Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Feb 2000 to 18 Feb 2000 - Special issue

From: Automatic digest processor


There are 14 messages totalling 1243 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. Polling stations open for crucial vote
2. President Inspects Elections Headquarters
3. A Choice for Iran
4. Iran reformists confident of victory at polls
5. Reformists May Win Iran Elections
6. Early signs of a big turnout in Iranian election
7. Malaysia keen to step up oil investments in Iran
8. Enthusiastic Iranians flock to the polls
9. Khatami urges big turnout for ``epic'' Iran polls
10. Iran's reformers say poised for victory
11. IRAN REPORTEDLY SUPPORTING BASHIR IN POWER STRUGGLE AGAINST TURABI
12. The Economist: The people against the mullahs
13. Iran extends voting by 2 hours, citing big turnout
14. Iran rural region unconcerned by Khatami reforms

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 05:05:56 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Polling stations open for crucial vote

Polling stations open for crucial vote
Iran - Friday, 18 February 2000 - Agence France Presse



TEHRAN, Feb 18 (AFP) - Polling stations opened all over Iran at 9 a.m. (0530
GMT) Friday to elect a new parliament, Iranian state radio reported.

Of the country's more than 60 million inhabitants, 38.7 million aged 16 or
over are called on to vote in the sixth general elections since the Islamic
Republic was proclaimed in 1979.

Observers said the election was a battle between reformers and their
opponents.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 05:11:45 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: President Inspects Elections Headquarters

President Inspects Elections Headquarters


TEHRAN President Mohammad Khatami here Wednesday visited the Elections
Headquarters at the Interior Ministry and appreciated efforts of all those
involved in holding the Sixth Parliament elections slated for Friday February
18.
The president who was accompanied by Interior Minister Abdolvahed
Mousavi-Lari and a number of senior officials of the ministry, was briefed on
the activities of the headquarters.
Head of the Elections Headquarters Mostafa Tajzadeh, Interior Ministry's
Director General for Elections Javad Zaker, Head of the Elections Inspection
Team Ali Mohaqqar and Gholamhossein Bolandian, the official in charge of the
elections security reported to the president on the activities of their
departments.
President Khatami later talked to those in charge of various groups active
within the headquarters, including the public relations, inspection,
security, legal and political affairs as well six liaison groups with
provinces.
(IRNA)

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:34:46 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: A Choice for Iran

A Choice for Iran
In Crucial Vote, Reformers Hope to Win Majority in Parliament


The Associated Press
T E H R A N, Iran, Feb. 18 — With many frustrated by two decades of Islamic
rule, Iranians voted today in an election that could give reformers a
majority in the parliament, long a bastion of hard-liners.
Voters headed to polling stations set up at mosques and schools this
morning to choose between liberals promising social and political reforms and
conservatives backed by hard-liners in the ruling clergy.
With turnout initially thin in the first half hour, authorities made
radio appeals to the country’s 38.7 million eligible voters not to delay
casting their votes.
Supreme leader Ali Khameini, the ultimate power in Iran’s Islamic
government and the hard-liners’ main backer, voted in a mosque near his
office in central Tehran.
“This is a significant election and I want you to careful. Elect those
who will be helpful to you and to Islam,” he told state Tehran radio.
Liberals Push for U.S. Ties
The hard-liners want Iran to stick to the ideals of the 1979 Islamic
Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that ousted the pro-U.S. shah
and brought the Shiite Muslim clergy to power.
Liberals, led by President Mohammad Khatami, have promised to work
toward greater press freedom, and respect for the rule of law. Some have
suggested that Iranians should decide in a national referendum whether or not
to establish ties with the United States, a move conservatives strongly
oppose.
The hard-liners’ stand puzzles many who were born after 1979, when
relations between the two nations were severed after radical students took
over the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.
“The conservatives would like to stop all kind of contact with the
outside world. They know that the more we know, the more we will dislike
them,” said Mehdi, a chemical engineering student, standing outside the
Tehran University hostel.
“They think that people are ignorant and only they are intelligent,”
said Mehdi, who refused to give his full name for fear of reprisal.
The first results are expected to come in Sunday from small towns. But
with votes counted by hand, final results are not due until Feb. 25 —
particularly results from the capital, where there are 7 million voters and
more than 800 candidates.

Youth Vote is Key
Analysts have said a higher turnout will mean more votes for the reformists,
who have received much of their support from the powerful youth vote.
Young people complain that 21 years of Islamic rule by Khomeini’s
followers and successors failed to bear the promised fruit: jobs and
prosperity. Instead, youth were barred from mixing freely with the opposite
sex, listening to pop and Western music or watching foreign television
programs. Women were told to cover themselves from head to toe, and the
clergy — in its role as the interpreter of God’s will — was deemed above
criticism.
More than half of Iran’s 62 million people are under the age of 25.
About 20 million of them are in high schools and universities that have
traditionally been the harbingers of change and the barometers of public
discontent.
Drawn by a promise of reforms, Iranians elected President Khatami to
office in a landslide victory in May 1997.
But his campaign for change has faced opposition from hard-liners, who
hold a slight majority in the parliament.
Some of the leading reformists have said that if they win a majority in
the 290-member Majlis, one of their first acts would be to defeat a pending
bill that allows the imprisonment of journalists who write articles critical
of the ruling clergy. Several newspaper managers have been jailed and their
publications closed in recent years but no journalist has been penalized.
But even if they win in parliament, reformers would face the
hard-liners’ domination of many of the most powerful government bodies. The
conservative Guardians Council must approve all legislation passed by
parliament, and Khamenei has final say in all matters.
The hard-liners also control the judiciary and other key institutions
such as the radio and television and the armed forces.
About 5,800 candidates including 424 women are contesting the election,
both record numbers. More than 36,000 polling stations have been set up for
the polls.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:35:42 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran reformists confident of victory at polls

Iran reformists confident of victory at polls


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Iranian reformists said on Friday they were
confident of victory in parliamentary polls, widely seen as a referendum on
President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms.

``We predicted before the election that the (reformists) would win a majority
and according to our evidence today it seems we were right,'' Mohammad Reza
Khatami, brother of the president and head of the reform ticket, told
reporters before casting his vote.

06:28 02-18-00
Officials of the reformist ticket told Reuters they had surveyed voters at
about 100 polling stations across Tehran. ``We are seeing about 80 percent
support in north Tehran, and about 60 percent or more in the south,'' said
one aide.

He said similar figures were coming from the larger provinces.

Earlier, conservatives had predicted they would capture a majority in the
290-seat parliament, retaining their control of the assembly.

There are no independent polls in Iran, but the large turnout seen in Tehran
was expected to benefit the reformists backing the president's social and
political programmes.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:36:17 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Reformists May Win Iran Elections

Reformists May Win Iran Elections

By AFSHIN VALINEJAD
.c The Associated Press


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - From the president to students, Iranians voted today in a
parliamentary election pitting reformers promising social and political
change against conservatives who want Iran to stick to the ideals of the
two-decade-old Islamic revolution.

Reformers are expecting to take control of the parliament from hard-liners,
giving a boost to President Mohammad Khatami's campaign for individual
freedoms and rule of law.

Long lines formed outside mosques and schools where polling stations were set
up, as authorities made radio appeals to the country's 38.7 million eligible
voters not to delay casting their votes.

Analysts say a strong turnout would favor the reformers, particularly if a
large number of young people show up at polls. The youth vote played a strong
role in sweeping Khatami to office in a landslide vote in 1997.

``Parliament has an extraordinarily important position in the Islamic
Republic especially now that the country has started a new era,'' Khatami
told reporters. ``And the more people vote today the more the parliament
comes to represent their will.'' Khatami cast his vote at a mosque in
northern Tehran, next door to the former residence of revolutionary leader
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, the ultimate power in Iran's Islamic government
and the hard-liners' main backer, voted in a mosque near his office in
central Tehran.

``This is a significant election and I want you to be careful. Elect those
who will be helpful to you and to Islam,'' he told state Tehran radio.

The hard-liners, who now hold a slight majority in parliament, want Iran to
maintain the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution led by Khomeini, which
ousted the pro-U.S. shah and brought the Shiite Muslim clergy to power.

At a polling booth in the courtyard of Tehran's Dar al-Salaam mosque
courtyard, Khalis Husseinian voted for conservatives.

``I voted for candidates who are faithful to Islam,'' said Husseinian, a
white-bearded, black-turbaned 64-year-old judge in a clerical court.

The youth seem firmly behind Khatami.

Amir Taqdiri, 19, said he will vote for those candidates, ``who think about
the problems of the youth.

``I voted for the reformists because society needs them,'' he said.

There are no opinion polls in Iran. But reformists are expected to do well in
the elections because of the mounting frustration among ordinary people with
the restrictions of clerical rule.

Liberals have promised to work towards greater freedoms - some have even
suggested that Iranians should decide in a national referendum whether or not
to establish ties with the United States, a move conservatives strongly
oppose.

The hard-liners' stand is not shared by many who were born after 1979, when
relations between the two nations were severed after radical students took
over the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.
More than half of Iran's 62 million people are under the age of 25.

Young people complain that 21 years of Islamic rule by Khomeini's followers
and successors failed to bear the promised fruit: jobs and prosperity.
Instead, youth were barred from mixing freely with the opposite sex,
listening to pop and Western music or watching foreign television programs.
Women were told to cover themselves from head to toe, and the clergy - in its
role as the interpreter of God's will - was deemed above criticism.

Some of the leading reformists have said that if they win a majority in the
290-member Majlis, one of their first acts would be to defeat a pending bill
that allows the imprisonment of journalists who write articles critical of
the ruling clergy. Several newspaper managers have been jailed and their
publications closed in recent years but no journalist has been penalized.

But even if they win in parliament, reformers would face the hard-liners'
domination of many of the most powerful government bodies. The conservative
Guardians Council must approve all legislation passed by parliament, and
Khamenei has final say in all matters.

But even some hard-liners have begun to acknowledge they must at least talk a
language that addresses what the people want in order to gain enough
popularity to stay in control.

The hard-liners also control the judiciary and other key institutions such as
the radio and television and the armed forces.

About 5,800 candidates including 424 women are contesting the election, both
record numbers. More than 36,000 polling stations have been set up for the
polls.

First results will start coming in Sunday from small towns. The Islamic
Republic News Agency said today that final results could take up to three
weeks. The vote counting will be done by hand across the country, a
cumbersome process that will take the most time in the capital, where there
are 7 million voters and more than 800 candidates.

AP-NY-02-18-00 0631EST

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:37:27 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Early signs of a big turnout in Iranian election

Early signs of a big turnout in Iranian election

By Ali Raiss-Tousi


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Long queues formed outside polling stations in the
early hours of voting on Friday in Iran's parliamentary elections, widely
seen as a referendum on President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms.

``There is a heavier turnout than expected. Front candidates are on top. They
had not even campaigned hard in this area,'' an election supervisor at a
central Tehran polling station said.

She was referring to the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the leading
pro-reform group, led by the president's younger brother, Mohammad Reza
Khatami.

In the capital, many voters showed up even before polling began at 9 a.m.,
apparently encouraged by a wide choice of candidates for the first time since
the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

At stake were 290 seats in the next parliament, to convene in May, which
could help institutionalise Khatami's ambition to create an Islamic civil
society.

President Khatami and his allies called for a massive youth turnout to yield
a landslide against their conservative rivals.

The conservatives, who control the current parliament, have largely opposed
liberal reforms, mainly on cultural issues.

``God willing, men, women and the youth will go to the polls as a national
right and a religious duty so that we can witness a great epic on this
historic day,'' Khatami said.

``We have had great achievements whenever our young generation has stepped
out on the political scene.''

REFORMISTS FAVOURED BY MANY VOTERS

The election supervisor said pro-reform candidates, including Mohammad Reza
Khatami, were top choices for many voters, especially the youth.

This same constituency was a key factor in the president's landslide election
in 1997. Some 60 percent of Iran's population of about 63 million are under
25.

The Front was locked in fierce competition for Tehran's 30 seats with a
conservative coalition, as well as the centrist Executives of Construction
Party, which takes a more cautious approach to reform.

``I will vote for the Front because we think they can better meet the demands
of the youth and society,'' said Bijan in Tehran's western district of
Ariashahr.

In the nearby posh Shahrak-e Qods highrise district, groups of young people,
some below the voting age of 16, exhorted voters to cast their ballots in
favour of reformists.

``I want to vote for the candidate who has promised to liberalise
satellites,'' said a teenage girl, referring to a move by the current
parliament a few years ago to ban satellite television dishes as a threat to
Islamic values.

Many candidates dropped religious slogans of the past, opting for more
popular liberal and nationalist themes, such as ``Iran for all Iranians,'' or
simply, ``I want to live.''

``They are trying to put Islam on the referendum with such slogans,'' Davoud
Rezaei, a 22-year-old cleric, told Reuters, as he waited to vote in a long
queue.

05:58 02-18-00

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:37:53 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Malaysia keen to step up oil investments in Iran

Malaysia keen to step up oil investments in Iran


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Malaysia is keen to invest more in Iran's
petroleum industry despite U.S. threats to impose sanctions on companies that
do business with the Islamic republic, Malaysia's foreign minister said on
Friday.

Syed Hamid Albar, speaking after a meeting with visiting Iranian foreign
minister Kamal Kharazzi, told reporters the U.S. threats should not be a
deterrent.

``Whatever other countries do is their business, nothing to do with us,''
Syed Hamid said of the sanctions threat. ``We have given our indication of
our interest to participate in petroleum projects in Iran.''

He said Malaysian state oil firm Petronas was ``very keen to go into other
projects on its own in other areas in Iran.'' He did not elaborate.

Iran has signed energy development agreements with several foreign oil
companies in recent years, including Petronas, Total, Elf Aquitaine, Russia's
Gazprom and Canada's Bow Valley Energy.

Iran is trying to lure oil majors with 40 projects worth more than $8 billion
tendered last year in the country's biggest energy opening since the 1979
Islamic revolution.

Under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, passed by Congress in 1996, the U.S.
seeks to punish firms which invest more than $20 million annually in Iranian
energy industries.

The policy is aimed at isolating Tehran for allegedly supporting terrorism.

Syed Hamid said Malaysian mobile phone operator Celcom could proceed with a
project in Isfahan, Iran's historic former capital. He said Kharrazi had told
him that financing and other hurdles holding up the project had been
resolved.

Celcom is part of Malaysian industrial group Technology Resources Industries.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:38:32 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Enthusiastic Iranians flock to the polls

Enthusiastic Iranians flock to the polls

By Jonathan Lyons


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Iranians flocked to the polls on Friday in
parliamentary elections that pitted President Mohammad Khatami's vision of
Islamic democracy against conservative opposition.

Khatami and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei exhorted voters to turn out
early, and poll monitors across Tehran said people had heeded their calls.

Queues were reported at mosques, schools and other balloting places, even
before the polls opened at 9 a.m. (0530 GMT).

Poll watchers said this contrasted sharply with usual voting patterns that
typically see a late-afternoon rush.

``There is a heavier turnout than expected,'' said one election monitor in a
traditional Tehran neighbourhood. She said she had peeked as voters filled
out their ballot papers, most with pro-reform candidates at the top.

Reformers backing Khatami were looking to a big turnout, particularly among
such key constituents as young people and women, to boost their chances in
the contest for control of the expanded 290-seat parliament.

Much of their campaign, limited to one week under strict election rules, was
directed at reaching the large youth population which yearns for an easing of
strict social controls. About 60 percent of the population of 63 million is
under 25.

At one mosque in the west of the city about 200 voters queued outside the
closed door of the polling station. At the Saatabad Mosque, also in the west,
dozens of voters -- segregated by sex -- waited patiently.

``We are casting our votes for the (reformers)'' said one teenage boy,
standing with his friends. ``We believe they can meet the demands of the
youth and society.''

MORE THAN 5,000 CANDIDATES TO CHOOSE FROM

Election officials said 38.7 million Iranians, aged 16 and up, were eligible
to take part. They had to choose from among some 5,700 candidates, including
400 women.

``God willing, men, women and the youth will go to the polls as a national
right, a religious duty, so that we can witness a great epic on this historic
day,'' Khatami said after casting his vote.

``We have had great achievements whenever our young generation has stepped
out on the political scene,'' said the president, elected in a 1997
pro-reform landslide paced by strong support from women and young people.

Khamenei, whose powers dwarf those of the elected president, said the
elections provided the Iranian nation with a ``big test.''

``I emphasise this is a test, a divine duty. It's an opportunity to exercise
one's right,'' said the leader after voting at his official residence.

Security was tight around the capital, with authorities appealing to
residents to report any suspicious activities. Earlier this month the armed,
Iraq-based opposition lobbed mortar shells into central Tehran, killing one
person.

But Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari told the official news agency
IRNA there were no reports of trouble.

Reformers want to boost Khatami's programme to create a civil society within
Iran's Islamic system, a drive that has been stymied by conservatives. Many
of the conservatives support more gradual changes, fearing that swift reforms
would water down Iran's Islamic and revolutionary values.

CONFIDENCE ALL AROUND

Both sides went into the polls, the most competitive since the aftermath of
the 1979 revolution, confident of victory.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the president's brother who heads the pro-reform
Islamic Iran Participation Front ticket, predicted at least 60 percent of
parliamentary seats would go to reformers.

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, spokesman for the conservative Coalition of Followers
of the Line of the Imam and the Leader, said his alliance would win more than
half the seats.

Election laws limited the scale and scope of the one-week campaign, forcing
most candidates to rely on face-to-face meetings with voters. Colour posters,
use of loudhailers and other standard techniques were all banned.

Reformers charged that these restrictions were designed to boost the
prospects of the largely conservative incumbents against challenges from
pro-reform newcomers.

But wide coverage in the reformist press and a few well- financed rallies
appeared to have negated any institutional advantage the incumbent MPs might
have enjoyed.

Polls were to close at 7 p.m. (1530 GMT), with one two-hour extension at the
discretion of elections officials.

A last-minute decision to cancel an experiment in computer counting will
delay the first significant returns, from the big politicised urban centres.

First returns, largely from small rural areas, were expected on Saturday.
However, runoffs were likely in many of the 207 constituencies. No date has
been set for the runoffs but they are expected to be held next month.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:39:40 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Khatami urges big turnout for ``epic'' Iran polls

Khatami urges big turnout for ``epic'' Iran polls


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Reformist President Mohammad Khatami called on
Iranians, particularly such key constituents as youth and women, to create a
``great epic'' on Friday by turning out en masse for parliamentary elections.

``God willing, men, women and the youth will go to the polls as a national
right and a religious duty so that we can witness a great epic on this
historic day,'' Khatami told state television after casting his vote.

``We have had great achievements whenever our young generation has stepped
out on the political scene,'' said Khatami, who was elected in 1997 in a
pro-reform landslide thanks to wide support among youth and women.

The youth vote is crucial in Iran, where the voting age is 16 and 60 percent
of the population of some 63 million is less that 25 years old.

The elections to the 290-seat parliament were widely seen as a referendum on
liberal social and political reforms undertaken by Khatami but stymied by
Islamic conservative opponents.

``Our society needs the respect of laws and parliament is where laws are
made. The assembly oversees their application and reflects the popular will.
The more people come out, the more parliament will represent the people,''
added Khatami.

He voted at a mosque near the home of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini in north Tehran.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who cast his vote at his official
residence shortly after the polls opened, also called for a large turnout.

``This is a big test for our people. People should make themselves and the
system look good through a big turnout, and I believe they will do so,'' said
Khamenei.

``I emphasise this is a test, a divine duty. It's an opportunity to exercise
one's right. So please, people, when casting your vote pay attention and be
selective so the best people who are the most useful to the country are
elected.''

Reformers want to wrest control of parliament from conservatives to boost
Khatami's programme to create a civil society within Iran's Islamic system.

Many of the conservatives support more gradual changes, fearing that swift
reforms would water down Iran's Islamic and revolutionary values.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 08:42:31 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran's reformers say poised for victory

Iran's reformers say poised for victory

By Jonathan Lyons


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Iran's reformists, bolstered by a large turnout,
said on Friday they were headed for victory in parliamentary polls seen as a
referendum on President Mohammad Khatami's reform drive.

Officials of the Islamic Iran Participation Front told Reuters they had
surveyed voters at about 100 polling stations across Tehran and found strong
support amid a big turnout.

Similar reports were reaching the Front headquarters from the larger
provinces, they said.

``We predicted before the election that (we) would win a majority and
according to our evidence today it seems we were right,'' Mohammad Reza
Khatami, brother of the president and head of the Front ticket, told
reporters before casting his vote.

Earlier, the main conservative coalition had predicted it would retain a
parliamentary majority.

A convincing victory for the reformers would boost Khatami in his efforts to
create a civil society within Iran's Islamic system, a drive that has been
stymied by conservatives.

Many of the conservatives support more gradual change, fearing that swift
reforms would water down Iran's Islamic and revolutionary values.

There are no independent polls in Iran, but the size of the turnout and the
mood of the voters around the capital suggested the reformers were moving
closer to a repeat of Khatami's stunning landslide victory in the 1997
presidential poll.

He won on a platform of social and political reforms within the Islamic
system with almost 70 percent of the vote against the establishment choice,
thanks in large part to strong support from women and young people. Turnout
was 88 percent.

A tour of polling stations in different quarters of the capital revealed an
outpouring of support for the reformers and large crowds of eager voters,
some queuing up at schools and mosques before the polls opened at 9 a.m.
(0530 GMT).

SUPPLY OF BALLOTS EXHAUSTED

Officials said about a dozen polling places had run out of ballot papers
after an unexpected rush. Elsewhere, people had to wait for up to
three-quarters of an hour to cast their votes.

``There is a heavier turnout than expected,'' said one election monitor in a
traditional Tehran neighbourhood. She said she had peeked as voters filled
out their ballot papers, most with pro-reform candidates at the top.

A big turnout was also reported in Mashhad, Iran's second city and home to
its holiest Shi'ite Moslem shrine.

``Our estimate is that turnout is larger than earlier parliamentary polls,
but it is too soon to say whether it will reach the level of the last
presidential election,'' Hamid Ziaei, editor of the daily Khorasan, said by
telephone.

In the central city of Isfahan, turnout picked up in mid-afternoon with many
voters reporting they had backed the general reform movement, local
journalists said.

Reformers backing Khatami were looking to a big turnout, particularly among
young people and women, to help wrest control of the expanded 290-seat
parliament from the conservatives.

Much of the one-week campaign focused on the huge youth population, which can
vote at age 16 and yearns for an easing of strict social controls. About 60
percent of the population of 63 million is under 25.

At one mosque in the west of the city about 200 voters queued outside the
closed door of the polling station. At the Saatabad Mosque, also in the west,
dozens of voters -- segregated by sex -- waited patiently.

``We are casting our votes for the (reformers)'' said one teenage boy,
standing with his friends. ``We believe they can meet the demands of the
youth and society.''

Election officials said 38.7 million Iranians were eligible to take part.
They can choose from among some 5,700 hopefuls.

A PRESIDENTIAL APPEAL

``God willing, men, women and the youth will go to the polls as a national
right, a religious duty, so that we can witness a great epic on this historic
day,'' said President Khatami after casting his vote.

``We have had great achievements whenever our young generation has stepped
out on the political scene,'' he added.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose powers dwarf those of the
elected president, said the elections provided the Iranian nation with a
``big test.''

``I emphasise this is a test, a divine duty. It's an opportunity to exercise
one's right,'' said the leader after voting at his official residence.

Authorities appealed to residents to report any suspicious activities. But
Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said there were no reports of
trouble.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 09:04:11 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: IRAN REPORTEDLY SUPPORTING BASHIR IN POWER STRUGGLE AGAINST TURABI

BBC MONITORING INTERNATIONAL REPORTS: SUDAN: IRAN REPORTEDLY SUPPORTING
BASHIR IN POWER STRUGGLE AGAINST TURABI

BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom ; 16-Feb-2000 12:00:00 am ; 562 words

After weeks of waiting and anticipation, Iran has decided to stand by
Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir in his power struggle against Dr Hasan
al-Turabi. The obvious indication was Brig-Gen Mohammad [Baqer] Zolqadr, the
second-in-command of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC], leader of a
high-level military and diplomatic delegation, which recently visited
Khartoum. Brig-Gen Zolqadr met President Bashir to discuss what the Iranian
media described as "the various issues connected to the strategic partnership
between the two countries".

The Iranian military presence in Sudan was scaled down after the election of
President Mohammad Khatami in 1997 for a number of reasons. At the forefront
of these reasons was the policy of "tightening belts" that Khatami applied in
1998 and 1999, and Iran's efforts to review its policies towards the Horn of
Africa. During his visit Gen Zolqadr met the commanders of the Basij units
deployed in Sudan and engaged in the reconstruction and repair of military
roads, building fortifications and training the Sudanese on the heavy
military equipment provided by Iran. The [first deputy] commander of the IRGC
also met members of an Iranian navy team in charge of the maintenance of Port
Sudan facilities on the Red Sea. It is believed that Iran pays about 14m
dollars annually to use these facilities, which provide a foothold for its
naval forces in that strategic area.

Both Tehran and Khartoum deny that Iran had sold any weapons to Sudan.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has recently stated that Tehran was
providing Khartoum with humanitarian assistance and light military equipment.
However, independent sources inside Iran and in the West insist that the
Iranian programme of providing military assistance to Sudan, which started in
1990, has not stopped...

Zolqadr affirmed, during his talks with Lt-Gen Bashir, "the strategic nature"
of Iranian-Sudanese relations. These relations began with the visit of former
Iranian President Hashemi-Rafsanjani to Sudan in 1993. This was reaffirmed on
many other occasions whenever the two sides exchanged high-level official
visits. Rafsanjani had described Sudan at the time as "the vanguard of the
Islamic revolution in the African continent".

According to some Iranian sources, Turabi sought to meet Zolqadr during his
visit [to Khartoum] but "his request was cordially rejected". Diplomatic
adviser of General Zolqadr Mortaza Ihteyati contacted Turabi in a way
described by Tehran as a " courtesy contact".

Turabi, who paid a quick visit to Iran last year, had projected himself as
the main defender of Khatami's reformist ideas in Sudan. He also stressed
Khatami's invitation for "the dialogue between cultures" and offered to play
a role in realizing it on the ground. On the other hand a large number of
prominent clergymen who support Khatami have for a long time maintained close
relations with Turabi. Among those were former Speaker of the Iranian
Parliament Mehdi Karrubi and former Interior Minister Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi.

It seems that Iran's siding with this or that side in Sudan is based more on
pragmatic considerations of its strategic interests than for ideological
considerations. And in this context agreement was reached in principle on an
official visit by President Khatami to Khartoum. However, it is unlikely that
the visit will materialize before the lifting of the state of emergency
declared by President Bashir.

According to Iranian sources Iran has withdrawn "unnecessary" officials from
Sudan and the families of many other officials will return to Iran during the
Iranian New Year holidays on 21st March. And according to estimates published
in 1996 there were about 3,000 military and civilian Iranian personnel in
Sudan. Iranian sources have recently hinted that this number might have gone
down by half and that it would go down further in the coming weeks.

Source: 'Al-Sharq al-Awsat', London, in Arabic 16 Feb 00 p 4

World Reporter All Material Subject to Copyright

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 15:17:50 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: The Economist: The people against the mullahs

(from Iran Daneshjoo Organization News Service)
The people against the mullahs

The Economist

Under President Muhammad Khatami, Iran has become a more humane country.
It has yet to become a more democratic one


February 18, 2000

ELECTIONS in the Middle East, Israel's apart, rarely merit a first, let
alone a second, glance. Yet the result of Iran's parliamentary ballot,
held on February 18th, is keenly awaited. The way the vote goes could be
crucial to Iran's fledgling struggle to harmonise democracy and Islamism.
And since Iran is the only country to contemplate combining a strict
Islamist regime with democratic practices, the election may provide a clue
as to how compatible the two can be.

The Islamic republic holds reasonably decent elections, proving at least
that a theocratic state and a free popular vote can go together. But this
does not mean that the state itself is run along democratic lines. Even
Iran's elections have their quirks: in the weeks before the present one,
several hundred candidates, predominantly from the reformist camps, were
disqualified by the six clerics and six jurists on the Council of
Guardians (a body that was originally formed to supervise elections but
now screens the candidates too). However, despite all that, Iran's
electoral system shines in comparison with the shabby parody of democratic
practice that most Arab regimes inflict on their voters.

Few people took note of Iran's post-revolutionary elections until 1997,
when the presidential ballot gave an unanticipated landslide victory to
Muhammad Khatami. An unexceptional conservative candidate had been
expected to drift home, but Iranians-particularly the young and
frustrated-decided otherwise. They voted for Mr Khatami, and the hopes he
had awakened of political and social change. Now, three years on, the
issue is no longer whether or not there should be reform at all, but how
deep-cutting and far-ranging that reform should be.

Iran is a much more open place to live in than it was when Mr Khatami took
office. There have, as yet, been no vast changes of policy, but, under the
benign influence of the president and his men, many of the petty rules and
regulations that made things so drab for ordinary families have been
forgotten about or, at least, are not so severely enforced. It is easier,
for instance, for a boy and girl to go out together, for a family to own a
satellite dish (though these are still officially banned), or for anyone
to read a lively, dissenting newspaper.

Liberalisation proceeds by jumps and starts, and could yet go into
reverse: no changes are official. The conservatives fight their rearguard
battle through the courts and the mosques, clapping journalists, editors
and protesting students into jail. People are unjustly prosecuted,
punished for spurious crimes; the "special" or "revolutionary" courts come
up with inexplicable judgments. A group of Iranian Jews was arrested,
accused of breaking Iranian law by communicating with Israeli friends or
relatives, and threatened with the death penalty. Rogue operatives inside
the security services have, at times, decided it was simpler just to
assassinate liberals they did not like.

But the regime quite often tries to backtrack from its more heinous
mistakes, punishing the over-zealous, letting people quietly out of prison
or reducing their sentences when it thinks enough time has gone by to save
face. As one radical paper is closed, another springs up in its place. And
the last editor to be imprisoned used his trial as a magnificent platform
to trounce his accusers, calling for changes that would, in effect, shift
power from the unelected and unaccountable to the elected and accountable.

The goal, say Iran's more dedicated reformers, has now moved beyond easing
rules and regulations-desirable though that still is-towards institutional
change. The reformers want to reinterpret and democratise Iran's Islamic
constitution, which they claim hard-core conservatives have distorted;
they want a unified and independent judicial system, and they are working
towards the separation of powers. But here they have run into an almost
unbudgeable barrage of opposition, from centrists and "moderates" in their
own reform camp as well as from conservatives.



The central pillar

Until now, altering the core of the Islamic system has been more or less
unthinkable. Intellectuals who suggested it were accused of wanting to
dismantle the sacred legacy of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. But, even
here, things are now a little less hard and fast. If committed reformers
turn out to have done well in Friday's election-which at this point is
very far from certain-the unthinkable will start to be thought about, may
also be talked about, and, just possibly, may be gingerly acted upon. This
is what makes the present election so significant.


The basis of Iran's theocratic system is velayat-e faqih, or the rule of
the religious jurist. This Shia Muslim concept, refined by Ayatollah
Khomeini some years before the revolution, gives one man-Khomeini himself,
of course, in his lifetime-absolute authority over all vital matters of
state. As supreme leader, he is head of the army, the security services
and the judiciary; he has the final say on both internal and international
affairs. No important decisions can be taken without his consent. In
holding such power, he is not unlike the Arab world's "elected" presidents
in, say, Egypt or Syria, or its less-than-constitutional monarchs. But
Iran's potentate is selected by a body of senior clerics, known as the
Assembly of Experts, and it is his duty to ensure that all political
action is the execution of God's will.

Nobody questioned this state of affairs so long as Khomeini was alive. The
imam, as he is universally known in Iran, died in 1989, revered to the end
and beyond it. His successor, Ali Khamenei, was voted unanimously into the
job by the clerics in the Assembly of Experts, but only after considerable
difficulty. Ayatollah Khamenei is a much lesser man than his predecessor,
lacking his authority, scholarship and esteem.

This is not to say he was a bad choice. He has not abused his position.
And he is not an extremist: although staunch conservatives have tried to
claim him as one of their own, and have sometimes succeeded, he seems to
be basically a man of the centre-right. Importantly, he has a close
working relationship with Mr Khatami. The directly elected president,
whose powers are so inferior to those of the indirectly chosen supreme
leader, has never once hinted that he is uncomfortable with his boss's
supervision.

Mr Khatami stands for democratic accountability and for the rule of law in
a civil society. He wants to make Iran a more open, humane and just place,
with better relations with the outside world, including the United States.
But he is cautious, carrying out his reforms with a certain stealth,
determined not to upset the apple-cart by going too far or asking for too
much. He certainly does not question, at least out loud, the basic
structure of the Islamic republic or its hierarchy. In a sense, he is both
president and opposition leader.



Protesting voices

This straddling of functions could, before long, become untenable. More
impetuous Iranians are beginning to question, and balk at, the
undemocratic set-up. An early sign of this impatience came during last
July's student demonstrations in Tehran. The protests, to start with, were
of the licensed kind: the students were angry at the closure of a radical,
free-speaking newspaper, and even angrier at the murderous invasion by
right-wing thugs of one of their hostels.


But as the protest gathered steam, a few of the demonstrators crossed a
crucial line. They went from voicing permitted grievances to those that
are absolutely unpermitted: they dared, however indirectly, to question
the velayat-e faqih, the mainstay of the Islamic system itself. Although
these protesters declared themselves loyal supporters of the president's
reform programme, they were swiftly disowned, prudently but not
honourably, by Mr Khatami.

Later, the ringleaders were harshly punished by the courts: several
received heavy prison sentences and four were sentenced to death, though
they have not, so far as is known, been executed. One of the nastiest
aspects of Iran's judicial system is its murkiness, and the frequent
difficulty of obtaining reliable information.

The first public, unambiguous attack on Iran's Islamic underpinning came
last November when Abdollah Nouri, the publisher of a free-speaking
newspaper, was tried by a clerical court on a long list of charges that
ranged from insulting Khomeini to advocating normal relations with the
United States. Unwisely, the court agreed to his demand that his six-day
trial should be held in public. For Mr Nouri is a true heavyweight of the
revolution, a mullah who was once Khomeini's man in the radical
Revolutionary Guard.

Like others in the reformist camp, his views have matured and changed over
the past 20 years. Now judged to be too moderate, he lost his long-time
job as interior minister, but was nonetheless thought to be in line to be
speaker of parliament (Iran's third-most-important post, after the supreme
leader and the president) after the election. He is popular, coming top of
the list in Tehran in the recent municipal elections.

He seized his chance. Speaking to the country as well as to his accusers,
he rejected the idea that anybody should have a monopoly on religious
interpretation, arguing that pluralism was acceptable under the Islamic
system, and defending the right of dissident groups and theologians to
present their views. He challenged the principle that the supreme leader
was above the law. Political power, he argued, though divine in origin,
should be exercised on behalf of the people by their elected
representatives.

It was all too much-and anyhow the conservatives were determined to get Mr
Nouri out of the way before the parliamentary elections. Found guilty of
undermining the foundations of Islam, he was packed off to prison for five
years. But his supporters published the transcript of the trial, calling
it "Hemlock for a Reformist" (thus making the obvious comparison with
Socrates, who was forced to poison himself with hemlock after speaking out
at his trial in ancient Athens). The book became an immediate bestseller.

The next voice to challenge the system was even more venerable, and
authoritative, than Mr Nouri's. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a
learned and independent-minded cleric, was once Khomeini's anointed
successor as supreme leader. Falling into disgrace in the late 1980s for
being too independent (he spoke out against what he believed to be
violations of Islamic justice, including mass executions), he now lives
under house arrest in Qom, Iran's most holy city, an important but largely
soundless presence. Last month he decided to break his silence, giving a
long written interview to a British newspaper, the Guardian.

Mr Montazeri did not pull his punches. "Islam", he said, "is for the
separation of powers and does not recognise the concentration of power in
the hand of a fallible human being." The supreme leader should be
accountable, subject to the law and open to public criticism. He should be
directly elected instead of being chosen by a body of his colleagues.
Above all, his powers should be confined to matters that come within his
own area of religious expertise, and not extended to other matters of
state, such as foreign affairs and economic issues. As things stand, he
complained, Iran's president has heavy responsibilities but almost no
executive power. The ayatollah could hardly have been more direct, or more
challenging. Iranian papers that carried extracts from the interview found
themselves banned.


Fear of counter-revolution

Iran can become a much nicer country just by carrying on down the road
that it has already embarked upon, albeit with many stops and starts. It
can implement the harsher side of Islamic justice less fervently, relax
its more repressive or tiresome rules, be fairer to women (who already do
better than in some Arab countries), allow free expression and
association. But it will not become a more democratic country until it
accepts that clerical rule, the concept of velayat-e faqih, is not
untouchable.


Conservatives quail from laying a finger on the sacred concept. Any
tinkering, they believe, would be dangerous. Even if the approach were
minimal, the momentum could, in the end, lead in some way to the
distruction of Khomeini's Islamic vision, the theocratic state. Some see
Mr Khatami as an Iranian version of the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev,
a reformist whose efforts led inexorably to the total collapse of a
system.

Are they right? In one respect, at least. It is hard to see fundamental
change to the theocratic state coming about in any way save through
incremental reforms, a gradual corroding of the system. Any sudden or
violent change seems remote. The regime's most active enemy, the
Mujahiddin e-Khalq, can bring out huge crowds-in-exile or even, as it did
this month, explode mortars outside the palace of the supreme leader in
Tehran, but there is little hard evidence to support its boast of
widespread support throughout Iran. Its political programme is attractive
enough. But the fact that its armed forces have, for lack of an
alternative, been obliged to make their base inside Iran's old foe, Iraq,
tells heavily against it.

Iran's army, by tradition, stays out of politics. The Revolutionary
Guards, who are called out from time to time to quell "riots", cracked
that tradition this week when, against their own government's policy, they
issued a statement saying that Ayatollah Khomeini's 11-year-old fatwa
sentencing a British writer, Salman Rushdie, to death was as valid as
ever. But the army stays quiet. In the past century, Iran has experienced
only two military coups: the one that established Shah Reza Pahlavi in
power in the 1920s, and the one when his son, Shah Muhammad Reza, joined
the CIA to confront the threat of "communism" posed by Muhammad Mossadegh
in the 1950s. Notably, the army did not intervene when the Islamic
revolution overthrew the monarchical regime in 1979.

But the slow corrosion of Iran's Islamic framework is not out of the
question. Iran, although an Islamic state, imbued with religion and
religious symbolism, is an increasingly anti-clerical country. In a sense,
Iran resembles some Roman Catholic countries where religion is taken for
granted, without public display, and with ambiguous feelings towards the
clergy. Iranians tend to mock their mullahs, making mild little jokes
about them; they certainly want them out of their bedrooms. In particular,
they distrust their political clergy. The term "political cleric" was
derogatory until Khomeini refurbished it with his own example of a
political leader who was also a senior theologian. The first parliament
after the revolution was dominated by mullahs. But clerical numbers in
parliament have been decreasing ever since.

Although President Khatami, his predecessor Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
and Ali Akbar Nateq-Noori, the current speaker, all wear the long robes
and turbans of clerics, all the political factions have found it expedient
in this election to cut down yet again on the number of mullahs on their
lists of parliamentary candidates. The reformists go further, sometimes
not mentioning Islam at all in their speeches. At a reformist rally this
week, in a Tehran student stadium, one of the speakers, in a standard
Iranian way, chanted "Islam and freedom". The students echoed him with a
shout of "freedom" but were notably silent about Islam.


Shuffling towards democracy

Distrust of political clergy does not add up to the desire to do away
with the theocratic state; after all, in most democracies, sensible people
distrust their politicians. And even if it did, it is not a choice that
Iranians are going to be given in the foreseeable future. Where they do
have a choice is in voting for people who are prepared to try to reform
and modify the Islamic system, including, at least if some have their way,
its most sacred mainstay, the authority of the supreme leader.


Khomeini, the last supremo, did not bother himself with day-to-day
decisions, issuing orders and judgments from on high, many of which were
ambiguous and quite a few contradictory. He left most of the
decision-making to Mr Rafsanjani, who for nine successive terms was
parliamentary speaker. Pragmatic Mr Rafsanjani, a compromiser par
excellence, interpreted the ambiguities as he saw fit, being hardline or
(relatively) moderate as he believed the particular circumstances
demanded.

After two terms as president and a short stint on the fringes, Mr
Rafsanjani is now once more standing for parliament. With Mr Nouri shut up
in prison and Mr Nateq-Noori retiring, he has a good chance of becoming,
yet again, parliament's speaker. This was why committed reformists tried
particularly hard, during the election campaign, to do Mr Rafsanjani down.
If he is again to be in charge of parliament, the reformists fear, the
prospect is yet more compromise.

The reformists hope to repeat Mr Khatami's triumph of 1997, winning so
conclusively that they can frustrate Mr Rafsanjani's claim to the
speakership.They dread a continuation of the push-me-pull-you tactics that
keep the country shuffling forward, but do not allow it to progress far in
the pursuit of a more humane, let alone a more democratic, regime. They
also argue that if Iran continues to rock jerkily between reform and
regression, there will almost certainly be repetitions of last summer's
student riots-and the regime's brutal response.

They have a point. At pre-election rallies this week, students have been
saying that this election is Mr Khatami's last chance. If a reformist
parliament is voted in, they will expect him to introduce fundamental
change. If not, they will take matters into their own hands. The young and
impatient are growing increasingly intolerant not only of clerical rule,
but of clerical prudence too.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 19:16:18 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran extends voting by 2 hours, citing big turnout

Iran extends voting by 2 hours, citing big turnout


TEHRAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Iran, citing a large turnout, extended polling on
Friday by two hours, until 9 p.m. (1730 GMT).

``There is a large turnout and many people are still waiting in line,
therefore voting has been extended until 9 p.m.,'' state television said,
quoting election officials.

Some 38.7 million Iranians, aged 16 and up, were eligible to take part in
parliamentary polls seen as a referendum on the liberal reforms of President
Mohammad Khatami.

Polling stations across Tehran were crowded, with some voters queuing before
the official start of voting, at 9 a.m. (0530 GMT). Reports from other major
cities also indicated a big turnout.

The reform movement backing the president, citing the turnout and its own
informal exit polling at some 100 sites around the capital, said it was
headed for a big victory, with between 60 percent and 70 percent of the vote.

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 19:16:43 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran rural region unconcerned by Khatami reforms

Iran rural region unconcerned by Khatami reforms

By Mehrdad Balali


SHAHRIAR, Iran, Feb 18 (Reuters) - This impoverished farming region near
Tehran has little time for the excitement surrounding Friday's parliamentary
polls that is sweeping the Iranian capital.

What prompts residents of Shahriar, a neglected town of rural emigres south
of the capital, to vote is the vague and distant hope of an economic
turn-around and more jobs.

About two dozen candidates vying for the single seat allotted to Shahriar and
surrounding villages, one of 290 in the assembly, campaigned on a promise to
bring more attention to the region and pave the way for greater development.

All are running as independents, eschewing partisan politics and the wider
issues underlying the battle between President Mohammad Khatami's reformist
camp and his conservative rivals.

Demands for greater freedom and democracy -- the overriding concern for many
voters in Tehran and other big cities -- cut little ice with Shahriar's
constituents.

``I am just a baker's helper. What do I know about these things?'' said a
young man when asked about Khatami's popular base in Shahriar.

``It's jobs, jobs and jobs and nothing else,'' said the unemployed father of
two in Yabarak, a dusty rural suburb of Shahriar.

``I feel useless around here. Every night I go home feeling ashamed of myself
before my wife and children,'' he said to sympathetic nods from fellow
jobless men.

VICTIMS OF RURAL NEGLECT

Shahriar, a strip of fertile land on the northern edge of a vast desert, has
been hard hit by a long drought and a lack of effective government aid to
farmers.

For years harvests have fallen below expectations, failing to generate enough
revenue to absorb the large pool of jobless who have emigrated from remote
provinces in search of work.

Average unemployment in Iran is about 20 percent, but the figure is far
higher in the countryside.

Local administrations, including the newly elected rural councils, often
complain of insufficient help from central government to provide badly needed
public services.

``We have been promised for seven years that we will be given telephones and
gas fuel. But neither have come,'' said a middle- aged woman in Kord-Amir
village. ``We expect them to take better care of us. We are almost part of
Tehran, but we don't have the resources.''

But the grim economic mood has failed to discourage villagers from voting for
the new parliament. A street sweeper said he had voted for a government
bureaucrat promising to use his clout to attract more public funds to the
region.

Many said they had voted according to the candidates' personal and
professional reputation, a general trend in smaller towns and country
regions.

Reformist groups, bolstered by a large turnout in major cities, said they
were headed for victory in the polls seen as a referendum on President
Khatami's liberal policies.

A convincing victory for the reformers would boost Khatami in his efforts to
create a civil society within Iran's Islamic system, a drive that has been
stymied by conservatives.

For their part, most conservatives support more gradual change, fearing that
swift reforms would water down Iran's Islamic and revolutionary values.

``We all love Islam and our holy Koran. But joblessness is the real plague
that threatens this society. It is at the root of all evils,'' said one voter
in Shahriar.

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Feb 2000 to 18 Feb 2000 - Special issue