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There are 13 messages totalling 1215 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. In Commemoration of International Women's Day
2. AFP-Student gunman shot Hajjarian
3. AFP-Hajjarian's paper blasts murderous "shadow government"
4. (Reuters)Iran identifies 'hitman' in reformer's shooting
5. IRNA: Hajjarian ready for physiotherapy - say physicians
6. Clinton extended his best wishes...
7. Times-Iran's Own Desert Storm
8. Reuters-Iran Says U.S. 'Insincere' in Dealing With Tehran
9. (Reuters)Iraq Says Four Killed, 38 Hurt by Mortars
10. washingtonpost-Scaling Down in a Safer World
11. Khatami to visit Germany
12. Tension Escalated Between Iraq and Iran After Mortar Attack
13. Iran-U.S. Ties Unnerve Baghdad

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 11:24:09 EST
From: CHAIRNGO@AOL.COM
Subject: In Commemoration of International Women's Day

HAMBASTEGI (ENGLISH)
Number 87
March 2000
For Persian Hambastegi go to www.hambastegi.org

TABLE OF CONTENTS
* In Commemoration of March 8, International Women's
Day: The First Precondition to Women's Liberation
in Iran is an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran and
Political Islam, By Maryam Namazie
* Condemn the PUK's Suppression of Political Freedoms in
Northern Iraq, IFIR Secretariat, March 20, 2000
* Sit-in of Iranian Refugees in IRaqi Kurdistan Successful,
IFIR Secretariat, February 28, 2000
* The Turkish Authorities in Agri are Forced to Back Down,
IFIR Secretariat, February 28, 2000
* Listen to IFIR's Weekly Radio Program Broadcast in Iran
and Surrounding Countries
* Support IFIR's Work in Defense of Refugee and Human Rights

*****
In Commemoration of March 8, International Women's
Day
THE FIRST PRECONDITION TO WOMEN'S LIBERATION
IN IRAN IS AN END TO THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF
IRAN AND POLITICAL ISLAM
By Maryam Namazie, Executive Director, IFIR
March 8, 2000

The following is taken from Maryam Namazie's speeches
given in Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles on
women's rights in Iran.

Imagine living in a country where the government, and civil and criminal
codes are based on Islam and the Koran's verses, and the courts, police,
militias, guards, and all officials impose it by force. According to the
Koran, men are superior to women, righteous women are devoutly obedient,
and men who fear disloyalty and ill conduct, should admonish women,
refuse to share their beds, and beat them (Surah al Nisa (4): verse 34).
The Koran says, wives are fields that husbands can approach when and
how they choose (Surah al Baqarah (2): verse 223). Imagine living in
a country governed according to the actions and sayings of a prophet,
Mohammad; he "married" Aisha at the age of nine and she was so
small that he would carry her on his shoulders and play with her.
According to Mohammad, women are deficient in intellect. In
Mohammad's last will, he placed a long list of prohibitions on women,
including that they are not to be in charge of the task of judging and
not to be consulted.

Now imagine that you live in Iran, where your daughters can be
legally raped under the guise of marriage at the age of nine or younger
if her male guardian permits; a husband can deny your working if he
finds it incompatible with the family's interests and dignity; and where
many fields of study are closed to you because you are a woman.
In Iran, you need the permission of your husband or male guardian
to travel; your rights to divorce are extremely limited; you have no
long-term right to child custody; and domestic violence is the right
of your husband. In Iran, you may be executed for being a lesbian
and stoned to death for a voluntary sexual relationship outside
of marriage; the law even specifies the size of the stone to be used
in the stoning. Imagine living in a country where sexual apartheid
rules and as a woman you are segregated in schools, buses, public
offices, even while swimming in the sea, and you must cover yourself
each time you venture outside of your home. Pretend that you live
in Iran, and the government and its religious rule of law interferes
in every aspect of your life. Whom you sleep with, what music
you listen to, and what you wear become political acts of defiance
against the regime and Islam. You would resist even if you were
there for one moment as women and people are resisting daily,
despite the repression that follows.

The so-called Islamic "feminists," an oxymoron, say that the problem
in countries where Islamic laws are practiced is that Islam has
been misinterpreted and they themselves put forth "progressive"
interpretations to prove that Islam is "just." For example, regarding
the verse in the Koran sanctioning violence against women, they say
that Islam only permits violence after admonishment and confinement
and as a last resort. They say, since men would beat their
wives mercilessly at that time, this is a restriction on men to beat
women more mercifully (Women Living Under Muslim Laws, For
Ourselves Women Reading the Qur'an, 1997). On the verse that
says women are men's fields, they say the Koran is encouraging
sexuality (same source), even though women are killed for
expressing theirs. Regarding the fact that women are not to judge
or consult, one such "feminist" who is a mullah from Qom using
a female pseudonym says: "Or, Let's suppose that in other planets,
women are stronger and more learned than men, do we accept
their custom or do we reject it totally?" (Zanan 4 and 5)

These so-called "feminists" along with Western governments,
their media, and pro-Khatami "opposition" are not concerned
with defending women's rights. Instead, by legitimizing Islam and
an Islamic regime using the racist theory of cultural relativism, they
intend to defend and maintain crimes against women.

When speaking of Iran, why do they compare the status of women
in Iran to those of women in neighboring countries? They say women
in Iran are better off - at least they can drive in comparison to Saudi
Arabia and there are women in parliament, never mind that they
enforce and regulate misogyny. Using cultural relativism, they call
the "elections" of Khatami as president several years ago, an exercise
in the free will of the people. Only four, including Khatami, out of
238 reactionary, Muslim men, were selected for their loyalty to the
regime by the "Supreme Spiritual Leader," Khamenei and the
Guardian Council. They say that there have been "reforms"
since Khatami's "election;" during his presidency, the government-
controlled press has been banned from discussing women's rights
outside the framework of Islam and legislation has been
passed segregating hospitals. Women have continued to be
flogged, stoned, and imprisoned. Why in Austria, when a fascist
party recently gained power, Western governments boycotted it,
yet 21 years of religious fascism in Iran is called an
"Islamic democracy?"

Why do they not compare the situation of women in Iran to
those of women in France? It is because the more repressive a
regime and the less rights women have, the better it is for profits.
Creating divisions, including sexual divisions, guarantees more
disadvantaged segments of the working class and helps drive down
the standard of living for all people. Moreover, to maintain Islam,
women more than anyone else must be bound and gagged. If the
status of women in Iran was compared to that of France, and women
could for one moment walk in the streets without a veil, this would
mean the end of an Islamic regime. Western governments
that supported and encouraged the growth of political Islam for cold
war gains and profits, helped make the Islamic Republic of Iran
and countries where Islamic laws are practiced a brutal reality for
millions of human beings. They have shown that they will do anything
to defend their class interests in Iran, even in their own countries. In
Germany, the police beat asylum seeker Roya Mosayebi and
forcibly veiled her in order to prepare her file for deportation to Iran.
When she filed a complaint, a German court found that the police
had acted in accordance with the law. Because Mosayebi was born
in Iran, she must be beaten and veiled for an archaic religion.

In their continuing efforts to maintain the rule of Islam in Iran,
Western governments and their media say that the increasing protests
in Iran are in support of Khatami's "reformist" faction over Khamenei's
"conservative" faction. Today Khalkhali, the infamous hanging judge
who tried and sentenced to execution 22 people in 15 minutes in
Saghez, is called a "reformer." Today, Khatami, the former Minister
of Islamic Guidance who censored books, films, the government-
controlled press, music, and expression is called a "democrat"
and "reformer." These criminals have not changed. The situation
in Iran has. In reality, the factional infighting is because of the
explosive situation in Iran.

Despite immense repression, the media blitz legitimizing the Islamic
regime, and the use of cultural relativism to deny the universality of
women's rights, women and people in Iran are resisting on a daily
basis. The women's movement has never been so strong. During
the July 1999 protests, the protesters, many of who were young
women, attacked the symbols of this rule - banks, mosques and
mullahs. Even female students in Qom, a city like the Vatican,
have protested against segregation in their university. Even taxi drivers
will not stop for mullahs anymore; recently a mullah showed up late
to parliament because he could not get a cab until he went home
and changed his clothes. This is the environment in Iran. The root
of the protests is that an Islamic government is antithetical to people's
needs and desires. If there is any opening in Iran, it is because of
people's daily resistance, not Khatami. To say it is because of
Khatami discounts people's aspirations and struggles to create a better
life and live as human beings.

What will end women's oppression in Iran? A war against fundamentalism
is not the answer as it is used only to divert people's wrath against all
of religion. In addition, reinterpretations of Islam and the Koran will
not liberate women; it is impossible to make human and pro woman
that which is inhuman and misogynist. Khatami, too, cannot bring
about freedom and equality or even reforms. People take reforms,
freedom, and equality by force in the streets.

The Islamic "feminists," Western governments, their media, and pro
Khatami "opposition," along with the Islamic regime, aim to legitimize
women's oppression, ensure that women reconcile with the unbearable
situation that has been forced upon them, and to divert women's struggle
for equality and freedom. They are using any means necessary to
maintain the Islamic regime, especially in the face of increasing
protests in Iran. Those of us who are believe in freedom and equality,
who believe that women in Iran deserve to live as human beings, we
too must use any means necessary to defend women's and people's
struggle to end this heinous regime.

While complete equality and freedom can only come about with an
end to class exploitation, the first precondition for women's liberation
not only in Iran but in other countries where Islamic laws are practiced,
is an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran and an end to political Islam.

CONDEMN THE PATRIOTIC UNION OF KURDISTAN'S
SUPPRESSION OF POLITICAL FREEDOMS IN NORTHERN IRAQ
IFIR Secretariat
March 20, 2000

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) recent arrests and banning
of organizations and a threat to ban a party, which defend the rights
of women, children, the aged and Iranian refugees are violations of
human rights and in contravention of political freedoms in Northern Iraq.

On February 16, 2000, the PUK's security forces raided several homes,
arrested, and imprisoned Socialists Fahd Nasser, Omar Sharif, and
Yusef Mohammad. On February 17, the Office of the Aged, organized
by the Union of Construction Workers, was shut down and Ostad
Saber, its representative, was imprisoned. The Center for the Defense
of Children's Rights has also been closed. Moreover, on March 5, the
Deputy Interior Minister issued a grievance against the Worker
Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) demanding that the Party's
activities be banned. In the grievance filed, the Deputy Interior
Minister has claimed that the WCPI's defense of women's rights
is in contradiction to the PUK's Islamic laws, and that the Party
has helped organize illegal demonstrations in defense of refugees.
An April 4 court date has been set to prosecute the WCPI.

The International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) strongly
condemns the policies of the PUK, which are opposed to political
freedoms in Iraqi Kurdistan. These policies support Islamic terrorism
and political reaction in Kurdistan and promote an environment in
which the rights of women, children, refugees and the aged can
more easily be violated. An attack on the progressive segments of
society is an all out attack on those they defend.

IFIR calls on groups and individuals to demand that the PUK
immediately and unconditionally release those imprisoned and
recognize political freedoms for all people as well as parties and
organizations, including the WCPI, the Center for the Defense
of Children's Rights, the Office of the Aged, and the International
Federation of Iranian Refugees - Soleymanieh Branch office.

Protest letters, faxes and e-mails to the PUK can be sent to: 5
Glasshouse Walk, London SE1, England; fax: 011-44-171-840-0630
and 444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 837, Washington, DC 20001;
fax: 202-637-2723. The PUK's e-mail is puk@puk.org.

SAMPLE LETTER

5 Glasshouse Walk
London SE1
England
Fax: 011-44-171-840-0630

444 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 837
Washington, DC 20001
Fax: 202-637-2723

E-mail: puk@puk.org

To Whom It May Concern:

I / my organization am / is writing to condemn the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan's (PUK) arrest and imprisonment of activists defending the
rights of women, children, the aged, people in general and Iranian refugees
living in Northern Iraq.

I demand that the PUK immediately and unconditionally release
those individuals who have been imprisoned, including Fahd Nasser,
Omar Sharif, Yusef Mohammad, and Ostad Saber. I further demand
that the PUK respect political freedoms and the right to organize for
all individuals and groups including the Worker Communist Party of Iraq,
the Center for the Defense of Children's Rights, the Office of the Aged,
and the International Federation of Iranian Refugees - Soleymanieh
Branch office.

I look forward to the immediate resolution of this urgent matter.

Signed:
Name
Organization, if any
Address

SIT-IN OF IRANIAN REFUGEES IN IRAQI KURDISTAN SUCCESSFUL
IFIR Secretariat
February 28, 2000

The sit-in of 170 Iranian refugees, which began on February 6, 2000 in
protest to the policies of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) Soleymanieh office in Iraqi Kurdistan, ended
successfully on February 17, 2000.

After numerous meetings between the UNHCR and Hagir Saeedi, the
International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) - Soleymanieh
Branch Representative and others, the UNHCR agreed to address all
refugee demands within 45 days, including:

* Register all refugees and provide refugee determination interviews,
* Review rejected casefiles,
* Re-commence third country resettlement interviews and transfers,
* Increase resettlement quotas, and,
* Provide financial and medical assistance.

In continuation of its campaign in defense of Iranian refugees in Northern
Iraq, Maryam Namazie, IFIR's Executive Director, met with Foad Masoom,
Political Bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Dilshad
Miran, Central Committee member of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq.
Namazie discussed the status of Iranian refugees and IFIR branches in
Soleymanieh and Erbil. The representatives of the two ruling parties agreed
to follow up on issues discussed, including formal recognition of IFIR
branches in Northern Iraq.

IFIR congratulates groups and individuals who joined the campaign in
defense of the sit-in participants and cautiously awaits the ruling parties'
and the UNHCR's implementation of their pledges.

THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES IN AGRI ARE FORCED TO BACK
DOWN
IFIR Secretariat
February 28, 2000

The Turkish government's assault on Iranian refugee rights, which began
on January 26, 2000, in Agri, ended successfully with the intervention
of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), and other
groups and individuals.

Last month, the Turkish police had accused all 500 Iranian refugees
residing in the border town of Agri of entering Turkey legally and
with passports though they had registered with the authorities and
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as
having entered without official documents. With this blanket and
unsubstantiated accusation, the Turkish police demanded that
all refugees hand over their alleged passports or lose their
temporary residency in Turkey, thereby facing refoulement (forcible
return) to Iran.

Subsequent local and international protests forced the Turkish
authorities to back down. According to the IFIR Representative
in Agri, the situation in the border town has returned to normalcy.

The return to normalcy and an end to the climate of fear among
refugees in Agri is the direct result of international solidarity
and support. IFIR congratulates those who intervened on the
refugees' behalf.

LISTEN TO IFIR'S WEEKLY RADIO PROGRAM

Listen to the International Federation of Iranian Refugees' weekly
radio program, which discusses refugee and human rights issues
as well as organizing efforts on Saturdays from 9:00pm to 9:15pm
Tehran time on 41 meters short wave (7520 kilohertz). The program
is broadcast via Radio International that can be heard in Iran,
surrounding countries as well as in Europe. Radio International
broadcasts daily programs from 9:00pm to 9:30pm.

SUPPORT IFIR'S WORK IN DEFENSE OF REFUGEE AND
HUMAN RIGHTS

Yes, I want to take a stand with IFIR. Enclosed is my:

Donation of: ____$25 ____$50 ____$75 ____$100
____$250 ____$500 ____$Other
Subscription to Hambastegi for: ____$15/year

Name _______________________________________
Address _______________________________________
_______________________________________
Phone _______________________ E-Mail _________

Please make checks payable to CHAIR/IFIR and mail to GPO, PO
Box 7051, New York, NY 10116, USA. Donations are tax-deductible.

Fore more information, contact IFIR/CHAIR GPO, PO
Box 7051, New York, NY 10116, USA.
Tel: 212-747-1046. Fax: 212-425-7260. E-mail: chairngo@aol.com.
www.hambastegi.org

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:05:39 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: AFP-Student gunman shot Hajjarian

TEHRAN, March 21 (AFP) - The gunman who shot leading Iranian reformer Said
Hajarian is a student at a Tehran university led by a top conservative,
the official IRNA news agency said Tuesday.
Citing the head of the investigation, it named Said Asghar as the gunman
responsible for the March 12 shooting of Hajarian, a close ally of
President Mohammad Khatami and a leading force behind Iran's pro-reform
movement.

It said Asghar is a chemistry student at the Free Islamic University
(FMU), a private school founded in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution by
order of the founder of the Islamic republic, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini.

FMU is currently headed by Abdollah Jasbi, an influential figure among
Iranian conservatives, and its student body tends to come from well-heeled
families.

IRNA said the student was the owner of the high-powered motorbike used in
the getaway after the shooting of Hajarian, which took place outside the
offices of the Tehran city council.

Reports have said the motorbike was of a kind restricted here to
government agencies.

The 47-year-old Hajarian is still fighting for his life in a Tehran
hopsital.

The interior ministry said Monday that six people had been arrested in the
attack on Hajarian, which came just weeks after his popular newspaper
linked leading conservatives to the 1998 murder of several dissidents and
intellectuals.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:06:57 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: AFP-Hajjarian's paper blasts murderous "shadow government"

TEHRAN, March 21 (AFP) - Most Iranians believe there is a murderous
"shadow government" that holds the true power in the nation, said a
pro-reform newspaper Tuesday whose chief is fighting for his life after an
assassination attempt.
The claim in the Sobh-e-Emruz daily comes as its director Said Hajarian, a
close ally of President Mohammad Khatami and a leader in the reform
movement, is still in hospital after being gunned down in broad daylight
last week.

The paper, which published a series of articles linking conservatives to
the 1998 serial murder of top dissidents in the weeks before Hajarian's
shooting, said its director's fate was connected to those killings.

"Right now, public opinion believes there is a shadow government of
assassins active in the halls of power in the Islamic republic," the paper
said, also referring to the brutal suppression of student riots by police
last year.

"Extremists attacked the students as a way of letting the government know
it doesn't care one bit about public opinion," the paper said, adding that
the ultimate message of the regime's hardliners was: "Shut up or we'll
shut you up."

It said Iranians would have to work together to "destroy the shadow
government."

Iran's interior ministry announced late Monday it had arrested six people
in the shooting of Hajarian, who was gunned down by two men who sped off
on a high-powered motorcycle reserved here exclusively for government
agencies.

The ministry did not give further details about the arrest of the six,
which came just hours after Khatami ordered a speedier inquiry into the
attempt on the life of his close friend and political ally.

Hajarian is a key player in the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the
largest pro-reform party which is headed by Khatami's brother
Mohammad-Reza and led the reformist surge to victory in parliamentary
elections last month.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:06:17 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: (Reuters)Iran identifies 'hitman' in reformer's shooting

Iran identifies 'hitman' in reformer's shooting
By Mehrdad Balali

TEHRAN, March 21 (Reuters) - Iranian officials on Tuesday identified the
man who was arrested over the shooting of a leading reformer as a
chemistry student from a university in Tehran. State television, quoting a
security official, identified "the hitman" suspected of firing the gun
which gravely wounded Saeed Hajjarian earlier this month as Saeed Asgar, a
student at Tehran's Azad Open University.

"Efforts by security bodies are continuing and more information will be
revealed as we continue," the state television quoted the official as
saying.

Hajjarian, an ally of President Mohammad Khatami and a key figure in the
reformists' victory in last month's parliamentary elections, was gravely
wounded in the March 12 shooting by two attackers who escaped on a
high-powered motorcycle.

He has been unconscious in hospital since the attack, although doctors
have said his general condition is improving.

Officials said on Monday that six people had been arrested in connection
with the shooting, including the person who shot Hajjarian and an
accomplice on the motorcycle.


MOTORBIKE SAID TO BE PRIVATELY OWNED

In Tuesday's television report the security official was quoted as saying
the motorcycle used was privately owned, but did not give further details.

The high-powered motorbike identified in the shooting was thought similar
to those used in past political killings, and a type restricted by law to
security personnel. This heightened suspicions among reformists of a link
to the security forces.

Rogue elements inside the security service were implicated last year in a
string of murders of dissidents and intellectuals, cases which are not yet
finally resolved.

Iran's National Security Council, which falls under the Interior Ministry,
said in a statement on Tuesday that "any unreliable news, rumours and
malicious analysis of the foreign media in connection with the arrests'
should be avoided".

The move to rein in the press came two days after supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei voiced concern about rumours linking the attack to the
Revolutionary Guards, the Basij volunteer militia or their hardline allies.

All security organisations, including the Revolutionary Guards, have
condemned the attack on Hajjarian, a member of Tehran city council.

Khamenei told Khatami to speed up the inquiry into the case in order to
put the suspicions to rest. The president then asked the National Security
Council to watch the media.

The reformist press pushed on Tuesday for a thorough inquiry into the
roots of political violence in Iran and called on the authorities to hunt
down those giving the orders.

"Arresting only the hitmen may not shed light on the depth of the
catastrophe. There is a need to aim at their commanders," wrote
Mosharekat, a leading reformist newspaper.

The daily, run by a brother of Khatami, said some of the hardline suspects
rounded up had openly defended the attack against Hajjarian on ideological
grounds.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:09:23 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: IRNA: Hajjarian ready for physiotherapy - say physicians

Tehran, March 22, IRNA -- The team of physicians attending to municipal
councilor Saeed Hajjarian said in a statement here on Wednesday that
their patient is now prepared for physiotherapy.

The physicians called as desirable and normal the cardial and
respiratory condition of Hajjarian. They said Hajjarian's blood pressure
is normal and the medicine for increasing his blood pressure has been
cut.

The physicians also said the artificial respiratory has been minimized
and the act of breathing is mosty done by the patient himself. There are
moves in the patient's intestine and feeding through a hose planted in
the intestine has started, the statement added.

According to the statement, level of consciousness in Hajjarian has
increased clearly to the effect that he understands what is said and
responds to them with head or eye.

It said Hajjarian has suffered no convulsion over the past 24 hours and
his general condition is improving.

Hajjarian was shot injured by a gunman before Tehran City Council (TCC)
premises on March 12.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:11:29 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Clinton extended his best wishes...

March 20, 2000 Clinton Extends Best Wishes on Nowruz, Persian New Year
(Expresses hope for better relations between U.S. and Iran)
.
President Clinton March 20 extended his best wishes to Americans of
Iranian origin and to the people of Iran who this week will celebrate
Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

"I hope this season will bring the start of a new era of better
relations between our two countries," the President said.

Following is the White House text of Clinton's statement:

(Begin text)

The White House Office of the Press Secretary (Dhaka, Bangladesh) For
Immediate Release March 20, 2000

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

This week, people of Iranian heritage around the world will celebrate
Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Nowruz is a tradition as old as the land
of Persia, but at the same time it celebrates change and renewal: the
changing season from winter to spring, a new year and a new beginning.
It is a time to gather with family and friends and to look toward the
future. I extend my best wishes for the New Year to Americans of Iranian
origin, and to the people of Iran. I hope this season will bring the
start of a new era of better relations between our two countries. Nowruz
Mubarak.

(End text)

(Distributed by Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Dep't
of State)

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:13:50 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Times-Iran's Own Desert Storm

Iran's Own Desert Storm Deadly fight against drug smugglers along
nation's eastern border has gone largely unnoticed due to Tehran's
isolation from West. Next to that of U.S., it may be costliest and most
determined such effort.

By JOHN DANISZEWSKI, Times Staff Writer

SORKHE KALAT, Iran--A war is being waged on the barren wastelands of
eastern Iran, but few outside this country are aware of it. On one side
are the forces of the Islamic Republic, in their kelly green uniforms,
baseball caps and military boots, flying ancient U.S.-made Huey
helicopters or hunkered down in newly built versions of medieval
fortresses. Marshaled against them is a criminal enemy--clever, ruthless
and formidably armed--made up of Afghani and Pakistani drug smugglers
and their Iranian accomplices. The criminals are intent on getting
hundreds of tons of opium and heroin that are produced each year in
Afghanistan safely to the desert interior of Iran, to be sold for local
consumption or shipped to Turkey and Western Europe. The Iranian forces
are trying to staunch the flow of drugs across their border, as a matter
of religious duty and of self-interest for the Islamic government, which
is vexed by signs that many bored, underemployed young people are
falling into the grips of a drug epidemic. But closing the border to
traffickers is a daunting task; there are more than 1,100 miles of
unpopulated, unforgiving frontier with Afghanistan and Pakistan to
defend. The region is among the most brutal terrains on Earth, a melange
of craggy mountains and parched desert, where temperatures can range
from below freezing in the winter to well over 120 degrees in summer. On
this harsh tableau, on any given day the smugglers may kill the Iranians
or the Iranians may kill the smugglers. This nation has lost more than
2,500 police officers and soldiers in the war against drug traffickers
during the last 15 years, from lowly police privates to army generals
whose helicopters were shot down with Stinger missiles. More than 100
died in 1999, including 36 police officers captured in an incident in
November by traffickers and executed after being tortured. No one knows
how many smugglers have died. But Iran's prisons are bulging with the
9,000 or so apprehended since the early 1980s. To give an example of the
scale of the struggle, according to United Nations statistics: * Each
year the Iranians seize 90% of all opium confiscated worldwide by law
enforcement agencies, and 10% of all heroin. * The drugs seized by the
Islamic Republic represent vast potential wealth. The Iranians say they
have stopped 3 million pounds over the last two decades. The 77,000
pounds of seized uncut heroin alone--at more than $90,000 a pound--would
sell on the street for about $7 billion. The Iranians routinely destroy
it in bonfires. * Iran has deployed 30,000 police officers along its
border and mounted a massive construction effort--including earthen
barriers, concrete walls, barbed-wire fences and deep trenches--in an
effort to dam the flow of drugs. The works have included 80 miles of
embankments, 22 walls sealing valleys, hundreds of miles of trenches 15
feet deep and 14 feet across, 12 miles of barbed wire, 100 military
outposts and 16 border stations. The problem is so acute for Iran
because its neighbor, Afghanistan, accounts for three-quarters of the
world's annual production of opium, a crop that last year was estimated
at a record 4,600 tons. Drug-control experts say the Taliban, the
extremist Sunni Muslim movement that has conquered most of Afghanistan,
uses the drug trade as a funding source. As much as 90% of the heroin
consumed in Europe comes from Afghanistan, and U.S. officials fear more
of it is crossing the Atlantic to North America. Iran sits astride the
most direct route for those drugs to reach Western consumers, either
directly from Afghanistan or through Pakistan.

Many Lives Lost in Fight Against Narcotics Officials here say that over
the last 20 years, Iran has expended billions of dollars and many lives
in a war on drugs that benefits Europe. The estimate for 1999
expenditures alone was $800 million. Yet Iran's struggle has not
garnered much attention because, for most of the last 20 years, since
the Islamic Revolution, the country has been isolated diplomatically
from the West. "We do feel alone," said Mohammed Fallah, head of Iran's
anti-narcotics effort. "Although most of the drugs trafficked through
our country are aimed at Europe or other countries, most of the load is
shouldered by us alone." Only now that reformers aligned with moderate
President Mohammad Khatami are in the driver's seat in Tehran have
relations with the West started to improve. That has brought the first
acknowledgment from the Europeans of their debt to Iranian drug
fighters, and a small but growing amount of material aid, such as
four-wheel-drive vehicles, bulletproof vests and night vision equipment
donated by nations including Britain, Italy and France. The U.S.
government also has quietly acknowledged Tehran's positive role in
fighting drugs: In 1998, the Clinton administration removed Iran from
the list of countries that are considered to be major sources of illegal
drugs, either as producers or transit nations, and are uncooperative in
anti-narcotics efforts. In fact, with the exception of U.S. efforts to
interdict drugs coming from Latin America, there is arguably no country
that has waged such a determined and costly war against drug smuggling.
A U.N. official suggests that the effort is one area in which the West
and Iran have the opportunity and mutual interest to cooperate. "If Iran
seizes more, less is going to Europe," said Antonio Mazzitelli,
transferred from Colombia last year to open an office of the United
Nations' International Drug Control Program in Tehran. "The two sides
have discovered this issue offers benefits to all." Gen. Ali Shafiee,
head of the Iranian national police anti-narcotic division, recently
escorted a delegation of European diplomats and journalists to the front
lines of the conflict in Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern
Iran, where the bulk of the smuggling occurs. From a helicopter flying
over the eastern frontier, the nearby mountains of Afghanistan look like
jagged black teeth, forbidding and wild as they rise up out of the
desert. When rain falls in the mountains in winter, the water washes
down in a torrent, carving the land into stark valleys and rivulets. In
the heat of the desert, the water quickly vanishes. But the gashes left
behind become the pathways for smugglers. Anti-drug police and soldiers
from Tehran assigned to the narcotics war keep lonely vigils in this
land, watching the passageways from mountaintop towers and walled
fortresses that Iran has constructed along the frontier, redoubts that
look like castles from the Middle Ages. It was down one such dry stream
bed on a moonlit night in September, Shafiee recounted, that agents
observed a caravan of 60 camels laden with drugs threading its way into
Iran. In this border region, he explained, many clans have relatives on
both sides of the border cooperating in the illicit trade. The officers
were told to hold their fire so that the smugglers would lead them to
their contacts. By morning, the line of camels had successfully
negotiated a 3-mile-wide plain just inside Iran and looked as if it was
about to escape into a range of hills. Police moved in with jeeps and
helicopters to surround the smugglers. Immediately, the traffickers
answered with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Some tried
to make a dash back to Afghanistan. The shooting lasted several hours.
When it was over, five smugglers were dead and two were under arrest. No
police were killed. It took the rest of the day to round up the camels
and cargo: more than 3 tons of opium and 3,300 pounds of morphine.
Police have made headway against the smugglers only in recent years,
Shafiee said, helped by the barriers that have been erected. "When there
were no trenches, this [area] could be passed easily," he explained.
"Sometimes, up to 60 vehicles could pass through with no problems.
Confronting them was a hard task, because they were armed heavily with
advanced weapons and ammunition." With the ravines blocked, the
smugglers can no longer use four-wheel-drive vehicles to get across the
desert, he said. "Now they have to use camels, donkeys, motorbikes or
their backs."

Undercover Agents and Informers Are of Help Through the use of
undercover agents and informers, the police try to anticipate when a
shipment is due. But Shafiee has no illusions: He doubts that his
officers get even half of the contraband flowing across the frontier.
Meanwhile, smugglers are developing other ruses. One is to addict camels
to opium and then train them to know where in Iran they can go to get
their next fix, Shafiee said. In this way, the camels will cross the
frontier unescorted by smugglers and deliver their cargo to accomplices.
The center of the government's anti-drug fight is Zahedan, a spare
frontier town near Afghanistan that is dismissed in one Western
guidebook as the ugliest city in Iran and not worth a visit. But it does
have an unusual museum--an exhibition assembled for international law
enforcement and drug-control officials. The museum displays documents
that the Iranians say show how smugglers are given certificates on the
Afghan side of the border allowing them to move the "white goods." These
certificates are stamped receipts showing that the duties have been paid
for the drugs to the Taliban authorities, and saying that the bearers
should not be molested. There are piles of the confiscated drugs, packed
in burlap or disguised inside containers of canned fruit or boxes marked
tomato paste and sausage. Also on display are rifles, heavy machine guns
and bazookas used by the smugglers. Over the displays are painted
portraits of Iranian "martyrs" in the drug war. Down the road from the
museum is the prison, which houses thousands of Iranians, Afghans and
Pakistanis incarcerated for drug offenses. Most are serving sentences of
five years or more. Major offenders are hanged. (Armed smuggling and
possession of more than 1 ounce of heroin or more than 11 pounds of
opium are punishable by death in Iran, but in practice, that punishment
is reserved for repeat offenders or people handling larger quantities of
narcotics, Iranian officials said.) According to the United Nations'
Mazzitelli, Iran was one of the major producers of opium in the region
before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. But within four years, the
clerical government had managed to virtually stamp out its production.
However, with the influx of drugs from Afghanistan, officials admit that
they are facing a serious abuse problem of their own, with about 1.2
million Iranians habitually using drugs. "We are part of the world, and
in the whole world this problem is on the rise and increasing every
day," parliament member Marzieh Seddighi said. Seddighi has set up a
nongovernmental organization that advises addicts and their families how
to overcome the drug habit. In Iran, she said, addicts are not
stigmatized as much as they are in the West; opium eating has a long
history in this nation's rural areas. But she noted that the new drug
influx from Afghanistan is another matter and that it is taking a
terrible toll on the young. There also are signs that more people are
using heroin, which smugglers produce from raw opium because it is
easier to conceal and carry. The sharing of needles among drug abusers
is raising concerns about a future epidemic of AIDS. About 1% of drug
abusers sampled are HIV-positive. Boredom and lack of economic
opportunity are causing many young people to become involved in drugs,
Seddighi said. Addicts can be seen sleeping in Tehran parks, and drug
pushing goes on around Azadi Square, site of many vociferous pro-Islamic
demonstrations. In 1997, the country's laws were changed to allow users
to come forward for treatment without fear of prosecution. But
traffickers in large quantities of drugs still face long prison terms
or, in some cases, death. One recovering addict, Hossein Dezhakam, said
he could not point to a single reason for his 15-year involvement with
drugs, which eventually cost him a contracting business. "When you have
so many drugs around, it is just like a disease, and you catch it."
Fallah, the anti-drug czar, said the government is determined to stop
the torrent of narcotics that threatens to overwhelm Iran. "The
important point is that we should have assistance and commitment from
all the other countries," he said. "Should we get this assistance from
the world, we could definitely intensify our efforts."

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:15:01 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Reuters-Iran Says U.S. 'Insincere' in Dealing With Tehran

Wednesday March 22 3:19 AM ET
Iran Says U.S. 'Insincere' in Dealing With Tehran

TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - Iran has blasted what it called contradictory
remarks by U.S. officials and said the American government was insincere
in dealing with the Islamic republic.

The comments were made by Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza-Asefi,
the official news agency IRNA said Wednesday.

IRNA said Asefi dismissed what he called recent U.S. comments that Iran
posed a security threat in the region. IRNA did not elaborate on the
reported U.S. comments.

IRNA also made reference to remarks by CIA Director George Tenet Tuesday
that countries like Iran were becoming more self-sufficient in producing
materials for biological weapons and that Iran ``aspires'' to have
nuclear arms.

``The contradictory remarks of American officials over the recent days,
at times with inappropriate tone, reveal their little knowledge about
the geography of the region, and indicates insincerity of the American
government in dealing with Iran,'' IRNA quoted Asefi as saying in its
English-language report.

Iran's top leaders, spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and moderate
President Mohammad Khatami, have yet to make public comment on an
impassioned plea last week by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for
all-out efforts by the United States and Iran to put two decades of
animosity behind them.

In a practical gesture, she announced easing of sanctions on key non-oil
goods from Iran and pledged to accelerate efforts to resolve outstanding
financial claims between the two countries.

The initiative -- made soon after the victory of reformists in Iran's
parliamentary elections in February -- has drawn mixed reactions in
Tehran.

The Foreign Ministry welcomed the easing of sanctions and said Tehran
would respond by importing U.S. grain and medicine.

Relations between Iran and the United States were broken in 1979 after
Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in the aftermath of
the Islamic revolution which overthrew the pro-Western shah.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:10:01 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: (Reuters)Iraq Says Four Killed, 38 Hurt by Mortars

Iraq Says Four Killed, 38 Hurt by Mortars

By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - The Iraqi government said on Wednesday four
people were killed and 38 wounded by a mortar attack on a residential
building in Baghdad and it blamed Iran for the assault.

The Iraqi News Agency INA quoted a security spokesman as saying that two
of the victims were Iraqis and the other two were non-Iraqi Arabs living
in Iraq. INA had initially said one Iraqi and three Arabs were killed in
the assault.

``Agents of the Iranian regime yesterday evening fired six mortar bombs
at a residential building in Baghdad inhabited by Iraqis and Arabs, and
the attack led to the martyrdom of two Iraqis and two Arabs and the
injury of 38 others,'' the spokesman said.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran.

The security spokesman said the wounded, some of whom were in critical
condition, were taken to a nearby hospital. Children, women and elderly
were said to be among the victims.

He said security authorities had found an Iranian 60mm mortar and two
unexploded bombs near the place where the attack took place.

Saddam Conveys Condolences

INA said President Saddam Hussein sent his condolences to families of
the four people killed in the attack. ``Member of the (ruling) Baath
party Abdul-Ghani Abdul-Ghafur conveyed the leader Saddam Hussein's
condolences to the families of the four martyrs,'' it said.

Abdul-Ghafur also visited the wounded in a Baghdad hospital, according
to INA.

The spokesman said Iraq held the Iranian government responsible for the
assault and considered it ``a flagrant aggression against its security
and sovereignty.''

He also said that Iraq ``reserves the right to take suitable action'' in
response.

Monday Iraq's most influential newspaper, Babel, warned Iran against any
attack on its territory and accused Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright of encouraging Tehran to commit ''aggression'' against Baghdad.

Tension between the two neighbors, at war from 1980 to 1988, has
escalated in the last few weeks over cross-border attacks by the
Iraq-based Mujahideen Khalq, the main exiled Iranian opposition group.

Baghdad said last week that its air defenses had shot down an Iranian
reconnaissance drone near the border with Iran. The next day, Iran said
the Mujahideen had killed two of its soldiers in a clash near the Iraqi
border.

The Mujahideen said their anti-aircraft systems last week repulsed an
air attack by Iran against one of their military bases inside Iraq.

Analysts said the air attack was a reprisal for the Mujahideen's earlier
mortar assault on a Tehran residential district near a Revolutionary
Guards base.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:13:12 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: washingtonpost-Scaling Down in a Safer World

Scaling Down in a Safer World

By Doug Bandow

Wednesday, March 22, 2000; Page A31

In political debates, America is often portrayed as a beleaguered isle
of freedom in a world threatened with a new Dark Ages. Yet the truth is
that the United States is safer today than it has been at any time in
the past half-century. It's time for Washington to cut military outlays
sharply.

While Al Gore and Bill Bradley were sparring over health care in the
primary campaigns, the leading Republican candidates pushed to
"strengthen" the military. For instance, Texas Gov. George W. Bush
complains that "not since the years before Pearl Harbor has our
investment in national defense been so low as a percentage of GNP." Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) sounded like an echo when he warned that "the last
time we spent so little on defense was 1940--the year before Pearl
Harbor."

Even more apocalyptic is conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh,
who warns that "we cannot survive more liberalism" at home or abroad.
After all, he explains, "the world is far more dangerous than the day
Ronald Reagan left office."

It is unclear, however, in what world they believe Americans to be
living.

True, the percentage of GNP devoted to defense, about 3.2 percent, is
lower than at any time since before World War II. Although that number
fell to 3.5 percent in 1948, it climbed sharply with the onset of the
Cold War and the very hot Korean War. One must go back to 1940, when
military outlays ran about 1.7 percent of GNP, to find a lower ratio.

But so what? America's GNP then was $96.5 billion, or about $1.2
trillion in today's dollars. That compares with a GNP of more than $8.7
trillion in 1999. In short, one percent of GNP today means eight times
as much spending as in 1940.

Moreover, the United States was a military pygmy in 1940, with just
458,000 men under arms, up from around 250,000 during the mid-1920s
through 1930s. America lagged well behind Britain, China, France,
Germany, Japan, Russia--and even Italy.

Today Washington dominates the globe. It accounts for more than a third
of the globe's defense outlays. It possesses the strongest military on
earth: a well-trained force of 1.4 million employing the most advanced
weapons. The United States spends as much on the military as the next
seven nations combined, five of which are close allies.

In short, to suggest that America is weak, let alone as weak as before
Pearl Harbor, is nonsense.

No less silly is the contention that the United States faces greater
threats today than a decade ago. The world is messy, yes, and the end of
the Cold War unleashed a series of small conflicts in the Balkans. But
most of the globe's nasty little wars--such as in Angola, Kashmir, Sri
Lanka and Sudan--began well before 1989. And none of these conflicts
threatens the United States as did the struggle with the Soviet Union.

Moreover, virtually every pairing today favors America's friends. The
Europeans spend more on the military than does Russia; Japan's outlays
exceed those of China; South Korea vastly outspends North Korea.
America's implacable enemies are few and pitiful: Cuba, Iran, Iraq,
Libya, North Korea and Serbia collectively spend $12 billion to $13
billion on the military, less than such U.S. allies as Israel and
Taiwan.

A decade ago was not so rosy. Not only did the Soviet Union spend more
than twice as much as does Russia, but it formally confronted America.
The Warsaw Pact states spent as much as NATO's eight smallest members.
Heavily militarized Third World communist nations such as Angola,
Ethiopia, North Korea and Vietnam, threatened U.S. surrogates. Most
important, the American homeland was at risk. Today the possibility of a
foreign attack on the United States is a paranoid fantasy.

Except in one form--terrorism. Although foreign governments, facing the
threat of massive retaliation, are unlikely to strike America, ethnic,
ideological and religious groups might not be so hesitant. But they are
unlikely to do so out of abstract hatred of the United States. To the
contrary, most acts of violence, such as those perpetrated by Osama bin
Laden, are in response to U.S. intervention abroad. Terrorism is the
weapon of choice of the relatively powerless against meddling by the
globe's sole superpower.

In this case, America's strength, its global pervasive presence, is
America's weakness. The solution is not more military spending but
greater military caution. The risk of terrorism must be added to the
other costs of intervening in foreign quarrels with little relevance to
U.S. security.

Should America's military be strengthened? Yes: Problems with readiness,
recruiting and retention should be addressed, and missile defenses
should be constructed. But outlays could still be slashed by shrinking
force levels to match today's more benign threat environment. The world
is less, not more dangerous, than a decade ago. America is relatively
stronger today than ever before, notwithstanding the misguided claims of
Messrs. Bush and McCain.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former special
assistant to President Reagan.

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 14:19:27 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Khatami to visit Germany

Khatami to visit Germany
Germany - Tuesday, 21 March 2000 - Agence France Presse

BERLIN, March 21 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammed Khatami is to pay an
official visit to Germany by July at the latest, a senior German foreign
ministry official who requested anonymity said Tuesday. Khatami is expected
"in July, perhaps before," the official said.

It will be the Iranian leader's third European visit, after ones to Italy and
France, and had been on the cards since the release of the German businessman
Helmut Hofer, who was detained in Iran for 22 months accused of illicit
sexual relations with an Iranian woman.

On his return March 7 from a trip to Iran, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
said a visit by Khatami was definitely planned but gave no date.

Fischer's two-day stay marked the normalisation of relations between Berlin
and Tehran, which had been severely strained not only by the Hofer affair but
also a German court prosecution accusation in 1997 that the Iranian state
leadership was responsible for the 1992 assassination in a Berlin restaurant
of three Kurdish Iranian opposition figures.

------------------------------

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:10:51 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Tension Escalated Between Iraq and Iran After Mortar Attack

Iraq blamed it on Iranian agents while Palestinian ambassador Azzam al-Ahmed
accused "elements who want to destroy brotherly relations between the Iraqis
and Palestinians".


Baghdad, March 23 (Par Daily) – There was no reaction from Islamic Republic
of Iran about Iraqi claims for mortar attack in Baghdad, killing 6 and
wounded 38 people.


Hundreds of mourners called on Saddam Hussein to take revenge against Iran
for the death of six people in a mortar attack on a Palestinian district of
Baghdad.


Iraqi television showed crowds following the coffins, waving Palestinian and
Iraqi flags and chanting: "Revenge, Saddam, Revenge!"


The Tuesday evening attack killed three Palestinians and three Iraqis and
wounded 38 people, according to Palestinian and Iraqi officials.


Iraq blamed it on Iranian agents while Palestinian ambassador Azzam al-Ahmed
accused "elements who want to destroy brotherly relations between the Iraqis
and Palestinians".


An Iraqi security spokesman said the authorities had found an Iranian 60mm
mortar and two unexploded bombs in the area. Iraq holds the Iranian
government responsible for "flagrant aggression against its security and
sovereignty" and "reserves the right to take suitable action", the spokesman
said.


Tension between the two neighbours has escalated in recent weeks over
cross-border attacks by the Iraq-based Mujahidin Khalq. The Mujahidin said
their anti-aircraft systems last week repulsed an air attack by Iran against
one of their military bases inside Iraq.


Analysts said the air attack was a reprisal for a Mujahidin mortar assault on
a Tehran residential district near a Revolutionary Guards base last week.

------------------------------

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:28:36 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran-U.S. Ties Unnerve Baghdad

Iran-U.S. Ties Unnerve Baghdad

By LEON BARKHO
.c The Associated Press


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq views warming ties between Iran and the United
States with fear and suspicion - perhaps enough of both to make it consider
improving its own relations with its regional rival and with the world's
remaining superpower.

Iraq and Iran long have competed for dominance in the Persian Gulf region.
Most Arabs, particularly the gulf states, rallied behind Iraq in its 1980-88
war with Iran. Even the United States came to Baghdad's aid against what it
saw as a dangerous Islamic state, providing logistical support and billions
of dollars in credits.

But Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait changed all that, leading to icy relations
with Persian Gulf states. Iran's ties with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which
contributed billions of dollars to Iraq's war effort with Iran, have improved
dramatically in recent years.

The United States, viewed by Iran as the great Satan, made overtures last
week to what it sees as a new reform-minded leadership in Iran.

In what Baghdad considered yet another step to further isolate Iraq,
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week lifted a ban on U.S. imports
of Iranian carpets and other luxury goods. She said both the United States
and Iran had fought conflicts begun by Iraq's ``lawless regime'' and should
work together to reduce tension in the region.

The United States openly advocates a change of government in Baghdad.

Although the Iraqi government has not officially commented on the U.S. move
to lift some sanctions on Iran, the official Iraqi press has expressed
misgivings.

Iraq's most influential newspaper, Babel, published by President Saddam
Hussein's eldest son, Odai, said the United States move was tantamount to
``encouraging Iran to expand its aggression on Iraq.''

While Babel warned Iran not ``to play with the (new) fire,'' it stopped short
of saying what Iraq, crippled by U.N. trade sanctions, would do if Tehran
joins forces with Washington against it.

To escape isolation, Iraq may make its own overture to Iran, with whom ties
are almost as cool as when a 1988 U.N.-brokered cease-fire ended hostilities.

Baghdad-based diplomats said Iraq has even asked an Iranian dissident group
it had earlier welcomed to move its offices outside the capital. The group,
the Mujahedeen Khalq, denied the report.

Baghdad could see Gulf War trade sanctions lifted and its status on the
international arena boosted if it accepts a new U.S.-backed, U.N. initiative
for resumption of stalled weapons inspections.

The sanctions can be lifted once U.N. arms monitors are satisfied Iraq has
given up all its weapons of mass destruction and the long-range missiles to
deliver them.

In terms of business, government officials say Iraq may be as profitable a
market for the United States as Iran once sanctions are lifted. Iraq holds
the world's second-largest proven reserves of oil, after those of Saudi
Arabia.

Iraq is wary it will lose most of its geopolitical status if Iran succeeds in
persuading other Persian Gulf states and the international community that it
has turned into a responsible regional superpower.

Baghdad still perceives itself as the only force capable of standing up to
Iran if tensions flare between Tehran and the oil-rich Arab states on the
Persian Gulf.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Leon Barkho has covered Iraqi politics for The Associated
Press since 1997.

------------------------------

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 20 Mar 2000 to 22 Mar 2000 - Special issue
*******************************************************************