Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 18 Jan 1999 to 20 Jan 1999

There are 8 messages totalling 413 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Explosions kill four outside Tehran
2. Iranian FM to travel to France shortly to prepare Khatami visit
3. US weighs Iran grain deal
4. Six drug traffickers killed in eastern Iran
5. Supporters of dissident Iranian cleric arrested
6. Khamenei denounces attack on Khatami supporters
7. Khatami secures another victory
8. IRNA: the accused in recent murders not affiliated to political wings

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:25:40 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Explosions kill four outside Tehran

TEHRAN, Jan 19 (AFP) - Four people were killed and three others
wounded Tuesday when two unidentified "objects" blew up in Karaj,
west of Tehran, the official IRNA news agency said.
The first explosion, at an industrial site about 40 kilometers
(25 miles) west of Tehran, killed brothers Khalil and Mohsen Najafi
and a third person, Afsar Rahbar.
In the second blast, Mohammad Afsar, a soldier guarding the same
site, was killed and two others under his command were wounded, IRNA
said without giving further details.


Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:25:47 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian FM to travel to France shortly to prepare Khatami visit

TEHRAN, Jan 19 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi is
to travel to France shortly to prepare a visit by President Mohammad
Khatami, the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.
Kharazi's trip will take place during the next Iranian month,
which starts on Thursday, ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said.
Khatami's own ground-breaking visit is planned for sometime
after the Iranian new year in March, although the date has not yet
been set, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.
It will be the first by an Iranian head of state to a European
Union country since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:25:55 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US weighs Iran grain deal

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The Clinton administration is considering
whether to grant Niki Trading Co. an exemption from sanctions to broker
the sale of $500 million of grains to Iran.
U.S. officials and individuals involved in the transaction, which
would require President Clinton to grant Niki Trading Co. a one-time
exemption from sanctions that bar commerce with Iran, say the State
Department, Treasury Department, the Commerce Department, the CIA and
the National Security Council have formed an inter-agency group to weigh
the merits of the deal.
The group has preliminarily recommended to national security adviser
Sandy Berger that Clinton nix the sale of 2 million metric tons of
wheat, 400,000 tons of corn, 300,000 tons of rice, 400,000 tons of sugar
and 200,00 tons of soy bean meal.
U.S. officials say both Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, who Clinton has charged with managing relations with Iran
since the election last year of purportedly moderate President Mohammad
Khatami, have not endorsed the preliminary recommendation. They want to
take a ``closer look'' at the transaction with an eye toward its
possible impact on the ``moribund'' rapprochement with Iran.
Richard Bliss, an attorney and Washington lobbyist who formed Niki
Trading Co. last June with an Iranian-American named Yahya Fiuzi, says
the grain sale would be a ``win-win'' deal for both sides. He said it
would feed hungry Iranians, help American farmers and allow the Clinton
administration to test Tehran's desire for improved relations.
``It's hard to see a downside,'' Bliss told United Press
International. ``They need the grain, we need the market and it gives
the United States an opportunity to build a bridge to the Iranian
government.''
The Clinton administration bars all trade with Iran unless an
exception is granted by the Treasury Department. The decision was taken
last year due to Iran's support for international terrorism and its
secret program to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to
deliver them.
The United States cut all diplomatic relations with Iran following
the Islamic revolution in 1979, which resulted in the sacking of the
American Embassy in Tehran and the 444 day hostage crisis.
The election of Khatami brought some cultural and sports exchanges,
but it has failed to produce the warming in relations or improvement in
Iranian behavior for which the Clinton administration had hoped. U.S.
intelligence officials say Iran is still supporting terrorism, pursuing
nuclear arms and violating Western standards of human rights.
Despite those assessments, U.S. officials say the Clinton
administration has been swayed toward approving the grain sale by
several powerful agricultural trade associations and their Farm Belt
advocates in Congress. With more than $6 billion in government subsidies
for American farmers last year, they argue that the Clinton
administration can ill afford to pass up such a large grain transaction.
``That the government is subsidizing farmers with tax dollars should
not go unnoticed,'' Bliss said.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:26:06 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Six drug traffickers killed in eastern Iran

TEHRAN, Jan 19 (AFP) - Six drug traffickers were killed in
clashes with security forces in an eastern Iranian province
bordering Afghanistan, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The police also seized 900 kilograms (400 pounds) of various
drugs as well as weapons and ammunition during the operation in the
Taibad region of Khorasan province, Kayhan daily said.
Iran is a transit country for drugs shipped from Afghanistan and
Pakistan to Europe and the Middle East.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:26:13 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Supporters of dissident Iranian cleric arrested

TEHRAN, Jan 19 (AFP) - Several supporters of dissident Ayatollah
Hossein Ali Montazeri, the disgraced former hier to Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomenei, have been arrested in the central city of
Esfahan, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
"Several people were arrested after shouting slogans in favor of
Ayatollah Montazeri," said the radical newspaper Salam.
It said the arrests took place on Monday after prayers for Eid
al-Fitr marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The paper said some 70,000 worshippers had attended the prayer
service in Esfahan on Monday addressed by Ayatollah Jalaleddin
Taheri, a senior cleric considered a supporter of Montazeri and
reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
On Friday, a group of Islamic fundamentalist critics of Taheri
disrupted weekly prayers in Esfahan, heckling and throwing objects
at the prayer leader and provincial governor Jaafar Musavi, another
Khatami ally.
The incident angered Khatami's supporters and Iran's interior
ministry has launched an investigation.
Iran's spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday
denounced the attack. "Friday prayers are not the place to settle
differences," he said.
While denouncing the attack, Khamenei also impliticly criticized
Taheri saying "clerics should not raise subjects likely to cause
division during their Friday sermons."
A pro-Khatami government newspaper, Sobh-e-Emrooz (This
Morning), reported Sunday that several Khatami suppporters had been
arrested in Esfahan, including a former top military commander
during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Taheri's weekly prayer sermons in Esfahan are often marked by
tension and scuffles between moderates and fundamentalists.
Taheri has linked Islamic extremists to a recent spate of
murders of dissidents and intellectuals, in which the country's
intelligence service has been implicated.
The murders have caused uproar in Iran and a bitter war of words
between Khatami's backers and his hardline opponents.
Montazeri was the designated succesor to Iran's late leader
Ayatollah Khomenei before falling from grace in 1989 and being
replaced by the current spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:26:22 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Khamenei denounces attack on Khatami supporters

TEHRAN, Jan 18 (AFP) - Iran's spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei on Monday denounced last week's attack by Islamic
fundamentalists on a senior cleric close to President Mohammad
Khatami in the central city of Esfahan.
"Friday prayers are not the place to settle differences," the
top Iranian leader said during a speech at Tehran University to mark
Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
During the weekly prayer ceremony in Esfahan on Friday, a group
of religious hardliners heckled and threw objects at prayer leader
Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri and provincial governor Jaafar Musavi --
both allies of moderate President Khatami and strong critics of
political violence.
The incident angered Khatami's supporters and Iran's interior
ministry has launched an investigation into the violent disruption
of weekly Moslem prayers by Islamic fundamentalists.
While denouncing Friday's attack, Khamenei also impliticly
criticized Taheri saying that "clerics should not raise subjects
likely to cause division during their Friday sermons."
Khamenei, speaking here Monday to a crowd of several thousand
which included Khatami and conservative speaker of parliament Ali
Akbar Nateq-Nuri, added that the country's leaders should "close
ranks against the wave of propaganda from enemies of the revolution
and Islam."
Taheri's weekly prayer sermons in Esfahan are often marked by
tension and scuffles between moderates and fundamentalists.
Taheri has linked Islamic extremists to a recent spate of
murders of dissidents and intellectuals, in which the country's
intelligence service has been implicated.
The murders have caused uproar in Iran and a bitter war of words
between Khatami's backers and his hardline opponents.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 23:25:12 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Khatami secures another victory

By Firouz Sedarat

TEHRAN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Iran's state-run television
came under fire on Tuesday over an interview with a
conservative cleric who had accused backers of
President Mohammad Khatami of being behind a series of
murders of moderate intellectuals.

A top state committee condemned the television station
for the interview and demanded that those responsible
for the programme be punished.

Iranian analysts saw the decision as a victory for the
moderate president over the conservative-run state
media and another step forward for his liberal
political and cultural reforms.

The interview, which included no rebuttal, had provoked
a strong reaction by moderate groups. Khatami's cabinet
banned Ali Larijani, the head of the television and
radio, from attending its meetings and demanded an
apology.

Khatami welcomed the ruling of the committee, set up in
agreement with Larijani, and suggested that the media
chief was again welcome to attend cabinet meetings, the
television said.

Khatami, who has advocated granting greater liberties,
also expressed hope in a statement
that Iran's ``atmosphere of criticism and freedom of
speech...would not become a place for
baseless judgements or libel and abusive language,'' it
added.

Iranian political analysts said the ruling against the
television, whose head is named by
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was
unprecedented.

Khamenei outranks Khatami.

``This is another step forward for Khatami's
reforms...Up to now, the radio and television
had obstinately carried one-sided programmes without
any accountability to the public,''said Iraj Jamshidi,
editor of the business daily Abrar-e Eqtesadi.

Conservatives still hold key levers of power --
including the armed and security forces,
courts and state media -- despite Khatami's wide
popularity after his 1997 landslide election.

``This is the first time the government, which does not
control the radio and television, has managed to force
the head of these media to say he did not know about a
programme in order to avoid further pressure from
public opinion, the press and Khatami's supporters,''
Jamshidi told Reuters.

The state committee said Larijani was not informed
about the interview, which was seen by moderates as an
attempt by conservatives to deflect charges that the
murders were part of a plan by hardliners to
destabilise Khatami's government.

Ten people, including agents of the conservative-run
secret police, have been held for alleged involvement
in the murders. At least two outspoken dissidents and
two liberal writers were killed by death-squads. A
third author died under mysterious circumstances and a
fourth is missing and presumed dead.

A committee set up by Khatami to investigate the
murders said on Sunday that none of Iran's mainstream
factions was behind the killings.

On Monday Khamenei called on conservatives and
moderates to end their bitter row over the political
murders.

The murder spree and a new wave of killings in Tehran,
which did not appear to be political in nature, have
caused wide concern among the capital's residents.

Newspapers reported on Tuesday that a man had been
arrested and confessed to stabbing to death a prominent
engineer and his wife last week in order to steal their
car and other belongings.

The newspapers have given wide coverage to the elderly
couple's deaths, the killing of the wife of a
prize-winning translator and the murder of a prominent
physician.

The daily Salam said police were questioning suspects
in the physician's murder and believed the motive could
have been robbery.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:50:53 -0500
From: Rahim Bajoghli <rbajoghli@JUNO.COM>
Subject: IRNA: the accused in recent murders not affiliated to political wings

the accused in recent murders not affiliated to political wings

tehran, jan. 20, irna -- the prosecutor of the military court in charge
of the recent serial murders, mohammad niazi, here on wednesday said that
the people so far charged with the murders are not affiliated to any of
the political factions in the country.

in an exclusive interview with irna, mohammad niazi said ''the accused in
the case might have various political tendencies, but the investigations
indicate that they are not affiliated to any political group or wing in
the country.''

stating that the accused are entitled to attorneys, niazi stressed that
all involved in the murders would be dealt with with no leniency.

as for the reason why the case was transferred to the military court,
niazi noted that ''all cases involving special administrative crimes or
carrying confidential military information'' should be tried in a
military court.

according to niazi, the president and the committee in charge of
investigating the recent crimes both consented over sending the case to
the military court.
he further noted that the court is handling four cases of murder,
specifically those of dariyoush and parvaneh forouhar as well as mohammad
mokhtari and mohammad jaafar pouyandeh.

niazi further told irna that of the 10 originally arrested in connection
with the murders, some have turned out to be innocent and thus released.
a few have also posted bail and some are still in custody, he added.

according to the prosecutor, the accused are not exclusively the
information ministry personnel.
niazi said that the trial would be public, unless the judge decides that
being so it would damage the national security. the prosecutor further
stated that some of the parties ordering the murders are presently in
custody, while the investigations would continue until all parties behind
the murders are identified.

niazi also told irna that those arrested have not claimed to have acted
upon a religious decree in carrying out the murders.

in an islamic government, with vast authorities for the vali-e faqih
(supreme jurisprudent), no one can issue a decree outside of the judicial
system, law and sharia, niazi said.

he further stressed that the personnel of the information ministry
involved in the serial killings acted independently and with no knowledge
of the top brass in the ministry.

asked about the motives behind the murders, niazi said ''the accused have
made claims about the victims which are not acceptable to the court, and
they naturally would defend themselves.''

the official did not rule out involvement of foreign agents in the
murders, adding ''some elements outside of the information ministry have
been identified, and measures have been taken to investigate their
possible links to abroad.'' niazi further told irna that the
investigations revealed that the murders were well planned and executed.

on details of the murders, niazi said that those killing forouhar and his
wife entered the house with the help of one of forouhar's acquaintances
''who was probably a member of forouhar's organization.''

the acquaintance was the one who first knocked at the door and identified
himself, and introduced one of the two persons accompanying him as an
student, niazi stated.
apparently in a relaxed atmosphere, the three started a political
discussion with forouhars inside the house, and later asked for
permission to videotape the inside of the house. they murdered parvaneh
forouhar when she went upstairs to change for the filming, and
subsequently murdered dariyoush downstairs, niazi elaborated.

on murders of the two writers, niazi said that they were kidnapped and
then murdered, and that the murderers subsequently dumped the bodies and
escaped.
niazi further told irna that tehran's justice department, law enforcement
forces and the information ministry are all actively involved in the
investigations.
he further described as ''very close and satisfactory'' the cooperation
between the special committee in charge of investigating the murders and
the military court over the case.

''the information ministry and the special committee get most of the
credit for solving the recent murders,'' he said.

in conclusion, niazi appealed to the press to observe the interests of
the nation and refrain from publishing material which can be detrimental
to the investigations.

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 18 Jan 1999 to 20 Jan 1999