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December 99, Week 4
|Iran Closes Schools Due to Pollution||December 31|
|Pollution worsening in Iran, thousands don air masks||December 30|
|Iranian Soccer Team To Play U.S.||December 27|
|Iran Fears Computer Woes on Jan. 1||December 26|
|Iranian: U.S. Relations May Improve||December 24|
|Iran Sets up Y2K Emergency Centre||December 23|
|Rafsanjani: Iran-U.S. Issue Must Be Solved One Day||December 22|
|Rafsanjani Sees End to Iran, U.S. Hostility||December 21|
|Jailed Iran Cleric Questions Anti-US Stand||December 21|
Iran Closes Schools Due to Pollution
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran -The government closed kindergartens and primary schools in Iran's capital city Sunday because of the high level of air pollution, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Two newspapers also criticized the government for failing to come to grips with the problem, which led to the closure of thousands of schools last year.
Parents of small children welcomed the decision, the agency reported, but high school teachers and students were unhappy that their schools were not closed as well. High school teachers complained that they had to take their toddlers to work.
Tehran has been suffering from dangerous levels of pollution and smog since the beginning of the month. Many residents with heart conditions and asthma have been hospitalized.
Iranian state-radio continues to broadcast messages urging residents to remain indoors and use the city's buses and minibus taxis instead of driving their own vehicles.
Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri has said the authorities were going to embark on a long-term project to combat air pollution, costing $2.2 billion.
The Tehran Times said Sunday that 70 percent of the pollution stemmed from vehicles. It accused the traffic police and city authorities of procrastination, adding that they were waiting for a parliamentary decision. It urged the parliament to act promptly.
Most of the cars in Tehran are more than 20 years old and they lack the exhaust filters of modern vehicles.
The Iran News said Tehran had deteriorated since its former mayor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, was jailed last year. Karbaschi had striven to rebuild and modernize Tehran, the newspaper said.
"Pollution is but one side of the coin amid slack law and order, racketeering, increased drug trafficking and rising crime," the paper said.
Karbaschi was sentenced to two years in prison and 60 lashes at the end of a trial that was widely seen as part of an ongoing tug-of-war between reformist President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners in Iran's Islamic government.
Earlier this month, the government also closed kindergartens and elementary schools and barred motorists from the city center for an extra day.
The authorities have not given statistics for the air contamination but last year, when several thousand schools were shut down, the pollution was more than six times the acceptable level set by the World Health Organization.
Pollution worsening in Iran, thousands don air masks
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Mohammad Khatami is ready to pay the price to clean up Tehran, a newspaper reported Tuesday as more of the capital's residents donned masks against thick smog. |
Hamshahri newspaper reported that Khatami had allocated funds to combat the problem, but did not say how much. Tehran's mayor had earlier pegged the cleanup cost at $2.2 billion. "This situation is no longer tolerable," the newspaper quoted Khatami as saying.
Tens of thousands of Tehran's residents are wearing masks to protect themselves from the heavy smog -- much of it blamed on cars -- that has hung over the capital for a month. State radio has warned that the pollution is expected to get worse over the next few days. The sun has barely been visible in Tehran in the mornings. Residents complain of itchy eyes and scratchy throats.
Radio and television stations have been broadcasting hourly warnings asking residents to stay indoors and to use public transportation instead of driving. Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri has said the World Bank, Japanese experts and Iranian environmentalists soon would launch a 15-year, $2.2 billion project to reduce the pollutants in the capital's air.
Newspapers have been criticizing the government for failing to come to grips with the problem. "The heavy pollution is causing fatigue among Tehran's population. And it's causing the most problems for people with heart problems, asthma and skin diseases," said Shohreh Minaie, a nurse at a private clinic.
Many residents with heart conditions and asthma have been hospitalized. Earlier this month, the government closed kindergartens and elementary schools and barred motorists from the city center for several days.
The authorities have not given pollution statistics this year. Last year, when several thousand schools were shut down, the pollution was more than six times the acceptable level set by the World Health Organization. According to official estimates, cars account for 75 percent of Tehran's pollution. Most cars in Tehran are more than 20 years old and lack the exhaust filters of modern vehicles.
Iranian Soccer Team To Play U.S.
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran -Iran's soccer team will leave Jan. 5 for its first exhibition games in the United States.
The Iranians, who upset the Americans 2-1 at last year's World Cup, play the U.S. team on Jan. 16 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. On Jan. 9, Iran plays Mexico at Oakland, Calif.
The Islamic Republic News Agency, quoting the head of the Iranian federation, said Friday that travel plans were in place after Iran and the United States agreed on all the arrangements. The game against the U.S. team was announced by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Nov. 11, while the game against Mexico was announced Dec. 16.
Washington cut diplomatic ties with Iran after militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. But in January of 1998, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami appealed for "a crack in the wall of mistrust" between the two countries and proposed exchanges of scholars and artists.
Several U.S. academics and sports teams have since visited Iran.
The Iranian team will leave Tehran for California on Jan. 5 to prepare for its first match against Mexico, Mohsen Safaie Farahani said.
Iran's soccer team is scheduled for Asian Cup qualifying March 31-April 4 in Damascus, Syria; and April 7-11 in Tehran. Besides Syria, Iran faces Bahrain and Maldives in its qualifying group.
Mexico and the United States will be preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Miami, Los Angeles and San Diego, from Feb. 12-27. The Americans have an exhibition game at Chile on Jan. 29.
Iran Fears Computer Woes on Jan. 1
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran -The Iranian government declared Jan. 1 a public holiday on Sunday in an attempt to prevent disruptions that may be caused by the Y2K bug, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
The agency said the decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting. It did not give any further details.
The government has warned Iranians they could face breakdowns in public services at the end of the year because of the millennium bug, which occurs in older computers that confuse the year 2000 with 1900.
Most of Iran's computer-controlled systems were bought from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution. But Iran has been unable to get U.S. help to modify the computers for the millennium bug because of poor relations with Washington dating from the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by revolutionary militants in 1979.
Iranian: U.S. Relations May Improve
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran Relations between Iran and the United States could improve, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said, but Washington must first release frozen Iranian assets as a goodwill gesture.
"The severance of relations will certainly not last forever," Rafsanjani, tipped to become the next speaker of Iran's parliament, said at a news conference Tuesday in Tehran.
Washington cut diplomatic ties with Iran after militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. The United States retaliated by freezing Iranian assets in U.S. banks, estimated by Iran at several billion dollars.
Rafsanjani said he did not expect ties to resume in the near future. He said the United States must first show goodwill by releasing the frozen Iranian assets, a demand Rafsanjani made when he was president.
"Had they done that, I would have been able to talk to (Iranian leaders) about starting talks," Rafsanjani said. "But they never did."
Rafsanjani also said he met with jailed former Tehran Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi twice last week while he was on furlough from prison. Rafsanjani said he hoped Karbaschi would be pardoned soon.
"The law stipulates that a prisoner can ask for amnesty after he's completed one-third of his sentence," he said. "And I hope that this law can be applied to him (Karbaschi)."
Karbaschi was convicted last year of embezzlement and sentenced to two years in prison and 60 lashes. He is widely believed to be innocent. His conviction was seen as part of an ongoing tug-of-war between the reformist President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners in Iran's Islamic government.
Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997 and was previously the speaker of the Majlis, Iran's parliament. He is currently head of the Expediency Council, a body that advises the government on policy-making.
Iran Sets up Y2K Emergency Centre
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iran is to set up an emergency centre in Tehran to help Iranians cope with hitches from the millennium computer bug, the state news agency IRNA reported. |
The centre is to provide free technical information to company managers and state officials in Tehran to deal with possible damage to computer systems, IRNA said late on Monday.
The centre is already running in two areas in Tehran, and would be fully operational by the end of 1999, it said.
Iranian officials have already warned of possible disruptions in certain public sectors including energy, communications and water, due to possible disruptions in computer systems at the turn of the millennium.
Iran's posts and telecommununications minister has said that the bug would not upset communications.
Rafsanjani: Iran-U.S. Issue Must Be Solved One Day
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Tuesday that Iran and the United States must end their hostility one day, though not in the near future.
"In my view, the problems (between Iran and the U.S.) must be solved one day," Rafsanjani, chairman of the powerful arbitrative and advisory State Expediency Council, told a press conference. |
A veteran and prominent political figure, Rafsanjani had served as Majlis speaker for two terms from July 1980 to July 1989, and as president for two terms from July 1989 to August 1997. Widely acclaimed for his pragmatism, he has registered to run for the sixth Majlis elections slated for February 18 and is widely regarded as the major hopeful for the post of Majlis speaker.
He denied there would be any breakthrough between Iran and the U.S., but called on Washington to release Iranian assets frozen in the U.S. since the 1979 Islamic revolution to show its "sincerity" in improving ties.
"The U.S. has to show its sincerity and I have personally stated times during my presidency that the unfreezing of Iranian assets would be a sign of Washington's goodwill," he said. Rafsanjani blamed the U.S. for lack of readiness to improve ties with Iran. For Iran, however, the only condition is that the U.S. should take concrete action to show its sincerity, he said. The U.S. severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980 after Iranian students occupied the its embassy in Tehran in the heyday of the Islamic revolution, and retaliated by freezing Iranian assets in the U.S. which Iran claimed amounted to several billion U.S. dollars.
Since the election in 1997 of the moderate President Mohammad Khatami, Tehran and Washington have exchanged goodwill gestures and eased tensions between the two countries. During the past year, several senior U.S. officials have called for "unconditional talks" with Iran, but Iran rejected the U.S. overtures, calling for practical steps to remove the "wall of distrust" between them.
Rafsanjani Sees End to Iran, U.S. Hostility
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a front-runner in parliamentary elections, on Tuesday forecast warmer relations with the United States and said talks could begin if Washington unfroze Iranian assets.
Rafsanjani's comments came one day after jailed reformist cleric Abdollah Nouri questioned Iran's anti-U.S. stance and challenged the country's supreme clerical leader in an open letter published by newspapers. |
"I do not see a breakthrough in the coming months, but eventually the rupture in ties will end. The problem has to be resolved one day," Rafsanjani, still a powerful figure, said. "The way to get there is clear. America has to show goodwill. I personally see the unfreezing of Iranian assets as a sign of America's goodwill," he told a news conference.
The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Iran after militant students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1981, taking 52 Americans hostage. Washington reciprocated by freezing Iranian assets, estimated by Iran at several billion dollars.
Rafsanjani said he believed Iran would already be negotiating with the U.S. if Washington had released the money. "If the Americans had done this, we would have taken action toward negotiations. This has always been my stance," he said.
Rafsanjani, who heads an advisory body to supreme clerical leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his position did not necessarily reflect Khamenei's views. Khamenei, who has the final say on state matters, has opposed talks with the U.S. Since the election in 1997 of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, tensions between the two countries have eased and they have resumed social and sports contacts. But Iran has rejected repeated U.S. offers for official dialogue, demanding practical steps to crack the "wall of mistrust" between the two governments.
Jailed Iran Cleric Questions Anti-US Stand
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Jailed reformist cleric Abdollah Nouri questioned Iran's anti-U.S. stance and challenged the country's supreme clerical leader in an open letter published by newspapers on Monday. |
"What material or religious advantage has our people gained from slogans such as 'Death to America'?... Is it a principled stand to isolate the country and block foreign and domestic investment?," Nouri, jailed on dissent charges by a hardline court, said in the letter written in his prison cell.
Nouri -- sentenced on charges that included advocating renewed ties to Iran's arch-foe, the United States -- remained defiant, saying all he had said and published was "only a small part of the righteous demands of the people." The letter came days after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated Tehran's hostile stance against Washington.
Nouri rejected as illegal the hardline Special Court for Clergy, which last month jailed him for five years. He also responded to recent remarks by Khamenei, who backed the court. "The (supreme leader), like any other citizen, is subject to the laws of the country and cannot tread outside the law. The activity of the Special Court for Clergy... is a clear example of stepping outside the realm of law," Nouri said.
Nouri's letter, addressed to Prosecutor General Morteza Moqtadaei, was a new challenge to Khamenei, who controls the court which is independent of the judiciary. Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, is seen as close to conservatives opposed to reformist President Mohammad Khatami. But he usually stays above factional rows.
NOURI REFUSES TO APPEAL TO "ILLEGAL" COURT
It is rare for the judiciary to interfere with rulings of the clerical court. Nouri was sentenced after a closely-watched trial that turned into a forum for discussion of such sensitive issues as legal limits on the powers of the supreme leader and the rights of dissident clerics and groups.
Nouri's backers say the trial was aimed at preventing him from running in the crucial parliamentary polls on February 18. Nouri, the top vote-getter in Tehran city council polls this year, was touted by reformers as the future parliament speaker. Moderates hope to use Khatami's popularity to wrest control of parliament from conservatives opposing his liberal reforms. Nouri has signed up for the polls. No one in Iran has run for parliament from jail since the 1979 Islamic revolution.