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There are 13 messages totalling 818 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

2. New Party Announces Formation
3. Italian university to honor Rushdie
4. Saudi defense minister to make first visit to Iran
5. Tehran mosques to use cyberspace to counter Western cultural invasion
6. Conservatives, reformers battle over meaning of Iran vote results
7. Protests mar Iranian leader's landmark visit to Italy
8. Protestors hurl paint at Iranian leader's car, 13 arrested
9. Iranian students call for boycott over liberal cleric's arrest
10. Tehran's "electronic" president disappears
11. Iranian conservative calls for impeachment of interior minister
12. Text of Clinton Notice on Continuation of Iran Emergency
13. Iran's Conservatives Shift Tactics in Internal Political Debate


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 18:05:46 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>




In a letter to the United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan,
some members of the Washington-based "Alliance for Iran" have
called on him for the immediate release from jail of Mr. Abbas
Amir Entezam, Iran,s, and probably one of the world's oldest
political prisoner.
A former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Amir Entezam was first
jailed on charges of espionage for the CIA, an accusation never
proved and though he was kept in prison and tortured for 17
years, he was never tried.
Thrown out of jail in 1977 after he refused to leave prison
without a "fair trial" with the presence of international press
and lawyers alongside Iranians, Mr. Amir Entezam was suddenly re
arrested after, in interviews with foreign-based Persian service
radio stations, he gave graphic details of some of the 171
methods of tortures applied on political prisoners in Iranian
Islamic jails.
He was tried in abstentia last February, but nothing is known
from the court's decision. A few weeks ago, the civilian court
judging Mr. Amir Entezam ruled that it was not competent to
judge charges of sedition and rebellion against state and the
sacred Islamic Republic, sending the case to an Islamic
Revolution Court.

Following is the letter of The Alliance to Mr Annan

Feb. 10, 1999

The honorable Kofi Annan
Secretary General, UN
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Annan,

The life of one of the most prominent political opponents of the
Islamic regime of Iran , Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam who had served
as deputy prime minister under the government of Mehdi Bazargan
after the 1979 revolution is in grave danger. He is the longest
held political prisoner in Iran for "crimes" in defense of human
rights and for advocating democracy in Iran. His opposition to
the rule of the clerics in Iran, which is shared by the majority
of Iranians, has made him the prime target of assasination by
the regime. In
numerous occasions, Mr. Amir Entezam and his wife have written
letters to the President of Iran, Mr. Mohammed Khatami demanding
an open trial with observers from the international body and the
right to select his personal attorney to defend himself against
charges he is accused of.

Last week, he barely escaped an assassination attempt by the
guards while in captivity. In chains, he was transferred to a
hospital and gravely ill he was brought back to prison. The
President was notified as well as other officials in the
government. However, no measure has been taken to secure his
life. Iranians, residing abroad in Europe and the United States
in a "solidarity" movement to echo the atrocities of the regime
in Iran, are requesting the United Nations and yourself to use
your power to demand the following from the Islamic regime in
Iran :

1. Stop the crimes against humanity and the political
assasination of opponents in Iran.

2. An open trial for the accused parties in the recent murders
of the Forouhars and other political activists.

3.The freedom of all political prisoners in Iran.

The Alliance for defence of human rights in Iran received a
message from the Archbishop Desmond Tutu in support of human
rights and the Iranian movement for democracy. (copy attached).

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Iranian
revolution, the Islamic regime has for the first time invited
the American Press and Academic figures to attend lectures and
conferences in Tehran and other cities. This coincides with the
most horrific crimes and murders undertaken by elements within
the Islamic regime against writers, journalists, academicians
and activists inside
Iran. The Islamic regime of Iran as a signatory to the Charter
of UN Human Rights, has lost its legitimacy to represent the
Iranian people and to secure the safety of its citizens.

The world and the United Nations must put pressure on the
Islamic regime to accept UN observers to investigate the recent
political murders.

The Alliance for defence of human rights in Iran has organised a
series of lectures and conferences for Mr. Arash Forouhar, the
son of the late Iranian patriots, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar
who were brutally murdered in Tehran in November 22nd 1998.
Mr. A. Forouhar has crucial evidence and documents which
implicates the Ministry of Information of the Islamic Republic
for his
parents' murder. He will be in New York for Press Conferences
and other meetings on Feb 11 and Feb 12, 1999.

We will be glad to organise an interview with Mr. Forouhar with
any human rights organisations and the Press as the situation in
Iran becomes volatile.


cc: President William J. Clinton
President Jimmy Carter
Archbishop Desmund Tutu
Secretary Madeleine Albright
Christopher Stevens-Iran desk The State Department Sender:

About Iranů has translated the following text of an open letter
by Mr. Abbas Amir-Entezam, the longest held prisoner of
conscience under the Islamic Republic. The Farsi version of
this letter was given to About Iranů by the Committee in Defence
of Abbas Amir-Entezam in New York. Mr. Entezam continues to be
in great danger. It is incumbent upon all international human
organisations to monitor his situation closely. Please
distribute this open letter as widely as possible.

Dear Compatriots, Freedom-Loving People of the World:
I am thankful to a virtuous God for once again, from his divine
dispensations, presenting the opportunity [for the world] to see
the rising disgrace of the Judiciary branch of the Islamic
Republic for violating the legal and human rights [in my case].
Thiing the legal and human rights [in my case].
This adds another chapter to the past volumes of [the Islamic
Republic's] shameful acts.

As everyone is aware, it has been several months since the
Judiciary system has again imprisoned me on charges of libel
for insulting Asadollah Ladjevardi, the ex-warden and
ex-prosecutor of Evin Prison. In this episode [of my ordeal],
all the regime's authorities have co-ordinated to prevent me, my
lawyers and defence witnesses from attending the court hearing.
Rather, in
a closed court and a private gathering, they have tried me in
absentia, and once again, [they have decided to refer me to the
revolutionary tribunal, and in this way], they have relegated my
fate to the revolutionary tribunal. By these tactics, they
believe they can induce fear and terror within me and force me
into silence.

Freedom Loving People of Iran and the World:

Such audacity in violating the principles of human rights is
unprecedented in the world. Yet, for one who has withstood 18
years of this regime's atrocities, I raise my voice to ask the
regime's authorities, if they are not afraid of my presence in
the court, to allow me to be tried by a jury in an authentic
court, one that is open to the people and to human rights
[In such a court], I shall defend myself and I shall show that
what I have tated about the barbaric and anti-human actions of
Asadollah Lajdevardi, former prison prosecutor, and other
authorities is neither libellous nor slanderous, but rather
factual. And this can be attested to by thousands of those who
suffered in prisons.

However, I am well aware that this time, like their stonewalling
of my attempts [in the past 18 years] to redeem myself from my
first tyrannical conviction to life in prison by a revolutionary
court, the atrocious and corrupt hands of the Judiciary branch
will not allow me to defend myself in an authentic court. They
will not allow it because they know that my [trial] revelations
about the [atrocities] that have been endured by the Iranian
people in the past 20 years will further inform the world about
the reality of our situation under the tyrannical regime of the
Vali-Faghih [i.e., the theocratic rule of the supreme religious
leader]. They are apprehensive of such revelations.

Once again, from my prison cell in Evin prison, I declare that I
shall continue, until my last breath, my relentless struggle to
redeem my own rights and those of millions of my compatriots
who, at the outset of the 21st century, are imprisoned in the
hands of the most terrifying and tyrannical regime. I shall
carry on this struggle for as long as my afflicted body, which
has been subjected to 18 years of suffering and hardship in
prison, 8 years of suffering and hardship in
prison, will endure. I trust in God's kindness and the support
of my freedom loving compatriots and people of the world, and I
bear this historical lesson well in my mind: "A country survives
blasphemy, but crumbles under tyranny."

Abbas Amir-Entezam
Evin Prison [Tehran]
February 25, 1999

Editor-in-Chief: Safa Haeri
Tel: +33 1 43805838
Fax: +33 1 43805825


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 18:10:16 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: New Party Announces Formation

New Party Announces Formation

thr 020
new party announces formation
tehran. march 11, irna -- farzandan-e iran (iran's children) party
announced formation wednesday after receiving permission from the
interior ministry.
the party said in its articles of association that it deemed its
duty to form the group and make planning for guiding the youth as
a step towards scientific and industrial p
rogress in the country
in pace with promulgation of sound social culture.
mohammad reza abolhassani, mohammad taher ahangari, behrouz
sabouri, ali javadi, arasb ahmadian and jamshid irani are founding
members of the party.
::irna 11/03/99 12:46


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 18:57:20 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Italian university to honor Rushdie

Italian university to honor Rushdie during Khatami trip

10:47 GMT, 10 March 1999

TURIN, Italy, March 10 (AFP) -The British writer Salman Rushdie,
to death by Tehran in 1989, was to receive an honorary degree from the
University of Turin on Wednesday, in a ceremony coinciding with a state
visit by Iran's president.

The Indian-born writer arrived in Turin on Tuesday and was to make an
address Wednesday on Roman and Italian authors and artists who have
influenced his work, including Ovid, Machiavelli and director Federico

The president of the University's language and literature college, Paolo
Bertinetti, first proposed the idea of honoring Rushdie, whom he
as one of the world's premier post-war novelists and "a great

Rushdie was to give his lecture at about the same time that Iranian
President Mohammad Khatami was scheduled to speak before Italian
intellectuals in Florence.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:31 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Saudi defense minister to make first visit to Iran

TEHRAN, March 10 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's defense minister, Prince
Sultan ibn Abdel Aziz, will make the first-ever visit by a Saudi
defense chief to Iran in April, the Iranian defense ministry said
"The visit will help strengthen cooperation between the two
nations and create an atmosphere of greater trust," ministry
spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said, quoted by the official news agency
The Saudi defense minister will bring a high-level military and
political delegation for talks with Iranian officials, he said.
The spokesman also reiterated Tehran's opposition to the
"massive and useless" US military presence in the region, calling it
the "primary obstacle to friendly cooperation between Gulf
He also accused US Defense Secretary William Cohen of trying to
push problems between Israel and the Palestinians "onto other parts
of the Middle East."
"This policy will no longer work," he said.
Cohen, who concluded a Gulf tour Wednesday, told both Bahrain
and Saudi Arabia that they could purchase sophisticated AMRAAM "fire
and forget" air-to-air missiles previously available only to NATO
nations, in the face of mounting US concern over Iran's missile
The United Arab Emirates previously had won approval to buy
In visits to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, Qatar and
Kuwait, Cohen also offered to share US early warning intelligence on
missile launches.
Iran last year tested its Shahab-3 medium-range missile, the
latest in a series of ballistic missiles being developed by Tehran.
Relations between Tehran and Riyadh have improved considerably
since the May 1997 election of moderate Iranian President Mohammad
Khatami, followed by Tehran's assumption of the presidency of the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Former Iranian president Akbar Hasemi Rafsanjani and Foreign
Minister Kamal Kharazi visited Saudi Arabia last year.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:38 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran mosques to use cyberspace to counter Western cultural invasion

TEHRAN, March 10 (AFP) - Around 1,000 mosques in the province of
Tehran will link up to the Internet soon in a bid to fend off
Western cultural influences, the official news agency IRNA reported
Tehran's mosque administration centre is planning to use
cyberspace to give out information about mosques, imams and
theologicial and cultural research, IRNA said.
After years of resistance, the Internet was recently legalised
in the Islamic republic -- and a cybercafe opened in Tehran late
last year -- although its use remains strictly regulated.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:44 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Conservatives, reformers battle over meaning of Iran vote results

TEHRAN, March 10 (AFP) - Iran's conservatives on Wednesday tried
to play down sweeping victories by reformers in the Islamic
republic's first-ever municipal elections as both sides battle over
interpreting the results.
"Only 30 percent of those eligible participated in the local
elections in Tehran," where reformers backing moderate President
Mohammad Khatami swept all 15 council seats, the conservative Tehran
Times said.
"This nonparticipation should be seriously taken into
consideration, particularly by the president," the English-language
daily said in a challenge to claims that the vote was a forceful
mandate in support of Khatami's pro-reform agenda.
Voter participation in Tehran was actually 40 percent, according
to official figures, but still much smaller than expected in the
capital, where control of the municipal council was seen as the
major prize in the elections.
The paper also took a swipe at Abdollah Nuri, the former
interior ministry who led the Tehran polling with some 588,000
It said that despite his "hobnobbing with the outlawed parties,"
Nuri's vote tally was "very low compared to previous elections."
Nuri had initially been banned from standing by the election
supervision committee, which is dominated by conservatives, and his
vote count was well below the one million figure reached by
candidates from both sides in the 1996 parliamentary elections.
But the pro-Khatami newspaper Iran Daily said conservatives were
trying to make excuses for their drubbing at the polls.
"Instead of analyzing the subject of their defeat from an
objective point of view, they have opined that the public could not
judge which ... contenders were worthy," the English-language paper
said Wednesday.
"People quite consciously voted for political reform," it said,
adding that the Islamic republic "will continue to move" in that
Iran's conservative judiciary chief fired the first shot in the
battle over interpreting the results on Friday, warning that locally
elected officials should keep well away from the broader political
struggle natiowide between reformers and conservatives.
"You were elected as local officials and should concern
yourselves with local problems, and keep out of factional and
partisan disputes," Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi said.
But Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari, a Khatami
supporter, fired back Tuesday, saying locally elected reformers
should also serve as a base of "strong support" for Khatami's
reformist government.
The results of the vote "paved the way for popular participation
in the administration of the society's affairs," he said.
The February 26 polls were the first municipal elections in Iran
since the 1979 Islamic revolution and have been seen as a crucial
test for Khatami's democratic reforms.
They have also been considered a key indicator of the relative
popularity of both camps ahead of next year's parliamentary
elections, in which reformers hope to wrest control of parliament
from conservatives.
In addition to sweeping the Tehran council, reformers made
strong gains in Iran's other major cities, including Isfahan,
Mashhad and Shiraz.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:26 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Protests mar Iranian leader's landmark visit to Italy

ROME, March 10 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami spoke
in favour of democracy and an end to terrorism here Wednesday, as
protests continued to mar his visit, the first by an Iranian leader
to western Europe since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Khatami's comments came as British Indian-born writer Salman
Rushdie, condemned to death by Tehran in 1989, received an honorary
degree from the University of Turin.
"I am convinced of the absolute necessity of finding a way to
establish democracy worldwide and to refuse all forms of
dictatorship. The world is tired of continuing violence and
terrorism," Khatami told journalists.
His comments followed an hour-long meeting with Italian Prime
Minister Massimo D'Alema here on the second day of a three-day
D'Alema said Italy and Europe hoped "to build relations on the
basis of principles and values and not just reciprocal interests.
Those principles -- democracy, a respect for human rights and
freedom -- are for us irrevocable," he said.
Earlier, 13 people were arrested after protestors hurled paint
at a car carrying Khatami, police said.
Their identities and nationalities were not disclosed.
Police said some were in possession of eggs filled with paint
when they were detained. At least two eggs filled with yellow paint
hit Khatami's car.
In another incident, three Iranian nationals, reportedly
carrying posters hostile to Khatami, were detained in front of the
monument to the Unknown Soldier, where the Iranian leader was to
place a wreath.
Security is tight for the visit.
Khatami arrived early Tuesday in Rome, where he was met by
Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini and later held talks with
President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.
His visit has prompted protests by thousands of demonstrators,
mostly Iranians living in exile.
Organizers said more than 5,000 people responded to appeals by
the Iranian opposition People's Mujahedeen and Italian right-wing
opposition parties Forza Italia and the National Alliance to
"The West is wrong to think it is welcoming a new Gorbachev,"
Behzad Naziri, a representative of the People's Mujahedeen, said.
"Khatami is not there to overturn the Islamic Revolution but to
prevent it from being swept away," Naziri said.
Dini defended the decision to meet Khatami, insisting that Iran
had decreased its financial support for terrorism. Khatami, he said,
"has condemned terrorism as a tool in political battles."
Former Iranian ambassador to Italy Perviz Khazai, living in
exile, said: "Iran is still exporting terrorism." He said since
Khatami's election in May 1997, 28 Iranian dissidents had been
assassinated abroad.
Khatami, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
and Mines and Metals Minister Eshagh Jahanghri, said he and D'Alema
had signed "several economic, political, technological and
scientific accords".
The trip is focused on economic relations at a time when Iran is
suffering from a slump in the price of its main export commodity,
Iranian officials accompanying Khatami met executives of the
Italian oil giant ENI Wednesday.
Italy is Iran's second-largest trading partner in Europe behind
Tehran newspapers have hailed the trip as a turning point in
relations between Iran and Europe, which has resisted joining the
United States in its campaign to isolate the Islamic regime for its
alleged support of terrorism.
Visiting Florence later Wednesday, Khatami called for a dialogue
between Islam and the West.
The Orient and Islam should not be a "subject of study" but
"dialogues" for Europe and the West, Khatami said in a speech at the
European University Institute.
He said such a dialogue "could contribute to instituting peace,
security and justice".
Five hundred Iranians demonstrated against his visit to
Khatami is due to meet Pope John Paul II on Thursday.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:51 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Protestors hurl paint at Iranian leader's car, 13 arrested

ROME, March 10 (AFP) - Thirteen people were arrested Wednesday
after protestors hurled paint at a car carrying Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami through central Rome, police said.
Their identities and nationalities were not immediately
Police said some were in possession of eggs filled with paint
when they were detained. At least two eggs filled with yellow paint
hit Khatami's car in the protest.
In another incident, three Iranian nationals were detained in
front of the monument to the Unknown Soldier, where Khatami was to
lay a wreath, police added.
The three were reportedly seen inflating balloons and carrying
posters with slogans hostile to Khatami.
Khatami, the first Iranian leader to visit western Europe since
the 1979 Islamic revolution, arrived in Italy on Tuesday for a
three-day stay.
Security was heightened for the visit, with several main roads
closed to traffic, a massive deployment of police and helicopters
patrolling overhead.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:52:58 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian students call for boycott over liberal cleric's arrest

TEHRAN, March 10 (AFP) - Iranian university students called for
a boycott of classes Wednesday to protest the arrest of popular
liberal cleric Mohsen Kadivar.
The Students' Unity Movement called on students across the
capital not to attend classes as a show of solidarity with Kadivar,
who was jailed last month by order of Iran's powerful Supreme Court
for Clergy (SCC) for spreading propaganda "hostile" to the Islamic
"If Kadivar remains in prison, we will take other actions," the
group said in a statement to the Zan newspaper.
Hundreds of students demonstrated at Tehran university on Sunday
to protest the detention of Kadivar, an outspoken critic of the
regime whose case has sparked widespread public outrage.
But some 12 other demonstrations around the nation were called
off amid concerns the protests would overshadow Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami's historic visit to Italy which began Tuesday.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:53:07 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Tehran's "electronic" president disappears

TEHRAN, March 10 (AFP) - A high-tech electronic portrait of
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was stolen from a busy Tehran
square after the city government received anonymous threats from
outraged callers.
The Tehran municipality received a series of "rude and
threatening phone calls" about the eight square-meter (24
square-foot) electronic Khatami, which also displayed the date and
time in northern Tehran's congested Qods Square.
But after authorities declined to take action, thieves took the
president into their own hands and made off with the sign, the
Khordad paper reported Tuesday.
It said the sign was worth some 12,500 dollars.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:58:26 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian conservative calls for impeachment of interior minister

TEHRAN, March 11 (AFP) - An influential conservative Iranian MP
called for the impeachment of Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed
Mussavi-Lari over his ministry's handling of the recent municipal
elections, newspapers said Thursday.
"The numerous violations of the law committed by the interior
minister and his deputy, Mostafa Tajzadeh, in the course of the
elections" mean Mussavi-Lari must be ousted, MP Ahmad Rasoolinejad
"He must be impeached because he has no intention of abiding by
the law," he told the English-language Iran News.
Rasoolinejad, a leading member of the conservative-dominated
parliament, said there had been "thousands of complaints" filed with
election authorities about the February 26 polling, which resulted
in sweeping victories by reformers.
He also called on the government to postpone giving its official
approval of the results until next month, amid a growing effort by
conservatives to reverse their defeat in the polls.
Rasoolinejad lashed out at the ministry's support for moderate
and reformist candidates initially barred from standing by the
conservative-held elections supervision council but finally allowed
to run following an 11th-hour intervention by President Mohammad
The reformist president ordered the creation of a "mediation
committee" that allowed a number of the candidates to stand,
including prominent reformer Abdollah Nuri, who led the voting in
Tehran and is well placed to become the capital's next mayor.
Nuri was Mussavi-Lari's predecessor as interior minister and was
ousted by the conservative parliament.
The municipal elections were the first in Iran since the 1979
Islamic revolution.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 19:55:29 -0600
From: "Aryo B. Pirouznia" <Iranyar@EMAIL.MSN.COM>
Subject: Text of Clinton Notice on Continuation of Iran Emergency

Text of Clinton Notice on Continuation of Iran Emergency

U.S. Newswire 10 Mar 18:35

Text of Clinton Notice on Continuation of Iran Emergency

To: National and International desks

Contact: White House Press Office, 202-456-2100

WASHINGTON, March 10 /U.S. Newswire/

-- Following is the text of a notice by President Clinton on continuation of
Iran emergency, released today by the White House:


- - - - - - -


On March 15, 1995, by Executive Order 12957, I declared a national emergency
with respect to Iran pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers
Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the threat to the national security,
foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions
and policies of the Government of Iran, including its support for
international terrorism, efforts to undermine the Middle East peace process,
and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver
them. On May 6, 1995, I issued Executive Order 12959 imposing more
comprehensive sanctions to further respond to this threat, and on August 19,
1997, I issued Executive Order 13059 consolidating and clarifying these
previous orders. The last notice of continuation was published in the
Federal Register on March 6, 1998.

Because the actions and policies of the Government of Iran continue to
threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United
States, the national emergency declared on March 15, 1995, must continue in
effect beyond March 15, 1999. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d)
of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing the
national emergency with respect to Iran. Because the emergency declared by
Executive Order 12957 constitutes an emergency separate from that declared
on November 14, 1979, by Executive Order 12170, this renewal is distinct
from the emergency renewal of November 1998. This notice shall be published
in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.


THE WHITE HOUSE, March 10, 1999.

-0- /U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/03/10 18:35

Copyright 1999, U.S. Newswire


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 22:17:29 -0500
From: Rahim Bajoghli <rbajoghli@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Iran's Conservatives Shift Tactics in Internal Political Debate

Global Intelligence Update
Red Alert
March 12, 1999

Iran's Conservatives Shift Tactics in Internal Political Debate


Iran's conservatives, apparently losing ground in their domestic
political struggle with moderates on economic and ideological grounds,
are now framing opposition to normalizing relations with the West in
strategic terms.


On March 11, the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan
International warned Azerbaijan against its efforts to strengthen its
ties with the West. "It is not in Baku's interests to annoy its giant
southern neighbor," the newspaper said. "Azerbaijan's security and
progress cannot be guaranteed only through flirting with the West," it
added. Regarding Baku's avowed interest in basing NATO, U.S., or Turkish
troops in the Azerbaijan, the newspaper commented that, "Iran is not
willing to see a foreign power stationed along its borders." The
comments were particularly pointed, as they came on the eve of a planned
visit to Tehran by Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister, Tofik Zulfugarov.

The fact that Iranian conservatives have criticized Azerbaijan's effort
to improve its politico-military relations with the West -- particularly
with the U.S. and NATO -- is not surprising, though it does suggest an
important shift in Iran's internal political struggle between President
Khatami's moderates and Ayatollah Khameini's conservatives. While
moderate forces in
Iran seem to be winning, on economic and ideological grounds, the
argument over the necessity to moderate Iranian politics and boost Iran's
cooperation with the West, the conservatives appear now to be developing
a new approach to opposing that opening. Specifically, they are framing
evolving Iranian relations with the West in security terms.

The moderate political forces led by President Mohammad Khatami have
recently made significant advances in Iran's internal power struggle. In
the municipal elections held in Iran on February 26, the first since the
revolution of 1979, Khatami's reformers achieved sweeping victories.
Naturally, the elections results are being questioned by Iranian
conservatives. They have argued that reformists won due to the
nonparticipation of the conservative's supporters and have since called
for resignation of the interior minister over his alleged mishandling of
polls. Nevertheless, Khatami's reforms have garnered strong popular
support at the polls. In Tehran itself, reformers won all 15 seats in the
Tehran city council.

President Khatami is currently making tremendous efforts in opening his
country's economy to the West. As the first top Iranian official to
visit Western Europe since the overthrow of the Shah, Khatami has just
completed a three-day visit to Italy.

While there, Khatami met with Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, who said
that Italian business sphere was "greatly interested" in cooperating with
Iran. Despite U.S. opposition, Italian state oil company ENI and France's
Elf-Acquitaine on March 1 signed a deal with Iran to develop its Dorood
oil field, a project worth $1 billion. There is no doubt that Khatami's
policy of fostering
economic projects with the Western powers is successfully moving forward.

In the meantime, Iran's northern neighbor, Azerbaijan, is
stepping up its military cooperation with the West. On February 9,
Azerbaijan's top foreign policy presidential advisor declared that his
country would not renew its membership in the Commonwealth of Independent
States' Collective Security Treaty.

This stance is no doubt prompted in part by Azerbaijan's growing concern
over the intensified military relationship between Russia and Armenia. To
counterbalance the alignment between Moscow and Yerevan, Azerbaijan
expressed in January its interest in closer military cooperation with
NATO, in particular the U.S. and Turkey.

Moreover, Azerbaijan's officials indicated their willingness to have an
American military base located on their territory. Azerbaijan made it
clear that it would change its position on the matter only if all Russian
bases were withdrawn from Armenia and Georgia, and if Russia quit
supplying Armenia with arms.

Although it is highly unlikely that NATO will commit
troops to Azerbaijan, other less provocative steps (such as arms sales or
the training of its military officers) might occur.

In addition to approaching the West over military issues,
Azerbaijan is backing U.S. economic interests in Central Asia in what
amounts to a "New Great Game" regarding who will develop and transport
the energy riches of the Caspian Sea.

Washington has Baku's support in a long-running dispute over which
proposed route the main oil pipeline will eventually take.

The U.S. wants this pipeline to be built from Azerbaijan through Turkey,
ending at the editerranean Sea.

Tehran would like to see Caspian oil transported through its own
territory, and is opposed to the U.S. led initiative. In addition, Tehran
also strenuously opposes a
U.S.-sponsored plan to construct a pipeline that would transport natural
gas from Turkmenistan via the Caspian Sea, through Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Like the planned main oil pipeline, the gas pipeline would also
bypass the Iranian territory.

Washington openly justifies both pipelines on political grounds.
Washington's point is simple: the newly independent former Soviet
republics in Central Asia should not be dominated by either of the two
regional powers -- Russia or Iran.

Although political considerations will be a critical factor in
determining which routes are utilized for these proposed pipelines, the
cost of building them will remain an important factor in their
construction and location.

Given the pace at which Iran's neighbor Azerbaijan is stepping up its
military and economic cooperation with the West, it is not surprising
that Iranian conservatives are alarmed. But Azerbaijan's appeal to NATO
may offer Iranian conservatives a new lever in their domestic political

While Khatami touts the economic promise carried by improved relations
with the West, not to mention the social and cultural benefits of
moderation, conservatives can easily not that the West also presents a
distinct and growing military threat. To the south and west of Iran, the
U.S. has built up a shaky, but still coherent coalition under its policy
-- directed at both Iran and Iraq -- of dual containment.

U.S. military forces are active in and across the Persian Gulf, and NATO
member and close U.S. ally Turkey lies to the west of Iran. Azerbaijan's
appeal to NATO smacks of the encirclement of Iran. So, while the Iranian
public may be rejecting the strict social code and political isolation of
the "good old days" of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's conservatives can now
raise a less ideological argument against opening to the West -- national

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 11 Mar 1999