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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 12 Nov 1998 to 13 Nov 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 12 Nov 1998 to 13 Nov 1998
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There are 11 messages totalling 474 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iran's economic crisis deepens as government gropes for stable policy
2. Iran's budding revolutionaries quizzed on the Great Satan
3. Iranian family meets murky end
4. Iran blames smuggling for currency freefall
5. Lack of exercise threatens Iranian girls' health
6. Islamic militants to be allowed greater say in Iran universities
7. "American spy" arrested in Iran: daily
8. Tuna lorry caught smuggling satellite receivers in Iran
9. Russia's Tupolev seeking to build planes in Iran
10. Earthquake hits northwestern Iran
11. Iranian journalists make US visit

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Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:46:55 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's economic crisis deepens as government gropes for stable policy

TEHRAN, Nov 13 (AFP) - The Iranian economy is sinking deeper
into recession, with soaring unemployment and a severe cash crisis
caused by plummeting oil prices leaving the government struggling to
find its economic direction.
"Wrong policies of the past coupled with the sharp decline in
oil prices have created an economic mire," the Iran News warned this
week. "We are in a mess and nothing has changed despite the
government's promises."
Reformist President Mohammad Khatami launched an ambitious
reform programme several months ago to help the ailing economy, but
with oil prices continuing to hover near 10-year lows, Iran remains
strapped for cash and faces a 6.3 billion dollar deficit -- roughly
a third of the annual budget.
The plummeting price of oil, which normally generates some 80
percent of the Islamic republic's hard currency, has exacerbated a
recession now well into its second year.
The government has been forced to borrow money from the central
bank as well as take advances on future oil sales in an effort to
pay wages and finance the very development projects it intended to
create new jobs.
Critics have strongly attacked the scheme as an ineffective
stop-gap measure that fails to deal with the economy's fundamental
defects.
And the lack of hard currency has meant many industries no
longer have the means to import raw materials needed for industrial
production, forcing delayed wage payments as well as factory
closures that are boosting the unemployment rate and depressing the
economy still further.
"Many workers in factories in Tehran have not been paid for
months and their families are facing problems feeding themselves,"
said MP Soheila Jelodar-Zadeh.
Demand for industrial investment is down 40 percent over the
past six months, according to an industry ministry report published
last week.
"The present trend of factories being shut down will lead to a
wave of unemployed workers" in the capital, said Bakhsh Ali,
director of Tehran's unemployment office.
More than a half million people in Tehran alone have signed on
with his office, he said, including "for the first time" 84,000
unemployed Iranians with university degrees.
The official unemployment rate has jumped from 11 to 13 percent
in recent months, while independent estimates put the figure
significantly higher.
And while the demand for hard currency rises, Iran's rial has
dropped dramatically against major currencies, fuelling such steep
hikes in the price of consumer goods that families are increasingly
unable to buy even the most basic household items.
Monthly expenses for the average Iranian family are 160 dollars
but average income is now only about 70 dollars, according to
estimates by Deputy Finance Minister Morteza Qarah-Baqian.
In an effort to fix the problem, the government is importing
thousands of tonnes of beef to sell at one-tenth the market price.
Ali Najafi, director of Iran's budget planning organisation,
said the subsidies are for the moment an absolute necessity.
"Eliminating subsidies is not practical in the short term. They
lead to negative side-effects and create a shock to the economy. Our
policy is to ease inflationary pressure on the people," he said.
But critics argue that they are contrary to Khatami's pledges of
market reform.
"Unfortunately, the government has not been able to reach any
decision towards improving the economy or at least prevent things
from getting worse," said conservative MP Davood Danesh-Jafari.
Both newspapers and politicians say the lack of strong decisions
on the economy is the result of major disagreement between various
economic policy makers within Khatami's administration (Eds:
correct).
Kayhan newspaper said Thursday that proponents of economic
liberalization, whom it did not name, were seeking the resignation
of Economy Minister Hossein Namazi, who reportedly favors a slower
pace of reform to protect the poor.
As the conservative Abrar newspaper put it: "How can we expect a
positive result when there are certain officials in the government
who do not believe in the government's official economic policies?"

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:47:13 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's budding revolutionaries quizzed on the Great Satan

TEHRAN, Nov 12 (AFP) - Budding Iranian revolutionaries are in
line for major quiz prizes if they can answer questions about the
"dark side" of US history and provide suggestions on how best to
give the "Great Satan" a "big slap in the face."
A revolutionary group is offering unspecified "valuable prizes"
to anyone giving the correct answers to 40 questions about Iran's
great enemy, the United States, especially in its relations with the
Islamic Republic.
The quiz -- "What is the US thinking?" -- has been compiled by
the Islamic Propagation Organisation and published in three of the
country's more conservative newspapers to test Iranians on their
knowlege of America's historical misdeeds.
But the organisation, set up after the 1979 Islamic Revolution
to promote Iran's "enlightened" brand of Islam, is offering no
prizes for guessing the identity of the first US president or the
colours of the American flag.
Instead, the multiple-choice test is designed to pick out
budding revolutionaries, asking "What are the reasons for a break in
relations with the United States?" and "How many black slaves were
brought to the United States over a 150-year period?"
And if contestants find those questions too easy, the
quiz-masters have also asked: "Why does the US government insist on
negotiating with the Iranian government?" "What is the best way for
freedom lovers to give superpowers, particularly the United States,
a big slap in the face?" and "Why are the Zionists so powerful in
the United States?"
But not all questions are so complex.
"Who is the leader of the anti-Iranian movement in the US
Congress" is a relatively easy question, the right answer (probably)
being outgoing House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ahead of New York
senator Alfonso D'Amato who is nevertheless reviled here as the
architect of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.
The other choices were US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
and her predecessor Warren Christopher.
The quiz has been organised to mark "World Day for the Struggle
Against World Arrogance" which celebrates the anniversary of the
November 4 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran during the Islamic
Revolution 19 years ago.
Iran has been openly hostile towards the United States since the
revolution, and frequently derides it as "World-Devouring America,"
"the Global Arrogance" and the more familiar "Great Satan."
Washington severed relations in 1980 after student
revolutionaries stormed its embassy and held staff hostage for more
than a year, and since then has worked to isolate Iran on the world
stage.
Prospects for restoring relations have become a matter of great
controversy in Iran recently, with moderate politicians and students
sending faint and often ambiguous signals calling for resumed
dialogue while Islamic hardliners angrily reject the idea.
Iran's supreme political and religious leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, has repeatedly poured cold water on any suggestions for
US-Iran negotiations.
But moderate President Mohammad Khatami has called for increased
contacts between the peoples of Iran and the United States even
without official dialogue, paving the way for travel to Iran by
several US wrestling teams and even tourists.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:47:36 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian family meets murky end

TEHRAN, Nov 12 (AFP) - Three members of an Iranian family and a
neighbour died after sinking into a sewage pit, newspapers said
Thursday.
The 50-year-old head of the family died when the sides of a well
he was digging in his house in Qazvin, west of Tehran, gave way and
covered him in sewage, they said.
His son rushed into the well to rescue him, but was himself
suffocated by poisonous gases from the sewage. The tragedy was
repeated when the man's wife entered the well to save the two men
and a neighbor who responded to cries for help also met the same
fate.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:47:46 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran blames smuggling for currency freefall

TEHRAN, Nov 12 (AFP) - An Iranian finance ministry official on
Thursday blamed illegal imports of goods for the dramatic fall in
the value of the national currency, the rial.
Deputy Finance Minister Morteza Qarah-Baqian said up to 1.6
billion dollars of goods were being smuggled into the country each
year.
"This helps create a currency black market and contributes to
the instability in the exchange market," he said, quoted by
newspapers.
He called on the government to eliminate the underground
economy, which he estimated represented between 15 percent to 30
percent of the total economy.
"The currency black market must be eliminated from the national
economy to prevent any instability in exchange rates," Qarah-Baqian
said.
The rial has fallen sharply against major foreign currencies in
the past few weeks, with the unofficial exchange rate sinking from
6,200 rials to the dollar in mid-October to a little under 7,000 on
Thursday.
Gold prices have simultaneously shot up in Tehran as Iranians
rushed to replace cash with coins and jewelry.
Import restrictions imposed since 1995 have paved the way for an
extensive black market, catering for demands for a variety of luxury
goods ranging from electronic equipment to foreign foods, clothes
and perfume.
Importers purchase these by procuring hard currency on the black
market, whose rates are more than double the official rate of 3,000
rials to the dollar.
The government is facing an acute shortage of hard currency
because of a plunge in the price of crude oil, which is the source
of 80 percent of its hard currency earnings.
Iran is currently facing revenue shortfalls of around 6.3
billion dollars with the government hard pressed to pay its workers
and meet other expenses such as subsidies on a number of essential
consumer goods.
MP Soheila Jelodarzadeh said this week that many workers in
state-run factories had not been paid for months.
But Qarah-Baqian denied the economy was in crisis. "A
crisis-ridden economy has certain characteristics, many of which do
not exist in Iran," he said.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:00 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Lack of exercise threatens Iranian girls' health

TEHRAN, Nov 11 (AFP) - The health of Iranian schoolgirls is
under threat from a lack of physical exercise, an education ministry
official warned Wenesday.
Muhammad Reza Pahlevan, head of the ministry's physical
education department, said the country's approximately 9.5 million
schoolgirls are suffering from an increase in "physical lethargy"
because of a paucity of sporting activities in schools.
"The lack of physical exercise is a threat to the health of
future generations," he warned, adding that schoolgirls have less
than 240 hours of physical education throughout their secondary
education.
Girls' and women's sports, which all but died after the 1979
Islamic revolution, has now become a fiercely controversial issue,
with orthodox Moslems opposing such activities on the grounds that
they compromise religious values.
But female politicians and moderate male officials have pushed
for more sports opportunities for women and girls, with Faezeh
Hashemi, the daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
spearheading the campaign.
Pictures of female athletes are once again appearing in
newspapers and magazines in such Islamically correct fields as
fencing, riding and skiing -- activities women can engage in while
fully covered in line with the Islamic dress code imposed after the
revolution.
Hashemi, a moderate MP and the head of the women's Olympics
committee, has come under conservative criticism for pushing to
allow women to play football and ride bicycles in public.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:07 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Islamic militants to be allowed greater say in Iran universities

TEHRAN, Nov 11 (AFP) - Iran's conservative-dominated parliament
approved a controversial law on Wednesday allowing Islamic militia
and militant activists to play a more active role in universities.
The law in principle allows the militia, a voluntary force of
Islamic loyalists, to "reinforce their presence" in universities and
regulate cultural activities.
The details of the law will be debated in later parliamentary
sessions.
The paramilitary force played a major part in the 1980-188 war
against Iraq and, since the end of the war, they have launched a
campaign to fight signs of Western culture in the Islamic Republic.
The move is likely to sharpen antagonism between the
conservative-affiliated Basij groups and leftist and liberal student
activists in universities, who support moderate President Mohammad
Khatami.
The students have complained that the Basij force is too
intrusive, acting as a watchdog on more independent political and
cultural activities, and want them reined in.
Khatami's landslide election on the strength of the young vote
in May 1997 has unleashed growing calls for easing restrictions in
universities to allow critics to express their voice.
Liberal and leftist groups have already gained the upper hand in
many universities, especially in Tehran, provoking fears among the
conservative establishment that they will pave the way for Western
liberal thinking.
There have been sporadic clashes between student activists and
conservative hardliners in campuses or during political rallies.
Tensions have also run high in provincial universities, notably the
University of Ahwaz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.
The parliament, dominated by religious conservatives, has voiced
increasing impatience over the "inroads of liberal culture" in
universities.
Minister of Higher Education Mostafa Moin was summoned to the
assembly early this week to answer questions about the student
unrest in universities.
Some right-wing MPs have accused the ministry of siding with
leftist students and of fanning the unrest.
Observers say the new law is a move by the conservatives to
contain the radical students, who have opposed the conservatives'
notion of "Islamic universities."

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:15 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: "American spy" arrested in Iran: daily

TEHRAN, Nov 11 (AFP) - Iranian secret services have arrested an
"American spy" in the southern port of Mahshahr, a major
petrochemical base on the Persian Gulf, a newspaper reported on
Wednesday.
The suspect, whose identity was not revealed, was picked up in
Mahshahr, Khuzestan province, Jomhouri Islami newspaper said without
giving the date of his arrest.
The last American arrested in Iran on spying was real estate
developer Milton Meyer in 1992. His fate has never been clarified.
Jomhouri Islami also reported that Iranian intelligence agents
had also arrested a senior member of the main armed opposition
group, the People's Mujahedeen, which has military bases in Iraq.
He was identified and arrested in Masjed-Soleiman, also in
Khuzestan province bordering Iraq.
Under Iranian law, those convicted of spying, particularly for
Israel or the United States, have been sentenced to death.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:24 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tuna lorry caught smuggling satellite receivers in Iran

TEHRAN, Nov 11 (AFP) - Iranian authorities have seized a lorry
carrying satellite equipment under the guise of tuna fish, the
official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.
Police found 255 satellite receivers in the vehicle, although
the driver's papers said the lorry was carrying "tuna fish," the
news agency said, citing police officials.
The Iranian government has banned satellite dishes in its drive
to check the inroads of "decadent Western culture," but government
agencies and politicians are allowed to use them for "research"
purposes.
However, many Iranians continue to have access to satellite
television broadcasts by concealing the dishes on their rooftops or
yards.
Police make periodic swoops on residential areas to search for
dishes and other goods deemed anti-Islamic -- such as playing cards,
pop music tapes and alcohol.
Iran's long borders provide prime territory for the smuggling of
a variety of products -- from drugs to satellite dishes to Turkish
beer and French eau de cologne.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:34 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Russia's Tupolev seeking to build planes in Iran

TEHRAN, Nov 10 (AFP) - Russian aircraft manufacturer Tupolev is
in Iran looking for a partner to begin local production of passenger
planes, Iranian radio reported Tuesday.
The Tupolev delegation is in Tehran looking for "new partners"
to purchase the license to assemble TU-334 passenger planes,
following a project agreed to in principle last year between Iran
and Russia, it said.
The TU-334 is designed to carry 100 passengers over a
2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) distance and replaces the TU-134
model.
It has not yet entered commmercial service in Russia and is
expected to make its first flights in late November or early
December.
The two countries signed an agreement in principle in April 1997
to assemble Tupolevs near the city of Esfahan in central Iran,
though the project never took off for lack of funding on the Iranian
side.
Iran has increasingly turned to Russia to help expand its
passenger carrier fleet. When given a choice, however, Iranians tend
to prefer not to travel on Tupolevs which they suspect are
Soviet-era cast-offs.
In 1992, the Islamic Republic leased 10 Tupolevs from Russia.
Piloted by Russians, the planes have been mainly used to take
pilgrims to Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
The country's ageing passenger fleet is proving increasingly
inadequate to meet the growing demand for air travel. Shortages are
especially acute on domestic flights and passengers are often forced
to provide travel agents with "financial incentives" to find them
seats.
The fleet, with no more than 28 planes in service, mostly dates
from the pre-1979 Islamic Revolution period, with planes and
equipment bought from the United States.
The two countries severed relations following the revolution and
the United States has imposed economic sanctions and a ban on the
transfer of advanced technology to Iran, which it accuses of
supporting terrorism and pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
Iranian aviation authorities recently admitted they need another
130 planes to meet growing demand for air travel.
Iran has a number of state-owned airlines, the largest being
Iran Air, and more recent companies Asseman, Kish-Air and Bonair
catering for the domestic market.
Some 15 Russian airlines have placed orders for around 160
TU-334s, which cost 14 to 15 million dollars each.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:45 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Earthquake hits northwestern Iran

TEHRAN, Nov 10 (AFP) - An earthquake measuring 4.2 degrees on
the Richter scale struck northwestern Iran early Tuesday, the
official news agency IRNA reported.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
The tremor was recorded shortly after 1:00 a.m. Tuesday with an
epicentre some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the town of Khoy near
Iran's border with Turkey.
The news agency did not report any casualties but said people in
the district were reported to have been "extremely frightened."
Earthquakes are a regular occurence in Iran.
The same region was struck by a 4.7 degree temblor last
Saturday, while onemeasuring 4.7 hit southern Iran on Sunday.

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

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 19:48:56 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian journalists make US visit

TEHRAN, Nov 9 (AFP) - A group of Iranian journalists are making
a tour of the United States as part of a plan to increase contacts
between the two nations being promoted by moderate President
Mohammad Khatami.
The journalists, who arrived in Boston on Saturday, are from a
number of moderate newspapers, including the popular daily
Hamshahri, the English-language Iran News and two women's
publications.
They were invited on the two-week trip by the Association of New
England News Editors, newspapers here reported.
The journalists will visit a number of cities and make speeches
about Iran at several venues, including the prominent universities
of Harvard and Columbia.
Iran and the United States broke diplomatic ties after radical
students seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1980.
Khatami made a groudbreaking television address in January
calling for greater person-to-person contact with the United States
to eliminate the "wall of mistrust" between the two countries.
But he fell short of offering an official dialogue to resolve
ongoing differences between Tehran and Washington amid strong
opposition from conservative opponents at home.
A group of Iranian journalists had been invited for an interview
in June with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, but the trip
was cancelled here at the last minute for unspecified reasons.
American wrestlers have come to Iran for competitions on two
separate occasions this year, and American scholars and tourists
have also made visits to the Islamic republic.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 12 Nov 1998 to 13 Nov 1998
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