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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 10 Apr 2000 to 11 Apr 2000
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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 10 Apr 2000 to 11 Apr 2000
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There are 7 messages totalling 511 lines in this issue.
Topics of the day:
1. Cohen Glad For Iran Oil Crackdown
2. Spy cases focus ancient Iranian Jews
3. Iranian ruling is setback for reformers
4. UPDATE 2-Struggle looms over Iran's press law
5. UPDATE 1-Iran editor indicted by hardline court
6. Iranian youths mourn pre-revolution movie star
7. Iran says detains 10 ships smuggling Iraqi oil
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:41:03 EDT
Subject: Cohen Glad For Iran Oil Crackdown
Cohen Glad For Iran Oil Crackdown
By ANWAR FARUQI
.c The Associated Press
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen
on Monday welcomed Iran's recent crackdown on illegal Iraqi oil shipments,
but said relations with the United States could not improve until Tehran
changed some of its policies.
``To the extent that Iran is now going to enforce U.N. Security Council
resolutions and crack down on smuggling taking place in its waters, then that
will be to the benefit of all,'' Cohen said in Abu Dhabi.
In the past week, Iranian Revolutionary Guards have detained a
Honduran-flagged vessel and a tanker flying the Panamanian flag. Iran's
official Islamic Republic News Agency said both were trying to smuggle Iraqi
oil in violation of U.N. sanctions imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of
``Fundamentally, our policy cannot change toward Iran until there is a change
in Iran toward the outside world,'' Cohen said after meeting with senior
leaders of the United Arab Emirates.
He said Iran had to stop supporting terrorism, undermining the Mideast peace
process and developing weapons of mass destruction. Iran denies charges of
terrorism or pursuit of mass destruction weapons.
Cohen, who arrived in Abu Dhabi from Saudi Arabia, said that his talks with
Persian Gulf leaders focused on ``emerging military threats'' from weapons of
Responding to a question about growing relations between the United Arab
Emirates and Iraq, Cohen said ``each country must decide for itself what is
the nature and the level of the relationship with Iraq.''
Iraq is allowed to sell oil only under U.N. controls, with the proceeds used
to fund humanitarian programs and Gulf War reparations. The sanctions barring
other oil sales cannot be lifted until the U.N. Security Council certifies
that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
In the past, the U.S. Navy in the Gulf has accused Iran of allowing smuggled
Iraqi oil to pass through its territory in return for kickbacks. Cohen said
that ``Iran has benefited from the smuggling to the tune of $500 million
The new Iranian crackdown is believed to be an effort by Tehran to
demonstrate closer cooperation with the United States. Iran-U.S. relations
have been thawing since the 1997 election of the reformist President Mohammad
Cohen's tour also has taken him to Nigeria, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He is scheduled to leave the United Arab Emirates
Tuesday for Oman, the last stop of his tour.
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:43:06 EDT
Subject: Spy cases focus ancient Iranian Jews
Spy cases focus ancient Iranian Jews
By Jonathan Lyons
SHIRAZ, Iran, April 11 (Reuters) - The espionage trial of 13 Jews, a year
after their arrest, has set in motion powerful social and political forces
that Iranian officials and leaders of Iran's 30,000-strong Jewish community
are struggling to contain.
The 13 are scheduled to appear before the Revolutionary Court in this
southern city on April 13 to answer allegations of spying for Israel, charges
that could carry long prison terms or even the death penalty.
The case threatens to focus unwanted attention on the comfortable lives many
Jews have quietly carved out in the Islamic Republic, forming the largest
remnant of a community of believers that once stretched across the Moslem
This stands in stark contrast to their co-religionists' experience in other
Moslem countries. Aside from Iran, only Turkey hosts a significant Jewish
The affair has also exposed religious differences within the Jewish
community. And it has raised questions about the handling of the case by
Israel and its Western supporters in ways that all but killed off any chance
of a discreet resolution to the affair.
``The leaders of the Jewish community in Iran love this country, and as a
member of this community...I am in no way prepared to accept it shrinking
because of feelings of insecurity,'' said Manouchehr Eliasi, the outgoing
special MP for Iran's Jews.
``We hope this case is resolved so that members of the Jewish community will
not feel tension and any urge to emigrate will be overcome. We like our lives
in Iran and we are striving to keep this community alive,'' Eliasi told
Such sentiments are echoed widely within Shiraz's 6,000-member Jewish
community, known for religious traditionalism that stands in sharp contrast
to more secular Tehran.
``Most of us think this was a misunderstanding because they (the accused)
were known as very religious people. There are many pious people like them
and no one has touched them,'' said a shopkeeper.
As a nearby clerk did a brisk trade in black shirts, worn by many Shi'ite
Moslems during mourning ceremonies that culminate this year on April 15, the
owner said the espionage affair had not set in motion a feared wave of
``If anyone wants to emigrate, it is not because of this case. It is for
other reasons,'' said the shopkeeper, who like others along a strip of Jewish
businesses preferred not to give his name.
Jewish leaders say the community numbered about 80,000 or more at the time of
Iran's 1979 revolution, with many fleeing to the United States amid the
uncertainty of what the new Islamic Republic might hold. Now, they say, the
Jewish population has stabilised.
The Jews of Shiraz said the approaching Passover holiday, which begins on
April 20, illustrated their special status as an official minority under
Iran's Islamic system.
The state recently handed over 11 tonnes of flour so the community could
produce matzoh, special unleavened bread for the holiday. Throughout the
year, the authorities ensure the Jews are well stocked with kosher meat.
``Before the revolution we couldn't go and tell the government, 'Give us
flour for our Passover bread because we are not going to eat your bread,'''
said Eshaq Niknava, deputy head of Shiraz's Jewish Society, as he sat in
shade of the city's major synagogue.
Local education authorities work closely with the community, allowing Jewish
students to earn credits for Hebrew classes organised by the Society, Niknava
Jews also receive priority treatment in state offices and enjoy other
privileges. ``The respect we get now is much greater than it was in the
A POLITICAL FOOTBALL
Some analysts have speculated that such preferential treatment may have fed
resentment among the majority Moslems and fuelled what apparently began as
minor dispute over Hebrew instruction and shop closings on the Jewish
Differences between the local community and the more secular leadership in
the capital Tehran further complicated the situation, they say.
Since word of the arrests first broke in the West last June, the espionage
case has proved something of a mystery and few details of the alleged spying
have been made public. However, its role as a political football was quickly
Israel, an arch-foe of Islamic Iran, publicly denied any connection to the
alleged spies and Western diplomatic pressure on Tehran mounted quickly.
Washington called the arrests ``a very disturbing signal,'' while France --
home to a large and active Jewish community -- said openly that the charges
were ``fabricated.'' Other Western capitals joined in.
At home, Iran's hardliners said the suspects had passed secrets to Israel
through third countries, including Turkey, and deserved to hang. Top
officials, including reformist President Mohammad Khatami, decried foreign
interference in Iran's affairs.
Lost in the sound and the fury, say analysts here, was any real chance for
local community leaders to carry on with behind the scenes talks that had
been underway for months to secure the Jews' release.
``The Israelis and their allies forced the matter by going public too soon,''
said one Western analyst who has followed the case closely. ``They wanted to
show Iran in a bad light and perhaps encourage the remaining Jews to leave.''
So far, a community that traces its origins in Iran back some 2,700 years
appears secure in its faith that its future lies squarely in the Islamic
Republic, whatever the trial may hold.
The constitution guarantees a representative in parliament and recognises
Jewish laws on burial and divorce, reflecting the general atmosphere of
tolerance for the ``people of the book.''
It is only when politics begin to creep into the picture, say Jewish
residents, that things get difficult, and some say privately that Israeli
meddling in the case virtually guaranteed the 13 -- including a schoolboy --
would get their day in court.
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:44:42 EDT
Subject: Iranian ruling is setback for reformers
Iranian ruling is setback for reformers
By Mehrdad Balali
TEHRAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Iranian reformers have suffered a setback with a
ruling banning parliamentary supervision of powerful official bodies
including the armed forces and police that are outside President Mohammad
The controversial ruling approved this week in effect disqualifies the newly
elected parliament, dominated by Khatami's allies, from launching any inquiry
into state bodies supervised by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
These include the armed forces, police, judiciary, state radio and television
and a range of revolutionary foundations.
The heads of these organisations are directly appointed by the leader and
remain largely unaffected by the new reformist thinking in Iran.
Newspapers quoted a leading reformist activist, Abbas Abdi, as saying:
``Just because the (conservatives) do not control the next parliament should
not deprive the people of their right to supervision.
``On the one hand, our society is moving towards democratic supervision, and
on the other towards greater restrictions.''
The next parliament will convene on May 28.
The outgoing assembly had voted to authorise parliamentary investigations
into all state bodies.
But the motion was blocked by the Guardian Council, a clergy-based body which
vets parliamentary rulings, causing the bill to go for arbitration before a
The Expediency Council, a top advisory body to Khamenei with a final say on
legislative disputes, backed the Guardian Council's position, effectively
banning parliamentary oversight.
Newspapers said Majid Ansari, the leader of the reformist camp in parliament,
had written a protest letter to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president
and current chairman of the Expediency Council, to demand the new law to be
Rafsanjani, initially backing the reformers, has been drifting away from
their camp amid disagreements over the pace of reform in the Islamic
Conservatives believe the supreme leader should have extra- legal powers, but
reformers want all official bodies to be subjected to constitutional and
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:45:14 EDT
Subject: UPDATE 2-Struggle looms over Iran's press law
UPDATE 2-Struggle looms over Iran's press law
By Jonathan Lyons
TEHRAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Iran's conservative outgoing parliament began
debating new restrictions on the press on Tuesday, setting up a struggle with
reformers poised to take over the legislature in less than two months.
Proposed amendments to the press law, revived after a reformist walkout last
year held them up, would expand the role of the courts in monitoring the
press, which has flourished under President Mohammad Khatami's cultural
``The newspapers are the voice of the people. We must not silence the
people's voice by our actions,'' reformist MP Mohammad Reza Khabaz told the
But conservatives say the bill would correct shortcomings in the law and make
Iran's press more accountable to the people.
``These (changes) guarantee the correctness and health of the press,'' said
conservative lawmaker Reza Akrami.
Before adjourning for the day, parliament approved several ammendments,
including one imposing a two-month suspension for publications that violate
directives of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security
More changes will be considered when parliament meets again on April 17.
NEW PARLIAMENT CONVENES ON MAY 28
Polls in February gave reformers a strong position in the new parliament at
the expense of hardline incumbents. The new legislature is to convene on May
Conservatives in parliament and their allies in the judiciary have responded
with a severe crackdown on the press, which many hold responsible for their
poor electoral showing.
The hardline press court on Tuesday summoned pro-reform editor Emadeddin
Baqi, a former cleric and leading Moslem intellectual, and indcited him on
multiple charges, including acting against national security.
Colleagues at Baqi's Fath daily told Reuters the charges also included
insulting religious values and libel. Baqi was freed on bail equivalent to
about $37,000, they said.
Leading reformist newspaper editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin began serving a
30-month sentence on Monday for insulting religious sanctities after losing
Over the past two years Shamsolvaezin led the popular reformist dailies
Jameah, Tous and Neshat, all since banned. He later helped found Asr-e
Azadegan, which remains in circulation.
Several other prominent reformist journalists, including the estranged
brother of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, now have cases pending
With their successful stalling tactics and electoral victory, reformers had
appeared confident they had buried proposed new press restrictions for good.
MINISTER URGES REFORMERS TO BE PATIENT
Ataollah Mohajerani, who as minister of culture and Islamic guidance fostered
the press revolution, told a news conference on Monday that reformist forces
should be patient until the new parliament meets.
Any restrictions set in place now, he said, could simply be overturned by the
But critics say the reformers may have underestimated the resolve of the
conservative establishment to move against the independent press, the most
visible fruit of Khatami's campaign for a civil society within Iran's Islamic
They point to the recent spate of cases filed against newspaper editors and
say the conservative Guardian Council, which vets all legislation, could yet
thwart efforts by the new parliament to remove any additional press
Hardliners have been bolstered by rightist theologians, who argue that
freedom of expression cannot be absolute under Islam.
``Newspapers, books, the film industry, theatre and audio and video tapes are
in the hands of those who are working against Islam,'' decreed Ayatollah
Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a leading theoretician of the right.
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:45:48 EDT
Subject: UPDATE 1-Iran editor indicted by hardline court
UPDATE 1-Iran editor indicted by hardline court
By Ali Raiss-Tousi
TEHRAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Leading pro-reform editor Emadeddin Baqi was
summoned to Iran's hardline press court and indicted on multiple charges on
Tuesday, fellow journalists said.
Baqi's colleagues at Fath newspaper told Reuters that charges against him
included acting against state security, insulting religious values and libel.
The plaintiffs included Tehran's conservative justice chief, as well as the
intelligence ministry and the state broadcasting organisation, dominated by
Baqi, a prominent figure among Moslem intellectual activists, was freed on
300 million rial ($37,000) bail, his colleagues said.
The intelligence ministry was foremost among the accusers with 27 lawsuits
against Baqi, including one based on a speech he made to students in the
southern city of Shiraz five years ago.
Another complaint referred to an article in which Baqi had protested against
the imprisonment or house arrest of 12 ranking Shi'ite Moslem religious
leaders including Iran's senior dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali
Reformers have protested the summoning of journalists by the special press
court, to no avail.
Under existing Iranian law, a newspaper's publisher -- not the individual
writer or editor -- is legally responsible for the content of all published
The case against Baqi, himself a former cleric, is the latest in a series of
blows to the reform movement struggling against Iran's conservative
On Monday, influential editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin began serving a
30-month sentence for insulting religious values, the most common charge
brought by conservatives against the pro- reform press.
He had paved the way for much of Iran's press revolution with a series of
maverick dailies, all but one of which has since been banned.
Iran's courts have closed several pro-reform publications and banned some of
their publishers from press activities.
Special clerical courts, meanwhile, have silenced members of the clergy who
But reformist journalists have often re-opened their publications under new
names, using more liberal licensing rules introduced by Iran's moderate
President Mohammad Khatami, who was elected on a reform platform in 1997.
The court will continue interrogating Baqi on Sunday, his colleagues said.
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:46:26 EDT
Subject: Iranian youths mourn pre-revolution movie star
Iranian youths mourn pre-revolution movie star
TEHRAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Hundreds of young people marched through the
Iranian capital on Tuesday to mourn the death of popular film actor Mohammed
Ali Fardin, whose stardom was cut short by the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Youths, many clad in black, marched from a memorial service held at a mosque
to a sweet shop owned by Fardin in northern Tehran. The marchers did not have
a police permit for the rally, but security forces made no attempt to stop
``Today is a day of mourning... Our Fardin is with God today,'' youths
chanted as traffic police helplessly watched a traffic jam caused by the
Fardin, also a former wrestling champion, died last week at the age of 70. He
was the most popular male actor in Iran before the Islamic revolution,
appearing in a series of hit musical comedies and action movies in 1960s and
But his star dimmed after the revolution as the ruling Shi'ite Moslem clergy
waged a crusade against the ``decadent and immoral'' culture of the time.
Many people too young to remember Fardin's glory days watch pirated video
copies of his movies, most of them in black and white. Fardin has not
appeared on the big screen in Iran since 1979.
Thousands of people attended his funeral on Sunday.
President Mohammad Khatami's government has begun political and economic
reform and has shown a growing tolerance towards spontaneous marches.
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:47:12 EDT
Subject: Iran says detains 10 ships smuggling Iraqi oil
Iran says detains 10 ships smuggling Iraqi oil
TEHRAN, April 11 (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday its Revolutionary Guards
had detained 10 more ships carrying Iraqi oil in violation of the U.N.
embargo against Iraq.
It was the third time in a week that Iran has announced the seizure of
vessels allegedly carrying contraband oil.
Admiral Issa Golverdi, a commander of the Guards' naval arm, told the
official IRNA news agency the interceptions were carried out in Iranian
territorial waters late on Monday and early on Tuesday.
The 10 ships were carrying a total of 45,000 tonnes of Iraqi oil, he said.
The Revolutionary Guards stopped two other ships smuggling Iraqi oil in the
past week after repeated requests by the United States to crack down on the
smuggling of Iraqi oil.
Washington says the smuggled oil enables the government of Iraqi President
Saddam Hussain to obtain hard currency outside the U.N.-supervised
Iraq has been under under U.N. sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in 1990.
End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 10 Apr 2000 to 11 Apr 2000