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TEHRAN, May 12 (Reuters) - Iran's parliament on Tuesday conferred with the country's top economy officials after the government cut its forecast oil price to $12 a barrel following a sharp drop in prices, Iranian television said.
Deputy Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, quoted by the television, said Plan and Budget Organization head Mohammad Ali Najafi told the closed session that the state body was drawing up new economic plans based on the forecast oil price of $12 a barrel.
President Mohammad Khatami said last month his government had reduced to $12 a barrel from an earlier $16 the forecast oil price in its budget for the Iranian year which began in March. The annual oil income forecast had already been cut in January to $16.3 billion from $17.7 billion based on $17.50 per barrel.
Central Bank Governor Mohsen Nourbakhsh told deputies that the "fall of hard currency income to $10 billion" would cause major problems in paying for subsidized goods and providing hard cash earmarked for industries, Nobakht said.
It was not clear if Nourbakhsh was referring to the oil income for the remainder of the current Iranian year which runs to March 20, 1999, or to income for the whole year.
Economy and Finance Minister Hossein Namazi also attended the session which also discussed ways of dealing with unemployment and boosting non-oil exports, the television said.
Deputies also debated Iran's stand at a November meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Jakarta.
Some deputies have criticized Iranian oil officials over the OPEC meeting's decision to increase oil output, which has been blamed for contributing to the sharp fall in prices.
Deputies decided to continue the debate on the country's economic situation at another closed session next Tuesday.
Iran, the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Norway, relies on petrodollars for around 80 percent of hard currency earnings and up to 40 percent of government revenue.
TEHRAN, May 13 (Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday no sensitive equipment went missing when a truck from an unfinished nuclear plant was stolen recently, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said.
It quoted Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation as saying the consignment loaded on the stolen truck consisted of ``ordinary welding pieces with no special significance.''
The lorry, carrying the welding equipment from the plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr to Tehran for testing, was stolen in the central city of Isfahan on April 17, the organisation said.
Newspapers first reported the incident on Sunday. An official at that time described the cargo as ``not important'' and ``ordinary'' and said he felt the thieves were more interested in the truck than the cargo. Automobile thefts are common in Iran.
Russia has a $850 million contract to complete the 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant.
Russia has ignored U.S. pressure to end nuclear cooperation with Iran. It says its work is in line with nuclear non-proliferation treaties and denies its cooperation could help Iran develop a nuclear arsenal.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for power-generation purposes and open to international inspections.
By Afshin Molavi
DUBAI, May 13 (Reuters) - The commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf said on Wednesday that Iran's recent deployment of three Russian-built submarines in military exercises caused ``significant concern'' in the region.
``Submarines are offensive weapons, not defensive ones and any torpedo capability would obviously give them (Iran) the ability to interdict shipping through the Strait of Hormuz,'' said Vice-Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
Iran's ``Ettehad'' (Unity) exercises, held last month near the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which half of the world's oil exports passes, were the first in which the Islamic republic operated its three kilo-class diesel submarines together.
``The Strait of Hormuz is the commercial lifeline of this region...so that's something we are watching very carefully,'' Fargo said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
Iran denies that it seeks to disrupt shipping or threaten its neighbours. Tehran regularly criticises the U.S. military presence in the Gulf region and has said the code name of the exercise indicated its willingness to cooperate with neighbours.
The Fifth Fleet which has two aircraft carriers, two cruisers, and other warships in the region, closely monitored the Iranian war-games, U.S. officials said.
``The kilo-class submarine is a threat we can deal with. The U.S. navy has significant anti-submarine capabilities. However, GCC navies do not have anti-submarine capabilities,'' he said.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states -- Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates -- have worked closely with the U.S. armed forces since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War.
Iran has improved ties with its Gulf Arab neighbours since the election of moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami last year, partly easing earlier tensions in the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is due later this month to visit the UAE, with which Iran is at loggerheads over three strategic Gulf islands.
Tehran has also called for joint exercises with its Gulf Arab neighbours, which have so far been declined.
An Iranian warship paid a friendly visit to a Saudi port in March for the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Turning to Iraq, Fargo said it still posed a threat to the region and U.S. forces would remain in the Gulf until Baghdad showed adequate compliance with United Nations resolutions, which imposed sanctions after the Gulf War.
Fargo hinted that a U.S. force reduction could come ``in the near future.'' U.S. forces have beefed up their presence in the wake of confrontations with Baghdad over weapons inspections.
``We will adjust our forces based on what we see out of Iraq. If we see continued efforts to cooperate and fulfil the mandate of U.N. resolutions, then I think there is an opportunity to reduce these force numbers,'' he said.
Asked about a time frame, Fargo said: ``I think it is probably something we will see in the near future.''
Fargo said he had seen significant progress in all GCC navies since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait which prompted Gulf Arab states to spend lavishly on military equipment and hold training exercises with U.S. forces.
``They have made qualitative improvements in their capability,'' Fargo said.
He said Gulf Arab navies should continue to integrate forces and conduct regular joint exercises.
Fargo described GCC naval exercises off the coast of Bahrain in October as ``precisely the right way to approach their operational proficiency improvement.''
The following information is from Amnesty International's research
headquarters in London, England.
Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Phone: 303 440 0913
Fax:303 258 7881
Note: Please write on behalf of this person even though you may not have received the original UA when issued on January 29, 1998. Thanks!
11 May 1998 Further information on UA 30/98 issued 29 January 1998 and re- issued 9 February 1998 and 18 March 1998
Death penalty/Fear of imminent execution/Possible prisoner of conscience
IRAN Morteza Firouzi, aged 43, former editor-in-chief of the English- language daily, the Iran News
Amnesty International is gravely concerned at press reports that Iran's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence against Iranian journalist Morteza Firouzi following a final review of his case. Amnesty International fears that Morteza Firouzi may now face imminent execution. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Morteza Firouzi may be stoned to death. His sole chance of escaping the death penalty rests with the possibility of a pardon by the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Morteza Firouzi was sentenced to death in January 1998, reportedly on charges of 'spying' and 'adultery', after a secret trial. An appeal against the sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court in early February. Reports in March, however, suggested that Morteza Firouzi's death sentence may have been lifted following intervention by the President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, and the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. Further reports then indicated that his case would instead be returned to the Supreme Court for reconsideration.
Amnesty International is dismayed by the Supreme Court's latest and apparently final decision upholding the death sentence against Morteza Firouzi. The organization has written on a number of occasions to the Iranian Government seeking full details of the charges against Morteza Firouzi and of the proceedings of his trial, but no response has been received. In the absence of clarification from the Iranian authorities, Amnesty International is concerned that the charges brought against Morteza Firouzi may be politically motivated and that, if this is the case, he may be a prisoner of conscience.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION Morteza Firouzi, a political analyst, is founder and editor-in-chief of Iran News, an English-language newspaper. He has been held in custody since his arrest in June 1997. His arrest and death sentence have triggered a wave of anxiety among Iranian journalists.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail letters: - expressing concern that Morteza Firouzi may be at risk of imminent execution and urging that the death sentence against him be lifted immediately; - seeking urgent clarification of the charges against Morteza Firouzi and details of the trial proceedings that resulted in his death sentence; - asking for his immediate and unconditional release if he is being held for his non-violent opinions or beliefs.
APPEALS TO: 1) Leader of the Islamic Republic: Sayed 'Ali Khamenei The Presidency Palestine Avenue Azerbaijan Intersection Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Telegrams: Ayatollah Khamanei, Tehran, Iran Faxes: 011 98 21 650203 (via Interior Ministry, ask for fax to be forwarded)
Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran
Telegrams: President Khatami, Tehran, Iran
Faxes: 011 98 21 674790 (via Foreign Affairs, ask for fax to be forwarded)
3) Head of the Judiciary:
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi
Ministry of Justice
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Telegrams: Head of the Judiciary, Tehran, Iran
4) Deputy Head of the Judiciary and Head of the Clemency and
Office of the Deputy Chief Justice
Bab Homayoon Ave,
Dadgostari (Justice) Palace
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Telegrams: Deputy Head of the Judiciary, Tehran, Iran
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sheikh Abdolmajid Keshk-e Mesri Avenue
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Faxes: 011 98 21 674790
Mohammad Hassan Zia'i-Far,
Secretary, Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 13165-137
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Faxes: 011 98 21 204 0541
in lieu of an embassy, please send copies of your appeals to:
Iranian Interests Section
2209 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington DC 20007