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Iran News

January 1998, Week 4

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Iranian official: Khatami still wants detente with U.S Jan 26
Saudi King Receives Letter from Iranian President Jan 25
Khatami Still Wants Detente With US Jan 24
Report Cites Religious Jan 23
Thousands Attend Iran Liberal Opposition Gathering Jan 22
Albright rules out visit to Iran Jan 22
Iran Calls for Muslim Unity to "Liberate" Jan 22
Iran slams militant disruption of opposition meet Jan 21

 

Iranian official: Khatami still wants detente with U.S
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Mohammad Khatami has not retreated from his overture to the United States, despite a recent speech in which he flayed Washington and said Iran did not need relations with it, Iran's foreign minister was quoted as saying. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran still wanted relations based on "detente and mutual interests" with the United States, the English-language Tehran Times reported Saturday.

Khatami, a moderate cleric who took office in August, broke with nearly two decades of hostility and called for cultural exchanges with the United States in a CNN interview last month. But on Monday, in a speech at the shrine of late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he said Iranians do "not need the United States to come close to us."

"There has been speculation that there has been a change in President Khatami's stance toward the U.S. following his speech Monday, but this is not the case," Kharrazi said. The tone of Monday's speech was different because Khatami was addressing an Iranian audience, he said. "But as far as the content is concerned, there has been no change," he added.

The United States severed ties with Iran after Muslim militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Since then, Iranian officials have referred to the United States as the "Great Satan," and Washington has accused Tehran of being the world's top sponsor of terrorism.

Saudi King Receives Letter from Iranian President

KUWAIT CITY,XINHUA - King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia Saturday received a letter from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The letter was delivered by Iranian Ambassador to the kingdom Mohammed Rida Nouri during a meeting with Fahd in Mecca, the news agency said, adding that the contents of the letter were not disclosed.

During the meeting, the two sides "reviewed bilateral relations and discussed issues on the international and Islamic arena."

A thaw has set in the Saudi-Iranian ties since last year, especially after Khatami assumed office last August.

Khatami has since repeated Iran's readiness to improve bilateral relations and make joint efforts to maintain regional security and stability, which has been responded by Saudi Arabia.

The past year saw exchange of visits by senior officials of the two countries, including Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's visit to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz to Iran.

The relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran became tense after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of exporting Islamic revolution and supporting the Shiite Muslims in the kingdom, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims.

Khatami Still Wants Detente With US
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Mohammad Khatami has not retreated from his overture to the United States, despite a recent speech in which he flayed Washington and said Iran did not need relations with it, Iran's foreign minister was quoted as saying today.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran still wanted relations based on ``detente and mutual interests'' with the United States, the English-language Tehran Times reported.

Khatami, a moderate cleric who took office in August, broke with nearly two decades of hostility and called for cultural exchanges with the United States in a Cable News Network interview last month.

But on Monday, in a speech at the shrine of the late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he said Iranians do ``not need the United States to come close to us.''

``There has been speculation that there has been a change in President Khatami's stance toward the U.S. following his speech Monday, but this is not the case,'' Kharrazi said.

The tone of Monday's speech was different because Khatami was addressing an Iranian audience, he said. ``But as far as the content is concerned, there has been no change,'' he added.

The United States severed ties with Iran after Muslim militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Since then, Iranian officials have referred to the United States as the ``Great Satan,'' and Washington has accused Tehran of being the world's top sponsor of terrorism.

Report Cites Religious Persecution
By George Gedda
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Severe discriminatory practices have had a ``devastating impact'' on the Baha'i faith in Iran, according to a report by an official commission.

Iran was one of the countries that, according to the report, discriminate against followers of the major religions. In addition to Baha'is, the report said Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists all suffer detention, torture and death.

Iran has taken steps to eliminate Baha'i adherents by denying them the right to assemble and confiscating their property, said the report, released Friday. It said more than 200 Baha'is have been killed since the 1979 revolution in Iran.

``The climate of intimidation in Iran has also severely and comparably affected certain Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian communities, whose members have been victims of harassment, persecution and extrajudicial killing,'' the study said.

The report was prepared for President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright by the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, established a year ago and composed of leading scholars on religion.

The report cited a Russian law passed last year as an example of how government actions can threaten members of a faith group. The law denies legal rights depending on how long a religion has had a presence in Russia.

``Since its adoption, there have been increasing reports of efforts by local officials to restrict activities of religious minorities,'' the report said.

It also noted that several European countries, including Belgium, France and Germany, recently have established commissions of inquiry on sects, partly in response to fears of violent cults.

``Unless these commissions focus their work on investigating illegal acts, they run the risk of denying individuals the right to freedom of religion or belief,'' the study said.

It said that in societies where the government imposes strict political ideology and control over the populace, including on religious matters, many individuals and communities of faith operate underground and risk ``harassment, detention and imprisonment.''

``In communist countries such as China, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam, the governments permit limited freedom to worship,'' the report said. ``In Vietnam, Buddhists and Christians who act independently of the officially approved temple and church are subject to arrest and harassment.''

``In China, members of the government-registered religious institutions practice their faith within the strictures of the government. Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uighurs, unregistered Protestants and Roman Catholics are subjected to widespread harassment, detentions, incarceration and persecution.''

Thousands Attend Iran Liberal Opposition Gathering
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - Thousands of Iranians Thursday attended a gathering organized by a liberal Islamist opposition group, days after a similar meeting was canceled because of an attack by hard-line militants.

Residents said about 5,000 people attended a memorial service in Tehran for Mehdi Bazargan, a former prime minister and founder of the liberal Islamist Iran Freedom Movement (IFM), who died in 1995.

The crowds packed a mosque and its courtyard to hear speakers, including the controversial reformist Muslim philosopher Abdolkarim Sorush, who praised Bazargan for his commitment to basic liberties.

Police stood guard in surrounding streets to prevent new attacks and there were only minor scuffles between IFM backers and several dozen militants of the hard-line Ansar-e Hizbollah (Supporters of the Party of God) who demonstrated outside the mosque, the residents said.

Iran's Interior Ministry has denounced the attack Tuesday by the militants on the mosque and said the attackers should be prosecuted.

The attack was the latest in a series of actions by hard-line militants, which fly in the face of moderate President Mohammad Khatami's stated policies to guarantee civil liberties and reinforce the rule of law.

Newspapers said the militants also disrupted planned memorial services for Bazargan in Isfahan in central Iran Tuesday and a similar gathering in the northeastern city of Mashhad last week.

IFM leader Ebrahim Yazdi told Reuters in Dubai by telephone Thursday authorities had promised to provide police protection so that memorials could also be held in Isfahan and Mashhad in the near future.

Bazargan served the Islamic republic's founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for nine months as the first prime minister after the 1979 revolution.

The hard-line groups have repeatedly attacked bookstores and movie theaters for selling books or showing films deemed un-Islamic as well as opposition and liberal intellectual gatherings.

Police have usually not intervened, reinforcing widely held beliefs that the groups enjoy the tacit support of powerful conservative circles opposed to Khatami.

The activities of the IFM consist mostly of issuing open letters protesting against lack of freedom in Iran. Its meetings have often been disrupted by hard-line Islamic militants. The group is not officially authorized but has been tolerated.

Albright rules out visit to Iran
DUBAI, (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright does not see herself going to Iran even in the long-term future, a Saudi newspaper on Thursday quoted her as saying.

``I do not see myself going there in the near, medium or long term future,'' Albright said when asked by Asharq al-Awsat newspaper if she thought she would be visiting Iran in her capacity as secretary of state.

Albright said in the interview that Washington was encouraged by the address earlier this month of Iran's President Mohammad Khatami to the American people in which he called for a ``crack in the wall of mistrust'' between Iran and the United States.

But she reiterated Washington's stand on Iran. ``We are looking for a change in the Iranian government's policy on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the Middle East peace process,'' she told the newspaper.

Khatami in his address made no direct proposal for dialogue between Tehran and Washington, but stirred speculation about a thaw with Washington after he called for a dialogue between the two countries' academics, writers, artists and journalists.

Asked what she thought of Khatami's call for the cultural dialogue, Albright said: ``We will study this possibility...It is obvious there is serious discussion going on about how quickly Iran can change into a society living under the rule of law.''

Iran has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations it supported terrorism, was seeking weapons of mass destruction and backed militants trying to sabotage the Middle East peace process.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said Tehran would not consider a thaw in relations unless Washington ceased its hostile attitude towards Tehran, released frozen Iranian assets and reviewed its ``unconditional support'' for Israel.

Washington blocked Iranian assets after militants occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took 52 Americans hostage. It broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980.

Iran Calls for Muslim Unity to "Liberate"
TEHRAN -XINHUA - On the eve of the International Qods (Jerusalem) Day, Iran Thursday called on all Muslim and Arab states to unite their efforts to "liberate" Jerusalem and all other occupied lands from the Israeli occupation.

All Muslim and Arab nations should do their utmost, through unity and Islamic solidarity, for liberation of Jerusalem and all the occupied territories and restoration of the Palestinian rights, a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

It called on all Muslim and Arab states "not to lose a moment in trying to control, contain and isolate the Qods occupying regime (Israel)," the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.

Such efforts will help promote peace, stability and security in the Middle East and further help to restore the Palestinians' rights, the statement said.

During the current week, Iranian people were urged to hold nationwide rallies on Friday to mark the International Qods Day to show Iran's "relentless combat" against Israel and the United States.

Strong-worded statements from various state and private institutions were printed on mass-circulated newspapers, calling for massive turnout on Friday to support and defend the Palestinian people in their struggles against Israel.

Mass media and government officials slammed the United States for its "unreasonable and broad-based political, international, economic, military and propaganda support" for Israel's "state terrorism and expansionist policies."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry stated that the country's principled policy seeks the full restoration of Palestinian rights, liberation of all occupied territories including Jerusalem and self-determination for the Palestinian nation.

Top Iranian leaders, including the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mohammad Khatami, have made their call for active turnout of the people. They have also ruled out possible rapprochement between Iran and the United States.

Observers here said that the Iranian nation would not miss the opportunity to "express their anger at the U.S." for its crimes against the Iranian people in the past, as Iranian leaders mentioned recently, and its support for the Israeli government.

In 1980, late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini announced the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as the International Qods Day in order to draw the attention of the world Muslims to this issue.

Iran has been insisting on its opposition to the "unjust so-called peace process" and believing that no peace and stability would be observed in the Middle East if Jerusalem and the other occupied lands remain at the Israeli hands.

Iran slams militant disruption of opposition meet
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iran's Interior Ministry denounced an attack by Islamic militants on a gathering of a liberal opposition group and said the attackers should be prosecuted, the official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.

The attack was the latest in a series of actions by hardline militants, which fly in the face of moderate President Mohammad Khatami's stated policies to guarantee civil liberties and reinforce the rule of law.

IRNA said the ministry ``expressed regret over the disturbance caused by a number of people who prevented the memorial ceremony for former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan on Tuesday afternoon.''

``In a statement, the ministry pointed out that the gathering was held with prior permission...and condemned such moves,'' IRNA said. ``It also called on the Justice Ministry to decisively confront those whom it described as 'known elements'.''

Newspapers on Wednesday reported that militants from Ansar-e Hizbollah (Supporters of the Party of God) attacked members of the liberal Islamist opposition group Iran Freedom Movement (IFM) in Tehran and the central city of Isfahan, disrupting planned memorial services for Bazargan, the group's founder.

Bazargan died in 1995. He served the Islamic republic's founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for nine months as the first prime minister after the 1979 revolution.

``Apparently some intend to create insecurity and chaos by deliberately ignoring rules and making a mockery of law and order,'' the Interior Ministry statement said.

Iran Daily newspaper said several dozen militants closed the gates of a mosque in northern Tehran to prevent a crowd of several hundred people from entering the building where a memorial service was due to be held for Bazargan.

It said IFM officials then told the crowd to disperse to avoid a confrontation with the militants. It said riot police later arrived but no clashes took place.

IFM has said militants also disrupted a similar memorial on Friday in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The hardline groups have repeatedly attacked bookstores and cinemas for selling books or showing films deemed un-Islamic as well as opposition and liberal intellectual gatherings.

Police have usually not intervened, reinforcing widely held beliefs that the groups enjoy the tacit support of powerful conservative circles opposed to Khatami.

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

 

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