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March 2000, Week 2
|Iran Seeks To End U.S. Trade Ban||Mar. 10|
|Iran May Lift Ban on Ancient Fire Festival||Mar. 10|
|Iran Court To Assign Jews Lawyers||Mar. 09|
|Greco Roman Wrestling Results||Mar. 09|
|Iran Condemns Belgian Allegations||Mar. 08|
|Iran Police Chief Denies Raid Order||Mar. 07|
|Germany Seeks Better Iran Ties||Mar. 07|
Iran Seeks To End U.S. Trade Ban
By Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran -Iran's foreign minister said today his government sought better trade relations with the United States, particularly the removal of bans on Iranian goods.
"We would welcome the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iranian goods and would consider it as a positive move," Kamal Kharrazi told a Tehran news conference.
He was responding to this week's Los Angeles Times report that Washington was considering lifting its ban on Iranian carpets, pistachios and caviar its three biggest exports after oil and gas following the victory of Iranian reformists in last month's legislative polls. Many reformists welcome better ties with the United States.
"We have always said that Iran is interested in trade with U.S. firms. When the United States eased sanctions (last April) to allow sales of wheat and medicines to Iran, we made that conditional on the opening of the U.S. market to Iranian goods. Trade is a two-way street," Kharrazi said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin told reporters Wednesday that Iran has been trading with the United States.
"Iran has been purchasing U.S. agricultural and medical products since (April)," Rubin said.
Rubin declined to comment on the newspaper report, but said "we're looking at ways to engage Iran in a dialogue and to recognize the important changes that are taking place there."
Kharrazi said that if U.S. trade sanctions were to be lifted, "it would be a big victory" for Iran.
The abolition of the ban would be a major step of reconciliation between the United States and Iran. The two nations broke relations in April 1980, five months after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held its occupants hostage.
Besides barring trade with Iran, the United States has legislation that imposes sanctions on foreign companies that invest $20 million or more a year in Iran's oil and gas sectors
The United States accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism, trying to sabotage Middle East peacemaking and seeking to amass weapons of mass destruction.
Iran rejects the accusations. Its government says there can be no talks with Washington until it treats Iran with respect and releases Iranian assets, valued at $12 billion, frozen in American banks since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran May Lift Ban on Ancient Fire Festival
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iran may allow residents in the capital Tehran to celebrate an ancient festival that has been frowned on by authorities since the 1979 Islamic revolution, newspapers reported on Thursday. |
The decision could put an end to annual clashes between police and youths who set off firecrackers and jump over bonfires to celebrate the pre-Islamic festival of fire. The daily Hamshahri quoted Tehran's deputy governor as saying a municipal security council had asked police not to interfere in the festivities on Tuesday, provided celebrations are orderly and only legally manufactured firecrackers are used.
Many people are injured or maimed by home-made firecrackers during the festival which dates back to Iran's Zoroastrian past. It is held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Iranian year, which this year ends on March 19.
Moslem hardliners see the ceremonies as pagan rites, while secular-minded youths are keen to have fun and keep alive the popular pre-Islamic tradition. Authorities have tried, with little success, to curb the festivities on grounds of safety, citing numerous fires and injuries. The celebrations include public dancing, deemed immoral under Iran's Islamic laws.
Although formally led by a reformist interior minister appointed by President Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian police are commanded by officers who are close to powerful Islamic conservatives opposed to the moderate president.
Iran Court To Assign Jews Lawyers
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran - A judge investigating charges against 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying has asked a provincial bar association to assign lawyers to the case, Tehran radio reported Thursday.
The accused and their families had failed to hire lawyers "despite repeated notices," the radio quoted judiciary spokesman Hossein Mir Mohammad Sadeqi as saying.
With time running out before the trial starts next month, the investigating judge asked the Fars Province Bar Association to assign lawyers, the radio quoted Sadeqi as saying.
Manouchehr Eliassi, who represented Iran's small Jewish community in the outgoing parliament, said last week that the trial would begin April 13 in Shiraz in the southern Fars province.
The suspects were arrested last March in Shiraz, 550 miles south of Tehran. They are accused of having spied for the United States and Israel, but both countries have denied that. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty.
Iran has been under intense international pressure to free the Jews or ensure they receive a fair trial. The government says their faith has no bearing on the case and that some Muslims have also been arrested on the same charges.
At its height, Iran's Jewish community numbered 100,000. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the community has dwindled from 80,000 to about 25,000.
Iran's Jewish community remains the Middle East's largest outside Israel. Iranian Jews are allowed to practice aspects of their religion, but are forbidden to teach Hebrew, the liturgical language.
Greco Roman Wrestling Results
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Final results and standings Sunday of the Greco-Roman Olympic qualifying tournament:
Championship_Kalilov Uran, Kyrgyzstan, dec. Dariusz Jablonski, Poland, 6-2.
Third place_Ercan Yildiz, Turkey, dec. Masatoshi Toyoda, Japan, 4-3.
Standings_1, Kalilov Uran, Kyrgyzstan, 11 points. 2, Dariusz Jablonski, Poland, 10. 3, Ercan Yildiz, Turkey, 9. 4, Masatoshi Toyoda, Japan, 8. 5, Steven Mays, United States, 7. 6, Joachim Soderman, Sweden, 6. 7, Hassan Rangraz, Iran, 5. 8, Stoytcho Dobromirov Ivanov, Bulgaria 4. 9, Laszlo Bona, Hungary, 3. 10, Charles DeOliveira, Brazil, 2. 11, Vicente Lillo, Spain, 1.
Iran Condemns Belgian Allegations
By Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - Belgium on Monday rejected calls to halt a human rights investigation of a former Iranian president a case that threatens to derail improving relations between Iran and European Union countries.
A Belgium court ordered the investigation last week after an unidentified Belgian citizen of Iranian origin alleged abuses by Hashemi Rafsanjani. The complaint claimed Rafsanjani was party to unjustified incarceration and physical and moral torture, Belgium's De Standaard daily said Monday.
Iranian leaders, newspapers and official organizations closed ranks around Rafsanjani, who led the nation from 1989 to 1997. More than half the members of Iran's new reformist-dominated parliament threatened to push for a break in diplomatic relations with Belgium.
"The measure taken by the court is not only a blatant insult and slander against one of the lofty personalities and pillars of the system of the Islamic republic, but an insult to the noble and proud Iranian nation," the Guardian Council, which acts as parliament's upper house, said Monday through the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
If Belgium does not apologize, "it must await active measures from the Iranian nation," Ayatollah Hassan Saneii, leader of the semiofficial Khordad Foundation, told the Jomhuri Islami daily. The same foundation has offered $2.8 million for British author Salman Rushdie's head.
In a statement Monday, the Belgian Foreign Ministry said it wants to maintain friendly relations with Iran but the government has no power to intervene in the legal process.
The complaint was filed Feb. 17 under a 1993 international humanitarian law. Magistrates are studying whether the case falls under their jurisdiction, the statement said.
The Brussel's prosecutor's office said Magistrate Damien Vandermeersch is investigating. He recently led Belgium's unsuccessful efforts to secure extradition from London of Chilean former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet to face trial in Europe on human rights charges.
Rafsanjani's case comes as the EU is trying to reach out to Iranian reformists following their stunning victory in last month's legislative elections. Italy's foreign minister, Lamberto Dini, was wrapping up a visit Monday, just as his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, arrived.
Rafsanjani is seen as a moderate who has increasingly become associated with hard-liners. He won a seat in parliament last month.
Iran Police Chief Denies Raid Order
The Associated Press|
TEHRAN, Iran -A former police chief testified Tuesday that he did not order a raid on a university dormitory in which one person was killed.
"I say clearly that I did not order anybody to enter the dormitory area. If any of my forces did so, they disobeyed orders," said Brig. Gen. Farhad Nazari, who is on trial along with 19 subordinates.
Students have testified of brutal beatings and hallways slippery with blood during the July 9 raid. This is the first case to try any of the officers in the raid, prompted by a student demonstration over the closure of a reformist newspaper.
The crackdown, which left one person dead and 20 injured, provoked six days of demonstrations in several major cities in Iran the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution that installed the clergy's rule. Four days after the first raid, police again used force to end the protests.
One month later, Nazari, 36, was dismissed as Tehran police chief and charged with ordering illegal entry, ignoring the orders of his superiors and sullying the image of the police. Eleven officers and eight unranked policemen were charged with being accomplices and destroying public property.
In the court's Saturday session, defense lawyer Mohsen Rahami complained that "the main people involved in the incident are not being tried here. The case has been limited to one commander and a few officers and soldiers."
The protests following the raid strengthened reformists, who won 170 seats in the Feb. 18 elections for the 290-member parliament.
Germany Seeks Better Iran Ties
By Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran -In a visit aimed at strengthening ties, Germany's foreign minister said Monday that Iran and Germany "should look forward and not to the past" in their relations.
"We've had very difficult times in the past years," Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters on his arrival to Tehran. "We hope to improve relations and especially have President Mohammad Khatami visit Germany."
Iranian-German relations were strained during the two-year ordeal involving German businessman Helmut Hofer. The 56-year-old man was twice sentenced to death in Iran for an illicit relationship with a 26-year-old Iranian medical student, but was finally acquitted and released from prison in January.
His release was widely seen as a prelude to a visit by Khatami to Germany.
Fischer is expected to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, later Monday, and is to meet Khatami on Tuesday.
The visit comes as Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini prepared to conclude his three-day trip to Iran later Monday.
The European Union has welcomed closer cooperation with Iran after Khatami's supporters ousted hard-liners from control of the parliament for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Last week, the German Foreign Ministry said Fischer would raise the issues of human rights and Iran's arms policies during his two-day visit.