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There are 6 messages totalling 369 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iran identifies ``hitman'' in reformer's shooting
2. CIA director says detecting bio weapons ``daunting''
3. Force five earthquake strikes northwest Iran
4. Iran says U.S. 'insincere' in dealing with Tehran
5. Iraq Blames Iran for Mortar Attack
6. Iraq mourns victims of a mortar attack

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Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:29:03 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: 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: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:29:32 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: CIA director says detecting bio weapons ``daunting''

CIA director says detecting bio weapons ``daunting''

By Tabassum Zakaria


WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - Countries like Iran are becoming more
self-sufficient in producing materials for biological weapons, making U.S.
intelligence detection efforts more difficult, CIA Director George Tenet said
on Tuesday.

Biological warfare programmes ``are becoming self-sufficient, challenging our
detection and deterrence efforts, and limiting our interdiction
opportunities,'' Tenet said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

``Iran, for example, driven in part by stringent international export
controls, is acquiring the ability to domestically produce raw materials and
the equipment to support indigenous biological agent production,'' he said.

Rapid advances in biotechnology could mean more sophisticated biological
warfare agents and there was a growing risk that new chemical agents more
difficult to fight could become available to countries or groups hostile to
the United States, Tenet warned.

``Biological and chemical weapons pose arguably the most daunting challenge
for intelligence collectors and analysts,'' he said at the non-proliferation
hearing.

While preparing and using biological weapons was more difficult than some
literature suggested, adversaries were pursuing such programmes and the
potential threat to the United States and its allies was growing, he said.

About a dozen countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria,
either possess or are pursuing biological and chemical warfare capabilities,
Tenet said.

A number of ``terrorist'' groups, like some affiliated with Saudi-exile Osama
bin Laden, are also trying to develop or acquire biological and chemical
weapons capabilities, adding to ``the danger of surprise attack,'' he said.

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION

The growing threat of nuclear weapons proliferation is ``underscored'' by
developments in South Asia where India and Pakistan are ``developing more
advanced nuclear weapons and moving toward deployment of significant nuclear
arsenals,'' Tenet said.

U.S. officials have expressed concern over the potential for those two
countries to resort to nuclear weapons in their conflict over Kashmir.
President Clinton is currently visiting that region.

Tenet in prepared remarks for the hearing said the dispute over Kashmir was a
``potential flashpoint.''

``Both sides are postured in a way that could lead to more intense
engagements later this year,'' he said. ``Our concern persists that
antagonisms in South Asia could still produce a more dangerous conflict on
the subcontinent,'' he added.

The CIA director told the hearing that Iran also ``aspires'' to have nuclear
weapons and Iraq has probably not given up its nuclear ambitions.

``We are concerned about the potential for states and terrorists to acquire
plutonium, highly enriched uranium and other fissile materials and even
complete nuclear weapons,'' Tenet said.

``Iran or Iraq could quickly advance their nuclear aspirations through covert
acquisition of fissile material or relevant technology,'' he added.

The CIA has no evidence that any fissile materials have been acquired by a
terrorist organisation nor any indication that a country has tried to arm
terrorist organisations with the capability to use nuclear materials in an
attack, Tenet said.

But he added there was a ``high risk'' that some such transfers could escape
detection.

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

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:29:53 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Force five earthquake strikes northwest Iran

Force five earthquake strikes northwest Iran


TEHRAN, March 22 (Reuters) - An earthquake measuring five on the Richter
scale struck northwestern Iran, spreading panic among residents of several
towns, the official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.

It said there were no reports yet on possible casualties or damage from the
quake, which struck the northern part of the northwestern province of Ardebil
on Tuesday night.

Iran lies on a seismic line and is often hit by earthquakes. A quake
measuring four or five on the Richter scale is powerful enough to cause heavy
damage in a populated area.

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

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:30:17 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran says U.S. 'insincere' in dealing with Tehran

Iran says U.S. 'insincere' in dealing with Tehran


TEHRAN, March 22 (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 on 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 on 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 U.S. 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: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:30:46 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iraq Blames Iran for Mortar Attack

Iraq Blames Iran for Mortar Attack

.c The Associated Press


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq blamed ``agents'' of its rival Iran today for a
mortar attack in a residential Baghdad neighborhood that killed four people
and wounded 38 others.

In a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency, the government said
the attack Tuesday night attack was launched by ``agents of the Iranian
regime'' - a reference to Iranian-based Iraqi dissidents.

One Iraqi and three foreigners were killed when six mortars were fired at the
residential area in the Iraqi capital. Some of the injured were in serious
condition, the news agency said.

Abdel Ghani Abdel Ghafour, a senior member of Iraq's ruling Baath party,
expressed condolences to the families of the dead on behalf of President
Saddam Hussein and visited the injured in the hospital, the agency reported.

``Iraq, while condemning this criminal act that serves Zionism and its
aggressive schemes, holds the Iranian authorities responsible for the attack
which is considered a flagrant aggression on its security and sovereignty,''
the statement said.

Iraq ``reserves its right for a suitable response,'' it added without
elaborating.

Iraq said last Wednesday that its anti-aircraft defenses shot down an Iranian
reconnaissance pilotless plane two days earlier. The announcement was made
one day after Iran's opposition Mujahedeen Khalq group claimed that Iranian
jets tried to bomb its military camp in Iraq but were driven off by air
defense units.

Iraq and Iran fought a ruinous eight-year war that ended with a U.N.-brokered
cease-fire in 1988. An estimated one million people were killed or injured
from both sides.

The Muslim neighbors never signed a peace treaty and relations have been
tense since the end of the war. The two say each was harboring rebels
fighting the other's government. Each side accuses the other of holding
thousands of fighters prisoner.

The two have yet to settle issues related to border demarcation and
reparations.

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

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:31:25 EST
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iraq mourns victims of a mortar attack

Iraq mourns victims of a mortar attack

By Hassan Hafidh


BAGHDAD, March 22 (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners called on Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein on Wednesday 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 for our Victims.''

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.''

There was no immediate reaction from Iran.

The area struck was al-Karmal, a complex of more than 2,000 homes near the
centre of Baghdad built many years ago to house Palestinian refugees.

The television showed scores of wounded in beds in a Baghdad hospital and
film of the al-Karmal area stained with blood and scattered with debris and
broken glass.

``This cowardly attack against a Palestinian refugee district in Iraq led to
the killing of three Iraqis and three Palestinians as well as injuring many
children, women and elderly,'' the Palestinian ambassador told Reuters.

IRAQ ACCUSES IRAN OF 'FLAGRANT AGGRESSION'

Iraq and Iran were at war between 1980 and 1988 and remain bitter enemies.

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 Mujahideen Khalq, the main exiled
Iranian opposition group.

Baghdad said last week that its air defences had shot down an Iranian
reconnaissance drone. The next day, Iran said the Mujahideen had killed two
of its soldiers near the 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 a Mujahideen mortar assault
on a Tehran residential district near a Revolutionary Guards base.

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

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 22 Mar 2000
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