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April 2000, Week 2
|Journalists Demonstrate in Iran||Apr. 12|
|Pre-Revolution Iran Actor Mourned||Apr. 11|
|Iran, Syria Play to Draw in Asian Qualifying Match||Apr. 11|
|Iran to Respond to U.S. Overtures at Right Time: FM||Apr. 9|
|US Ships Hold Tanker in Persian Gulf||Apr. 8|
|U.S. Says Iran Must Stop Backing "Terrorism"||Apr. 8|
|Iran Welcomes Albright's Remarks||Apr. 7|
|Iran Says Open for U.S. Wheat at Right Price||Apr. 7|
Journalists Demonstrate in Iran
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran - Journalists protested Wednesday against the jailing of a leading liberal newspaper's editor-in-chief on charges of insulting Islam, while some 400 people demonstrated against the annulment of reformists' election victories in their towns by a hard-line body.
An appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction of Mahmoud Shams, editor-in-chief of the daily Asr-e-Azadegan, but reduced his prison term by six months to 2½ years. Shams, who had been out on bail during the appeal, immediately began serving the sentence.
Shams was a leading voice for press freedoms amid the power struggle between reformists led by President Mohamad Khatami and hard-liners in the ruling clergy in Iran's Islamic government.
"If the conservatives think they can solve their problems through arresting and jailing journalists, we are ready to be taken to jail so that their problem is resolved," leading reformist writer, Abbass Abdi, said at a protest by 200 journalists in the paper's offices in Tehran.
Shams, who is also known as Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, was tried on charges of insulting religious sanctities in articles he published last year in the now-banned Neshat daily.
In Feburary elections, the reformists won control of the parliament from hard-liners for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Hard-liners, however, still control important government bodies, including the Guardians Council, which must approve all laws and has authority of elections.
Residents from the towns of Khalkhal in northwest Iran and Damavand in the suburbs of Tehran staged two separate protests outside the Interior Ministry after the Guardians Council last week canceled the election victories of Khatami allies in the towns.
Carrying placards denouncing the council, some 200 residents of Khalkhal gathered in the morning to protest the decision to cancel the election of reformist Keikavous Khaknejad and award the seat to Mottahar Kazemi, a hard-liner. The council said Khaknejad won through intimidation and vote buying.
In two earlier protests in Khalkhal itself, demonstrators hurled stones at government buildings and public buses. At least 10 buses were damaged and scores of windows were smashed.
Another 200 residents of Damavand gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in the afternoon, some of them shouting, "Guardians Council, give back our votes."
The council canceled the results and ordered a revote in the town without explanation.
Pre-Revolution Iran Actor Mourned
By Ali Akbar Dareini|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - Thousands of Iranians turned out Wednesday to mourn the death of "the sultan of hearts," a popular movie actor who faded from the silver screen after Iran's 1979 revolution but lived on in memories and on bootleg videos.
Some 15,000 fans, among them Iranians too young to remember Mohammad Ali Fardin's glory days on the screen, crammed into the Belal mosque in northern Tehran and spilled out into nearby streets, bringing traffic to a halt.
Current and former movie stars, and ex-athletes who remembered the actor from his more athletic days as a world-class wrestler, were among the crowd of mourners.
Many fans took the opportunity to shake hands and take pictures of their favorite actors and actresses.
Fardin died of a heart attack Friday at 70. His death was not announced until Saturday, and on Sunday, at least 20,000 people took part in his funeral procession.
He began his acting career in 1960 at the age of 30, and he gained fame with his second movie, "Human Beings." But his popularity peaked with "Sultan of Hearts," a romantic film whose title song is still one of the most popular pre-revolutionary tunes. Thereafter, Fardin was known as the sultan of hearts.
"Iran has lost one of its greatest actors," said Faramarz Gharibian, himself one of Iran's most famous actors. "Fardin was the teacher of almost all actors. His death is a big loss for Iranian cinema."
The hard-line clergy that overthrew the U.S.-supported shah in 1979 launched a cultural revolution that sought to cleanse the country of all "corrupt" influences. Pre-revolutionary movies and songs were banned. Singers, actors and many other artists fled the country, many to the United States, where they still keep alive a pre-revolutionary culture that many still long for.
Some, like Fardin, stayed behind, but sunk into obscurity. Fardin opened a bakery and owned a movie theater. Iran's pre-revolutionary diva, Googoosh, still lives in Iran, but has not been heard from since the revolution.
Her songs, and Fardin's movies, remain alive on bootleg cassettes and videos.
Iran's strict cultural rules began to relax after the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who has brought a new breath of freedom into Iran. Last week, the government announced it was no longer illegal to own movies on video. But women are still not allowed to sing for a male audience, or have their voices recorded.
Women must be covered head to foot in public, even on the screen.
Many of those who turned up for Wednesday's ceremony were fans who were born after the revolution. Several teen-agers held up large portraits of Fardin from his younger days.
"I love him because he was a stalwart," said 16-year old high-school student Amir Asnaashari. "I've seen most of his films on video."
Others admired him for who he was off the screen.
"I loved him because he, unlike some other actors or actresses, did not leave his native land. He was an artist whose name and films will always remain alive," said Mohsen Tajvidi, who was Fardin's next-door neighbor.
Iran, Syria Play to Draw in Asian Qualifying Match
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iran and Syria drew 1-1 here on Tuesday in an Asian soccer championship qualifying match. |
The first goal came in the 15th minute by Maher Al-Seyed of Syria while Iran's goal was scored by Mehdi Hashemi Nasab on 40 minutes. Both teams failed to win goals in the second half despite of some strong attacking performances. The game was played at Tehran Azadi sport stadium with the referee from South Korea.
Iran to Respond to U.S. Overtures at Right Time: FM
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said here on Wednesday that Iran will respond to U.S. overtures on improving relations at the right time.
"We will give a detailed response and at the right time," Kharrazi said while commenting on recent remarks of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. |
Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Danish Foreign Minister Niles Helveg Petersen, Kharrazi said Iran would not be hasty in this respect, as "haste is not good in politics and diplomacy."
Albright last month announced the lifting of a ban on Iran's three major non-oil exports - carpets, pistachios and caviar - and called for a new chapter of relations with Iran. The move came after Iranian reformists won a landslide victory over their conservative opponents in parliamentary elections in February, a development welcomed by Western countries.
Albright's admittance of U.S. interference in some internal affairs of Iran in the past is an important and answerable confession, Kharrazi said. However, what is important is to see how the U.S. administration will compensate for its admitted breaches of responsibility, he stressed, adding that the Iranian government has already started legal studies on this matter and will announce the result in time.
Relations between the two countries were severed in 1980 after Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in the heyday of the 1979 Islamic revolution which overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah regime.
Since Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami came to power in 1997, the two countries have softened their hostile tones toward each other and Washington has repeatedly called for direct dialog with Tehran. But Iran insists that the U.S. take concrete actions to show their sincerity in improving ties.
US Ships Hold Tanker in Persian Gulf
The Associated Press|
MANAMA, Bahrain -Russian officials demanded Friday that the U.S. Navy release a Russian tanker being held in the Persian Gulf while its oil is tested, ostensibly to see if it came from Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions.
The Royal Dutch-Shell Group said the oil the tanker was carrying is theirs and came from Iran. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. Navy of stopping the ship simply because it was Russian.
U.S. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Gradeck confirmed that U.S. warships enforcing sanctions against Iraq stopped the Akademik Pustovoit, a Russian-flagged tanker owned by Novorossiisk Shipping company, on Wednesday in international waters. Gradeck declined to speculate on whether the ship was officially suspected of carrying Iraqi oil.
"We are waiting for oil sample analysis ... which could take several days," he said.
But hours later, the Amsterdam-based Royal Dutch-Shell Group said the oil on board the Akademik was Shell's and was headed from Iran to the Myrina, a Shell-operated ship off Dubai. From there it was to be taken to Singapore, the company said.
Kate Hill, a company spokeswoman in London, said the Iranian oil was being loaded onto the Myrina when the U.N. inspectors came aboard the Akademik for an embargo check a regular process, she said. The Myrina was allowed to proceed, but it was not allowed to load the remainder of the oil because the inspectors wanted to sample it, Hill said.
There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Navy to the company's statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded the Akademik be released and called for an independent investigation. Russian consular officials in the United Arab Emirates were on their way to the tanker, the Russian Interfax news agency quoted ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko as saying.
Nikolai Matyushenko, head of shipping at Russia's Transportation Ministry, told Interfax it was the third time the Akademik Pustovoit had been stopped and checked, and that each time no violations were found.
"In this case the biased attitude of the Americans to Russian-flagged ships is obviously being looked at," he said.
Iraq has been barred from selling its oil on the open market since U.N. sanctions were imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the Persian Gulf War. The U.S. Navy said it had found Iraqi oil on board another Russian tanker after a search at sea in February. Russian authorities have denied the ship owners violated any sanctions and an investigation is ongoing.
U.S. Says Iran Must Stop Backing "Terrorism"
MANAMA (Reuters) - U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen said on Saturday Iran must stop backing "terrorism" and halt its opposition to the Middle East peace process if it wants better ties with Washington.
"The United States would like to have better relations with Iran but only on condition that Iran changes its foreign policy in supporting terrorism, undermining the peace process and acquiring weapons of mass destruction," Cohen told reporters. |
But he noted "encouraging signs in the tone of the political situation in Iran." "The younger generation appears to want a different relation with the international community," Cohen said during a break in his Gulf tour aimed at strengthening ties that Washington views as crucial in a region which includes trouble spots Iran and Iraq.
Last month, the U.S. lifted a ban against imports of key Iranian non-oil goods -- caviar, pistachios and carpets -- in a move seen as a goodwill gesture after the victory of reformers in February parliamentary elections in Iran.
When asked about the warming relations between non-Arab Iran and oil power and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, Cohen said it was up to individual nations to set their own foreign policy. "But each country must be very careful in dealing with Iran to make sure they can satisfy themselves that Iran wants a peaceful, stable relationship with them," he said. Cohen arrived in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, from Qatar on Wednesday. He left Manama for Kuwait and will then travel to Saudi Arabia.
Iran Welcomes Albright's Remarks
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN-Iran-Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday welcomed a recent overture by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a start toward reversing decades of mistrust, but said words needed to be supported by actions.
Albright's comments last month contained some positive points that shed light on U.S.-Iranian relations, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. But he added other comments were unwarranted.
In a speech March 17 in which she abolished a U.S. ban on imports of Iranian luxury goods, Albright said that the United States wanted a "new relationship" with Iran.
Albright said the shah, whom the United States had backed until it was overthrown by the 1979 revolution, had been brutal to Iranians, and that Washington had been "regrettably shortsighted" in its tilting toward Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
"Neither Iran, nor we, can forget the past," Albright said. She also condemned the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and criticized Iran as a supporter of terrorism, an opponent of Middle East peacemaking and as bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
But Albright has repeatedly stressed that she will keep insisting that any U.S. dialogue with Iran include U.S. allegations that Iran sponsors terrorism and seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Iran denies that it supports terrorists or is seeking mass destruction weapons.
Kharrazi said his ministry would give a detailed response to Albright later. But he said Washington's apparent intention to improve relations needed to be demonstrated in practice.
"If the United States is really ready for an improvement in ties with Iran, it should take practical steps in this regard and show that it has abandoned its hostile policy," Kharrazi told a joint press conference with Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen.
Kharrazi called for the release of Iranian assets that are frozen in the United States.
"There is long list of issues which Iran believes should change before any talks with the United States. Before anything else, we want to see sincerity from the United States through changes in Washington's foreign policy," he said.
Asked whether his remarks showed a shift in Iran's line on the United States, Kharrazi said: "What I said was that Mrs. Albright's speech revealed some changes in Washington's attitude toward Iran, but it still contradicts what the U.S. government does in practice."
Iran Says Open for U.S. Wheat at Right Price
CANBERRA(Reuters) - Iranian Agriculture Minister Issa Kalantari said on Tuesday his country was open to buying U.S. wheat after Washington eased trade sanctions with Tehran.
"American wheat does have a number of conditions such as protein, such as price, and if they are competitive there is no doubt that Iran would be one of the purchasers," Kalantari told a news conference here. |
"But it should be mentioned that under the same conditions we do give priority to the countries with which we have a close bilateral relationship." Iran had refused to buy U.S. wheat since 1981 after the U.S. imposed trade sanctions over allegations of Iranian involvement in the development of nuclear weapons and international terrorism.
However, Washington's decision to ease sanctions on some Iranian exports last year and also in March opened the door for increased U.S. grain sales to the Islamist state, threatening a market dominated by Europe and Australia. International grains traders have pointed to the purchase of 600,000 tonnes of U.S. corn by private Iranian buyers since the U.S. lifted sanctions last year although Kalantari said he could not comment on the extent of wheat trade with the U.S.
Iran is one of Australia's main wheat customers, buying 1.66 million tonnes in 1998/99, and taking over one million tonnes since the current 1999/00 shipping year began in October up until March. "No doubt (trade with the U.S.) might create some limitations on Australian wheat but you should try to compete," said Kalantari after a regular joint ministerial meeting with Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile. He said Iran's current trade imbalance with Australia was weighted about six to one in Australia's favour and this needed to be adjusted.
"Right now we are under pressure from other countries where the balance of trade is in favour of Iran -- why are we not immporting goods from their countries with the main emphasis on the European countries," Kalantari said. Vaile said Australian producers were aware of the competitiveness of the market. "Like any other market that Australian producers compete in ... quality and price and security of supply are all very important elements," Vaile told the news conference. "The commercial sector is working very hard to ensure we at least maintain our market share if not increase that." Iran produced around 12 million tonnes of wheat in the year to March 20, 1999, according to a ministry of agriculture report. It said this represented an average 7.9 percent increase each year since 1988. But Iran is forced to import large amounts of wheat to meet growing domestic demand caused by a population boom.