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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Dec 1998 to 9 Dec 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Dec 1998 to 9 Dec 1998
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There are 16 messages totalling 770 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iranians warned to stay inside as Tehran pollution hits "danger" level
2. Tehran's first cybercafe: where East meets Web
3. Iranian parliament postpones vote on petrol price hikes
4. Iran denies Annan mediation role in islands dispute with UAE
5. US concerned about Russian brain drain to Iran's weapons industry
6. Iranian vice president to go to Syria
7. Iran negotiating to reschedule debt with German banks
8. Iran says US "late" in removing it from drugs list
9. Half of Iranians eating more than they need: official (2)
10. UN chief ready to mediate in UAE-Iran island dispute
11. Iran says 176 have died of AIDS in the country
12. FYI:Mohammad Mokhtari's body found
13. Read Sorush's letter to Khatami
14. Total lobbies for Iranian pipeline
15. Iranian writer dead under suspicious circumstances

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:20:34 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians warned to stay inside as Tehran pollution hits "danger" level

TEHRAN, Dec 9 (AFP) - Iranian authorities warned people to stay
away from central Tehran on Wednesday as pollution levels went
"beyond dangerous levels."
The Tehran weather office issued the warning, broadcast on state
radio, adding that pollutant concentration levels had reached
"critical" levels, and urged elderly people, allergy-suffers and
children in particular to avoid the city centre.
The office said stable weather conditions over the past days had
stopped thick smog from dispersing from the city, home to around 10
million people.
Tehran, one of the world's most polluted cities, is situated in
a dip at the foot of the Alburz mountains and suffers from
relatively poor air circulation.
The city's heavy traffic consists mostly of cars and buses that
have been running for over 20 years, and often spew out a lethal
cocktail of visible and invisible smoke and pollution.
The government has restricted traffic in the city centre, though
this has merely prevented a further deterioration of current
conditions.
The head of Iran's Air Quality Control Company Peymaneh Hastei
said last year that up to 70 percent of the pollution was caused by
private vehicles, and estimated that about 4,000 people probably
died every year as a result.
Iran, the world's second largest oil producer, currently charges
drivers under 7 cents for a litre of petrol, leading to the carefree
use of private vehicles.
But the government, hard hit by a collapse in oil prices, argues
this has led to wasteful consumption and pollution and has proposed
a 300 percent price rise in domestic petrol prices for private
vehicles, above a 45-litre a month quota.
The move has yet to meet the approval of a sceptical parliament,
many of whose members have argued petrol price rises will hit the
poor.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:20:26 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran's first cybercafe: where East meets Web

TEHRAN, Dec 9 (AFP) - It may be the only cybercafe that requires
women to wear a veil, but at Tehran's aptly named "Way of the
Future", the Islamic revolution is coming head to head -- or at
least head to monitor -- with the brave new world of the Internet.
"It's alright to serve coffee or tea here but no gin and tonic,"
jokes Kulak Amanpour, who got the idea to open Iran's first Internet
cafe from his years on the decidedly more relaxed French Riviera.
Amanpour and friends opened the Way of the Future in November,
and while recognising the importance of the youth market -- the
cafe, with its bright modern interior, is located close to Tehran
University -- they also try to avoid unwelcome visits from the
authorities.
Islamic laws governing social intercourse in Iran since the 1979
revolution are strictly enforced, and that means all women must
be veiled -- and male and female customers are segregated on
different floors.
Women sit downstairs while men are restricted to the terminals
upstairs, where the greater number of computers says perhaps less
about social mores than about the kinds of customers Way of the
Future expects to attract.
But on a recent visit the cafe was buzzing with visitors of both
sexes, who pay 20,000 rials (about 6.5 dollars) an hour to surf the
web -- with tea or coffee on the house.
"People are interested," said Nasim, a female staffer who helps
women visitors navigate their way through the labyrinth of the
Internet.
"Many come here to send e-mails to their friends abroad," she
said.
But while customers can send personal messages just about
anywhere in the world, what they're allowed to access on the
Internet is also governed by strict Islamic code.
The cafe is linked to the Net by one of the country's several
access providers, all of which block off pornographic sites or those
belonging to the Islamic republic's political opponents.
But in yet another sign of changing times, even the nation's
hardline conservatives -- who maintain fierce opposition to the
cultural products of the "decadent" West -- are increasingly
discovering they too can disseminate their ideas amid the Internet's
information free-for-all.
The Iranian government has put the complete works of the Islamic
republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on the web, and
even the arch-conservative seminary in the holy city of Qom is
training its mullahs to surf the Net.
The Iranian media is also joining the fray, with newspapers from
the moderate Hamshahri to the radical fundamentalist Jumhuri Islami
now running their own web sites.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Bazaaris, the business class that
has traditionally made its money from commercial stand-bys such as
carpets, are switching to computer equipment shops as Iran begins to
embrace -- slowly -- the modern world of the web.
"Internet allows me access to otherwise inaccessible research
sites abroad," said Nilufar, an industrial design student who heard
about Way of the Future from a friend.
Such word-of-mouth advertising is worth its weight in rials, and
likely to be more effective than the cafe's modest advertising
campaign which tries hard not to appear overly modern.
And as satisfied surfers spread the news of Iran's first
cybercafe, its owners may eventually feel secure enough to devote
the entire space to Internet terminals.
But for now -- just to get through the "rough times," as one of
the owners put it -- part of the cafe is still doing double duty: as
an office furniture outlet.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:20:47 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian parliament postpones vote on petrol price hikes

TEHRAN, Dec 9 (AFP) - Iran's conservative parliament decided
Wednesday to postpone a vote on plans to increase domestic petrol
price rises as part of an austerity budget aimed at combatting a
slump in oil revenue.
Conservative deputies opposed to the price hike voted Tuesday
for parliament to consider the issue "urgently," but on Wednesday
parliament decided it would vote on the issue in two months.
The proposed price rises are part of next year's budget which
Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami presented to parliament
last week.
Iran, which depends on oil sales for more than 80 percent of its
income, has seen a 40 percent cut in oil revenues, provoking a
severe government cash shortage and a collapse of Iran's currency,
the rial.
Khatami has ordered expenses to be curtailed, including heavy
state 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 monthly 45-litre quota, instead of the current six
cents, which the government argues has led to wasteful consumption.
But the proposal has been criticised by conservatives, who say
they will provoke price increases across an economy that runs on
rock-bottom fuel prices, and put undue pressure on those with fixed
incomes.
Khatami's supporters have described the opposition to the
proposals as "a political blow" to the president's efforts to
salvage the disastrous state of public finances.
A number of economists and public figures have argued that the
government must cut spending and costly subsidies on a variety of
goods if it is not to sink further into debt.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:20:53 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran denies Annan mediation role in islands dispute with UAE

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 9 (AFP) - Iran has denied that UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan offered to mediate between Tehran and the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) over three disputed islands in the southern
Gulf.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said in an interview with
a Kuwaiti newspaper on Wednesday that "Kofi Annan did not offer to
mediate" in the dispute over the islands which control the world's
main oil supply route.
"Annan told me that the UAE president has expressed his
country's desire to resume bilateral talks with Iran. We welcome
this statement and we are ready" to cooperate, Kharazi told Al-Rai
Al-Aam.
"We can resolve all issues and eliminate any misunderstanding,"
Kharazi said, adding that it was time for his UAE counterpart to
visit Iran.
Tehran insists that the three strategic islands of Greater and
Lesser Tunbs and Abu Mussa, also claimed by the UAE, are an integral
part of Iran's territory.
Annan, attending a Gulf summit in Abu Dhabi, informed Kharazi on
Monday that UAE President Sheikh Zayed ibn Sultan al-Nahayan had
expressed his country's willingness to begin bilateral negotiations
on the issue.
But the UN chief also proposed during a meeting with Sheikh
Zayed "to mediate between his country and Iran if bilateral
negotiations failed," according to a diplomat close to the United
Nations.
Sheikh Zayed called on Iran last week to accept "constructive
dialogue or recourse to adjudication" by the International Court of
Justice in The Hague to resolve the dispute. Iran has so far
rejected outside arbitration.
Abu Mussa, occupied by Iran, is claimed by the UAE emirate of
Sharjah. The Greater and Lesser Tunbs were under the control of
another emirate, Ras al-Khaimah, until Iranian troops moved onto the
islands in 1971.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:05 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US concerned about Russian brain drain to Iran's weapons industry

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (AFP) - The US State Department expressed
concern Tuesday about Iranian attempts to hire cash-starved Russian
scientists to help build its weapons programs.
"Russia's economic problems have negatively affected its
weapons-scientific community, and we are concerned about the
possibility that scientists and engineers will be hired by Iran or
other countries of proliferation concern," said State Department
spokesman James Foley.
The New York Times reported that Iran is hiring Russian
scientists who worked in germ warfare programs and may be developing
a biological arsenal.
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.
The State Department acknowledged that it was difficult to
discern whether the scientists will be employed in research that
will not have military applications.
But the spokesman noted that the United States believes that
Iran is seeking to develop a biological weapons capability.
Some 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, according to US officials.
Administration 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.
A high-level US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott will travel to Moscow Thursday for talks expected to
touch on Russia's dealings with Iran.
Since 1992, the United States has provided some 30 million
dollars in aid to help support biotechnology institutes in the
former Soviet Union and prevent a brain drain toward unfriendly
nations.
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.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:20:40 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian vice president to go to Syria

TEHRAN, Dec 9 (AFP) - Iran's First Vice President Hassan Habibi
will go to Syria Thursday with a high-ranking delegation, officials
said here on Wednesday.
They are travelling there for a session of the Iran-Syria Joint
Commission, whose meetings are held alternately in Tehran and
Damascus.
The visit follows one last October to Iran by Syrian Foreign
Minister Faruq al-Shara, where he conferred with his Iranian
counterpart, Kamal Kharazi.
Iran and Syria have close ties, and officials from both
countries meet regularly for talks.
Iran, along with Egypt, mediated between Turkey and Syria last
October, when Ankara accused its southern neighbour of helping
Kurdish rebels.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:13 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran negotiating to reschedule debt with German banks

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran is negotiating with a consortium of
German banks to reschedule payment of its one-billion dollar debt in
arrears, the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.
Talks underway between Iran's central bank and the 40-bank
consortium will be finalized within the next two weeks, IRNA said
without giving further detail.
Iran, which relies on oil exports for 85 percent of its hard
currency
earnings, has been strapped for cash because of plummeting crude
prices which have led to a 6.3 billion dollar budget shortfall this
year.
The country has been facing difficulties paying back
installments on its 11 billion dollars of foreign debt, not
including another 11 billion dollars in short-term commitments.
Iran needs between three to five billion dollars to balance its
debt status, according to European sources who say that since
September Tehran has defaulted on loans from its major trading
partners -- Germany, Italy and Japan.
The government has reportedly approached banks in all three
countries for up to three billion dollars in credits to help it
honor the debts.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:28 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran says US "late" in removing it from drugs list

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi on
Tuesday described as "late" the US decision to remove the Islamic
Republic from the list of major drug-producing countries.
"It is clear now for the international community that Iran is a
crucial actor in the war against drugs and their transfer to
Europe," he said at a press conference here with Tunisian Foreign
Minister Said Ben Mustapha.
"This (US) recognition is late. Iran has for years been
considered a champion in the fight against drugs," the foreign
minister said.
Kharazi described Iran's war on drugs as "a war without mercy,"
and said "the international community has always approved our
actions in this area."
He added that Iran spends an annual 400 million dollars on its
fight against drugs and that 2,350 members of its security and
police forces have died in the course of anti-drug operations.
The United States announced Monday it was removing Iran from its
list of major drug producers, after finding "no evidence of any
significant poppy cultivation in tranditional growing areas" in the
Middle Eastern country.
The move highlighted Washington's desire to improve relations
with the Islamic Republic since the election last year of moderate
President Mohammad Khatami.
In a letter to the US Congress, President Bill Clinton said the
United States now considers Iran a "country of concern," to be
observed.
Iranian state radio had dismissed the US move in an initial
official reaction to the decision, saying it "should not be linked"
with a possible "change in attitude by the United States."
"Removal from the list is meaningless," Iranian radio said,
adding that Tehran "has never felt concerned by the list."
It added the decision to consider Iran as a "country of concern"
further "shows the United States is not serious" in its desire for
closer relations with the Islamic Republic.
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 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
sectors.
Hostilities eased somewhat after Khatami, elected president 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.
Iran shares a long border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has
become a well-trodden transit route for smugglers transporting drugs
to Turkey and onto Europe.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:34 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Half of Iranians eating more than they need: official

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Roughly half the Iranian population eats
more than it needs while some 20 percent goes underfed, an Iranian
official claimed Tuesday.
"People's eating habits simply must change," said Mahmud Asgari,
a senior official in Iran's state budget planning organisation.
He said Iranians consume on average some 3,200 calories a day,
about 40 percent more than the world average.
Asgari said the figure was "startling" and placed the blame on
government subsidies for basic foods such as bread and milk, part of
a social commitment to lower income groups.
Iran recently distributed hundreds of tonnes of meat at
one-tenth the market price to help ease the burden on consumers,
whose buying power has plummeted as the Iranian currency, the rial,
has fallen sharply while the economy struggles on in a second year
of recession.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:41 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: UN chief ready to mediate in UAE-Iran island dispute

ABU DHABI, Dec 8 (AFP) - UN chief Kofi Annan is ready to mediate
in the dispute between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran over
ownership of three Gulf islands, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
"Annan proposed during his meeting with UAE President Sheikh
Zayed ibn Sultan al-Nahayan on Monday to mediate between his country
and Iran if bilateral negotiations failed," a diplomat close to the
United Nations said.
Sheikh Zayed accepted the offer, the diplomat told AFP, "on
condition that a date be set after which Annan could intervene" to
unblock discussions or take the matter to international
arbitration.
The UN chief's offer came hours before his participation in the
Gulf Cooperation Council leaders' annual summit, which opened Monday
in Abu Dhabi.
During a speech to the leaders Annan stressed the need for a
peaceful resolution of the dispute over the Gulf islands of Abu
Mussa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.
"I encourage you to persist in your determination to resolve
that and all other territorial issues by peaceful means," he said.
At a press conference after the summit opening, Annan said he
had "suggested that it may be helpful they (UAE) get together with
Iran to discuss how they would arrange such talks.
"Sheikh Zayed agreed to that and I have also spoken to the
Iranian foreign minister this afternoon and informed him about the
discussions ... He was positive," Annan said.
Abu Mussa, occupied by Iran, is claimed by the UAE emirate of
Sharjah. The Greater and Lesser Tunbs were under the control of
another emirate, Ras Al-Khaimah, until Iranian troops moved onto the
islands in 1971.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:21:47 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran says 176 have died of AIDS in the country

TEHRAN, Dec 8 (AFP) - Iran's anti-AIDS campaign chief said
Tuesday that 176 people had died of the Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome in the country by the end of October 1998.
Nasser Yeganeh, who heads the government campaign to fight the
syndrome, was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as putting the
total number of HIV-positive people at 1,443, of whom 206 had
developped full-blown AIDS.
Drug abuse is usually blamed for most cases of Human
Immune-deficiency Virus infection in Iran.
Iran has also banned the import of blood products from abroad,
which it fears may be HIV-tainted. The measure was taken following
the first recorded case of AIDS infection in Iran in 1987, a child
who had been given a transfusion of imported blood.
The government launched an information campaign on the disease
in the 1990s, and created an information centre for HIV-positive
persons.
The health ministry has especially warned dentists, medical
clinics, hairdressers and laboratories to respect hygiene standards.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 20:16:01 GMT
From: Sassan Pejhan <sassan@SARNOFF.COM>
Subject: FYI:Mohammad Mokhtari's body found

------------- Begin Forwarded Message -------------

Missing Iran dissident
poet found
dead-relatives









TEHRAN, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The body of an
Iranian dissident poet has been found after he
went missing in Tehran last week, his
relatives said on Wednesday.

They said Mohammad Mokhtari's son,
Siavash, identified his father's body at a
Tehran morgue on Wednesday. Mokhtari had
been missing since he left his home last
Thursday.

``Officials said Mokhtari's body had been
found on Friday in the outskirts of Tehran but
that it had not been identified,'' a relative told
Reuters. ``The cause of death is not known
yet.''

There was no official confirmation of the
report.

Mokhtari's reported death came amid
complaints by moderate newspapers of a lack
of security for reformists and dissidents in the
wake of the slaying last month of Dariush
Forouhar, a veteran opposition leader, and his
wife Parvaneh.

Mokhtari, who was among activists trying to
set up an independent association of authors,
is the second prominent dissident to have
been found dead after going missing in Tehran
in the past few weeks.

Javad Sharif, a former exiled dissident who
had returned to Iran a few years ago, was
found dead after disappearing last month.
Iranian officials said Sharif had died of a heart
attack. Dissidents called his death
``suspicious.''

Opposition groups and the Paris-based press
watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres
(Reporters Without Borders) earlier
expressed concern over the fate of Pirouz
Davani, a dissident who has been missing
since August.

Mokhtari was one of six prominent writers and
dissident intellectuals questioned repeatedly
in October by an Islamic revolutionary court
for their activities.

Iranian literary sources have said the court
told them to give up efforts to re-activate the
banned writers' union.

In 1994, Mokhtari was among some 130
writers who called for an end to censorship in
a rare public protest by intellectuals.

Supporters of moderate President Mohammad
Khatami have accused conservative
opponents of trying to block his liberal
reforms through strong-arm tactics.

They have denounced increased physical
violence and intimidation against moderate
forces and causes, with some reformist
newspapers closed, amid demands from
traditionalist clerics for limits on press
freedom.

Copyright 1998 Reuters News Service. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.






------------- End Forwarded Message -------------

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 21:32:48 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Read Sorush's letter to Khatami

Read the following letter from Soroush to Khatami in Farsi at:

http://www.iranian.com/Opinion/Dec98/Soroush/index.html

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 22:57:15 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Total lobbies for Iranian pipeline

Total lobbies for Iranian pipeline

12/07/98
Agence France-Presse
(Copyright 1998)

BAKU, Dec 7 (AFP) - French oil giant Total is considering building a pipeline
from Azerbaijan to Iran , a company official said Monday, although the US
government opposes the plan.

Patrick Lantigner, Total's general manager in Azerbaijan, said that a
pipeline from his company's oil fields in the Caspian's southern sector to
northern Iran could be shorter and less expensive.

"It is very profitable to transport oil across Iranian territory from the
Lenkoran-Talysh Deniz oil fields," Lantigner said, referring to the structure
300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Baku which Total is helping develop.

"If Iran is located next door, why should we drag the oil in the other
direction?" he added, pointing out that the Iranian industrial center of
Tabriz was only 400 kilometers from the fields.

US President Bill Clinton's administration opposes such an option and
threatens sanctions against companies with US assets working with Tehran .

Washington would exclude the Islamic Republic of Iran from the Caspian oil
bonanza by supporting a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan -- some 1,994
kilometers away -- which bypasses Iran .

Total -- along with fellow French multinational Elf-Aquitaine, Germany's
Deminex, Iran 's OIEC, Belgium's Petrofina and Azerbaijan's SOCAR -- are
expected to invest some two billion dollars in recovering an estimated 350
million barrels of oil.

Lantigner emphasized that the consortium would examine all options: a
pipeline to Tabriz, shipping to the northern Iranian port of Neka, joining
a larger pipeline to the West, or any combination of the three.

The decision would be made in about two to four years, when the actual
volumes would be known, Lantigner said. He did not rule out the possibility
of forming a company to finance and build an Iranian pipeline.

Lantigner also repeated Total's interest in helping build a main export
pipeline to carry the bulk of Azerbaijan's crude to western markets, though
he said low oil prices make the Ceyhan project momentarily unattractive.

Another pipeline to the Georgian port of Supsa is also possible, the French
oil official said, though this would have to prove less expensive than the
Iranian option.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 22:55:14 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Half of Iranians eating more than they need: official

Half of Iranians eating more than they need: official

12/08/98
Agence France-Presse
(Copyright 1998)

TEHRAN , Dec 8 (AFP) - Roughly half the Iranian population eats more than it
needs while some 20 percent goes underfed, an Iranian official claimed
Tuesday.

"People's eating habits simply must change," said Mahmud Asgari, a senior
official in Iran 's state budget planning organisation.

He said Iranians consume on average some 3,200 calories a day, about 40
percent more than the world average.

Asgari said the figure was "startling" and placed the blame on government
subsidies for basic foods such as bread and milk, part of a social commitment
to lower income groups.

Iran recently distributed hundreds of tonnes of meat at one-tenth the market
price to help ease the burden on consumers, whose buying power has plummeted
as the Iranian currency, the rial, has fallen sharply while the economy
struggles on in a second year of recession.

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

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 17:35:29 -0500
From: hickse@HRW.ORG
Subject: Iranian writer dead under suspicious circumstances

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 1998

For more information, please contact:
Hanny Megally, 212-216-1230
Elahé Sharifpour-Hicks, 212-216-1233



ANOTHER MISSING IRANIAN WRITER DEAD UNDER SUSPICIOUS
CIRCUMSTANCES


(New York, December 9, 1998) Human Rights Watch urged the
Iranian government to investigate the recent death of an
Iranian writer under suspicious circumstances.

The body of Iranian poet, writer, and free expression
advocate Mohammad Makhtari was found today in a Tehran city
morgue, Human Rights Watch said. Marks on his head and neck
made it appear that he had been murdered, possibly by
strangulation, although no autopsy has yet been carried out.

This was the most recent of a series of deaths under
suspicious circumstances of prominent critics of the Iranian
government. Makhtari, who had last been seen alive on
December 3, going to a local shop, was briefly arrested with
five other writers in October 1998. The four were threatened
with being charged with organizing "an underground political
group" if they did not stop holding informal gatherings of
writers.

Morgue workers reported the presence of Mohammad Makhtari's
body to his family just two weeks after the body of another
prominent writer and political critic Majid Sharif was found
dumped there on November 24, after "disappearing" on
November 20. Sharif's articles criticizing government
polices appeared in a monthly magazine, Iran-e Farda (Iran's
Tomorrow), which was closed down by court order just three
days ago.

In an open letter sent on November 25 to Iran's President,
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, Human Rights Watch expressed
its shock about the killing by unknown assailants of
opposition figures Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, in their
Tehran home on Sunday November 22, 1998. "These killings
are part of an increasingly sinister pattern of harassment
and persecution of government critics in Iran" said Hanny
Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North
Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. The killings have
continued despite President Khatami's public statements
encouraging freedom of expression and his calls for
investigations into the murders.

"The killing of these writers and opposition figures are
reaching crisis proportions" said Megally. He urged the
Iranian government to initiate an immediate and through
investigation into this and other killings and make the
findings public.

Human Rights Watch,Middle East Division,

Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human
rights of people around the world.We stand with victims and
activists to bring offenders to justice, to prevent
discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protect
people from inhumane conduct in wartime.We investigate and
expose human rights violations and hold abusers
accountable.We challenge governments and those holding power
to end abusive practices and respect international human
rights law. We enlist the public and the international
community to support the cause of human rights for all.

The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Michele
Alexander, development director; Reed Brody, advocacy
director; Carroll Bogert, communications director; Cynthia
Brown, program director; Barbara Guglielmo, finance and
administration director; Jeri Laber, special advisor;
Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Patrick Minges,
publications director; Susan Osnos, associate director;
Jemera Rone, counsel; Wilder Tayler, general counsel; and
Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Jonathan
Fanton is the chair of the board. Robert L. Bernstein is the
founding chair.

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Dec 1998 to 9 Dec 1998
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