Date: Dec 9, 1998 [ 0: 0: 0]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 7 Dec 1998 to 8 Dec 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 7 Dec 1998 to 8 Dec 1998
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There are 11 messages totalling 559 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. BBC: Iran : Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi says Islamic ruler "appoints" the
2. FWD: Iran 's Khatami warns of spread of ``religious fascism''
3. Iran torn between reform, revolution on eve of anniversaries
4. Iran cool on drug list removal
5. Iran ready for negotiations on strategic oil-route islands
6. Iran's parliament to consider rejecting petrol price hike
7. Colleagues protest as dissident Iranian writer disappears
8. "No change" in US policy, Iranians say
9. Iran, Iraq exchange remains of war dead
10. Iran struggling with saffron smugglers
11. Iran luring Russian experts in germ warfare: report


Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 23:49:05 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: BBC: Iran : Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi says Islamic ruler "appoints" the

Iran : Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi says Islamic ruler "appoints" the president
BBC Worldwide Monitoring
Source: `Hamshahri', Tehran, in Persian 7 Dec 98/BBC Worldwide Monitoring/(c)

Text of report by Iranian newspaper `Hamshahri' on 6th December

Tehran : Addressing thousands of people at the Tehran Friday prayers [on 4th
December], held on the Tehran University campus, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi
Mesbah- Yazdi referred to some countries as the "leaders of colonial world"
which he said were trying to promote a democracy in which "religious
involvement in social affairs was banned" .

Addressing the gathering before the Friday prayers sermons, he said: The
leaders of global colonialism believe democracy is a secular regime which is
not compatible with religion.

Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi said: Such an interpretation of democracy has no place
in religion, and is totally opposed to Islam because this interpretation boils
down to the negation of all divine religions including Islam.

He pointed out: In an Islamic government people play an active in their own
affairs by participating in elections and appointing the president and the
Majlis deputies.

The member of the Guardian Council added: When people vote for an individual
to become the president, they are in fact proposing him to the Islamic ruler
who will then "appoint" the proposed individual on the grounds that he
believes the vote and the choice of the people are in the interests of


Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 23:48:12 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: FWD: Iran 's Khatami warns of spread of ``religious fascism''

I havn't checked the source of this news, I found it on SCI/Farhad

Iran 's Khatami warns of spread of ``religious fascism''

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Copyright (c) 1998, dpa

Teheran (dpa) - Iran 's moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, warned Monday
of the spread of what he called ``religious fascism'' in Iran .

``We should beware of justifying fascism on the basis of religion,'' Khatami
said in a question-and-answer session with students at Sharif University in
Teheran on the occasion of Students' Day.

Khatami was referring to what he termed as ``ideological turmoil'' in Iranian
politics. He charged that several factions were going into extremes
``regarding isms'' (political tendencies).

``Some even reject liberalism although liberalism and other Western schools
of thought do have their pros and cons,'' Khatami said.

He cited the ultra-Islamic group Taleban in Afghanistan as example and termed
their demand that men wear a certain size of beard as banal.

``Problems cannot be solved by wearing or not wearing a beard,'' he said,
causing laughter and applause among the few thousand students in the packed
sports auditorium. Wearing a beard is also an important criterion for men
working in government offices in Islamic Iran .

``We cannot live with the civilisation of nine centuries ago but have to
create a new civilisation compatible with the needs of today's people,''
Khatami added, to more applause, referring to demands by conservatives that
officials stick to strict Islamic norms in running the country.

``We should learn to build dialogues on tolerance rather than responding to
other opinions by just telling people to shut up,'' Khatami said.

The students at the gathering shouted slogans in support of Khatami,
including ``Khatami, we will support you'', and for the first time they
also shouted, ``Death to the anti-president front''.

There were also for the first time slogans in support of the late former
liberal Iranian prime minister Mossadeq, who was an opponent of the Iranian
monarchy in the early 1950s.

Regarding radical pressure groups, namely the Ansar Hezbollah (Compatriots of
the Party of God), which is the main group opposing Khatami's reform course,
the president warned that this group should not think that their sacrifices
for the revolution ``allow them to act outside the framework of law'' and
``intimidate the people''.

Khatami, who took office in August last year, once again called for the
creation of a civil society, adding that if existing laws were insufficient
``then they should be amended''.


Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 23:59:13 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran torn between reform, revolution on eve of anniversaries

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Austere portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini
watch over Tehran streets as a reminder that his legacy lives on,
but schoolgirls cover their notebooks with pictures of "Titanic"
heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic
revolution, Iran is a country of seeming contradictions and one torn
between loyalty to the ideals of the revolution and a profound
desire for reform.
The year 1999 is shaping up to be full of events to remind the
public of the principles -- or restrictions -- shaping their lives,
and many believe it could also turn out to be a year of
unpredictable change.
In February, the Islamic Republic will mark the 20th anniversary
of the Islamic Revolution and the toppling of the Shah.
Revolution loyalists will also commemorate the 10th anniversary
of the June 4, 1989 death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the
Islamic Republic, and the 10th anniversary of his fatwa condemning
the British author Salman Rushdie to death for alleged blasphemy in
his novel "The Satanic Verses."
Embodying the paradoxes in present day Iran is the man who
symbolizes moves towards moderation, President Mohammad Khatami,
elected in a landslide in May 1997 on a reformist platform.
Khatami, who still pledges allegiance to Imam Khomeini, has
presented a wholly different and peaceful interpretation of the
revolution, one seemingly at odds with the late leader's desire to
export his radical vision of Islam and his animosity towards the
Western world.
As it gears up for the three anniversaries, "Iran is being
plunged into a violent internal crisis, unprecedented since
Khomeini's death," said a Western diplomat in Tehran.
The ongoing tug of war between reformers and religious
conservatives is reported daily by the press, which has been
enjoying unprecedented freedom since Khatami's election despite
mounting pressure from hardliners.
Parliament and the judiciary, two bastions of the orthodox, are
continuously trying to apply the brakes to the pace of reform, and
have struck a number of heavy blows on circles close to the
But like in a game of chess, which was invented in ancient
Persia, the players do not directly aim at the king. Instead they
seek to paralyze him by neutralizing and eliminating the pieces that
defend him.
In June, interior minister Abdollah Nuri fell victim to a
parliamentary censure motion, and a month later, another ally of
Khatami, Tehran's powerful mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, was
removed from the board: he was suspended from his post over
corruption charges, which many described as political.
Khomeini's successor, the all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, is present on the political scene more than ever,
tirelessly defending orthodox forces against moderate challengers
and liberal critics.
Khatami, whose powers are dwarfed by those of the leader,
continues to play the role of the "president of the people,"
refusing to give up his promises of reform despite mounting
The president has promised to create a civil society marked by
the rule of law and greater freedom and has sought to ease tensions
with other countries. But his opponents argue that his vision is at
odds with Islamic teachings and more in tune with Western liberal
Khatami benefits from cautious Western support, at least in
words, but that is unlikely to do him any good at home.
"Caution still prevails because open support makes him more
vulnerable to his conservative opponents," a diplomat said.
The United States has made several goodwill gestures to Iran
since Khatami's election and Britain has shown more flexibility by
accepting a half-hearted promise from Tehran not to carry out
Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie.
Independent of the quarrels taking place at the top, Iranian
society is gradually undergoing changes of its own.
The police have not stopped raiding "decadent" parties where
young people dance to popular Western music, but they have cut down
on harassing couples in public.
Teenagers wearing T-shirts adorned with the American flag or
baseball caps are less likely to be detained than before, but they
could still be stopped at police roadblocks and have their pop music
cassettes seized.
Boys and girls are still uncomfortable holding hands in public
and veils are mandatory, but many young women go so far as to wear
sandals without stockings underneath to cover their feet.
The Islamic regime is proud to be celebrating the 20th
anniversary of the revolution, but 1999 could also prove a troubling
year for Iranians, who are growing ever more discontented with
economic hardship.
The price of oil, the country's main source of income, has
dropped to its lowest level in a decade, prompting the government to
take a series of austerity measures.
Indeed, talk of inflation, unemployment and recession is all one
hears in collective taxis in Tehran on the eve of the


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:00:10 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran cool on drug list removal

LONDON, Dec.8 (UPI) -- Iran's official radio says that country's
inclusion or exclusion from the annual U.S. list of major drug producing
countries has no effect on its fight against international drug
The Iranian government was responding to Washington's removal of Iran
Monday from the annual drug list for the first time since 1987.
``Whether the name of Iran is included or not included in the annual
list of the American government it will not remove or add anything to
the reality of Iran's campaign against international drug smuggling,''
the official Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran said in a commentary
Iran radio, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp., was
commenting on President Clinton's move Monday removing Iran from the
drug list because of the virtual elimination of illegal opium
cultivation there.
The radio said the U.S. had been forced to distance itself slightly
from its political stance and pay attention to various international
organizations, especially the United Nations, which had repeatedly
acknowledged Iran's battle against the production and smuggling of drugs
in Iran or through Iran.
Clinton, in a letter sent to Capitol Hill said: ``We were unable to
test claims until this year when a United States government review found
no evidence of any significant poppy cultivation in the traditional
growing areas (of Iran).'' Malaysia was also struck from the list.


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:00:30 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran ready for negotiations on strategic oil-route islands

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran's foreign minister said his country
is ready to pursue bilateral negotiations with the United Arab
Emirates on three Gulf islands which control the world's main oil
supply route and are claimed by both nations.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said in a phone conversation
Monday with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that his country is
"ready to remove misunderstandings" on the issue, according to the
official news agency IRNA.
Iran maintains that the three strategic islands of Greater and
Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa -- which it has occupied since 1971 and
are claimed by the UAE -- are an integral part of its territory.
Annan told Kharazi that UAE President Sheikh Zayid Ibn Sultan
Al-Nahyan has expressed his country's willingness to begin bilateral
negoatiations on the issue, IRNA said.
Al-Nahyan last week called on Iran to accept "constructive
dialogue or recourse to adjudication" by the International Court of
Justice to resolve the dispute over the ownership of the islands,
which control access to the world's main oil supply route through
the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran has so far rejected any recourse to international
arbitration and favours an agreement based on a 1971 accord which
allowed it to occupy the islands after the departure of British
Iran had earlier said it may accept joint arrangements for Abu
Musa, claimed by the UAE emirate of Sharjah, though not for the
other islands, which are claimed by another UAE emirate, Ras-al


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:01:15 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's parliament to consider rejecting petrol price hike

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran's parliament, dominated by religious
conservatives, voted Tuesday to consider legislation preventing a
proposed government increase in the price of domestic petrol.
A total of 125 of the 200 MPs who attended Tuesday's session
voted for parliament to "urgently" consider the motion introduced by
conservative deputies, who hold a majority in the legislature.
Parliament, whose debate was broadcast live on radio, will
discuss the proposal to shelve the controversial price rise in
detail on Wednesday.
The government's proposed price rises are part of a strict
austerity budget for the coming Iranian fiscal year which aims to
cut spending and some government subsidies.
Iran, which depends on over 80 percent of its income from oil
sales, has seen a 40 percent cut in oil revenues, provoking a severe
government cash shortage and a collapse of Iran's currency, the
President Mohammad Khatami has ordered expenses to be curtailed,
including the heavy subsidies on car fuel.
Subsidy cuts will mean drivers, though not public transport and
government vehicles, will pay around 25 cents a litre for petrol
consumed above a minimum monthly 45-litre quota, instead of the
current six cents, which the government argues has led to wasteful
Iran, the world's second largest crude producer, is currently
forced to spend around 250 million dollars a year to import oil
products to meet domestic demand.
It hopes to save this sum if the price rise is approved by
But the measure has already been criticised as a potential green
light to another round of price hikes across an economy that runs on
cheap fuel, putting pressure on lower income groups here.
A number of economists have argued that the price increases are
a painful but necessary measure to help improve the woeful state of
public finances.


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:02:02 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Colleagues protest as dissident Iranian writer disappears

DARMSTADT, Germany, Dec 8 (AFP) - German writers have called on
the government in Tehran to investigate the disappearance of Iranian
dissident poet and author Mohammad Mokhtari.
Germany's PEN Club sent a letter to the Iranian government after
an Iranian human rights group revealed on Monday that Mokhtari had
not been seen since Thursday.
The PEN Club said Mokhtari was questioned briefly in October
with five other authors who planned to set up a new independent
writers' association.
The Paris-based Iranian committee against repression and state
terrorism reported on Monday that the Iranian authorities said they
had no information on the writer's whereabouts.
The human rights group said it was concerned for the safety of
Mokhtari, an active member of the Iranian writers' association who
spent several years in jail after he was arrested by the Islamic
government in 1982.
The group said Mokhtari's disappearance followed the recent
killing and disappearance of several other dissidents and
intellectuals in Iran.
The group called on international human rights organisations to
protest to Tehran.
Earlier this month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch warned
that human rights in Iran were suffering as a result of a power
struggle between religious conservatives and the more moderate
partisans of President Mohammed Khatami.


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:01:40 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: "No change" in US policy, Iranians say

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran on Tuesday dismissed the US decision
to remove the Islamic Republic from a list of drug-producing
countries, saying the move "does not signify a change" in hostile US
In the first Iranian reaction to the US decision, state radio
said the US move "should not be linked" with a possible "change in
attitude by the United States" toward Iran.
"Removal from the list is meaningless," the radio said, adding
that "Iran has never felt concerned by the list."
Washington announced Monday that it was removing Iran from the
list of major drug-producing countries after finding "no evidence of
any significant poppy cultivation in the traditional growing areas"
in the Middle Eastern country.
The move highlighted the United States' desire to improve
relations with the Islamic Republic since the election last year of
moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
Iran had been considered by the United States a major drug
producer since 1987, as well as a country that has failed to
cooperate in the war on drugs.
US President Bill Clinton, in a letter to Congress on Monday,
said Iran had now been given the status of a "country of concern,"
which is to be observed.
But the radio said the remark "shows the United States is not
serious" in its desire for closer relations.
The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after
Iranian revolutionaries seized the US embassy in Tehran and took its
staff hostage shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled
the pro-American Shah.
The United States has ever since tirelessly tried to isolate
Iran, branding it an "outlaw nation" which sponsors international
terrorism and seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Washington slapped an embargo on Tehran in 1995 and reinforced
it a year later with the D'Amato law that threatened economic
reprisals against any company investing in Iran's oil and gas
However hostilities were somewhat eased after Khatami, elected
in May 1997, called for a "crack in the wall of mistrust" between
the two nations, but fell short of calling for official dialogue
amid fierce opposition from hardline conservatives at home.
The Iranian government has rejected repeated calls from US
officials for official contact, demanding that the United States
first end "hostilities."
But it has encouraged greater social and sporting contact
between the two nations, a move which has opened the government to
fierce attacks from the fundamentalists.
Late last month, Islamic militants attacked a bus carrying a
group of Americans visiting Iran after accusing them of being "spies
disguised as tourists."
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still refers to the
United States as "Iran's number one enemy."
The US removal of Iran from the drug producers' list carries
particular significance as the Islamic Republic had also been placed
on the annual list of nations that have failed to cooperate in the
war on drugs since 1987.
By no longer designating Iran as a major drug-producing country,
the US administration also killed off the possibility that Iran
could return to the blacklist of drug countries for 1998.


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:00:51 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran, Iraq exchange remains of war dead

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran and Iraq on Tuesday exchanged the
remains of soldiers killed during their 1980-1988 war, an Iranian
official said.
The remains of 121 Iranian soldiers and 213 Iraqi troops were
exchanged at the Shalamcheh region along the border between the two
countries, said General Mir Feisal Baqerzadeh, the head of a
committee overseeing the search for missing soldiers.
The two nations, which are yet to sign a formal peace treaty 10
years after the war's end, are coordinating an accelerated effort to
look for the remains of those still missing, said Bagherzadeh,
quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
Normalisation of relations has been hampered by the fact that
each nation reportedly still holds prisoners of war.
While Iraq says it has released all Iranian POWs, Tehran says
Baghdad is still holding at least 5,000. Iraq meanwhile accuses Iran
of keeping 20,000 Iraqi troops captive.
Officials from both sides met in Tehran last month and Iranian
officials have pledged to settle the matter by the end of the
Iranian calendar year in March.


Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 23:59:38 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran struggling with saffron smugglers

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran, the world's leading producer of
saffron, is facing a growing problem with smugglers who are stealing
more than half the nation's output of the rare spice and selling it
on the black market in Europe.
Known as "desert gold" in the Islamic republic, the much
sought-after spice can fetch up to 600 dollars per kilogramme (2.2
pounds) on the black market, half its actual market value.
"About 40 tonnes of the roughly 70 tonnes of saffron produced in
Iran in 1996 were smuggled into Europe," said Muhammad Reza
Alavi-Nik, who heads one of the country's largest saffron
The rash of smuggling is hampering Iran's hard currency
revenues, which have already been hard-hit by the plummeting crude
oil prices. Oil generates 80 percent of the nation's hard currency,
and state revenues are down 40 percent as oil has hit a 10-year low
on world markets.
The black market is also bad news for the roughly 40,000
Iranians who make their living from saffron, which is grown
primarily in the southern desert fringe of the vast eastern Khorasan
province along the Afghan border.
Saffron has been produced for centuries in the dry belt running
from the Iranian plateau to Spain, with the dry weather being a
crucial ingredient for the spice's flavour.
But even in ideal conditions, saffron is a tremendously
difficult crop to cultivate. Each hectare produces only five to
seven kilos (11 to 16 pounds) annually, or 12 kilos (28 pounds) for
those acquainted with state-of-the-art methods.
It takes some 150 of the purple flowers to yield just a gramme
(less than 0.5 ounces), and the international Food and Agriculture
Organisation estimates annual world production at less than 160
Iran is the leading producer and Spain the second largest,
followed by India, Singapore, Malaysia, France and China.
Saffron growers in the Islamic republic must also deal with the
frequent earthquakes that hit the Khorasan region, destroying the
country's fragile underground irrigation systems.
The Birjand region near the Afghan border, where saffron
cultivation is the centre of the local economy, has been
particularly hard hit by earthquakes in the past two years.
Iran's saffron industry is also suffering on European markets
because of inferior packaging -- an important consideration as the
expensive spice is sold mostly in gourmet markets.
"Iranian saffron is of excellent quality but it is not very well
packed," Alavi-Nik said, adding that the product often reaches
European markets with Spanish packaging and labels.
"Iranian saffron arrives in Spain to be packed and sold in small
portions on European markets as a Spanish product," an industry
expert told the Iranian newspaper Arya.
While the government itself has recognised the urgent need to
develop the packaging industry, a large packaging plant being built
in Khorasan will not be ready for another two years, according to
Unless something is done before then, he warns, Iran's saffron
industry will go "further into decline".


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:02:47 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran luring Russian experts in germ warfare: report

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran is hiring Russian scientists who
worked in germ warfare programs and may be developing a biological
arsenal, The New York Times said Tuesday.
While dozens of Russian scientists contacted by Iranian
officials have rejected the offers, at least five have been lured
away by salaries of 5,000 dollars a month, Russian scientists and US
officials told the daily.
Other Russian researchers have accepted contracts that allow
them to remain in Russia while they conduct research for Tehran, the
sources said.
US officials are concerned by the trend, saying that the 70,000
Russian scientists that worked for the once-secret Soviet germ
weapons programs are in danger of being lured away by anyone with
influence or cash, including "rogue states" or terrorists.
They said Iran has reasons for acquiring biological weapons
since other countries in the region, including Israel, Syria and
Iraq, are suspected of having germ arsenals.
An official with Iran's mission to the United Nations
"categorically rejected" the claim that his country was hiring
Russian biologists to work on germ warfare.
"We do not believe that having such weapons increases our
security," said Gholamhossein Dehghani.
He said there were many foreign scientists working in Iran, but
all of them doing peaceful research.
US officials told the daily that while they believe Iran may
have already turned some germs and toxins into weapons, they had
little information on Iran's progress in this field.
Experts agreed that it is difficult to distinguish between
offensive and peaceful germ research.
"Outside assistance is both important and difficult to prevent,
given the dual-use nature of the materials and equipment being
sought," the Central Intelligence Agency said in a recent report on
Iran's alleged biological weapons program.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 7 Dec 1998 to 8 Dec 1998