Date: Feb 23, 1998 [ 0: 0: 1]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Feb 1998 to 22 Feb 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Feb 1998 to 22 Feb 1998
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There are 6 messages totalling 336 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iranian embassy dismisses accusations of interference
2. Iran denounces murders of two Iranians in Pakistan
3. Saudi king, in meeting with Rafsanjani, wishes Annan well
4. U.S.-Iran wrestling diplomacy breaks barriers
5. Transatlantic row looms as EU brings Iran in from the cold
6. Rafsanjani heads for Saudi Arabia

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Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 12:56:08 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian embassy dismisses accusations of interference

BANGKOK, Feb 22 (AFP) - The Iranian embassy here has denied
accusations it pressured the Thai government into releasing an
Iranian man acquitted last week of trying to bomb the Israeli
embassy in 1994, a report said Sunday.
Iranian ambassador Ramin Mehmanparast, while dismissing the
claims of meddling, said the acquitted man would not sue the Thai
government even though he spent four years on death row before his
conviction was finally overruled, the Bangkok Post reported.
The accusations of political interference follow the release
Thursday of Hossein Shahriarifar, 30, from jail following an appeal
against his conviction of murder, robbery and attempted sabotage.
Shahriarifar's third and last appeal in the Surpeme Court of
Thailand was successful Wednesday, with judges saying the
government's witnesses were unreliable.
"I think the reports that Iran had put pressure on the Thai
government and Thai court were from those who wanted to damage the
good relations between Thailand and Iran," the ambassador was quoted
as saying by the Post.
"I am satisfied with and proud of the Thai judicial process," he
said. "I am very glad our man was finally given freedom."

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

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 12:56:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran denounces murders of two Iranians in Pakistan

TEHRAN, Feb 21 (AFP) - Iran condemned "the terrorist attack" in
which two Iranian construction engineers were shot dead Saturday by
unknown assailants in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
The "terrorist attack was carried out by mutual enemies of the
Iranian and Pakistani peoples," the Iranian embassy in Islamabad
said in a statement published by the official Iranian news agency,
IRNA.
"We strongly condemn this attack and ask the Pakistani
authorities to quickly arrest and try the perpetrators," the embassy
said.
Three people attacked the engineers at their work site and fled
on two motorbikes, police and witnesses said. The Iranians were
identified as Ali Mohammad Habib Zadeh, 36, and Murtaza Adib Zadeh,
48.
The two were supervising the construction of a flyover by an
Iranian company in the seaside Clifton area. They had arrived about
eight months ago to work on the 300-million-rupee
(seven-million-dollar) project being built by Machine Sazi Arak
Iran.
Moslem sectarian violence in Pakistan involving militants from
the majority Sunni Moslem and minority Shiite Moslem communities has
claimed more than 200 lives including the Iranians since early last
year.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 12:55:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Saudi king, in meeting with Rafsanjani, wishes Annan well

RIYADH, Feb 21 (AFP) - Saudi King Fahd said here Saturday he
hoped UN chief Kofi Annan's mission to Baghdad is successful so as
to spare Iraq and its people from US military attack, the official
SPA news agency reported.
The monarch, at a meeting with former Iranian president Ali
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, "expressed the hope that Annan's mission
would be a success so as to avoid additional suffering for Iraq and
the Iraqi people," the agency said.
Rafsanjani, due to stay in Saudi Arabia for 10 days, was met
earlier in the day upon his arrival at the airport by Saudi Crown
Prince Abdallah ibn Abdel Aziz.
The former president is the highest-ranking Iranian official to
visit Saudi Arabia since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA said Rafsanjani will
discuss bilateral relations, the crisis in Iraq, and the situation
in the international oil market with Saudi leaders.
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zangheneh, Agriculture Minister
Issa Kalantari, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Hossein Kamali,
and several deputies and other leaders are accompanying Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani, who stepped down as president in August, remains an
influential figure in predominantly Shiite Moslem Iran as a top
advisor to spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While in Saudi Arabia, Rafsanjani also will make an "omra," or
small pilgrimage, to Mecca, visit Medina, and travel to the eastern
part of the country where a Shiite community lives, Iranian
officials said.
The visit by the Iranian official comes as tensions are high in
the Gulf region over Iraq's standoff with the United Nations over
weapons inspection.
Annan began talks in Baghdad Saturday with Iraqi leaders in a
last-minute effort to convince them to open all suspected weapons
sites to UN inspectors and avoid a threatened US-led punitive
strike.
"Iran is opposed to any American military action against Iraq
and calls on Baghdad to apply the UN resolutions" on disarmament,
Iran's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Rez Nuri told
reporters.
Nuri added that "Iran and Saudi Arabia share the same
position."
Saudi Arabia, one of Washington's firmest allies in the region,
has said it opposes any military strike and has refused use of its
bases and facilities for launching one.
The Iranian ambassador said Rafsanjani's meetings here could
also focus on "strengthening bilateral relations in economic,
commercial, cultural, and security areas."
Relations between Riyadh and Tehran, which have long been tense,
have warmed considerably over the last two years.
The Saudi crown prince attended the Organization of the Islamic
Conference summit hosted by Tehran in December.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 17:51:40 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: U.S.-Iran wrestling diplomacy breaks barriers

TEHRAN, Feb 22 (Reuters) - A visit by American wrestlers to
Iran has emerged as one of the most intriguing diplomatic
manoeuvres seen in the tortured relations between the two
nations in the last 20 years.
Iran-watchers and diplomats in Tehran on Sunday said the
participation of five world-class U.S. sportsmen at an
emotion-packed wrestling tournament which ended on Friday had
broken some long-held taboos.
The rapturous support given to the U.S. team by 12,000
Iranian sport fans and the sight of the Stars and Stripes flag
unfurled in the Islamic state and not, as is the custom, being
set ablaze were unprecedented in Iran since its 1979 revolution.
``Slowly things are moving on. It is all done at a
deliberate pace ... But each time it marks a new chapter which
cannot be turned back,'' said one seasoned Tehran-watcher.
The wrestlers' visit has raised comparisons with
Washington's ``ping-pong diplomacy'' with China in the 1970s
when a team of American table tennis players went to China as a
prelude to improved ties between the two states.
However, formal ties between the two governments are a
distant prospect and any possible rapprochement is overshadowed
by Washington's threat that it may impose sanctions against
French oil firm Total SA for its role in a $2 billion offshore
gas development project in Iran.
Iran's paramount spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
backed by powerful conservative allies across a wide spectrum of
state bodies, has shown no signs in public of softening Iran's
anti-American stance.
Hardline newspapers, at least one parliamentary deputy and
other Iranian officials have denounced the wrestlers' visit.
``Our people did not view these sports envoys as the envoys
of the leaders of the White House and received them only from a
sporting angle,'' the Persian-language Kayhan daily reported.
Many of the crowd at the four-day wrestling tournament were
united in saying that they bore no grudges against Americans and
were won over by the members of the U.S. team who waved Iranian
flags to the crowd and carried pictures of Khamenei.
``Khamenei is nowhere close to fundamentally reassessing his
policy towards the United States ... Wrestlers can be tolerated
but formal dialogue remains far down the road,'' said one
diplomat.
But cracks are emerging in the ``solid and high wall''
Khamenei insists be erected against his bitter enemy.
Further signs of a potential slow thaw in Iran-U.S.
relations will come over the next days with a visit by American
foreign policy experts to a conference in Tehran.
Former national security advisers and ambassadors from the
Washington-based Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom and the
Middle East Institute are to participate in the seminar on
regional politics.
Their presence will be another episode in a growing list of
small, but in their own way remarkable, shifts in relations
between the two states which have been poisoned since militant
Islamic students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and
held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
These changes were led by President Mohammad Khatami's
historic address on U.S. television last month when the moderate
Shi'ite cleric expressed regret that the hostage incident had
hurt Americans' feeling and called for increased dialogue to
bring about a ``crack in the wall of mistrust'' between the two
states.
Khatami, who was elected by a landslide vote in May on
promises of breathing fresh civil freedoms into the 19-year-old
revolution, has in sharp contrast to Khamenei called for
contacts between Iranian and American academics and artists.
U.S. President Bill Clinton -- who launched a drive when he
came to office in 1993 to isolate Iran for supporting
``terrorism,'' seeking nuclear weapons and its hostility to the
Middle East peace process -- has also moved the game on.
In a speech last month to mark the end of the Moslem fasting
month of Ramadan, Clinton said Washington still had ``real
differences with some Iranian policies'' but that ``these are
not insurmountable.''
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi took the plunge at
the World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland this month by
shaking the hand of Washington's U.N. ambassador Bill
Richardson.
``You may think that's a very minor step, but in diplomacy
that says a lot,'' Richardson said at the time.
But the sensitivities remain -- Kharrazi had to defend
himself this week against parliament accusations that he had
actually shaken hands with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, who was not even at Davos.


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

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:31:40 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Transatlantic row looms as EU brings Iran in from the cold

BRUSSELS, Feb 22 (AFP) - Tensions between the European Union and
the United States over relations with Iran look set to resurface
this week just as Washington and its European allies struggle to
maintain a united front in the stand-off with Iraq over UN arms
inspections.
At talks here on Monday EU foreign ministers are expected to
take the first step towards normalising their relations with Tehran.
These have effectively been on ice since the Islamic regime was
implicated in terrorism in Germany last year.
Diplomats said EU governments have reached a consensus on the
need to respond positively to the more conciliatory signals coming
out of Iran recently.
"It does not mean we have abandoned our concerns on terrorism or
on weapons of mass destruction but we need to have a policy that is
responsive to developments in Iran," said a senior British
official.
The precise terms of the new relationship are to be thrashed out
by the ministers but diplomats said it was unlikely the EU would end
its current tight controls on Iranian embassies in Europe, many of
which have been used as bases for secret service activities.
The EU's decision to suspend its previous policy of "critical
dialogue" with Iran, taken last April, followed a German court
ruling that senior Iranian officials had been involved in the
organisation of the 1992 assassination of four Kurdish dissidents in
a Berlin restaurant.
The bloc's senior diplomats returned to Tehran in November but
ministerial contacts remain banned.
The decision by the EU to upgrade ties with Iran will not go
down well in the United States, which has attempted in vain to
persuade its European partners to join it in a policy of isolating
the Islamic state.
Washington is expected to rule shortly that three foreign
petroleum companies which have concluded a joint energy deal with
Iran, including France's Total, are subject to sanctions under US
law.
The other two companies involved in the two-billion dollar
investment in an offshore gas field are Russia's Gazprom and
Malaysia's state oil group Petronas.
US officials argue that such investments only help Iran gain the
hard currency it needs for the development of weapons of mass
destruction and to help finance its support for international
terrorism.
Until now US President Bill Clinton however has shown himself to
be extremely reluctant to spark a trade war with Europe by actually
imposing the penalties envisaged under the Iran-Libya Sanctions
Act.
Even if he announces that Total and the other two companies are
subject to sanctions, he can delay their application for up to 180
days and then waive them altogether on the grounds that the move
would be detrimental to US interests.
But a signal from the EU that it wants to have warmer relations
with Iran will make it harder for Clinton to persuade anti-Iran
hawks in Congress that the Europeans are working towards the same
basic objectives: ensuring Iran stops backing terrorism and does not
become the kind of threat to regional security that Iraq is
currently seen as.
EU governments see the US stance as theological than strategic:
the product of America's humiliation during the Islamic revolution
and the subsequent hostage crisis.
Iraq is also expected to feature highly on Monday's agenda
although precisely what the nature of the discussion will be depends
on the outcome of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's
visit to Baghdad.

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

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 09:34:08 +1100
From: Susan Ghaemi <s.ghaemi@UNSW.EDU.AU>
Subject: Rafsanjani heads for Saudi Arabia

TEHRAN, Feb 21 (AFP) - Former Iranian president Ali Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani left here for Riyadh on Saturday for a visit
during which he is expected to meet Saudi King Fahd, the official
Iranian news agency IRNA said.
Rafsanjani is the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit
Saudi Arabia since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
IRNA said Rafsanjani will discuss bilateral relations, the
crisis in Iraq, and the situation in the international oil market
with Saudi leaders.
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zangheneh, Agriculture Minister
Issa Kalantari, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Hossein Kamali,
and several deputies and other leaders are accompanying Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani, who stepped down as president in August, remains an
influential figure in Iran as a top advisor to spiritual leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While in Saudi Arabia, Rafsanjani also will make an "omra," or
small pilgrimage, to Mecca, visit Medina, and travel to the eastern
part of the country where a Shiite Moslem community lives, Iranian
officials said.
The visit by the Iranian official comes as tensions are high in
the Gulf region over Iraq's standoff with the United Nations over
weapons inspection.
UN Secretary Kofi Annan began talks in Baghdad Saturday with
Iraqi leaders in a last-minute effort to convince them to open all
suspected weapons sites to UN inspectors and avoid a threatened
US-led punitive strike.
Tehran opposes any military strike on Iraq and has said that the
crisis is a pretext for increasing Washington's influence in the
region.
Relations between Riyadh and Tehran, which have long been tense,
have warmed considerably over the last two years.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah ibn Abdel Aziz attended the
Organization of the Islamic Conference summit hosted by Tehran in
December.


*************************************************
Susie Ghaemi
Photovoltaics Special Research Centre
University of New South Wales
School of Electrical Engineering
Sydney NSW Australia 2052
**************************************************

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Feb 1998 to 22 Feb 1998
***************************************************