DNI-NEWS Digest - 2 May 1998 to 3 May 1998

There are 5 messages totalling 590 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. News from Reuters 2. LA Times interview with Ataollah Mohajerani 3. Guards Chief Says His Words Distorted 4. Editor to Face Stoning 5. Khatami rejects females being supplementary to males

News from Reuters

Friday May 1, 9:45 AM GMT

Iran still top "terrorism" sponsor, U.S. says

(Adds comments by State Department official) By Patrick Worsnip

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) - Despite the advent of a more moderate government, Iran remained the world's leading "state sponsor of terrorism" last year, carrying out at least 13 assassinations, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

"There is no evidence that Iranian policy has changed, and Iran continues both to provide significant support to terrorist organizations and to assassinate dissidents abroad," the department said in an annual report on worldwide terrorism.

The report said there were 304 acts of international terrorism in 1997, an increase of eight over 1996 which had the lowest total since 1971. But last year's death toll dropped to 221 from 314 the previous year.

More than one third of the year's "terrorist" attacks took place in Colombia, but the report said most were bombings of oil pipelines, which caused damage but no casualties.

Although incidents were fewer and more perpetrators were brought to justice last year, "international terrorism remains a serious, ongoing threat around the world," coordinator for counter-terrorism Christopher Ross said in a preface.

"The most frequent target was business-related, a percentage that continues to grow as terrorists discover government and diplomatic installations have become more fortified against attack," a State Department official said.

The report said U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had designated the same seven countries as last year -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria -- as state sponsors of terrorism, making them subject to U.S. sanctions.

It said there was no evidence linking Cuba, Iraq, North Korea or Syria with "terrorist acts" last year, but that those countries continued to harbor "terrorists".

The report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism", which is required by Congress, said the appointment of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in Iran had not affected Tehran's support for "terrorism", which Iran denies.

"Notwithstanding some conciliatory statements in the months after President Khatami's inauguration in August 1997, Iran remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism," it said.

Iran carried out "terrorist acts" both through its own agents and through surrogates such as the Hizbollah organization in Lebanon, and continued to fund and train known "terrorist groups", the report said.

It said Tehran conducted at least 13 assassinations in 1997, most of them in northern Iraq, with targets including members of opposition groups such as the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran and the Mujahedin-e-Khalq. The Mujahedin are themselves designated as "terrorists" by the State Department.

It also said there was no evidence that Tehran was pressing Iran's Fifteen Khordad Foundation to withdraw a $2.5 million reward for carrying out a religious death sentence on British writer Salman Rushdie for alleged insults to Islam.

A senior State Department official, briefing reporters on condition he was not identified, said Iran's sponsorship of terrorism "has continued into 1998". He gave no details.

Despite the assessment of Iran's record, the United States has in recent months held out hopes that the country's leadership might be persuaded to change its ways, and has sought, so far unsuccessfully, to engage Tehran in dialogue.

The report said that Cuba "no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world" but maintained close ties with other state sponsors of terrorism and leftist insurgent groups in Latin America.

Last year's deadliest attack occurred in Egypt on Nov. 17, when gunmen of the Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya fundamentalist group shot and killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor.

The 86-page report defined terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience".

Saturday May 2, 6:31 PM GMT

Iran editor to face stoning for adultery - paper

TEHRAN, May 2 (Reuters) - A prominent Iranian journalist, arrested on spying charges, may face stoning on an additional charge of adultery, a newspaper said on Saturday.

"It is said that the time of the execution of the sentence (stoning) of former Iran News editor Morteza Firoozi has been determined, and with its final confirmation, the sentence is ready to be executed," the daily Qods newspaper said on Saturday.

There was no official confirmation of the report and no other newspapers carried the story.

"The imprisonment sentence for Firoozi's spying for Japan, South Korea and France, and the stoning sentence for his moral corruption have already been issued, but the judiciary officials have not agreed with the carrying out of the sentences yet," the Qods daily said.

Firoozi, a former editor-in-chief of the English-language daily Iran News, has been in custody since last May.

Earlier press reports said that Firoozi had admitted to working as a consultant to unnamed countries but denied the spying charges.

Under Iran's Islamic laws, a man convicted of adultery with a married woman faces a possible sentence of stoning.

Iranian judiciary officials said last month that the Iranian Supreme Court was reviewing the case.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami reportedly intervened in the case in February, a newspaper said.

Saturday May 2, 2:32 PM GMT

Iran pledges to continue support for Palestinians

TEHRAN, May 2 (Reuters) - Iran pledged to continue its support for Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying on Iranian television on Saturday.

Khamenei made his remarks during a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the Moslem militant Palestinian Hamas group, which has claimed responsibility for many attacks against Israeli targets in recent years.

"We will continue to fight... and no amount of political, economic, or propaganda pressure, will take us away from the path of support for the Palestinian cause," Khamenei was quoted as telling 61-year-old Yassin, who was jailed by Israel for eight years before his release last year.

Since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has called on all Moslems to back the Palestinians against Israel. Tehran rejects the current Middle East peace process, but says it would do nothing to hinder it.

Iran regularly refers to Israel as "the Zionist regime" or the "Zionist occupiers."

"There is a difference between Judaism and Zionism and the Iranian government will not recognise the occupying Zionist regime even for one hour," Khamenei said.

Television showed the wheelchair-bound Yassin smiling as Khamenei spoke.

Sheikh Yassin, who is wrapping a five-day visit to Tehran, also met former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Saturday, the television said.

"We appreciate the support of Iran and we will continue our struggle until we free Holy Jerusalem from Israeli occupation," Sheikh Yassin was quoted as saying.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of Reuters Limited


LA Times interview with Ataollah Mohajerani

Sunday, May 3, 1998

LOS ANGELES TIMES INTERVIEW Ataollah Mohajerani Opening the Door to Cultural Freedom in Post-Revolutionary Iran By ROBIN WRIGHT

TEHRAN--Among Iranian politicians, Ataollah Mohajerani dares to be different--very different. When his nomination as minister of culture and Islamic guidance looked doomed last August, he opted against well-worn revolutionary slogans at his confirmation hearing. Instead, he went on the offensive. "I will oppose almost all the current methods,' he told a Parliament dominated by religious and cultural conservatives.

"This is because I believe we must value our artists, writers and filmmakers, as they deserve our respect. We must create an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity in all centers of arts and culture . . . to allow the seeds of creativity to blossom."

To the astonishment of many, Mohajerani, a former teacher, diplomat, author and parliamentarian, was confirmed--by a healthy margin. Since then, the culture ministry, in a country with a rich culture dating back more than 2,500 years, has become the agent for the openings in society promised by President Mohammad Khatami after his stunning election upset last year. Mohajerani's post is considered the most important job in setting domestic policy. After all, it was the Cabinet position held by Khatami.

In the past eight months, everything from movies to intellectual discourse--even the revolution's goals--have begun to change. "Concepts such as freedom, democracy and the establishment of social institutions, going back hundreds of years in Western societies, in no way contradict the Islamic faith," Mohajerani said in January.

But Mohajerani's battles against conservatives are far from over. The 12-day detention of Tehran's reformist Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi on graft charges last month is widely viewed as a conservative challenge, through the conservative and independent judiciary, to the new reformist government. "There was consensus among all Cabinet members in expressing regret over the detention of the successful and distinguished mayor," Mohajerani said in a startling public rebuke.

It hasn't always been that way. After the 1979 revolution, culture was a primary target in the drive to rid Iran of what Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called "Westoxication." Dozens of Iran's leading writers and artists were imprisoned, silenced, banned or forced to flee.

Now, Mohajerani, 44, has appointed a movie director as his deputy in charge of the film industry. His downtown office is relaxed and modest. He likes to talk with colleagues about his visits to the Louvre, Chartres Cathedral and the Victor Hugo Museum during a trip to France in March. His wife, Jamileh Kadivar, is press advisor to the president. They have three teenage children.

But Iran still has a long way to go. Mohajerani appears to recognize the unspoken limits. In 1991, he wrote a newspaper article suggesting direct talks with the United States. In his confirmation hearing, he said he acknowledged the words and positions of Iran's leadership in opposition to his idea. "The Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] adopted a position on a particular issue," he said, "and we all have the duty to defend it."
* * *

Question: You emerged as the spokesman for the government during the recent incident involving the arrest of Tehran's Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi. You criticized the arrest. Why did it happen? And what's next?

Answer: My criticism was voiced on behalf of the government. The government was of the conviction that the judicial process regarding the Tehran municipality case could continue without detention of the mayor. The government was objecting to the way the detention was handled and the basis on which he was detained. But, fortunately, with intervention of the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei], the mayor was released. And the outbreak of a crisis was prevented.

I don't think we will face much problem in the future about this case. It seems to be going in the direction of a good resolution. Our conviction is that the judiciary should continue its work on this file, but the file should not be affected by political motivations.

* * *

Q: Will the mayor be tried?

A: The chief of the judiciary announced that the mayor will be put on trial and this is what the government agrees with and the mayor agreed. It will be an open trial. We are confident that they can not prove any charges against the mayor.
* * *

Q: In your August speech to Parliament [a confirmation hearing] you said: "If a person worries about everything but freedom, he is neglecting the major issue." Now that you are in office, what are you doing to improve freedom in Iran?

A: The first day I came to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the first measure I took was to lift the ban on two movies which had been banned under the previous minister. They were screened immediately. It was a message to the cinema industry people that there would be a revision in the policies and that the tough measures exercised in the past won't be there anymore.

In the area of books, we permitted many books which had been banned from publication. In the press, you see a new era has opened. In the area of music, there have been a lot of concerts. Almost all the promises I gave have materialized.
* * *

Q: Is there room for full freedom in the Western sense in Iran?

A: Obviously we do not share the same definition of freedom as in the West. Freedom has different definitions.

One of the great philosophers of the West, Isaiah Berlin, wrote a book about eight articles of freedom. The definitions he gives are even different from what is exercised in the West. The main difference is that in the West, when there is a discussion about freedom, it is freedom "from"--obstacles must be removed in the way of individuals. But in religious terms, it is freedom "for," which means freedom must be in service of perfection and prosperity of human beings.
* * *

Q: In the spirit of President Khatami's comments about wanting to avoid a clash of civilizations, to what degree are you also opening Iranian culture to Western films, books and music?

A: In the area of books, there are many Western books quickly translated and published in Iran. Western movies are also on screens in Iran. As an example, "Dances with Wolves" was very much liked here. But the point is to strengthen our own national movie industry.
* * *

Q: On a broader level, what has been achieved in the new government's first eight months? What challenges lie ahead?

A: In the area of politics, the government has created a climate so that different political groups could become active as parties and engage in their own activities. In the political and press areas, political groups are expressing themselves more openly--an opportunity they did not have in the past. Those who are involved in the movie industry, musicians and even painters are expressing themselves in political terms and opinions, which is unprecedented.

In the area of economy, due to a drop in oil prices, we have been facing some economic problems. Our economy was also affected by the crisis in the Far East--in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Korea.
* * *

Q: There are a lot of new ideas today, many unprecedented in the 25 years I have been coming here. One is: Is there a right path or can there be multiple right paths, which supports the idea of pluralism?

A: The very idea of debate on this issue is something new in our society. When you speak of a right path or right paths, it is interesting. It shows that people are looking at issues from different angles. A civil society, or a lively society, is one where these sorts of discussions should take place.
* * *

Q: Parliament has just passed [the initial reading of] a law banning publication of pictures of women without full "hejab" covering. It also passed [the initial reading of] a law separating medical facilities and doctors for men and women. Why does it appear, almost 20 years after the revolution, that Iran is clamping down on women?

A: I wouldn't call it a clamp down on women--you must not have visited Saudi Arabia. Women are very active in this country in various areas--in universities, in the movie industry, as musicians and artists. Two women have joined Khatami's Cabinet.

About the laws on women in Parliament, it was a rather political decision. Since these two issues have not been finalized and they have not become law and since there is some criticism in the press and some critical attitudes, there is a likelihood that they will be rejected.
* * *

Q: You spoke out against the ban on pictures of women. Are you disappointed by what seems to be a divergent trend?

A: I don't think this idea of banning the pictures of women will create any problem for us. The law says our papers should not publish nude pictures--which is already not taking place. But the pictures that have so far appeared in the papers, they are acceptable.

In fact, our problem started with Mr. Clinton's girlfriends. Pictures of them that ran in an Iranian tabloid newspaper was the root of the idea that came up in Parliament. There were color pictures of Monica and the other two. Mr. Clinton, in addition to creating problems for his society, is creating problems for our society too.
* * *

Q: In August you said: "We must ultimately decide whether we are going to live under a system of law." Then last month you complained of "interference" of law enforcement in raids on newspapers. Why is this happening? And, what do you hope for in restoring the rule of law?

A: The most important achievement of this rule of law is to deal with the violators of the law and complain of them and to encourage the press to write about the violators and to defend their own rights. As a whole, the instances have been few when the press writes about being threatened. It's not usual.
* * *

Q: It's not just newspapers. What about the university students beaten up by Ansar-e Hezbollah [religious hooligans] when they demonstrated against the mayor's arrest? And [philosopher Abdel Karim] Soroush, who was beaten up when he tried to lecture? There are forces within society that seem determined to block the kind of freedom you talk about.

A: Nobody in society defends extremism and hard-line groups. And even these groups themselves, when they do something wrong, immediately announce they were not behind this wrong doing. This is a very important achievement. We need time to make these groups understand that their violent actions will not be useful or have positive results.
* * *

Q: Why has the government, if it believes in law and order and freedom, not stopped these forces? It is clearly capable of doing so?

A: Yes, of course, the government is doing its best to stop them. Some members of Parliament have also questioned the ministry of interior to discuss those groups who are violating and disrupting the gatherings and how to deal with them. They'll probably have to pass a law. Parliament is also taking up the issue.
* * *

Q: I've been surprised to see there were no "Down with U.S.A." signs on National Army Day and the parade of soldiers did not trod over the U.S. flag. How do you expect to see the process initiated by President Khatami evolve? What would you like in the way of cultural exchanges?

A: That you don't hear the slogan "Down with USA" doesn't mean it's not being said. If you attend Friday prayers you will still hear that slogan. But regarding the flag, there has been a difference of views. I personally believe a flag is not only the sign of a government but also of a nation.

I don't think we can have meaningful cultural relations between Iran and the United States as two governments at the moment. But we have no problems with cultural relations between people--like writers, elites and others. Many American writers and prominent figures have come to Iran and taken part in conferences.
* * *

Q: What other cultural relations would you like to see develop?

A: In the movie industry, one of our famous directors, Miss Rakhshan Banietemad, is in the U.S. now, shooting her movie. Iranian movies are screened in U.S. festivals and have won prizes. The travel of American tourists to Iran has taken shape and groups are now visiting us.
* * *

Q: The U.N. human rights report on Iran last month said there was progress on human rights, but also was critical--particularly on the issue of executions and stoning. Do you see a time--because of the freedom and rule of law you support--when Iran will get a positive report?

A: It is possible, but the point is that the rapporteurs of human rights must be familiar with the religious principles we believe in. Since they're not familiar with this religious instruction and religious beliefs, they may consider certain things we believe in to be in violation of human rights. For instance, deliberate murder as grounds for execution. If you kill someone, you have to be executed for it. As a legal and religious punishment, this sentence has to be handed out. We cannot say, no, please don't do that because human rights people might be upset.
* * *

Q: On the case of Salman Rushdie, author of "The Satanic Verses," is there any prospect of resolution on the death sentence pronounced in 1989 by Khomeini?

A: Yes, there is one way: for you to forget it. Nobody from our side will carry out this death sentence. You Americans and Europeans, you should not make so much noise about him.
- - -

Robin Wright, Author of "Sacred Rage: the Wrath of Militant Islam," Covers Global Issues for The Times

Copyright Los Angeles Times


Guards Chief Says His Words Distorted

Iran Guards Chief Says His Words Distorted'' -Irna

Reuters 03-MAY-98

TEHRAN, May 3 (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards, caught in controversy over remarks allegedly made by their commander to ``cut the necks and tongues'' of opponents, said on Sunday his words were distorted by newspapers.

``The report in some newspapers, used by certain individuals and political groups for a smear campaign... is the distorted account of discussions in an internal and confidential meeting,'' said a statement from the Revolutionary Guards carried by the official news agency IRNA.

The statement also accused some newspapers of ``taking advantage of the free atmosphere prevailing in the country and the patience of the revolutionary forces.''

The daily Jameah newspaper on Wednesday quoted Brigadier-General Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying some of the scores of new publications allowed by moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami ``threaten national security.''

``We seek to tear out the roots of counter-revolution wherever they may be. We should cut the neck of some of them. We will cut the tongues of others,'' Safavi was quoted as saying.

``Our sword is our tongue. We will expose... these cowards,'' Safavi allegedly added, apparently suggesting he was not advocating that opponents be physically eliminated.

In an apparent jab at moderate President Mohammad Khatami's call in January for cultural exchanges with Americans, Safavi had been quoted as saying: ``Can we counter the threat posed by America, which seeks to dominate the world, through a dialogue between cultures and civilisations?''

Safavi's reported comments sparked controversy, with a number of moderate groups and newspapers criticising him for stepping into the political arena, which is considered off-limits to the Iranian military.

One pro-Khatami cleric, Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, a well-known radical, told the daily Salam that the comments ``smacked of a coup d'etat.''

The pro-Khatami daily Salam, in an editorial on Safavi's remarks, wrote: ``My dear brother, this is not Turkey. Military commanders do not make political policy here.''

Khatami was elected in a landslide victory last May, trouncing conservative opponents. Conservatives, however, still control key levers of power in Iran's government.

Pro-Khatami moderates have clashed with conservatives on a range of issues since the election.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.All rights reserved.


Editor to Face Stoning

Iran Editor to Face Stoning for Adultery Paper

Reuters 02-MAY-98

TEHRAN, May 2 (Reuters) - A prominent Iranian journalist, arrested on spying charges, may face stoning on an additional charge of adultery, a newspaper said on Saturday.

``It is said that the time of the execution of the sentence (stoning) of former Iran News editor Morteza Firoozi has been determined, and with its final confirmation, the sentence is ready to be executed,'' the daily Qods newspaper said on Saturday.

There was no official confirmation of the report and no other newspapers carried the story.

``The imprisonment sentence for Firoozi's spying for Japan, South Korea and France, and the stoning sentence for his moral corruption have already been issued, but the judiciary officials have not agreed with the carrying out of the sentences yet,'' the Qods daily said.

Firoozi, a former editor-in-chief of the English-language daily Iran News, has been in custody since last May.

Earlier press reports said that Firoozi had admitted to working as a consultant to unnamed countries but denied the spying charges.

Under Iran's Islamic laws, a man convicted of adultery with a married woman faces a possible sentence of stoning.

Iranian judiciary officials said last month that the Iranian Supreme Court was reviewing the case.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami reportedly intervened in the case in February, a newspaper said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.All rights reserved.


Khatami rejects females being supplementary to males

thr 001

president-women

president khatami praises women's role in iranian society tehran, april 29, irna -- president hojatoleslam mohammad khatami here tuesday in a meeting with a group of visiting women underlined the importance of women's role in the progressive society of iran.

he said that women's insight and endeavor could resolve many problems in the country.

he added that the iranian society must create a social and cultural environment ideal for helping iranian women to become the best possible mothers consistent with national and religious culture in the country.

he said women without employment outside of the home are not in any respect socially or culturally inferior to those with an employment outside of the home. he added the society must be such as to make it possible for all women to play their unique cultural role whether or not they have a job outside of the home.

president khatami who was addressing a group of women at the end of a conference on women's social and cultural planning said in the iranian society men still have beneift of better opportunities for education which flaw, he said, must be overcome especially in dealing with rural women.

president khatami also rejected the idea of the female being only supplementary to the male in the human socieities, and said men and women are equal components of the universal human society created for a balanced and progressive society.
hr/hm
end
::irna 29/04/98 00:02


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 2 May 1998 to 3 May 1998
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