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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Nov 1998 to 21 Nov 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Nov 1998 to 21 Nov 1998
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There are 15 messages totalling 547 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iran expects oil prices to remain low
2. Iran's Islamic militia to stage "urban manoeuvres"
3. Iranians resume visits to Iraq shrines
4. UN General Assembly adopts resolution welcoming Iran moves
5. Saudi consultative council delegation to visit Iran Saturday
6. Iran to stage naval maneuver in Gulf in December
7. Iraqi delegation in Tehran for POW talks
8. Quake hits southern, northwestern Iran
9. Cash-strapped Iran to close embassies
10. =?iso-8859-1?Q?Thai_FM_visits_Iran_for_trade_talks=BD?=
11. Iran, Oman to observe each other's military exercises
12. Iran, Finland to hold seminar on human, minority rights
13. Iranian president urges free flow of information in state media
14. Strikers lock out management at troubled Iranian textile mill
15. US turning Gulf into "powder-keg": Iranian cleric

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:47:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran expects oil prices to remain low

TEHRAN, Nov 19 (AFP) - Iran, the world's second largest oil
exporter, does not expect a significant rise in sagging crude prices
in the near future, a senior oil official said Thursday.
The National Iranian Oil Company's Hojattollah Ghanimifard told
reporters that with a fall in production costs of a barrel of oil
from 12 dollars in the 1970s to 4.5 dollars now, Iran and other
traditional oil producers cannot expect a permanent "economic
benefits" from oil sales.
Iran which depends on oil sales for more than 80 percent of its
hard currency revenues, has been devastated in the past year by
plummetting crude prices, which have reached a 12-year low on global
markets.
Ghanimifard added there would be no rise in demand while the
economic crisis continues in southeast Asia, except in exceptional
circumstances such as a war or revolution.
Should there be a recovery in southeast Asia in the course of
1999, he forecast an increase in demand of 1.2 to 1.5 million
barrels a day.
The government is facing a 6.3 billion dollar deficit for the
fiscal year ending March 1999 after it drew up a budget based on oil
price forecasts of 16 dollars a barrel. Prices are currently around
11 dollars.
Officials here believe the government has suffered a 30 to 50
percent drop in revenues as a result of falling oil prices, and
experts estimate every dollar drop in the price per barrel costs
Iran as much as a billion dollars.
The government has taken a series of measures to make up for the
budget shortfall, including forward oil sales, debt instrument
issues and the sale of exemptions to young men about to carry out
their military service.
The government has called for a reduced dependence on oil
exports, but so far little has been done.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:46:27 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's Islamic militia to stage "urban manoeuvres"

TEHRAN, Nov 21 (AFP) - Around half a million Islamic militants
will stage "urban manoeuvres" in Iran's cities this week to test
their ability to respond to internal unrest, press reports said
Saturday.
During the operation, the paramilitary Islamic volunteers known
as Basijis will increase security across the country and are
expected to set up road blocks and launch searches for drugs,
weapons and even young couples deemed to have "illicit" relations.
The manoeuvres, due to start Thursday, are designed to
"strengthen the volunteer force's cohesion and boost operational
capacities," a senior Basij commander told the conservative Jomhuri
Islami newspaper.
The Basijis were created in the 1980s on the orders of Iran's
late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to defend the
Islamic revolution against internal and external enemies.
These volunteers, a familiar sight with Palestinian-style
scarves thrown around their necks, were active in Iran's eight-year
war with Iraq and suffered heavy casualties.
They are employed in civilians projects and assist Iran's police
force in peacetime, although they are not under interior ministry
control and complaints against them from the general public are
rarely followed up.
They were strengthened in 1993 following rioting in several
Iranian cities that put considerable strain on the country's
security forces.
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Rahim
Safavi, who also heads the Basijis, said they have some four million
male and female members at 30,000 bases around the country.
In a move designed to keep a closer watch on students, whose
increasingly outspoken protests in recent months have exasperated
conservative politicians, parliament passed a law this month
strengthening the Basiji presence on university campuses.
Student organisations and radical papers denounced the move as a
threat to fragile freedom in university campuses amid concern that
the volunteers could intimidate students into greater subservience.


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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:46:51 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians resume visits to Iraq shrines

TEHRAN, Iran, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- An Iranian official says Iranian
pilgrims have resumed visits to Iraq's Shiite Muslim holy shrines after
a short precautionary halt due to the recent Iraq-U.N. crisis.
Behrouz Karami, a public official in the border village of
Qasreshirin, says the first convoy of pilgrims headed to Iraq Thursday.
Karami said the flow of the pilgrims to Iraq was halted for a period
of one week because of possible dangers resulting from the mounting
tension between Iraq and the United States over Baghdad's decision to
suspend cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors.
The pilgrims, whose journeys to the Iraqi holy places of Najaf,
Karbala, Kazemein and Samara last one week, usually stop overnight in
Qasreshirin.
In Sept. 1997, Iraq and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding
that provides for their pilgrims to visit holy places in both countries.
Some 30,000 Iranian pilgrims have traveled to Iraq since last August,
while no Iraqis have traveled to Iran so far.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:47:57 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: UN General Assembly adopts resolution welcoming Iran moves

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 (AFP) - A UN General Assembly committee
on Wednesday adopted a resolution welcoming moves towards openness
by the Iranian government but expressed concern about continuing
threats against Salman Rushdie.
The resolution, which was adopted by 63 votes in favor with 35
against, but with a total 60 abstentions, welcomed a series of
commitments by the moderate government of President Mohammad Khatami
aimed at opening up Iranian society.
The resolution, which is to be confirmed next month by the
185-nation UN General Assembly, was sponsored by the European Union
and the United States.
The resolution welcomed "assurances given by the government of
the Islamic Republic of Iran that it has no intention whatsoever to
threaten the life" of the British writer, and had withdrawn support
for a bounty on Rushdie's head.
But the resolution also "expresses concern at continuing threats
to the life of Salman Rushdie, including the increase announced in
the bounty."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi announced at the United
Nations in September that the year-old Khatami government was
dissociating itself from the nine-year old death threat, and from a
bounty of 2.5 million dollars on Rushdie's head.
The announcement prompted the British government to restore full
diplomatic ties with Iran.
But hardline conservative clerics announced that the Iranian
government could not change the religious decree issued by the late
Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
And the association responsible for the bounty offer hiked the
total to 2.8 million dollars.
Khomeini condemned the British writer to death for blaspheming
Islam in his book "The Satanic Verses."
The UN resolution, adopted by the third committee responsible
for human rights, also expressed concern at continued human rights
violations in Iran, including cases of torture and discrimination
against religious minorities.
Massoud Rajavi, the president of the exile umbrella National
Resistance Council, said in a statement that "offering economic and
political concessions to the medieval regime ruling Iran will not
encourage this regime towards "moderation" but will only embolden it
in its suppressive and terrorist policies."

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:48:15 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Saudi consultative council delegation to visit Iran Saturday

TEHRAN, Nov 18 (AFP) - A delegation from Saudi Arabia's
consultative council is due to visit Iran on Saturday, the official
Iranian news agency IRNA said Wednesday.
The delegation will hold talks here with Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and
parliamentary speaker Akbar Nateq-Nuri.
Council Chairman Sheikh Mohammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Jubair will
lead the delegation from the kingdom's 60-member appointed council.
Saudi-Iranian relations have markedly improved since Khatami's
election in May 1997, after a long period of hostility following
Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Iranian president has pursued better ties with Iran's Gulf
Arab neighbors as part of his detente policy.
The two Moslem countries have exchanged a host of officials in
the past year, notably a ground-breaking visit to Saudi Arabia by
Rafsanjani in May.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:45:37 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to stage naval maneuver in Gulf in December

TEHRAN, Nov 21 (AFP) - Iran's regular navy and the Revolutionary
Guards will hold a joint maneuver in the Gulf and the Oman Sea next
month, officials announced Saturday.
The Unity-77 exercises are aimed at sending a "message of peace"
to Gulf Arab states across the Gulf, the commander of the
Revolutionary Guards naval forces, Rear-Admiral Ali-Akbar Ahmadian,
told a press conference.
"We seek to help the people and the governments of the region to
believe in themselves, to realize that they have the capability to
defend the security of the region on their own," he said.
Iran has been vehemently opposed to the presence of American and
allied forces in the Gulf region, and has sought to persuade its
Arab neighbours to take on responsibility for the region's
security.
Ahmadian said around 50,000 troops will take part in the
maneuvers, the main part of which will be held on December 4-9
covering an area of 20,000 square miles (52,000 square kilometres)
from Chahbahar port on the Oman Sea to the middle of the Gulf.
He said these activities will be concentrated around the
strategic Hormuz Strait, through which a major part of the world's
crude oil is shipped.
The commander of the regular navy, Admiral Abbas Mohtaj, told
the press conference that controversial submarines procured from
Russia several years ago will also be deployed for the exercises.
The purchase of the submarines in the early 1990s, at a time
Iran was seen as a greater threat than now, provoked some fears
among Gulf Arab states.
Relations have markedly improved in the past year as moderate
President Mohammad Khatami has reached out to Iran's neighbors as
part of his policy of detente.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:48:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iraqi delegation in Tehran for POW talks

TEHRAN, Nov 18 (AFP) - An Iraqi delegation is in Tehran for
talks with Iranian officials on the fate of prisoners of the
1980-1988 war between the two neighbors, a newspaper reported
Wednesday.
The talks began Sunday between General Abdollah Najafi, the head
of Iran's POW commission and his Iraqi counterpart Fahmi al-Qeisi,
the government daily Iran said.
The paper, citing commission spokesman Brigadier General
Mohammad Balar, said the talks were aimed at "clearing up the
situation of the two countries POWs as soon as possible."
The issue of exchanging prisoners of war and recovering
soldiers' remains has been a key obstacle to normalization of ties
between the two countries, which have yet to sign a peace treaty 10
years after the end of their war.
Baghdad claims it has released all Iranian POWs, but Tehran says
it has evidence proving many prisoners are still unaccounted for.
Iraq in return charges that Iran still holds around 20,000
Iraqis, a claim Tehran has neither confirmed nor denied.
Tehran and Baghdad have shown a greater desire to resolve the
issue since December and they have held periodic meetings at their
common border.
In April, the International Red Cross supervised an exchange in
which 5,584 Iraqis and 319 Iranians were released. It was the first
major exchange of prisoners since 1990, when each side freed around
40,000 captives from the other country.
Najafi said in April that the problem of the POWs will be
resolved by the end of the current Iranian year on March 21.
The latest talks come ahead of visits to Iraq in the near future
by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and Vive President Hassan
Habibi.
Habibi will be the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit
Iraq since the end of the war.
Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari recently
travelled to Iraq, where he participated in an international trade
fair.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:48:57 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Quake hits southern, northwestern Iran

TEHRAN, Nov 18 (AFP) - Southern and northwestern Iran were hit
by earthquakes on Wednesday, but no casualties or damage were
reported, the official IRNA news agency.
The first quake, measuring 4.6 degrees on the Richter scale hit
the province of West Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran at 4:33 a.m.
(0113 GMT), IRNA said.
The quake jolted the district around Tabriz, the provincial
capital and tremors were felt in nearby towns, it said.
An earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale rocked Kerman
province in southern Iran at 11:11 a.m. (0741 GMT), IRNA said.
The epicenter was 850 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of
Tehran.
Earthquakes are a regular occurence in Iran, one of the world's
major quake zones.
Southern Iran was hit by a quake measuring 5.7 on the Richter
scale on Friday, causing five deaths and over 100 injuries. The
quake has been followed by 50 aftershocks, according to press
reports.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:49:16 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Cash-strapped Iran to close embassies

TEHRAN, Nov 16 (AFP) - Iran will close 12 embassies and
consulates because of financial difficulties, a newspaper considered
close to the foreign ministry reported on Monday.
Iran's Munich consulate and other consulates and embassies in
Europe and Latin American will be shut, the English-language Iran
News said.
The newspaper recalled that Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi had
said earlier this year that he planned to eliminate some diplomatic
posts.
Iran's economy has been severely hit by the fall in the price of
oil, which brings in 85 percent of the country's hard currency and
about half of its revenue.
The government expects a deficit of more than six billion
dollars this year.
But the hard times will apparently not affect Iranian
representation in the Middle East.
Former foreign ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi is to be
appointed ambassador to Tunisia, the official IRNA news agency
reported Monday.
Mohammadi's name had come up several times as a possible charge
d'affaires to Britain and even as ambassador to Britain.
The level of diplomatic representation with Britain is being
raised after Tehran assured London it would not try to kill British
writer Salman Rushdie, who was condemned to death for blasphemy by
the Islamic republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny, in
1989.
Neither country has appointed an ambassador to the other yet.
Mohammadi's replacement as foreign ministry spokesman is
Hamid-Reza Assefi, Iran's former ambassador to France, who started
his new job Monday, IRNA said.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:47:16 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Thai_FM_visits_Iran_for_trade_talks=BD?=

TEHRAN, Nov 20 (AFP) - Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan
arrived here Friday for a three-day visit to discuss boosting
economic and trade relations with Iran, the official Iranian news
agency IRNA reported.
Pitsuwan, who is heading a delegation of trade and business
leaders, told reporters his visit was aimed at boosting bilateral
ties and particularly links between their private sectors.
"We already have close relations in economic, political and
cultural fields. But given the potential, such cooperation can be
expanded," IRNA quoted him as saying.
The Thai delegation will explore possible cooperation with Iran
in such fields as oil, gas, food processing, fisheries and
industry.
The minister is expected to hold talks with President Mohammad
Khatami, parliamentary speaker Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri and Foreign
Minister Kamal Kharazi.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:49:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran, Oman to observe each other's military exercises

TEHRAN, Nov 16 (AFP) - Iran and Oman have agreed to send
observers to each other's military exercises but stopped short of
agreeing to hold joint war games in the strategic Strait of Hormuz
which separates the two Gulf countries, the Iranian media reported
Monday.
Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani and visiting Omani
Minister of State for Defence Badr ibn Saud ibn Hareb al-Busaidi
also agreed to set up a "military friendship committee" to "follow
up on the cooperation between the two countries," the official news
agency IRNA reported.
An Omani "military mission" will "soon" visit Iran to implement
the agreement, Admiral Shamkhani told Tehran newspapers.
He said he hoped the accord would be a "model" for cooperation
between the Islamic Republic and other Gulf states.
Iranian officials had said in August after a visit by Omani
air-force commander General Mohammad Mahfuz ibn Saad al-Arezi that
they hoped to sign an accord on joint exercises soon.
Muscat has traditionally maintained close relations with Tehran
-- Iran has moved to improve relations with all the Gulf states in
recent years after a long freeze following the 1979 Islamic
Revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Iran holds around 40 exercises a year in the Gulf and the Sea of
Oman.
A fifth of the world's crude oil is shipped through the narrow
Strait of Hormuz which links the Gulf to the Sea of Oman and on to
the Indian Ocean.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:50:11 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran, Finland to hold seminar on human, minority rights

TEHRAN, Nov 16 (AFP) - Iran and Finland are to hold a seminar
here in May to exchange views on human rights, minorities and
refugees as part of an effort to promote understanding, Finnish
Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen said Monday.
Halonen, who has been on a visit here since Sunday, told a press
conference that scholars from the two countries will attend the
seminar, but that she would also try to get non-governmental
organisations involved as well.
"We'll try to start with easier questions and gradually get to
more difficult ones. Our aim is to build up understanding and direct
the dialogue towards constructive ends," she said.
The European Union, of which Finland is a member, has been more
or less critical of the Islamic republic's records on human rights
and voiced concern over the treatment of some members of religious
minorities here.
Both countries are also host to large numbers of refugees, with
Iran alone sheltering around two million Afghans.
But Halonen said her country would try to take a "different
approach" in the dialogue with Iran to promote understanding.
"We will take into account the issues of human rights versus
responsibilities. We understand that differences are sometimes a
question of feelings, not just thinking," she said.
Iran has continuously argued that cultural factors should be
taken into account in passing judgments against countries's human
rights records.
Earlier, in a speech to Tehran-based foreign diplomats, Halonen
said her country "welcomes" Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's
initiative on starting a dialogue between civilizations.
She is the first Finnish foreign minister to visit Iran since
the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Halonen said she was discussing ways to protect bilateral
investments and preventing double taxation of trade.
She was to hold talks with Khatami later on Monday and travel to
Esfahan, a historical city in central Iran, on Tuesday, before
leaving the country.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:50:49 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian president urges free flow of information in state media

TEHRAN, Nov 15 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami urged
the state-run broadcast media Sunday to make sure they handled news
"transparently" and allowed a free flow of information.
"We must present everything transparently, without exaggeration
or the creation of a personality cult around officials," Khatami
said during a ceremony to launch a new broadcasting centre.
"We deceive ourselves if we think we can hide news of world
events from the people because they will somehow learn about them,
perhaps from irresponsible sources," he said.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's state-run radio and
television have been under the direction supervision of the
country's supreme leader, a position currently held by Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei.
In their news coverage, they often try to avoid controversial
domestic issues and give limited airtime to events in the West,
often portraying them negatively.
Primetime news programmes are often given over to live
broadcasts of speeches by Iranian officials to the exclusion of
coverage of major world events.
The president criticized the fact that "sometimes they make
one-sided praise of an official here while (ignoring) important
international news."
"Our radio and television should not offer one-sided praise of
the government's policies, because this will have a negative effect
and is an insult to people's intelligence.
"In today's world, when people have easy access to information,
if we try to give one-sided news, people will turn to other media to
satisfy their desire to be informed," Khatami warned.
"In our country, people have questions which must be answered.
Not to do so may have negative consequences," he said.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:49:54 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Strikers lock out management at troubled Iranian textile mill

TEHRAN, Nov 16 (AFP) - Workers at a troubled textile mill in
northern Iran locked out the firm's director and other managers
after roughing them up on Monday, strikers told AFP.
Some 2,500 staff are on strike at the mill in Qaem Shahar
(formerly known as Shahi), in the Caspian Sea province of
Mazandaran. The strike was called on Sunday to protest against
nonpayment of wages and alleged mismanagement of the mill.
Iran's textile industry has been hard hit by the sharp economic
downturn sparked by the slump in world oil prices.
Mills in Mazandaran province, which are among the oldest in Iran
dating back to before the 1979 revolution, have been hardest hit and
many face bankruptcy and closure.
Industrial unrest is not uncommon in Iran but is rarely reported
in the state-run media.
Iranian labour law does not recognize a specific right to
strike, but it does allow for staff to retain their jobs after
downing tools in a dispute.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:51:27 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US turning Gulf into "powder-keg": Iranian cleric

TEHRAN, Nov 13 (AFP) - The United States is turning the Gulf
into a powder-keg, an influential Iranian cleric warned Friday
urging the American people to stop their government from attacking
Iraq.
"They have turned the Persian Gulf into a warehouse of
ammunition. God have mercy on the Moslem people of Iraq and the
region," Ayatollah Ahmad Janati said in a sermon before the weekly
Friday prayers at Tehran University.
Janati, the secretary of the Guardians Council, a legislative
body overseeing the country's parliament, criticized American people
for "failing to protest" the US military buildup in preparation for
a possible attack on Iraq.
"If they are opposed, why don't they say anything. And if they
are for it, then they are an accomplice in the crime," he said.
The crisis, provoked by Baghdad's decision two weeks ago to
suspend UN weapons inspections, is building to breaking point, with
Washington continuing its military build-up in the Gulf.
On Thursday, the United States indicated the time for
brinkmanship was over, ruling out negotiations with the government
of President Saddam Hussein over the crisis.
The ayatollah, an arch-conservative known for his anti-US views,
lamented the fate of the Iraqi people "who are on the one hand
victimized by Saddam's wrong policies and on the other have to bear
US bombs and missiles."
"I don't understand why the Americans do this. What about human
rights, human suffering, justice?" he asked. "What crime have these
desperate people committed that they have to be threatened by
American forces?"
Janati said Washington "refuses to topple Saddam because it is
afraid of a popular government taking the place of his regime."
"It is not difficult for America to remove Saddam, but
Washington wants an unpopular government in Iraq," he said.
Iran, which fought a war against Iraq from 1980 to 1988, has
called on Baghdad to abide by UN resolutions, but has opposed US
attacks on its neighbor.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 17 Nov 1998 to 21 Nov 1998
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