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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Mar 1999 - Special issue

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There are 13 messages totalling 1222 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. President Khatami Not to Visit France on Schedule
2. Khatami's French Visit Put Off In Row Over Wine
3. Iran Opposition Group Protests Khatami Paris Visit
4. PRESIDENT KHATAMI'S VISIT TO FRANCE JEOPARDISED...
5. Earthquake Hits Kazeroun
6. Iran's Petrochemical Industry
7. How the OPEC Deal Is Heating Up the Energy Sector
8. Greece Condemns Serbian Ethnic-Cleansing in Kosovo
9. Mass Refugee Exodus from Kosovo
10. Kharrazi Discusses Kosovo Crisis with Izet Begovic
11. Iran's Humanitarian Aid Delivered to Azeri People
12. Saudi Security Keeps Watchful Eye Over Waning Hour
13. RADIO FREE EUROPE/IRAN REPORT - Part 1

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:42:00 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: President Khatami Not to Visit France on Schedule

President Khatami Not to Visit France on Schedule
=================================================


thr 018
iran-france-khatami
president khatami not to visit france on schedule
tehran, march 29, irna -- the upcoming visit orch 29, irna -- the
upcoming visit of president mohammad
khatami to france cannot take place on the date already announced,
presidential offices announced in a press release on monday.
the visits of the iranian president who is also chairman of
the organization of the islamic conference (oic) to foreign
countries require that islamic rules be observed and this has been
notified to french officials and since no agreement has been made
in this regard yet, his visit to france cannot be made as scheduled
before, the press release said.
it is clear that based on iran's will reigear that based on iran's
will to expand its foreigear that based on iran's will to expand its
foreign
relations, maintain its detente policy in international fora and
deepen its regional and global relations, the amicable and historical
relations between iran and france will continue to broaden in the
future, it said.
the iranian president was scheduled to the iranian president was
scheduled to pay a state visit
to france in april 1999 at the invitation of his french counterpart.
mm/rr
end
::irna 29/03/99 15:59

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:42:10 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Khatami's French Visit Put Off In Row Over Wine

Khatami's French Visit Put Off In Row Over Wine
===============================================
09:12 a.m. Mar 29, 1999 Eastern
By Francois Raitberger

PARIS (Reuters) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has
scrapped plans for an April visit to Paris because France would
have served wine at a state banquet, French diplomatic sources
said.

Khatami's office announced Monday that the visit, only the
second to the West by an Iranian president since the 1979
Islamic revolution, was postponed ``as no agreement has been
reached with French authorities on respecting Islamic and
national norms.''

French diplomatic sources said Iran, which strictly bans
alcohol, had demanded that no wine be served at a state banquet
at President Jacques Chirac's Elysee Palace -- a tall request
for a country that considers itself the world capital of wine.

Protocol services rejected the demand, the sources said. The
visit was due to take place next month although no precise date
had been announced.

The daily Liberation said the spat began last week when French
deputies, acting on the advice of the Foreign Ministry, called
off a lunch they planned for the Iranian ambassador after the
embassy demanded that no wine be served.

Italian leaders agreed to a non-alcoholic banquet two weeks ago
when Khatami visited Rome in his first visit to the West.

French diplomatic sources said senior Iranian officials had been
served fruit juice on previous visits to France but had not
objected to wine being on the table.

The sources said that Tehran may have taken a tougher stand to
avoid fuelling criticism from Khatami's hard-line oponents.

A spokesman for exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran
claimed the postponement was a success for its plans to stage
week-long protests in Paris during Khatami's trip.

``Khatami feared eggs more than wine,'' spokesman Alireza
Jafarzadeh said. Only a few dozen demonstrators attended the
first protest at Paris' Human Rights square.

Iranian exiles threw paint at Khatami's motorcade during his
visit to Rome. Senior Iranian officials have criticized Italy
for allowing the protests to take place.

Khatami's office statement, quoted by the official Iranian news
agency IRNA, said that ``close and historic'' relations between
Iran and France would continue to develop despite the
postponement of the visit.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:42:42 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Iran Opposition Group Protests Khatami Paris Visit

Iran Opposition Group Protests Khatami Paris Visit
==================================================


Reuters
28-MAR-99

PARIS, March 28 (Reuters) - An Iranian opposition group said on
Sunday it planned a week of demonstrations in Paris to protest
against Iranian President Mohamed Khatami's visit to France in
mid-April.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran said the protests, to
be staged by Iranians living in Paris, would begin on Monday and
include the families of Iranian political prisoners and of
individuals killed by the Iranian authorities.

A larger demonstration is planned for April 12, the group said.
French and Iranian diplomats say a specific date for Khatami's
visit has not yet been set.

France has welcomed Iran's policy of increased openness since
Khatami's election in 1997, despite internal differences in the
Islamic republic. French companies have used the warmer
atmosphere to forge oil and other contracts with Tehran.

Khatami recently visited Italy and the Vatican on the first trip
by an Iranian president to western Europe since the 1979 Islamic
revolution.


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:42:34 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: PRESIDENT KHATAMI'S VISIT TO FRANCE JEOPARDISED...

PRESIDENT KHATAMI'S VISIT TO FRANCE JEOPARDISED OVER WINE ISSUE
===============================================================

By an IPS Diplomatic Correspondent

PARIS 28TH MAR. (IPS) The official visit of the Iranian
president ayatollah Mohammad Khatami to France scheduled
officially to start on 12th April seems to be in jeopardy on
apparently protocol matters and conditions puts by the Iranian
visitors that are unacceptable for the French hosts.

When asked about the date and the programme of the visit of the
Iranian President, the French Foreign Ministry has a laconic, if
not diplomatic answer that is: We have not issued any date for
the visit.

But the fact is that French official had announced early this
month, and while Mr. Mohammad Khatami was in Rome in what became
the first ever official visit of an Iranian president to a
Western nation in the past 20 years, that he will come to France
on12th April. However, privately, French diplomatic and press
sources admits that since the return of Mr. Khatami to Iran at
the end of his visit to Italy, the Iranians have suddenly
hardened their exigencies on a certain number of protocol and
political points, that includes the total ban of alcoholic
beverages during all the meetings with the Iranian delegation,
the promise by the French authorities of forbidding all
demonstrations and public activities by the Iranian opposition
during the visit and specially a firm pledge that "coincidences"
like the presence of Mr. Salman Rushdie, the author of the
controversial book "The Satanic Verses" in Italy at the same
time of Mr. Khatami would not be repeated.

French protocol and diplomatic sources are reported to have told
the Iranians that their demands are "just not receivable" by the
French protocol, specially those in charge at the presidential
Palace of Elysees, where serving wine during official banquets
is a long rooted tradition that could not be altered, even for a
Muslim VIP.
At the core of the dispute lies, higgledy-piggledy, the way the
Italian handled the visit of the Iranian President, a very
difficult, subtle, delicate and complex task taking into account
that no side had the slightest experience, the Iranians with a
visit in a Western, democratic nation, the Italians with
displaying full red carpet for Shi'a Muslim clerics.

A picture published in the London-based Iranian language weekly
newspaper Nimrooz showing the ayatollah Khatami with a row of
wine, champagne and liquor glasses lined in front of him over
the table and flanked by the daughter of the Italian President
wearing no scarf hiding her hairs has, according to informed
sourcesher hairs has, according to informed
sources in Tehran, caused furor in Tehran among the hard liners,
as during their trips outside Iran, reserved so far to third
world nations, many of them Muslim where alcohol is officially
banned anyway, the officials of the Islamic Republic always
insist that no spirit be served.

Noisy demonstrations by the Baghdad-based, Iraqi-backed
Mujahedeen Khalq Organisation, the invocation of situation of
human rights in the Islamic Republic in public meetings and
above all, the much visible, if not ironic, presence of Mr.
Rushdie, the writer against whom the Iranian authorities have
placed a death sentence, in Turin, where he was receiving a
Honoris Causa degree from the city's university at exactly the
same time that Mr. Khatami was addressing the European
University Institute in Florence, plus some other minors
incidents angered the Iranian visitors who, as soon they
returned to Tehran, send notes to the French authorities making
sure that these "US, Zionist plots" would not be repeated in
Paris.

"Instead of getting lessons from their visit to Italy to make a
better use of their future trips to other, more important
Western nations, the Iranian mullahs did the reverse, acted as a
spoiled child, showed their both intolerance and lack of
politeness by putting conditions to their hosts, oblivious of
the Iranian proverb that says "guest is the prisoner of the
host" ENDS KHATAMI PARIS 2939901

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:42:48 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Earthquake Hits Kazeroun

Earthquake Hits Kazeroun
========================


thr 002
earthquake-fars
earthquake hits kazeroun
tehran, march 29, irna -- an earthquake measuring 4.6 degrees on
the open-ended richter scale hit the north of kazeroun city, in the
southern province of fars on monday.
the seismological base of geophysics institute of tehran
university announced today that the area was hit by the quake at 8:40
hours local time (4:10 hours gmt).
fs/ks
end
::irna 29/03/99 10:53

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:43:48 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Iran's Petrochemical Industry

Iran's Petrochemical Industry Striving to Be Major Play in
Mideast
==========================================================


thr 014
petrochemical-industry
iran's petrochemical industry striving to be major play in
mideast
tehran, march 29, irna -- after years of stagnation, iran's
petrochemical industry is striving to be a major player in the middle
east, wrote an article in the cover story of iran exports & imports.
buckled under the pressures of war, sl.
buckled under the pressures of war, slowed by u.s. sanctions in
the post war period, the industry survived, recovered and grew
considerably, emerging bigger and more confident than ever been.
the country's petrochemical industry has embarked on a campaign
to play a role in the petrochemical world that is commensurate with
its strong feedstock position, stated the article adding that it is
now implementing a strategic plan that will triple annual production
capacity from 13.6 million to 41.4 million metric tons by 2010.
most of iran's petrochemical industry operates under the
umbrella of the national petrochemical company (npc) based in
tehran. as part of the ministry of petroleum, the company is wholly
owned by the iranian government. it controls eight production
complexes as well as various subsidiary and affiliate companies
engaged in activities such as designing and constructing petrochemical
plants, marketing and selling products and raising capital for new
projects, it stated.
of the country's total annual production capacity of 13.6
million metric tons, about 350,000 metric tons is owned by three
production companies that have been privatized and are no longer
under npc control.
each production complex is autonomously operated by a subsidiary
company. however, production goals and maintenance are decided at
npc's headquarters.
reza afshin, npc's director for production control says that the
goal for each complex is to maximize capacity utilization. ''but we
have some problems,'' he says citing the example of the razi
petrochemical complex, near the port of bandar imam khomeini.
stating that the ammonia unit posed technical problems, which is
now however being revamped, he added that variations in feed-stock
composition and delays in the supply of imported raw materials also
lead to underutilization.
product quality is controlled at three levels beginning first
with production, then checking after the products are turned over to
the petrochemical commercial company (pcc) and finally, testing of
the products by the customers themselves.
during the iranian calendar year ending march 20, 1998, total
sales were dlrs 1.48 billion or 6.7 million metric tons, according
to statistics supplied by npc. of this 3 million metric tons worth
dlrs 560 million were exported to customers in asia.
last year, npc president and deputy minister of petroleum,
mohammad reza nematazdeh, briefed london's financial community on
investment opportunities in iran. investment opportunities are
arising as a result of 29 projects making up the industry's expansion
to be implemented in five phases. these will add capacity for
existing products such as olefins and related polymers, methanol
aromatics, urea, and phosphate and they will install capacity for new
products, such as methyl tert-butyl ether, engineering polymers,
polyethylene terephthalate, linear alkyl benzenes, caprolactam and
isocyanates, noted the article.
nematzadeh believes that iran has an attractive package for
investors. one incentive is abundant feedstocks at preferential
prices. iran's natural gas reserves of 810 trillion cu ft represent
15 percent of the world's reserves and are the second largest in the
world. and its proven oil reserves of 93 billion barrels account for
9 percent of global reserves.
furthermore, the iranian parliament, the majlis has laid the
groundwork for improving the investment climate through legislation
that provides tax and tariff breaks, protects investments from
nationalization, and allows easy repatriation of profits.
called the law for the attraction and protection of foreign
investments, it exempts foreign investments in the petrochemical
industry from income taxes for eight years. but income derived from
exports is tax exempt indefinitely beyond eight years.
the law also guarantees foreign investors the right to transfer
dividends, to repatriate capital and profits and to fair compensation
in the event of expropriation. and it allows up to 99 percent foreign
share in a joint venture and in principle,ign
share in a joint venture and in principle, even 100 percent foreign
ownership.
the majlis also has established a special petrochemical economic
zone in bandar imam khomeini, along the persian gulf. the zone is
adjacent to three existing petrochemical complexes and will benefit
from the infrastructure already in place. projects implemented there
will have easy access to international waters, feedstocks and power.
goods may be imported with very few formalities and exported with no
formalities. npc is administering the zone.
according to hussein ali zahmatkesh, the deputy managing
director and engineering director of petrochemical industries
development management co., the npc subsidiary that implements
petrochemical projects, five first-phase projects are to be
implemented in this zone. one each for production of aromatics,
olefins and engineering polymers and two for purified terephthalic
acid and polyethylene terephthalate.
a sixth project, a methanol unit, might be implemented in the zone
as well. zahmatkesh says it depends on how soon a pipeline for the
natural gas feedstock can be built.
with such incentives in place, ''the main thing now is for
foreign investors to be familiar with us, how we work, the rules
and regulations in the country,'' says nematzadeh adding ''they
think its not possible, but when they come and see what we can do,
they conclude that iran is a good prospect for investment.''
iran has many other unique advantages, according to npc
officials. foremost is the country's well-educated and highly
trained but relatively inexpensive labor force. with the available
employment pool, investing firms need take on only as active a role
as they wish, and the rest, says nematzadeh, ''we can do ourselves.''
the human advantage is reflected also in the expertise accumulated
by local companies in implementing a petrochemical project. zahmatkesh
says iranian companies now do most of the detailed engineering,
procurement, construction and precommissioning of petrochemical
facilities. that leaves iranians depending on foreign expertise,
mainly european only for technology and basic engineering. but through
research and development (r&d), they hope to become more self-reliant
even in these areas.
''as long as our economy is based on crude oil, we cannot be
absolutely and completely independent,'' says peyvandi. ''to be
completely independent, we need to change the basis of our economy
from the sale of crude oil to the sale of value added products.''
a diversified economy ensures independence better than one based
on a single commodity, suggests peyvandi. ''it's very simple,'' he
says, adding ''we have to work more even if for some time we are not
very comfortable.''
however, iran's ambitions could threaten the petrochemical
dominance of saudi arabia in the middle east. but saudi arabia's
current annual capacity of 24 million metric tons already is about
twice that of iran's, noted the article adding that saudi arabia has
projects in place to raise capacity to 37 million metric tons by
2000.
according to the current schedule, iran will have a capacity of
only 19.6 million metric tons by 2001, jusonly 19.6 million metric tons
by 2001, just slightly more than half
of what saudi arabia will have in place a year earlier.
over the long haul, however, iran's population should be an
advantage for its petrochemical industry, stated nematzadeh pointing
out that local demand for petrochemicals grew so fast in the past 10
years that ''our export programs did not happen exactly as planned.''
together with iran's ministry of industry, npc is encouraging
development of down-stream industries to create more demand for
petrochemical products. with its intrinsic market, iran need not
depend as much on exports as saudi arabia may have to, and pricing
of its products would not be so vulnerable to global fluctuations.
npc has no plans of getting heavily into downstream operations,
but it is closely involved in planning that part of the industry.
''we try to urge the private sector to come in,'' says nematzadeh,
ometimes helping out by developing the knowhow at npc and then
ransferring the technology. in addition, money for investment in
downstream industries is raised through sales of stocks of the
petrochemical industries investment co., and npc affiliate.
although iran is now self-sufficient in some areas, it cannot
totally afford to depend on the domestic market. it must export part
of its petrochemical output if it is to reduce its reliance on
revenues from the sale of crude oil.
part of iran's strategic plan is to increase exports' share of
output to 60 percent. to this end, npc is expanding its global
marketing efforts. recently, it established offices for export
promotion in china, india, singapore and dubai. in addition, two
subsidiaries for international marketing are based in europe: npc
international ltd. in london and intra. chem. trading gmbh in
hamburg.
fh/ks
end
::irna 29/03/99 13:53
\

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:44:38 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: How the OPEC Deal Is Heating Up the Energy Sector

How the OPEC Deal Is Heating Up the Energy Sector
=================================================


Bussiness Week
ONLINE DAILY BRIEFING

STREET WISE by Sam Jaffe March 29, 1999

How the OPEC Deal Is Heating Up the Energy Sector
Noted oil guru Sam Albright lays out some scenarios for rising
crude prices and their effect on the cartel, gas prices,
inflation, and oil stocks

Advances in technology and Asia's economic slowdown brought oil
prices to their lowest inflation-adjusted levels in three
decades earlier this year -- to as low as $9 a barrel. But in
the past two weeks, prices have begun a sustained increase,
thanks to an announcement by OPEC that its members intend to cut
oil production by 2 million barrels a day, equal to 2.6% of
global supply. Is the U.S. facing another oil shock, a la the
1970s. Or is this just another blip on the energy radar? How
should investors react?

To answer these questions, Business Week Online markets writer
Sam Jaffe turned to Sam Albright, an executive vice-president
and head of the oil analyst group at Jefferies & Co., an
investment bank and securities research boutique based in Los
Angeles. Albright is a frequent winner of Institutional
Investor's All-Star Analysts poll and is one of the most
respected oil-watchers on Wall Street. Albright spoke to Jaffe
from his office in Los Angeles on the afternoon of Friday, Mar.
26. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:

Q: The price of oil has ascended to almost $16. Why is it going
up, and how far do you expect it to go?
A: It's obviously going up because OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, in
a very aggressive stance, pulled together a [production cutback]
agreement. The purpose...is to withdraw enough production over
the next year to support higher oil prices going forward. That's
why [Middle East producers] pulled together so quickly and so
aggressively. They were looking at a situation where if they had
not cut production going into the second quarter, which is a
seasonably weak period for demand, they would face a major
buildup in already swollen inventories that would have driven
prices lower in the short term, and would have left inventories
in the position that they probably would have had to live with
single-digit oil prices for Middle Eastern gravity crudes for at
least another year.

So they are saying that if we can reduce inventories by the end
of this year to so-called normalized levels -- back to levels
before the [inventory] buildup in 1997 -- and see some demand
growth out of Asia, we'll be able to sustain higher oil prices
going forward.

Our numbers show that if OPEC complies with 75% of the [planned]
cuts through this May and maintains that level through the end
of the year it will be able to draw down inventories to the
point that with a very modest increase in demand, [producers]
will be able to maintain prices in the mid-to-high teens.

Where can prices go? We're taking a fairly conservative posture
because of OPEC's history of cheating. Our thinking is that by
the end of this year crude could get up to the $17 to $17.50
level. Our forecast in the fourth quarter will be about $16.25
on average and by yearend should be $17-plus. By the year 2000,
$16.75 is conservative, and we think that by the end of 2000 oil
could be above $18 a barrel. That's what we think is going to
happen. That's a major change from even three or four weeks ago,
before OPEC first began to signal that its last meeting was
going to be more than just another bickering session.

Q: But isn't the golden rule of oil investing to ignore what
OPEC says, and pay attention to what it does?
A: They got over a couple of serious hurdles at this last
meeting that many people thought they wouldn't. Number one,
there was a long-simmering debate between Saudi Arabia and Iran
over what Iran's quota should be. They settled it. There was the
issue of whether Venezuela, under a new President, would make
further cuts. That will be done also.

The whole deal revolved around how aggressive Saudi Arabia would
be in cutting its own production and how successful it would be
in coalescing the group. You have to remember that they did make
two cuts last year that were being complied with at 80%, which
is an extraordinary amount of oil to be withheld from the
market. Had that oil not been withheld, we would have had Saudi
light at $5 a barrel instead of $9 a barrel.
Secondly, just look at the numbers and [you'll] see that we're
not that far from a balanced market. It's not like 1986 when we
had excess productive capacity in the world of 35%, and when the
demand for oil wasn't just growing slower, but was down. We're
not a believer that you're going to see $20 to $25 oil prices.
[But] people are looking at this and saying, "You know what,
this might work."

There are two risks [that it won't work]. There's still the
compliance issue. If there's not enough compliance, this isn't
going to work. If there's only 50% compliance, then inventories
won't come down enough. Second is global macroeconomic activity
and its impact on demand in Asia and the OECD [Organization for
Economic Cooperation & Development] countries. We're looking for
1% to 2% global growth in demand. If you were to tell us that it
was flat to down, it would be a very different picture.

Q: How is this going to affect gasoline prices here in the U.S?
A: We definitely think that gasoline prices are going to be much
stronger. Given the fairly inelastic demand for gasoline, prices
will go up moderately. It won't be too bad unless there's an
enormous jump like there was in the late 1970s, when you went
from 50 cents a gallon to $1.50. But we do think that gas prices
are going up.

Because much of the gasoline price is taxes, you're not going to
see a doubling in prices. But you've already seen a nice rise,
and you could see another five or eight cents. You've also had a
couple of things here short term. You've had a couple of West
Coast refineries blowing up, which tightens the market in
Califorket, and that tenia, which is a big gasoline market, and that
tends to
tug up gasoline prices in the short term.

Q: Will rising oil prices cause a return of inflation?
A: I'm sure there are many others who know much more about that
than I do, but I think the impact will be much more muted than
it was 10 or 15 years ago. Airlines will be impacted more than
anybody. But in general, oil has a much smaller price impact [on
the economy]. Most certainly, the indices that will be coming
out in the next few months will show a meaningful increase in
the energy component of the CPI and GDP inflator. [But] I don't
think unless there's a huge runup in oil prices that it will
have much of an impact on inflation.

Q: Which sectors will benefit the most, and which sectors will
be hurt the most by your scenario of moderately increasing oil
prices?
A: The first sector to benefit from a rise in prices will be
independent producers, particularly those with a heavy weighting
in oil production as opposed to natural gas. They are going to
see a major increase in their cash flows over the next couple of
quarters. Those stocks have in the last two to four weeks not
only awakened from their slumber but have skyrocketed.

The oil-field service sector, which is simply a derivative of
the oil sector, because literally 100% of the dollars spent in
that industry come directly from the oil companies, will begin
to do better but not immediately in terms of fundamentals,
because it takes time for companies to reliquify and go back to
the budgetary process. But the stocks will anticipate nine
months to a year out. While we think some of them have gotten a
little ahead of themselves, it should continue to be a good
sector. The major oils have also done reasonably well, but
that's not as volatile a sector as the independents because they
are so diversified. But they will also benefit.

[As I said], I think that airlines will be affected. You would
think the trucking industry would be, too. To a degree, anytime
those two industries are involved, that filters through to the
rest of the economy. But it's going to be far different than it
was in the early 1980s, when we had double-digit inflation.
We're so efficient energy-wise that we've driven the cost of
energy as a percentage of manufacturing costs way down.
Q: Now that oil prices have started to come back, does that mean
that the mergers of Exxon (XON) and Mobil (MOB) and British
Petroleum/Amoco (BPA) no longer make sense?
A: No. The sense of urgency might no longer be there, but the
mergers still make great sense. The global oil industry is still
not a high rate-of-return business. It's a business that takes
enormous breadth of exploration and production throughout many
different regions. It's going to require huge capital for these
massive projects in the Caspian Sea and West Africa. It's moving
away from the U.S. business in deep-water drilling.

The consolidation savings of these mergers are huge. If you're
going to really play in the big leagues, then those mergers make
a lot of sense. There was a thesis, which I have subscribed to,
that there are a number of small and medium majors, like
Philips, Arco, and Unocal, which, although are very viable and
well-run businesses, in an $11 a barrel environment needed and
would have sought consolidation.

Perhaps if we can get back to $16 to $18 prices by the end of
next year, the near-term pressures for those companies to
consolidate won't be as strong. However, they are still going to
have to prove to investors that they can return above-average
rates of return on capital in what is still not a great pricing
environment, even at $18 a barrel. The rise in oil prices could
have an impact where it doesn't make consolidation as pervasive
as it would have been. But the economic driver to consolidate is
still going to be there. It's the same as banking industry
consolidation. You're going to have to be huge and have
tremendous economies of scale, or you're going to have to be
small and niche-oriented and add value some way.

Q: Which oil stocks do you like right now?
A: Oil-service and exploration stocks are much more volatile
than the major oils, by several-fold. We think the real value in
the group is the notch below the largest companies, such as
Schlumberger, Halliburton (HAL), and Baker Hughes (BHI), which
investors have gravitated to already for liquidity purposes.

We like some of the offshore drillers, including Santa Fe
International (SDC) and Noble Drilling (NE). We like Varco
International (VRC), a drilling equipment manufacturer with a
lot of proprietary equipment. We like a couple of the
foreign-based construction companies, such as Bouygues Offshore
(BWG) and Stolt Comex Seaway (SCSWY). We also like Newpark
Resources (NR) in the small cap area.

Among the independent producers, we like Burlington Resources
(BR), Devon Energy (DVN), Enron Oil & Gas (EOG), Newfield
Exploration (NFX), and Vintage Petroleum (VPI).

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:45:16 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Greece Condemns Serbian Ethnic-Cleansing in Kosovo

Greece Condemns Serbian Ethnic-Cleansing in Kosovo
==================================================


thr 022
greece-serbia-kosovo
greece condemns serbian ethnic-cleansing in kosovo
athens, march 29, irna -- greece today condemned the ethnic cleansing
of muslim albanians in kosovo by serbian forces amidst reports that
more than 500,000 albanians of kosovo have been displaced in recent
days.
greek foreign minister george papandreou told a press conference
monday that reports about serbian ethnic-cleansing in kosovo were
true.
''yes we have information that there is an attack by the serbian
army in kosovo with the aim to cleanse some areas,'' papandreou said
in response to a reporter's question on the issue.
papandreou said there was a large movement of albanian population
from kosovo mainly to macedonia and north albania.
over 90 percent of the population in kosovo is muslim albanians,
while the serbs are orthodox christians.
serb officials have publicly claimed that they are fighting to
stop the creation of a ''muslim fundamentalist state'' in europe.
greek prime minister costas simitis monday condemned the serbian
atrocities in kosovo and called on the serbs to stop their military
campaign.
speaking at a meeting of the central committee of the ruling
pasok party, simitis reiterated the greek position on a diplomatic
solution to the kosovo crisis.
analysts pointed out that perhaps for the first time greece,
a close friend of serbia, has openly condemned the serbs for
ethnic-cleansing.
greece is the only state in the 19-member nato alliance to refuse
participation in military strikes against serbia saying that
diplomatic initiatives were the only way to resolve the kosovo crisis.
papandreou said greece was ready to undertake any diplomatic
initiative in cooperation with its european partners and with the
balkan states to find a political solution to the kosovo crisis.
greek government spokesman dimitris reppas sunday said there
was no question of nato troops passing through greece to conduct
military operations against serbia.

however, political parties, the press and the church in greece
are denouncing the nato strikes against yugoslavia.
archbishop of greece christodoulos has blasted nato air strikes
on yugoslavia, saying orthodox serbs have been wronged.
nato members, he said , ''hate the orthodox...they hear about the
orthodox and they bristle because we are not easily subjugated.''
meanwhile, the u.s. ambassador to athens, nicholas burns, today
met greek alternate foreign minister yannos kranidiotis and discussed
with him the kosovo crisis.
according to media reports, the u.s. ambassador said the nato
strikes on yugoslavia will continue until belgrade signs the paris
peace accord.
nk/rr
end
::irna 29/03/99 16:36

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:44:56 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Mass Refugee Exodus from Kosovo

Mass Refugee Exodus from Kosovo
===============================


March 29, 1999
Web posted at: 8:58 a.m. EST (1358 GMT)


GENEVA (CNN) -- The United Nations refugee agency on Monday
warned that a "very grim" situation was developing at the Kosovo
border, as tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians streamed out of
the Serb province into Albania.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees, said that 30,000 people from Kosovo fled from Kosovo
into neighboring Albanian over the weekend.

The UNHCR estimates that the total number of refugees who
crossed into northern Albania has reached about 60,000.

"The picture that is emerging is very grim. There appears to be
a policy of expulsions of ethnic Albanians."

The Yugoslav authorities closed at least one crossing point into
Albanian earlier Monday, erecting concrete barriers along the
main road from the Kosovo city of Prizren to the Albanian town
of Kukes.

Refugees who did make it across the border told CNN reporter
Chris Burns that the authorities made them hand over documents
and car license plates, suggesting that they will not be allowed
back into the Yugoslavia.

Some of the refugees also told CNN of beatings, executions and
looting by Serb forces.

Janowski said Monday that there was still "plenty of fighting"
which was pushing people out of Kosovo province, where NATO
forces have been bombing Serb military tar
says is an effort to bring a halt to the attacks on
ethnic Albanians.

NATO says that 500,000 people have been displaced from their
homes in Kosovo due to the separatist conflict in the past year.

About 100,000 refugees have fled the fighting by leaving Kosovo
for European countries outside the Balkan region.

Janowski said the UNHCR agreed with NATO that the situation was
now shaping up to be the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe
since the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which formally came to
an end with the Dayton peace accords in 1995.

No food or medical aid was getting into Kosovo, and pressure was
mounting in Albania, already one of the poorest countries in
Europe, because of the influx of refugees across the border.

"We are rushing people and supplies there to try to cope," he
said.

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:45:26 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Kharrazi Discusses Kosovo Crisis with Izet Begovic

Kharrazi Discusses Kosovo Crisis with Izet Begovic
==================================================


thr 030
kharrazi-izetbegovic-kosovo
kharrazi discusses kosovo crisis with izetbegovic
tehran, march 29, irna -- foreign minister kamal kharrazi monday in a
telephone conversation with the member of the presidential council of
bosnia-herzegovina, alija izetbegovic discussed the latest situation
in kosovo.
expressing iran's concern over the plight of kosovar muslims,
kharrazi said the islamic countries are extremely anxious about the
violation of the rights of the muslims in kosovo.
he added that as the current chairman of the organization of the
islamic conference (oic), iran will use all its efforts to preserve
the fundamental rights of the kosovar muslims.
kharrazi deplored the fact that the bosnian airspace has been
repeatedly violated by yugoslav fighters and stressed the need to
maintain the territorial integrity of that country.
he informed izetbogovic of the outcome of the meeting of the
islamic countries contact group in new york and said the chairman of
the contact group had written to the head of the u.n. security council
on the current situation in kosovo.
referring to the violation of the rights of the muslims in kosovo
including the killings of the civilian population and the genocide
conducted by the yugoslav forces in the region, izetbegovic called on
kharrazi to exercise all efforts to persuade the belgrade government
to sign the agreement with the kosovars.
ah/hm
end
::irna 29/03/99 22:23

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:46:00 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Iran's Humanitarian Aid Delivered to Azeri People

Iran's Humanitarian Aid Delivered to Azeri People
=================================================


thr 011
azerbaijan-iran-aid
iran's humanitarian aid delivered to azeri people
baku, march 29, irna -- iran's embassy in baku sunday presented iran's
humanitarian aid to displaced azeri people on the occasion of eid
al-adha (feast of sacrifice).
the humanitarian aid rendered by the islamic republic of iran
including rice, sugar and tea was distributed among 700 azeri
families.
during a ceremony held on the occasion, iran's ambassador to
azerbaijan alireza bigdeli expressed hope that the homeless azeri
people will return to their cities through peaceful settlement of
the karabakh crisis. fs/ks
end
::irna 29/03/99 12:55

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:45:52 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: Saudi Security Keeps Watchful Eye Over Waning Hour

Saudi Security Keeps Watchful Eye Over Waning Hours of Hajj
===========================================================


March 28, 1999
Web posted at: 7:55 PM EST (0055 GMT)


MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Muslim pilgrims wedged
shoulder-to-shoulder performed their religious duties Sunday
under the watchful eyes of Saudi security men trying to avoid a
stampede like the one that marred the end of last year's sacred
journey.

Helicopters hovered over white-robed pilgrims coating a mountain
plain near Mina, six miles north of the holy city of Mecca,
their crews peering down for any signs of trouble.

Through loudspeakers, authorities called on pilgrims in Arabic,
English and Urdu not to linger at the pillars where a symbolic
stoning of the devil was being carried out. They were asked to
perform their duty and move on so others could follow.

The pleas, and wailing sirens, went largely ignored. By late
afternoon, perhaps 1.5 million of the 1.7 million participants
in the hajj, or annual pilgrimage, were squeezed together at the
same spot where a stampede last year left 180 people dead.

"I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I had no fear,"
said Ahmed Ali Hussein of Yemen as he began making his way from
the crowd. "If something happens to me, then that's God's will."

Abdul Rahman Mohammed, a 38-year-old Saudi who has lost count of
how many times he has performed the hajj, said the prospect of a
stampede doesn't worry him.

"I came here to be in God's house. If I die and I get to meet
him, then so much the better," Mohammed said.

Hours later, the crowds receded safely, and the attention of
many turned to more secular matters. Shops in Mina were buzzing
with pilgrims bargaining and buying toys for their children or
hajj memorabilia, including prayer rugs, traditional white
Islamic hats, and posters and statuettes of the holy sites.

Most pilgrims will return to the pillars Monday before heading
home. Some stay a day or two longer, to pray at the Grand Mosque
of Mecca -- Islam's most holy site -- and cast more pebbles at
the pillars.

The ritual, symbolizing the rejection of Satan's
temptations, is
performed between midday Sunday and midnight local time.

Some pilgrims sheltered themselves from the scorching sun with
green or black umbrellas; others stood beneath trees or bridges.

With temperatures reaching 106 degrees, heat exhaustion cases
kept medical workers busy. The Saudi Red Crescent treated 8,420
pilgrims through Saturday, according to the official Saudi Press
Agency. Figures through Sunday were not available.

The sheer number of pilgrims has made the hajj vulnerable to
disasters. In 1997, fire tore through a tent city at Mina,
killing more than 340 pilgrims and injuring 1,500.

However, the number of participants in the hajj, which is
required once of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the
journey, was down this year. Economic and political turmoil has
reduced the number of pilgrims from Indonesia, the most populous
Muslim country in the world, from 230,000 last year to 70,000.

Saudi officials said Sunday that 1.7 million pilgrims were
pals said Sunday that 1.7 million pilgrims were
participating in this year's hajj, compared with 2.3 million
last year. Together, the pilgrims have made 70 million telephone
calls this year and workers have picked up 750 tons of garbage.

More than 45,000 personnel have been mobilized to deal with the
pilgrims, including security troops, caterers and medical teams.

A Saudi official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity,
said the kingdom had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on
this year's pilgrimage.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.

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

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:47:38 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: RADIO FREE EUROPE/IRAN REPORT - Part 1

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
_____________________________________________________________
RFE/RL IRAN REPORT
Vol. 2, No. 13, 29 March 1999

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional
Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

NO RUZ IN MASHHAD, TEHRAN, AND WASHINGTON. In Mashhad,
Khorasan Province, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali
Khamenei gave a speech on 21 March at the shrine of Imam
Reza, the eighth Imam of Shia Islam, in honor of No Ruz
(Iranian New Year) and the Muslim feasts of Eid-e Qurban and
Ghadir Khom. His themes were the usual ones: care and
vigilance "vis-a-vis plots of the enemies;" calls for unity;
and solving Iran's economic problems. He also complained
about U.S. calls for freedom of expression.
This subject of free expression came up in the new
year's first Tehran Friday sermon by conservative judiciary
chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. He said: "There is no freedom
for you to write and say anything you like. Our people do not
want such freedom if it is against the tenets of Islam." He
then threatened: "The ruling institutions are overseen and
they will take action when necessary and will not listen to
what others say. ... Don't come out tomorrow and ask why you
were not warned in advance. Don't cry out when we arrest
someone."
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's No Ruz message
expressed pride in the Iranian nation and in Islam. He also
expressed pleasure with "attracting $9 billion in investments
on a buy-back basis without any commitment for the Iranian
government and nation."
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, according to
RFE/RL's Persian Service, also sent a No Ruz message. She
said: "On the occasion of the Iranian New Year, I would like
to extend warm greetings to the Iranian people." She also
expressed the hope for continued improvements in U.S.-Iranian
relations: "We look forward to building on this dialogue in
the coming year, for it enriches both our societies and
increases mutual understanding and respect."
This message from the U.S. was not mentioned by the
official Iranian news agency. Messages of congratulations
from Russia, Turkey, France, and exiled Afghan leader
Burhannudin Rabbani, on the other hand, were. (Bill Samii)

BASIJ AND IRGC LEADERS DISCUSS OBJECTIVES AND LOYALTIES.
Formed in 1980, Iran's Basij Resistance Force (Niru-yi
Moqavimat-i Basij) became famous during the Iran-Iraq War for
suicide attacks against Iraqi tanks or charging unarmed
through minefields. Since the war's end, the Basij has
shifted its attention to civil affairs projects, such as
inoculating children and disaster relief. Despite this
background, the Basij is finding it increasingly difficult to
recruit new members.
The Basij is formally part of the Islamic Revolutionary
Guards Corps, and it consists of about 200,000 peace-time
volunteers; mainly the elderly, the young, and those who have
done their military service already. During a time of war,
according to London's International Institute of Strategic
Studies, up to one million Basijis can be mobilized. There
are "Special" Basijis consisting of full-time paid personnel
who are uniformed and available to the IRGC. "Ordinary,"
Basijis are essentially reservists who are called up during
national emergencies.
The Basij is fighting a new enemy: loose morals and
decadence, such as improper veiling of women (bad hejabi) and
mixed-sex parties. And that is where the recruitment problems
can be traced. The organization now has a reputation for
thug-like behavior, of which its members seem proud. Basiji
Asghar Farahani told "U.S. News & World Report" last July
that initially they try to intimidate miscreants, then they
give them a verbal warning. But if that fails? "We beat them
so that it will have an effect on the offenders, and we beat
them in a way that there will be no physical traces on the
body." There is also the problem of socio-economic
differences. The young people attracted to the Basij are from
more traditional and conservative families. The people who
they act against come from more Westernized and more affluent
families.
Training officer Commander Gholamhossein Gheybparvar
told "Keyhan," one of Iran's more hard-line dailies which is
affiliated with the Supreme Leader's office, on 8 February
that the Basij is "the revolution's sturdiest support in
maintaining readiness for defense and national security." He
went on to say that each citizen's role in national security
is manifested by the Basij. Not only that, "our national
security depends on the divine forces of the Basij."
Despite this important role, some Iranians do not
appreciate the Basij, says Gheybparvar. For one thing, the
organization's budget allocation is inadequate. And
surprisingly, the student Basij is not always welcome: "Our
Basij lads are being treated with antipathy in all arenas,
and the only person who has staunchly defended them is the
Supreme Leader."
In an earlier interview with "Keyhan," Basij Commander
Hejazi discussed some of the means by which his organization
is trying to overcome its financial problems. The Basij is
informed, Hejazi said, that it cannot be dependent on
"limited government resources, and it must rely on and be
connected with the resources of the people."
There also are difficulties in recruitment and retention
of personnel. This is particularly problematic for the Basij,
because it has personnel of many different ages. "Athletic
activities, defense readiness training, cultural programs,
scientific programs, technical and professional training,"
therefore, are g
eared to specific age groups as
"attractions."
Hejazi stated in the interview that the Basij has a
major function of defending against the West's cultural
onslaught. To do this, the Basij "[creates] among its own
personnel insight and awareness ... through training, through
meetings and political justification programs, and by
obtaining political insight." The West's "cultural invasion
ultimately has political dimensions," as there are attempts
to make the youth question the past and "the great gains of
the Islamic revolution" and to make events in other countries
seem desirable.
Apparently, defending against the cultural onslaught has
been difficult for the Basij. Hejazi said, "we cannot claim
that we have been able to support the Basijs intellectually."
To do so, the organization must "provide Basiji daily needs
in the area of thought and theory." This will be done via
"publications, ideological classes, and gatherings in which
subject matter of interest is presented."
Asked about the Basij's political involvement, Hejazi
said this was a misinterpretation of Islamic Republic founder
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for the military to avoid
political factions. Hejazi said the Basij is duty-bound to be
well-informed about political affairs. A misunderstanding of
Khomeini's statements is also behind resistance to formation
of Basij groups in the universities, Hejazi says. The Basij
"must be the guardians of the policy of neither East nor West
at the university."
The IRGC is the parent organization of the Basij, and
"Asr" daily of Shiraz recently published an interview with
the IRGC commander, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi. What
came out most clearly was Safavi's, and by implication, the
IRGC and Basij's, declared loyalty to Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Safavi praised Khamenei's leadership
as president (1985-1989), saying that laid the basis for
successful "management of the country and the prosecution of
the war [with Iraq]."
The situation has improved since Khamenei become Supreme
Leader. "[With] the guidance provided by his eminence the
leader, ... our country has settled down and enjoys political
stability." As far as Safavi is concerned "there are those
who say the revolution is over. No sir, it has only recently
become strong and firm." (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS WITHOUT FRONTIERS (II). Beirut's moderate Christian
daily "Al Nahar" reported on 18 March that an Iranian named
Ali Niazi Dandash, who reportedly "has close links to
Tehran," tried to buy six kilograms of uranium from a
Lebanese-Syrian network. Dandash first gave his counterparts
a check for $5 million drawn on the Iran Exports Bank in
Beirut, then he gave them a check worth 400 billion rials
(from $53 million to $228 million, depending on the exchange
rate used). The uranium salesmen were arrested before the
deal was completed, but the uranium sample given to Dandash
disappeared. On 17 March ITAR-TASS reported the arrest of an
Iranian who was trying to stowaway on a ship in the Russian
port of Nakhodka bound for Japan. In Kuwait City, two
Iranians and a Kuwaiti were sentenced to life imprisonment
for trying to assassinate a Kuwaiti parliamentarian, Agence
France Presse reported on 22 March. And on 23 March Noyan
Tapan news agency reported that seven Iranian citizens
applied for citizenship of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic. (Bill Samii)

RELATIONS WITH AZERBAIJAN SCHIZOPHRENIC. Relations between
Iran and Azerbaijan continue to take a path which seems at
times to be smoothly paved, and which at other times seems
rocky and tpaved, and which at other times seems
rocky and tpaved, and which at other times seems
rocky and treacherous. The bedrock in the relationship is oil
and the continuing debate over the Caspian Sea legal regime.
But issues of trade, religion, and Nagorno-Karabakh also play
a part. And occasionally, demands for Azeri unification come
from Baku or statements from Azerbaijani dissidents come from
Tehran.
On 26 February, the Baku newspaper "Bu Gun" published an
interview with former Azerbaijan ambassador to Tehran Aliyar
Safarli, who is linked with the United Azerbaijan Movement.
He called for unification of Iranian Azerbaijan with the
Republic of Azerbaijan in order to protect the Turkic people
there. He said: "35 million [estimates vary from 16-20
million] of our compatriots live there. They have neither
secondary nor higher schools. Under the yoke of Persian
chauvinism 35 million people are melting like a candle. ...
Our mangurt [people without roots] intelligentsia and non-
intelligentsia are becoming their menials."
Makhir Javadov, whose extradition from Tehran the
Azerbaijani authorities are seeking on charges of plotting a
coup (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 February 1999), was
interviewed by the conservative "Resalat" daily on 1 March.
Javadov told "Resalat" that his sole concerns are
Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev's mismanagement. Javadov's statement that "the
two nations of Iran and Azerbaijan are actually one nation,"
however was not a call y one nation,"
however was not a call for unification, but one for
Azerbaijani integrity (to include Nagorno-Karabakh) and the
respect of national borders with eased transit rights.
Javadov accused Aliev of citing "unity" when complaining
about Nagorno-Karabakh, but using the same call to try to
merge southern and northern Azerbaijan. Seyyed Arran of
Aliev's Yeni Azerbaijan party expressed his concern about
Javadov's presence in Iran, AzadInform later reported.
At a 3 March press conference, Samir Adygozalli of
Azerbaijan's Great Nation Party claimed that Iran's Ministry
of Intelligence and Security gave information to Armenia
which permitted occupation (in May 1992) of the
strategically-important towns of Shusha and Lachin.
Furthermore, said Adygozalli, Iran has a $50 million budget
for subversive operations in Azerbaijan intended to "put an
end to the independent Azerbaijani state," Turan news agency
reported. The Iranian embassy in Baku said that, Sharg
reported on 9 March, such allegations stemmed from the desire
to harm relations between the two countries. Such charges are
intended to "divert the attention of the Azerbaijani public
from the main culprits of those events."
Iranian irritation with Azerbaijan also can be traced to
reports that Russians in the Kabala radar station may be
replaced by Western or Israeli personnel (see "RFE/RL Iran
Report," 1 February 1999). Not that it needs much
encouragement, but the Tehran press was apparently egged on
by Russian reports. For example, "Izvestiya" daily said in a
27 February headline "Israeli Plans for Anti-Iran Radar in
Azerbaijan Viewed." More subtle was "Vremya MN," which
reported on 11 March that Tel Aviv and Baku are negotiating
to "replace the Russian servicemen working at the Kabala
radar station with Israeli specialists." Azerbaijani and
Israeli authorities dismissed the reports.
But the timing of this last report was more than a
coincidence, coming on the eve of Azerbaijani Foreign
Minister Tofig Zulfagarov's visit to Iran. "Kayhan
International" warned "It is not in Baku's interests to annoy
its giant southern neighbor. ... Azerbaijan's security and
progress cannot be guaranteed only through flirting with the
West." "Iran News" took exception to all Azerbaijani
activities, terming the country "irresponsible regarding
regional interests."
Zulfagarov spent a day in East Azerbaijan Province where
he met with Assembly of Experts member and Friday Prayer
Leader Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari (brother of
Islamic intellectual Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mojtahed
Shabestari) and Governor-General Yahya Mohammadzadeh. Among
the issues they discussed were the long-promised opening of a
consulate in Tabriz, the supply of natural gas to Azerbaijan
through the Khoy-Nakhichevan pipeline, and trade promotion at
the Jolfa Special Trade Zone.
In Tehran, Zulfagarov met with Foreign Minister Kamal
Kharrazi, at which time thanks were expressed for Iran's role
in trying to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Kharrazi
regretted that the issue "has only offered the United States
an excuse for justifying the presence of their [sic] forces
in the region." Zulfagarov met with other officials too, and
trade and the Caspian were discussed, although there was no
substantive outcome.
Overall, the meetings seem to have gone well. Zulfagarov
announced that Azerbaijani President Aliev would visit Iran
sometime in 1999, and Iranian President Hot Iran
sometime in 1999, and Iranian President Hot Iran
sometime in 1999, and Iranian President Hot Iran
sometime in 1999, and Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad
Khatami was invited to Baku. And on the Iranian New Year (21
March), Azerbaijan sent a congratulatory message to its
southern neighbor. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI'S SAUDI VISIT REVIVED. Planned for the fourth week of
March, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's trip to
Saudi Arabia was canceled due to Saudi Arabia's stand on
rival claims by Iran and the United Arab Emirates over three
disputed islands in the Persian Gulf, the English-language
"Tehran Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 March
1999). But on 23 March, according to the Islamic Republic
News Agency (IRNA), Khatami sent a letter to King Fahd and
Crown Prince Abdullah in which he expressed an interest in
visiting Saudi Arabia after the pilgrimage season ends.
According to IRNA, this interest was motivated by Saudi and

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Mar 1999 - Special issue
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