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June 99, Week 2
|Jesse Jackson to try to help accused Iranian Jews||June 11|
|Iran Confirms Arrest of 13 Israeli Spies||June 11|
|Iran Police round up Black-Market Videos Report||June 11|
|U.S. Warns of 'Imminent Arms Race'||June 9|
|Iran to Conduct Seismological Operations||June 8|
|Iran's top judge says he is stepping down||June 8|
Jesse Jackson to try to help accused Iranian Jews
LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who secured the release
of three U.S. soldiers captured in Yugoslavia, indicated on Friday he might be on the
verge of another mission -- to Iran, where 13 Iranian Jews have been imprisoned on
Jackson also announced a private effort to help ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo with airlifts of medical aid and supplies to refugee camps and to the Yugoslav province, which is awaiting the return of hundreds of thousands of people.
After a news conference in Los Angeles, Jackson told Reuters he was "absolutely" willing to travel to Iran if necessary to negotiate the release of the Iranian Jews. Ranging in age from 16 to 48, they were arrested earlier this year and face possible death sentences on spy charges.
Jackson added, however, that solid plans for a trip at this point would be "premature."
"We're meeting with Jewish leaders, the National Council of Churches and others in New York on Sunday to make the appeal to begin to mobilise religious leaders in Iran (to) appeal for their lives," Jackson said.
He said the various religious leaders he would be seeing had contacts in Iran and could help build channels of negotiation with political leaders.
Jackson said: "We need to take some time to build an infrastructure (for negotiating with Iranian leaders through religious channels). Then we'll determine what next we're going to do. We're certainly going to try."
Jackson, a former presidential candidate who heads the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, agreed to make the appeal to the Iranian government after an emotional meeting with the families of the Iranian Jews.
On aid to the Kosovo Albanians, he said that starting immediately he would spearhead a private effort to airlift needed aid and medical supplies from his headquarters in Chicago to refugee camps and Yugoslavia itself. He said he had more than 100 volunteer doctors ready to help.
Jackson added that he would attempt to negotiate with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the release of three imprisoned CARE workers. He previously negotiated successfully with the Yugoslav leader for the freedom of the three captured U.S. soldiers, who were released last month.
He urged caution rather than celebration now that 79 days of air strikes had ended and NATO and Yugoslavia had signed an interim peace pact. "Just as one week of bombing turned to 11, the scope and magnitude of this mission could leave our troops in place for an indeterminate period," he said.
He added that innocent lives hung in the balance and aid should not hinge upon whether or not Milosevic remained in power. "We can't just wait for governments to set up (a) preconditioned basis for support. ... Get relief to those who need it most, and get it there quickly," he recommended.
Jackson said he would also try to increase awareness of the need for relief in war-torn West African country of Sierra Leone. "Tomorrow we are mobilising medical resources to send (privately, via airlift) to Kosovo and Sierra Leone," he said.
"Sierra Leone shares the horrors of Kosovo but not the hope. There is no public outcry against the violence, no commitment for aid to reconstruct the country," he said.
Iran Confirms Arrest of 13 Israeli Spies
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iran confirmed on Wednesday that 13 people
had been arrested in the country on charges of spying for Israel, the
Iranian state-run television reported.
Information director general of Far province said the 13 captive Iranian Jews, who were arrested several weeks ago in the province, played important roles in an espionage network working for Israel and the United States.
The case is under investigation and the findings will be announced to the public in the near future, the unnamed official said, giving no details of the identities of the 13 people.
Both Tel Aviv and Washington have denied that the arrested people worked for their intelligence agencies.
Iran Police round up Black-Market Videos Report
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Iranian police have cracked down on distributors of illegal
western videos and cassettes in central Tehran, the Kayhan newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper said that police raided six video and cassette shops and arrested 90 distributors for selling what it called "vulgar" videos.
Tapes of expatriate Iranian perfomers and Hollywood films are illegal without official authorization but are widely available through an active black market.
Meanwhile, in the northwestern Iranian city of Mashhad, police discovered 1,000 contraband satellite dishes which were hidden in trucks carrying cooking oil and wheat from the southern port city of Banadr Abbas to Mashhad.
The trucks were stopped at a checkpoint and five people were arrested following the inspection and discovery of the satellite dishes, Kayahn said in a separate report.
Iran has banned satellite television except for some state and media offices. Moderate political figures have called for a more open attitude towards satellite television and the Internet, saying it cannot close itself off the world at large.
However, Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently rejected any moves easing the ban on satellite television, saying that it would amount to "self-defeat."
U.S. Warns of 'Imminent Arms Race'
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States must act quickly to forestall an "imminent arms
race" among some Middle East countries intent on countering weapons buildups by Iran and other
nations east of the Persian Gulf, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.
The White House, meanwhile, called on Iran to release 13 Jewish people, including rabbis, who were arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States and Israel. Presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart said charges that any of the 13 spied on behalf of the United States were "entirely without foundation."
Martin Indyk, who heads the State Department's Middle East bureau, noted that Iran is developing both missiles and weapons of mass destruction but said U.S. proliferation concerns in that region extend beyond Iran.
"We continue to support a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction," Indyk told a House International Relations Committee hearing.
"But the kind of proliferation we see in the region today -- be it in Iran, India or Pakistan -- is leading in the wrong direction.
"Proliferation on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf is, among other things, increasing nervousness on the other side of the Gulf and could drive other countries to seek their own weapons systems."
He said the United States must counter this imminent arms race by working with Israel, Arab allies and Turkey to help boost their abilities to deal with emerging threats.
The responses include strengthening active and passive defenses, enhancing deterrence and slowing proliferation through arms control agreements and other policies, he said.
While noting that Iran, under President Mohammad Khatami, has stopped efforts to subvert Arab states in the Persian Gulf, Indyk said Iran continues to support Palestinian groups, including Hamas, which are opposed to peace with Israel.
He added that such support is at odds with Khatami's statements saying that Iran would not object to whatever peace agreement is worked out between Israel and the Palestinians.
He called the Palestinian rejectionists "yesterday's men. They speak only the language of violence and terror and rejection."
Indyk said the arrests by Iran of the 13 Jewish people "send a very disturbing signal. We call on the Iranian government to ensure that no harm comes to these individuals and to release them."
Reporting the arrests on Monday, state-run Iranian radio said the 13 were living among the Jewish community in the southern Fars province. It did not provide nationalities or say when the arrests were made.
State Department spokesman James Foley said the United States has known about the arrests for some time but chose not to make the information public.
The suspects were accused of spying for the "Zionist regime" and "world arrogance," terms Iran uses to identify Israel and the United States, respectively.
On another subject, Indyk also strongly hinted that President Clinton will use his waiver authority to circumvent legislation aimed at inducing the administration to shift the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The United States has resisted congressional pressure for such a change for years, and Indyk suggested the policy remains unchanged.
"The president has to fulfill his responsibilities to the peace process," Indyk said. "We should not take any action which would prevent negotiations or undermine them."
The status of Jerusalem is one of several key unresolved issues between Israel and the Palestinians. Successive administrations have believed that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem could have a disruptive effect on negotiations.
Iran to Conduct Seismological Operations
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iran will carry out seismological
operations in the Gulf to explore oil and gas reserves with the
assistance of the Norwegian oil group Norex, an Iranian oil official
announced on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Director General of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Seyed Mahmoud Mohaddess said the operations will be launched in the next two weeks.
He said that NIOC has signed a contract with a consortium of Norex and Iran's Foundation of the Disabled and Oppressed to conduct the operations.
Under the non-exclusive contract, the operation will be conducted in an area of 100,000 square kilometers, Mohaddess said.
The two-year project, which costs 80 million U.S. dollars, will be financed by Norex, he added.
Iran's top judge says he is stepping down
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the head of Iran's judiciary and
a hardline conservative, said on Tuesday he was stepping down after 10 years in office,
according to state radio.
The ayatollah, an influential member of the conservative clerical establishment, has been an outspoken critic of the relative press and intellectual freedom in Iran under its moderate president, Mohammad Khatami.
His courts have taken increasingly harsh measures against liberal thinkers and journalists. That position made him immensely unpopular among reform activists, who have repeatedly accused him of playing partisan politics and called on him to resign.
The radio report said Yazdi made the announcement at a meeting at the supreme court on Tuesday.
"Serving my final weeks at the judiciary, I am of the belief that I have done my job. With a change of the head of the judiciary, no changes will take place in the trend of affairs," he was quoted as saying.
Yazdi, appointed as judiciary head by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will have completed his second five-year term in mid-August.
Newspapers earlier said Yazdi had volunteered to leave the judiciary because of illness, but his statement on Tuesday was the first time he has mentioned his departure so openly in public.
Yazdi on Tuesday denied his judiciary was influenced by politics: "The reason behind the publication of some materials against the judiciary is that the judiciary is independent and reputable. It has never been influenced by political and factional issues."
Newspapers say he will most likely be succeeded by Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi, a member of the Guardian Council, a senior body overseeing legislature and elections in Iran.
Although a conservative, Hashemi has taken a low profile in the political dispute in the country since Khatami's election in 1997.