Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Feb 2000

There are 6 messages totalling 355 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Even in conservative bastion, some residents to vote pro-reform
2. Karbaschi puts new paper on streets
3. Election campaign ends
4. U.S. To Monitor Iran's Elections
5. Key Issues in Iran Elections
6. Main Candidates in Iran Elections

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:13:12 EST
Subject: Even in conservative bastion, some residents to vote pro-reform

Even in conservative bastion, some residents to vote pro-reform

TEHRAN, Feb 17 (AFP) - Iranians go to the ballot box Friday to elect a new
parliament in what is being touted as a pivotal battle between reformers and
their opponents, yet many here don't see much difference politically.

"To a great extent it's like choosing between two kinds of cola," says
political analyst Khosro Abedi. "There's not a big difference between many of
the candidates."

The conventional wisdom is that the reform movement needs what President
Mohammad Khatami calls a "cooperative parliament" to push through a reform
agenda that has often been blocked by the conservative legislature.

But with a bewildering 5,000-plus hopefuls in the running, many of them
unknowns, the best-known names are likely to win the top prizes --
underlining the impression that business-as-usual, and not reform, is the
order of the day.

No one doubts Iran is freer now since Khatami swept to office in May 1997
with 70 percent of the vote, much of it from women and young people eager for
an ease in social restrictions.

The explosion of newspapers under Khatami, many of them daring to issue
sometimes harsh criticisms of the clerical regime, has given Iranians new
license to speak out politically.

"Before Khatami you'd even be afraid to talk politics inside a taxi," says a
wealthy Iranian businessman who asked not to be named.

"If the subject came up in public you'd just say, 'Well I really don't know
much about it.'"

A new freedom is also visible on the streets of Tehran, where women are
pushing the boundaries of the Islamic dress code, sporting lipstick or
letting a few inches of hair show from beneath their mandatory headscarves.

But in a society where radical change is measured in inches, the very idea of
sweeping "reform" often seems light-years away.

"People feel more free and on the face of things there's certainly more
political choice," Abedi says, noting there are some 35 parties battling it
out in the elections, 10 times more than in the 1996 parliamentary vote.

"But in the end it may not translate into much of a change for the people.
The feeling that something new is happening is important, but Iranian
politics is a lot like a private club."

Certainly it's a lot like a family affair: among the candidates on both sides
are the brothers of Khatami and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
and the daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani himself is also a candidate, and many here see him as the crucial
one -- a moderate-conservative whose victory would mean another obstacle to
reform and whose defeat would herald a new political era.

And while Iranians have seen an undeniable shift in social attitudes, other
changes have been slow in coming, frustrating even some of Khatami's most
ardent supporters.

Above all the economy remains burdened by high inflation and unemployment,
leaving people despondent about their prospects no matter which side wins.

"We've all been deceived so many times," says a 49-year-old Tehran butcher
who declined to give his name but acknowledged he probably wouldn't vote on

"We've heard the promises: we're going to make it better, everything is going
to change," he says, pointing ruefully to overflowing cases of unsold meat he
claims most people just simply can't afford.

"But it's been like this for years."

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:14:38 EST
Subject: Karbaschi puts new paper on streets

Karbaschi puts new paper on streets

TEHRAN, Feb 17 (AFP) - A new daily established by the capital's former mayor,
Gholamhossein Karbaschi, hit the streets of Iran Thursday, on the eve of
crucial parliamentary elections.

"Who will the people vote for tomorrow?" read the banner headline of
Ham-Mihan (Compatriot), leaning clearly towards support of the moderate
centrists of the Executives of Construction party, which Karbaschi heads.

The paper hit out at the "violent nature of the political game" in Iran,
while pointing out that the "information revolution" had enabled Iranian
citizens to "look at the world in a new and different way."

"The reformist left is calling for the opening up of political life and the
implementation of the constitution," the paper said in its analysis of
Friday's vote.

It said the Executives of Construction party "by calling for national
sovereignty, security and liberty, aims to establish economic prosperity."

"The conservative right seeks the total implementation of Islamic values," it
said, adding that Islamic liberals wanted to change "passive participation
into critical participation."

Karbaschi, 44, whose tenure as the capital's mayor ended with a prison
sentence that other reformers alleged was a political frame-up, was freed
last month by order of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In 1992, Karbaschi launched the Hamshahri paper, published by the Tehran
municipality, which today is the nation's leading daily with a circulation of
around 500,000.

Freedom of the press is one of the central issues in Friday's parliamentary
elections, which are shaping up to be a struggle between conservatives and
the reformist supporters of President Mohammad Khatami.

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:15:23 EST
Subject: Election campaign ends

Election campaign ends

TEHRAN, Feb 17 (AFP) - Candidates for Friday's parliamentary elections in
Iran are taking a breather as the week-long official campaign came to an end
at 9 a.m. (0530 GMT) Thursday.

The interior ministry announced that a total of 5,193 hopefuls are standing
for the 290 seat assembly, after 890 withdrew their names.

Candidates continued their campaigning up to the very last moment, with
activists handing out leaflets at every cross-roads in Tehran trying to
sweet-talk drivers caught up in the usual traffic jams.

President Mohammad Khatami broadcast a message Wednesday calling on all
Iranians to vote to help him and his government carry out their goals.

He urged "men, women and above all, young people," to vote, saying Friday is
a "day of destiny."

Some 38.7 million voters are eligible to take part in the elections.

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:16:34 EST
Subject: U.S. To Monitor Iran's Elections

Thursday February 17 3:13 PM ET
U.S. To Monitor Iran's Elections

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Clinton administration will watch Iran's parliamentary
elections to see if they signal the possibility of improved ties between Iran
and the rest of the world, the State Department said Thursday.

The administration clearly hopes for a strong showing in Friday's elections
by Iran's reformers, led by President Mohammad Khatemi, but State Department
spokesman James P. Rubin said it would be counter-productive for him to
discuss that issue publicly.

He reiterated the long-standing U.S. goal of opening a dialogue with Iran.
Iran has said the relationship should be limited to people-to-people contacts.

Rubin said President Clinton and other top U.S. officials ``will obviously be
interested to see and intrigued to see what the results of the elections will
be, in terms of what it might signal for the rule of law inside Iran and the
prospect of improved links between Iran and the rest of the world.''

At stake in the election are 290 seats. In the outgoing parliament,
conservatives hold a slight majority.

On Tuesday, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, urged voters to disappoint
the United States by shunning pro-Western candidates.

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:19:34 EST
Subject: Key Issues in Iran Elections

Thursday February 17 4:03 PM ET
Key Issues in Iran Elections
The Associated Press

Some key domestic and international issues hinge on the outcome of Iran's
legislative elections. Among them:

- PRESIDENTIAL POWERS: In the current parliament, the Majlis, moderates and
hard-liners have nearly the same number of seats, but independents have sided
with the hard-liners to block reformist President Mohammad Khatami again and

If reformers win a majority of the 290 seats, Khatami will have enough
like-minded supporters to push ahead with his reforms. The hard-liners,
however, would retain key strongholds. The country's top authority is
hard-line Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enjoys near absolute

- REFORMS: The most important outcome of Khatami's 1997 election has been the
emergence of a vibrant, free press, which has reshaped public opinion in
favor of the reformists and against the hard-liners.

Still, most Western music is banned, watching foreign television programs is
illegal, dating is punishable by lashing or imprisonment, and women must wear
the hijab, a gown that covers everything but the face and hands, in public.

Although forming political parties without government consent is illegal,
Friday's elections are being contested by groups that are de facto parties.
Khatami has argued for recognition of secular parties and others opposed to
an Islamic government.

Social and political reforms are likely to quicken in the case of a reformist
victory, but radical moves like abolishing the hijab altogether are not
expected, even with a landslide reformist victory.

Regardless of which side wins control of the Majlis, it will have to move
forward with reforms in order to keep public opinion on its side. The pace of
reforms is likely to be affected by which side controls the house.

- U.S. RELATIONS: With his 1998 call for people-to-people exchanges with the
United States, Khatami broke the taboo of talking about resuming ties that
were severed after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and
took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

It is within the powers of the Majlis to, among other steps, grant U.S.
consular visits to Iran.

A compliant Majlis can help Khatami move quickly to capitalize on any gesture
from the United States, such as thawing billions of dollars of Iranian assets
frozen by the United States since 1979, or discontinuing the 1996 Iran-Libya
Sanctions Act when it comes up for renewal next year.

Although there is wide consensus on ending Iran's isolation, the hard-liners
still believe that resuming relations with Washington would sell out the

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 20:20:39 EST
Subject: Main Candidates in Iran Elections

Thursday February 17 4:16 PM ET
Main Candidates in Iran Elections
The Associated Press

Here are the key candidates up for election in Iran on Friday:


Former president for two four-year terms and twice parliament speaker, Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani, 67, is the most seasoned politician running in Friday's
elections. He is also a top contender for the post of parliament speaker.

Rafsanjani, once considered a moderate, has been criticized for moving closer
to conservatives in recent months. He heads the powerful Expediency Council,
with duties that include advising Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali


Mohammadreza Khatami, 40, brother of President Mohammad Khatami, heads the
largest and most organized reformist group, the Islamic Iran Participation
Front. A doctor, Khatami is the other top contender for parliament speaker.
He advocates better relations with the United States.


Alireza Nouri, 36, was a relative unknown until his brother, Abdollah Nouri,
a top dissident and former interior minister, was sent to prison on charges
of religious dissent and advocating ties with the United States. Nouri, a
surgeon, has made his elder brother's thoughts his main election campaign

Nouri believes in curtailing the power of the clerics and says the issue of
Iran-U.S. relations should be put to the people in a national referendum.

He promises to work for the abolition of the Special Clerical Court, which
put his brother behind bars.


Jamileh Kadivar is a columnist, the wife of moderate Culture Minister
Ataollah Mohajerani and the sister of Mohsen Kadivar, a well-known cleric
jailed for religious dissent. The 36-year-old strongly supports Khatami's


Faezeh Hashemi, the 37-year-old daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi,
has been heavily involved in promoting women's sports in Iran. Studying for a
master's degree in international law, she is vying for re-election to the
parliament. She opposes forcing women to wear hijab, the Islamic head-to-toe


Majid Ansari is a soft-spoken reformist cleric who led the minority reformist
faction in the outgoing Majlis. Ansari, 45, was instrumental in blocking
several bills in the parliament that would have been unfavorable to the


Mohammmadreza Bahonar is considered the intellectual leader of the
conservative faction.

A brother of slain Prime Minister Mohammadjavad Bahonar, Bahonar was four
times a parliament member. He played key roles in the voting out of Abdollah
Nouri as interior minister and in the unsuccessful impeachment of Mohajerani,
the moderate culture minister.


Hassan Ghaffuri-Fard advocates a bill to impose greater restrictions on the
press and is strongly opposed to better ties with the United States. A former
vice president and the head of Physical Training Organization, he concedes
the conservatives have to change their language to win the votes of the

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Feb 2000