
abroad who have seized on the upcoming trial of 13 members of his
community on spying charges as a stick to beat the Islamic Republic of
Iran, while expressing optimism that the accused would be found innocent.

Manushehr Eliasi, who represents the Jewish community in the Iranian
parliament, told AFP he welcomed the support the accused were receiving
"with all his heart."

"But there are two ways of supporting us. Iranians or Jewish Iranians
abroad, people of good will, are unhappy about this affair and want to
help us," he said.

"But there are also others who want to take advantage of the situation to
damage the Islamic Republic. They have ulterior political motives. We are
Iranians before we are Jews. We want to be integrated into Iranian
society, we do not want to break away," he said.

"Any country, any organisation, which wants to use their fate to damage
the Islamic Republic has no place in our hearts," he added.

The case of the 13 Jews, arrested in March and April last year, has
sparked numerous protests across the world, all of which have been
uniformly rejected by Tehran. They are due to go on trial before a
revolutionary court "in the coming weeks" in the southern city of Shiraz,
along with eight Muslims facing the same charges of spying for Israel and
the United States. They could face the death sentence if convicted.

Three of them, including a 16-year-old youth, were released on bail on
February 2, "because the charges against them were less serious than the
others," the official IRNA news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Mohammed
Mir-Sadeqi as saying.

Eliasi said he did not believe that the charges were well-founded. "I am
hopeful. These accusations are all aimed against teachers of Hebrew. How
could teachers of Hebrew be spies?" he said.

"Now that we know the charges against three of them have been reduced, we
hope the charges against all of them will be lifted," Eliasi said. "Of
course we would be happy if there was no trial at all," he added.

Eliasi, 58, a doctor by profession, said he would be standing in the
elections of February 18, hoping to continue to represent the Jewish
community in parliament.

He is one of five deputies representing Iranian minorities, along with two
Armenians, one Assyrian-Chaldean, and a Zoroastrian.

"I support everything I can achieve for my minority. But I am a deputy in
parliament, where I represent all the people, and I take part in all the
votes," he said.

He put the Iranian Jewish community at about 35,000, considerably more
than the generally accepted estimate of 27,000. More than 40,000 Iranian
Jews have left the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Most of
those left live in Tehran, Shiraz and Kermanshah in the west.

There are 59 working synagogues in the country, 24 of them in Tehran."The
Jews have become keener on their religion and go to synagogue more often"
since the revolution, Eliasi said.

Iran houses two major Jewish tombs, that of Esther, wife of the king of
Persia, who persuaded her husband not to exterminate the Jews, and that of
the prophet Daniel, who survived the lions' den. Eliasi said the Jewish
community and ministry of culture worked together to maintain the
monuments.

"We are one of the cradles of Jewish civilisation here," he said. "The
Talmud (the primary texts of the Jewish religion) was compiled in Iran."

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 20:35:25 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iranian Guards chief threatens reprisals for Tehran blasts

TEHRAN, Feb 7 (AFP) - The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards,
General Rahim Safavi, threatened reprisals Monday in the wake of
Saturday's attack in Tehran by the Iraq-based armed opposition People's
Mujahadeen, state radio reported.

"If Iraq does not prevent the infiltration of the counter-revolutionaries
on to Iranian soil Iran and its armed forces will riposte strongly,"
Safavi warned, pinning responsibility for the rebels' activities firmly on
Baghdad.

He noted that the Revolutionary Guards had "the task and duty of defending
Iran's frontiers and ensuring security in the border zones."

Safavi expressed the hope however that the Iranian government would
prevent further attacks by political means.

Explosions apparently caused by mortar bombs killed one person and wounded
five and damaged the offices of the Expediency Council, an official
arbitration body headed by influential former president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani.

It was the latest in a growing number of attacks claimed by the People's
Mujahadeen, mainly against security forces in areas bordering Iraq.

Safavi's warning came as Iranian troops began the last phase of military
manoeuvres in western Iran. The Mujahadeen claimed Sunday that their
guerrillas had clashed a dozen times with the government forces in the
region.

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 20:34:34 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Militants battle the wind of change in Isfahan

The Financial Times
February 5, 2000


Iran's third largest city seems likely to return reformists to parliament
in this month's elections, says Guy Dinmore

Cycling and headwear are hot issues in Iran, especially at election time.
A candidate's credentials as a "reformist" or "conservative" may well
hinge on his, or her, stance on the matter.

Halting his Peykan taxi at Isfahan's main square, Ahmad launched into a
tirade against the reformist allies of Mohammad Khatami, Iran's moderate
president. Their proposal that women should be allowed to ride bicycles in
a designated park, in view of unmarried men, was, he said, unIslamic and
outrageous.

"When they cycle, the wind against them will reveal the shape of their
bodies," he exclaimed. That feminine forms might also be exposed while
walking in inclement weather was irrelevant, Ahmed reasoned, because their
actions would have been unintentional.

Isfahan, with 1.4m people, is Iran's third largest city but also one of
the most religious, drawing its inspiration from the 17th century when the
Safavid kings made it their capital and built the most glorious mosques,
mausoleums and palaces of the time.

As chronicled by Edward Browne, the British traveller, 100 years ago, the
people of Isfahan have a reputation for "avarice and niggardliness". More
recently the city's name has been tarnished by outbreaks of violence by
small gangs of Islamic militants armed with sticks and stones.

A year ago Ayatollah Jalalledin Taheri, the Friday prayer leader and a
staunch supporter of the reformists, was forced to flee such a mob. His
black turban, signifying his status as a descendant of the family of the
Prophet Mohammad, was left lying before his mosque. Last summer a group of
elderly women tourists from England coming to Isfahan to view the solar
eclipse found themselves surrounded by a crowd chanting "Death to America".

As in the rest of Iran, however, the tide appears to be turning in Isfahan.

Hussein Mollaei, the head of the city council, says opinion polls indicate
that 80 per cent of voters in Isfahan will back reformist candidates in
parliamentary elections to be held on February 18.

The days of the militants are over, he says. They know that public opinion
has turned against them and support from their conservative sponsors has
waned. "They were more active here than in other cities but it is unlikely
they can do anything or create violence to upset the elections," he said.

Mr Khatami's reformist allies are confident across the country of
shattering the conservative-held majority in parliament. Buoyed by Mr
Khatami's resounding defeat of the hardline candidate in the 1997
presidential election, reformists in Isfahan swept eight of 11 seats in
city council elections last year. Isfahan province has 18 MPs who are
equally split between the two camps.

Although the militant element has been marginalised, the conservative
coalition could still spring some surprises, however.

Prominent reformists in Isfahan have been barred from running, eliminated
by the conservative Council of Guardians that checks candidates for
adherence to Islam and the revolution. Many lesser-known reformists remain
in the chase but may divide the vote.

The conservatives are better organised, have agreed on common lists of
names and have more money for the campaign. Abdulhossein Sassan, a city
councillor and economics lecturer at Isfahan university, says his father,
Ayatollah Taheri, who is 72 and ailing, is trying to knock sense into the
reformists.

"My father's role is to persuade the reformist groups to unite," Mr Sassan
said. The reformists may also be mistaken in assuming that the 70 per cent
of the electorate that voted for Mr Khatami in 1997 will also back his
supporters in parliament.

Ahmad, the taxi-driver, was enthusiastic about his president but critical
of "leftist" elements within the broad reformist coalition.

Apart from their risqué views on cycling, he also blames them for the "bad
hejab" now commonly seen on the streets. Hejab is the Islamic dress code
for women and strictly speaking means the chador -a black all-enveloping
tent - or at least covering the hair and wearing a long shapeless coat.
But some women are testing the limits of tolerance, showing their hair and
wearing short coats.

Iran is a complex country, however, and the depth of people's religious
feelings is not always a guide to their voting intentions.

In an Isfahan park four women, all university students, gave their views.
Two said hejab should be obligatory, two said women should be free to
choose. But all said they would follow the Islamic dress code even if it
were voluntary; all would probably vote for reformists.

Reza Mahzooniyeh, the editor of Tomorrow's Generation, the local
newspaper, said the people of Isfahan were both religious and liable to
decide at the last minute. "The result," he said, "is not predictable."

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 6 Feb 2000 to 7 Feb 2000 - Special issue