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TEHRAN, May 25 (Reuters) - These are some of the leading stories in Iranian newspapers on Monday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
IRAN NEWS - Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visits a military equipment plant in Tehran and says ``The spirit of hope, the confidence in ability and the strong determination of Iran's faithful and revolutionary youth heralds a brighter future for the Islamic Republic.''
- Iran's supreme leader pardons or commutes prison terms of a group of prisoners sentenced by military courts.
- Some 15 million graduates wil join the work force in the next 10 years, a deputy industry minister says.
- Visiting French foreign ministry secretary-general says Paris welcomes the policy being pursued by President Mohammad Khatami, believing the time is ripe for expansion of bilateral relations.
- Saudi foreign minister marks a new chapter in ties with Iran when he travels to Tehran later this week on an official visit which is expected to culminate in the signing of a cooperation agreement.
- Iran and the United Arab Emirates agree to keep open a channnel of communication on the disputed Gulf islands at the end of a visit by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.
- Iranian navy and the naval forces of the revolutionary guards start a joint amphibious military exercise in the Gulf.
- Iran's annual cement production has reached 20 million tonnes from 6.2 million before the first five-year economic development plan (1989-1994), the industry minister said.
- Iran and Saudi Arabia will shortly sign a large-scale political, economic, cultural, technical and sports cooperation agreement, Iran's ambassador to Riyadh tells paper.
By Youssef Kassem
DUBAI, May 26 (Reuters) - Saudi Industrial Exports Co (SIE) said on Tuesday it had completed an agreement with a group of banks to guarantee payments for the export of Saudi goods to Iran.
``We have been working on this deal for a long time...now that the deal has been finalised, our Saudi exports to Iran will take a new upward turn,'' Soleiman Abdul Mohsen al-Oweid, a senior SIE manager, told Reuters by telephone from Riyadh.
``Bankers have always looked at Iran as a high-risk country and have declined to confirm letters of credit opened by Iranian importers,'' said Oweid, who is SIE's documents, freight and finance manager.
SIE, a Saudi public share holding company, specialises in marketing Saudi industrial products in Iran and advising Saudi industrialists on export opportunities.
Oweid said banks involved in the deal with SIE would confirm letters of credit for Saudi exports to Iran. He did not give details of the guarantee limits agreed with banks.
``With expected growth in business on the back of improved Saudi-Iranian ties, a more solid system had to be established,'' he said, adding that the deal would remove a major obstacle facing Saudi exports to the Islamic republic.
He did not however say whether this was the first time that Saudi banks had opened credit lines for Saudi exports to Iran.
Oweid declined to name the banks involved in the deal, but said export guarantees would be provided by a number of Saudi, Iranian, and international banks.
He said SIE had been doing business with Iran for more than three years -- exporting Saudi made air-conditioning units and petrochemicals used in the plastics industry.
``Since the thaw in relations between Saudi and Iran (last year), we have been receiving enquiries from Saudi industrialists seeking to enter Iran's big market,'' he said, adding that enquiries from other Gulf Arab manufacturers were also pouring in.
Saudi-Iranian relations, which soured after the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah, began to thaw after moderate Iranian cleric Mohammad Khatami was elected president in national elections a year ago.
Khatami has sought to project a new image of Iran and improve its relations with neighbouring Gulf Arab states since he assumed office in August.
Since then, high-ranking Saudi and Iranian officials have exchanged official visits. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for a two-day visit and was expected to sign economic co-operation accords.
Latest available trade figures carried by Saudi newspapers showed the two-way trade between the two countries touched 825 million riyals in 1995, almost 240 percent higher than in 1993.
Saudi Arabia is trying to diversify its economy away from oil by establishing an industrial base capable of manufacturing export-oriented products.
Since 1970, Saudi Arabia has set up 10 industrial cities which have brought the number of its factories to 2,598 in 1997.
TEHRAN, May 26 (Reuters) - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal arrived in Iran on Tuesday in the latest of a series of official visits aiming to improve ties between the two Gulf powers separated by years of mutual suspicion.
State-run Tehran radio said he would hand over messages from King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah to President Mohammad Khatami and hold talks with senior Iranian officials.
``I am optimistic about the further development of Tehran-Riyadh relations,'' Iran's official news agency IRNA quoted Prince Saud as telling a news conference at Tehran's Mehrabad international airport.
``No doubt the continued visits between the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia indicate the political will of Tehran and Riyadh,'' he added.
He said he hoped to hold useful negotiations with Iranian officials on issues of mutual interest.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who greeted Prince Saud at the airport, said Tehran viewed the visit as highly important and believed the development of Iran-Saudi ties would affect Iranian relations with other Gulf states positively.
Both ministers said that an agreement between the two countries would be signed during the two-day visit.
``This is a sign of the very positive atmosphere in the two countries' relations,'' Tehran radio quoted Kharrazi as saying.
Prince Saud said his visit was in ``no way related to the two countries' relations with a third country,'' IRNA reported.
Saudi Arabia said earlier this month it was not mediating between Iran and the United States after Saudi media suggested Riyadh might relay messages between Washington and Tehran.
U.S.-Iran relations, disrupted when the Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah in 1979, have improved slightly since the election a year ago of moderate Khatami.
The Iranian president has called for a cultural dialogue between Iranians and Americans but stopped short of advocating resumption of political ties with the U.S. government.
Improvements in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, have been forging ahead, with high profile visits between the conservative Sunni Moslem kingdom and the Shi'ite Moslem Islamic republic.
The improvements came after Iranian media softened its Islamic revolutionary rhetoric against Saudi Arabia and Tehran agreed to restrict political rallies at the haj annual pilgrimage to Mecca to within its own pilgrims' compounds. Riyadh bans all political activities at haj.
Crown Prince Abdullah visited Tehran in December for an Islamic summit conference and former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani toured Saudi Arabia extensively in March.
On Saturday Iran and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on technical and industrial cooperation in the copper and power generating sectors as well as other joint investment projects.
Riyadh and Tehran are the largest oil producers in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and have cooperated in recent weeks to bolster depressed oil prices.
On the eve of Prince Saud's visit Khatami and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei separately welcomed improving ties with the kingdom and said only foreign powers gained from tension between the two regional heavyweights.
Kayhan International, in a commentary under the title ``Welcome Mr Saud al-Faisal,'' said that the region badly required a peaceful and tension-free atmosphere.
``Tehran and Riyadh have already shown wisdom and understanding in this regard, much to the chagrin of the United States, which continues to have its unwanted military presence in the region,'' the hardline daily added.
MOSCOW, May 25 (Reuters) - Russia accused the U.S. Senate on Monday of trying to hinder its trade with Iran and complicate U.S.-Russian ties by approving a bill to impose sanctions on firms that sell missile technology to Tehran.
The bill, approved on Friday, followed U.S. accusations that projects in which Russia is involved could help Iran develop a nuclear arsenal. Moscow denies the charges.
``Russia is categorically against new attempts to prevent the free development of legitimate trade and economic ties with Iran,'' the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
``The purpose is to complicate Russian-U.S. relations by accusing Russia of helping Iran create nuclear missiles.''
The United States regards Iran as a sponsor of international terrorism. Even so, the Senate approved the sanctions despite objections by President Bill Clinton's foreign policy advisers, who have said they will recommend it be vetoed.
The House of Representatives has also approved the bill but must vote on changes made in the Senate before it can go to Clinton's desk.
One factor in the Senate vote was concern over reports that Russia had transferred missile delivery technology to Iran, which Moscow is also helping build a nuclear power plant.
Russia and Iran brushed aside the U.S. criticism last week, saying they hoped to step up cooperation in the field of ``atomic energy for peaceful purposes.''
Russian officials have said repeatedly that Moscow has violated no international agreements in its cooperation with Iran and that its assistance had not and would not help Iran build missiles.
Clinton discussed the matter with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the English city of Birmingham on May 17 after a summit of eight industrialised nations. They said their talks may soon bear fruit but gave no details.
By Anwar Faruqi Associated Press Writer Tuesday, May 26, 1998; 1:16 a.m. EDT
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- In the office of the Islamic Students Association, a blood-stained shirt hangs on the wall with yellowing copies of the group's now-defunct newspaper.
It's a reminder of the day when a dozen thugs burst in and beat association president Heshmatollah Tabarzadi with a heavy cable. He had criticized Iran's religious leaders in the student newspaper, and the thugs were the reply from hard-liners in the government.
For years, that was the price of speaking out in Iran. But much has changed since Tabarzadi -- who has recovered from his wounds -- was beaten last year.
In August, President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric, took office and began remaking the political scene. So far, his greatest achievement has been to lift restrictions on the press, cinema and the arts, breathing new life into Iran's cultural life.
Newspapers accustomed to never criticizing the mullahs or their religious government are now enjoying freedoms unknown since the early days of the 1979 revolution that ousted the U.S.-supported shah.
Last month, when 4,000 demonstrators clashed with riot police in Tehran over the arrest of Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi on embezzlement charges, most newspapers ran detailed front-page accounts and pictures.
Before Khatami, the average Iranian would have gotten the full story only by word of mouth or from Farsi-language radio broadcasts from abroad.
``In the mayor's affair, there was nothing in the foreign media that wasn't in the local papers,'' noted Hossein Nosrat, head of the foreign press department in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. ``There was a time when the opposite was true.''
One newspaper testing the limits of the new freedoms is Jameah, an afternoon daily started in December that sells out within hours of hitting newsstands.
The newspaper, whose name means ``society,'' broke a taboo by publishing interviews with Ibrahim Yazdi, head of the outlawed Freedom Movement, and with Abbas Amir Entezam, a former government spokesman convicted of spying for the United States.
After the mayor's release from jail, Jameah poked fun at the religious hard-liners behind the arrest by noting the mayor and three journalists arrested for political offenses all had become public heroes.
``Get arrested and become an instant hero,'' the paper said.
Jameah's editor, Mahmoud Shams, sees his paper as a watchdog.
``Mr. Khatami must fulfill the promises he made during his campaign to strengthen civil society, and there must be a paper that watches to guarantee these promises are fulfilled,'' he said in an interview.
The weekly newspaper Fakhur learned, however, that there are limits.
In February, it was banned for six months for running pictures of the women involved in the President Clinton investigation. It showed them without the required head-to-foot Islamic dress.
Still, the hard-liners, already on the defensive since their election loss to Khatami last May revealed their unpopularity, have had to watch a stream of cultural liberalization.
For instance, the first official act of the new culture minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, was to allow the showing of a movie that had been banned for more than two years: ``Snowman,'' the story of an Iranian man who dresses as a woman to marry an American and go to the United States. It became an instant hit.
Other forms of art are also experiencing a revival.
Six years ago, Sassan Nassiri and four fellow artists took over an apartment building about to be torn down and transformed one floor into a work of art, with murals on the walls and mobiles hanging from ceilings.
Officials rejected a permit for their show. When they opened it anyway, supporters of the hard-liners stormed the exhibition and closed it down.
Last month the five artists took over another condemned building for a similar show, this time not asking for a permit. But an official from the culture ministry heard about the show and gave them a permit anyway.
Despite the new freedoms, opposition groups such as Yazdi's Freedom Movement and the student association headed by Tabarzadi still are banned from publishing.
``Mr. Khatami's powers are very limited,'' Yazdi said. ``He controls the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, but the Interior Ministry, which decides on the activities of political groups, is still in the hands of his rival faction.''
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
20,000 theologians, religious students stage rally in qom qom, may 26, irna -- about 20,000 theologians and students in qom on tuesday staged a rally in protest at what they described as desecration of the mourning month of moharram al-haram.
the protesters, some wearing shroud, gathered at feizieh theological school and then marched on the main streets of the city. they issued a six-point resolution which was read out at martyrs square.
the marchers declared angrily that some people attending the rally at tehran university on the anniversary of presidential election (may 23) have violated the sanctity of the mourning month of moharram by applauding cheefully in support of the president.
the protesters, chanting slogans in support of president mohammad khatami, said that they could not tolerate desecration of religious jurisprudents by certain segments of the press.
they called on the religious leaders to encounter violation of the islamic values and insults to the people by the hypocritical elements in some press. they didn't mention any newspapers or publication by name.
''we warn those liberals and supporters of the former regime and elements working for foreign espionage organizations to stop targeting the lofty islamic values in the press,'' a cleric said while reading the statement.
the marchers said they belong to no specific political group. the rally is being held in protest at violating the religious values, the statement said.
meanwhile, the cleric also accused the islamic republic news
agency, irna, and the press of attempting to distort the news of
today's rally in qom.
::irna 26/05/98 17:16
interior ministry expresses regret over violence in laleh park tehran, may 26, irna -- the interior ministry here on tuesday issued a statement expressing regret over the violence in ''the gathering sponsored by a legal group'' in tehran's laleh park.
violence broke out in laleh park monday afternoon when the gathering of the islamic union of students and university graduates in the park was disrupted by a group opposed to the rally.
the gathering was supposed to hear a speech by the editor-in-chief of the banned daily 'payam-e daneshjou' (message of student), heshmatollah tabarzadi. tabarzadi failed to address the audience.
in its statement, the interior ministry vowed to ''defend people's legal rights and those of civil institutions against violences and law-breaking pressure groups.''
the minstry specially expressed regret over the use of tear gas by the group opposing the rally.
the interior ministry expects the relevant authorities to
conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and prosecute the
perpetrators of the unlawful acts. the people should be informed of
the results of the investigation, the statement added.
::irna 26/05/98 17:25
26 May 1998 Web posted at: 06:56 GST, Dubai time (02:56 GMT)
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian judiciary authorities have banned Tehran's moderate mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who faces charges of corruption, from leaving Iran to attend a conference in Japan, a newspaper said Monday.
The daily Qods said an order by the conservative-led judiciary prevented Karbaschi, an important ally of President Mohammad Khatami, from attending a conference in Tokyo on urban issues.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the newspaper report.
Karbaschi's arrest last month by the judiciary led to an open row between Khatami's government and the judiciary. The mayor was freed after spending 11 days in jail following widespread protests by moderates who rejected the graft charges as part of a politically-inspired campaign by their opponents.
Newspaper reports have said Karbaschi's trial was expected to start in the next few weeks.
Karbaschi was among officials whose support was instrumental in Khatami's landslide election victory one year ago against candidates backed by Iran's conservative clerical establishment.
Newspapers said last week Iran had authorized formation of a pro-Khatami party which would be headed by Karbaschi.
The reform-minded Khatami has faced tough opposition by the conservatives and hardliners who still control many state bodies.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.