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Iran News

December 1997, Week 4

FarsiNet FarsiNews

Iranian President Comes to Turkmenistan on Sunday Dec 27
Iran's Khatami Urges Peace in Message to Pope Dec 26
Iran Police Seize Tons of Drugs Dec 25
Women Appointed As Judge In Iran Dec 25
Iran Frees Liberal Opposition Leader on Bail Dec 25
Gulf Arab Leaders Ended The Summit With Positiveness Toward Iran Dec 23
GCC To Boost Relation With Iran Dec 23

Iranian President Comes to Turkmenistan on Sunday
ASHKHABAD(Itar-Tass) - Iranian President Sayed Mohammed Khatami comes to Turkmenistan on a two-day official visit on Sunday.

Khatami will hold summit level talks on bilateral and regional cooperation, coordination of stances of Iran and Turkemenistan on the status of the Caspian Sea, cooperation in Caspian offshore deposit projects and the two states' part in the settlement of Afghanistan's conflict.

The central event of the visit is the launching of the Turkmen-Iranian gas pipeline Corpedge Kurt Kui to be attended by the Turkmen and Iranian presidents on Monday.

The pipeline is an alternative to the old route of Turkemnistan's gas exports through the Central Asia-Centre pipeline.

The new 200 kilkometre pipeline will pump to Iran four billion cubic metres of gas in 1998. The exports are to be built up to eight-ten blllion cubic metres by 2001.

The pipeline was constructed by Iran in a 195 million dollar project. Turkmenistan has paid off 40 million dollars and is to return the rest of investment in gas exports.

The presidents will also unveil in a ceremony Turkmenistan's stretch of a fiber-optical communications line constructed by an Iranian telecoms company.

Khatami and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov will hold two rounds of face-to-face talks.

A Turkmen Foreign Ministry spokesman said the talks will centre on cooperation in the oil and gas field.

Iran's Khatami Urges Peace in Message to Pope
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iran's President Mohammad Khatami sent a Christmas message to the Pope John Paul on Friday stressing the common ground of Islam and Christianity as a basis for world peace.

``Twenty centuries after that blessed birth... the hope still lives that the civilising teachings of that heavenly messenger, and all other monotheistic prophets, will strengthen the basis of reconciliation among nations and create a world of peace and tranquillity,'' Khatami said.

Khatami expressed hope that all religious thinkers ``would share ideas and cooperate in using the teachings of monotheistic prophets, which is the main basis of understanding between nations, toward creating a new civilisation.''

``His Holiness Jesus, son of Mary, to whom the Koran refers as the Kalematollah (word of God) and Ruhollah (spirit of God), is the manifestation of the divine will to eradicate oppression, corruption, and injustice and to establish love and freedom,'' Khatami said in the message, read on state radio and television.

Khatami, a relative moderate among Iran's ruling Shiite Moslem clerics, has repeatedly called for a dialogue between world religions and civilisations to ease international tensions.

He said earlier this month he had respect for the ``great people of the United States'' and hoped to have a dialogue with them soon.

U.S. President Bill Clinton responded by saying he hoped a dialogue could be resumed.

Recent media reports have said Khatami could address the American people by television, possibly in a New Year message.

Iranian analysts have said no quick change is to be expected in Iran's foreign policy, the realm of the Islamic republic's hardline supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, who is ranked above the president, has rejected any thaw in ties with the United States, Iran's arch-foe since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah in 1979.

Iran Police Seize Tons of Drugs
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Authorities have seized more than 6 tons of drugs and smashed 11 drug trafficking rings in the past 10 months, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported Thursday.

It said that during the past few days, anti-drug agents confiscated 1.5 tons of morphine and opium extract in central Isfahan province and arrested six smugglers. It gave no further details on the drugs that were seized.

Large drug hauls are common in Iran, which launched a major crackdown in 1988. Hundreds of traffickers have been hanged since then under a law that mandates the death sentence for anyone caught with more than a small quantity of drugs.

Iran lies on a route used by smugglers who supply drugs from Pakistan and Afghanistan to thl-rich Gulf states and Europe.

Women Appointed As Judge In Iran
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iran has appointed women as judges for the first time since its 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iranian news agency IRNA said on Thursday.

It quoted a judicial official as saying four women lawyers were named this week as judges in family courts in Shar Rey, near the capital Tehran.

Iran passed a law in 1992 opening the way for women to sit as assistant judges in courts hearing divorce cases, but the country's Islamic laws excluded women from positions in which they could pass judgment.

Some Iranian women's publications criticised the ban as having nothing to do with Islam and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last year the issue of employing women as judges should be studied.

The debate on women's issues gained strength last year as Iranian leaders strongly condemned the Taleban Islamic militia for depriving women of education and other rights in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Iran last year appointed its first woman prosecutor and officials said 20 women lawyers were being trained as investigative judges, who prepare cases for judgment in court.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, elected by a landslide in May partly thanks to wide support among women voters, has appointed three women to senior posts, including the Islamic republic's first woman vice-president

Tehran has rejected criticism by the United Nations Human Rights Commission and other monitoring bodies that it discriminates against women.

Iran had a number of women judges before the revolution.

Iran Frees Liberal Opposition Leader on Bail
TEHRAN(Reuters) - An Iranian court on Thursday freed a prominent opposition leader on bail but said he faced charges of ``desecrating religious sanctities,'' the official news agency IRNA said.

The agency quoted the judge at an Islamic court in Tehran as saying Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the liberal Islamic group Iran Freedom Movement, was released ``upon completion of the necessary investigation and posting bail pending the final court verdict.''

The judge said Yazdi had been detained for ``desecrating religious sanctities,'' IRNA said.

The remarks appeared to confirm reports that Yazdi was accused of insulting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a charge which can carry a jail sentence of up to two years.

Sources close to the movement confirmed Yazdi's release. Yazdi, 66, was detained on December 14, a day after he joined some 50 other critics in signing a protest letter urging that a controversial dissident cleric's rights be respected.

Yazdi, who was foreign minister in Iran's first government after the 1979 Islamic revolution, has been an outspoken critic of government policies.

The letter urged President Mohammad Khatami to protect the rights of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri after the senior cleric's home in the holy city of Qom was attacked by demonstrators last month for questioning Khamenei's authority.

Yazdi, a U.S.-trained geneticist, has advocated participating in Iran's legal political process and tried to run in recent presidential and parliamentary elections. But authorities have rejected his candidacy.

The activities of the Freedom Movement consist mostly of issuing open letters protesting against lack of freedom in Iran. Its meetings have been often disrupted by hardline Islamic militants. The group is not officially authorised but has been tolerated.

Gulf Arab Leaders Ended The Summit With Positiveness Toward Iran
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Gulf Arab leaders Monday ended a summit with a positive signal to Iran but expressed continued mistrust of Iraq, more than seven years after its invasion of Kuwait. The leaders of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman and Bahrain ended their three-day meeting by calling on Iraq ``to take the necessary steps, in words and actions, to prove peaceful intentions toward the State of Kuwait and regional countries...''

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states met under tight security, including a shield of Patriot anti-missile missiles which gained fame against Iraqi missiles during the 1991 Gulf War to free Kuwait of a seven-month Iraqi occupation. They welcomed a proposal for the presidents of the UAE and Iran to meet to try and resolve a dispute over three Gulf islands which is a major obstacle to ending years of mistrust between Gulf states and powerful non-Arab Iran.

Iran's Mohammad Khatami, a moderate in the Iranian context, has expressed readiness to go to Abu Dhabi to discuss the dispute. The UAE told the summit it favored such talks. Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, whose country now chairs the GCC, later told a new conference: ``The leaders noted with satisfaction emerging signs of change in Iran's declared policies ... and regarded it as a positive signal which will lead to building solid ties with GCC member states,'' the official Kuwait News Agency reported. Months after the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war broke out, the pro-Western GCC was formed as a political and economic alliance. It later added military integration to its list of goals in the face of what some saw as threats from Tehran and Baghdad.

Such threats are still of major concern for the sparsely populated monarchies and sheikhdoms that depend mainly on Western powers to defend them. The leaders Monday called on Iraq to explicitly ``confess'' that its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait was a clear violation of Arab League and United Nations charters. The summit statement also expressed deep concern over Iraq's standoff with the United Nations over arms inspections by continuing to ``hide lethal biological and chemical weapons.'' The statement expressed sympathy with Iraqis suffering under U.N. sanctions since 1990 but made no reference to a UAE proposal during the summit to send a GCC delegation to Baghdad.

The GCC statement also expressed strong objections to criticism by the European Parliament of their judicial systems. ``This is an unacceptable interference in internal affairs, which encourages committing crimes and terrorist acts thus negatively affecting the security and stability of the region,'' the statement said. In a message directed mainly to Europe and especially Britain, the summit urged world states not to ``give refuge to terrorist, extremist elements under the banner of protecting human rights.'' Several GCC states are angered by dissidents securing asylum abroad from where they lead campaigns against the Gulf governments.

``Those countries are urged to work to end the abuse by these elements and groups ... of their laws and territories to secure financing and arms ...,'' the summit statement added. The summit also expressed concern over ``regional programs to develop mass destruction arms.'' Delegates said the message was mainly aimed at Israel but also applied to Iraq and Iran. The statement expressed ``deep regret'' for Iran's failure so far to respond favorably to UAE calls for a peaceful resolution of the islands dispute, urging it to end it's ``occupation'' and ``the policy of creating facts on the ground by force.''

But the GCC leaders also said, in view of recent Iranian statements calling for a new page in ties marred by years of mistrust, they hoped ``the next period will witness a practical and positive development ... to build mutual trust.'' On the Middle East peace process, firmly backed by the GCC, the six states voiced ``absolute rejection'' of Israeli policies that have led to ``a dangerous delay'' in the process and called on the Jewish state to honor its accords with the Palestinians. They reiterated a call for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights.

GCC To Boost Relation With Iran
TEHRAN(AFP) - Iran on Tuesday welcomed a new conciliatory stand adopted by the Gulf Arab states, but reaffirmed its sovereignty over three strategic Gulf islands disputed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). "We welcome the desire shown by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to boost relations with Iran," said foreign ministry spokesman Mahmud Mohammadi.

"Iran also emphasizes its position to strenghten ties with neighboring countries, especially the Persian Gulf states," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency. But the spokesman said "we stress the fact that the islands are Iranian." He called, however, for bilateral negotiations with the UAE "to reach an understanding," and urged the GCC to persuade the emirate to step forward.

Leaders of six Gulf Arab states spoke of a "new page" in relations with Iran at the end of a summit in Kuwait on Sunday. But they also called on Iran to end its "occupation" of the islands of Abu Mussa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, in the southern Gulf, "by peaceful means." The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 

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