Date: Feb 28, 1999 [ 0: 0: 1]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Feb 1999 to 27 Feb 1999

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Feb 1999 to 27 Feb 1999
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There are 11 messages totalling 495 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Large turnout for Iran's local election hailed as advance for democracy
2. GCC warns Iran over disputed islands
3. Iran launches Gulf war games
4. Pro-Kurds group targets Iranian embassy in The Hague
5. UN envoy calls for abolishing Iranian Cleric's Court
6. Iranians vote in first municipal elections in 20 years
7. UAE appeals to UN over Iranian move on disputed island
8. Iranian opposition leader hopes to win legitimacy after vote
9. Iran proposes gas pipeline through Pakistan, India
10. Iranian navy to stage war games near disputed Gulf island
11. India, Iran studying Indian Ocean gas pipeline

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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:05:38 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Large turnout for Iran's local election hailed as advance for democracy

TEHRAN, Feb 27 (AFP) - Iran's first local elections were
acclaimed Saturday as a major advance for grass-roots democracy 20
years after the Islamic revolution but they also highlighted the
bitter divide between moderates and the regime's hardline clerics.
Although no official figures have been published for Friday's
landmark poll, Iranian newspapers said turnout was strong,
particularly among young people who are among the most ardent
supporters of reform.
The English-language Iran News described the election, seen as a
key test for the reformist agenda of President Mohammad Khatami, as
"the biggest experiment of democracy and decentralization in the
Islamic state."
"February 26, 1999, will henceforth be recalled as one of the
important socio-political events in the tumultuous history of this
land in which tyrants, traitors, predators and also patriots ruled
for more than 25 centuries," trumpeted the Iran Daily, another
English-language paper.
Reformers had been hoping for a strong turnout from the nation's
40 million eligible voters, particularly among the women and young
people who helped sweep Khatami to his shock election victory in
1997.
"People's rule over their own destiny is a manifestation of one
of the revolution's biggest ideals," said Khatami, who is battling
to get his reforms past the hardline clerics who dominate most of
the country's religious and political institutions.
Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said Friday that voter
participation in what newspapers said was the country's 20th
election since the 1979 revolution had been "heavy" although he gave
no figures.
He said it would take at least a week to complete the counting
of the ballots and publish the final results in all parts of the
country.
Tehran, with almost 10 million residents, is the biggest prize
in the election, followed by the four other big cities of Isfahan,
Shiraz, Mashhad and Tabriz -- all with about 1,000 candidates. A
total of around 200,000 seats on 33,000 municipal councils were at
stake.
"The people's massive turnout at the polling booths yesterday
reflected their enormous confidence and trust in the system," said
the conservative Tehran Times.
But the campaign was marred by violence and intense political
wrangling with hardliners and reformers seeking to consolidate local
power bases for next year's parliamentary elections.
The Iran Daily said the elections took place "despite deep and
dangerous differences between the two top factions, each with an
entirely difference approach to political participation and
rules-based governance.
"The so-called rightist camp made little effort to camouflage
its opposition and sheer lack of optimism towards this new and
necessary exercise," it added.
The Tehran Times, expressing its concern over the political
violence, spoke out against "rogue elements" seeking to damage the
democratic process.
"Such a political phenomenon is detrimental to the political
health and stability of our system," it said in an editorial.
Some newspapers also pointed to imperfections in the election
process itself.
Kayhan International said that while there was a large variety
of candidates, "the downside was that there were too many
candidates, which made quite a number of lay people confused, and
unable to vote."
In Tehran some 4,000 people were standing for office, most of
them unknown to the general public.
(The foreign-based opposition movement, the National Council of
Resistance of Iran, said in a statement received in Nicosia that
there were "numerous clashes" during the elections, which were
"widely boycotted."
The Council, which is dominated by the main armed opposition
group, the People's Mojahedin, said several protestors were killed
or injured in Khonj, southern Iran, when the State Security Force
and Revolutionary Guards fired at a crowd which was attacking
official buildings. Many people were arrested, it said.
In the northwestern town of Marand, many people were injured and
scores arrested, when the Revolutionary Guards and State Security
Force broke up a crowd shouting slogans against Khatami and Iran's
spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Council said.)

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:05:43 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: GCC warns Iran over disputed islands

RIYADH, Feb 27 (AFP) - The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) warned Iran on Saturday that it was damaging relations with
its Arab neighbours because of a dispute with the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) over three islands.
"A favourable response from Iran to UAE calls to resolve this
conflict through direct negotiations or the International Court of
Justice would go a long way toward a strengthening of relations,"
said Jamil al-Hujailan.
The secretary general said that if Iran "persists in occupying
these islands and consolidating its occupation, it will not be in
the interests of relations between the GCC and Iran."
The islands of Abu Musa and the Lesser and Greater Tunbs are
claimed by both Iran and the UAE, which has repeatedly called on
Tehran to accept dialogue or international arbitration to resolve
the dispute.
The UAE formally protested to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
over Tehran's opening of a new town hall earlier this month on Abu
Musa.
Iran has controlled the three islands since 1971 after Britain
ended its protectorate in the region. Tehran rejects arbitration,
claiming the islands are part of its territory.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:05:49 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran launches Gulf war games

TEHRAN, Feb 27 (AFP) - Iran launched nine days of military
manoeuvres in the Gulf and Sea of Oman on Saturday.
The exercises, dubbed Fateh-77 or Victory, are being jointly
conducted by air and naval units from the army, spokesman Admiral
Fariborz Fazel told the official IRNA news agency.
"Eleven vessels, two submarines, eight fighter planes and
helicopters and three teams of frogmen as well as 10 teams for
special operations are taking part in the war games," he said.
The Islamic republic holds around 40 military manoeuvres every
year in the waters of the Gulf or the Sea of Oman.
Iran said Friday that the exercises are being held between the
disputed island of Abu Musa and the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance
to the Gulf.
Abu Musa, along with Lesser and Greater Tunbs, are claimed by
both Iran and the UAE, which has called on Tehran to accept dialogue
or international arbitration to resolve the dispute.
Iran has controlled the disputed islands since 1971 after
Britain ended its protectorate in the region. It has repeatedly
rejected arbitration and insists the islands are part of its
territory.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:05:54 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Pro-Kurds group targets Iranian embassy in The Hague

THE HAGUE, Feb 27 (AFP) - Activists claiming to support the
Kurdish cause, targetted the Iranian embassy in The Hague on Friday
night, throwing petrol bombs at the facade and breaking a window,
police said.
Dutch police guarding the embassy said the unknown assailants
struck shortly before 11:00 p.m. (2200 GMT) throwing various
missiles at the building including Molotov cocktails one of which
smashed a window before falling into the embassy garden and bursting
into flames.
In the leaflet left at the scene, the attack was claimed by the
hitherto unknown group "Communist revolutionaries in Europe", which
said it was supporting the Kurdish cause.
"We are defending the just combat of the Kurdish people," the
group said, accusing the Iranian embassy of being a "centre for
terrorists" and accusing Tehran of massacring Iranian Kurds.
"On February 22, the Iranian regime perpetrated a bloodbath in
the Kurdish regions of Mahabad, Mariwan, Saghez, Kanjaran and
Sanadaj," the leaflet said.
Contrary to information initially given by a police spokesman,
the attack did not cause a fire inside the embassy building, an AFP
journalist at the scene said.
Dutch police have opened an investigation into the incident.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:00 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: UN envoy calls for abolishing Iranian Cleric's Court

GENEVA, Feb 26 (AFP) - A UN human rights report on Iran
published Friday in Geneva recommended the suppression of the
country's Cleric's Court, whose powers are far-reaching, or at least
its transformation.
"At this point in the Islamic Republic's history, it is
difficult to justify the continued existence of such an apparently
arbitrary and secretive tribunal," the UN Special Representative of
the Commission on Human Rights, Maurice Copithorne of Canada, wrote
in the report.
The UN Commission on Human Rights is due to meet here March
22-April 30.
Copithorne, who was not authorized to investigate inside Iran,
recommended in the report that the Court "be abolished, or at least
that it be converted into a commission charged with settling
theological disputes in the narrowest sense."
The UN envoy "sees the appointment of a press jury in the
Cleric's Court as an ominous expansion of its jurisdiction," the
report added.
The court has broad jurisdiction, covering not only acts
contrary to religious law by clergy members, but also events harmful
to public security in which one of the parties is a clergyman.
It is also considered competent in all affairs referred to it by
the cabinet of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While some consider the tribunal anti-constitutional, justice
ministry officials point out it is within the competence of the
supreme leader to establish such a tribunal.
The report noted that Iranian President Khatami's plans "for a
tolerant, diverse and law-abiding society continue to unfold," but
also that a wave of high-profile murders and disappearances "suggest
a pattern of harassment and persecution of moderate and often
secular voices."
It called attention to the existence of torture and executions,
and evoked the suspension of newspapers and the detention of
journalists.
While acknowledging the "high-profile subject" of womens'
status, it noted "little progress so far in sight on core issues."
Regarding the Baha'is minority, the report said, "overall, the
situation of the Baha'is has not improved; in some respects it has
deteriorated."
University enrolment was one case where Baha'i youth continued
to be refused, it said.
In its conclusion, the report said government plans for change
"were and continue to be significant, if not monumental."
"Progress has been uneven and objected to by many."
It urged Khatami to "stay the course," and to establish
confidence in its plans "in the face of attempts, including violent
ones, to divert reform efforts."

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:09 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians vote in first municipal elections in 20 years

TEHRAN, Feb 26 (AFP) - Iranians headed to the polls Friday in
the first municipal elections in two decades seen as a key battle
between the regime's hardliners and reformists allied with President
Mohammad Khatami.
Several top leaders, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, were among the first to vote and visits to several polling
stations around the capital indicated turnout was fairly high.
Khatami cast his vote in northern Tehran at Jamaran, the former
residence of late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,
and reiterated that the landmark vote had been one of his main
campaign promises before his 1997 election.
"People's rule over their own destiny is a manifestation of one
of the revolution's biggest ideals," he said, quoted by the official
IRNA news agency.
But parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri vowed that a
heavy turnout would favour his hardline Islamists who oppose
Khatami's reformist agenda.
"The people's participation in different arenas will encourage
the friends of the Islamic revolution and disappoint its enemies,"
he told IRNA.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who heads the
powerful Expediency Council, also voted in Jamaran and said "the
Islamic republic attaches great importance to the demands of public
opinion."
Ibrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned but tolerated Freedom
Movement of Iran, an umbrella opposition group, told BBC radio he
hoped the vote would lead to official recognition.
"We are hoping that we will reach the point that the
authorities, from the leftist factions, from the reformist factions
or the rightist factions ... acknowledge the legitimacy of the
opposition parties.
"We haven't yet reached that point," he said.
Reformers are hoping for a strong turnout from the nation's 40
million eligible voters, particularly young people who
overwhelmingly supported Khatami in 1997.
Some 53,000 voting stations are open and a site was even
established along the Tehran-Karaj highway to enable motorists to
participate.
Municipal elections are provided for in Iran's 1980 constitution
but were never held -- first because of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war,
according to authorities, and then because of financial and
organisational problems.
Tehran, with almost 10 million residents and 4,000 candidates,
is the biggest prize in the election, followed by the four other big
cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Tabriz -- all with about
1,000 candidates.
The campaign for Friday's polling -- with some 200,000 seats on
33,000 municipal councils at stake -- has been marred by violence
and intense political wrangling as hardliners and reformers seek to
consolidate local power bases for next year's parliamentary
elections.
On Wednesday automatic weapon fire riddled the Tehran offices of
the Executives of Construction Party, the main reformist group
behind Khatami.
The previously unknown group Ansar Sarallah claimed the attack,
denouncing "a society in which we see more and more depravity
erupting under the guise of freedom and a civil society," a
reference to Khatami's reformist agenda.
"If ears to hear the imam's commands are blocked, we will
unblock them with bullets," the anonymous caller told a newspaper
here. There were also reports of stabbings and attacks at various
rallies around the nation.
In another sign of the bitter rivalry, hardliners attempted to
disqualify a dozen leading reformist candidates in Tehran. The
dispute was only resolved by Khatami's intervention less than 24
hours before polls opened.
Some 140,000 policemen have been mobilised to prevent any
disturbances during the voting and deputy security minister Hossein
Motahar said midday that all polling stations were "perfectly
calm."
Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi-Lari, said it would take
"at least a week" to complete the ballot counting and publish the
results.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:12 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: UAE appeals to UN over Iranian move on disputed island

ABU DHABI, Feb 26 (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has
formally protested to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over Tehran's
opening of a new town hall this month on the disputed Gulf island of
Abu Musa.
The UAE's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Jassem
al-Nuaimi, told reporters he had met Annan on Thursday and had given
him a formal memorandum of protest.
Iran also said Friday it would stage war games near the
strategic island, one of three in the Gulf claimed both by Iran and
the UAE.
"These moves by the Iranian government are a flagrant violation
of the accord signed between the two countries in 1971 on the
island," Nuaimi said.
"This move is aimed at imposing a fait accompli and perpetuating
by force the island's occupation," he said.
During a visit to Abu Dhabi in December, Annan proposed leading
a mediation effort between the UAE and Iran, but only if both states
agreed.
Abu Musa, along with the Lesser and Greater Tunbs, are claimed
by both Iran and the UAE, which has repeatedly called on Tehran to
accept dialogue or international arbitration to resolve the
dispute.
Iran has controlled the disputed islands since 1971 after
Britain ended its protectorate in the region. It has repeatedly
rejected arbitration, claiming the islands are part of its
territory.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:20 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian opposition leader hopes to win legitimacy after vote

LONDON, Feb 26 (AFP) - The leader of an outlawed Iranian
opposition group said Friday he hoped the country's first local
elections in 20 years would spur the authorities to recognise the
legitimacy of opposition groups.
"We are hoping that we will reach the point that the
authorities, from the leftist factions, from the reformist factions
or the rightist factions ... acknowledge the legitimacy of the
opposition parties," said Ibrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned but
tolerated Freedom Movement of Iran.
"We haven't yet reached that point," Yazdi said in an interview
with BBC radio.
Friday's elections are seen as a key battle between the regime's
hardliners and reformists allied with President Mohammad Khatami,
and for the first time the FMI has been allowed to present four
candidates in Tehran.
However its candidates in the provinces were all disqualified by
selection committees dominated by hardliners in the Islamic regime.
The four approved FMI candidates have joined nine reformers --
including four women -- on a list of moderates headed by former
interior minister Abdollah Nuri fighting for 15 seats on the Tehran
municipal council.
Yazdi said police and intelligence ministry agents raided his
campaign office on Saturday, arresting four staff members and
confiscating documents.
He said a judge had refused to investigate the matter but
described the atmosphere in Iran for Friday's elections, in which
more than 40 million people are eligible to vote, as "more
relaxed."
"Many of our supporters are able to actively participate in the
campaign. That is a good sign, that is why we hope that in the
future this movement will spread and get deeper and deeper," he
said.
The FMI was established by politicians who took part in the 1979
Islamic revolution but who have since distanced themselves from the
regime.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:27 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran proposes gas pipeline through Pakistan, India

BOMBAY, Feb 26 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
proposed Friday laying an overland gas pipeline from his country to
India via Pakistan as a means to boost regional economic and
political ties.
"We should set aside political differences to boost regional
cooperation. The overland gas pipeline can be a good example as to
how countries can build a better future for their children,"
Kharrazi told reporters here.
The pipeline, to transport Iranian gas to India, could be laid
under the sea as well, but the overland route would be more
economical, he said.
"We have had preliminary discussions with Pakistan for the
overland route, but nothing concrete has emerged.
"If the overland route works out, it can symbolise peace in the
region." he said.
The proposal comes in the wake of last weekend's landmark summit
between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Lahore.
Kharrazi said Indo-Iranian trade, business and economic ties
could be further strengthened as both countries had significant
resources, although he admitted there were problems over
bureaucratic inefficiency and a lack of transparent laws and
regulations on both sides.
Kharrazi arrived in India Tuesday at the head of a high-level
delegation comprising several ministers.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:33 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian navy to stage war games near disputed Gulf island

TEHRAN, Feb 26 (AFP) - The Iranian navy is to stage war games
near the strategic Gulf island of Abu Musa, one of three islands
claimed both by Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the official IRNA
news agency reported Friday.
The nine-day exercises, dubbed Fateh-77 or Conquest, will start
on Saturday between Abu Musa and the Strait of Hormuz at the
entrance to the Gulf, military spokesman Fariborz Fazel told IRNA.
Several navy units and fighter jets from a southern military
base will be taking part in the exercises along with submarines, the
spokesman said. Iran has three Russian-made submarines.
The Islamic republic holds around 40 military manoeuvres every
year in the waters of the Gulf or the Sea of Oman.
Abu Musa, along with Lesser and Greater Tunbs, are claimed by
both Iran and the UAE, which has called on Tehran to accept dialogue
or international arbitration to resolve the dispute.
Iran has controlled the disputed islands since 1971 after
Britain ended its protectorate in the region. It has repeatedly
rejected arbitration and claims the islands are part of its
territory.

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

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:06:38 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: India, Iran studying Indian Ocean gas pipeline

TEHRAN, Feb 25 (AFP) - An Indian delegation is to visit Iran to
discuss the possibility of building an Indian Ocean pipeline to ship
Iranian liquified natural gas to the subcontinent, Foreign Minister
Kamal Kharazi said Thursday.
Kharazi, in an interview with the official IRNA news agency in
New Delhi, where the foreign minister is on a visit, said
discussions were held with Indian officials on LNG purchases and the
possibility of building a pipeline.
"India will be needing a lot of energy fuel in the future and
therefore this is a sound basis for Tehran-New Delhi ties," he
said.
"An Indian delegation is expected to visit Tehran to study the
possibility of laying a gas pipeline grid to India and the
finalization of liquified gas purchases," he added.
Kharazi said a pipeline through the Indian Ocean "seems to be
the most practical plan."
"Laying the gas pipeline grid through Pakistan, which would need
the sanction of the three nations, as a second possibility is under
study," he added.
The foreign minister also said agreement had been reached for
Iran to invest an additional 12 million dollars in an oil refinery
in the southern Indian city of Madras.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Feb 1999 to 27 Feb 1999
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