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There are 15 messages totalling 912 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Organizers Of Fatal Swedish Disco Could Be Charged
2. Police say Swede disco fire death toll rises to 63
3. Iran recalls ambassador from Prague over US-funded radio
4. Iranian FM to visit Iraq as both sides express desire to boost ties (2)
5. Iranian leader rules out normalization of relations with US
6. Iranian president in ground-breaking visit to France
7. Iranian students mark anniversary of US embassy seizure
8. Iran ends manoeuvres on Afghan border
9. Khatami blasts Taliban as dangerous eve of war games near Afghan border
10. Palestinian Authority says Iran backing hardliners within HAMAS
11. Iran to keep troops on Afghan border after maneuvers
12. Iran denies contacts with Germany over fate of convicted nationals
13. Iran holds military parade at Afghan border on eve of maneuvers
14. Iran wants cooperation with Egypt to fight Israeli "plots"

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:46:01 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Organizers Of Fatal Swedish Disco Could Be Charged

Monday November 2 12:50 PM EDT

Organizers Of Fatal Swedish Disco Could Be Charged

By Abigail Schmelz

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Young organizers who sold too many tickets
for a Swedish teenage disco party where dozens died in a fire could face
criminal charges, police said Monday.

The death toll from Thursday's fire in the overcrowded second-floor
dance hall in the city of Gothenburg rose to 62 overnight after two
teenagers died in hospital.

Many victims were trapped by an emergency exit blocked by stacked
chairs and tables -- and one of the young organizers said he had not been
told that the premises were approved by fire inspectors to hold just 150.

The 19-year-old, who lost his older brother and a cousin in the blaze,
told the newspaper Expressen that the till showed he had sold about 320
tickets.

The Macedonian Cultural Centre occupying the premises says it did tell
the organizers of the limit -- and police spokesman Bengt Staaf said it
was possible that an ongoing inquiry by the public prosecutor could lead
to charges against the organizers.

The cause of the blaze itself has still not been established.

``It could have been arson, an accident, or a dropped cigarette. It's
possible that we will not find out. The technical investigation is
proceeding and we are giving it high priority,'' Staaf said.

Swedish media published a list of the dead, one of whom was just 12.
Another 162 partygoers were injured.

Divers were trawling waters and searching neighborhoods for a
15-year-old girl believed to have gone to the disco, but who was not
found among the dead nor the injured. Witnesses said she walked from
the burning building.

``People were in shock. Anything could have happened,'' Gothenburg
policeman Nils Lundqvist told Reuters.

Local schools held a moment of silence Monday and Swedish flags hung
at half mast out of respect for the victims, some of whom died when
they ran back into the building to try to save others. Teachers took their
classes to the burned-out site.

People continued to pay their respects to the young victims laying
flowers, cassette tapes, toys, photographs and lighting candles near the
site.

On Sunday night mourners marched through Gothenburg to honor the
dead and protest at the carelessness which had led to an exit being
blocked.

Survivors said only the fittest had managed to pull themselves up and
jump out of windows which were 2.5 meters (eight feet) off the floor.

Rescuers were horrified to discover a room with 26 bodies tangled
together just a meter (three feet) below windows which might have
saved them.

``Several times mobile phones in their pockets rang,'' firefighter Gunnar
Lindahl told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Some of those who did make it to windows and manage to kick them
out were killed in the fall, while others broke limbs.

Forensic experts only finished identifying the burnt bodies Sunday.

The City of Gothenburg was considering compensation to victims'
families but no decision had yet been made Monday.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:50:04 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Police say Swede disco fire death toll rises to 63

Tuesday November 3, 6:02 PM
Police say Swede disco fire death toll rises to 63

By Abigail Schmelz

STOCKHOLM, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Swedish police said on Tuesday they had
discovered the body of another victim killed last week when fire swept
through a teenage disco, and outraged relatives called for an investigation
into rescue efforts.

The discovery would raise the death toll to 63 in the blaze which consumed
the Gothenburg disco in about five minutes, sending teenagers leaping out of
second-floor windows while others trapped inside succumbed to toxic fumes.

Police said the body could be that of a teenage Gothenburg girl still
unaccounted for. Earlier witnesses said the girl, one of up to 400 young
people at the disco that night, had walked away from the burning building.

Her body was not not among those recovered from the gutted building, nor
was she among the 162 injured. But her parents said she had not yet
returned home.
Police had trawled nearby waters and searched neighbourhoods for the missing
girl.

Angry relatives attacked Swedish politicans and demanded an independent
investigation into rescue efforts including reports that police had prevented
young people from returning to the burning building to save others.

"They just stood there and did nothing," Zuhir Herzi, the disc jockey at the
hip-hop party who said he lost dozens of friends in the fire, told newspaper
Expressen.

Police said they did everything possible to save lives. Earlier they said
frantic young people had impeded rescue efforts.

"Police must give rescue workers the possibility to work," Gothenburg police
inspector Bertil Svendmar told Reuters.

Herzi said emergency workers he had called just before midnight last Thursday
claimed they had difficulty understanding him, possibly because of his accent.

Most of the victims were immigrants aged 13 to 20 and more than half of the
dead were Moslem.

Gothenburg council leader Goran Johansson promised to investigate
recordings of emergency calls to find out more about the disc jockey's call
for help.

"Don't lie! Allah would not want our children to die this way. Those who
killed our children are sitting in front of us," shouted one sobbing,
bereaved mother at a memorial service on Monday evening attended by Swedish
politicians.

The City of Gothenburg decided on Monday to give 20,000 crowns to the
family of each victim for funeral expenses.

A 170-strong task force was questioning witnesses as well as the young people
who sold too many tickets to the overcrowded party.

Police have not ruled out arson.

"We can't say anything about that until the technical investigation is
ready. It may take some time," Svendmar said.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:18:38 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran recalls ambassador from Prague over US-funded radio

TEHRAN, Nov 3 (AFP) - Iran on Tuesday announced that it was
recalling its ambassador from the Czech Republic over the launch of
broadcasts in Persian by the Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty (RFE/RL).
Tehran has decided "to downgrade its political and economic
relations with the Czech Republic to protest against the launch"
Friday of the US-funded broadcasts, foreign ministry spokesman
Mahmud Mohammadi said.
"Iran has recalled its ambassador from Prague and no new
economic contract will be signed with the Czech Republic," he told
Iranian radio and television.
He said Prague's failure to heed repeated representations about
the broadcasts had left Tehran with little choice.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran had been trying to convince Czech
officials through different measures and objections to prevent such
a Satanic measures against the Iranian people," he said.
"But in the end the Satanic voice went on the air through the
cooperation of Czech officials."
Washington is routinely referred to as the "Great Satan" in
political rhetoric in Tehran.
The new US-funded Farsi (Persian) Language Service, whose
programmes are produced at RFE/RL's studios in Prague, made its
first half-hour broadcast Friday.
Managers said they soon planned to expand the broadcasts to an
hour a day and eventually to six.
The broadcasts will "reflect the broadest range of responsible
opinions of interest to the Iranian people and will never become the
mouthpiece for any particular group in that country or abroad," the
radio's president, Thomas Dine, told visitors to the radio's
website.
But Tehran insisted that the broadcasts were an interference in
its domestic affairs and warned Prague in advance that the launch
might damage ties.
"The content of what is broadcast by the radio is not consistent
with the traditionally friendly relations between Iran and the Czech
Republic," Mohammadi warned last month.
The radio is "part of the 20-million-dollar appropriations of
the United States for launching a propaganda war against Iran, which
amounts to interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
"The project would not be in the best interests of the Czech
Republic," he warned.
Alongside the new Farsi Language Service, a new US-funded Radio
Free Iraq also started broadcasting on Friday with programmes
produced by RFE/FL.
Baghdad too warned Prague that the launch could damage
relations. "The establishment of an anti-Baghdad radio is a negative
development which could have an impact on future economic and trade
ties," Foreign Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaf said on Monday.
Earlier this year, there was some question about whether the
Czech Republic's new government, which took office after June
elections, would continue to back the broadcasts.
They were originally approved by the previous conservative Czech
government, but the new government has been less happy about the
project, expressing concern that the production studios may become a
focus of terrorist attack.
RFE/RL was launched during the Cold War and was aimed at the
Soviet bloc in particular. It moved its headquarters from Munich to
Prague in 1995.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:18:50 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian FM to visit Iraq as both sides express desire to boost ties

In clari.world.mideast.iran, C-afp@clari.net (AFP) wrote:


BAGHDAD, Nov 2 (AFP) - Ministers from Iraq and Iran expressed
their determination on Monday to boost cooperation, amid
expectations that Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi will make
an official visit to Baghdad soon.
"Iraq is seeking to activate and develop its cooperation with
Iran in all fields and to expand its relations with Tehran in the
near future," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said in talks
with Iran's Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.
Ramadan said the two countries, who were at war for eight years
from 1980 to 1988, should develop solid relations to present a
common front against "American-Zionist imperialism," the official
Iraqi news agency INA reported.
Shariatmadari also said Tehran was determined to strengthen
cooperation with Baghdad, INA reported.
The Iranian minister, who is in Baghdad for an international
trade fair, and his Iraqi counterpart Mohammad Mahdi Saleh, held
talks on developing trade under the UN oil-for-food programme which
eases the eight-year-old sanctions against Iraq.
Meanwhile in Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sadr told
the English-language Tehran Times that Kharazi would visit Baghdad
"soon," without giving a date.
He added the visit would be followed by an official visit to
Iraq by Iranian First Vice President Hassan Habibi.
Should his visit take place, Habibi would be the most senior
Iranian official to visit Iraq since the 1979 revolution and the
ensuing war.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf made an official
visit to Tehran in January.
A number of issues hamper the normalisation of relations between
the neighbours who remain suspicious of each other, including Iraq's
support for armed opponents of the Islamic Republic and the exchange
of remaining POWs.
Iraq recently began to allow Iranian pilgrims to again visit
Shiite pilgrimage sites inside its territory.


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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:18:45 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian leader rules out normalization of relations with US

TEHRAN, Nov 3 (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out any possibility of a normalization of
relations with the United States, insisting the 18-year break in
ties had been good for the Islamic Republic.
"The severing of relations between Iran and the United States
has been to the 100 percent benefit of the Iranian people," Khamenei
said in a speech marking the 19th anniversary of the hostage-taking
at the US embassy here.
The United States only "wants to recover the position they had
in Iran before the revolution," he told thousands of students
gathered on the eve of the anniversary.
"Our importance around the world and in the eyes of other
peoples is based on our standing up to the United States," he said.
The United States severed relations with Iran in April 1980
following the November 4, 1979 takeover of the embassy.
Khamenei defended the embassy seizure as a "natural reaction" by
the Iranian people "to Washington's plotting in Tehran."
"After the revolution, the diplomats turned the embassy into a
nest of spies and plots against Iran and that's why people wouldn't
tolerate it," he said.
"The Americans' desire -- then and now -- has always been to
dominate Iran economically and politically as it did before the
revolution."
The Iranian leader insisted that recent comments by US officials
indicating a desire for rapprochement with Tehran changed nothing at
all.
"The apparent change of tone fails to hide their real nature,"
he told the crowd, insisting: "The break in ties has been beneficial
to Iran."
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered in April to put
an end to decades of US hostility and sit down with Iranian
officials to try to restore relations.
Her offer followed an interview on CNN in January by Iran's
moderate new President Mohammed Khatami in which he called for a
"crack in the wall of mistrust" between the two countries.
The State Department said at the start of October that it had
not withdrawn the offer.
But Khatami, faced with strong conservative opposition, has
hesitated to move towards a rapprochement with what many in Iran
still regard as the "Great Satan."
Khamenei cricitized "foreign media and certain circles" within
Iran who "seek to insinuate that a resumption of relations with
Washington can solve the economic problems Iran is facing."
"Iran does not need the United States to overcome its economic
crisis," the Iranian leader said.
The "rehabilitation and reform" necessary to tackle Iran's
economic crisis "requires the will and determination of the Iranian
people and not relations with the United States."
A collapse in world oil prices, which have been hovering at
10-year lows, has severely hit Iran's economy which depends on oil
for 85 percent of its foreign currency currency receipts and half
its annual budget revenues.
Last month the government was forced to adopt an emergency
austerity package to tackle an expected 6.3 billion dollar budget
shortfall resulting from the slump in prices.
The rally Khamenei addressed Tuesday was the second held to mark
the embassy seizure in the capital in recent days.
Around 2,000 student supporters of President Khatami gathered
here Monday for a highly-charged demonstration marked by domestic
political tension.
The pro-Khatami students noticeably refrained from setting fire
to the American flag, as has been customary in Iran since the 1979
Islamic revolution, instead burning an effigy of Uncle Sam.
But they were confronted by a counterdemonstration by young
Islamic fundamentalists.
Another more official demonstration is to be held here
Wednesday.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:19:00 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian FM to visit Iraq as both sides express desire to boost ties

BAGHDAD, Nov 2 (AFP) - Ministers from Iraq and Iran expressed
their determination on Monday to boost cooperation, amid
expectations that Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi will make
an official visit to Baghdad soon.
"Iraq is seeking to activate and develop its cooperation with
Iran in all fields and to expand its relations with Tehran in the
near future," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said in talks
with Iran's Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.
Ramadan said the two countries, who were at war for eight years
from 1980 to 1988, should develop solid relations to present a
common front against "American-Zionist imperialism," the official
Iraqi news agency INA reported.
Shariatmadari also said Tehran was determined to strengthen
cooperation with Baghdad, INA reported.
The Iranian minister, who is in Baghdad for an international
trade fair, and his Iraqi counterpart Mohammad Mahdi Saleh, held
talks on developing trade under the UN oil-for-food programme which
eases the eight-year-old sanctions against Iraq.
Meanwhile in Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sadr told
the English-language Tehran Times that Kharazi would visit Baghdad
"soon," without giving a date.
He added the visit would be followed by an official visit to
Iraq by Iranian First Vice President Hassan Habibi.
Should his visit take place, Habibi would be the most senior
Iranian official to visit Iraq since the 1979 revolution and the
ensuing war.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf made an official
visit to Tehran in January.
A number of issues hamper the normalisation of relations between
the neighbours who remain suspicious of each other, including Iraq's
support for armed opponents of the Islamic Republic and the exchange
of remaining POWs.
Iraq recently began to allow Iranian pilgrims to again visit
Shiite pilgrimage sites inside its territory.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:19:09 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian president in ground-breaking visit to France

PARIS, Nov 2 (AFP) - President Mohammad Khatami is to visit
France early next year, the first visit by an Iranian head of state
to a European Union country in the two decades since the 1979
Iranian revolution.
The Iranian embassy Monday said Khatami would pay an official
visit to France "during the month of February."
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, speaking on behalf of
President Jacques Chirac, invited Khatami to France during a visit
to Tehran last August.
Ahead of Khatami's visit, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi will
also fly to France but no date has yet been set for the visit, the
embassy said.


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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:19:19 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian students mark anniversary of US embassy seizure

TEHRAN, Nov 2 (AFP) - Around 2,000 student supporters of
President Mohammad Khatami gathered in Tehran on Monday to mark the
19th anniversary of the US embassy seizure in a highly-charged
demonstration marked by domestic political tension.
Students from Islamic associations in Iranian universities
marched from Tehran University to the former American mission in
central Tehran, where they were confronted by young Islamic
fundamentalists seeking to disrupt the rally.
The students refrained from setting fire to the American flag,
as has been customary in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but
instead burned an effigy of Uncle Sam.
"We make a distinction between American people and the
government," read one banner. The students had earlier announced
that they would not burn the US flag "as it is a symbol of American
people."
But some 30 fundamentalist hardliners, most of them adolescents,
set fire to large American flags and taunted and mocked the
students, calling them "sissies and clowns."
"Death to traitors ... death to hypocrites," the hardliners
chanted.
The two groups were separated by a large contingent of riot
police, who chained their hands to block the hardliners from
attacking the students.
The student movement accuses Khatami's conservative "monopolist"
opponents of seeking to counter his reform program and of ignoring
the will of the people expressed in the president's landslide
election in May 1997.
"America and the monopolists are two sides of the coin," said
one slogan. "Khatami reform ... Khatami reform."
Student leader Ebrahim Asqar-Zadeh said Khatami had given Iran a
positive international image and backed his stated policy of
detente.
"We can have a world free of violence. As a civilized nation, we
can have new ideas for the world and defend human rights," he said.
"Islam is not incongruous with democracy."
But Asqar-Zadeh, one of the student leaders who raided the US
embassy on November 4, 1979, defended the action.
"If we hadn't captured the embassy, we could not dry up the root
of America in Iran," he said.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in
1980 shortly after the Islamic revolutionaries seized the US embassy
and took 52 hostages who were finally released in January 1981.
Another more official demonstration is to be held on Wednesday
to mark the anniversary of the seizure, and once-faded anti-US
slogans dating back to 1979 have been repainted in recent days.
Khatami called in January for a "crack in the wall of mistrust"
between the two countries, followed by a US offer for talks on a
"road map" that would lead to restoring diplomatic ties.
But Khatami, faced with strong conservative opposition, has
hesitated to move towards a rapprochement with what many in Iran
still term the "Great Satan."

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:19:38 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran ends manoeuvres on Afghan border

TEHRAN, Nov 2 (AFP) - Iran held the final phase of
much-publicised military manoeuvres on the Afghan border on Monday
and said it would keep troops in the highly sensitive area to combat
drug smuggling and "maintain security."
The manoeuvres, which officials said involved an unprecedented
200,000 men from the army, air force and marines, ended at noon on
Monday with intensive aerial and artillery bombardments of "mock
enemy targets."
Jet fighters, helicopters and tanks, many dating from the former
US-equipped Imperial Iranian Army, took part in the exercises held
over an area of 50,000 square kilometres (20,000 square miles) that
included Lake Hamoun near Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan.
The wargames, dubbed Zulfaqar-2, had been in preparation since
September amid extreme tensions with neighbouring Afghanistan
following the murder of nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist by
the extremist Sunni Taliban militia who control more than 90 percent
of the country.
The Iranians were murdered on August 8, when the Taliban
captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif from Iranian-backed opposition
forces.
Iran demanded the capture and punishment of the murderers and
massed troops near the border, threatening war to back its demands.
Manoeuvres were postponed in early October following
negotiations between UN Afghan envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and the Taliban
which led to the release of a number of Iranians held in Afghanistan
and helped ease tensions.
But relations have remained on hold with Iran rejecting a
proposed meeting between Iranian and Taliban officials until the
murderers of the diplomats have been brought to justice.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said last week that Iran still
"reserves the right to use force" to ensure justice is done.
Iran has used the manoeuvres to display its military
capabilities to its hostile neighbours and permanently reinforce its
military presence in the region.
Though the foreign press and observers were denied access, the
manoeuvres were highly publicised, with the state broadcasting
organisation providing massive coverage. Highlights of the exercises
have been shown on television accompanied by rousing national
songs.
Army commander Major-General Ali Shahbazi attended a field
parade of selected units on Sunday, warning that the armed forces
would "nip enemy plots in the bud" and would "not permit enemies to
dare commit aggression against our land."
He added that the manoeuvres were more generally "part of the
army's mission to check the flow of drugs and smuggling of goods and
to prevent border aggression," for which reason troops will remain
in the border region.
"The manoeuvres are not important by themselves, the main aim is
to maintain security in the region," he said adding that some troops
will remain and cooperate with Pakistani border patrols "to check
drug smugglers and bandits."
Tehran has repeatedly accused the Taliban of producing and
smuggling drugs through Iran.
Iran's southeastern desert regions are the front line of an
ongoing battle against drug dealers and smugglers, who often inflict
heavy casualties against law enforcement agents and anti-drug
forces.
The Islamic Republic accuses the Taliban of fanaticism and
"genocide" against other groups, and continues to recognise the
ousted government of Burhanuddin Rabbani as the legal government of
Afghanistan.
President Mohammad Khatami said Sunday that "what the Taliban
are doing in the name of Islam is a danger for the whole region." He
reiterated support for a broad-based Afghan government including all
ethnic and religious groups.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:20:09 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Khatami blasts Taliban as dangerous eve of war games near Afghan border

TEHRAN, Nov 1 (AFP) - President Mohammad Khatami attacked the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan as "dangerous" on Sunday as Iranian
forces staged a military parade near the Afghan border on the eve of
massive war games.
"What happens in Afghanistan nowadays is not just the problem of
countries which border Afghanistan, but that of the whole region,"
Khatami said in talks with visiting Tajik Foreign Minister Talbek
Nazarov.
"What the Taliban movement does in the name of Islam is
dangerous for the entire region," he said.
He voiced concern over the "continuation of war and
blood-letting in Afghanistan" and called for a stable and
broad-based government as the "only solution to the crisis."
Shiite Moslem Iran is vehemently opposed to the extremist Sunni
Moslem Taliban and supports opposition groups fighting the militia.
Relations hit an all-time low in August when Taliban militiamen
raided Iran's consulate in the northern Afghan city of
Mazar-i-Sahrif and killed nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist.
Iran has dispatched 200,000 troops to its border with
Afghanistan for unprecedented Zolfaqar-2 maneuvers, the main part of
which will start on Monday over an area of 50,000 square kilometers
(20,000 square miles).
Dozens of air force jetfighters and combat helicopters conducted
sorties in the parade in Zabol, the southernmost tip of the maneuver
area in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
State television showed hundreds of tanks, mortars and other
weaponry paraded in front of army commander General Ali Shahbazi
over a nine-kilometer (six-mile) stretch in the rough terrain.
Units from seven army divisions and two brigades taking part in
the maneuvers as well as logistic, transport and communication units
and naval and air force marines also joined the parade.
The general said his forces will "nip any enemy plot in the
bud," adding that "we will by no means allow the enemies to dare to
commit aggression against our land."
"We are ready for orders from the commander-in-chief to carry
out any missions to protect our Islamic homeland," Shahbazi said in
a speech, referring to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He said Iran will maintain troops on the border at the end of
the exercises.
"It has been decided that Iranian armed forces will cooperate
with Pakistani border guards to maintain security, fight drug
traffickers and armed bandits," he said.
"The maneuver in itself is not so important. A bigger goal is to
establish security in the region," he said, the official news agency
IRNA reported.
The Iranian air force launched a series of nocturnal assaults on
mock enemy targets in the Zabol area on Saturday as an opening shot
for the war games.
Air force commander General Hassan Baqaii, in the region to
review his units participating in the exercises, also vowed to
"quickly detect and counter any mischievous acts along our eastern
border."
"The armed forces, particularly the air force, are fully ready
to crush any possible mischievous move by the enemy," he said,
quoted by IRNA.
In addition to army troops, tens of thousands of elite members
of the Revolutionary Guards are at the border.
The army began preparations for the maneuvers two months ago
following the diplomats' murders.
But the authorities repeatedly posponed the main part of the
exercises to await the outcome of mediation by UN special envoy
Lakhdar Brahimi and tensions eased somewhat after the Taliban freed
dozens of Iranian prisoners last month.
But Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi demanded more concessions
from the Taliban on Saturday, including speedy identification and
punishment of the diplomats' killers.
Tehran, which still supports the ousted government of
Burhanuddin Rabbani, has been lobbying against international
recognition of the Taliban, which controls around 90 percent of the
war-ravaged country.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:19:52 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Palestinian Authority says Iran backing hardliners within HAMAS

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 2 (AFP) - The Palestinian leadership
accused Iran Monday of backing elements within the militant HAMAS
group responsible for last week's suicide bombing and issuing
statements threatening the Palestinian Authority.
"We in the Palestinian Authority have information, recently
confirmed, that there is an Iranian element within the Islamic
Resistance Movement (HAMAS) which is behind these announcements and
other recent operations," Tayeb Abdel Rahim, secretary-general to
the Palestinian cabinet, told AFP.
"The Iranian faction within HAMAS receives money and training
from Iran and is acting on instructions from Iran aimed at
destabilizing Palestinian society and preventing Israeli withdrawals
from Palestinian land," he said.
Abdel Rahim also accused HAMAS of plotting the assassination of
senior officials in Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
The official's remarks came after Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei
fiercely attacked Arafat as a "traitor and a lackey of the Zionists"
for signing the recent Wye River peace accord with Israel.
"This wretched man and traitor who deems himself the
representative of the Palestinian people does not even deserve to be
a member of the Palestinian movement," Khameini said.
A statement issued in the name of the military wing of HAMAS on
Sunday angrily denounced the arrest of scores of HAMAS activists
after a suicide bombing in the Gaza Strip killed an Israeli soldier
on Thursday.
The announcement said that repression of the group would lead
its members "to refuse the orders of their leadership and turn their
weapons intentionally towards the security forces of the
authority."
A HAMAS leader in Gaza, Ismail Abu Shanab, denied shortly
afterwards that the statement had been issued by the group.
And a former head of the movement's political bureau, Musa Abu
Marzuq, insisted in Damascus Monday that the group would not
confront the Palestinian security forces despite their recent
crackdown on its militants.
But Abdel Rahim said that HAMAS alone bore responsibility for
the statement and accused the militant group of having in the past
plotted to kill Palestinian leaders.
"The leadership of HAMAS carries complete responsibility for
actions carried out by elements within the organization," he said.
"Our past experience with HAMAS says that, at the same time as
some of its leaders are denying statements issued by the group,
others are working secretly to prepare assassination operations
against officials in the Palestinian Authority."
Abdel Rahim said that Palestinian security forces had discovered
several months ago HAMAS plans to eliminate Palestinian Authority
leaders. The plotters were arrested and gave complete confessions
that HAMAS leaders had instructed them to carry out the attacks, he
said.
"HAMAS leaders have previously denied threatening statements
while one of the group's leaders Ibrahim al-Maqadma was planning
assassinations of officials in the Palestinian Authority," he said.
"They also killed HAMAS activists who rejected their tactics.
Among them was Said Abu Asabah from the Shati refugee camp in Gaza
whom they accused of collaboration with Israel," he said.
Abdel Rahim's comments came as Palestinian security sources said
on Monday that they had released more HAMAS leaders and activists
detained in the security sweep which was launched immediately after
the bombing.
But the group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, remains
under house arrest and a number of other senior leaders, including
Mahmud al-Zahhar and Muhammed Shamaa, remain in detention.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:20:20 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to keep troops on Afghan border after maneuvers

TEHRAN, Nov 1 (AFP) - Iran will maintain troops on its border
with Afghanistan after the end of the massive military exercises
beginning on Monday, army commander General Ali Shahbazi said
Sunday.
Shahbazi, speaking in Zabol in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan
province on the eve of the launch of the maneuvers, said "part" of
the some 200,000 troops dispatched to the border will stay there to
fight "bandits, drug traffickers and smugglers of various goods."
"It has been decided that Iranian armed forces will cooperate
with Pakistani border guards to maintain security, fight drug
traffickers and armed bandits," he said, quoted by the official
Iranian news agency IRNA.
Almost all of the drugs flowing into Iran originate from
Pakistan and Afghanistan -- Iran's eastern neighbors.
Shahbazi said drug traffickers and other smugglers had diverted
their operations to the southern part of Sistan-Baluchestan, which
lies on the Oman Sea.
"The maneuver in itself is not so important. A bigger goal is to
establish security in the region," he said, adding that radars and
other hi-tech devises had been deployed in the area for the
purpose.
The Zolfaqar-2 war games will cover an area of 50,000 square
kilometers (20,000 square miles) from Zabol, north of
Sistan-Baluchestan, to the northern tip of Iran's border with
Afghanistan in Khorasan province.
The maneuvers, which have been in preparation in the past two
months, were officially intended to mark the anniversary of the
start of the 1980-1988 war against Iraq.
But they have been turned into a show of force designed to send
a signal to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the murder of
nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Afghanistan.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:20:52 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran denies contacts with Germany over fate of convicted nationals

TEHRAN, Oct 31 (AFP) - Tehran denied on Saturday that it had
held any contacts with Bonn over the fates of a German condemned to
death here and an Iranian jailed in Germany.
"Tehran denies any negotiation with Bonn on the link between
Helmut Hofer, a German jailed in Iran, and Kazem Darabi, an Iranian
jailed in Germany," foreign ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi
said.
"Hofer's case is a judicial case and only Iran's judiciary is
qualified to decide," he told the official Iranian news agency
IRNA.
"Iran is opposed to politicizing this case and has repeatedly
told German authorities that efforts in some circles in Germany to
politicize it will only further complicate the matter," Mohammadi
added.
An Iranian MP, Mohammad Alavi, said Thursday that Tehran and
Bonn were in contact over the fates of Hofer and Darabi.
"The two countries are having contacts over the these issues. It
is natural for each country to be interested in the problems of its
citizens," he said.
German businessman Helmut Hofer was sentenced to death in
January for having an affair with a Moslem woman and is awaiting a
final verdict on his appeal from Iran's supreme court after the
sentence was upheld by another court earlier this month.
The death sentence, which once again marred relations between
Tehran and Bonn, came just as the two governments were recovering
from the German verdict in the case of Iranian Kazem Darabi.
Darabi was sentenced to life in prison by a Berlin court in
April 1997 for the 1992 murder of four Kurdish dissidents. During
the trial the Iranian regime was implicated in the assassinations.
Alavi, a member of the parliament's foreign policy committee,
said the new German government should "distance themselves from the
insulting verdict issued by the Berlin court."
"As long as German justice adheres to this verdict and does not
make up for the insult, it is natural that Iran will not forget the
insult," Alavi said, adding that the commission on Wednesday
discussed "future relations" with Germany.
Alavi was the first Iranian official to link the fates of Darabi
and Hofer, although some newspapers have done so.
"We believe the new German rulers will not act against their
country's national interests and risk losing a good trading partner
like the Islamic republic," he said.
Earlier this month the Iran News warned that Iran does not feel
obliged to intervene to secure Hofer's release because Bonn refused
to help when the Tehran regime was in the dock in Germany last
year.
The paper had earlier called on Germany's new chancellor,
Gerhard Schroeder, to help free Darabi to pave the way for better
relations.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:20:41 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran holds military parade at Afghan border on eve of maneuvers

TEHRAN, Nov 1 (AFP) - The Iranian armed forces staged a military
parade near the Afghan border on Sunday on the eve of the launch of
the main part of large-scale military maneuvers involving 200,000
troops.
Jet fighters and combat helicopters from the army's air division
were paraded in front of army commander General Ali Shahbazi, who
was in Zabol, in the north of southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan
province, to oversee the wargames.
Commando and infantry units armed with different-calibre mortars
and rockets as well as other medium-weight weaponary also took part
in the parade, before returning to their positions for the
maneuvers.
The general vowed in a speech that his forces will "nip any
enemy plot in the bud."
"We will not wait for them to happen. Our armed forces will
suppress any aggression and plot in the bud," he said, quoted by the
official IRNA news agency.
"We are ready for orders from the commander-in-chief to carry
out any missions to protect our Islamic homeland," Shahbazi added.
The Iranian air force launched a series of nocturnal assaults on
mock enemy targets in the Zabol area on Saturday as an opening shot
for the wargames.
Up to 200,000 men, more than 100 jet fighters and other planes
and hundreds of tanks are expected to take part in the
widely-publicized Zolfaqar-2 exercises over an area of 50,000 square
kilometers (20,000 square miles).
The army began preparations for the maneuvers two months ago in
the wake of tension with the Taliban over the murder in neighbouring
Afghanistan of nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist in August.
Air force commander General Hassan Baqaii, in the region to
review his units participating in the exercises, also vowed on
Sunday to "quickly detect and counter any mischievous acts along our
eastern border" with Afghanistan.
"The armed forces, particularly the air force, are fully ready
to crush any possible mischievous move by the enemy," he said,
quoted by IRNA.
He said more experienced pilots had been recruited for the
Zolfaqar-2 wargames because of the "special geographical features of
the region."
In addition to army troops, tens of thousands of elite members
of the Revolutionary Guards are stationed at the border.
The principal stage of the maneuvers was initially due to be
held in early October to mark the anniversary of the start of the
1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
But the authorities repeatedly posponed the exercises as Tehran
awaited the outcome of mediation in the row between Iran and the
Taliban by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Tensions between Shiite Moslem Iran and the Sunni Moslem Taliban
have eased somewhat after the militia freed dozens of Iranian
prisoners in mid-October following a visit by Brahimi, who toured
the region earlier this month.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday described the
Taliban's interpretation of Islam as "dangerous" and called for the
formation of a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

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

Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 21:20:32 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran wants cooperation with Egypt to fight Israeli "plots"

TEHRAN, Nov 1 (AFP) - Iran called on Sunday for a joint stand
with Egypt against Israeli "plots," saying such cooperation would
help improve relations between the two Moslem states.
"Fighting Israeli plots is the best way to solve the existing
problems between Iran and Egypt and to bring the two countries
closer to each other," Iranian deputy parliamentary speaker Hassan
Ruhani said in talks with the head of the Egyptian interests
section, Mohammad Fathi Refahe.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Ruhani, who is also
secretary of the National Security Council, Iran's top political and
military decision-making body, as saying that Tehran and Cairo want
closer relations, "as indicated by the current parliamentary
exchanges and economic cooperation."
Tehran and Cairo, which had traditionally good relations, grew
apart after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, over Egypt's moves to
make peace with Israel and its acceptance of the Shah following his
overthrow.
But the two Moslem countries have in the past year taken a
number of steps aimed at normalizing relations, partly because of
Egypt's critical stand of Israel's current rightwing government.
Ruhani defended his country's opposition to the Middle East
peace process, saying "it has so far done nothing to help
Palestinians to regain their rights.
"The current division and discord in the Moslem world and the
conflict between Palestinian groups over security for the Zionists
is the main goal of those who invented the capitulation process," he
charged.
"The only solution to the Palestinian question is unity in the
Moslem world and fighting the Zionist regime's expansionist
policies," Ruhani added.
On Friday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attacked
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for signing the Wye River agreement
with Israel, calling him a traitor.
The accord, signed on October 23, provides for a further Israeli
military pullback from 13 percent of the West Bank in return for
tougher Palestinian measures against anti-Israeli violence.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 1 Nov 1998 to 3 Nov 1998
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