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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Mar 1999 to 18 Mar 1999

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Mar 1999 to 18 Mar 1999
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There are 13 messages totalling 549 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Moscow offers olive branch to Washington over Iran nuke deal
2. Iran pins hopes on OPEC to meet budget forecasts
3. It's business first for Iran at UAE arms fair despite island row
4. You cannot have it both ways on Gulf islands, UAE tells Iran
5. More than a tonne of drugs seized in Iranian capital
6. Iranian FM en route to Caracas for talks on oil market
7. Russia offers US deal to end its nuclear aid to Iran: report
8. Iranians may be tied to illegal alien smuggling: US official
9. Iran and Iraq exchange POWs amid Khatami overture to Saddam
10. Iranians celebrate ancient spring fire festival
11. Iranian FM Kharazi lauds "new dialogue" with EU
12. More than 60,000 Iranians in Mecca for hajj
13. Shelter for homeless Iranian children to open next month

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:57:11 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Moscow offers olive branch to Washington over Iran nuke deal

MOSCOW, March 17 (AFP) - Moscow offered an olive branch to
Washington on Wednesday over its contentious nuclear cooperation
with Iran ahead of a pivotal visit to the United States by top
Russian ministers seeking financial aid.
Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov told journalists
he had personally ordered a leading Moscow nuclear research center
to cut all its lucrative ties with Iran.
The Nikiet laboratory is one of 10 sites hit by US sanctions for
allegedly peddling sensitive technology know-how to Tehran. The
penalties were imposed amid increasing friction over Russia's
lucrative hi-tech ties with Iran, including construction of a
reactor at Bushehr in the Gulf.
Russia hopes to soothe these and other foreign affairs
differences when Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov takes a
high-powered delegation including Adamov to Washington next week.
They hope to return with a crucial deal to bail Russia out of
its financial hole, but analysts see such an agreement as
incompatible with Russia's increasingly independent foreign affairs
stance.
Adamov denied that any of the 10 targeted Russian centers had
broken international laws prohibiting the sale of sensitive
technologies to non-nuclear states. But he said he wanted to ease US
worries nonetheless.
"To completely eliminate any misunderstandings with the
Americans, I told Nikiet: You will no longer cooperate with that
country," Adamov said. "It was an extravagant decision on my part."
Adamov added he expects the United States to return the favor by
lifting the sanctions against the prestigious nuclear research
center.
"I do not ask for any money in return," Adamov said. "I am
telling the Americans that if you really have a normal approach to
sanctions, that I have led this institute away from all contacts
with Iran. So now, take off the sanctions."
Nikiet falls under the jurisdiction of the Russian atomic energy
ministry and was once headed by Adamov.
The minister said Nikiet did work on a contract to develop and
build a research nuclear reactor in Iran but that the deal
eventually fell through and no such site was ever constructed. "We
shelved the contract," Adamov said.
He said he urged Nikiet and a linked research institute, the
Mendeleyev University, to cease its Iran operations in September.
"If the Americans are growing concerned about certain things, we
can now eliminate each others' concerns in this way," he said.
The United States is worried that Russian wants to expand its
nuclear cooperation with Iran and has opposed Moscow's decision to
develop a nuclear reactor at Bushehr. The contract is worth more
than 700 million dollars to Russia.
Russia is currently completing one nuclear reactor at the site
and is being courted by Iran to build three more but Adamov said
such cooperation did not violate international agreements.
"We will try to expand our activity in Iran to the extent that
this does not contradict our international obligations, including
our non-proliferation obligations," Adamov said.
US officials cited by The New York Times said they were pleased
with Adamov's initiative but did not exclude the possibility that
Russia was still cooperating with Iran.
"It would help the overall tone of our relationship," one US
administration official told the paper. "Adamov is taking the
initiative and appears to have Primakov's support. But we still have
a paper to negotiate."
Adamov said he hoped the United States would formally lift
sanctions against the two institutes following his negotiations with
Washington officials later this month.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:57:18 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran pins hopes on OPEC to meet budget forecasts

TEHRAN, March 17 (AFP) - Iran's central bank governor said
Wednesday he expects promised OPEC cutbacks to enable the Islamic
republic to meet its budget forecasts and bring a return to monetary
stability.
"Given the present trend in the world oil market there is a
great possibility that figures stipulated in next year's state
budget will be realised and the country's monetary situation will be
stabilised," Mohsen Nurbakhsh told the official IRNA news agency.
Iran, OPEC's second biggest producer after Saudi Arabia, has
been battered by the plunge in the price of oil, which accounts for
85 percent of its hard currency earnings.
Nurbakhsh said he expected the decisions of OPEC, which meets in
Vienna on March 23, to set a market price for oil that will realise
its figures in the budget for the next Iranian year starting March
21.
The budget, adopted by parliament in January, projects oil
revenues of 16 billion dollars based on oil prices of 11.8 dollars a
barrel.
Nurbakhsh also reiterated figures he announced in February that
Iran's foreign debt was around 23 billion dollars and said the state
must repay three billion dollars in 1999.
In the current year, Iran's exports and imports both reached a
total of 13 billion dollars, he said, without elaborating.
Iran currently produces 3.7 million barrels of oil per day, of
which 2.4 million bpd goes for export.
But on Monday, Iran said it would slash oil production in line
with a decision by several key oil-producing countries last week to
cut output by more than two million barrels per day.
The cuts by individual producers were not specified in The
Hague, pending further negotiations with other OPEC and non-OPEC
countries ahead of the cartel's ministerial conference next
Tuesday.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:57:24 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: It's business first for Iran at UAE arms fair despite island row

ABU DHABI, March 17 (AFP) - Under the motto of "business first,"
Iranian exhibitors have tried to attract potential buyers from
around the world at the Abu Dhabi arms fair despite Tehran's islands
dispute with their Emirati hosts.
"It's been going fairly well. We are confident in the interest
shown," said Hossein Shahbazi Jafari, an official of Iran's defence
ministry overseeing Iran's participation.
He declined to give a political spin to Iran's participation for
only the second time since the bi-annual show was launched in 1993.
Organizers had originally said it was Iran's first show.
"The message is to ... show good relations, even on the military
side," said Jafari, echoing a position adopted by the United Arab
Emirates (UAE).
"This exhibition is open to all our neighbours. We not looking
at political issues here," said a UAE military spokesman, stressing
that it was purely a trade fair.
Three Iranian companies -- its Defence Industry Organisation,
and aviation and electronic industries -- were taking part in the
five-day show, which closes Thursday, with the participation of 800
companies from some 40 states.
Iran's remote stand -- modest in comparison to the huge
pavilions of arms giants such as the United States, Britain, France
and Russia -- exhibited small arms, ammunition, rockets and models
of tanks, planes and boats.
A military radio system was also on display, which Jafari said
had won an award in the United States.
As for the rockets, "these are all based on the (former
Soviet-built) Katyusha, but the nose has been adapted to increase
the range for our Fadjr (Dawn) series of missiles," exhibitor Shafie
Ahmad explained.
Iran's participation came amid almost daily UAE protests to the
United Nations and Arab League over Iran's actions on three disputed
islands.
On Monday, Gulf Arab foreign ministers insisted that Iran end
its "occupation" of the islands of Abu Mussa and the Greater and
Lesser Tunbs, and settle its sovereignty dispute with the UAE
peacefully.
Earlier this month, they condemned Iran's military exercises
near the islands and called for their immediate halt, a call ignored
by Tehran.
US Defence Secretary William Cohen toured the Gulf last week
offering to share early-warning intelligence with the region's Arab
states on missile launches in response to Iranian tests.
In 1998, Iran tested its Shahab-3 medium-range missile, the
latest in a series of ballistic missiles being developed by Tehran.
Iran, which showed off two domestically-built combat helicopters
in February, has worked to develop its defence industries in a bid
to counter a US ban on the transfer of sensitive technologies to the
Islamic republic.
It has developed medium-range ballistic missiles and said last
year it had begun producing its own fighter bombers, called
Azarakhsh (Thunder).

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:57:45 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: You cannot have it both ways on Gulf islands, UAE tells Iran

CAIRO, March 17 (AFP) - Iran must stop thinking it can retain
"fruitful" ties with the Arabs while strengthening its grip on Gulf
islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates, the UAE foreign
minister warned here Wednesday.
The minister, Rashid bin Abdullah al-Nuaymi, told Arab League
foreign ministers that Iran has defied their efforts to improve the
situation over Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb by
"consolidating its occupation of the three islands."
He then urged Iran to stop "thinking it is going to keep
occupied Arab lands and have at the same time fruitful relations
with the Arab countries."
The minister thanked all Arab countries for initiatives to
resolve the island dispute, which he said supported the Emirati
position.
He said although the Arabs have "witnessed a positive trend in
Iranian politics" based on conciliatory statements by the new
president, Mohammad Khatami, "such trends did not include the
islands."
The UAE and its five Gulf Arab neighbors on Monday called on
Iran to peacefully resolve the conflict over the islands and stop
taking unilateral action.
The six states held an extraordinary meeting earlier this month,
during which that demanded that Iran "immediately" cease its
military exercises near the islands.
Iran has controlled the islands since 1971 after Britain ended
its protectorate but rejects arbitration, claiming the islands as
its territory, and has in the past offered talks on Abu Musa alone.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:57:52 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: More than a tonne of drugs seized in Iranian capital

TEHRAN, March 17 (AFP) - Police in Tehran seized more than a
tonne of drugs and arrested nearly 8,000 people for drug offenses
since March 1998, the official IRNA news agency said Wednesday.
The police confiscated 1,380 kilograms (3,036 pounds) of drugs,
most of it opium, and arrested more than 1,000 dealers and 6,748
addicts in the Tehran area, said Nasser Aslani, who heads the war on
drugs in Tehran province.
On March 13, the police said they had seized 170 tonnes of drugs
nationwide between March 21, 1998 and February 1999.
Although Iran has cracked down on drug smuggling, the use of
narcotics has been on the rise among students and the poor.
Tehran adopted a tough anti-drug law in 1989 providing for the
death penalty for anyone found with more than 30 grams (just over
one ounce) of heroin or more than five kilos (11 pounds) of opium.
Some 2,000 people have been tried on drugs charges in Iran since
then, according to official figures, but authorities no longer
release statistics on the numbers of those convicted who are put to
death.
Iran has said it plans to create special camps for prisoners
arrested for drug offenses.
Officials estimate the number of drug users at around three
million, many of them young people.
Iran is a key transshipment point for drugs from Afghanistan,
Pakistan and central Asia intended for the Arab world and Europe.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:00 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian FM en route to Caracas for talks on oil market

TEHRAN, March 17 (AFP) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
left Vienna for Caracas on Wednesday to hold talks on the oil market
situation, the state news agency IRNA said.
Kharazi will arrive in Caracas as the head of a delegation to
review Iran-Venezuela bilateral ties as well as "oil prices on
international oil markets," IRNA said.
The visit comes several days after an agreement reached between
five major oil producers -- Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iran, Venezuela
and Mexico -- in the Netherlands in an effort to boost oil prices
through production cuts.
Kharazi's comes ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna on March 23
where the output reductions are to be discussed.
Kharazi was in Vienna for talks on Tuesday with Austrian
President Thomas Klestil on closer ties between Iran and the
European Union, and to attend the inaugural ceremony of the 42nd
session of the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP).

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:06 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Russia offers US deal to end its nuclear aid to Iran: report

WASHINGTON, March 17 (AFP) - Russia will offer to curtail its
nuclear cooperation with Iran if United States lifts its sanctions
on two Russian research facilities, The New York Times said
Wednesday.
The offer, revealed by Russian Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov
during an interview, will be made during Russian Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov's visit to Washington next week, the daily said.
Russia hopes the deal will improve its relations with the west
and lead to new contracts with Russia's nuclear institutes, the
daily said.
"It would help with the overall tone of our relationship," an
unnamed senior US official told the daily, adding that while
Adamov's initiative appeared to have Primakov's support, "we still
have a paper to negotiate."
Washington has objected to Russian plans to build several
nuclear power reactors in Iran, including heavy water and graphite
reactors that can produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Fears that Moscow may be expanding its nuclear trade with Tehran
led to US sanctions in January against the Scientific Research and
Design Institute for Power Technology, known as Nikiet, and the
Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology, the daily said.
Adamov, a former head of the research institute, told the daily
he wanted to sign a document affirming that the institute no longer
had any contacts with Iran.
In return, he said, the United States would lift sanctions
against the institute. A similar agreement could be drawn up with
Mendeleyev University, he added.
Despite Adamov's statement, US officials told the daily that
there were signs the Institute still had contacts with Iran.
Primakov's visit to Washington will focus on security issues and
Russia's bid for billions of dollars of new credits from the
International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:13 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians may be tied to illegal alien smuggling: US official

LOS ANGELES, March 16 (AFP) - Some of the 29 people arrested
Tuesday in California and Nevada for using bogus immigration and
asylum papers may be associated with a suspected Iranian terrorist
group, US officials said.
In documents filed in US District Court here, some of those
arrested may be associated with the People's Mujahedeen, believed
responsible for the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.
Seventeen years after being chased from Iran, the Baghdad-based
Iranian opposition group continues to pose the most significant
armed challenge to the Iranian government.
With its military bases and tens of thousands of fighters, the
group is today considered the world's largest army in exile,
claiming to have carried out hundreds of operations against the
Iranian army.
The US Attorneys Office, which filed the documents, would not
say how many Iranians with suspected ties to that group were
arrested, or whether they were plotting terrorist attacks in the
United States.
"The investigation is still ongoing," said US Attorney Alejandro
Mayorkas. "What motive they had for seeking entry to this country,
we cannot speak to. One would hope it's not for the most nefarious
purposes."
Among those in custody was Bahram Tabatabai, a US citizen of
Iranian descent and operator of several businesses in Encino,
California.
He is accused of being at the center of the scheme to make false
documents.
Tabatabai and his employees allegedly helped hundreds of people
from the Middle East and Europe obtain false immigration papers, and
Tabatabai used many aliases himself, authorities said.
Shahbod Noori, editor of the Tehran International Weekly
Magazine, was also arrested for producing false birth certificates,
bank records, school transcripts, and wedding announcements,
authorities alleged.
Tabatatai also knew some of the clients belong to the Mujahedeen
and helped other clients in the United States file fraudulent asylum
applications, including fictitious stories of persecution, the
government alleged.
The Iranian group known Mujahedeen Kalq, or MEK, is among 30
groups the US State Department has designated as a "foreign
terrorist organization."
In addition to seizing the US Embassy in Tehran, it is blamed
for the 1992 temporary seizure of the Iranian mission to the United
Nations.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:20 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran and Iraq exchange POWs amid Khatami overture to Saddam

BAGHDAD, March 16 (AFP) - Iran and Iraq exchanged prisoners of
war on Tuesday, amid signs of warming ties between the two former
foes.
Iraq said Iran handed over 450 Iraqis, held since the end of the
eight year war between them, while Iraq handed back 54 Iranians.
Tehran said 56 of its citizens had been returned.
News of the release came as the official Iraqi News Agency
reported that President Saddam Hussein had received a message from
his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami expressing a desire that
Iran "strengthen and deepen" its relations with Iraq.
The agency said Khatami was replying to a message sent by Saddam
on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution
in February.
Since the end of the 1980-88 war, more than 90,000 prisoners
have been exchanged, but the issue is one of the main bones of
contention between the two sides, which have yet to sign a peace
treaty.
According to Tehran at least 5,000 Iranian soldiers are still
held in Iraq.
Baghdad says it has freed all Iranian POWs, but that 20,000
Iraqi POWs remain in Iranian jails.
The last prisoner handover was in mid-December, when 196 Iraqis
and 16 non-Iraqis, plus the body of one Iraqi who died in captivity,
were sent back across the land border.
An Iraqi spokesman described Tuesday's handover as a "purely
humanitarian initiative, aimed at consolidating mutual trust, in as
far as there are no Iranian prisoners of war in Iraq."
The Iraqi weekly al-Ittihad said the freed Iranians were among
those "sentenced for their involvement in an act of treachery and
betrayal," a reference to the 64 Iranians it admits holding for
having taken part in a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in March
1991 just after the Gulf war.
Iraq said some of the prisoners released by Iran should have
been freed on December 16, while others were from a group originally
scheduled for release on January 23.
"The release of this group took place after certain obstacles
preventing it from taking place at the proper time were resolved,"
the spokesman said, without elaborating.
In spite of continued disagreement over the prisoner issue,
relations between Iran and Iraq have started to improve over the
past year, with the two sides exchanging political and economic
delegations.
An Iranian delegation of technocrats arrived in Baghdad on
Tuesday for talks with oil ministry officials, the Iranian embassy
said, without giving further details.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:26 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians celebrate ancient spring fire festival

TEHRAN, March 16 (AFP) - Tehran was rocked by the sound of
firecrackers on Tuesday night as Iranians celebrated the ancient
spring "Festival of Fire", which was officially authorised this year
for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
All over the town, and in particular in the residential
districts, groups of young people lit fires and set off highly
explosive crackers as soon as night fell.
Several fire engines were seen racing through the streets, but
no incidents were reported in the early evening.
The more than 2,000-year-old festival, held the final Tuesday
before the Iranian new year on March 21, was given the green light a
few days ago by the interior ministry, which urged participants to
be "careful."
During the ancient rite people eat dried fruits and jump over
fires to drive away evil spirits and cleanse their souls ahead of
the new year.
But the festival has become part of general new year
celebrations, and with the modern-day addition of firecrackers
thrown at the fire-jumpers, dozens of people are wounded every
year.
Fire is a symbol of God for the Zoroastrians, followers of
Zoroaster, born around 550 B.C. in present-day Afghanistan.
Zoroastrianism was one of the first religions to conceive of an
omnipotent God and keep eternal flames burning at their temples.
One such flame in the Iranian city of Yazd, the traditional
centre of Iran's Zoroastrians, has been burning for more than 1,400
years.
Few Zoroastrians remain worldwide, and in Iran they are thought
to number far less than one percent of the population of 60
million.
Shiite Moslem Iran had forbidden the festival since 1979,
calling it "superstitious" and "anti-Islamic."

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:32 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian FM Kharazi lauds "new dialogue" with EU

VIENNA, March 16 (AFP) - Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi
on Tuesday lauded the "new dialogue" between his country and the
European Union during an official visit to Austria.
Kharazi, who met with Austrian President Thomas Klestil, was
also due to hold talks with his counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel,
before they were cancelled "for scheduling reasons," according to
authorities.
Kharazi did not speak to the press but presidential sources
reported the Iranian minister acknowledged Austria's role in
establishing the dialogue while it held the European Union
presidency last year.
Besides inviting Klestil to visit Iran, Kharazi called for
closer cultural relations and the establishment of an Austrian
cultural institute in Tehran.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:41 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: More than 60,000 Iranians in Mecca for hajj

TEHRAN, March 16 (AFP) - More than 60,000 Iranians have arrived
so far in the holy Moslem city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the
annual pilgrimage known as the hajj, the official news agency IRNA
said Tuesday.
Some 5,000 are arriving every day for the annual rite, which
must be undertaken at least once in a lifetime by all Moslems
physically and financially able to do so.
According to a quota set by the Organisation of the Islamic
Conference, Iran is to send a total of some 80,000 worshippers this
year to the hajj, which takes place until the end of the month.
Iranians making the pilgrimage have organised demonstrations in
Mecca against the United States and Israel every year since
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini engineered the Islamic revolution in
1979.
But in recent years the protests have drawn criticism from
officials in Saudi Arabia anxious to ensure the hajj remains
strictly religious in character.
In 1987 clashes between demonstrators and Saudi police left more
than 400 dead.
Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshari, the Iranian official who oversees
the Iranian pilgrimage, said last month that the protests were in
line with the wishes of Khomeini, the Islamic republic's founder.

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

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:58:46 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Shelter for homeless Iranian children to open next month

TEHRAN, March 16 (AFP) - A new shelter for homeless Iranian
children will open its doors in Tehran next month, its director said
Tuesday.
The "Green House" will be administered by the Tehran municipal
government and paid for with public funds, Mostafa Jangholi told the
official IRNA news agency.
He said the center will set up two satellite offices in Tehran's
bus and railway stations for children coming from other parts of
Iran.
Those kids will be returned to their native provinces with the
help of the social services department, he said, stressing that
delinquents will be handed over to the juvenile justice courts.
The Green House opened temporarily last month and took in some
30 children, 18 of whom were returned to their families, he said.
There are no official figures for the number of homeless on the
streets of the Islamic republic.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Mar 1999 to 18 Mar 1999
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