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January 99, Week 4
|Iran's Ex-President Bani-Sadr Recalls Flight Home||January 30|
|Iran Lifts Restrictions on Disgraced LEADER'S||January 28|
|Feature Iran Revolution Devoured many Early Leaders||January 28|
|Feature Khomeini Turbulent Priest who Shook World||January 27|
|Iran Conservative Slams Internet||January 26|
|Albright Raises Kosovo, Iran Before Russia Trip||January 22|
|Iran Turns down U.S. Appeal on Ties Resumption||January 22|
|US, Iran Gain Award for World Cup Gift Exchange||January 22|
|Iran Should Not Be in Isolation Forever, Albright||January 22|
|Dutch Say Iranians Lacking Asylum Must Go Home||January 22|
|Sale of U.S. Food to Iran Suggested||January 22|
Iran's Ex-President Bani-Sadr Recalls Flight Home
PARIS (Reuters) - Twenty years ago, a chartered Air France jumbo jet took off
from Paris on a flight that was to change the Middle East.
Aboard was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, returning from exile to try to transform the Shah's Iranian empire into an Islamic Republic.
"There was fear during the flight," recalled Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, a close aide of Khomeini who was to become Iran's first elected president.
"We had a report, and it was true, that the government wanted to force the plane to land in a remote corner of the country and arrest us," he told Reuters Television Thursday.
"We were thinking: what shall we do if they shoot us, if they murder us?" he said.
A Western journalist on the flight recalled another Khomeini aide told them: "The ayatollah has seen three great dangers."
There could be a bomb on board, Israeli fighters could shoot the plane down, or the passengers could be shot on arrival at Tehran airport, the aide told ashen-faced reporters.
But as the airliner circled over Tehran early on February 1, negotiating permission to land, huge files of cars and crowds could be seen converging toward the airport.
Khomeini landed to a tumultuous welcome, his car mobbed by hundreds of thousands of admirers as he crossed the city.
"We had not expected to find a young, confident, joyful country," said Bani-Sadr, who had been in exile for 16 years.
Then came a tense stand-off between Khomeini and the Shah-appointed prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar.
"It was flowers against guns," Bani-Sadr said. "Some thought the army would stage a coup in which 100,000 would be killed.
"Khomeini asked the people to be on the streets round the clock. The army realized its trucks could not drive through. They pledged neutrality and there was no violence," he said.
Yet there were bloody street battles as crowds took over barracks, the infamous Evin prison and the exiled Shah's palace.
Military chiefs were captured, forced to speak to reporters, then shot on the roof of Khomeini's headquarters. Pictures of the bullet-riddled bodies were splashed over front pages.
Bani-Sadr said the seizure of hostages at the U.S. embassy on November 4, 1979, was the turning point of the revolution-- allowing hard-line Muslim clerics to take control and setting the stage for a 20-year standoff with the United States which has overshadowed all else.
"I told Khomeini: 'You kicked the United States out and you let them back in through the window'. To this day, the relationship with the United States is the main axis of Iran's domestic and foreign policy," he said.
Bani-Sadr was elected president in 1980, although he said he fell afoul of Khomeini for disputing the supremacy of a religious leader and seeking to rid the administration of clerics.
"Khomeini could not oppose my popularity as he was ill and said to be close to death," he said.
Bani-Sadr was ousted by hard-line mobs a year later and fled to Paris-- ironically joining Bakhtiar in exile.
Bakhtiar was assassinated at his home in 1991. Bani-Sadr lives in Versailles, near Paris, in a villa closely guarded by French police.
The ex-president said a spate of recent killings of dissidents and intellectuals in Iran cast doubt on the ability of moderate President Mohammed Khatami to move toward democracy.
"I am not saying he does not want to, but he cannot. He cannot be a second Bani-Sadr," he said.
But a "long march" toward democracy was under way. "Between a regime that cannot reform itself and the people who want democracy, there is only one outcome-- democracy," he said.
"I will return, I am sure. Certainly," Bani-Sadr said.
Iran Lifts Restrictions on Disgraced LEADER'S
TEHRAN XINHUA - Iranian authorities have decided to
lift restrictions on Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the disgraced
designate successor of the late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Musavi
An Iranian daily Tehran Times reported on Thursday that an informed source revealed the decision to it, but did not give details of and the reasons for the decision.
Observers here said the lifting have become a must as Montazeri's supporters became more active in the country, particularly in Najafabad, Montazeri's hometown in the central Isfahan province.
Iran's Supreme Council of National Security decided to impose restrictions on Montazeri in November, 1997 after he openly defended Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami and criticized supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his intervention in the administrative affairs.
In a speech to his students in the holy city Qom, Montazeri urged Khamenei to give a free hand to President Khatami to administer the country since he was elected by more than 20 million voters out of 30 million.
Montazeri, a prominent Islamic canonist with huge followers in Iran, was appointed by Khomeini as his designate successor in 1983, but was dismissed by Khomeini himself before his demise in 1989.
Political observers said that Montazeri was sacked for his political differences with Khomeini. But Tehran Times said his sacking resulting from his link with a terrorist group headed by Mehdi Hashemi, brother of his son-in-law Hadi Hashemi.
Mehdi Hashemi established a foothold in Montazeri's office through his brother Hadi Hashemi, who was head of Montazeri's office, the daily said. He was arrested and executed in 1986 on the charge of plotting against the Islamic system and killing his political opponents.
In recent months, some Iranian officials blamed supporters of Mehdi Hashemi, labeled as "Mehdi Hashemi Band" by Iranian authorities, for being behind several killings and bomb attacks in the country.
Feature Iran Revolution Devoured many Early Leaders
LONDON, (Reuters) - Like most political upheavals, Iran's Islamic revolution devoured many
of its early leaders as well as the rulers it toppled.
Here is a brief account of what happened to the key figures in the Iranian revolution.
SHAH MOHAMMAD REZA PAHLAVI, restored to power in a U.S.-engineered 1953 coup, left Tehran on "holiday" in January 1979 after months of growing mass demonstrations against his rule. He never returned. After visiting Egypt and Morocco, he was admitted to the United States for medical treatment, sparking the occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Under American pressure, he moved to Panama and eventually to Egypt, where he died in 1980. He is buried in Cairo, where his widow, former Empress Farah, and his son, Reza, pretender to the "peacock throne" still live.
SHAHPOUR BAKHTIAR, the Shah's last prime minister, a one-time liberal opponent of the monarch, was swept from office by the revolution and escaped to France. He was assassinated by Iranian agents in the Paris suburb of Suresnes in 1991.
AYATOLLAH RUHOLLAH KHOMEINI became supreme leader of the Islamic republic with sweeping powers under the 1979 constitution, setting Iran on an austere path of strict Islamic rule with a heavily state-controlled economy.
After Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, he waged an eight-year war, reluctantly accepting a ceasefire he compared to "drinking poison" in 1988 when U.S. intervention in the Gulf finally convinced him Iran could not win.
Khomeini's last major acts before his death in 1989 were to issue a death order against the British author Salman Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in the novel "The Satanic Verses" and remove his designated successor Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri for criticising human rights abuses.
MEHDI BAZARGAN, the first post-revolutionary prime minister, was toppled when militant Islamic students occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979. As a member of parliament in 1980-84, the French-trained engineer criticised the Iran-Iraq war and human rights abuses.
He was briefly kidnapped and roughed up in 1986 but was spared more serious persecution apparently because of Khomeini's protection. He died in Switzerland in 1995.
ABOLHASSAN BANI-SADR, Khomeini's closest aide during his stay in Paris, became a member of the secret Revolutionary Council that wielded power in parallel to Bazargan's government. The intellectual economist was elected the Islamic republic's first president in January 1980 after Khomeini barred clergymen from running.
Bani-Sadr failed to consolidate his power and was rapidly isolated by the Islamic Republican Party, founded by hardline clerics, which dominated parliament. Khomeini dismissed him as commander-in-chief after military reverses against Iraq in 1981 and he was forced to flee the country in July as crowds of hardliners surrounded his office, baying for his head.
He escaped to France where he allied himself with the Islamic leftist Mujaheddin-e Khalq movement, which was crushed in a wave of bloodshed. Bani-Sadr lives in exile outside Paris.
Of Khomeini's two other chief aides in his French exile, Ebrahim Yazdi became foreign minister but was forced out after failing to stop the occupation of the U.S. embassy by militant students in November 1979. He leads a small opposition party, the Iran Freedom Movement, with little influence.
Sadeq Qotbzadeh became head of state broadcasting, then foreign minister but was also defeated by the U.S. hostage crisis and resigned in 1980. He was arrested and executed in 1982 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Khomeini.
AYATOLLAH MOHAMMAD BEHESHTI, a powerful member of the secret Revolutionary Council which wielded real power in 1979, founded the Islamic Republican Party which dominated parliament and the judiciary from 1980.
After engineering Bani-Sadr's isolation, he and 73 other senior IRP leaders were killed in a Mujaheddin bomb attack in June 1981 that decimated the clerical leadership.
Bani-Sadr's successor as president, Mohammad Ali Rajai, and his prime minister, Hojatoleslam Mahammad Javad Bahonar, were killed in bomb attacks in the weeks that followed, as well as police and intelligence chiefs, Islamic judges, parliamentarians and numerous leaders of Friday prayers.
The IRP was dissolved by Khomeini in 1987 to end feuding among its surviving leaders, two of whom still dominate Iranian politics today.
AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENE'I succeeded Khomeini in 1989 as supreme leader although he lacks the revolutionary founder's uncontested spiritual authority. Jailed under the Shah, he was a founder member of the Revolutionary Council and the IRP and was maimed in a Mujaheddin bomb attack in 1981.
Khamene'i was elected president in 1981 and served two terms. In theory, he wields the most power, controlling the security forces, the judiciary, broadcasting and the influential network of Friday prayer leaders. However his legitimacy has been challenged both by dissident clerics such as Montazeri and by supporters of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who won 70 percent of the popular vote in 1997.
AYATOLLAH AKBAR HASHEMI RAFSANJANI, another founder of the IRP and Revolutionary Council member, became a powerful speaker of parliament and commander-in-chief of the armed forces before being elected president in 1989, serving two terms.
He persuaded Khomeini to end the Iran-Iraq war and set out to liberalise the economy and cautiously rebuild ties with the West but was thwarted by hardliners in the system. Since 1997, he has been president of the Expediency Council, a key committee that mediates among factions and builds consensus on domestic policy decisions. Some see him as the power behind the throne.
MASOUD RAJAVI, charismatic leader of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Islamic leftist movement, fled Iran with Bani-Sadr in 1981 as the IRP cracked down on his movement. Thousands of his followers were executed in prison after they were defeated in the streets in September 1981 following a wave of anti-regime bombings.
Rajavi set up a National Council of Resistance with Bani-Sadr in Auvers-sur-Oise, outside Paris, but they fell out and he was forced to leave France in 1986 after French citizens were taken hostage in Lebanon. He moved to Iraq where the Mujaheddin has its headquarters and runs an armed force based near the border with Iran. He has support among Iranian exiles but appears to have little backing within Iran.
MOHAMMED KHATAMI, Iran's popular reformist president, was head of an Islamic centre in Hamburg, Germany, during the revolution and only returned to Iran later. He became a hardline IRP member of parliament and eventually minister of culture and national guidance.
Forced out by hardliners in 1992, he was president of the National Library until emerging as an unlikely liberal alternative candidate to the favourite, conservative parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, in the 1997 election. He has encouraged greater media and cultural freedom, promoted the rule of law and worked to improve ties with Arab states and Western Europe, but his policy initiatives have been blunted by fierce hardline resistance.
Feature Khomeini Turbulent Priest who Shook World
LONDON, (Reuters) - A frail, white-bearded man sat cross-legged on a Persian
rug in a suburban bungalow near Paris and spoke in a faint monotone into a
cassette-recorder. And the world trembled.
Twenty years ago next week, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an ascetic Shi'ite Moslem clergyman, returned to Iran to a tumultuous welcome to lead one of this century's great upheavals -- the first Islamic revolution.
Exploiting a national network of mosques, the Shi'ite cult of martyrdom and the strange indecisiveness of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Khomeini replaced one of the Middle East's richest U.S.-backed oil monarchies with an austere theocratic state.
"We will end foreign domination in Iran. America cannot do anything," the ayatollah vowed in an interview with Reuters shortly after he settled in the village of Neauphle-le-Chateau, near Versailles, in October 1978.
"Do not be afraid to give up your lives and your belongings in the service of God, Islam and the Moslem nation," he told his followers in one of the taped messages that sent millions of unarmed demonstrators into the streets to brave the Shah's army.
KHOMEINI'S SYSTEM ENDURES
Unlike many revolutionary systems, the Islamic republic that Khomeini built has endured despite a 20-year confrontation with the United States, an eight-year war with Iraq and waves of bombings, assassinations, executions and power struggles.
Khomeini, who became supreme leader with sweeping powers under the constitution adopted in 1979, died in his bed a decade later, revered by most Iranians but reviled in the West.
His mausoleum in south Tehran is a shrine for pilgrims.
While the revolution devoured many of its children in spasms of violence, Moslem clerics still wield most power in Iran.
The complex institutional checks and balances developed by Khomeini to guard against a coup and prevent one faction from monopolising power provide the framework for a permanent power struggle among his heirs.
The contrast between the Shah, whose imperial family flaunted its fabulous petrodollar wealth in gaudy ceremonies, and the ayatollah, who lived frugally on a diet of bread, fruit, nuts and yoghurt, could hardly have been more stark.
Twice a day, the stern old man in dark robes and a black turban indicating descent from the Prophet Mohammed, crossed the Route de Chevreuse under French police guard to lead prayers and deliver sermons in a blue-and-white tent pitched in the garden of the two-storey house that served as his headquarters.
Students, businessmen, clergymen and politicians flocked to Paris from Iran and the diaspora in Europe and the United States to talk and pray with Khomeini after president Valery Giscard d'Estaing gave him temporary refuge.
The ayatollah listened to moderate advice but held firm to his course, dismissing calls for compromise to avert bloodshed.
"There will be no compromise with the Shah. Until the day an Islamic republic is established in Iran, the struggle of our people will continue," Khomeini said in the interview.
The turbulent cleric had been expelled from Iraq under pressure from the Shah, seeking to end a snowballing revolt against his rule spearheaded by Shi'ite religious leaders, demonstrating students and striking oil workers.
He had launched his battle to drive the Shah from his "peacock throne" in 1962-63, condemning the monarch's White Revolution land reforms as un-Islamic and denouncing the immunity privileges of U.S. advisers and oil companies in Iran. He was exiled first to Turkey, then to the holy city of Najaf in Iraq.
WESTERN-TRAINED ADVISERS ROSE AND FELL
In Neauphle-le-Chateau, Khomeini was surrounded by a circle of Western-educated aides who went on to play key roles in the early revolutionary governments before being sidelined by Islamic hardliners.
A large sign in English and Persian outside Khomeini's headquarters proclaimed "The ayatollah has no spokesman." But the men who assured journalists that Iran would be a liberal Islamic democracy would qualify nowadays as spin doctors.
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, an economist who lived in Paris, acted as his interpreter and secretary. He was elected the first president of the Islamic republic in 1980 before being hounded from office by hardline mobs a year later, fleeing for his life to the French capital.
Sadeq Qotbzadeh, a former anti-Shah student activist expelled from the United States in 1969 and who had a Syrian passport, became head of radio and television, then foreign minister. He resigned in 1980 and was executed in 1982 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Khomeini.
Ebrahim Yazdi, a cancer researcher who lived in Texas, was Khomeini's chief English-speaking aide. He sought to persuade the West that the Islamic movement was not manipulated by the Soviet Union or bent on anarchy.
He became foreign minister in the first revolutionary government but was forced out for trying to end the occupation of the U.S. embassy by militant students in November 1979 after Washington admitted the deposed Shah for medical treatment.
Yazdi today heads a small, semi-legal opposition party, the Iran Freedom Movement, but has little influence.
Khomeini's other confidant was his second son Ahmad, a mullah (clergyman) who was his closest aide during his decade at the helm of the Islamic republic and the key link with the students occupying the U.S. embassy. He died in 1995.
Khomeini's elder son, Morteza, had died during their exile in Iraq after being visited by two Iranians suspected of being agents of the Shah's hated SAVAK secret police.
The ayatollah's wife, Batul, accompanied him in France but played no public role.
RETURN TO IRAN
Interviewing Khomeini was a strangely impersonal experience. Questions were submitted in writing and Bani-Sadr translated the written replies before the reporter was admitted for a brief meeting with the ayatollah.
There was no handshake. Khomeini stared at the carpet while speaking rather than seeking eye-contact with the interviewer.
Some of his delphic statements required interpretation. When he said: "We will cut off the hands of the foreign agents," aides hastened to explain he meant rooting out foreign domination in Iran, not severing limbs.
As the revolution moved towards a climax, sending world oil prices soaring to record levels, the throngs of supporters and journalists swelled at Neauphle.
The French authorities who had initially treated Khomeini with caution, warning him three times to refrain from political statements, gave him VIP treatment.
Two weeks after the Shah left Iran on "holiday" on January 16, never to return, the ayatollah, his entourage and several dozen journalists boarded an Air France jumbo jet for Tehran, despite threats by the Iranian government to shoot it down.
The volunteer crew had take on twice the normal load of fuel in case they were forced to turn back. The plane had to circle for more than half an hour over Tehran while final negotiations for permission to land were conducted.
A crowd estimated at more than one million people was waiting to greet the revolution's spiritual leader as the Air France stewards helped him down the gangway at Mehrabad Airport.
Ten days later, the remnants of the Shah's last government under the hapless prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar were swept away in street battles.
The Middle East was never the same again.
Iran Conservative Slams Internet
A senior conservative Iranian cleric has said that the Internet and satellite television are corrupting Iranian society.
Cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati made the call during Friday prayers in Tehran. He was speaking against a background of an intensified power struggle between Iran's conservative faction and the moderates.
Since reformist President Mohammad Khatami came to power 18 months ago, the Iranian press has become freer and more colourful than at any time since the Islamic revolution.
The Internet is also increasingly in demand with youngsters keen for information on the latest American movies and music, although it currently does not have the kind of reach it has in the West.
Many moderates are in favour using the positive side of satellite channels and the Internet, but Iran's conservative religious leaders are afraid they could end up losing the hearts and minds of the country's young people.
Ali Mohammadi of Nottingham Trent University in England says the information revolution is bypassing traditionalists.
"If the Internet provides masses of various information channels to the young people, then they won't have to go to the traditional religious leaders to seek advice," he says.
However the information revolution is slowed by Iran's strict Islamic laws, which mean Internet service providers have to operate a form of self-censorship.
Said Vahid, an employee of Nedanet, a Tehran Internet provider service, says software is used to screen out some sites.
"Some adult sites are blocked and users can't access those sites and some sites of dissident Iranian groups and some religious sites are also on the black list," he says.
Iranian TV 'boring'
Iran's conservative dominated state radio and television is also losing younger viewers. Dr Mohammadi says Iranian TV is seen as boring.
"People are looking for fun, for some entertainment and this is why they would rather look to radio and foreign television," he says.
"They make tapes to give to those who haven't got the money to have their own satellite television," he adds.
The viewing of satellite television has tripled since President Khatami came to power, largely because he has not actively enforced an existing ban on owning satellite dishes, Dr Mohammadi says.
Ayatollah Jannati called for Iran's existing media to try to win back viewers by producing more attractive programmes on the life of the prophet Mohammad and the early history of Islam.
But BBC Central Asia Analyst Pam O'Toole says at least some sections of the Iranian public are simply tired of constant religious programmes, no matter how skilfully made.
Albright Raises Kosovo, Iran Before Russia Trip
MOSCOW, (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, speaking on Sunday
on the eve of a visit to Moscow, listed problems ranging from Kosovo to the
spread of weapons of mass destruction that needed to be addressed.
She stressed in an interview with NTV commercial television that U.S.-Russian relations were crucial.
"We are talking about relations between two great states which carry great responsibility," said Albright, who arrives on Monday for what is expected to be a tough visit to discuss a number of issues that have soured ties in recent months.
"I think we have good relations which occupy the key position in the policies of our two countries," she said.
Albright, whose remarks were broadcast in Russian, is expected to meet Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and several other top officials.
It is unclear whether she will meet President Boris Yeltsin, who is in hospital with ulcers, but Kremlin officials indicated a telephone conversation between them might be arranged.
Albright said Washington was alarmed by Iran's alleged plans to develop nuclear weapons, as well as by the role of some Russian companies and research institutes in helping Tehran.
Washington introduced sanctions this month against three Russian institutes it accused of cooperating with Iran.
"We are deeply worried about the spread of weapons of mass destruction," she said. "We have enough heavy proof that they had certain relations (with Iran), which are counterproductive and do not help your country, my country and other countries trying to protect themselves against this threat."
Yeltsin's chief-of-staff Nikolai Bordyuzha, a career officer of Soviet Union's KGB secret service, shrugged off such fears when he spoke afterwards in the same programme.
Bordyuzha said Russia had set up its own system to control any leak of nuclear or missile technology abroad.
"We had some facts but they were treated properly," he said about attempts to smuggle out military technology. "We don't always make public our steps, but we make these steps."
Bordyuzha also criticised Washington for failing to present facts about leaks of military technology from Russia and said this could not be explained by the need for security.
"We always propose a constructive dialogue-- give us the facts and we will check them," Bordyuzha said, adding: "It is not a dialogue when one simply says we have some facts and launch sanctions."
Albright also moved to calm Russian worries about U.S. plans to launch its own National Missile Defence, which may require changes in the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"The decision about the programme has not been made yet," she said. "The final decision can be made in a year or two only if the need for it is proven."
"The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty remains the cornerstone of the whole process of arms control," Albright added. "In the past some changes have been made in it under bilateral agreement and it may be changed again if the two sides come to terms."
Albright also said Washington was interested in working out a common position on the crisis over Kosovo, the rebel Serbian province where a crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians has brought NATO to the brink of air strikes against Yugoslav targets over what it sees as Belgrade's refusal to cooperate.
Russia bitterly opposes the use of force.
"The international community must think about ways to reach a political settlement," Albright said. "As far as the United States are concerned, its position is worked out in cooperation with the international community, with NATO and with the United Nations."
Ahead of Albright's visit, U.S. officials said she was planning to discuss Russia's failure to ratify the START II arms reduction treaty, Washington's desire to kick off negotiations on a START III treaty and amendments to a Conventional Forces in Europe agreement to accommodate the eastward expansion of NATO.
Iran Turns down U.S. Appeal on Ties Resumption
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Hamid Reza Asefi on Saturday turned down an appeal by U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright on resumption of bilateral ties.
Asefi said that due to lack of practical changes in the U.S. behavior toward Iran, no new development has taken place in Tehran-Washington relations, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Albright Thursday reiterated that Washington is ready to resume ties with Iran under certain conditions, said IRNA. But it did not give details of Albright's remarks.
Asefi said that despite some positive remarks made by U.S. officials every now and then, there are still contradictions between their words and deeds.
Since the interview of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami with the CNN in January, 1998, top U.S. officials have voiced Washington's readiness to open a new chapter for Washington-Tehran ties.
In his ground-breaking interview, Khatami called for exchanges between peoples of the two nations to pave the way for a rapprochement. But Iranian leaders later set the conditions that the U.S. must change its policy toward Iran.
US, Iran Gain Award for World Cup Gift Exchange
From News Services and Staff Reports|
Sometimes gift giving is all right.
An exchange of gifts between players from the United States and Iran during last summer's World Cup has won the countries FIFA's 1998 fair play prize.
The national associations share the award from world soccer's governing body with the Northern Ireland Football Association for its work in reuniting Protestant and Catholic communities in the province.
"In the middle of the World Cup the Iranians and Americans provided a powerful demonstration of the effects of fair play," said FIFA President Sepp Blatter. "They not only joined in the spirit of FIFA's Fair Play Day on June 21 by posing together for photographs before their match in Lyon, but also exchanged flowers and gifts among the players."
Despite decades of political tension between the two countries, both teams and fans mixed amicably during the match, won by Iran, 2-1.
"The award, like that to Northern Ireland, is also intended to be symbolic for many other countries which have found themselves in a comparable situation," Blatter said.
FIFA said the work in Northern Ireland was exemplified by a match in Belfast on Nov. 30 between Cliftonville and Linfield, the first time the teams had been allowed to play at Cliftonville's Solitude Stadium for almost 30 years because of sectarian tensions.
Iran Should Not Be in Isolation Forever, Albright
WASHINGTON, (Itar-Tass) - US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes that such a country as Iran should not be in isolation forever. She said this in a speech to the Centre for National Policy on Thursday, motivating this view by Iran's size, importance and geographic position.
Albright confirmed that the United States had shown much interest in the news that Mohammad Khatami had been elected Iranian president. Washington analysts arrived at the conclusion that Khatami had been able to gain the support of broad sections of the public in the election struggle. US strategists believe that there was promise in the fact that Khatami had support among women and young people.
Albright acknowledged that this prompted her to respond to the Iranian leader's initiative expressed in a CNN interview in January 1998, when Khatami said that Iran is ready for a dialogue with the United States, "a dialogue between cilivisations and cultures". Somewhat later the US secretaty of state delivered a speech that, she said now, largely mirrored the Iranian president's remarks.
By all indications, Washington's hopes for this indirect exchange of messages have not been justified. Developments clearly showed, Albright said, that Khatami is now living through difficult times as regards politics and that a confrontation of internal factions and factors is now on in Iran.
Albright confirmed that the United States is prepared for a dialogue with Iran, sanctioned and recognised, in whose framework both governments could raise problems evoking their concern. Without saying whether this readiness is reciprocated by Teheran, Albright noted that the United States so far encourages the possibility of individual and group exchanges between people of the two countries.
Dutch Say Iranians Lacking Asylum Must Go Home
THE HAGUE,(Reuters) - Iranians who have not received asylum from the Netherlands must return to Iran, the Dutch cabinet said on Friday.
In a position paper issued to the cabinet, Dutch Junior Justice Minister Job Cohen said the situation in Iran was now secure enough for those on temporary permits living in the Netherlands to return to Iran.
It did not specify any immediate plans to begin deportations.
About 4,600 Iranians are currently living in Dutch asylum centres.
The cabinet also said it would stop issuing temporary permits to new Iranian refugees who do not meet the asylum requirements.
However, it said it would continue to grant asylum to Iranian refugees facing persecution, including intellectuals, writers, journalists, homosexuals and members of the Baha'i religious sect.
The Dutch government has been struggling to craft policies to handle an influx of refugees expected to soar to 65,000 in 1999 from 20,000 in 1998.
Sale of U.S. Food to Iran Suggested
By Barry Schweid|
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Arguing that it is time to test curbs on food exports while the United States enjoys a surplus, a group of farm-state members of Congress is asking the Clinton administration to approve sale of more than $500 million worth of American grain and sugar to Iran.
The request is under review at the White House, the State Department and the Treasury Department, which would be required to issue a license. The proposal tests how far administration policy-makers believe Iran has moved toward moderation.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has made cautious overtures to Iran based on a judgment that President Mohammad Khatami represents a new moderation in Tehran.
His election in 1997 prompted a series of tentative feelers on both sides, including wrestlers attending tournaments in the two countries. ``We are ready to engage in a process in which each side is able to address the other's concerns,'' Albright said last September while also saying it would take time and patience to re-establish good relations.
Meanwhile, President Clinton's offer of a dialogue has been rejected by Tehran.
A bipartisan group of farm-state members of Congress argues that it is time to test the validity of sanctions on food exports and whether militant fundamentalism is yielding to moderation. Besides, they argued in a letter last month, the United States has a marketable grain surplus.
In a cleric-directed revolution, militants overthrew the Western-looking shah in 1979, sacked the U.S. Embassy and took most of the Americans there hostage. In 1980, the United States formally broke relations with Iran.