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There are 10 messages totalling 403 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iran voices disapproval over Indian visa for Rushdie
2. New Iranian intelligence chief approved by parliament
3. Iranian foreign minister arrives in India
4. Leading Iranian reform candidate says disqualification illegal
5. Iran's conservatives maintain hold on key electoral council
6. Iranian foreign minister en route to India
7. Jordan wants to develop relations with Iran and all Moslem countries
8. Iran's president to visit Saudi Arabia
9. US rejects Iranian criticism of trans-Caspian gas pipeline
10. Four hurt as Iraqi protestors attack Iraqi embassy in Tehran

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Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:33:48 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran voices disapproval over Indian visa for Rushdie

NEW DELHI, Feb 24 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
Wednesday criticised India for granting a visa to British writer
Salman Rushdie after 10 years.
Kharazi, who oversaw the signing of several important trade
agreements, told a news conference here that Rushdie's visit could
create religious tension in Hindu-dominated India.
"We are not happy," he said. "What India needs is unity and
those who use all the means and ways to divide nations have not to
be encouraged.
"It is a time for more understanding between Moslems and
non-Moslems in India. Anything that divides them should not be
done."
India's Hindu nationalist government last month decided to grant
a visa to the Indian-born Rushdie, whose controversial book "The
Satanic Verses" is banned here.
The novel is considered blasphemous by many Moslems, and earned
Rushdie a death sentence from Iranian religious leader Ayatollah
Khomeini in 1989.
Tehran distanced itself from the "fatwa" in September, but
Islamic organisations have warned the death sentence can never be
revoked.
The move to allow Rushdie into India -- home to some 125 million
Moslems -- has been condemned by Moslem leaders here and led to
street protests.
Kharazi and his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh were, however,
upbeat on improving trade, with the signing of pacts on maritime
commercial navigation and opening a trade route to Turkmenistan to
service Central Asian republics.
Singh said the causes for the poor trade level were "identified"
and added that "correcting the lacuna" had been on top of the
agenda.
Kharazi arrived in India Tuesday at the head of a high-level
delegation comprising several ministers.
Officials said the two sides also discussed matters relating to
industry, agriculture, trade, transport, communication, petroleum,
culture, consular matters and science and technology.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:33:59 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: New Iranian intelligence chief approved by parliament

TEHRAN, Feb 24 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament on Wednesday
overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Ali Yunesi, a 43-year-old
conservative cleric, to head the scandal-tainted intelligence
ministry.
A total of 197 members of the conservative-dominated parliament,
the Majlis, voted in favor of Yunesi following two hours of debate
while nine opposed his nomination and 18 abstained.
Yunesi was named by President Mohammad Khatami to take over as
head of the powerful ministry following the resignation of the
former minister, Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.
Najafabadi stepped down on February 9 following revelations that
"rogue" intelligence agents had been involved in the high-profile
murders of several Iranian dissidents and writers last year.
The vote in favor of Yunesi followed a speech by Khatami in
which he said that changes at the intelligence ministry had become
"indispensable" following the wave of assassinations.
"We are determined to eradicate the malignant cancer which was
behind the murders," Khatami said, noting that the brutal slayings
had "shocked" both the government and the population.
"We want an intelligence agency and not a repressive police
apparatus," Iran's reformist president said, adding that the new
minister should display "greater intelligence."
"We need strong arms but smart heads," he said.
The intelligence ministry revealed in January that several
agents of its agents had been arrested in connection with the
murders of the leader of a nationalist opposition group and his wife
and three writers campaigning for greater freedom of expression in
the Islamic Republic.
Conservatives in the regime have insisted the killings were the
work of foreign agitators while reformists have accused Islamic
fundamentalists -- backed by conservatives -- of being behind the
murders.
Yunesi, in a brief speech, said his goal as head of the ministry
would be to "reestablish authority."
"Authority, of course, but also popularity," he added.
Yunesi headed a special committee of inquiry into the
dissidents' murders and has wide experience in intelligence affairs
having helped establish the intelligence ministry in the early 1980s
after the Islamic Revolution.
The holder of master's degrees in both education and political
science, Yunesi has also served as a public prosecutor in Tehran and
as head of the judicial division of the armed forces.
He joined Palestinian and Lebanese guerrilla groups after being
forced to leave the country in 1975 due to his anti-Shah activities,
according to a biography published by the IRNA news agency.
On his return, he was arrested and "severely tortured" in 1978
by Savak, the Shah's secret police, IRNA said.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:04 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian foreign minister arrives in India

NEW DELHI, Feb 23 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
arrived here Tuesday for meetings with Indian officials, the United
News of India (UNI) reported.
Kharazi, heading a political and economic delegation, is to take
part in the Iranian-Indian joint committee session beginning
Wednesday as well as hold talks with Indian officials on bilateral
and regional issues.
UNI said the visit was "part of high-level interaction between
the two countries in the last decade to further expand and diversify
friendly ties."
The joint committee session would deal with industry,
agriculture, trade, transport, communication, petroleum, culture,
consular matters and science and technology.
Kharazi ends his visit Wednesday.
Iran hailed on Sunday Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee's landmark visit to neigbouring Pakistan, saying the move
would strengthen peace and stability.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:11 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Leading Iranian reform candidate says disqualification illegal

TEHRAN, Feb 23 (AFP) - The leading reformer running in Tehran's
landmark municipal polls said Tuesday that his disqualification by
the conservative-dominated election Supervision Council was
illegal.
Both the interior ministry and a conciliation committee have
declared the removal from the ballot of 12 reform candidates led by
Vice President Abdollah Nuri to be "illegal and baseless," said
Nuri, who is close to moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
The reformist-led interior ministry issued a statement
"rejecting the rumors about the ineligibility of some candidates" in
the country's first-ever municipal elections, which will be held
nationwide.
"All the candidacies published in recent days within the legal
time period are valid and the candidates can campaign," the ministry
said.
However, the Supervision Council, which decides whose
candidacies are valid, has said that Nuri did not resign from his
vice presidential post in time to run in Friday's elections.
In response to criticism by Tehran governor Ayatollah Azarmi of
the 11th-hour disqualifications, the council's leader, conservative
MP Ali Movahedi-Savoji, said: "There is no time period for
announcing eligibility."
Azarmi had told the official news agency IRNA: "Due to the fact
that the deadline by which the Supervision Council had to express
its views on the candidates has expired, Tehran's governorate
general cannot accept the rejection of the qualifications of these
candidates."
Movahedi-Savoji also said that the conciliation committee's
opinion "could not in any case block our decision."
"The rejected candidates cannot put themselves forward while the
problems concerning them have not been resolved. Without that,
ballots in their favor will be void." he told the conservative
Kayhan newspaper.
Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, who is responsible
for organizing Friday's vote, had charged that Mohavedi-Savoji's
disqualification order against the moderate candidates was invalid
because it bore the signatures of just two of the Supervision
Council's members, not the three required by law.
But Mohavedi-Savoji retorted that the order was quite legal
because the decision had been taken in the presence of three of the
council's members.
Some of the candidates had been disqualified for failing to
provide documentary proof that they had resigned from all government
posts as required by electoral law, Kayhan said.
Others had failed to sign the required declaration of support
for the position of supreme leader, the constitutional centerpiece
of Iran's Islamic Republic currently held by Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei.
And one candidate did not have the clean police record required
by electoral law, Kayhan said.
"Whether my eligibility is approved by the council or not makes
no difference to me," Nuri told a news conference, adding that
"what's important is that the elections take place."
Control of the capital with its 10 million-plus population is
the principal prize in the elections as both conservatives and
reformers seek to consolidate their local power base ahead of next
year's key parliamentary elections.
The Iran News daily said Tuesday that the attempt to prevent
reformers from running "can be interpreted as an anti-election
measure" that "will no doubt put a damper on the election process
and may even heighten tension between political factions and
parties."
"The disqualified candidates may then become even more popular
because our national mentality is such that our public always
supports the innocent and those who are perceived to have been
wronged," the English-language paper said.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:18 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's conservatives maintain hold on key electoral council

TEHRAN, Feb 23 (AFP) - Iran's conservatives demonstrated their
continuing stranglehold on one of the Islamic Republic's key
institutions Tuesday with the reelection of conservative cleric Ali
Meshkini to the chairmanship of the Council of Experts.
Meshkini, 74, was reelected by 66 votes out of 85 at the
council's first full session since nationwide elections last
October, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Ali
Amini won election with 75 and 59 votes respectively to serve as
vice chairmen of the council, which is responsible for electing and,
if need be, dismissing the country's supreme leader, currently
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Hojatoleslam Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, who resigned as
intelligence minister earlier this month after his ministry's shock
admission that "rogue" agents were involved in a string of brutal
murders of dissidents late last year, was elected as secretary.
The conservatives swept October's elections to the council after
many reformist candidates were disqualified, prompting criticism
from moderate President Mohammed Khatami and calls for a boycott
from his more radical supporters.
The council, whose membership is restricted to the Shiite Moslem
clergy, is elected in nationwide elections every eight years. Its
officers are elected for two year terms.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:31 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian foreign minister en route to India

TEHRAN, Feb 23 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
left Tehran Tuesday for New Delhi for meetings with Indian
officials, Iran's IRNA news agency said.
Kharazi, who is heading a political and economic delegation,
will take part in the Iranian-Indian joint committee session which
begins Wednesday and hold talks with Indian government officials on
bilateral, regional and broader issues.
Iran hailed Sunday Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's
visit to Pakistan, saying it hoped the move would strengthen peace
and stability in the area.
Tehran has said it feared the nuclear tests conducted last year
by India and then Pakistan would start a nuclear arms race on the
subcontinent.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:37 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Jordan wants to develop relations with Iran and all Moslem countries

AMMAN, Feb 22 (AFP) - Jordan wants to improve its relations with
all Arab and Moslem countries, including Iran, Foreign Minister Ilah
al-Khatib said Monday.
"Jordan is attached to its relations with Iran, a fraternal
Moslem country, and wants to develop ties with it in all fields," he
said in an interview with AFP.
He criticised "certain people's eagerness to attack these
relations with the aim of damaging the constant and clear policy
pursued by Jordan."
Relations between Jordan and Iran were strained earlier this
month, after an interview given by King Abdallah II to the Arab
daily Al-Hayat, in which he described Iran as a "threat" to some
Gulf countries.
Iran made an official protest but the Jordanian authorities were
reported to have assured Tehran that the words had been "taken out
of context."
Relations between the two countries have improved markedly in
the past few years, but they still have radical differences, in
particular over the Middle East peace process. They reestablished
diplomatic relations in 1991, after a break of 10 years.
As for Iraq, Khatib said Jordan's policy was based on the need
to "put an end to the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and to
preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of
Iraq, and non-interference in its internal affairs."

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:49 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran's president to visit Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Feb 22 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is to
make his first visit to Saudi Arabia around the time of the annual
Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca at the end of March, Iran's ambassador to
Riyadh said Monday.
Mohammad Reza Nuri said the visit would come during the annual
pilgrimage, known as the hajj, or shortly after. "Contacts are in
progress to fix the exact date," he told journalists.
Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan ibn Abdel Aziz, meanwhile,
is also to visit Iran soon, the ambassador said.
In another sign of the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement that began
with reformist Khatami's May 1997 election, Saudi Arabian Airlines
will resume flights to Iran after halting them 20 years ago after
Tehran's Islamic revolution, the official Saudi news agency SPA
said.
SPA did not say when the flights will begin.
Iran Air started weekly flights to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last
year.
As in past years, Iran plans to hold an anti-US and anti-Israeli
demonstration during the hajj. In 1987, more than 400 people were
killed when Saudi security forces broke up the protest.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 02:34:57 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US rejects Iranian criticism of trans-Caspian gas pipeline

BAKU, Feb 22 (AFP) - The United States reaffirmed Monday it
planned to stretch a 2.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline from
Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan despite Iranian objections to the
project.
US special envoy to the Caspian region Richard Morningstar said
the pipeline would go ahead once Baku and Ashgabad sign an
inter-governmental agreement.
"If Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan agree, and assuming that the
financing agencies are satisfied that there are no environmental
issues, the pipeline will go forward," Morningstar said.
Turkmenistan and a multinational consortium, led by US companies
Bechtel Enterprises and General Electric Finance Group, agreed
Friday to build a 1,950-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline to bring
Turkmen gas to western markets.
Iran immediately called the plan "unacceptable," saying that
Turkmenistan had no right to initiate unilateral projects while the
Caspian's status was still under discussion.
Five countries bordering the Caspian -- Russia, Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran -- have been unable to reach
agreement on how to divide the sea among themselves.
In signing the pipeline agreement, Ashgabad agreed to put to the
side a long-running dispute with Azerbaijan over the ownership of
four oil fields located near the dividing line between their two
sectors.
Morningstar, the Clinton administration's point man for energy
issues in the Caspian region, met with Azerbaijani President Heydar
Aliyev during his one-day visit to potentially oil-rich former
Soviet republic.

------------------------------

Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 03:56:15 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Four hurt as Iraqi protestors attack Iraqi embassy in Tehran

TEHRAN, Feb 23 (AFP) - Iraqi security guards fired shots in the
air and four people were injured as hundreds of Iraqi opponents of
President Saddam Hussein attacked the Iraqi embassy here Tuesday,
Iraqi opposition sources said.
Some 1,000 protestors threw stones at the mission and tried to
scale the surrounding walls and get inside, members of the
Tehran-based Iraqi opposition group, the Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said.
Iraqi security guards fired about 15 shots into the air to try
to force the demonstrators back, they said.
Four people were slightly hurt when Iranian police moved in to
disperse the crowd, the SCIRI members said in accounts of the
incident which were confirmed to AFP by witnesses.
A sentry hut outside the embassy was destroyed by the protestors
and one person who managed to get inside the diplomatic complex was
thrown out.
Earlier Tuesday, several hundred Iraqis living in Iran
demonstrated outside the UN building here against last week's
assassination of a top Shiite Moslem cleric in Iraq and Baghdad's
crackdown on Shiite protests.
The demonstrators called on the international community to act
against "the repression and massacres of innocent people in Iraq."
The protestors, who included women and children, also chanted
slogans "against the Iraqi regime and the hegemonistic policy of the
United States," the official IRNA news agency reported.
Top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Sadek al-Sadr and two of
his sons were assassinated in Iraq on Friday, and the Iraqi
opposition says fierce clashes subsequently broke out in several
towns between protestors and security forces.

------------------------------

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 25 Feb 1999
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