Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Jan 1999 to 24 Jan 1999

There are 16 messages totalling 553 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iranian currency hits new low
2. Conservatives keep control of Iran chamber of commerce
3. Police break up Tehran rally in support of murdered writers
4. Moderate Iranian daily ordered closed for two weeks
5. Iran to borrow one billion dollars for agriculture investment
6. Three gunned down in drug-related killing in southern Iran
7. Iranian cleric warns of Internet "danger"
8. Iranian security forces gun down drug lord
9. Tehran police use force to break up rally for late opposition leader
10. Tehran police use force to disperse opposition rally (2)
11. Killers of Iranian dissident used film ploy to enter home
12. Iran to seek 9.5 billion dollars in foreign investment
13. Iranian Hard-liners Threaten Cleric
14. Iranian government authorized to borrow funds for satellite
15. Iranian parliament approves petrol price rise


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:04 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian currency hits new low

TEHRAN, Jan 24 (AFP) - Iranian rial sharply fell against major
foreign currencies on the illegal open market on Sunday amid a
deepening economic recession.
The rial dropped from 7,200 to the dollar on Saturday to 7,500
mid-Sunday, although it recovered to 7,400 later in the day.
Money exchangers dealing on the black market in the streets
appeared nervous and reluctant to trade in large sums because of the
fluctuations.
Iran banned the open exchange market four years ago in an effort
to prevent the collapse of the rial against major foreign
currencies.
The government maintains three official exchange rates of 1,750,
3,000 and 5,700 rials to the dollar respectively for state
transactions, licensed exporters and some travellers authorised to
receive hard currency.
But the rial has hovered around 7,000 to the dollar on the free
market since last November with a gradual loss in value in the past
weeks.
Its fall has been linked to the economic crisis prompted by
plummeting oil prices on the international market.
Iran, which earns the bulk of its hard currency from oil
exports, faces a six-billion-dollar budget deficit this fiscal year,
which ends on March 20.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:28 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Conservatives keep control of Iran chamber of commerce

TEHRAN, Jan 24 (AFP) - A number of prominent conservative
personalities were re-elected to the board of directors of Iran's
chamber of commerce, a body tasked with promoting private economic
activities, newspapers reported Sunday.
Ali-Naqi Khamushi, Assadollah Asgar-Oladi and Mir-Mohammad
Sadeqi, all of whom are close to Tehran's powerful baazar and the
Shiite Moslem clergy, were re-elected to their posts at the chamber
of commerce, industry and mines.
Their re-election runs counter to predictions by some reformist
newspapers close to President Mohammad Khatami that the chamber's
leadership would change because it was preparing to shift its
course.
The chamber promotes private economic and trade activities in
Iran and organizes foreign visits for private business delegations.
It has been controlled by the conservative faction of the regime
since the 1979 Islamic revolution.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:35 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Police break up Tehran rally in support of murdered writers

TEHRAN, Jan 23 (AFP) - Police forcibly dispersed a demonstration
here on Saturday in memory of two writers who were murdered in Iran
last month, witnesses said.
Several hundred people had taken part in the rally in front of
the Hassan Mosque in north Tehran, where they had earlier gathered
to commemorate the 40th day since the deaths of Mohammad Mokhtari
and Mohammad Pouyandeh.
Police beat up some protesters with batons, among them relatives
of the writers, after they began shouting: "Down with the
Dictatorship," and other slogans against the regime, witnesses
said.
The mourners poured into the street after they were denied their
request to have their eight speakers deliver speeches in memory of
the writers.
It was the second time in days that riot police had forcibly
broken up a demonstration -- on Thursday police dispersed several
thousand demonstrators who had gathered to mark the anniversary of
the death of former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan, a moderate
Islamic opposition figure who died in 1995.
The writers, who campaigned for human rights, were kidnapped and
killed in early December. The murders followed the stabbing to death
of nationalist opposition leader Daryush Foruhar and his wife in
their Tehran home on November 22.
The intelligence ministry has admitted that rogue secret agents
were involved in the killings, provoking a public furore and bitter
factional fighting between conservatives, and moderate and left-wing
supporters of President Mohammed Khatami.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:41 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Moderate Iranian daily ordered closed for two weeks

TEHRAN, Jan 23 (AFP) - A newspaper run by a daughter of former
Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been banned for two
weeks for allegedly defaming a security official, the daily
announced Saturday.
Zan (Woman) daily, run by moderate MP and feminist activist
Faezeh Hashemi, was ordered closed from January 24 to February 7 by
a Tehran court, it said.
The paper has been plagued by several lawsuits, mainly one filed
by police security chief General Mohammad Naghdi after he was
accused by the daily of participating in an attack on two senior
government officials by Islamic extremists in September.
The general denied having had a role in the attack on former
vice president Abdollah Nuri and Culture Minister Ataollah
Mohajerani -- two leading moderate figures in the government -- and
demanded action against Zan for "defaming" him.
The court has also sentenced Hashemi to a fine of 500 dollars.
Hashemi, a staunch supporter of President Mohammad Khatami, has
waged a campaign against hardline conservatives who still dominate
parliament and the judiciary.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:50 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to borrow one billion dollars for agriculture investment

TEHRAN, Jan 23 (AFP) - Iran's parliament has authorized the
government to borrow one billion dollars from abroad to invest in
the agriculture sector during the 12 months beginning March,
newspapers reported Saturday.
The assembly has already given the government the green light to
seek foreign investment of up to six billion dollars in the energy
sector during the next Iranian year which starts March 21.
It also authorized borrowing of up to 3.5 billion dollars for
funding petrochemical and telecommunication project as well as for
dam construction.
According to forecasts made by parliament, the country will earn
about 12 billion dollars from exports of oil-related products next
year, which is five billion dollars less than the revenues
anticipated for the current year.
The Iranian economy has been badly hit by the plummeting price
of oil on world markets as the country depends on oil sales for
about 80 percent of its hard currency earnings.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:16:56 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Three gunned down in drug-related killing in southern Iran

TEHRAN, Jan 23 (AFP) - Armed drug traffickers attacked and
gunned down three members of a rival drug gang over a financial
dispute in southeastern Iran, the official news agency IRNA reported
Saturday.
The attack took place Friday in Zahedan, the main town in
Sistan-Baluchestan province, after the victims refused to pay around
300,000 dollars they owed for drugs they had recently bought from
the assailants.
Zahedan, near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a hub
of drug-related activities and violence in Iran.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:02 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian cleric warns of Internet "danger"

TEHRAN, Jan 22 (AFP) - A conservative Iranian cleric warned on
Friday of the "danger" of social corruption spreading in the Islamic
republic through foreign satellite programmes and the Internet.
"The enemy is presenting us with a mass of ugly and corrupting
images" through satellites and the World Wide Web, Ayatollah Ahmad
Janati, a powerful figure in Iran's conservative establishment, said
at weekly mass prayers at Tehran University.
"We have to find a way to stop it before it's too late," said
the ayatollah, who is the secretary of the Council of Guardians, a
top legislative body.
Satellite dishes are illegal in Iran, though many people use
them discreetly. The Internet was recently legalised although its
use remains limited and strictly regulated.
Janati said satellites were "threatening human morality and
piety" across the world, and urged Iranian authorities to improve
television programmes to encourage people not to watch foreign
broadcasts.
He said state-run television could produce "educational and
attractive" programmes about the lives of the Moslem Prophet
Mohammad and other holy figures.
Satellite programmes are a popular alternative here to the fare
offered by state television, while many Iranians tune in to foreign
Farsi-language radio stations to catch the news.
"We will only have ourselves to blame for the spread of moral
corruption in society" unless effective counter-measures are taken,
the ayatollah warned.
"A generation devoting itself to sensual pleasures will not even
be able to fast for a single day let alone withstand the attacks of
the enemy."


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:14 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian security forces gun down drug lord

TEHRAN, Jan 22 (AFP) - Iranian security forces shot dead the
head of a large drug ring in the southwestern province of Kerman,
the official IRNA news agency reported Friday.
Issa Qanbarzahi, who was killed on Wednesday, headed the
"largest banditry and drug trafficking gang" and was linked to a
notorious tribe in Kerman, it said.
He was responsible for a host of violent crimes, including
murders, rapes, extortions and kidnappings, IRNA added.
A number of his followers were also killed in an ambush and the
gang was "totally smashed," the agency said, adding that their
demise "caused much happiness among the local people."
Kerman is a major drug route in Iran and a scene of frequent
clashes between security forces and smugglers.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:22 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran police use force to break up rally for late opposition leader

TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) - Iranian riot police broke up a crowd of
thousands gathered for a ceremony in memory of post-revolution prime
minister turned opposition leader Mehdi Bazargan after the event
turned into a raucous political rally.
The police intervened at a mosque in northern Tehran after
crowds poured into the streets, shouting slogans in support of
President Mohammad Khatami and against his conservative opponents.
"Death to despotism ... freedom, security, these are our slogans
... Khatami, we support you," shouted members of the crowd at
Hosseinieh-Ershad mosque.
Several demonstrators fell into open streams running along
Shariati street, where the mosque is located, in scuffles between
demonstrators and plain-clothed securitymen.
Several others were slightly injured in brief clashes with the
police.
There were no immediate reports of any arrests.
Witnesses said around 10,000 people were at the scene, while the
official news agency IRNA estimated the numbers at 4,000, reporting
that there was an "irregularity" and police had intervened to
control the crowds.
Protestors also used the event to condemn last year's spate of
murders of dissidents and intellectuals, in which Iran's
intelligence service has been implicated, and called on conservative
Intelligence Minister Qorban-Ali Dorrie Najafabadi to step down.
Bazargan, who died in 1995, led the interim government under
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini which came to power after the 1979
Islamic revolution.
His government collapsed after eight months under pressure from
the Shiite Moslem clergy opposed to his liberal domestic and foreign
policies, notably his condemnation of the seizure by Islamic
students of the US embassy in November 1979.
Bazargan then joined the opposition and led Iran's Freedom
Movement (IFM), which is banned by authorities here but tolerated.
Since his death the IFM has been led by former foreign minister
Ebrahim Yazdi.
Bazargan's son and daughter, Abdol-Ali and Zahra, as well as one
of his close followers Yusefi Ashkvari, remembered the late
opposition leader as the "tolerant father of the nation with
non-violent views."
"As long as there is no security, we can not talk of political
and economic development," said Abdol-Ali Bazargan, referring to
Khatami's stated plans to carry out social reforms.
The demonstrators also praised the late Mohammad Mosadegh,
Iran's prime minister in early 1950s and father of the nationalist
movement whose government was toppled by a US-backed coup which
brought back the shah back to power.
Bazargan, a protege of Mosadegh who had fought against the
shah's despotic rule, had taken a critical stand against the
excesses of the Islamic regime and was strongly opposed to the
1980-1988 war against Iraq.
A similar gathering last year to mark the third anniversary of
his death turned violent after Islamic extremists attacked mourners
near the mosque.
Bazargan's supporters have been allowed to commemorate his death
publicly in the past two years because of the more tolerant
atmosphere created by Khatami's election in May 1997.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:28 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran police use force to disperse opposition rally

TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) - Tehran police forcibly dispersed
thousands of people commemorating the anniversary Thursday of the
death of former prime minister and Islamic liberal opposition leader
Mehdi Bazargan.
Police intervened at the end of a ceremony at Hosseinieh-Ershad
mosque in northern Tehran after 10,000 people poured into the
streets and shouted slogans in support of President Mohammad Khatami
and against his conservative opponents.
"Death to despotism ... freedom, security, these are our slogans
... Khatami, we support you," shouted the crowd, made up mostly of
young people.
Several demonstrators fell into open streams running along
Shariati street, where the mosque is located, in scuffles between
demonstrators and plain-clothed securitymen.
The protesters condemned the recent spate of murders of
dissidents and intellectuals, in which the country's intelligence
service was implicated, and called on conservative Intelligence
Minister Qorban-Ali Dorrie Najafabadi to step down.
Bazargan, who died in 1995, led the interim government which
came to power after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
His government collapsed after eight months under pressure from
the Shiite Moslem clergy opposed to his liberal domestic and foreign
policies, notably his condemnation of the seizure of the US embassy
in November 1979.
Bazargan then joined the opposition and led Iran's Freedom
Movement (IFM), which is banned but tolerated.
Since Bazargan's death the IFM has been led by former foreign
minister Ebrahim Yazdi.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:34 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran police use force to disperse opposition rally

TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) - Tehran police forcibly dispersed
thousands of people commemorating the anniversary Thursday of the
death of former prime minister and Islamic liberal opposition leader
Mehdi Bazargan.
Police intervened at the end of a ceremony at Hosseinieh-Ershad
mosque in northern Tehran after 10,000 people poured into the
streets and shouted slogans in support of President Mohammad Khatami
and against his conservative opponents.
"Death to despotism ... freedom, security, these are our slogans
... Khatami, we support you," shouted the crowd, made up mostly of
young people.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:41 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Killers of Iranian dissident used film ploy to enter home

TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) - The murderers of Iranian dissident
Daryush Foruhar and his wife killed the couple after entering their
home on the pretext of making a film, a judicial official was quoted
as saying on Thursday.
Mohammad Niazi, a prosecutor with a military court investigating
the case, also said that someone close to Foruhar, probably a member
of his secular nationalist party, accompanied the killers.
The couple were stabbed to death in their Tehran home on
November 22.
Iran's intelligence ministry later admitted that rogue agents
were involved in the murder as well as the killing of two writers in
early December, and Niazi pledged this week that those responsible
would face a public trial soon.
The prosecutor told newspapers that when the killers entered the
Foruhars' home at night, the 70-year-old opposition leader opened
the door dressed in the official attire he always wore when
receiving guests.
He said several accomplices followed Foruhar's "friend" and
another man presented as a student into the house and launched into
a political debate with Foruhar before asking him for permission to
film.
His wife Parvaneh then went upstairs to change her clothes,
Niazi said.
"The killers follow her upstairs and murder her. Then they seat
Foruhar in a chair and attack and kill him from behind," added
Niazi.
The murders shocked the nation and led to a bitter war of words
between supporters of President Mohammad Khatami and his hardline
opponents with both sides blaming the other for the killings.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:48 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to seek 9.5 billion dollars in foreign investment

TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament has allowed the
government to seek 9.5 billion dollars in foreign investment for
various projects, mainly in the energy sector, newspapers reported
Thursday.
About six billion dollars is earmarked for oil projects during
the Iranian year which begins on March 21, they said.
The deals will be conducted largely on a buy-back basis, which
allows the government to repay investors through a share of
production.
Iran has put up some 20 oil and gas projects in the Gulf for
international tender.
An international consortium led by French firm Total has already
been contracted to develop the South Pars gas project in the Gulf.
Other projects up for tender include refineries in the Gulf port
of Bandar-Abbas and the Gulf island of Lavan as well as in Shiraz,
south of Iran, and a number of oil platforms.
The government has also been allowed to borrow up to 3.5 billion
dollars abroad for petrochemical, dam and sewer construction as well
as satellite communication and agricultural projects.
Parliament authorized the government on Wednesday to borrow 300
million dollars to finance the launch of a telecommunications
satellite, expected to take place during the next Iranian year.
According to parliamentary forecasts Wednesday, Iran, the second
largest oil producer in the Middle East, expects to earn 12 billion
dollars from its oil exports this year.
The figures were set out in the government's proposed budget for
next year, which aims to cut state spending following the collapse
of oil prices.
Iran has been hard hit by the slump and expects at least a
five-billion-dollar deficit for the coming fiscal year. It is
counting on crude sales receipts of 11.8 dollars a barrel, although
Iranian crude is currently selling for around nine dollars.
Iran depends on oil exports for over 80 percent of its hard
currency earnings and its economy is extremely vulnerable to price
fluctuations.
Parliament approved Tuesday a 75 percent rise in domestic petrol
prices to around 11 cents a litre although the hike was considerably
less than the 275 percent increase the government had been seeking.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:17:58 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian Hard-liners Threaten Cleric

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Hard-liners have threatened suicide attacks
against a Shiite Muslim cleric for supporting a religious leader
who has questioned the clergy's right to rule Iran, a newspaper
reported Wednesday.
The hard-line Hezbollah of Isfahan group threatened to ``carry
out its political, revolutionary and religious duty, even to the
point of martyrdom'' against Ayatollah Jalaledin Taheri, according
to comments published in the daily Asr-e-Azadegan newspaper.
The group was apparently angered by a prayer service Taheri led
in the city of Isfahan in favor of Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri,
who was once expected to become Iran's supreme religious leader but
was cast aside after he openly criticized the hard-line rule of the
clerics.
The prayer service was attended by about 70,000 people. Critics
of Taheri disrupted the service by heckling and throwing an iron
bar and other objects at the senior cleric.
Afterward, several of Montazeri's supporters were arrested after
they shouted slogans in his favor, The Tehran Times reported. The
prayers were held to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim feast at the end
of the holy month of Ramadan.
Montazeri had been expected to succeed the late Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran's supreme leader. But just months before
dying in June 1989, Khomeini dismissed him because of his comments
against the clergy.
Montazeri still enjoys a large following among Iranians, despite
efforts by hard-liners to sideline him.
The government of President Mohammed Khatami on Wednesday called
for an investigation of the disruption of the prayer service.
``The Cabinet expressed regret over the kind of incidents which
have taken place in Isfahan a number of times and stressed the need
for investigations and the punishment of those responsible,''
state-run television reported.
Since he was dismissed by Khomeini, Montazeri has been under
house arrest in the city of Qom, about 80 miles southwest of the
capital Tehran.
In November 1997, Montazeri was publicly repudiated after he
questioned the legitimacy of rule by the clergy, including Iran's
powerful spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, who replaced Khomeini.
Khamenei accused him of treason and, days later, hard-liners
attacked Montazeri's home and office in Qom, forcing him to flee
under police protection.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:18:10 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian government authorized to borrow funds for satellite

TEHRAN, Jan 20 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament authorized the
government on Wednesday to borrow 300 million dollars to finance the
launch of a telecommunications satellite.
The project is expected to be launched during the next Iranian
year which begins on March 21, fulfilling a long-held ambition of
the Islamic republic.
One satellite project, Zohreh, was due to have been launched in
the 1990s, but it never got off the ground because of financial and
technical restrictions.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:18:21 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian parliament approves petrol price rise

TEHRAN, Jan 20 (AFP) - Iran's parliament has approved a 75
percent increase next year in domestic petrol prices, but the hike
is considerably less than the 275 percent increase demanded by the
government, the official news agency IRNA reported Wednesday.
Petrol prices will rise from 200 rials (six cents) to 350 rials
(11 cents) a litre next year, while a proposed government price rise
to 750 rials (25 cents) a litre was rejected as grossly
inflationary.
The price rise is part of the government's strict austerity
budget for the Iranian year beginning March 21, which aims to cut
spending in the wake of falling oil prices that have slashed
government revenues.
The government has especially targetted petrol subsidies that
make Iranian petrol among the cheapest in the world.
Iranian consumers pay a fraction of the cost price of petrol,
estimated here to be about 900 rials (30 cents) a litre.
The result is that Iran, the second largest oil producer in the
Middle East, is forced to import an annual 300 million dollars'
worth of oil products to satisfy domestic consumption.
IRNA said Wednesday that rock-bottom fuel prices have also led
to thriving and illegal exports of fuel in Iran's border regions.
Profit margins are considerable, with petrol costing 22 times as
much in Turkey, 13 times in Pakistan and 10 times as much in the
oil-producing United Arab Emirates, according to IRNA.
It quoted deputies as saying some four million litres of fuel
are smuggled abroad annually in this way, 500,000 litres of which
are destined for the Gulf emirates.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Jan 1999 to 24 Jan 1999