Date: Dec 24, 1998 [ 0: 0: 1]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 22 Dec 1998 to 23 Dec 1998

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There are 4 messages totalling 395 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. NEWS
2. NEWS98 - Montazeri's Letter Published by Khordad Newspaper
3. NEWS98 - Asghar-Zadeh, Students Injured After Attack by Extremists
4. NEWS98 - Municipal Elections: Majlis Bill To Increase Screening Powers

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

Date: Thu, 24 Dec 1998 07:00:31 +1100
From: Susan Ghaemi <s.ghaemi@UNSW.EDU.AU>
Subject: NEWS

TOKYO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Iran's external debt amounts to roughly $12
billion, or 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), Iran's foreign
minister said on Tuesday. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a
news conference that Iran saw its external debt as being at an acceptable
level.

He added that its foreign debt repayment reached a record $3 billion this
year, and that it was in talks with major economic partners to reschedule
the debt. He said Iran expected the repayment next year to be about $1
billion...

///////////////////////////////////////////////

Iran denies German charges it linked to Lockerbie

TEHRAN, Dec 22 - Iran on Tuesday denied charges by a German prosecutor that
the Islamic republic
ordered the 1988 bombing of an airliner over the Scottish town of
Lockerbie. The Islamic republic strongly and officially denies any such
charges," said a statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Bonn and
carried by the official Iranian news agency IRNA. It said the charges were
baseless, unfounded and biased.

Frankfurt prosecutor Job Tillmann told German television on Sunday that a
former Iranian intelligence
official has said the bombing was ordered and masterminded by Iran and not
Libya. Tillmann said he had questioned the former top official known as
"source C" during his investigations into whether the bomb was brought to
London via Frankfurt airport. Iran had repeatedly denied previous reports
linking it to the bombing.

International investigators have accused Libya of being behind the attack.
Tripoli has denied involvement. The United States and Britain are awaiting

word from Libya on whether it will hand over two Libyan suspects to stand
trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. All 259 people aboard the Pan
Am plane, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents, lost their lives in the
disaster
on December 21, 1988.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////
Monday, December 21, 1998 Published at 22:50 GMT
Oil price slumps
Production is going strong and prices continue to fall

The slide of oil prices has continued after it has
become clear that military action against Iraq
has not interrupted oil supplies from the Gulf
region.

One barrel of Brent crude oil, which is the
market's benchmark, was last traded on
Monday at $9.76, even though at one point the
price fell as low as $9.55 per barrel.


This is the lowest oil
price since 1986.
Looking at the average
for the whole year,
prices are even below
the level of 1976.

When the American and
British air strikes began,
prices had briefly risen
because of fears that the
allied forces could hit oil
installations.
Furthermore the Iraqi government had
threatened to stop the flow of oil should the
West attack.

However, the flow of oil was uninterrupted. The
allied forces attacked only one oil installation
south of Basra, which they said had been used
to contravene the UN oil embargo agaionst
Iraq.

Christopher Bellew of Prudential Bache
International in London reported: "Iraq loadings
are normal, while on the political side support
for the US and UK positions on Iraq is melting
away, and that could point to renewed pressure
for a lifting of sanctions."

Iraq is currently allowed to export a maximum of
1.8m barrels per day under a United Nations
programme to supply food and medicine paid
for with oil revenues.

The oil market is depressed because of an
over-supply of oil. The economic crisis in Asia
has forced down demand for petrol and other
oil products. At the same time the winter in the
northern hemisphere has been relatively mild.

Only drastic production cuts could now boost
the market. However, some oil-producing
countries are short of money and have
increased sales in order to balance their
budgets.

Tony Machacek, analyst at Credit Lyonnais
Rouse, said: "It is difficult to see who is going to
come on to the market and support prices" as
there were "no signs of Opec (Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries) whishing to
make any cutback" to production levels.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

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

Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 13:58:34 -0700
From: Arash Alavi <arash@MY-DEJANEWS.COM>
Subject: NEWS98 - Montazeri's Letter Published by Khordad Newspaper

Iranian Dissident Cleric Back in the Public Eye

Reuters 22-DEC-98

TEHRAN, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Iran's leading
dissident cleric, now under house arrest after a
spectacular fall from grace, has returned to the
public eye with an appeal for the implementation
of the rights and freedoms enshrined in Iran's
constitution.

In a letter to a new pro-reform daily, Grand
Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri issued a plea for
political pluralism and civil rights within
Iran's Islamic system-- central themes in stump
speeches of popular moderate President Mohammad
Khatami.

The senior theologian's appearance in the Khordad
newspaper on Monday is likely to rekindle heated
debate on the role of clerical rule, an issue
that has seen Montazeri demonised for challenging
the very foundations of Iran's ruling
establishment.

"Familiarise people with their rights and
freedoms stipulated under Islam and in the
(Iranian) constitution," Montazeri said in advice
to Khordad and its editor, former Montazeri
student and close presidential ally Abdollah
Nouri.

"Unfortunately, there is a strange
self-censorship and spirit of fear among many
people. It is necessary to reinforce the spirit
of courage and self-confidence in the nation so
it will defend its rights and the rights of the
oppressed and not keep silent against offences."

He also blasted officials for profligate spending
on "ceremonies and formalities" and called on
Khordad to elevate readers' understanding of
current political and moral issues, a reference
to the campaign waged by Khatami and his backers
for political development and the creation of a
civil society.

Montazeri, 76, has been Iran's most prominent
dissident since 1989, when the late spiritual
leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dismissed him
as his designated successor in a dispute over the
treatment of political dissidents and other
issues.

Montazeri then completed his alienation from
conservative ruling circles last year with an
authoritative critique of the institution of
supreme clerical rule-- "velayat-e faqih"-- and
its current officeholder Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That critique earned Montazeri an order for house
arrest and a halt to his teaching, sparking
rallies and strikes by his backers in the central
city of Isfahan and his nearby hometown of
Najafabad.

Hardliners struck back with an assault on his
house.

Since then, little has been heard from Montazeri
and a magazine that published his essays on
clerical rule was closed down. Official media
ignore him altogether, while hardliners dismiss
him as a "simple-minded sheikh."

But Montazeri retains many religious followers,
even among members of parliament. Suggestions of
his possible prosecution on charges of treason
have been dropped, at least in part for fear of
political and theological backlash.

For his part, Montazeri appeared unbowed,
criticising the establishment for emphasising
revolutionary rhetoric at the expense of true
Islamic values.

"Consider God and Islam and the interests of the
nation and intellectual demands, particularly
those of the young generation," he wrote. "You
know that we have chanted slogans a lot so far
but paid little attention to education and
implementing Islamic criteria."

The grand ayatollah's public support for many of
the key planks in the Khatami platform appeared
likely to accentuate differences between the
president and the clerical establishment he
defeated in a landslide election last year.

It also illustrates one of the few success
stories of Khatami's administration-- the
creation of a lively and vigorous media offering
a range of views from hardline conservatives to
the iconoclastic opinions of Montazeri.





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

Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 14:57:52 -0700
From: Arash Alavi <arash@MY-DEJANEWS.COM>
Subject: NEWS98 - Asghar-Zadeh, Students Injured After Attack by Extremists

TEHRAN, Dec 23 (AFP) -A political activist who
helped orchestrate an attack on the former US
embassy in Tehran in 1979 was severely beaten by a
group of Islamic fundamentalists while delivering a
public speech, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Ebrahim Asghar-Zadeh, a former left-wing MP and
now a supporter of President Mohammad Khatami,
was attacked by the extremists after addressing
students at the University of Hamedan, a town
southwest of Tehran, on Sunday, the daily Zan
(Woman) said.

Asghar-Zadeh, who is in his mid-forties, was badly
injured and hospitalised, it added. His driver and a
number of other students were also injured.

Asghar-Zadeh, a member of the Office for the
Reinforcement of Unity (ORU), an umbrella
organisation of several pro-Khatami student groups,
was one of the student leaders who help organize
the seizure of the Us embassy on November 4, 1979.





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

Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 16:39:44 -0700
From: Arash Alavi <arash@MY-DEJANEWS.COM>
Subject: NEWS98 - Municipal Elections: Majlis Bill To Increase Screening Powers

Iran local polls to heat up factional rivalries

08:13 a.m. Dec 23, 1998 Eastern

By Kaveh Basmenji

TEHRAN, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Iran's rival factions
are gearing up for upcoming municipal polls, the
next battleground over the drive for a ``civil
society'' by moderate President Mohammad Khatami,
who has limited power despite a huge electoral
mandate.

The municipal elections in February could help
tip the balance of power between moderates and
conservatives locked in heated rivalry after last
year's landslide election of Khatami on a
platform of social and political reforms.

``Considering the fact that Khatami's only
potential tool is people's power, these councils
could be very important in restructuring the
whole political setup in favour of democracy,''
sociologist Mahmoud Sharifi said.

Registration of candidates will be held next week
for the February 26 municipal councils polls,
Iran's first exercise in local democracy and
self-management.

Some 200,000 people will be elected to oversee
the running of local affairs in 730 cities and
towns and 40,000 villages. The councils will also
choose most mayors, currently named by the
Interior Ministry with little public
accountability.

Some analysts believe pro-Khatami candidates will
fare well in the polls, endorsing the president's
liberal reforms within Iran's Islamic system, and
strengthening his hand.

But other analysts said local issues, rather than
national rivalries, could dominate the polls and
that strong religious traditions in the
countryside could favour the conservatives.

A key issue will be the screening of candidates
by bodies which will decide who is qualified to
run. Khatami's moderate and left-wing Islamist
backers have repeatedly complained that their
candidates were barred from running in
parliamentary and other elections by a
conservative-run screening board.

``The (municipal) councils elections should be
held without undue restrictions so that those who
want to run as candidates would have an
opportunity to participate,'' Khatami said in
remarks published on Wednesday.

But amid protests by moderates, the
conservative-controlled Majlis, or parliament,
has introduced a bill to give more powers to
election screening boards, which it appoints.

``This bill contains a worrying message, that is,
trying to limit and eliminate elements associated
with a certain faction,'' said moderate
parliament deputy Abdolrahman Tajoddin.

The Majlis move aims at enabling the
conservatives, who still control key levers of
power despite Khatami's landslide victory, to
stop rival candidates from running, moderates
say.

One such target could be Tehran's suspended mayor
and key Khatami ally Gholamhossein Karbaschi,
whose graft case has been on appeal since July,
when a court sentenced him to five years in jail
and a 20-year ban from public office.

Legal experts say the original sentence, which
included a ban from appointed office, would keep
him from running in local or national elections.

``Maybe the reason why there is no hurry in
announcing the verdict is that (the
conservatives) do not want him to run for the
council elections,'' Sharifi told Reuters.

But moderates also have a say in the running of
the polls. Interior Minister Abdolvahed
Mousavi-Lari has named his deputy for political
affairs Mostafa Tajzadeh, a key supporter of
Khatami's reforms, as the head of a body which
runs the polls.





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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 22 Dec 1998 to 23 Dec 1998
***************************************************