DNI-NEWS Digest - 10 May 1998 to 11 May 1998

There are 6 messages totalling 806 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Selected News 98/05/10 2. Support UDHR 3. Iran criticises G-8 statement as insufficient 4. Iran woos independent-minded Caspian states 5. Iran and U.S. edge closer 6. Press watchdog appeals against Iran death sentence

Selected News 98/05/10


Iranian Envoy Calls For Expansion of UN Security Council

UNITED NATIONS, New York Iran, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), reaffirms the position taken by the movement that the Security Council should be expanded by no less than 11 seats, said Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN here Friday. Hadi Nejad Hosseinian addressing a UN working group discussing reforms and increase in number of the Security Council's members, added, We are in the process of discussing a key issue in our deliberations that would definitely affect the future of the international relations in general and the UN system in particular.'' Referring to the decisions made in the 8th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Tehran, he said OIC member states reaffirmed their readiness to contribute actively and constructively to the consideration of the reform and the expansion of the Security Council. Nejad Hosseinian also referred to the remarks of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei at the Tehran OIC Summit underlining the need for according a permanent seat to the OIC member states with the same privilege enjoyed by the other permanent members. The discussions in the last two weeks on the question of veto shows how delicately it is interlinked with the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council, he noted. ``The inflexibility exhibited by the permanent five during the discussion on the views of the overwhelming majority of the UN membership with regard to improvements on this issue, some of which represented only minor changes to their privileges which do not necessarily require amendment to the charter, raises serious doubt about the possibility of any progress on the issue of increasing the permanent membership of the council,'' he added. The Iranian envoy further highlighted the option of rotational arrangements for all new members of the council. Referring to the important issue of decision making procedure on subjects that fall within the mandate of the working group, he concluded that the general agreement implies the fullest possible support of the entire UN membership which constitutes, at least, two third majority of all UN membership. (IRNA)

Int'l Gathering on `Religion, Politics in Iran' Held in Vienna

VIENNA An international scientific gathering called `Religion and Politics in Iran' was held here Thursday night, attended by scholars, researchers and students. A group of scholars and researchers in the oriental and Iranian studies participated in the international gathering which was jointly set up by the Austrian Institute of Oriental Studies and the Diplomatic Academy of Austria in cooperation with the Iranian Embassy in Vienna. The gathering was inaugurated by speeches of Iranian Ambassador to Austria Mahdi Mohtashami and Director of the Austrian Institute of Oriental Studies Dr. Siegfried Haas on historical and social issues of Iran. Among the participants were also some 150 university students pressmen, cultural figures and officials of the Austrian Foreign Ministry. (IRNA)

Iran Denounces Attack on Iranian Center in Cologne

TEHRAN The Islamic Republic of Iran vehemently denounces the subversive attack on the Iranian Center in Cologne, in which a group of Iranian and Muslim residents in Germany were holding mourning ceremonies in commemoration of the martyrdom anniversary of the Third Imam of the Holy Prophet's Household Imam Hussein (AS). A group of the anti-revolutionary subverts attacked the attendants within the ceremonies, held at the Iranian Center, without facing solid resistance from the German police for their disregard of the religious sanctity of Muslims. Iran has called on the German officials to arrest the culprits. Meanwhile, the German officials, for their part, have expressed regret over the apathy of the German police; and their unfamiliarity with the religious sanctities of Muslims.

Iran, a Safe Country

TEHRAN In a brief interview with the Tehran Times, an Austrian tourist group leader, Joseph Platzer, described his reflections about their visit to Iran and said they would gather more historical and cultural information about Iran to greatly enjoy their journey through this great country. Talking about the incentive to travel to Iran, Platzer recalled the political status of Iran was optimum for our travel to this great cultural country. On the propaganda campaign against Iran in the West, Platzer said it was rather extensive and added we were surprised to see and feel the warm hospitality of the great Iranian people during our journey across the country. Our first encounter with the Iranian people made us to believe that the Western propaganda against Iran was false and baseless, he further said. Then, Platzer went on to delineate on the nature in Iran: Nature in your country enjoys a variety; from the woods, to the harsh but beautiful nature of the desert. These traits were amusing for us, Europeans. However, Platzer remarked that driving regulations are not obeyed properly in Iran. One of the accompanying women in the Austrian tourist group reiterated that no problem of serious nature faced us. With regard to the security, your country enjoys an ideal status, she stated. Finally, she added that provided the opportunity, she would travel to Iran again. The Austrians' tour was organized by the Azadi International Tourism Organization (AITO).

Yazdi Says German on Death Row in Iran Could Seek Pardon

TEHRAN A German businessman sentenced to death for sex with a Muslim woman could seek a pardon from Leader under Iranian law, the county's leading judicial official was quoted as saying Saturday. The official, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, told the daily Hamshahri that Helmut Hofer could ask for a pardon from Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, according to an AP dispatch yesterday. According to the law, the possibility of a pardon is not ruled out if the accused asks for a pardon from . . . Ayatollah Khamenei, the paper quoted Yazdi as saying. In January, an Iranian court sentenced Hofer, 54, to death after convicting him of violating Iranian law by having sex with a single Muslim woman. He has appealed the verdict. Hofer contends he had converted to Islam before having the relationship with the woman. If an appeal court accepts this argument, it likely would overturn a death penalty. Germany's Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, has said that executing Hofer would damage relations with Iran. Yazdi said last week that the Iranian government had not intervened in the case and would not do so. In February, Yazdi said that Hofer had several legal recourses before the death sentence was carried out. He said then that Hofer's appeal was being studied. (AP)

Rights and Duties of the Press in a Civil Society

The press in Iran today can claim to be one of the freest. Proof is the number of newspapers and periodicals in circulation reporting on domestic and international events with great enthusiasm. The development is not only encouraging, but is also a barometer of people's growing interest in the affairs of government and society. Justice is best served when people make decisions or base their opinions on an awareness of facts. Moreover, the truth that is served by a dynamic press becomes a weapon to force government accountability. The most important role of the press is to function as a watchdog of official conduct, i.e., to see to it that officials (both in the government and in the private sector) exercise their duties and wield their powers in the context of the law and their legal authority. In other words, a free and dynamic press contributes to the growth of a clean society characterized by the accountability of government servants in all aspects of service. That democracy is alive and working well in this country was demonstrated in the May 23 Presidential election. Who could dispute that the election was absolutely free and fair? Thanks to broad domestic and international press coverage, the results caught people, both here and abroad who strongly confirm the fairness of elections here, though by surprise. Almost every clique inside and outside the country was sure that the Parliament Speaker would be the next president after Hashemi Rafsanjani. But as it turned out, President Khatami was elected in what was indisputably a free and fair election. Worth mentioning here is that his victory may not be attributed to any political party as there is none in this country. In a democracy, political parties often take the limelight during an election. They function to support a candidate who crystallizes a group's ideas as to how government should be run and who then gets the support of the party in the election. Ideally, a party's platform should be transparent so that the candidate of its choice, once elected, can be called upon to live up to that platform. In the absence of political parties, the press takes on the role of the press in crystallizing issues. Unlike the press, however, which should be unbiased in presenting issues, political parties work to convince voters to support particular causes, right or wrong. It is in this aspect that the press differs from political parties, but both share in the same noble responsibility of creating a just and enlightened society. Indeed it is the right of the press to watch government performance. The magnitude of the press responsibility calls for it to be vigilant above all else, i.e., to be deterred only by whatever harms national interest or promotes falsehood. It should be borne in mind that it is not very difficult to define what redounds to the national interest for the constitution is there to serve as a beacon to all pressmen in case of doubt. Pressmen shoulder a heavy responsibility at this crucial juncture of our history. They must not miss the golden opportunity of being active participants in the shaping of our destiny.

American Senators Press Clinton to Implement D'amato Law

TEHRAN A number of American senators urged Clinton to implement the D'amato law against foreign firms signing oil deals with Iran. In a letter to Clinton, three American senators wrote that a decision not to sanction will reveal the United States as a paper tiger. The letter was signed by 12 Republican senators, including Ilsa's chief sponsor and senate banking committee chairman Alfonse D'amato, senate majority leader Trent Lott and foreign relations committee chairman Jesse Helms, and two democratic senators. The letter further reads that the only victims of a waiver (of the law) will be American companies barred from doing business in Iran. The request to impose sanctions comes just before Clinton's trip next week to Europe, where he will attend the annual summit of the group of seven leading industrialized nations plus Russia in Birmingham, England. European nations are strongly opposed to the U.S. la, arguing its investment restrictions should not apply beyond U.S. In a reaction to the letter, the U.S. foreign ministry spokesman said final decision on imposing the D'amato sanction is close to be made maybe prior to the summit of the group of seven leading industrialized nations.


Press Review

QODS * The paper in its "weekend" column commented on the news cooperation between the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and Reuters. "Reuters is an English agency whose past record shows its negative attitude toward the Islamic Revolution and it would be naive to think that this cooperation is only for training purposes." According to an agreement singed between IRNA and Reuters recently, the latter will hold training course for IRNA staff.

KARO KARGAR * The daily said in its "Unread" column that the terrorist group, the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) intends to dispatch many of its members to the World Cup 1998 in France. It added that the MKO is planning to take huge publicity advantage of its presence during the soccer match between Iran and the United States, June 22. June 21 is the anniversary of the declaration of the MKO's armed confrontation against the Islamic Republic of Iran following which the group started its terrorist operations against the Iranian people and officials. The MKO apparently intends to take advantage of this opportunity for publicity aims.

JOMHURI ISLAMI * In its "For Information" column, the paper said a group of experts of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) of the Foreign Ministry have been using the government facilities to cooperate with some of the newspapers recently. They make comments totally contradictory to the official stands of the IRI, it said, adding that the director of a newly established daily who is a permanent employee of the Foreign Ministry is obtaining interviews from experts of the IPIS for his newspaper. So far, six of those experts have given interviews to that daily, some of which are in contradiction with the government views and some others hold contradictory views within themselves. It is said that the actions are prompted by the absence of the Foreign Ministry's exact supervision over the IPIS, said Jomhuri.

The daily Jameah has recently published a series of interviews with foreign policy experts at the IPIS.

IRAN * In its "What's New" column, the daily said a group of IRGC members have issued a statement saying: "The traitor counter-revolutionary elements who have hidden behind the hypocritical face of some sections of the press which act as mercenaries of the criminal U.S., must know that in case they continue their mischiefs, the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps (IRGC) will raze their team houses on their heads as they did with the Monafeqin (MKO)." The statement was apparently referring to those newspapers which adopted a tough stance against the IRGC Commander Rahim Safavi after his recent remarks against the policies of President Khatami.

JAMEAH * The daily in its "Private Reporter" column said: "Ayatollah Sanei has told a group of his students: `The tradition of the seminaries has always been the religious authorities' -- and not the government's -- endorsing the qualification of individuals for becoming religious authorities (Mujtahid). I told Ayatollah Jannati who had come here some time ago that about the Experts Assembly elections applicants we send there is no need for endorsement of their Ijtihad by the Guardian Council."

Ijtihad is a scientific status in Islamic jurisprudence where the owners of the science can infer Islamic precepts. According to the present law for the Assembly of Experts elections, the candidates must be endorsed by the Council of Guardians before obtaining the status of Ijtihad.

RESALAT * The afternoon daily yesterday published an interview with the IRGC Commander Rahim Safavi. Although the remarks made by Safavi against the policies of President Khatami's government created a lot of ballyhoo last week, however this time Safavi only talked about the significance of the Leader's statements at last week's Friday prayers and refused to take a stance on his own statements.

JAMEAH * The daily said its branch office in Rasht had been attacked by 30 to 40 assailants twice on Tuesday and Wednesday. The assailants beat up the staff and damaged some equipment and asked the paper officials to cease the distribution of the paper in the province.

The paper did not disclose the identity of the attacking group but said the editor-in-chief of the daily had sent flowers to the assailants and asked them to send their viewpoints to the daily for publication.


Press Review

SALAAM * In a report from southern Tehran, Salaam spoke of clashes between the people and police due to law enforcement forces' three-hour delay to carry the dead body of a 16-year-old vegetable vendor who died while being chased by officials of the Municipality's Headquarters for Elimination of Barriers Along Passage.

It is worthy of note that Kayhan has also carried the same news but, contrary to Salaam, claimed that the people cooperated with law enforcement forces. Kayhan accused Salaam of forging the news.

Kayhan said the clash between the people and law enforcement forces was due to the peoples' anger with officials of the Tehran Municipality's Headquarters for Elimination of Barriers Along Passage for having caused the death of the young man.

Kayhan, furthermore, said that the people chanted slogans such as "Down with the Municipality".

After the crisis of detention of Tehran's Lord Mayor Ghulamhussein Karbaschi, the biting speech of MP from Damavand Rasoulinejad against former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the recent biting remarks by IRGC Commander Rahim Safavi, the death of the young vegetable vendor offers the country's wings a new subject for renewed clashes and conflicts.

The country's wings a new subject for renewed clashes and conflicts. * An article penned by Ayatollah Seyed Hussein Musavi Tabrizi called the biting remarks made by IRGC Commander Rahim Safavi against the government policies a weakening of and interference in the government affairs, an insult to the ulema, and a source of tension in the country. He finally called Safavi's remarks a kind of madness.

In another article about Safavi's remarks, Salaam criticized the stances of some dailies. During the detention of the Tehran mayor, these dailies had claimed that Karbaschi's past services should not be used to prevent a legal case against his violations.

But now in relation to Safavi's comments, the same dailies note that the war-time services of the IRGC commander should be taken into account to overlook his irresponsible remarks. Salaam has accused these dailies of concealing the truth.

JOMHURI ISLAMI * Referring to the IRGC commander's critical comments about the government policies, Jomhuri Islami's editorial has claimed that some people have distorted Safavi's remarks for conspiratorial purposes. The daily added that these people have been identified, and their names will soon be made public. Jomhuri Islami has also called on the revolutionary personalities to take lessons from this event and not to hastily respond to events taking place.

Apparently, Jomhuri Islami is alluding to the biting stances of a number of political personalities who adopted biting standpoints against Safavi in their interviews with Salaam.

HAMSHAHRI * In its "It is Said" column, the daily, quoting Bahonar, member of the Majlis (Parliament) Presiding Board, said, "We glance at Jameah daily's stances with doubt. This daily's violations, considering the conditions of the society, have increased. The daily has gone -- and is still going -- beyond all borders.

Ever since it was launched, Jameah daily conducted interviews with the opposition figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran, allowing them to present their views, and gaining fame and more readers for itself. Interviews conducted with Faraj Sarkouhi, Abbas Amir Entezam, Ibrahim Yazdi, etc. are instances of this policy.

In addition, Jameah publishes sharp and biting articles, editorials, satires, and caricatures that deal with the country's events and problems. Recently, pressure on this daily has apparently mounted, such that on Tuesday, it did not publish its satirical "Fifth Column", without furnishing any explanation.

Altogether the daily is displaying some form of conservatism and self-restraint, indicating its sense of danger.

KAYHAN * Acting IRGC Commander General Zolqadr noted that recent remarks of IRGC commander were secret and classified, and its publication was illegal, the daily reported. The general stressed that those who published the said classified material and caused tension in the society will soon be subject to legal prosecution.

Zolqadr's remarks can serve as a warning against Jameah daily that published IRGC commander's words and adopted stances against it, while also publishing the standpoints of other political personalities against the said remarks.
===== Iranian dissident writer Faraj Sarkuhi, who was imprisoned in Iran for anti-government "propaganda," called in Frankfurt Wednesday for the elimination of all censorship in his country.

Sarkuhi, who arrived in Germany Wednesday, denounced the "atmosphere of fear" in Iran and called for it to remove "all forms of censorship." (AFP)
==== TEHRAN - People in Iran and other countries held mourning ceremonies on Thursday on the day of `Ashura' to salute the `lord of martyrs' (Seyed al-Shohada), Imam Hussein (A.S.) in a fitting way.

On Ashura, Moharram 10, on which on the scorched plain of Karbala -- also known as Neinava -- in the year 61 A.H. (680 A.D.), the Prophet's younger Grandson Imam Hussein (A.S.) and his small but steadfast group of followers and male members of the Prophet's (S) clan, the Bani Hashem, were cruelly martyred by the forces of evil. Tehran and other towns and cities in Iran are all draped in black, as a mark of respect martyrs whose blood triumphed over the swords of their assassins.

Mosques, Husseiniyes and Takiyes, as usual, organized special discourses during which prominent scholars recounted the different aspects of the struggle between faith and evil, IRNA reported.

LEADER: Ashura Tragedy, Eye-Opener for Muslims to Avoid Similar Consequences

TEHRAN (IRNA) - The Friday congregational prayers were held yesterday at the compound of Tehran University, downtown Tehran, led by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

In his first sermon to a huge crowd of worshipers, the Leader expounded on the evolution of the Islamic society in the early days of Islam which led to the tragedy of Karbala in which Imam Hussein (A.S.) the noble grandson of Prophet (S) and the Third Imam of the infallible Household of the Prophet (S) was martyred along with 72 of his steadfast and sincere followers.

He cited certain historical examples to show how the original Islamic society formed by the Prophet (S) which enjoyed lofty aspirations and a high standard of morality, indulged in corruption within some decades after the demise of the divine messenger. He referred to gradual inclination of the early Islamic society toward material life, notably by certain well-known figures who once were among the close companions of the Prophet.

He indicated that the uprising of Imam Hussein (A.S.) was a holy and noble movement to revive Islam and its original tenets and at the same time, expose the corruption figures.

The Leader remarked that Muslim society should take lessons from the tragic Ashura event in order to avoid similar consequences.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei condemned the propaganda machinery of the arrogant world against the Islamic Republic of Iran, stating that such anti-Iranian talks are but a seasonal action.

The Leader of the Friday Prayers pointed out that Iran is lending support to the Palestinian combatants, an act, he said, regarded by the arrogance as supporting terrorism.

The Supreme Leader called the enemy's propaganda during the past 15-16 years as a seasonal and an old threadbare act which is void of any new sense.

"We support the Palestinian combatants to achieve their legitimate rights," said the Leader, adding that the Zionist enemy has expelled a nation from its homeland through occupation and formation of a tyrannical state and that the enemy and its supporters label any reaction against these oppressive acts as terrorism.

Ayatollah Khamenei then stated, "We are proud of supporting the Palestinian combatants and deem it as our duty."

The Zionist regime kidnaps its opponents in Lebanon where the people are against the Zionists, said the Leader and added that such acts should be regarded as terrorism.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution then said that the Iranian nation will never surrender to the U.S. bullying policies and its support for the oppressive attitudes of the Zionist entity.

"The Iranian nation is a brave and steadfast nation against the oppressive enemies," said the Leader, adding that this stance has been adopted not only by the leadership but also by the dear President, the government and the Majlis of Iran.

The Leader said that such accusations and insults will prove to be fruitless and that the arrogance will achieve nothing in its enmity against the Islamic Republic of Iran. He noted that this mistake by the arrogance was repeated also during the imposed war but to no avail.

Referring to the Israel's state terrorism, Ayatollah Khamenei noted that the real terrorism is the fact that the Zionist regime expels the Palestinians from their homes and is engaged in kidnapping its opponents from other countries.

The Leader of the Friday Prayers praised the leader of HAMAS movement Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who visited Iran recently, and said that the almost totally paralyzed leader of HAMAS is a clear example of Israeli atrocities.

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Iran criticises G-8 statement as insufficient

Iran criticises G-8 statement as insufficient 04:23 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, May 11 (Reuters) - Iran on Monday criticised as insufficient a statement issued by the Group of Eight (G-8) foreign ministers which described recent political developments in Iran as ``encouraging.''

``Spokesman of Iran's foreign ministry Mahmoud Mohammadi...criticised a number of the G-8 countries for maintaining their previous attitudes towards current international developments,'' Iran's official news agency IRNA said.

``He said the ministers of the G-8 countries had used a more realistic tone in their communique but had not considered the facts in relation to the Islamic republic as well as they should have,'' IRNA said.

The G-8 communique, issued on Saturday ahead of the heads of state summit later this week, listed Iran's ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, its stated commitment to creating a society based on the rule of law, and signs it was seeking a more positive foreign role as ``encouraging'' developments.

However, the statement urged Iran to improve the human rights of its citizens, to respect international agreements regarding weapons of mass destruction, and to ensure that the threat against British writer Salman Rushdie was removed.

Among the eight countries backing the statement was Russia, which has been at odds with Washington for several years over evidence that its high-tech nuclear and missile technology has been reaching Iran.

The G-8, whose original seven members include the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Italy, Germany, and Japan is a forum for political and economic cooperation for the world's leading industrial nations. Russia was granted partial membership after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Iran woos independent-minded Caspian states

Iran woos independent-minded Caspian states 10:09 a.m. May
11, 1998 Eastern

By Philippa Fletcher

ALMATY, May 11 (Reuters) - Iran, fighting U.S. attempts to isolate it, wooed the former Soviet republics of the oil-rich Caspian region on Monday by appealing to their Islamic roots.

``One of the most important bases of the historical experience and common culture of the people of the region is the spread of Islam,'' Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told a summit of 10 states grouped near the Caspian Sea.

In a clear call for the other countries to resist pressure from the United States in dividing the spoils of the Caspian, he urged them to consider their roots in policy-making.

``Our political and economic decisions should conform to the same common cultural identity,'' Khatami said.

Iran has found itself at the losing end of the race to exploit the riches of the Caspian, which only opened up with the collapse of communism.

Six of the 15 republics which emerged from the Soviet superpower in 1991 joined Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan in an Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) a year later to reorient their economies towards fellow Moslem states.

At their fifth summit in the Kazakh commercial capital Almaty on Monday the ECO members pledged to foster integration in their 300 million-strong region, which borders Russia to the north and India and China to the south.

But the newly independent states depend on Western investment for the development of their natural resources and those investors face sanctions if they do business with Iran, which Washington accuses of sponsoring international terrorism.

Iran has scored some success in persuading foreign companies to defy the U.S. sanctions threats and it lobbied hard at the summit to win over the oil and gas producing ex-Soviet republics to its side.

Khatami held bilateral talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Iranian officials could be heard lecturing Azeri delegates outside the conference room on Tehran's views on the Caspian.

Niyazov, interviewed among Iranian officials after meeting Khatami, indicated he agreed with Iran over the Caspian Sea, which Tehran wants shared between all five littoral states.

``We have a common view on the status of the Caspian and have agreed to meet soon,'' he told Reuters on Sunday evening.

Bringing Turkmenistan on side would be a significant step forward for Iran, which lost ground with last month's announcement by Russia and Kazakhstan that they plan to carve up the northern part of the sea between them.

Azerbaijan also supports the idea that the sea should be divided up between the littoral states and developed by them separately.

Niyazov, who has always been vague on the Caspian status issue, declined to explain exactly what had been agreed on Sunday.

A mysterious communique allegedly drawn up by Turkmenistan and Iran was distributed to reporters on Monday saying the two states had agreed on the status issue and rejected undersea pipelines -- an idea promoted by the United States to avoid Iranian territory.

``They also emphasise the need to remove the unlawful barriers imposed against the optimum use of land routes,'' the communique said, a clear reference to Washington's 1996 Iran-Libya sanctions act allowing for penalties on firms investing more than $20 billion in the oil and gas sectors of Libya or Iran.

But Iranian delegates disowned the communique, commenting regretfully that Turkmenistan had not altered its position on the status issue or that of undersea pipelines. Turkmen officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kazakhstan's response to the Iranian approach was equally evasive. Nazarbayev said the issue of the status of the Caspian had been discussed but declined to go into details.

He also said long-heralded oil swaps with Iran -- viewed with concern by the United States -- were due to be implemented but did not give a time frame.

In terms of oil pipelines, Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan would accept whatever decision was taken by the companies involved. ``There are no politics here,'' he said.

Iran and U.S. edge closer

Iran and U.S. edge closer 07:08 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

By Barry May

DUBAI, May 11 (Reuters) - Step by step, Iran and the United States are cautiously finding ways to edge closer together after two decades of mutual hostility and suspicion.

The latest move comes from Iran, which is to permit U.S. companies to take part in the country's biggest trade fair.

American business, prominent in Iran under the pro-Western shah, suffered in the aftermath of his overthrow during the 1979 revolution.

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980 after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and seized Americans hostage.

Since June 1995, when President Bill Clinton imposed oil and trade sanctions against Iran, U.S. firms have been effectively frozen out of trade with the Islamic republic.

With the world's second largest gas reserves and third largest oil exports, the stakes in Iran are high.

European, Japanese and other Asian companies have stepped in to sign up deals for which U.S. firms would otherwise bid.

The cost to American firms in terms of lost business opportunities and jobs has been high, as the U.S. oilfield service and supply industry noted last week.

Now U.S. companies are to be allowed to take part in this year's Tehran International Trade Fair, a nine-day event due to begin on October 1.

But the United States would not be officially invited, Deputy Commerce Minister Mojtaba Khosrowtaj was quoted as saying in remarks published in the newspaper Tehran Times on Sunday.

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

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

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 newspaper said.

Relations have been improving since the election last May of President Mohammad Khatami, a Shi'ite Moslem clergyman seen as a moderate in the context of Iranian politics.

In December, he publicly praised the American people, saying he hoped for a thoughtful, rational ``dialogue of civilisations'' with them.

In a U.S. television interview in January, Khatami called for a dialogue between the American and Iranian people to bring about a ``crack in the wall of mistrust.'' But he ruled out contacts between the two governments for the present.

The first U.S. sportsmen to visit Iran since the revolution competed in an amateur wrestling tournament in Tehran in February and were treated like heroes.

U.S. officials have encouraged Americans to visit Iran in what U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin has described as valuable ``people-to-people'' exchanges which could potentially help prepare the ground for government-to-government talks.

Former U.S. government officials and academics have visited Tehran to take part in seminars on relations between the two countries and American tourists in Tehran and the ancient Persian cities of Isfahan and Shiraz are no longer a novelty.

U.S. government restrictions on travel by Iranian diplomats at United Nations headquarters in New York have been eased.

Still, the familiar accusations and counter-accusations continue to mar ties.

The United States accuses Iran of sponsoring ``terrorism,'' trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and supporting violent opposition to the Middle East peace process.

Iran denies the charges, saying it opposes the peace process as a sell-out of Palestinian rights but does nothing to hinder it. It also says its nuclear power programme is for peaceful power-generation purposes.

Iranian leaders regularly criticise the U.S. for policies they say are aimed at dominating the Gulf region and favouring Israeli interests in the Middle East.

Another major obstacle to restoring relations at government level is a U.S. law banning foreign investment of $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector each year.

A consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian companies defied the law last September by signing a $2 billion contract for investment in Iran's natural gas industry.

U.S. oil major Conoco, owned by DuPont Co , was forced to withdraw from its proposed stake in the project by the White House.

Washington has been slow to enforce the law, apparently fearing a backlash by European and Asian countries which oppose it strongly. They argue that its investment restrictions should not apply to foreign companies beyond U.S. borders.

A bi-partisan group of 13 U.S. senators last week urged President Bill Clinton to enforce the law and impose sanctions against the three foreign firms -- Total SA of France, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas.

If he does so, British Petroleum Co Plc could potentially be at risk.

BP, the largest oil producer in the United States and a major investor and employer there, said last week it was opening a representative office in Tehran but would wait for normalised international relations with Iran before resuming business.

Other British energy firms -- Monument Oil and Gas Plc , Enterprise Oil Plc, LASMO Plc and gas giant BG Plc -- are looking at exploration openings in Iran. But as they lacking U.S. assets they are sheltered from the threat of American sanctions. ^REUTERS@

Press watchdog appeals against Iran death sentence

Press watchdog appeals against Iran death sentence 12:29 p.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, May 11 (Reuters) - A watchdog organisation on press freedom appealed on Monday to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to help secure a re-trial for an Iranian journalist sentenced to death on adultery and spying charges.

Reporters without Borders said it asked Khatami to use his influence so that former Iran News editor Morteza Firoozi could face ``a just and fair trial in the presence of lawyers and international observers, with the charges being spelled out.''

``At a time when the government says it is 'determined to defend press freedom', stoning the journalist would be an intolerable violation of this freedom, and more generally of human rights in Iran,'' the Paris-based group said.

The Tehran daily Resalat said on Sunday a branch of Iran's supreme court had rejected an appeal by Firoozi, who has been in custody since last May on charges of spying for South Korea, France, and Japan and for several cases of adultery.

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.

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

((Paris Newsroom + 33 1 4221 5339, fax + 33 1 4236 1072 paris.newsroomreuters.com))

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 10 May 1998 to 11 May 1998