DNI-NEWS Digest - 9 May 1998 to 10 May 1998

There are 12 messages totalling 651 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iranian president leaves for ECO summit in Kazakhstan 2. Iran protests over dissident ``attacks'' in Europe 3. Iran Wants Second Russian Reactor 4. Truck with parts from Iran nuclear plant stolen 5. Iran court upholds editor's death sentence 6. Iran says U.S. firms can attend trade fair 7. Senators Urge French Oil Sanctions 8. Rushdie slams EU in surprise Berlin appearance 9. Iran to choose new Assembly of Experts in October 10. Full story Belgian firms eye Dubai re-export trade to Iran 11. German officials discuss expanding ties with Iran 12. Iran leader says West targeting him over Israel

Iranian president leaves for ECO summit in Kazakhstan

TEHRAN, May 10 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami left here Sunday for a summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) in Kazakhstan, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

Khatami is accompanied by a political and economic delegation for the summit in Almaty on Monday.

He told reporters before departing that ECO "could play a role to ensure the regions' advancement," expressing hope that the decisions to be taken at the one-day summit will be "rapidly implemented."

ECO foreign ministers agreed on action Saturday to fight smugglers of drugs and contraband goods and to boost transportation links in the region.

Representatives of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected to sign a number of agreements at the fifth ECO summit.

ECO was founded in 1985 by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan and joined in 1992 by Afghanistan and all the newly-independent Moslem states of the former Soviet Union.


Iran protests over dissident ``attacks'' in Europe

Iran protests over dissident ``attacks'' in Europe 01:21 p.m May 10, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 10 (Reuters) - Iran has officially protested to Germany and Austria about alleged attacks by dissidents against Iranian religious and cultural gatherings in the two countries, the state news agency IRNA said on Sunday.

``German Ambassador to Tehran Horst Beschmann was summoned to Iran's Foreign Ministry following the attack of a group of counter-revolutionary agents on a group of Iranian people holding a mourning ceremony in the city of Cologne on Thursday,'' IRNA said.

The mourning ceremony attended by Shi'ites from Iran and other countries was part of a ritual commemorating the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

``Austrian Ambassador to Tehran Werner Ehrlich was summoned to Iran's Foreign Ministry in protest at the attack by a group of counter-revolutionary agents on a group of people attending a seminar on 'the role of policy and religion in Iran' in Vienna,'' IRNA said in a separate article.

The agency said the Foreign Ministry strongly protested against the ``irresponsible act'' of police in both states who it said failed to stop the alleged attacks. The ministry called for the arrest and punishment of those involved in the ``attacks.''

``The Foreign Ministry director-general in charge of Western Europe, Ali Ahani, told Beschmann that the failure of the German police to provide security for those attending the religious rituals is not at all acceptable,'' IRNA said.

``He also held the German government responsible for consequences of any similar incidents in the future,'' IRNA said.

IRNA did not provide details of the alleged attacks.

The reports come at a sensitive time in Iran-European relations.

Ties between Iran and European states soured last year after a Berlin court concluded that Iranian leaders were responsible for the 1992 killings of Kurdish dissidents in Germany. Iran denied the charge.

After the verdict, the European Union suspended a policy of ``critical dialogue'' towards the Islamic republic and EU members and Iran withdrew their top envoys. The envoys have since returned and relations have slightly improved.

The Iranian protests also coincided with Iranian media reports that the highly-publicised case of German businessman Helmut Hofer, who was sentenced to death in January by a Tehran court for extramarital sex with a Moslem woman, may be reviewed.

Germany, which favours a cautious resumption in ties with Iran, has suggested that relations could worsen considerably if Hofer is executed. ^REUTERS@


Iran Wants Second Russian Reactor

By Leslie Shepherd Associated Press Writer Friday, May 8, 1998; 8:56 p.m. EDT

MOSCOW (AP) -- Iran wants a second Russian nuclear reactor, but Moscow -- already under fire for its existing and suspected nuclear dealings -- has yet to agree, the atomic energy minister said Friday.

Yevgeny Adamov said his predecessor held detailed talks with the Iranians 18 months ago about building a research reactor, ``but since then, we haven't yet received permission from the government.''

Russia has come under increasing criticism, mainly from the United States and Israel, for providing nuclear technology to Iran.

It is building Iran's first nuclear reactor, near the southern port of Bushehr, and the United States has accused some Russian companies and scientists of helping Iran develop a long-range missile.

The 1,000-megawatt power plant will be the main topic of discussion when the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization visits Russia starting Tuesday, Adamov said at a news conference.

Iran and Russia maintain the project is purely peaceful, but the United States fears it will help Iran advance its suspected nuclear weapons program. Washington recently rewarded Ukraine with a $30 million promise to help modernize its nuclear power industry after it canceled plans to sell turbines for the plant.

Adamov accused Ukraine of caving in to American pressure, and said the turbines will be made in Russia. He acknowledged there had been some unspecified ``difficulties'' in completing the reactor, and said Russia had taken over a greater share of the project.

Adamov denied a Washington Times report Thursday that the Iranian nuclear chief would be shown gas centrifuge technology used to enrich uranium for weapons. The newspaper quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying such demonstrations are usually held before the equipment is sold.

Adamov also denied that Russia planned to sell Iran any tritium, a substance used in making nuclear bombs.

He insisted the reactor is being built in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and taking into account President Boris Yeltsin's attempts to control the export of so-called ``dual-use technology'' that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Truck with parts from Iran nuclear plant stolen

Full story Truck with parts from Iran nuclear plant stolen 01:01 p.m May 10, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 10 (Reuters) - A truck carrying parts from an unfinished Iranian nuclear power plant was stolen in the central city of Isfahan, a newspaper said on Sunday.

The daily Farda newspaper, quoting an unnamed official from Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said the parts were being taken to Tehran from the plant in Bushehr, southern Iran, for routine tests.

It did not say when the alleged theft took place.

The newspaper said the official described the parts as ``not important'' and ``ordinary'' and said he felt the thieves were more interested in the truck than the cargo.

Officials and newspaper reports have said the number of automobile thefts in Iran had been on the rise recently.

Farda said Iranian authorities were investigating the matter but the truck had yet to be recovered.

Russian firms have been contracted to complete the 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr, which has caused concern in Washington and Tel Aviv.

The United States and Israel fear Russian assistance could help Iran obtain nuclear weapons. The two countries accuse Tehran of sponsoring ``terrorism.''

Iran denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and denies the ``terrorism'' charge. It says its nuclear programme is for peaceful power-generation purposes. REUTERS


Iran court upholds editor's death sentence

Iran court upholds editor's death sentence-paper 02:33 p.m May 10, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 10 (Reuters) - Iran's supreme court has upheld a death sentence against an Iranian journalist on adultery and spying charges, a newspaper said on Sunday.

The conservative daily Farda said a branch of Iran's supreme court rejected the appeal by former Iran News editor Morteza Firoozi, who has been in custody since last May.

``Firoozi was arrested for spying for South Korea, France, and Japan and for several cases of adultery by the courts of first instance. This was upheld by an appeals court and now the supreme court has rejected a re-examination of his case,'' the daily Farda said.

There was no official confirmation of the Farda report.

Only Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now has the authority to overturn or reduce the sentence.

The daily Qods newspaper reported earlier this month that Firoozi might face stoning on the adultery charges.

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

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

((Gulf newsroom, +971 4 607 1222, fax +971 4 626982, dubai.newsroom+reuters.com)) ^REUTERS@


Iran says U.S. firms can attend trade fair

Iran says U.S. firms can attend trade fair says paper 10:25 a.m. May 10, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN (Reuters) - U.S. companies will be allowed to participate in a trade fair to be held in Iran in October but the United States will not be officially invited, an Iranian official said in remarks published Sunday.

The Tehran Times newspaper quoted Deputy Commerce Minister Mojtaba Khosrowtaj as saying Iran planned to invite all countries except Israel and the United States to the nine-day Tehran International Trade Fair, scheduled to open on Oct.1.

``Iran will invite all world nations except the United States and Israel to participate in the 24th Tehran International Trade Fair,'' the newspaper said, quoting Khosrowtaj.

``However, the American companies will be allowed to participate in the fair if they intend to do it of their own (accord),'' it said.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has called on all Moslems to back the Palestinians against Israel. Iran regularly refers to Israel as the ``Zionist regime'' or the ``Zionist occupiers.''

Relations between Iran and the United States have been icy since the revolution. The two countries broke off diplomatic ties after militants stormed the U.S. embassy that year and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

But there has been a step-by-step thaw in relations since the election of President Mohammad Khatami, who in January called for a dialogue between the American and Iranian people.

Khosrowtaj said he expected a large number of countries to participate in the fair ``in view of...Khatami's initiative to open up dialogues between civilisations,'' the Tehran Times said.


Senators Urge French Oil Sanctions

Senators Urge French Oil Sanctions By Tom Raum Associated Press Writer Friday, May 8, 1998; 5:52 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and 12 other senators prodded President Clinton Friday to impose sanctions on a consortium led by a French oil company for investing in Iran, saying the deal violates a 2-year-old U.S. law.

``A decision not to sanction will reveal the United States as a paper tiger,'' said Lott, R-Miss., in the letter also signed by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It came as the Clinton administration neared a decision on whether the $2 billion oil contract violates the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act.

The 1996 law allows the United States to impose sanctions on foreign companies that invest $20 million or more a year in Iran's oil and gas sectors.

The letter to Clinton was principally written by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., author of the law.

Iran signed the contract last September with a consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian oil companies led by Total, a French oil giant, to expand a gas field estimated to hold 300 trillion cubic feet of gas. The field is in the Persian Gulf adjacent to Qatar.

French officials have said the law does not apply in France.

However, enforcement of the statute could keep American banks from lending more than $10 million to any of the three companies. It could also exclude them from exporting goods to the United States and deny them an export license to use American-made goods.

The senators said failure to trigger the sanctions would open ``floodgates for further investments'' by other international firms. ``Indeed, the only victims of a waiver will be American companies barred from doing business in Iran. Such an outcome is as absurd as it is objectionable.''

Asked about the letter, State Department spokesman James Rubin said, ``The decision is going to be forthcoming. I can't tell you what day, but it's close.

``This is very serious business, and it involves many elements, including examination of the facts and circumstances,'' Rubin said. ``And as you know, given the onset of the Asian financial crisis, one thing that we did do was take another look at the possible impact of that crisis on this matter.''

The companies are Total, with a 40 percent participation in the deal, and Gazprom of Russia and Petronas of Malaysia, with 30 percent each. The French government owns 0.9 percent of Total; the Russian government owns 40 percent of Gazprom.

Iran's gas reserves, estimated at 700 trillion cubic feet, are the second-largest in the world after Russia's.

The senators conceded that the sanctions might essentially be unenforceable.

``We understand the French company Total has divested itself of its U.S. holdings and may be largely untouched by sanctions,'' the senators told Clinton. ``That fact must be irrelevant to your considerations. Myriad other companies (Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum, to name two) are waiting to see what your administration is going to do.''

Also signing the letters were Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah; Mike DeWine, R-Ohio; John Ashcroft, R-Mo.; Herb Kohl, D-Wis.; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; Sam Brownback, R-Kan; Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; Spencer Abraham, R-Mich.; and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


Rushdie slams EU in surprise Berlin appearance

CORRECTED - Rushdie slams EU in surprise Berlin appearance 12:56 p.m. May 10, 1998 Eastern

By Deborah Cole

BERLIN, May 10 (Reuters) - British author Salman Rushdie, in hiding to evade a death sentence from Iran for his novel ``The Satanic Verses,'' on Sunday criticised the European Union for failing to take a tougher diplomatic stance against Tehran.

Rushdie, who made a surprise appearance at a conference on persecuted writers in the German capital, told a small group of journalists that the EU had been ``hypocritical'' in its softer policy towards Iran but hard line with neighbouring state Iraq.

``Either we believe that our foreign policy should be ethical and we should make it so or we should say it does not need to be ethical and admit it,'' Rushdie said.

``There is a hypocrisy involved here which one could connect to economics. Iran is a wealthy state and Iraq is a poor one,'' the Indian-born writer said.

Rushdie's comments came on the heels of an announcement by the German Foreign Ministry on Saturday that it had sent two government officials to Iran to work to improve relations between the two countries.

The 51-year-old writer came at the personal invitation of prominent German writer Guenter Grass, who had quit Berlin's Academy of Fine Arts in 1989 for its refusal to host a speech by Rushdie due to security concerns.

The two authors met at the Academy, marking Grass's first appearance there in nine years.

Rushdie was particularly searing in his attack on German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who he said had been unresponsive to his pleas to help lift the fatwa, or religious edict, issued by the late Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

``He said he could not deform German foreign policy for the sake of one person,'' Rushdie said, appearing relaxed but with security personnel standing watch at the door.

``I would argue that there are other important values at stake here that he and other European governments supposedly hold dear as well,'' he said.

The EU pursued a policy of ``critical dialogue'' with Iran until all EU states but Greece withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran in April following a German court ruling that Iran's leaders ordered political killings in Berlin in 1992.

Germany returned its ambassadors to Iran in January. The EU in February lifted a ban on ministerial meetings with Tehran imposed after the court ruling.

Rushdie praised Britain's harder line on Iran since Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government came to power, saying it would set an example for the rest of Europe.

``The new British government has taken a much tougher line than the previous government,'' Rushdie said. ``It was easy before (for other European states) to say that if his own government doesn't take a tough line, why should we?''

But he said that the EU had it in its power to bring enough political and economic pressure to bear on Iran to urge it to lift the death sentence against him but had failed to do so.

``The fact is that this has been going on now for nine and a half years and it is still not over,'' Rushdie said. ``I think I am entitled to say that it is nearly a decade later and I'm still in the jam. It is legitimate to ask, ``Would you please finish the job?.''


Iran to choose new Assembly of Experts in October

Iran to choose new Assembly of Experts in October 12:48 p.m. May 10, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 10 (Reuters) - National elections for a powerful Iranian state body known as the Assembly of Experts will take place in October, a newspaper said on Sunday.

Registration of candidates for the body of about 80 clerics, which has the power to choose or remove Iran's supreme leader, begins on August 23, the daily Salam newspaper said.

It said the Guardian Council approved a proposal by the Ministry of Interior to hold the elections for the assembly members, who have eight-year terms.

Iran's Guardian Council oversees all elections, with the power to vet candidates.

The Assembly of Experts polls will be the first national elections since moderate President Mohammad Khatami trounced conservative opponents in presidential elections last year.

They also come amid rare public challenges to the paramount power of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei was appointed by the Assembly of Experts as Iran's supreme leader in 1989 after the death of former leader and founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He has come under attack recently by Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a senior dissident cleric who has challenged Khamenei's credentials for the supreme leader position.

Khamenei, a mid-level cleric at the time of his appointment, was shortly thereafter granted the title ayatollah, which is the highest rank in Iran's Shi'ite Moslem religious hierarchy.


Full story Belgian firms eye Dubai re-export trade to Iran

Full story Belgian firms eye Dubai re-export trade to Iran 09:20 a.m. May 09, 1998 Eastern

DUBAI, May 9 (Reuters) - A Belgian trade delegation stopped in Dubai on Saturday on its way to Iran to explore opportunities to become involved in the emirate's lucrative re-export business to Iran.

``The facts show that Dubai is an excellent base for re-exports into Iran,'' said Nassib Ballout, commercial attache at Belgium's embassy to the UAE.

Dubai ranks number one among re-exporters to Iran, but the emirate's re-exports to the Islamic republic have been steadily falling since 1994, figures from Dubai's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) show.

The majority of products re-exported into Iran are consumer and manufactured goods.

Dubai's traditional trade links with Iran, its geographic location, its active Iranian business community and its sophisticated shipping and banking facilities are commonly given as reasons for the bustling re-export business, analysts and businessmen said.

``Iran is a large and important market and we would like to be involved in Iran in the long-term,'' the head of the Belgian trade delegation, Charles Delhaye, told Reuters.

``We think this triangular relationship -- Belgium, Dubai, Iran -- could benefit all sides,'' said Pierre Patte, a delegation member with steel and cement interests in Iran.

Total re-exports from Dubai to Iran amounted to $401.3 million in the first six months of 1997, according to DCCI figures. Re-exports to Iran peaked in 1994, totalling $1.14 billion, but then fell to $880.3 million in 1995 and $782.4 million in 1996.

Delhaye said the Belgian firms were hoping to sign joint venture contracts with Iranian companies during the four-day visit.

The delegation, representing 12 companies from the Walloon region of Belgium, will meet with Iranian businessmen and government officials, Delhaye said.

Belgian-Iranian ties were strained last year after European Union states withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran after a German court ruled that Iranian leaders had ordered the killings of Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. Tehran denied any involvement.

Relations improved last November when the EU envoys, including Belgium's ambassador, returned to Tehran after a six month absence. ^REUTERS@


German officials discuss expanding ties with Iran

German officials discuss expanding ties with Iran 12:54 p.m. May 09, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 9 (Reuters) - Two senior German officials are visiting Tehran to discuss how to improve relations between the two countries, Iran's official news agency IRNA said on Saturday.

``A German delegation is in Tehran to discuss ways of removing obstacles in the way of expansion of ties between Iran and Germany,'' the agency said.

``The director-general of the German Foreign Ministry's Middle East department, Peter Dingens, and the director-general of consular affairs, Wolf-Ruthardt Born, are part of the German delegation which arrived in Tehran on Friday.''

The visit comes amid reports that the highly-publicised case of German businessman Helmut Hofer, who was sentenced to death in January by a Tehran court for extramarital sex with a Moslem woman, may be reviewed.

Germany, which favours a cautious resumption of ties with Iran, has suggested that relations could worsen considerably if Hofer is executed.

Relations soured last year after a Berlin court concluded that Iranian leaders were responsible for the 1992 killings of Kurdish dissidents in Germany. Iran denied the charge.

After the verdict, the European Union suspended a policy of ``critical dialogue'' towards the Islamic republic and EU members and Iran withdrew their top envoys. The envoys have since returned and relations have slightly improved.

In January, the European Union lifted a ban on high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran in view of Tehran's efforts to improve relations after the election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami last May.


Iran leader says West targeting him over Israel

Iran leader says West targeting him over Israel 11:57 a.m. May 08, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 8 (Reuters) - Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday blasted Western media for targeting him over Iran's anti-Israeli stand, saying Iranians were united on backing the Palestinians.

``They should not think this is the stand of one person or a group in Iran...These fools say 'Let us launch propaganda to fight against Ali Khamenei,''' Khamenei said in a Friday prayers sermon in which he denounced the United States and the ``Western news empire.'' His remarks were broadcast on Tehran radio.

He was apparently referring to media commentaries which said there was a power struggle over Iran's stand on the Middle East peace process between moderate President Mohammad Khatami and conservatives, to whom Khamenei is widely seen to be closer.

``Today everyone says this in Iran, including our dear president, the government serving the people, the parliament, clergymen, and the people. There are no disagreements,'' he said.

Iran condemns the Middle East Peace process as a sellout of Palestinian rights, but says it does nothing to hinder it. Tehran says it only gives political backing to Palestinian Islamic groups and humanitarian aid to Lebanon's Hizbollah.

``America supports the Zionists (Israel) and we back the Palestinians. Now who is supporting terrorism? Let fair-minded people in the world judge,'' said Khamenei, rejecting U.S. charges of terrorism.

The crowd of worshippers gathered at the Tehran University campus and adjoining streets chanted ``Death to America!''

Khamenei said Iran would continue to back the Palestinians against Israel which he accused of atrocities and terrorism.

The U.S. State Department said in an annual report last week that Iran was the world's leading ``state sponsor of terrorism,'' partly due to its ties with the Hizbollah organisation which fights Israeli occupation in south Lebanon. Iran denied the charges. Khamenei did not directly refer to the report.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 9 May 1998 to 10 May 1998
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