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August 99, Week 3
|Abducted Foreigners to Be Freed Soon: Iranian||August 21|
|Khatami Urges Dealing with Government Opponents||August 20|
|Shell Seen on Verge of Iran Deal despite Sanctions||August 19|
|President Cites Positive Change in U.S. Tone toward Iran||August 18|
|Iran Denies Receiving Message from U.S.||August 18|
|Focus-Iran Hopes to Free European Captives Soon||August 17|
|Protesters Reportedly Sentenced to Death||August 16|
|Iran Appoints New Judiciary Head||August 15|
Abducted Foreigners to Be Freed Soon: Iranian
TEHRAN (Aug. 22) XINHUA - Iran's law enforcement forces in the southern province of Kerman have reached
agreement with kidnapers of four foreign tourists, and the hostages will be freed soon.
According to a provincial official, negotiations had been conducted with the captors through local tribal head, who
acted as intermediary.
The hostages were taken from their hotel by three men and two women armed with automatic weapons. The tourists were identified as three Spaniards - Khoykin Fernandez, Cosmi Poetra and Pedro Garcia - and an Italian Massimo Cattabriga.
The official, who was not named, said the kidnapers had no political motives but are only drug smugglers. There is no evidence to show any possible link between the kidnapers with the Afghan Taliban militia. Iran's relations with the Taliban, which now rules most of Afghanistan, became worse after eight Iranian diplomats and a correspondent were killed by the militiamen a year ago in the northern part of the country. The official said the kidnapers want the exchange of the four foreign tourists with two fellow tribesmen, Gader Shah-Bakhsh and Hossein Khassi-Farahani who are in government custody.
He said the police formed a security triangle Thursday in southeastern Iran to trap the kidnapers, who are members of the Shah-Bakhsh, one of the two main tribes in the area. President Mohammad Khatami has asked his intelligence and interior ministries to look into, among others, the root cause of the kidnaping.
Khatami Urges Dealing with Government Opponents
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Saturday ordered the intelligence
and interior ministries to seriously deal with attempts to undermine his moderate government.
"We must severely encounter the open and hidden hands" in order to safeguard Iran's stability and security,
Khatami said at the annual governors' meeting here earlier in the day. |
He listed the opponents as those who cannot tolerate the country's stability and security, the close link between the government and the people, and the participation of the younger generation in political life, and those who attempt to damage Iran's international image.
He was referring to the recent crackdown on Tehran University student protests, armed robberies, killings, attacks on and kidnapping of foreign tourists, a serial of events that troubled the government. He urged the ministries concerned to coordinate efforts in uprooting such incidents and to "seriously deal with counter-intelligence issues and vigilantly encounter various conspiracies."
Shell Seen on Verge of Iran Deal despite Sanctions
DUBAI, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch/Shell, front runner for an $850 million oilfield deal in Iran, does not consider the threat of U.S. sanctions an obstacle to investing in the project, an industry source said on Wednesday. |
"Shell would go ahead with the Soroush and Nowruz project. American sanctions are a concern but Shell will seek a waiver. Besides, other companies have made deals in Iran and Shell expects it would get the same treatment they did," said the source. Shell has made an integrated proposal to jointly develop both fields and is said by industry sources to be poised to take on the project, expected to require $850 million in capital. "Shell has reached the advanced stage of negotiations and is eager to close out," the industry source said. International oil firms have become increasingly aggressive in seeking multi-million dollar deals in Iran despite pressure from Washington, which has an economic and political campaign to isolate Iran.
The United States' 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act ILSA threatens penalties against any non-U.S. firm investing over $20 million a year in Iran's energy sector. But international firms were encouraged last year when Washington agreed not to apply sanctions against French oil major Total, which went ahead with a $2 billion gas exploration contract in Iran in 1997.
Shell has said that based on that waiver, it was confident that the U.S. would adopt a similar position on the Anglo-Dutch giant in Iran. In March, the United States said it will examine a new $1 billion oil deal between Iran and French oil firm Elf Aquitaine and Italy's ENI.
The United States has accused Iran of sponsoring international terrorism and seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, charges denied by Tehran. A deal with Shell would boost Iran's bid to lure major foreign capital and technology to rejuvenate its ageing oil fields. "Companies in the oil industry are watching the Soroush deal to see if Shell goes ahead if it wins the contract," said an official from a major oil firm.
The industry source said that even if ILSA was imposed against a company, the procedure would require a great deal of time, easing concerns over punitive action by Washington. An Iranian oil source declined to comment on whether the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has yet recommended Shell as the best company for the Soroush and Nowruz projects to the Supreme Economic Council, which must approve any contracts. "We are in the final stages of the process," he told Reuters. Iran last year tantalised foreign firms by offering over 40 projects worth some $8 billion in its biggest energy opening in 20 years.
President Cites Positive Change in U.S. Tone toward Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said in remarks published Wednesday that he sees positive signs from Washington toward his country, but its overall attitude was still abusive. |
"The tone of the American politicians has changed, which is quite significant in certain cases," the reformist president told the English-language Iran Daily. The report was received in Dubai. "Yet, signs of ill-treatment can be traced in their overall attitude," he added without elaborating. Washington severed ties with Iran in 1979 after militants stormed its embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage for 444 days.
Khatami broke the ice shortly after taking office in August 1997 by encouraging cultural exchanges between the two countries and dialogue between its citizens. But Iranian hard-liners, locked in a power struggle with Khatami, want that hostility to continue. "We are not hostile toward the American people," Khatami said. "In fact, we respect them very much and welcome cultural, social and athletic exchanges." Last month, the U.S. government eased trade sanctions on Iran, allowing American companies to sell it food, medicine and medical equipment.
Iran Denies Receiving Message from U.S.
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iran's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday "categorically" denied a newspaper report that its
bitter enemy the U.S. has sent a message to Iran via Oman.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that an informed source at the ministry here rejected
the report carried by the English-language daily Tehran Times as "baseless."
The newspaper Wednesday quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry source as saying "this is
the first time Washington sends its message via Oman, while earlier it used to send all its messages
through Swiss Embassy, which takes care of U.S. interests in Iran. |
Tehran Times said the message was probably related to regional issues, but it did not elaborate. The U.S. severed its diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 after radical students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took embassy staff hostage in the heydays of the Islamic Revolution.
There have been improvements in the atmosphere between the two arch-enemies since Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric, became president two years ago. The most recent move by the U.S. is lifting of a ban on the sale of food and medicine to Iran.
Focus-Iran Hopes to Free European Captives Soon
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iranian authorities on Monday negotiated with kidnappers
they said were drug traffickers holding four European tourists and said they hoped
to secure the hostages' release soon. |
"The agents have been identified and we are hopeful to solve the issue very soon. The hostage-takers are drug traffickers," Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari told reporters. Diplomats in Tehran said the kidnappers holding the three Spaniards and one Italian had demanded the release of two people from an Iranian jail in exchange for freeing the four men.
"It seems the kidnappers want to exchange the hostages with two colleagues in prison," one diplomat told Reuters. The kidnappers seized the four from their hotel in Kerman, a provincial capital 800 km (500 miles) southeast of Tehran, on Saturday. Iranian officials said security forces had sealed roads into Kerman province and launched a search for the armed kidnappers, who also took an Iranian captive. The hostages were not reported to have been hurt, but one of the Spaniards, a priest named Joaquin Fernandez, was said to be 70 and ailing. The other two Spaniards were Pedro Garcia, 40, and Cosme Puerto, 57, a Dominican Order priest.
Italy has named the Italian captive as Massimo Cattabriga. Juan Carlos Gafo, a Spanish diplomat in Tehran, said on Monday the captives were in good health. "For the moment they are not suffering, they are in good health and we are simply waiting for news of their possible release," he told the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. In Rome, a Foreign ministry Spokesman said: "A channel of contact with the drug traffickers has been opened."
"Negotiations are in progress for the release of the hostages...The fact that a channel has been opened in such a short time gives grounds for hope," he told Reuters. Jose Luis Solano, deputy director of communication at the Spanish Foreign Ministry, told Reuters in Madrid that Iran said it would do everything possible to resolve the situation. "According to the Iranians they (the kidnappers) are the same group that a few days ago clashed with authorities and there were some injuries and deaths on the part of the group and some of them were detained by the Iranian authorities," he said. "I believe it's a sort of reprisal for this clash a few days ago with the Iranian authorities," he added. The Italian spokesman said the kidnappers were "demanding the release of their companions taken after an exchange of fire between the drug traffickers and local police a few days ago."
Newspapers on Monday quoted an Iranian security official in Kerman as saying the hostages were safe and were being kept in either Kerman or Sistan-Baluchistan -- the province east of Kerman which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and is a major route for drug smuggling from the two countries.
Iran often reports clashes with armed smugglers and arrests of traffickers as part of its fight to stop the drug traffic from Afghanistan and Pakistan. "This move by the kidnappers was prompted by the recent victories of Iran's security forces against armed traffickers. They also want to frustrate efforts to attract tourists to Kerman," the Iranian official said. An Iranian tour guide who was in charge of the four hostages as well as five other tourists said the five had been moved to another hotel in Kerman where they were under police protection.
Protesters Reportedly Sentenced to Death
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court reportedly has
condemned to death instigators of last month's mass protests, Iran's worst unrest
since the 1979 Islamic revolution.|
Meanwhile, Iran's spiritual leader named a new chief of the nation's judiciary, removing a powerful hard-liner responsible for a crackdown on the liberal media. It was unclear whether the new chief had different political leanings than his hard-line predecessor. The Islamic Revolutionary Court also gave long jail terms to several other defendants, the evening Kayhan daily reported. The paper, which is believed to have close ties to Iran's hard-line judiciary, quoted "informed sources." It did not say when the sentences were passed or how many people were condemned.
The report was received in Dubai and could not be confirmed. It did not identify the defendants. The mass protests, which highlighted the struggle between reformists and conservatives in the government, were sparked by the police's storming of a Tehran University dormitory on July 9.
Police attacked the dorm after students there objected to the banning of a reformist newspaper. The raid left one person dead and others injured. After that, students and pro-reform civilians took to the streets by the thousands in Tehran and eight other cities to protest the hard-liners, who control the judiciary and security forces. Three people were killed and 200 wounded in a week of unrest. Senior hard-line officials, including Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have blamed the protests on "a group of vicious people" supported by exiled Iranian groups and unnamed foreign countries.
A senior Iranian cleric warned during the riots that pro-reform protesters who damaged public property would be tried as enemies of the state, a charge punishable by death. Also Saturday, an Iranian newspaper reported that 100 vigilantes who stormed the dorm along with police have been arrested. The vigilantes were identified by a special committee that investigated the raid, the newspaper Hamshahri quoted presidential adviser Rajabali Mazroui as saying.
In the new judiciary appointment, Khamenei named Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to replace Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Yazdi had been at the helm of Iran's judiciary since 1989. His term had ended, Khamenei said. Under Yazdi, the judiciary convicted reformers on various charges and closed liberal newspapers, while taking no action against vigilantes who have broken up pro-democracy gatherings and attacked dissidents. His closure of the liberal Salam newspaper last month triggered the confrontation at the hostel.
Iran Appoints New Judiciary Head
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday replaced
the head of judiciary in a move pro-reform groups hope would soften the courts' tough
stance against them. |
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi, an Iraqi-born Shi'ite Moslem cleric of Iranian descent, will replace Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, an outspoken critic of President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms.
Yazdi, a staunch conservative stepping down after 10 years at the head of the powerful judiciary, has been at odds with Khatami's pro-reform allies and his courts have imprisoned many liberal journalists and Islamic intellectuals in the past months. Hashemi, 51, has so far taken a low profile in Iran's political infighting, earning himself modest support from both conservatives and reformers. Press reports suggest major change in the upper ranks of the judiciary may soon follow.
The judiciary is independent from Khatami's administration and is among many powerful institutions in the Islamic republic under direct control of Khamenei. Khamenei called on the new judiciary chief to shorten the legal process and make other improvements to the justice system which is facing a backlog of cases, some taking years to settle.
He also urged the judiciary to steer clear of partisan politics, stressing that "only through independence, authority and self-confidence and by not entering factional (issues) the judiciary can work for justice and rule of law." Pro-reform groups, accusing the judiciary of siding with conservatives, are welcoming Yazdi's departure, hoping that his successor will soften the courts' attitude towards them.
Yazdi's resignation was a main demand in a series by pro-reform students in last month's riots. Yazdi has dismissed such calls and says the decision to step down was his alone. He has urged his replacement to pursue existing policies at the judiciary, but Hashemi has yet to announce his plans.
Hashemi has been preoccupied with scholastic research and teaching at senior theological centres in the holy city of Qom. He has published many books, mainly on Islamic law, and founded a encyclopaedic centre for Islamic jurisprudence. Born and educated in the Iraqi city of Najaf, a stronghold of Shi'ite Moslems, Hashemi was arrested there in the 1970s for political activities against the Iraqi government. He escaped to Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
In the early 1980s, he helped found the Shi'ite Iraqi opposition movement, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and served as a liaison between Iranian revolutionaries and Shi'ite movements abroad.
Hashemi has been a member of several influential political and religious bodies, including the Guardian Council which oversees parliament and elections in Iran. He is still a member of both the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint or sack the country's supreme leader, and the Expediency Council, a top advisory body to Khamenei.