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There are 12 messages totalling 794 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iran's Right combats voter apathy ahead of polls
2. Iran, UN chief discuss mediation effort to end Syria-Turkey crisis
3. UN prepares to airlift Iranian prisoners from Afghanistan
4. Freed Iranian journalist calls for release of colleagues
5. Iran hints at oil shift, Rushdie flap no threat
6. Iran denies seeking to delay foreign debt payment
7. Iran ``not opposed'' to Taleban envoy visit
8. minister turns down irna managing director's resignation
9. Iranians beginning to question orthodoxy
10. FWD: Iranian Publishers Fear New Crackdown Media
11. IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES TALK TOUGH
12. Taliban Promises to Release All Iranian Prisoners, UN Says

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 19:12:26 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: Iran's Right combats voter apathy ahead of polls

Iran's Right combats voter apathy ahead of polls

By Jonathan Lyons

TEHRAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Iranian conservatives, increasingly fearful that
a low turnout in next week's polls could weaken the country's Islamic
system, have launched a big political and media campaign to encourage
people to vote.

State radio and television, controlled by the right, is sponsoring various
competitions, including a prize for the best pro-election slogan.

News bulletins in the run-up to the October 23 polls to the Assembly of
Experts, a body of theologians which names and can dismiss Iran's supreme
leader, feature senior statements by Shi'ite Moslem clerics saying it is a
religious duty to vote.

Leading conservatives, meanwhile, have attacked leftist and moderate rivals
for challenging the screening of candidates as unfair, or for withdrawing
from the race altogether.

Almost 400 people signed up to take part in the elections, but only 167 --
none of them women -- were ruled as having the required theological
credentials.

Progressives around President Mohammad Khatami saw many of their candidates
eliminated, driving some of those approved to drop out in protest.

Habibollah Asgarowladi, head of the conservative Islamic Coalition Society
urged a number of leading moderates to reconsider their decision to
withdraw from the race.

``We, in the Islamic Coalition, believe that our (leftist) brothers should
take part more seriously in this divine test before it is too late,'' said
Asgarowladi, quoted by Iran's news agency IRNA.

High public participation, he said, would represent ``a bullet in the heart
of the enemies of the Islamic Revolution'' and provide further proof of the
legitimacy of the system.

Underlying the twin campaigns is the fear that low voter participation in
the nationwide elections could set in motion a challenge to the entire
Islamic political system, which officials say is among the world's most
democratic.

In contrast, the 1997 elections that swept moderate President Khatami to an
upset victory, saw heavy participation, particularly by women and young
people energised by his promise of a ``civil society'' within the Islamic
system.

The latest race has already been hit by key withdrawals from the leftist
camp, in protest at the rejection by a conservative oversight body of most
progressive candidates.

No official figures exist but published estimates show the approved field
features about 130 conservatives, 20 moderates and 10 leftists. There are
86 seats on the Assembly, chosen by popular vote.

Among those who have withdrawn in protest are Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri
of Isfahan, the only big-city prayers leader to support Khatami's reforms,
and Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, once in charge of meeting out revolutionary
justice.


The head of the biggest leftist grouping, the League of Militant Clerics,
in an open letter published on Thursday challenged the head of the
oversight body that vets all candidates for elected office to defend the
screening process.
The body, the 12-member Guardian Council, put the interests of the
conservative establishment ahead of democracy, said Mehdi Karrubi, leader
of the pro-Khatami League.

``The Guardian Council has exceeded its legal duties in elections and
become a source of pressure and elimination against rivals...disgracing
respectable, revolutionary figures and demolishing the rights of others,''
Karrubi said.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, secretary of the Council, declined Karrubi's
challenge to debate, saying it would only serve to polarise society and
undermine the elections.

About 29 million voters took part in the presidential polls last year.
Commentators say turnout for election to the powerful but obscure Assembly
is likely to be less than half that figure.

However, prospects for a competitive vote got a lift on Wednesday, when the
leading moderate party called on its backers to vote despite misgivings
over the screening process.

07:20 10-15-98

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:23:07 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran, UN chief discuss mediation effort to end Syria-Turkey crisis

TEHRAN, Oct 15 (AFP) - Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has
discussed Iran's efforts to ease tension between Syria and Turkey
with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Iran's official news agency
IRNA reported Thursday.
Kharazi told Annan in a telephone conversation that "the
attitude of both Syria and Turkey had fortunately changed towards
each other, as a result of efforts by Iran and Egypt."
"This shows that they are now ready to engage in talks" to
resolve the crisis," he said. "There are now more reasons for
optimism on the peaceful settlement of the dispute."
Kharazi, whose country currenty holds the presidency of the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference, travelled to both Syria and
Turkey in a bid to help resolve the crisis between the two Moslem
countries.
Egypt too has launched an initiative to end the dispute.
Turkey has threatened to attack Syria, charging it with
supporting the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been
waging a rebellion in southeastern Turkey since 1984, and harbouring
PKK leader Abdallah Ocalan.


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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:23:19 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: UN prepares to airlift Iranian prisoners from Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Oct 15 (AFP) - The United Nations is arranging to
airlift Iranian prisoners from southern Afghan city of Kandahar
following the Islamic militia's decision to release them, a UN
official said Thursday.
The UN is making logistic arrangements in cooperation with the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), James Ngobi, acting
head of the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan told the domestic APP
news agency.
"I can't give the exact date" when they will be evacuated, he
said, but added: "We are negotiating it."
A Taliban spokesman earlier said the militia was waiting for an
ICRC aircraft to shift 25 Iranians following an agreement on their
release reached between its chief Mulla Mohammad Omar and UN special
envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi visited Kandahar on Wednesday and held talks lasting
more than four hours with the reclusive Taliban leader to end
tensions between Tehran and the Taliban.
The Iranians were arrested during the militia's advances in
northern Afghanistan.
Brahimi told reporters Thursday the Taliban authorities had also
agreed to investigate matters which are "creating problems with the
public opinion."
A private news service, Afghan Islamic Press, said the Iranians
had not yet been released but a Taliban spokesman said Omar's order
would be implemented.
"We don't have any problem," the spokesman said stressing the 25
Iranians would be shifted to Islamabad when the ICRC plane was made
available.
The Taliban's relations with Tehran deteriorated in August
following the killing of eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist in
Mazar-i-Sharif after the key opposition city in northern Afghanistan
fell to the hardline militia.
Iran, demanding arrest and punishment of the killers, deployed
more than 200,000 Pasdaran (revolutionary guards) and elite troops
along Afghanistan's western border.
The Taliban have also agreed to hold talks with Iranian
officials in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah to normalise ties with
Tehran, sources in Kandahar said.


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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:22:53 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Freed Iranian journalist calls for release of colleagues

TEHRAN, Oct 15 (AFP) - Hamid-Reza Jalai-Pour, the director of a
liberal Iranian newspaper freed from jail this week, has called for
the release of two of his colleagues, saying they were in poor
physical and mental health, newspapers reported Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after his release on Tuesday, Jalai-Pour
of banned Toos daily also complained of having been held in solitary
for the 27 days he was imprisoned.
"During this time we were all in solitary cells and had no
amenities like radio, TV or newspapers. We were even deprived of
books up until 10 days ago," he told Jahan-e-Islam daily newspaper.
Jalai-Pour said Toos's editor-in-chief, Mashallah
Shamsolvaezine, and humor columnist, Ibrahim Nabavi, were both in
bad health.
"Shamsolvaezine has kidney problems and has lost much weight and
Nabavi has nervous problems and I am not sure if he can tolerate
being in jail," he said.
"I am not an expert on Islam. But is this the way to treat a
Moslem, to subject them to mental duress?" he told newspapers,
calling for the immediate release of his two colleagues.
Toos was shut down by the security forces and its editorial
staff arrested in mid-September for "acting against the national
security and interests."
Jalai-Pour was freed after his mother met Iran's supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and appealed for his release.
Khamanei ordered a Tehran revolutionary court to release
Jalai-Pour on bail while the investigation continues into the
charges against him.
The culture ministry said Toos was closed because of an
interview with former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing in
which he claimed Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini had sought and been granted political asylum when he went
to France before the Islamic Revolution in 1978.
Toos, which supported President Mohammad Khatami and his
moderate views, had been popular with young Iranians and
intellectuals.
But it had come under growing attack from hardline conservatives
which accused the paper of seeking to undermine the values of the
1979 Islamic revolution.
Toos took over the staff and offices of the pro-Khatami Jameeh
(Society) newspaper which was opened in February and shut down
shortly afterwards.


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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:25:27 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran hints at oil shift, Rushdie flap no threat

Iran hints at oil shift, Rushdie flap no threat 12:34 p.m. Oct 14, 1998
Eastern

By William Maclean

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Iran may show flexibility in negotiating key
aspects of foreign investment in oil and gas development ventures that
have proved unpopular with foreign energy companies, an Iranian oil
official said on Wednesday.

In remarks indicating a possible easing of Iran's approach to outside
energy involvement, he said Iran would be prepared to discuss widening
the range of possible repayment models for investors planning to upgrade
existing oil and gas fields.

``There is room for flexibility in this regard. It's a question of
collecting information and addressing a range of related issues over the
next few months,'' the official, who asked not to be named, told
Reuters.

He said investors should not fret over political turbulence such as
Iran's rocky ties with neighbouring Afghanistan and fresh statements
attacking British author Salman Rushdie, or over oil sector changes such
as a planned onshore reshuffle.

``The Salman Rushdie case is over. There are some conservatives who
raise this issue but for domestic consumption only. But 70 to 80 percent
of those who voted for President Khatami do not subscribe to their
views,'' he said.

On Iran's confrontation with Afghanistan's ruling Taleban Islamic
movement, he said: ``This should not be a cause for concern. It is being
allowed to calm down.''

Foreign energy companies are elbowing for position in Iran in an $8
billion oil and gas investment race that has attracted European and
Asian firms long starved of Gulf upstream ventures.

The country, which holds the world's second largest gas and fifth
largest oil reserves, has offered 43 so-called buy-back ventures where
investors are repaid in production under its largest energy opening
since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran has already signalled the possibility of easing terms on
exploration deals which make up 16 of the offered ventures.

But on development deals on established fields, Iran has so far been
determined to restrict the use of so-called alternative oil for
repayment in cases where a field's output is insufficient to repay
capital recovery and remuneration.

Asked to comment on a demand by some foreign companies to have a right
either to raise production or take production from other fields if their
own output was inadequate, the official said without elaborating that
flexibility was a possibility.

Iranian analysts based in London have said they expect any such
flexibility to emerge only in final phases of negotiation -- which for
most projects lies months, if not years away.

Asked whether Iran preferred approaches by consortiums, the official
said there was no rigid rule but ventures involving several foreign
companies were usually able to draw on more resources than those
involving only one.

The official added the oil ministry was pressing ahead with plans to
reorganise the onshore sector of the National Iranian Oil Company to
allow a role for private Iranian companies.

These small, semi-private business units would act as state owned NIOC's
prime onshore contractors and would link up with foreign ``buy back''
partners to develop one or two fields each.

A separate Iranian source said 30 of such firms had been or were being
created for both onshore and offshore sectors.

Some foreign firms dislike the development, arguing it could lead to
delays and complications if it is carried out in tandem with buy-back
negotiations on onshore fields.

But the official said foreign investors should not be deterred, and
those foreign companies that had worked with such semi-private companies
in the offshore sector would be at an advantage in seeking opportunities
onshore.

``They can use their experience and contacts built up in their dealings
with Iranian private companies,'' he said.

He said Iranian officials would attend a conference in January in London
to review bids. Iran has said it hopes to finalise an ``appreciable''
amount of the ventures by late March.

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:24:58 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran denies seeking to delay foreign debt payment

Iran denies seeking to delay foreign debt payment 12:00 p.m. Oct 15,
1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Iran denied on Thursday it was seeking to
delay payments on its foreign debt despite facing a $6 billion budget
deficit due to a slump in oil prices.

``Iran does not intend to ask for a delay on (repayments of) its foreign
debts,'' Mohammad Mojarrad, deputy governor of the Central Bank, told
the official news agency IRNA.

``All Iranian banks have been directed to make all their payments on
time and, in case of delays, to pay delay penalties to the foreign
banks,'' IRNA quoted Mojarrad as saying.

The remarks followed reports in Western media that Iran was looking for
relief in repaying the balance of debts rescheduled in 1994 with Germany
and, possibly, with Japan.

London-based Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) this week quoted unnamed
Iranian bankers as saying the Central Bank wanted Germany to agree to a
one- to two-year extension in repaying up to $2 billion falling due by
September 1999.

``Signs of the government's debt repayment difficulties emerged in late
September (1998) when a scheduled quarterly payment to Frankfurt-based
AKA Ausfuhrkredit via the German state insurance agency Hermes was not
made in full,'' MEED said.

MEED said Iran was due to make a capital repayment of 255 million marks
($157 million) but paid 10 percent of the amount.

Export finance company AKA Ausfuhrkredit-Gesellschaft declined to
comment on the report.

Mojarrad referred to ``disorder'' in unspecified payments but said it
had been dealt with.

``Some disorder in payments by branches of Iranian banks abroad is due
to lack of coordination with their central offices in Tehran. But the
necessary orders have been issued for the payment on time of foreign
commitments...,'' Mojarrad said.

``Despite this (fall in oil income), efforts have been made to avoid
delays in repayments of foreign obligations and all due obligations have
been so far paid in time,'' Mojarrad added.

``He (Mojarrad) expressed hope that talks held by Iran in the past
months with trade partners would give results and that no problems would
arise in fulfilling foreign obligations,'' IRNA said. Mojarrad gave no
details of the talks.

A senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Iran's oil export income
fell to $5 billion in the six months from March. The drop represented a
39 percent decline, year on year.

Iran's parliament approved an emergency rescue package on Wednesday to
deal with the annual budget deficit of about 18 trillion rials ($6
billion) after the cabinet said it threatened the government's ability
to pay its bills and employees. But the government said Iran would pay
its foreign commitments on time.

Mojarrad put Iran's foreign obligations at $12.3 billion and said
rescheduled debts amounted to $4 billion which would be paid off by
March 2000, IRNA reported.

He said Iran's hard currency outlays in the six months from March 1998
totalled $9.4 billion, $5 billion of which came from oil revenues and
$1.3 billion from hard currency reserves.

The remaining $3.1 billion was covered by taking advance payments ahead
of oil deliveries or through foreign credits, IRNA quoted Mojarrad as
saying.

Central Bank official Said Niazi told IRNA on Sunday Iran was due to pay
$1.69 billion of its $4 billion in rescheduled debts by March 1999,
while the next due date for about the same amount was March 2000 and the
balance was to be paid by 2003.

Iran, the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and
Norway, relies on petrodollars for around 80 percent of its hard
currency earnings.

($1-3,000 rials at the official exchange rate) ($1-1.62 marks) ((Tehran
newsroom +98 21 227 7437))

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:25:58 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran ``not opposed'' to Taleban envoy visit

Iran ``not opposed'' to Taleban envoy visit 05:39 a.m. Oct 14, 1998
Eastern

TEHRAN, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Iran would not oppose a visit by an Afghan
Taleban envoy to Tehran to secure the release of Iranians detained by
the Islamist militia, Iran's deputy foreign minister said in remarks
published on Wednesday.

``So far no envoy has visited Iran on behalf of the Taleban, but if such
a measure is taken with the intention of releasing Iranians jailed by
the Taleban, we will not oppose it,'' the Salam daily newspaper quoted
Mohsen Aminzadeh, deputy foreign minister for Asia and Pacific affairs,
as saying.

Aminzadeh said Iran did not oppose the forthcoming visit of the U.N.
special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar in
Afghanistan, but added that if his mediation bid failed, ``other
alternatives'' remained open to Iran.

``If the Taleban does not submit to the legitimate demands of Iran and
the international community...it will come under pressure and
punishment,'' he said.

Iran had detected changes in the behaviour of the purist Islamic
movement which controls more than 90 percent of Afghanistan, Aminzadeh
said.

``Owing to the pressure exerted by the U.N. and the international
community, and owing to the powerful presence of Iran's military forces
to safeguard security on the border, the Taleban's behaviour has
changed,'' he said.

Iran says it has massed some 270,000 forces and would soon launch major
military exercises along its border with Afghanistan.

Tensions sparked between Shi'ite Moslem Iran and the Sunni Taleban after
nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist were killed by Taleban militia
in August.

Iran has demanded the arrest and punishment of those responsible for the
killings and the release of dozens of Iranians detained by the Taleban
in Afghanistan.

The Taleban on Monday freed 10 Iranians who were flown to Tehran on a
Red Cross aircraft.

The bodies of the diplomats and the journalist have been returned to
Iran.

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:26:53 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: minister turns down irna managing director's resignation

tehran, oct. 15, irna -- minister of culture and islamic guidance
ataollah mohajerani has turned down resignation by managing director
of the islamic republic news agency (irna) fereydoun verdinejad, the
english daily 'tehran times' reported thursday.
the paper quoted an informed sources as saying that verdinejad
has resigned but his resignation was not accepted by the authorities.
he further told the daily that irna chief submitted his
resignation to the minister last month.
''the resignation was accepted by the minister and few people
including seyed mohammad ali abtahai were on the list to be chosen
as his successor,'' the paper quoted the source as saying.
the daily said that on wednesday mohajerani called verdinejad
and asked him to ''stay in the office to serve the revolution.''
verdinejad is also managing director of 'iran' publishing groups
which prints three newspapers in persian, english and arabic
language.
the report on the rejection of verdinejad's resignation by culture
and islamic guidance minister was also reflected on several persian
and english-language newspapers thursday morning.
'iran daily', 'iran news' and 'akhbar' were among newspapers which
carried the news.

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:32:36 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranians beginning to question orthodoxy

Iranians beginning to question orthodoxy

By DOUGLAS JEHL The New York Times
TEHRAN, Iran -- In a country lurching between old oppression and new
freedoms, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi has kepthis bloodstained shirt as a kind
of two-edged reminder -- of the perilin outspokenness and the pleasure of
speaking out. When Tabarzadi dared suggest in public a year ago that Iran's
supreme leader ought to be elected by the people, he was beaten by thugs
aligned with the rulingreligious establishment. But the speech at Tehran
University was a ripple in what became a wave, as Iranians have begun to
question orthodoxy in ways inconceivable only a year ago. "People are for the
first time challenging the official version," said Sadeq Zibacalam, a
professor of political science at Tehran University. "Some of them are
even daring to say that the emperor has no clothes." In many cases the
reaction has been harsh, a backlash carried out by and on behalf of the
clerics who have ruled Iran for almost 20 years. Newspapers have been
shut, people have been jailed and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, has begun to thunder against those he says are "crossing the
bounds of freedom." But having confounded the establishment by electing
a dark horse, Mohammad Khatami, as their president in May 1997, Iranians
have now become bolder about asserting a right to shape the country's
course. With another national election on the horizon, a high-stakes tug
of war has been set in motion. Few Iranians have dared to echo
Tabarzadi, 38, leader of a student movement, in espousing full democracy
for the Islamic republic, whose supreme leader -- unlike the less
powerful president -- is selected by a panel of religious experts to
serve as God's representative on Earth. Yet for the first time since the
Iranian revolution of 1979, the last few months have brought an open
debate about whether clerics alone should have the power to make such a
momentous choice. There have been only two previous elections to choose
the 86 members of the panel, known as the Assembly of Experts. Those
votes passed without notice in 1982 and 1989. In a kind of closed
circle, the candidates have always been senior Shiite Muslim clerics
approved by a powerful Guardians Council whose members are appointed by
the supreme leader. The only known action ever taken by the experts'
assembly was to wield a rubber stamp after the death of Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, when it swiftly endorsed his choice by naming
Khamenei as his successor. But last spring, seeing a potential to expand
what remains a narrow base of power, some of Khatami's supporters --
including Faizeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi
Rafsanjani -- began to argue that so important a panel should include
women and members of the public as well as clerics. The reaction from
authorities reflected a distinct lack of enthusiasm for such changes.

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:35:18 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: FWD: Iranian Publishers Fear New Crackdown Media

Iranian Publishers Fear New Crackdown Media: Year of relative freedom
ends with arrests of 4 staff members from outspoken newspaper. By JOHN
DANISZEWSKI, Times Staff Writer

ADVERTISEMENT

EHRAN--Publisher Shahla Lahiji was at a book fair in western Iran when
she noticed security people helping themselves to works that the
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had given her permission to
publish. "We didn't even know who they were. When we asked, they
answered, 'Don't challenge,' " she recalled. "This is a sensitive time
for all of us." A climate of fear is running through editorial offices
and publishing houses in Iran amid signs of a crackdown. It began with
criticism by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that
some newspapers were being used to weaken Islamic belief. Then came the
arrests of four staff members at the country's most daring daily, Tous.
Now Lahiji says that, one by one, she and others in the media have been
warned: "Be careful." After more than a year of relative freedom under
Iran's moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, the hard-liners seem to
have struck back. Tous remains closed. Its business director, Hamid Reza
Jalaeipour, was released by authorities on Tuesday, but officials said
he still faces investigation. The other three staff members remain in
detention, their whereabouts and condition unknown. And before
Jalaeipour's release, a senior Islamic judge had warned that the four
staff members could face the death penalty as mohareb, or "those who
fight God." For editors and publishers, the message is clear: The winds
have shifted. Khatami, the architect of the liberalized press climate
since he took power last year, has not raised strong protest, leading
many to conclude that he feels powerless to oppose the crackdown. Others
argue that the situation is not so dire. Khatami's administration has
surrendered, they say, in the case of a few publications that challenged
Iran's system of government overseen by religious authority, but the
trend toward more freedom remains intact. "Originally press people felt,
'This is it, there is going to be a crackdown' and so on," political
scientist Sadeq Zibakalam said. "But it seems . . . there wasn't any
sort of organized and widespread crackdown. Since then, it has become
somewhat relaxed." Although several newspapers have criticized the
arrests of the Tous employees as a violation of the Iranian
Constitution--a charge brushed aside by the hard-line judiciary--editors
admit to feeling intimidated. "Yes, I must be more cautious now because
I could be faced by the Revolutionary Court," said Ali Dehbashi, editor
of Bukhara, a review of art and culture. A veteran daily newspaper
editor who requested anonymity said: "No one will come here to tell me
to write this or not to write that. But if I write something, I know
there will be a price to pay." For Iranians, the immediate effect is a
press that is more cautious and less critical. Some Khatami supporters
feel that the crackdown is a sign of worse things to come, a signal that
the hard-liners are working to depose the president. "If we lose
Khatami, then we have no alternative within the system," warned Bedzah
Nabavi, a leader of the pro-Khatami Moujahedeen of the Islamic
Revolution Organization, in the Salam newspaper. Started eight months
ago as Jameah, Tous became Iran's most popular paper, selling 400,000
copies a day. But within hours of Khamenei's criticism of newspapers
Sept. 15, Tous' operations were suspended by the judiciary, along with
those of two small weeklies. The ban became final Sept. 28 when the
Press Supervisory Board revoked Tous' license. Tous got in trouble for
an alleged insult that might not even seem insulting to outsiders. The
newspaper reported on an interview given in France by former French
President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who said the late Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini had once sought political asylum in France. Hard-liners deny
that there was ever a request and considered it an insult to suggest
that Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution who remains an icon
nine years after his death, once asked such a favor of a Western power.
The Revolutionary Court, which prosecutes serious crimes under Islamic
law, ordered the arrest of Jalaeipour, Tous Editor Mashaallah
Shamsolwaizin and the other two staff members. They were charged with
acting against national security. Other newspapers maintain that the
action was illegal because it bypassed the watchdog Press Supervisory
Board and an existing Press Court, which was created to consider cases
involving journalistic errors and misdeeds. But the head of Iran's
judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, said the judiciary's Islamic
punitive codes take precedence over the press law when issues of
national security arise. Tous had been fearless in testing the
boundaries of freedom under Khatami. In July, it reported that district
mayors had been beaten by police during questioning connected with the
trial of suspended Tehran Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi. In August, it
revealed evidence that the judiciary had been taking bail money on
deposit with the courts and investing it in interest-bearing bank
accounts, with the profits going to judicial officials. Yazdi, the
judiciary head, said the Revolutionary Court intends to keep a close eye
on the press, something that had been the purview of the more liberal
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. For Dehbashi, the art review
editor, that is bad news. "This court knows nothing about literature and
culture," he said. "It is not familiar with journalism." Another
journalist, who requested anonymity, said conservatives acted because
they are frightened by a society that seems to have turned against them.

Copyright 1998 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:35:56 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES TALK TOUGH

IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES TALK TOUGH

TEHRAN-LONDON DEAL ON RUSHDIE EXPLOITED TO HURT MODERATES

Reuters

October 15, 1998

TEHRAN Iranian conservatives, inflamed by any threat to the state's
Islamic principles, in the past few days have turned their anger on last
month's diplomatic deal with Britain over the Salman Rushdie affair.

Caught in the cross-fire is moderate President Mohammad Khatami, who
oversaw restoration of full diplomatic ties with Britain after he
repeated Iran's stance that it would not sanction carrying out the
religious decree ordering the author's death.

An Iranian press report that a religious foundation has raised the price
on Rushdie's head to $2.8 million touched off new fears for the author's
life despite what British officials earlier billed as an accord that
would ensure his safety.

Another conservative group, meanwhile, announced it would collect an
additional $333,000, payable to the assassin or, in the event of his
death, to his family.

"We call on the government to . . . apologize for this mistake, which
induces the idea of separation of religion from politics," the group
said.

An elderly clergyman, taking part in a conservative street rally
Wednesday, said any economic benefits of better ties with Britain were
beside the point. "Our religious principles are more important than
hunger," Jafar Esfahani said.

The religious edict, or fatwa, condemning Rushdie to death for alleged
blasphemy against Islam in his novel "The Satanic Verses" was issued in
1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the highest religious and
political authority in Iran. Religious scholars say that with Khomeini's
death later that year no one has the power to revoke the death order.

Conservatives have tried to exploit the government's diplomacy to assert
their hold on domestic politics. The real issue is the balance of power
between conservatives and moderates in Iran.

"The raising of the bounty seems to be aimed at undermining President
Mohammad Khatami's reform policies by the conservatives," one political
scientist said.

Khatami's bid to create a "civil society," endorsed in his landslide
election in 1997, has angered many religious conservatives who view it
as a threat to clerical power and the state's Islamic credentials.

He also has sought to improve relations with the West, freeing Iranian
foreign policy of some of its Islamic rhetoric.

The conservative daily Jomhuri Eslami announced earlier this week that
the 15th of Khordad Foundation had increased its price on Rushdie's head
by $300,000. Separately, religious fundamentalists said they would
collect additional funds of their own.

Both dismissed as meaningless the diplomatic deal between Iran and
Britain.

The renewed talk of blood money has set off alarms in London, where
officials said Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was preparing Wednesday to
meet Rushdie to review the matter.

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

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:27:39 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Taliban Promises to Release All Iranian Prisoners, UN Says

Taliban Promises to Release All Iranian Prisoners, UN Says

New York, Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar
yesterday promised to release all Iranian prisoners in an effort to
improve relations, according to United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar
Brahimi, a UN spokesman said.

Brahimi met Omar and other officials of the Taliban militia, who control
most of Afghanistan, for more than three hours yesterday in the southern
Afghan town of Kandahar.

The conflict is closely watched by oil traders, though analysts say the
Taliban don't have the capability to damage Persian Gulf oilfields in
Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil producer. The region would become
more unstable though if Pakistan, a Taliban supporter, also becomes
involved.

``Mullah Omar had agreed to the release by the Taliban of all Iranian
prisoners, which Mr Brahimi felt would help diffuse tensions between
those two countries,'' UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New
York yesterday.

Follow-up talks between Brahimi and Taliban officials will be held in
Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Pakistan is one of the few countries
to support and recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.

The Taliban clashed with Iranian troops at their mutual border last week
following tension caused by the deaths in August of Iranian diplomats in
northern Afghanistan at the hands of Taliban soldiers. Both sides hold
soldiers as hostages.

The Taliban have instituted a strict interpretation of Islamic
fundamentalism and control almost all of Afghanistan.

Human rights groups have accused them of massacring hundreds of
civilians when they captured the northern strongholds of Mazar-i-Sahrif
and Bamiyan.

Omar accepted the idea of an international investigation into those
massacres, and the killing of a UN peacekeeper Lt. Col. Carmine Calo in
Afghanistan, said Eckhard.

The follow-up talks will also discuss conditions necessary for the
return of UN personnel to Afghanistan. All UN staff were evacuated weeks
ago for fear of attacks from the Taliban. UN workers had been shot at
numerous times and two Afghan nationals working for the UN were found
hanged in July.

The Taliban is not formally recognized by the UN and does not hold a
seat on the 185-nation UN General Assembly.

04:32:13 10/15/1998

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 14 Oct 1998 to 15 Oct 1998
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