ICC - FINALLY A REALITY?
The UN General Assembly has set June 15, 1998, as the date for a diplomatic conference in Rome to create a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). Over 100 nations will meet to agree on a final text of a treaty setting up the court which will investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity - including widespread murder of civilians, torture and mass rape.
The ICC will be a global judicial institution, an international jurisdiction complementing national legal systems. This means that it would be a permanent version of the current ad hoc tribunals, set up to try people accused of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The lack of such a permanent court has been the most glaring omission in the system of international institutions established after the second world war. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide like Pol Pot and his "killing fields" in Cambodia, the Lord ,s Resistance Army and its abduction of children in Uganda, and Saddam Hussein ,s poison gas attacks against Kurds in Northern Iraq, are all examples of atrocities which have so far gone unpunished. The new international court may become an effective tool to prevent and punish such atrocities. Not only will it be an instrument to end impunity for the most serious international crimes. The court's very existence will also send an important signal to the perpetrators and act as a deterrent to genocide in the future. However, the definitions of war crimes must reflect the reality of contemporary armed conflicts. New figures reveal that there are at least 350,000 child soldiers, some as young as seven years of age, actively participating in hostilities around the world. Since one of the most alarming trends in contemporary conflicts is the increasing reliance on child soldiers, Rädda Barnen - Swedish Save the Children - together with the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, strongly believes that the ICC has to define the use of child soldiers as a war crime. Rädda Barnen and the Coalition are convinced of the need to increase the legal protection afforded to children affected by armed conflict. In particular the minimum age must be raised to 18 years for recruitment into all armed forces, whether governmental or non-governmental, and for participation in hostilities. Such a measure, which should be set out in an Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, is essential for the protection of children, whether combatant or civilian, and is firmly in the wider interest of the civilian population. Rädda Barnen and the Coalition are, however, aware that an International Criminal Court is most likely to seek to enforce respect for existing international law and therefore call upon states to include a clear and unambiguous provision in the statute of the court, giving it the jurisdiction to try those who knowingly recruit children under the age of 15 into armed forces or who allow such children to participate in hostilities. While many child soldiers commit grave abuses, they should be seen as victims of the conflicts in which they are engaged. The ICC jurisdiction must therefore be limited to persons aged 18 and over, and incorporate expertise on the rights of the children.
I am delighted to inform you that the Persian Circle at the University of Washington is offering a lecture and question and answer with Mr. Farrokh Negahdar. As you may know, Mr. Negahdar is a political theorist and has written extensively on the political situation in Iran. His book, titled Demokrasi bara-ye Iran (Democracy for Iran), is an important document describing the evolution of his own thought as well as his vision for ademocratic Iran. The event, which will be conducted entirely in Persian, will be held at 6 pm on Sunday, June 28th, in Savery 249 on the campus of the University of Washington. Please inform all interested individuals of this important educational event. I look forward to seeing you all there.
Bellow is a list of talks scheduled to be given by Mr. Farrokh Negahdar in the US and Canada.
JUNE 18, 1998 - SAN JOSE, CA TITLE: "Current Polical Situation and the Immidiate Task of Opposition" With Mr. Kh. Ghadiri Time: 7:00 PM Location: Conference Room, Café Del Sol, 1742 Solano Ave, Berkley
JUNE 19, 1998 - LOS ANGELES TITLE: "Iranian Political Parties: Resources and Capablities" TIME: 7:00 PM LOCATION: Community Room, Third Floor, Santa Monica Mall, Santa Monica
JUNE 28, 1998 - SEATTLE TITLE: "The Prospect of the Civil Society in Iran" TIME: 7:00 PM LOCATION: Room 249, Savery Hall, University of Washington
JULY 3, 1998 - NEW YORK TITLE: "Political and Social Life in Iran after 1997 Presidential Election", With Dr. Mansour Farhang TIME: 6:30 PM LOCATION: Room 517, Hamilton Hall, Columbia University
JULY 10, 1998 - TORONTO TITLE: "Iran Needs Free and Independent Political Parties" TIME: 7:00 PM LOCATION: TBA
Bayat Far, a political activist, is at imminent risk of being deported to Iran from Germany. He has been taken to the Iranian embassy and his photo and personal information have been handed over to the regime. He is currently in prison, with no visitation rights, and will be deported in the next few days. Bayat Far will face a threat to his life and liberty if forcibly returned. The IFIR-German Branch has conducted media outreach, organized a sit-in and gathered extensive support for Bayat Far. International solidarity will help prevent the deportation of an asylum seeker to his persecutors.
Please send a fax to the following authorities in Germany and to the German Embassy in Washington, DC or your country of residence.
Landgerichts - Amberg oder: Oberlandesgericht Nurnberg via fax: 011-49-911-32 12 880
Bundesamt (German Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees) Via fax: 011-49-911 943-5899
German Embassy, Washington, DC via fax 202-298-4249
IFIR's letter to the German government follows and can be used for sample letters.
In Solidarity, Maryam Namazie, IFIR International Federation of Iranian Refugees P. O. Box 7051, New York, NY 10116 tel: 212-747-1046; fax: 212425-7240; e-mail: email@example.com
************* IFIR LETTER TO GERMAN AUTHORITIES
June 17, 1998
RE: Mohammed Reza Bayat Far
Case number: 2 342 289 - 439
To Whom It May Concern:
1) The International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) is submitting this letter to defend Mohammed Reza Bayat Far’s right to protection and to urge the German government to cease and desist from refouling him to Iran. Bayat Far has a well-founded fear of persecution based on his political opinion. Furthermore, due to his continued activism against the Islamic Republic of Iran in Germany, Bayat Far is also a "refugee sur place."
2) IFIR is an international non-governmental organization with over forty branches in fifteen countries world-wide. IFIR advocates to promote and protect the rights of Iranian refugees and asylum seekers and provides evidentiary support through the Iranian Refugee Legal Support Documentation Center. As a record of our professional competence and credibility, various governmental, non-governmental, and inter-governmental agencies have contacted IFIR for information on country conditions as well as on individual cases.
3) Based on information gathered by IFIR first-hand and from well-known international human rights organizations, the Iranian government continues to be a major abuser of human rights with no evidence of improvement. Systematic abuses include extra-judicial killings and summary executions; widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment; arrest and detention; lack of fair trials; and harsh prison conditions. With the `election’ of Khatami, the situation has worsened as the crisis ridden regime attempts to brutally suppress increased protests to ensure the maintenance of a system of state- sponsored violence and gender-apartheid.
4) Under these repressive conditions, Bayat Far was a labor rights activist who had been arrested by the regime for distributing opposition materials and organizing workers. It is common knowledge that political opposition and labor activists in Iran have been and continue to be brutally suppressed. In February 1997, the Iranian regime attacked an assembly of oil workers, arrested hundreds, and killed several. In the past year alone, hundreds of labor activists have been imprisoned and tortured in Iran, and many protest actions and strikes have been suppressed by the regime. Because of the severity of the situation, the International Labor Conference cited the Islamic Republic of Iran for its non-observation of internationally-recognized labor standards. When Bayat Far was exposed once again, he was forced to flee Iran to Germany via Turkey in 1996.
5) Bayat Far has been denied asylum under Article 16a of the Constitution. Furthermore, he has been denied protection from refoulement under section 51 of the Aliens Act. Given the general situation in Iran and the persecution he personally faced, the German government is duty-bound by international law to prevent his refoulement. Bayat Far has now been imprisoned, without visitation rights, and is at imminent risk of being returned to his persecutors.
6) In addition to his activism in Iran, Bayat Far has continued his activities against the Islamic regime as an important and well-known activist of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees - German branch in Nuremberg Amberg. His continued activism in Germany further reveals the extent to which he is a political person. His activities and imminent refoulement have been publicized in various media world-wide. He has therefore also become a "refugee sur place" as a result of his actions in Germany and because such actions have become known to the Iranian authorities.
7) IFIR is submitting a complaint against the German government’s violation of internationally-recognized refugee rights under Article 25 of the European Convention on Human Rights on behalf of Bayat Far to the European Commission of Human Rights. In accordance with Rule 36 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, IFIR advises the German government to cease and desist from deporting Bayat Far to Iran until the Commission has had an opportunity to examine our complaint. IFIR is certain that any unbiased review in the spirit of justice will concur with our position.
8) Needless to say, IFIR holds the German government accountable for the life and security of Bayat Far. Having stated the foregoing, we hope to resolve this matter without extensive publicity. However, we reserve the right to consider any and all legal remedies available to prevent the refoulement of a political activist back to his persecutors.
9) IFIR awaits your immediate and positive response to this urgent matter. Our fax number is 212-425-7240.
Sincerely, Maryam Namazie Deputy Director
By Jonathan Lyons
TEHRAN, June 18 (Reuters) - The do-or-die match between World Cup soccer outsiders Iran and the United States on Sunday has forced Iranian fans and ordinary citizens alike to reflect on 19 years of estrangement from the country they once loved to hate.
Both teams badly need a victory at Lyon, France, to have any real hope of advancing to the next round. But many Iranians see a possible added attraction -- the beginning of rapprochement with the United States.
The yearning to leave behind the virulent anti-Americanism of the early revolutionary era is as palpable as the quiet determination that Iran will win their Group F showdown. The consensus score on the streets of Tehran: 2-0.
``I love the Americans, and I am sure that we will see Mr Clinton here in a few years,'' Ahmad, a 45-year-old former bank employee leaning against the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, said of the U.S. president.
The revolutionary symbolism of the embassy, long denounced as ``The Den of Spies'' and scene of the 1979 hostage drama that has poisoned bilateral relations ever since, has gradually receded into the background.
An adjacent bookstore, once specialising in anti-American literature and ``spy manuals'' assembled from shredded U.S. documents found inside the embassy, now sells only copies of the Koran, the Moslem holy book, and related literature.
Few Tehran residents strolling nearby paid any attention to the faded slogans ``Death to America'' and ``Down with World Arrogance'' painted on the massive brick walls.
Amir, a 33-year-old clerk in a nearby shop selling national jerseys of Iran and select European club sides, said Sunday's match really was just a game.
``It is a matter of prestige for us, but nothing will happen if, God forbid, we should lose. Every match has a winner and a loser,'' he said.
``We only expect our players to play well and the Americans to play fair...We no longer have 'Death to America.'''
Two teenagers, infants at the time of the Islamic Revolution, were at a loss to identify the ex-embassy, now a training centre for the Revolutionary Guards. They were more certain about their 2-0 prediction.
Perhaps more remarkable is what has not been said. There has been no talk of boycotting the U.S. national anthem or evading the traditional pre-game handshakes.
Even hardline newspapers opposed to any possible opening to the United States seem caught up World Cup fever -- or at least unwilling to spoil the party just yet.
``Although sports cannot make freedom-seeking nations of the world forget the injustices imposed by the world arrogance (the United States), it could function to promote mutual respect, love for humanity and understanding,'' said the conservative Kayhan daily.
However, it deplored the broadcast by French television of a U.S.-made film widely seen as blatantly anti-Iranian.
``The World Cup, before anything else, is based on boosting global goodwill and respect towards the governments and nations taking part,'' said the conservative Resalat. ``These matches are a symbol of understanding and friendship among the countries of the world.''
President Mohammad Khatami, whose groundbreaking television interview in January gave the first hints of a possible U.S.-Iranian thaw, has not ignored the ennobling power of football, for fans and diplomats alike.
In a pre-Cup message to the national squad that could easily have been written with the later U.S. match in mind, the reformist president said:
``To win or lose is not the end of the way, rather it is a prelude to a new path for taking advantage of rich potentials of the youth with reliance on the experience of the past.''
Where Khatami and elements of his government might see political capital, others dream of potential financial rewards.
At a fruit juice stand across from the steel gates of the former embassy, Hossein dreams of victory and a return of the free-spending Yanks.
``The match is not political. The peoples haven't got anything against each other. I hope they do exchange shirts after the match,'' said Hossein, who was at his post throughout the revolution.
``Whatever happened then, it's finished. I hope things will go right and they will come back. They ordered food, they came here to eat. We were very happy because they were very generous.''
By ANWAR FARUQI .c The Associated Press
YSSINGEAUX, France (AP) - Iran's World Cup coach knows a thing or two about U.S. soccer. His home is in California, he coached two U.S. college teams there, and his path has crossed with the present and previous coaches of the American team.
Jalal Talebi will put his knowledge of U.S. soccer to use in the big game between the United States and Iran in Lyon on Sunday. With 20 years of bad blood between the two countries, that match will be the most politically charged of the World Cup.
``I will definitely bring what I have learned in the United States to the match,'' Talebi said. ``I do have a few things up my sleeve, but I'm not going to say what,'' he added in fluent English.
Talebi, 52, was picked to bring Iran to its first World Cup appearance in 20 years less than a month ago, when the Iranians sacked Croatian Tomislav Ivic.
In a country where the United States is still denounced as the ``Great Satan'' by its Islamic government, Talebi's U.S. ties should be suspect. But officials probably turned a blind eye to Talebi's background because, for the time being, they need his knowledge.
The game with the United States is the one all Iranians want to win. But Talebi insists it's a game like any other.
``We are playing against the people of the United States, not the government,'' he said.
In the early 1960s, when Iranians were still playing soccer on dirt grounds and no Iranian had ever played for a foreign club, Talebi was a young star in demand by several European clubs.
``He was probably the best player in Iran, and the only Iranian who got offers from clubs in France, Belgium, and Britain,'' said Amir Yazdjerdi, sports writer of Iran's daily Abrar daily.
But Talebi, who became fascinated with soccer at age 7, refused to leave Iran because he'd fallen in love. He married his wife, Sira, shortly after turning down the lucrative European offers.
Talebi left Iran in 1983 for the United Arab Emirates, where he coached the national soccer team. But only months later, he decided to move to the United States.
His wife and three sons, Babak, Borzoo and Bardiya, still live in their Mountainview, Calif., home. Neither he nor his wife and sons are U.S. citizens, Talebi said, but have residence permits.
Tens of thousands of Iranians escaped from their country after the revolution and during the 1980-88 war with Iraq. Talebi insists his reasons for leaving were not political. He wanted a job in soccer, and there was no soccer in Iran during the war.
Talebi opened a convenience store and a restaurant in California, but he left both to stick to soccer. In the mid-1980s he coached at Foothill Junior College and De Anza College in California, and later worked with Bora Milutinovic, the previous coach of the U.S. soccer team. He also knows Steve Sampson, the U.S. team's present coach.
More recently, he was coach of the Singapore national team, and was briefly with the Indonesian team.
In a country where every official is closely watched, Talebi cares little for the strict rules that would get any other Iranian fired.
During news conferences, he shakes hands with women reporters who come up to him, and looks them in the eye when they talk. Players and other team officials turn their back or look down when they talk to women who are not dressed from head-to-foot in the Islamic fashion.
But Talebi apparently doesn't have to play by the rules. For the time being, his government needs him more than he needs their job.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.
By JERE LONGMAN
YSSINGEAUX, France -- Jalal Talebi, who was appointed May 21 as Iran's fourth national soccer coach in the past seven months, has kept a residence for 17 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. His wife, Sira, owns a skin care business and a vegetarian restaurant near Stanford University. His two oldest sons attended college in the area, and his youngest son, 17-year-old Bardia, is an accomplished soccer player who hopes to play at UCLA.
Although he met U.S. coach Steve Sampson only once for a brief moment, the two men actually coached at different times at the same junior college in the Bay Area.
Such familiar suburban existences have significantly undercut the stereotypes surrounding this Sunday's World Cup meeting between Iran and the United States, initially viewed as a battle of ideologies between the forces of the Great Satan and the conservative clerics who ritualistically call for "Death to America."
From the moment the match was announced last December, the game was as intriguing for the expected nationalistic and political tension as it was for the outcome on the field. And as Sunday's game approaches, there is no avoiding the political component in the first soccer match between these two countries.
Tuesday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called for a movement toward normal relations between the US and Iran. At the same time, Iranian exile groups opposed to the Islamic regime threatened to disrupt Sunday's game. Meanwhile, an insulted Iranian team continued to protest Monday's airing on French television of an American movie that harshly depicts fundamentalist life in Iran.
But both teams are largely playing down the 20 years of bad blood between the countries. In fact, there are as many similarities and shared aspirations as there are differences between the two teams seeking international respect as soccer-playing nations.
"I am not a political man, I am a sportsman," said Talebi, a 53-year-old Iranian native, on Wednesday here at Iran's training camp southwest of Lyon, where the game will take place. "We came here to show everyone there is no problems between people of two countries."
Talebi left Iran in 1980, a year after the Islamic revolution redefined Iranian society under the strict rules of strict fundamentalism and soccer was abandoned. As a coach, he said he had to look for work elsewhere, so he sent his wife and three sons to the United States to stay with a friend and he became a soccer vagabond, coaching in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Malaysia, as well as at two junior colleges in northern California. The 1994 World Cup came virtually to his doorstep in Palo Alto, Calif., and he sat and watched in the stands at Stanford University.
None of the family members are U.S. citizens, but Talebi said they are legal residents. Sira Talebi, his wife, said Tuesday from Palo Alto, Calif., that her American friends were excited about Sunday's game, but hardly for political or nationalistic reasons.
"All my friends just want to see my husband on TV," she said.
She has put up no team pictures or Iranian flags at her store, she said, because she did not want to make a political statement. "It is a friendly game," she said.
Sira Talebi said she would be too nervous to watch the game, so she would go for a walk instead. Asked whom she would root for, she said, "I can't say." Then she added: "I hope they play good. My husband, of course, if he's coaching something, I want him to win."
It is also an important one for both teams, who lost their opening matches and are in desperate need of victory. The Americans, with greater competitive aspirations, will not consider their World Cup a success unless they advance beyond the first round of group play. And after a 2-0 loss to Germany on Monday, they cannot achieve their goal without beating Iran. So they need a victory for victory's sake.
Most of the American players are so young, Sampson said, that they have "no idea" of the suffering of American hostages who were captured at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held captive for 444 days.
When asked about the political overtones of Sunday's match, midfielder Tab Ramos said: "I don't think we really care about that. I think that's more important to them than us. I haven't heard anyone say, 'Let's beat Iran, let's do it for Bill Clinton."'
Asked if he had ever heard the term Great Satan, midfielder Frankie Hejduk said Tuesday, "What's that?"
The Iranians, by contrast, were the last team to qualify for the 32-team field. This is their first appearance in the World Cup in 20 years, and there was never any real chance of advancing to the second round, especially not after Sunday's 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia and with a game remaining against three-time world champion Germany, where victory seems all but impossible.
Still, the Iranians want to win against America because this is the one game they believe they can win. The Americans looked particularly timid and vulnerable against Germany, while Iran appeared fearless in a 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia.
Abbas Torabian, director of the international division of the Iranian soccer federation, said recently in Tehran that Iran was greatly anticipating this match "because we think we defeat the United States team. We think it's easy team, not that much difficult."
Even before Albright's overture Tuesday, Mohammad Khatami, the relatively moderate president of Iran, had called for cultural exchanges between the two countries to break down a "wall of mistrust," and many Iranian fans and players said they hoped this match would improve relations. Some said they hoped soccer diplomacy might do what ping-pong diplomacy did for relations between China and the United States almost three decades ago.
"We don't have any problems with the United States players," said Alireza Mansourian, an Iranian midfielder. "We want to find new friends."
Still, politics inevitably keeps bubbling to the surface. After Iranian wrestlers were held up in customs on a visit to the United States this spring, Iran prevented the Americans from scouting a pre-World Cup tournament in Tehran, Sampson said.
Khodadad Azizi, the top Iranian forward and the Asian player of the year in 1997, repeating a familiar theme in Iran, said he believed the United States had imposed the eight-year Iran-Iraq War for its own purposes in 1980. Some 500,000 Iranians were killed or injured during the conflict.
"We will not lose the game," Azizi said during a pre-World Cup tournament in Tehran. "Many families of martyrs are expecting us to win. We will win for their sake."
Monday, Azizi said it was "imperative" that Iran win the match, which he called "the most important of my life."
A group of exiled Iranians who played on the country's last World Cup team, in 1978, said at a news conference in Paris last week that they believed Sunday's game would have little effect in improving diplomatic relations.
The players accused the fundamentalist regime of killing in 1984 the captain of the 1978 team, Habib Khabiri, for political reasons. And they said they believed that conservative clerics who hold ultimate power in Iran will use the game for propaganda purposes, the way Hitler used the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
Another political brushfire broke out this week, when French television showed the movie "Not Without My Daughter," starring Sally Field and depicting the true story of an American woman who left Iran with her daughter against the wishes of her Iranian husband.
The controversial movie grimly depicted life in Iran under the laws of religious fundamentalism. The Iranian soccer federation has filed a protest with soccer's world governing body over the timing of the showing of the movie. Talebi called the movie "insulting" and accused the private French network that broadcast it of deliberately trying to roil political waters.
"It is not the right thing to show this untrue thing about Iranian culture," Talebi said. "In the World Cup, everyone speaks of unity and love and togetherness and somebody shows this film. Nobody can benefit, except to make everybody unhappy in our camp."
Two decades after the Islamic revolution, soccer has been revived as a great secular passion in Iran. Millions took to the streets in spontaneous demonstration after Iran qualified for the World Cup in November and an estimated 5,000 women pushed their way into the national stadium, where they are normally forbidden, to greet the team on its return from a playoff match in Australia.
But the team has been in chaos since, having had four coaches in the past seven months. The Iranians prefer an open, Brazilian style featuring individual flair, and, when the defensive tactics of a Croat named Tomislav Ivic failed to produce desired results, he was sacked and Talebi was hired three weeks before the World Cup began.
His newly-fashioned team attacked assertively, played cohesively and committed 30 fouls with hard tackling against Yugoslavia. Iran is preparing for Sunday's match here in the small town of Yssingeaux, which has housed the team in a castle that now serves as the National Higher College of Bakery.
Iran's top three players - the forwards Azizi and Ali Daei and midfielder Karim Bagheri - all play professionally in Germany's highly-regarded Bundesliga. Azizi is from a poor farming family, and he said that his father believed that even soccer, with its minimal requirements, was too expensive a game. His father wanted him to work on the farm, he said, but his mother "packed our bags secretly and let us go play."
Daei is a metallurgical engineer whose father did not want him playing soccer until he had graduated from high school. But his mother, like Azizi's, was sympathetic. "I used to leave home without my football uniform and my mother would smuggle it out for me so that I could play," Daei said.
Before last weekend's match against Yugoslavia, the Iranian players presented their opponents with roses. Talebi said his team would make a similar gesture of friendship and sportsmanship with the U.S. players. "I promise, there will be a surprise," the coach said.
As he drove away, Talebi added, "Please don't make it too big for us. This is a game. A game."
Thursday, June 18, 1998 <A HREF="aol://4344:104.nytcopy.6445375.574106743">Copyright 1998 The New York Times</A>
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
NEW YORK -- In the Clinton administration's first formal response to cautious overtures from a moderate president of Iran, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright invited the Iranians on Wednesday to join the United States in drawing up "a road map leading to normal relations."
Nearly 20 years after the 1979 Iranian Revolution ruptured relations with Washington and installed a fundamentalist Islamic government in Tehran, Albright said that it was time to find ways to bridge the gap between the two nations.
"Failure to do so would be irresponsible," she said, insisting that the United States had no quarrel with Islam.
Albright, long regarded as one of the administration's harshest critics of Iran, changed course in a speech prepared for delivery in New York and hailed President Mohammad Khatami, who took office last summer, as a man who "deserves respect because he is the choice of the Iranian people."
The Secretary of State went on to list steps Iran has taken in recent months that have been viewed favorably in Washington, including giving public support to Yasser Arafat rather than more radical leaders or groups as the voice of Palestinians in the Middle East.
She noted that Khatami had denounced terrorism and condemned the killing of civilians in Israel in January. She also mentioned Iran's record in fighting drugs and its efforts to help bring peace to Afghanistan.
"We view these developments with interest, both with regard to the possibility of Iran assuming its rightful place in the world community, and the chance for better bilateral ties," Albright said in a speech to the Asia Society that looked broadly across the region from Iran to Indonesia.
On the negative side, Albright repeated American concerns about Iran's attempts to acquire missiles and weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear arms. She also lamented "inflammatory and unacceptable" Iranian denunciations of Israel, which Tehran does not recognize.
She asked for more progress in ending serious abuses of human rights. She did not mention the case of Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British writer on whom the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini pronounced a death sentence for blasphemy after the publication in 1988 of "The Satanic Verses," a novel in which Muslims found derogatory references to their faith and its founder. A senior official said tonight that this issue has always been part of the administration's human rights agenda on Iran, and it was not necessary to mention it on every occasion.
Noting relaxed rules on travel to and from Iran, Albright said that cultural and academic exchanges are being actively supported and that "we are ready to explore further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstanding.
"The Islamic Republic should consider parallel steps," she said. "If such a process can be initiated and sustained in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides, then we in the United States can see a very different relationship. As the wall of mistrust comes down, we can develop with the Islamic republic, when it is ready, a road map leading to normal relations."
Albright spoke tonight against a backdrop of deep and unsettling changes in Asia that administration officials said played a part in her opening to Iran. Nuclear tests in India and Pakistan have abruptly changed the atmosphere across the region, sparking concerns that Iran as well as Iraq could renew hopes of developing nuclear arms. At the moment the United States has no leverage in Iran, and is losing support for its policy of continued sanctions in Iraq.
Furthermore the Asian economic crisis is beginning to have ripple effects around the world, adding to the problems India and Pakistan will face because of the loss of World Bank loans and other financial assistance as a result of the nuclear tests.
The Asian economic crisis figured in Albright's speech. On the day that President Clinton stepped in to support the faltering Japanese currency, she told the Japanese that "more needs to be done" to contain the crisis. "Action is essential to strengthen Japan's economy so it can once more serve as the engine of Asian growth."
On Indonesia, which she described as "a country of critical strategic importance" to the United States, Albright stopped short of endorsing President B.J. Habibie's proposals for the gradual establishment of a genuinely democratic electoral system.
But in a gesture of confidence, she announced that all American diplomats evacuated from the country in May during the unrest that led to the fall of President Suharto would now return, and that the United States would step up aid in food and support for democratic organizations.
Still the largest portion of her address was devoted to Iran and the administration's long-delayed response to overtures made to the United States by President Khatami in an interview with CNN in January. In that interview, Khatami, who was elected a year ago despite the opposition of the country's conservative religious leadership, spoke of his respect for the American government because it reflected "the great American people."
Khatami, who was elected with the strong support of Iranian women and others in the society who hope for a relaxation of almost 20 years of harsh Islamic rule, has recently come under new pressures from conservatives who want to reverse the trend. Some experts have criticized the Clinton administration for not extending, however carefully or warily, a hand of friendship.
Albright went out of her way in her speech to demonstrate that the United States was not "anti-Islamic" and that Americans would do well to learn to understand "Eastern civilization and Islamic civilization."
"Islam is the fastest-growing religious faith in the United States," she said. "We respect deeply its moral teachings and its role as a source of inspiration and instruction for hundreds of millions of people around the world."
Thursday, June 18, 1998 <A HREF="aol://4344:104.nytcopy.6445375.574106743">Copyright 1998 The New York Times</A>
NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) - A video linkup between New York and Tehran will give Americans and Iranians a chance to discuss their lives and U.S.-Iran relations before, during and after Sunday's politically charged World Cup match, organisers of the video event said on Thursday.
In the linkup on large video screens via digital satellite, a group of eight soccer enthusiasts will gather at New York University's sports centre to converse with a similarly sized group of Iranian fans in Tehran.
``Our belief is that nothing makes stereotypes crumble faster than real people talking face-to-face about the things that really matter to them,'' said David Hoffman, president of the organisers, Internews. The group is a nonprofit organisation that supports independent broadcast journalists.
Internews has previously produced similar events, notably a 1980s broadcast with ABC News in which Americans and citizens from the former Soviet Union were able to speak directly to each other at a time when U.S.-Soviet ties were strained.
Sunday's rare encounter in Lyon, France, between nations who have been enemies for two decades has taken on a political significance that players and coaches on both sides have tried to play down. Both teams need a win to stand any chance of advancing in the World Cup. Their group also includes European soccer powers Germany and Yugoslavia.
On the diplomatic front, Washington and Tehran have been making tentative approaches to improving relations for about a year. In a speech on Wednesday night, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright responded to overtures from Iranian President Muhammad Khatami by saying that ``we in the United States can see the prospect of a very different relationship.''
Relations between the United States and Iran broke down over the seizure of more than 50 hostages at the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 by Iranian revolutionaries.
Internews spokesman Christopher Turpin said eight New York University students and sports coaches would be part of the U.S. group. The Iranian group includes the women editor of a soccer magazine and her son, a basketball player and a seller of Iranian soccer cards.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
SAINT-ETIENNE, France -- Iran coach Jalal Talebi said Sunday his side would "fight to the last" despite Sunday's 1-0 World Cup defeat by Yugoslavia. "We played a fair game and did our best and there was nothing shameful in this game for us," Talebi said.
"Our mission is not finished, we have to play against the U.S. and Germany and we know they will be hard games.
"Each game has a different meaning for us but we will fight to a standstill. If we are going to die, then we will die standing. We will fight to the last."
Yugoslavia won thanks to a 73rd-minute goal from Sinisa Mihajlovic, who scored direct from a free kick from just outside the Iranian penalty area.
Yugoslav coach Slobodan Santrac said he had been disappointed by his team's performance and thought his players might have overtrained before the finals started.
"The first half was very difficult for us and you can see that in the World Cup every game is difficult," Santrac said. "But it wasn't so much the tough opponents as our own weaknesses in the first half, particularly in midfield.
"We played better in the second half but I don't know the reasons why the team didn't play as well as they can.
"The hard preparations we had in Switzerland took their toll and I hope we will have enough time to recover by the time we play Germany."
Yugoslavia's Slavisa Jokanovic said his side had been lucky to win the group F match.
"It was a very difficult game, they defended very, very tightly and it was difficult to get through. We were really lucky to get these three points," he said.
By Carol Giacomo
WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - Iran's U.N. ambassador on Wednesday criticised U.S. policy as driven by ``myopic interests'' and called for actions that would prove Washington's desire to improve relations between the two countries.
The envoy, Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, spoke hours ahead of a what U.S. officials said would be a ``ground-breaking'' speech by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on U.S.-Iranian ties.
Officials said her speech would propose confidence-building measures and lay out a ``roadmap to a new relationship.''
But they said the United States still saw no changes in key Iranian policies to which they object, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and that U.S. sanctions would remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
Albright's speech is the first comprehensive U.S. policy statement on Iran since a new moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, took office last August.
But Nejad-Hosseinian had the first word, telling a policy forum sponsored by Middle East Insight Magazine:
``Taking all recent developments into account, we subscribe to the view that the United States policy toward Iran, driven by myopic interests, and influenced by certain countries and groups with vested interests in perpetuating U.S. hostility toward Iran, is lagging far behind the developments in our region and remains oblivious to change.''
``However, we are cognizant of an emerging positive tone calling for a change in official U.S. policy toward Iran. This needs to be substantiated by actions,'' he said.
He said ``many American officials tend to view Iran and the region with a cold war mentality (resulting in) baseless allegations and futile projects against Iran.''
In particular, the envoy railed against the U.S. Iran-Libya Sanctions Act which provides for sanctions against countries or companies investing $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector.
Washington recently waived sanctions against France's Total and two other foreign firms in a $2 billion gas deal in Iran.
Nejad-Hosseinian said the law hurts U.S. firms that are still banned from such projects and impedes economic development in Iran and the Caspian region as a whole.
Earlier, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk said Iran's new government has made progress but must take more concrete steps to meet U.S. concerns about terrorism and weapons policies.
``The rhetoric has got to match the policies. The gap has begun to close. We want to see that gap closed fully so nice words are reflected in their policies,'' he told a State Department forum for regional journalists.
The United States and Iran, bitter enemies for nearly 20 years, have not had diplomatic ties since Islamic militants during the 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah held 52 Americans hostage in Tehran for 444 days.
Indyk said Iran has made some positive moves like condemning terrorism, working constructively on peace in Afghanistan and ``reaching out to neighbours,'' especially within the Gulf Cooperation Council.
But ``on the negative side, we've seen continued sponsorship of terrorism and the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, particularly long-range missiles,'' he said.
U.S. Balkan troubleshooter Robert Gelbard earlier expressed U.S. concerns about signs that radical Islamic elements -- from Iran, Chechnya and elsewhere -- are offering help to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo fighting Serb rule.
While not a major worry at this point, Washington is monitoring the situation carefully and trying to discourage Kosovar Albanians from accepting such outside aid, he said.
One sign of improved U.S.-Iranian ties has been the quickening pace of people-to-people exchanges. An Iranian wrestling team, which visited the United States earlier this year, will make a return visit next month, Indyk said.
The two countries are to face each other in World Cup soccer competition in Lyons, France, next Sunday.
U.S. officials have credited Iran with tempering its hostility to the Middle East peace process, giving Palestinianleader Yasser Arafat ``more space'' to negotiate peace with Israel and cracking down on Iraqi oil smuggling in the Gulf.
Washington has also made gestures intended to be viewed positively by Iran, such as softening a U.S. warning against Americans travelling to the Islamic Republic.
It gave Nejad-Hosseinian, who works in New York, a special visa to deliver his speech in Washington on Wednesday.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
By Jonathan Wright
WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton on Thursday reinforced the U.S. charm offensive towards Iran, saying the Islamic country was changing for the better and the United States wanted genuine reconciliation.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, speaking in New York on Wednesday evening, offered to explore new confidence- building steps with Iran, with the ultimate aim of normal relations with the Islamic republic.
The initial response to Albright was hostile, as with most previous U.S. attempts to bury the enmity of the two decades since Islamists overthrew the Shah of Iran, a U.S. ally.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the United States must change its ``hostile policies'' towards Iran before the two countries could hope to normalise relations.
But Clinton, speaking at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, stuck by the new initiative, which follows tentative overtures earlier this year by both Clinton and moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
``I agree with the remarks made yesterday by Secretary Albright. We talked about them extensively before she made her speech,'' Clinton said.
``What we want is a genuine reconciliation with Iran, based on mutuality and reciprocity and a sense that the Iranians are prepared to move away from support of terrorism and the distribution of dangerous weapons, opposition to the (Middle East) peace process,'' the president added.
``We appreciate the comments that were made by the president (Khatami) several months ago and we are exploring what the future might hold... We believe Iran is changing in a positive way, and we want to support that,'' he said.
In January Khatami offered dialogue between the Iranian and American peoples but stopped short of offering the government-to-government contacts that Washington is seeking.
The United States took up the offer of closer cultural contacts, in the hope that these will pave the way for official relations at a later stage.
Albright, addressing the Asia Society, noted that since Khatami put out feelers Washington had taken cautious steps, including easing up on visas for Iranians, revising a travel warning and promoting cultural exchanges.
A U.S. wrestling team made a successful and widely publicised visit to Iran for a tournament and the soccer teams are playing in the World Cup in France on Sunday.
``We are ready to explore further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings. The Islamic Republic should consider parallel steps,'' said Albright.
``If such a process can be initiated and sustained in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides, then we in the United States can see the prospect of a very different relationship,'' she added.
Clinton, asked if he was considering a gesture towards Iran, said only that Albright's speech spoke for itself.
But Kharrazi told a news conference in Madrid: ``Until the United States shows that it is ready to have an attitude towards Iran that is based on mutual respect and equality, there won't be very many possibilities for relations.''
He said Albright's speech showed Americans were coming to some new understandings. But no major progress was likely ``until hostile policies of the United States against Iran are changed and they approach Iran with new attitudes,'' he added.
The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic ties since after Islamic militants took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
A senior U.S. official called Albright's speech ``the first comprehensive, substantive policy statement on Iran'' since Khatami's ground-breaking interview with CNN.
It follows the important U.S. decision to waive sanctions against France's Total and two other foreign firms which are in a $2 billion gas deal in Iran.
Other factors in U.S. strategy could be the struggle for power inside Iran between Khatami's supporters and conservative clerics, as well as the nuclear tests by nearby India and Pakistan, which put southwest Asia back into the spotlight.