Date: Oct 29, 1998 [ 0: 0: 0]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 27 Oct 1998 to 28 Oct 1998

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 27 Oct 1998 to 28 Oct 1998
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There are 9 messages totalling 318 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Iranian currency freefalls on open market
2. Iran to hold first local elections since 1979 revolution
3. Iranian foreign ministry joins the Internet
4. Iran to begin military manoeuvres on Afghan border on Saturday
5. Iran supports free expression in arts: Khatami
6. Iranian senior citizens to be given right to adopt abandoned children
7. Iran woos foreigners to invest in free-trade zones
8. Iranian, Syrian foreign ministers blast Wye River accord
9. Plane hijacker sentenced to jail in Iran

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Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:29:34 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian currency freefalls on open market

TEHRAN, Oct 28 (AFP) - The Iranian currency dropped sharply in
value this week on the open market after months of steady decline,
but the central bank pledged Wednesday to maintain a freeze on the
rate of the rial against major foreign currencies.
The rial fell from 6,200 to the dollar at the start of the week
to nearly 6,700 on Wednesday after hints from the central bank early
in the week that it may allow the currency to freely float against
major currencies.
Central Bank deputy-governor Mohammad-Jafar Mojarrad said Monday
that Iran's fixed exchange rate regime "was no longer effective."
Iran froze the rate of the rial at 3,000 to the dollar three
years ago in an effort to stablize the national currency, which had
then collapsed to around 7,000 to the greenback.
The authorities, adopting a range of tough measures including
banning the open market and prosecuting illegal money changers,
managed to boost the rial, only to see it gradually fall again in
value.
The central bank presently maintains three different exchange
rates of 1,750, 3,000 and 5,700 -- for government organisations,
export rates and certain travellers respectively.
But the country's banking system is not allowed to engage in any
direct exchange of currencies at the above rates.
The central bank said Wednesday the rates will continue to be
frozen until the end of March 2000, in line with the government's
latest economic policies unveiled several months ago.
Iran's revenues in hard currency have sharply declined because
of the collapse of oil prices, and the government is facing a budget
shorfall of 6.3 billion dollars this year.
It has sought to make up for lost income by more tax collection,
sale of debentures, and preselling crude.

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Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:29:51 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to hold first local elections since 1979 revolution

TEHRAN, Oct 27 (AFP) - Iran is to stage local elections next
February for the first time since the 1979 revolution, marking a
further step by President Mohammad Khatami to give the public a
greater role in political affairs.
Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Musavi-Lari announced Tuesday that
positions for some 200,000 district, town and village councillors
will be filled through universal suffrage on February 26.
The move is in keeping with pledges by the reformist Khatami to
decentralise government and increase public participation and is
also seen as a potential challenge to the deeply-rooted local
influence of the Shiite Moslem clergy.
Provisions for the election of municipal councils are contained
in the 1980 Iranian constitution but have never been implemented and
in the absence of such bodies, local mayors have been appointed
directly by the interior ministry.
Observers regard the elections not only as a step towards the
creation of Khatami's oft-mentioned "civil society," but also a
long-term move to invigorate the Islamic regime, which celebrates
its 20th anniversary in February.
The municipal polls will also provide another arena for moderate
and conservative factions in Iran's political class to go
head-to-head before crucial parliamentary elections due in 2000.
Conservatives cemented their grip on a key power base at the
weekend, winning an overwhelming majority of seats in the Assembly
of Experts, a clerical body that hires and fires Iran's supreme
leader.
Their dominance in such elections has so far been ensured
through rigorous screening of candidates by government electoral
watchdog, the Council of Guardians.
However, the interior minister did not say whether there will be
a similar screening process for local council candidates, as is the
case for legislative and presidential polls as well as the Assembly
of Experts.
Local candidates must however be aged 25 and over, literate and
not members of any government body or other institution connected
with the regime.
In a related move Tuesday, the interior ministry also said has
introduced a plan to increase the powers of provincial governors,
set to become the government's "senior representatives" in the
country's 28 provinces.
Nomination of these officials will remain with the interior
ministry but will henceforce be appointed by presidential decree, in
a move designed to increase their authority and autonomy.
Governors will have a greater say in the appointment of junior
provincial administrators, hitherto appointed directly by the
interior ministry, who will have to provide them with regular
reports on their activities.
Governors will also have some say in the nomination of judicial,
police and state broadcasting officials within the province.
The interior minister said the judiciary -- a stronghold of the
conservative clerics -- "must in the future cooperate with
provincial government on all matters concerning provincial
security".
The move was announced as aimed at reducing "friction" between
provincial administrative bodies. Effectively it will ensure the
transfer of power from the interior minister to provincial governors
who will be permitted to liaise directly with other senior officials
such as the president.
The government has emphasised decentralisation as a solution to
Iranian society's increasingly complex problems.
"Given the rapid pace of population growth, expansion of cities
and sophisticated political, security, cultural and social issues,
the country can no longer be administred following traditional
models," said vice-president for state administrative affairs
Mohammad Baqerian.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:30:06 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian foreign ministry joins the Internet

TEHRAN, Oct 27 (AFP) - Iran's foreign ministry has become the
country's first ministry to join the Internet after years of
resistance within the Islamic regime.
The ministry inaugurated Monday a computerized communication
network connected to the Worldwide Web and which is directly linked
to Iran's permanent mission at the United Nations, the official news
agency IRNA reported Tuesday.
The regime has long been suspicious of the Internet, considering
it a dangerous instrument of western "cultural onslaught" and senior
clerics have warned it could poison morals and opinionin the Islamic
republic.
Access was for some time limited to research by academic and
scientific bodies, but it has slowly opened up to popular use.
The regime itself is also increasingly using the net to promote
Islamic values and political propaganda. This year, the writings of
the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were made
available on the Internet to mark the ninth anniversary of his death
in June 1989.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:30:15 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran to begin military manoeuvres on Afghan border on Saturday

TEHRAN, Oct 27 (AFP) - Iran announced on Tuesday that it will
begin the "principal phase" of its planned military manoeuvres on
the Afghan border on Saturday.
Up to 200,000 men will participate in the wargames due to take
place near the town of Zabol, in Iran's easternmost province of
Sistan-Baluchestan, according to land forces commander
Brigadier-General Abolali Pourchasb.
Speaking on Tehran Radio, the general said units from Iran's
naval forces will also take part in manoeuvres over an area of
50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) which includes Lake
Hamoun on the Afghan border.
Iran's wargames come in the wake of mounting tensions with
Afghanistan, following the murder by Taliban militiamen of nine
Iranian diplomats and a journalist in the Afghan city of
Mazar-i-Sharif.
The Sunni Moslem Taliban captured the city on August 8 from
Iranian-backed opposition forces.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said on October 7 that Iran
"reserves the right to use force" to ensure the murderers are
brought to justice.
In a bid to reduce tensions, the UN envoy on Afghan affairs
Lakhdar Brahimi has made several trips to the region to discuss the
crisis with Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani officials. Pakistan is the
Taliban's main ally.
Iran postponed the military manoeuvres in early October awaiting
the results of Brahimi's negotiations, which have so far led to the
release of 26 Iranians by the Taliban.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:30:25 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran supports free expression in arts: Khatami

TEHRAN, Oct 27 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said
Tuesday that his moderate government supports free expression in the
arts and that artists in Iran should feel safe in manifesting their
beliefs.
"Expressing an opinion does not pose a danger to national
security. The security of society is endangered when legal channels
are closed," Khatami said in a speech to inaugurate a new theatre
here.
"We must create conditions allowing artists to pursue their work
and express themselves without fear," he said, quoted by the
official news agency IRNA.
The remarks came amid increasing government pressure on liberal
newspapers, one of which was shut on the grounds that it was "a
danger to national security."
Iran's theatre industry has declined since the 1979 Islamic
revolution. Islamic law requires female actors to wear veils on
stage.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:30:43 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian senior citizens to be given right to adopt abandoned children

TEHRAN, Oct 28 (AFP) - Iran's welfare agency will allow retired
couples to adopt the nation's roughly 3,000 abandoned children, the
official news agency IRNA said.
The welfare agency is building an apartment complex in the holy
city of Qom to provide free housing for "qualified foster parents
who do not own a place," welfare official Gholamreza Ansari told
IRNA Tuesday.
Ansari said all of the 3,000 children currently under the
organisation's care will be placed with qualified couples in an
effort to provide "family life to all abandoned children by the year
2004."

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:30:53 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran woos foreigners to invest in free-trade zones

TEHRAN, Oct 28 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament called Wednesday
for urgent approval of a draft law which would protect foreign
investments in Iran's free-trade zones against possible
nationalisation.
The bill, which will now move to parliamentary committees,
specifies measures to compensate foreign investors -- including
insurance companies -- for losses incurred in case of a
nationalisation drive or related legislation.
"There are investors ready to make investments of over one
billion dollars in Iran's free trade zones but they seek legal
guarantees for their investments," the head of Iran's Free Trade
Zones Organisation, Morteza Alviri, told the parliament Wednesday.
The bill was presented by the government as part of efforts to
encourage foreign investment in Iran, especially in free-trade zones
such as the Gulf islands of Kish and Qeshm and the southeastern port
of Shabahar on the Oman Sea.
Iran has been trying to attract foreign investment in hopes of
improving its ailing economy, but such efforts have been hampered by
restrictive laws and regulations as well as US economic sanctions
against Tehran.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:31:03 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian, Syrian foreign ministers blast Wye River accord

TEHRAN, Oct 26 (AFP) - Iran and Syria blasted the
Israeli-Palestinian peace accord on Monday, saying it encouraged
Israeli aggression and slighted the interests of Palestinians.
"The two sides expressed concern about the dangerous
consequences of the accord, which has ignored the interests of the
Palestinian people and brought them more humiliation," said Iranian
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and his Syrian counterpart Faruq
al-Shara, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
They said the agreement will "encourage the expansionism and
aggression of the Zionist regime, jeapordizing regional stability
and security."
It will "divide the ranks of Palestinians," Kharazi said, while
Shara added that "a just and global peace was not achieved" with the
signing of the agreement.
"Any number of accords could be signed but peace still does not
exist. On the contrary, the situation is not an optimistic one," he
said, quoted by the official Syrian news agency SANA.
Shara returned to Damascus Monday following a brief visit here
with Kharazi.
The two ministers also offered their support for the "brave
resistance of the Lebanese nation to Zionist occupation forces,"
IRNA said, referring to Israel's self-declared security zone in
southern Lebanon.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral cooperation.
Syria is considered Iran's closest ally in the Middle East.

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

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 03:31:14 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Plane hijacker sentenced to jail in Iran

TEHRAN, Oct 26 (AFP) - An Iranian man convicted of attempting to
hijack a plane to Iraq and Israel last year has been sentenced to 10
years in prison, newspapers reported Monday.
A Tehran revolutionary tribunal convicted Qolam Haqiqat of "an
armed attack against state security."
Haqiqat, armed with a pistol, had allegedly attempted to hijack
a domestic flight in October 1997 and divert it to Iraq and Israel,
the former and present enemy of the Islamic Republic.
According to official media here, he tried to force the pilot to
follow his orders shortly after take-off. But Haqiqat was
overpowered by security agents on board the plane after a number of
shots were fired.
Security agents are said to be routinely on board passenger
airliners in Iran to foil possible hijacking attempts.
Three years ago, a steward hijacked an airliner to Israel.

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 27 Oct 1998 to 28 Oct 1998
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