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February 99, Week 2
|Hardliners beat up brother of Iran supreme leader||February 14|
|First pop concert in 20 years in Iran||February 13|
|Prominent Iranian dissident cleric dies||February 13|
|Iran's Oscar-Hopeful Director Wins Local Award||February 11|
|Iran displays first locally made helicopters||February 10|
|IRAN TO BUILD ITS OWN SATELLITE||February 10|
|U.S. Embassy Occupiers Are Iran's New ''Liberals''||February 9|
|Iranian Intelligence Minister Resigns||February 9|
|Iran Security Minister Resigns||February 8|
Hardliners beat up brother of Iran supreme leader
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - A reformist brother of Iran's supreme leader was recovering
at home from injuries inflicted during an attack by hardliners, his associates said on Saturday.
Local newspapers reported that hardline militants attacked and beat up Hadi Khamenei, a mid-ranking moderate Shi'ite Moslem cleric and a younger brother of Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while he was delivering a speech at a mosque in the holy city of Qom on Thursday.
"He has been taken home from the hospital," an associate told Reuters by telephone.
Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran, is a stronghold of Shi'ite clergy and a hotbed for conflicts between Iran's rival conservatives and moderates.
"On the anniversary of the Islamic revolution...some 100 people invaded the mosque and attacked Khamenei with stones, sticks, iron rods and shoes," the daily Salam said.
The attackers tore up portraits of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, broke windows and chanted "death to Khatami" and called Hadi Khamenei a hypocrite, it said.
People in the mosque responded with chants of "death to the enemies of the president," "Khatami, Khatami, we support you," and "freedom of thought for ever," Salam said.
The younger Khamenei, publisher of the moderate daily Jahan-e Eslam, is an outspoken supporter of Khatami's reformist policies which hardline conservatives fear would dilute Iran's revolutionary principles.
Khamenei is politically distanced from his senior brother who is believed to be closer to conservatives.
Hardliners have disrupted several gatherings of moderates since Khatami's landslide election in 1997. Last summer they beat up two key members of Khatami's cabinet.
First pop concert in 20 years in Iran
From Reporter: Kasra Naji|
TEHRAN,(CNN) -- For the first time since the Islamic Revolution 20 years ago, a pop concert was held Thursday in Iran, despite opposition from conservative clergymen.
Since the revolution, pop music has been regarded as un-Islamic, a corrupting influence, and there were fears that right-wing Islamic vigilante groups might try to disrupt the event.
But the government of moderate President Mohammad Khatami says it is determined to carry on with liberalization of Iranian society. The concert was part of the monthlong commemoration of the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in February 1979.
"Every new idea will inevitably face opposition and problems. We will carry on this new road with patience and tolerance," said Attoaollah Mohajerani, minister of culture and Islamic guidance.
The pop concert is an illustration of how young people have moved onto center stage in Iran. Slightly more than half of the country's population of 65 million is under 20 years old, which means young people now form a big part of the electorate.
Last year, they showed their power when they overwhelmingly supported Khatami -- a vote for moderation and against strict enforcement of Islamic rules and regulations.
The young have other concerns, too. Their prospects for finding jobs and housing are poor. The government is concerned that over the next few years, young people will flood the job market, when unemployment is already soaring.
But many observers believe that with young people acting as a voice for moderation, Iran will inevitably move toward a more tolerant and open society.
Prominent Iranian dissident cleric dies
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - A prominent dissident cleric, who came under attack by
conservatives after questioning the authority of Iran's supreme leader, has died of a stroke, newspapers
reported on Saturday.
They said that Ayatollah Ahmad Azari Qomi died at a Tehran hospital. He had received treatment for leukaemia in Germany last June and entered hospital in Tehran when his condition became critical in January, the newspapers added.
A member of the Assembly of Experts, a body of senior clerics which has the power to name and dismiss the supreme leader, Azari Qomi became estranged from his former conservative allies and was put under house arrest by security forces after he questioned the qualifications of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 1997.
In an open letter published in the weekly Aban on Saturday, Azari Qomi's daughter said that restrictions and pressures imposed on him had contributed to his terminal disease.
"He was accused of being anti-clergy, pro-America and a conspirator...charges never proven in any court," Fatemeh Azari Qomi said.
In 1997 angry demonstrators supporting Khamenei attacked offices of Azari Qomi and another prominent cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, in the holy city of Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran.
Iran's Oscar-Hopeful Director Wins Local Award
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - A film by Majid Majidi, the man who directed
the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar, has won the top prize
at Iran's premier film festival, newspapers reported Wednesday.
"The Color of God," the story of a blind boy's difficult relationship with his father, won the prize as the best film in Tehran international Fajr film festival's competition section on Tuesday, the newspapers said.
On the same day in Los Angeles, Majidi's "Children of Heaven," a poignant story about a poor brother and sister who have to share the same pair of shoes, was nominated for an Oscar for the best foreign film. The Academy Awards will be given out on March 21.
Despite good reviews, "Children of Heaven" has not been a great box-office success in Iran.
"It is a highly emotive and sentimental film. Many audiences perhaps also had problems with it because such extreme cases of poverty are rare in Iran," film critic Jamshid Arjmand said.
Iran displays first locally made helicopters
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday displayed its first locally made helicopters,
built for both military and civilian purposes.
At a ceremony attended by President Mohammad Khatami, technicians flew the Shabaviz (Owl) 2-75, a light transport helicopter capable of carrying 14 passengers.
Officials said the helicopter, with a range of 500 km (310 miles) at a peak altitude of 12,600 feet (3,800 metres), could be modified to carry weapons.
Also on display was the Shabaviz 2061, a five seater which officials said was designed for reconnaissance and training missions.
Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani told reporters earlier this week the helicopters' engines were imported, without naming the country of origin.
Iran on Wednesday also launched production lines for tank cannons, howitzers, self-propelled cannons and rocket launchers, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Facing sanctions by the United States and confronted with a Western arms embargo since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Tehran has embarked on a strategy of copying and developing military and civilian products it cannot easily obtain from abroad.
Iran's efforts to achieve self-sufficiency also aim to limit imports and curb outlays of precious hard currency.
IRAN TO BUILD ITS OWN SATELLITE
TEHRAN - XINHUA - A senior Iranian official announced on
Tuesday that Iran will build its own satellite with assistance from a
Iranian Deputy Post, Telegraph and Telephone Minister Mostafa Safavi made the announcement in Shahr Kord in Chahalmahal and Bakhtiyari province, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The Iranian Majlis (parliament) has approved an allocation up to 300 million U.S. dollars for the construction of the satellite, Safavi said.
He said that as Iran lacks such a technology, it will assign the construction of the satellite to a foreign company through an international tender.
On Sunday, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani also announced that Iran is producing a new rocket designed to launch a satellite into space.
He said that the Shahab-4 (Meteor-4) rocket is at the stage of engine design and test, and will have no military application. All the works pertaining to Shahab-4 rocket will be accomplished by Iranian experts, he added.
Last July, Iran successfully tested the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers, prompting serious concerns of the United States and Israel about Iran's ambition to produce weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. Embassy Occupiers Are Iran's New ''Liberals''
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Twenty years after Iran's Islamic revolution, the militants who seized the
U.S. Embassy in Tehran have returned to power and influence -- this time as born-again
libertarians backing reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
The 444-day crisis, in which student followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini held 52 American diplomats hostage to demand the handing-over of the deposed shah, set the revolution on a radical, anti-Western course that lasted almost two decades.
The embassy occupation that began Nov. 4, 1979, toppled the liberal government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and helped hard-line Muslim clerics extend their grip on society.
Today, some of those former students are prominent in government and the media, but they are now preaching greater political liberty, pluralism and free-market economic reform.
"The freedom we are talking about nowadays is completely different from the freedom that existed in the first days of the revolution," said Abbas Abdi, a former hostage-taker who now runs a social research unit and is a key member of the editorial board of two reformist newspapers.
"At that time, there wasn't really freedom. There was chaos, anarchy," he told Reuters in an interview.
Abdi, who held a public reconciliation meeting in Paris last August with former hostage Barry Rosen, said Iran had achieved the transformation from dictatorship to an emerging democracy far faster than western countries.
"What you did in two centuries in Europe, we have done in 20 years in Iran. We have traveled the distance between Louis XVI and Francois Mitterrand in two decades," he said.
Abdi said the former students had shared a faith in the power of the state to do good at a time when socialism was the dominant ideology. Today, they believed in smaller government, privatization and putting more power in the hands of the people.
Echoing a pragmatic economic slogan of Britain's New Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said: "Whatever works is good."
Masoumeh Ebtekar, Khatami's vice-president for environmental affairs, is the most senior former "student in the line of the Imam" in government. Nicknamed "Sister Mary," she was the English-speaking spokeswoman for the hostage-takers.
Like Abdi, she has no regrets about the embassy occupation, which she said was necessary to secure Iran's complete independence from foreign domination and prevent any repeat of a a U.S.-sponsored 1953 coup which restored the Shah's power.
"You have to understand the mentality of the students and the people at that time. What happened maybe was portrayed as an act of revenge, a fanatic act of violence...but actually the mentality of the students was that this was an act to restore the dignity of the Iranian nation," she told Reuters.
Ebtekar and several other former students were among the founders of a new pro-Khatami reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, which was authorized in December in the latest move toward greater pluralism within the Islamic system.
"They have one point of convergence which is the programs and policies of President Khatami...and the fact that he is seriously endeavoring to implement the constitution in terms of social freedoms, freedom of expression, political parties and the local council elections," she said.
Ebtekar said Iran's revolutionary generation had produced an elite of university-educated women who were now seeking equal responsibility in society and political life.
The leader of the students who captured the embassy, Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, a Shiite Muslim cleric who was close to Khomeini's son, is now the publisher of the reformist Salam newspaper, which spearheaded Khatami's surprise 1997 election victory and a member of the influential Expediency Council which arbitrates conflicts among Iran's institutions.
Another former student, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, is a key pro-reform activist trying to run in the local council elections against the opposition of conservatives vetting candidates.
One key player on the opposite side of the hostage drama still regards it as a turning point toward authoritarian clerical rule that helped bring President Ronald Reagan to power in the United States.
"The whole hostage thing brought only misery. It led to war and cost us billions of dollars," said Ebrahim Yazdi, who was foreign minister on the day of the embassy seizure but resigned after Khomeini gave the students his blessing.
Yazdi, who now heads a small, semi-legal liberal party, the Freedom Movement of Iran, told Reuters that when he went to see Khomeini hours after the occupation, the revolutionary leader's first reaction had been: "Who are they? Go and kick them out."
But once Khomeini saw on television crowds of enthusiastic demonstrators converging on the embassy, he proclaimed that the students had launched "the second revolution, greater than the first," Yazdi said.
Today the embassy compound is a training college for the Revolutionary Guards Corps, still festooned with anti-American slogans and murals.
One of the slogans is a quotation from Khomeini that is particularly poignant at a time when Washington is seeking to reopen a dialogue with Tehran. It says: "On the day when the United States of America will praise us, we should mourn."
Iranian Intelligence Minister Resigns
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's intelligence minister has resigned four weeks after his ministry
admitted its agents were involved in the killing of dissidents.
President Mohammad Khatami accepted the resignation of Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, thanking him for his "great efforts and services," the official Tehran radio reported today.
The president asked Dorri-Najafabadi to continue in office until his replacement is approved by parliament. Khatami said the government would no doubt benefit from his "knowledge, experience and ability in a different place and in a different and more appropriate capacity," the radio reported.
The president has appointed Ali Yunesi, the chief military prosecutor, to replace Dorri-Najafabadi, according to two newspapers with ties to the government.
There have been continuing calls for Dorri-Najafabadi's resignation since the Intelligence Ministry said Jan. 5 that some of its agents had been arrested in a spate of killings of writers and dissidents.
The disclosure intensified the rivalry between hard-line and moderate factions in the Islamic government.
Both sides have tried to distance themselves from the killings. The agents behind the killings are widely believed to be supporters of the hard-liners, who control the Intelligence Ministry.
The government has said "foreign elements" masterminded the killings. It denied that senior officers approved the slayings.
Nevertheless, Khatami's moderate faction has called for a purge of the Intelligence Ministry.
In his resignation letter to Khatami, Dorri-Najafabadi, 54, said he hoped his departure would bring about a more suitable atmosphere at the ministry and would not be a pretext for "vindictive enemies and uninformed friends" to harm the ministry.
"The hard-working employees of the Intelligence Ministry did not and will not approve of the recent tragic and unfortunate incidents that would make any honorable human being unhappy," Dorri-Najafabadi said in the letter. The text of the letter was broadcast on Tehran radio.
The first of the killings occurred in November. Dariush Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh, who belonged to a minor opposition party, were found stabbed to death in their Tehran home on Nov. 22.
In the following weeks, the writers Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari disappeared and their bodies were found dumped on the outskirts of the capital. They appeared to have been strangled. Both men had tried to set up a writer's association.
A third writer, Majid Sharif, was found dead after disappearing from his home.
Iran Security Minister Resigns
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran's conservative intelligence chief, under attack for his agency's
role in recent dissident murders, has resigned, the newspaper of the official Iranian news agency
reported on Tuesday.
"Informed sources said...that (Intelligence) Minister Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi has presented his letter of resignation to President Mohammad Khatami," the newspaper Iran Daily said.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the report.
But the daily Tehran Times carried a similar report and quoted what it called a reliable source as saying Khatami had accepted the resignation of Dorri Najafabadi, who was widely believed to have been imposed by conservatives on the moderate Khatami when he formed his cabinet in August 1997.
Iran Daily, published by the official news agency IRNA, said: "The same sources said...Ali Yunesi will replace Dorri Najafabadi."
Moderates close to Khatami have been demanding Dorri Najafabadi's ouster since the Intelligence Ministry admitted last month that some of its "rogue agents" were involved in the murders last year of four dissidents and intellectuals.
Press reports have repeatedly mentioned Yunesi, a Shi'ite Moslem cleric who heads Iran's military tribunals, as a possible replacement for Dorri Najafabadi. Yunesi heads a presidential commission probing the murders.
Tehran Times said Yunesi had been appointed by Khatami to replace Dorri Najafabadi and was "busy preparing his future agenda as (the) country's intelligence chief."
The murders and ensuing scandal strengthened the hands of Khatami and other moderates, tempting the president to try to extend his limited authority over the security forces.
Another daily, with good sources in the intelligence apparatus, said conservative MPs were prepared to abandon the minister in order to protect the security services.
The conservatives had been resisting Dorri Najafabadi's removal, accusing their moderate rivals of trying to make political gains from the murders.
Sobh-e Emrouz, a daily run by a former intelligence official turned leading reformer, said on Monday that Yunesi enjoyed the support of all factions and was likely to be confirmed by parliament should the president nominate him.