May 1998, Week 3
|Iran's Soccer Team in Turmoil||May 21|
|Iran Sacks Soccer Coach||May 20|
|U.S. Agrees to Ease Trade Sanctions||May 19|
|Iran faces oil rush as U.S. curbs crumble-analysts||May 19|
|Iran says U.S. should repeal waived sanctions law||May 19|
|Iran hails EU-U.S. deal as 'great victory'||May 18|
|Taste of Cherry, And Not a Drop More||May 16|
|Iranian State Body Lauds Pro-Khamenei Rally||May 16|
|Relations with Iran Could Improve if Tehran Makes Changes||May 16|
Iran's Soccer Team in Turmoil
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- With less than a month to go before the start of the World Cup, Iran's soccer team is in turmoil, and some fans
are comparing the team to the Maldives, outscored 59-0 during qualifying |
The Iranians, who have a high-profile first-round game against the United States on June 21, fired coach Tomislav Ivic after a 7-1 l oss to AS Roma in an exhibition game Tuesday and replaced him with Jalal Talebi.
``Under Ivic, the national soccer team was steadily approaching a dead end and the crushing defeat by AS Roma paved the way for his dismissal,'' team manager Nasser Noamouz said.
Talebi's first test is an exhibition game Saturday against Internazionale of Milan in Como, Italy.
``People must rest assured that we will not spare any effort to back the national soccer team, a sign of which is replacing the coac h,'' said Safaei Farahani, head of Iran's soccer federation.
Iran is making its first World Cup appearance since 1978. Some don't think the coaching change is enough.
``Officials at the soccer federation are not taking the necessary action. and this has harmed Iranian football,'' said Hassan Habibi , Iran's coach from 1979 to 1981.
Critics of the soccer federation are numerous.
``In South Asia, when an official makes such big and repeated blunders, he finally commits suicide,'' the Iran News said in an edito rial Thursday. ``But in our sports, it has become the norm that when one makes a mistake, one looks for a scapegoat to shift the bla me on.''
U.S. coach Steve Sampson didn't think the coaching change would be successful.
``Obviously, they're tying to make a statement,'' he said in Portland, Ore. ``I've never seen a decision like this, at this late a d ate, turn out to be positive. Maybe I'm wrong.
``I think coach Ivic, even though they had a poor result against Roma, I think he knew where he was going with this team. But these are things that happen in that part of the world. We've grown to expect these kind of decisions, and only the Iranian federation kno ws what's best for them, given the state of mind of their players and what the public wants in their team.''
Iran Sacks Soccer Coach
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran, preparing for its first World Cup appearance in 20 years, fired national soc
cer coach Tomislav Ivic today after the team lost to AS Roma. |
The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the Croatian will be replaced by an Iranian, Ja lal Talebi, who is a technical adviser to the team.
Iran lost 7-1 to Roma in Tuesday's exhbition in Rome, just three weeks before the World Cup in France, where Iran will be playing for the first time since 1978.
Talebi coached the Indonesian Olympic soccer team last year.
Ivic, who was hired in January, had been under heavy criticism following Iran's poor performances over the past few months. He replaced Brazilian Valdir Vierra, who had taken Iran to the World Cup finals. < P> Ivic, 52, has successfully steered top clubs Ajax Amsterdam, Belgium's Anderlecht, Atletico Madrid, Mar seille, Paris Saint German, and Portugal's Benfica and Porto.
Ivic was last in the Persian Gulf in 1996, when he secured second place for the United Arab Emirates in the Asian Cup, but was sacked shortly afterward by the Emirates soccer association.
U.S. Agrees to Ease Trade Sanctions
LONDON (AP) -- President Clinton struck a deal with European leaders Monday to ease U.S. restrictions on multinational companie
s doing business with Cuba, Iran and Libya. Republicans back home immediately challenged the agreement. |
Under the steps announced by Clinton, the administration would grant permanent waivers to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which impo ses U.S. sanctions against foreign companies that do business with Cuba. Clinton said he also would seek to ease a section of t he law that denies U.S. visas to executives of those companies.
In exchange, members of the 15-nation European Union agreed to join in creating a global registry of property confiscated by Cu ba and other governments that would remain off-limits to investors.
A senior Clinton administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the EU members had agreed ``not to upgra de their political or economic relations with Cuba until or unless Cuba improved their human rights and democratic record.''
In Washington, spokesmen for both Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said the lawmakers were not part of th e compromise announced Monday.
``This is way too small a loaf,'' said Helms spokesman Mark Theissen. ``It requires an act of Congress. The administration has no power to deliver on changes in the law without an act of Congress. What the EU has offered doesn't even pique interest here on Capitol Hill.''
Although the Helms-Burton Act imposes sanctions on companies that do business with Cuba, it allows Clinton to grant temporary w aivers. Under the agreement announced Monday, those waivers would become permanent.
John Williams, a spokesman for Burton, said that the administration had discussed what was under way, but ``not with a great am ount of detail.'' Burton was not part of the negotiations, he said.
``We are waiting to see a more detailed outline of their proposals,'' Williams said.
The European Union long has been upset with what it sees as American arrogance in trying to impose its domestic legislation on foreign countries. Specific targets of ire are the Helms-Burton Act and a similar law on Iran and Libya.
The Europeans challenged Washington's unilateral sanctions before the World Trade Organization in October 1996, but last spring decided to suspended their case for a year to allow for a negotiated settlement.
``We have avoided a showdown on the sanctions with which we don't agree,'' said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the current EU president, at the close of the semiannual summit between the United States and the European Union.
Added Clinton: ``We have forged a path-breaking common approach to deter investment in illegally expropriated property around t he world including, but not limited, to Cuba.''
Clinton also announced that he had decided against imposing sanctions on a consortium led by a French oil company for investing in Iran. Under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, the president can impose sanctions on foreign companies that invest $20 milli on or more a year in Iran's oil and gas sectors.
Iran signed the $3 billion contract last September with a consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian oil companies led by Tota l, a French oil giant, to expand a gas field estimated to hold 300 trillion cubic feet of gas. The field is in the Persian Gulf adjacent to Qatar.
The senior administration official said the president has the authority under law to waive the provisions of the Iran-Libya law . However, the president will have to seek an amendment of the Helms-Burton law regarding Cuba.
``We are going to work on an expedited basis to draw up the amendment,'' the official said. ``We think it will be introduced sh ortly. We of course can't control the congressional calendar. But the disciplines applying to Cuba, which are very effective we think, do not go into effect until the waiver is passed.''
Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., sponsor of the Iran-Libya law, called Clinton's decision ``a mistake.'' ``It will send a signal to others that they can do business as usual with Iran, at a time when Iran continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction an d continues to sponsor terrorist acts,'' D'Amato said in a statement.
Both the administration and EU officials stressed that all the details had not been worked out on the Cuba agreement. But Clint on said he believed Congress would be satisfied.
To underscore the easing of trade tensions between the United States and Europe, Clinton and Blair announced enhanced efforts t o reach market-opening trade agreements by the year 2000.
Iran faces oil rush as U.S. curbs crumble-analysts
LONDON,(Reuters) - An international race to invest
in Iranian energy could swell into a stampede following a U.S.
decision announced on Monday to exempt three firms from curbs
over a gas project, analysts said.
And American companies impatient to invest in the country with the world's second largest gas reserves will proclaim ever more loudly their opposition to a different set of sanctions aimed at isolating the Islamic republic.
"The door to Iran is now clearly open," said John Mitchell, chairman of the energy programme at London's Royal Institute of International Affairs.
"It marks the end of ILSA," said Mitchell. "The reality is that the United States would find it very difficult to impose sanctions again, having once agreed to a waiver."
"This sets a precedent and will make companies less nervous about doing business in Iran," said attorney Rodman Bundy of lawyers Frere Cholmeley in Paris.
They were reacting to an announcement that the United States had agreed with the European Union to waive U.S. sanctions on European, Russian and Malaysian firms involved in a disputed $2 billion deal on Iran's offshore South Pars gas field.
Sanctions had in theory been a possibility under a law requiring the U.S. president to impose penalties on companies that invest more than $20 million a year in the oil and gas sector of those two countries.
Washington adopted the U.S. Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) as part of its policy of containment against Iran which it has accused of sponsoring international "terrorism." Iran denies the charge.
Washington has since last year been reviewing whether ILSA had been broken by Iran's deal with Total of France, Russia's Gazprom and Petronas of Malaysia.
But facing strong opposition, the U.S. has wavered over imposing penalties and analysts have for months said Washington was seeking a diplomatic way out of the impasse.
"For non-American companies trying to do business in Iran, the risk of sanctions is now greatly diminished," said Bundy, an opponent of sanctions.
"It won't pave the way for U.S. oil companies to get back into Iran, but it will make them more vocal in campaign against bilaterla U.S.-Iran sanctions."
Iran says studies show there is a chance of another 20 to 30 billion barrels of oil alone to be found in Iran, including in its offshore Gulf waters and the Caspian Sea.
Britain said EU companies seeking future deals in Iran would win a U.S. sanctions waiver similar to the exemption granted on South Pars.
EU external trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan said this included future projects in Iran involving Royal Dutch/Shell and British Petroleum Plc.
The two giants were among several companies vulnerable to the so-called extra-territorial legislation because they have big assets in the United States.
Shell and British gas giant BG Plc declined substantive comment on the U.S. decision until they had seen the details.
But a spokesman for BP said "we welcome this decision and hope that this is the first major step towards normalising relationships which are so important for stability in the Middle East."
BP has said it would do nothing to risk its operations in the United States, where it is the biggest oil producer and a major employer.
Other British energy firms -- Monument Oil and Gas Plc, Enterprise Oil Plc, LASMO Plc and BG -- are looking at exploration openings in Iran. They lack U.S. assets and thus are sheltered from the threat of U.S. sanctions.
Shell, with consortium partners Petronas, Gaz de France and BG, plans to further develop South Pars and link it to the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Multan by building a 1,600 km (1,000 mile) pipeline by 2003.
BP.L and Lasmo are both seeking to set up offices in Tehran, joining Shell. While BP says it does not see Iran as a major upstream oil player it does see opportunities in refined products and petrochemicals.
Iran has said it will soon set a date to offer 20 oil and gas buy-back projects, possibily in a tender from Tehran in early June with a simultaneous event in London.
The buy-back model -- in which firms finance projects for repayment in production -- is Iran's chosen technique for getting around constitutional opposition to bringing foreign firms into energy projects.
Iran's initial tender, launched in 1995, only succeeded in clinching two foreign groups to new projects -- led by Total and Canada's Bow Valley Energy. Two of Bow Valley's planned partners have already pulled out, jeopardising its plans.
British firms will face stiff competition from France's Elf Aquitaine and Total, Italy's Agip SpA and Petronas.
Ernst & Young's Richard Wilson said the agreement could heighten pressure from U.S. oil and gas companies itching to get into the market.
"The issue will be how long the U.S. companies can stand by and let the Europeans go in," he said.
"The last thing they will want is to be put at a competitive disadvantage in this major market. U.S. pressure for a lifting of the sanctions will therefore grow."
Since June 1995, when Clinton imposed another set of oil and trade sanctions against Iran, U.S. firms have been frozen out of trade with the republic.
European, Japanese and other Asian companies have stepped in to sign up deals for which U.S. firms would otherwise bid. The cost to American firms in terms of lost business opportunities and jobs has been high.
Mitchell said offshore projects with attractive terms would draw much of any new foreign interest. But in any new venture there would be initial caution where Iranians and foreigners test each other's goodwill.
"It's important for both sides to establish a record of doing business in a way that both sides feel comfortable with," he said.
Iran says U.S. should repeal waived sanctions law
UNITED NATIONS,(Reuters) - Iran said on Monday the
United States should repeal legislation imposing sanctions on
foreign firms that trade with Iran and other countries, after
President Bill Clinton announced a waiver in a particular case.
"Unilateral measures with extra-territorial applications have always spurred principled and strong international reactions," Iran's U.N. mission said in a statement prompted by Clinton's decision to waive sanctions against a French, a Russian and a Malaysian company involved in a $2 billion deal to develop Iran's South Pars gas field.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the main reason for the waiver was better cooperation with the European Union and Russia to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction and sponsoring terrorism.
Referring to the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), the Iranian statement said: "Such unilateral measures which violate international law and impede expansion of economic participation and international trade cooperation do, in fact, negatively affect the international effort for promoting peace, security and development. Hence, for this very reason they have been rejected by many states and international institutions."
The U.S. decision to waive sanctions "stems from these realities of international relations" as well as what the Iranian statement called the undeniable realities of Iranian society, the increasing role of Iran in promoting international peace and stability and regional economic development, and the success of the Iranian government in investing in the country's infrastructure.
"The international community expects that the government of the United States make effort effort for repealing this and similar other acts which lack practicality and are objected to by the international community," it said.
Iran hails EU-U.S. deal as 'great victory'
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian state radio hailed a EU-U.S. deal
waiving U.S. sanctions on foreign investors in Iran's energy
sector Monday as a great victory for the Islamic republic.
Tehran radio said American companies would be left behind in the drive to develop Iran's rich oil and gas resources because of continued U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
"Political analysts see this agreement, reached under European pressure, as a great victory for Europe and primarily for Iran, which was able to easily resist illegal American policies," the radio said in a commentary.
"Now the cooperation of European and non-European companies with Iran -- in the absence of American companies which are victimized by (U.S. laws) -- will expose the contradictions of the policies of America and its obvious defeat," it said.
Iran had succeeded "in exposing the conflict between American interests and those of the international community," the radio added.
Iranian oil officials withheld immediate comment, saying they were seeking the full text of the agreement reached in London between President Clinton, European Union Commissioner Jacques Santer and the current EU president, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The deal, thrashed out after weeks of intensive talks, lifted the threat of U.S. sanctions hanging over French firm Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysian energy firm Petronas, which last year agreed to invest $2 billion in Iran's huge South Pars gas field in the Gulf.
"To my surprise, there has been extremely little information about South Pars and the extent of the waiver and how it is going to affect future investments, so we have to wait," an Iranian official told Reuters earlier.
Santer said in London the deal meant European companies and businessmen could conduct their business without the threat of U.S. sanctions hanging over their heads.
Iranian analysts expressed hope that the deal would open up the flow of foreign investments into Iran's energy sector and its free trade zones, blocked by the threat of sanctions.
"A lot of companies have been talking to Iran about investments, a lot of trade delegations have recently visited and discussed quite a few potential deals," said Iraj Jamshidi, editor of the daily Akhbar-e Eqtesadi (Economic News).
"Besides energy, Iran has potentials in copper, steel, petrochemicals and railroad transports to and from Central Asia. The waiving of these sanctions could turn potentials into realities," Jamshidi told Reuters.
The analysts also said the deal was likely to strengthen the hand of moderates allied to President Mohammad Khatami and improve the prospects of U.S.-Iranian relations.
"I think this will be a boost to Khatami's government which will be able to say to conservative opponents: 'Our actions led to the end of the sanctions,"' Jamshidi said.
Another analyst said: "Dropping the sanctions is among measures moderate officials have been asking from Washington as a sign of goodwill. This will strengthen their hand."
The officials have also said Washington should end its hostile attitude toward Tehran and release Iranian assets frozen in the United States after the 1979 revolution in Iran.
"But the moderates have been under heavy pressure by the conservatives, who are still powerful, and improving ties with Washington is still a political taboo. So one should not expect anything but a slow process," the Tehran-based analyst said.
But Jamshidi was more optimistic, saying Khatami's government was expected to answer this move by a positive step.
Khatami was elected last year on a platform which advocated granting greater freedom and easing tensions in Iran's foreign relations. In January he called for dialogue between the Iranian and American peoples to bring about a "crack in the wall of mistrust."
Washington cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980 after Iranian militants seized the U.S. embassy and took 54 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Taste of Cherry, And Not a Drop More
From Iran, Bare-Bones Earnestness
By Stephen Hunter|
Washington Post Staff Writer
(Note: A "Seinfeld"-free review.)
"We are living," says a deep thinker in a recent issue of Film Comment, "in the age of Kiarostami."
To which most people would feel justified in responding, "Say what, Jack?"
Abbas Kiarostami is the current Anointed One of world cinema, an Iranian filmmaker whose clean, spare fables ride the tantalizing line between the truly simple and the truly simplistic. His new film, "Taste of Cherry," arrives today for a two-week run at the American Film Institute, sustained by a blast of high-octane New York critic-love so intense it feels like a napalm blaze. Is he great or is this, in Orwell's memorable words, the sort of rubbish only intellectuals could believe?
The movie is maddeningly plain. Shot with one camera, it primarily follows a dour Vic Morrow look-alike named Homayoun Ershadi as a Mr. Badii who, we are given to understand, is in despair. He is so in despair that in contravention to powerful Islamic law, he has decided to ingest all his sleeping pills and settle down into a hole in the ground to see if he wakes up in the morning. If he does, he'll need a ride home; if he doesn't, he requires that someone shovel some dirt on his remains. Thus, in a rattly old car, he drives through the dusty hills around Tehran trying to pick up men who'd perform this task for him, in exchange for a substantial sum of money.
That's it, that's all of it: car, chatter, dust, dust, dust. It's a carefully circumscribed universe, illuminated only by the intensity of Mr. Badii's self-loathing and his incompetence as a seducer. I use the word carefully: When one man tries aggressively to court another man -- one would guess this is intensified in a fundamentalist culture -- there's a homoerotic subtext, and if no one brings this up, it's clear nevertheless from the near violence of several turndowns that such feelings are operating. It doesn't help that Mr. Badii is somewhat -- excuse the imposition of crass Westernized sensibility on so sacred an issue -- creepy. I wouldn't get into a car with him, even if he offered candy.
Those who do get in the car with Mr. Badii, and accompany him to the hills above the city, represent a cross-section of Iranian society. One is a freckle-faced Kurdish soldier who looks as if he's stepped off the set of the Islamic version of "Mayberry, R.F.D." Opie, no! you find yourself screaming. Fortunately, Opie isn't having any of this, and the intensity of Mr. Badii's need so terrifies him that he finally flees; we see him racing off through the valleys, fleet as a gazelle. Another is a fundamentalist seminarian who greets Mr. Badii's proposition with the righteous power of inflexible dogma; though he may feel some sentiment for Mr. Badii's position, he's in no way prepared to deal with it.
But the hit of the movie is the last potential grave-sealer, a large-framed taxidermist who seems like a peasant out of Tolstoy and represents unconscious life force -- or perhaps I mean Unconscious Life Force. Remember Pierre Bukov and Platonov on Pages 956-981 in "War and Peace"? I thought you would. Well, it's just like that, only in Iran in a car that needs to be seriously lubed.
It's easy to be snippy about such low-tech earnestness. I found the movie infuriatingly underdone, but what is clear about it, and perhaps what reaches sensibilities more sublimely tuned than mine, is the utter seriousness of the piece. It cares about eternal issues and faces them head on.
Taste of Cherry (95 minutes, at the American Film Institute Theater at the Kennedy Center) is not rated but has nothing objectionable.
Iranian State Body Lauds Pro-Khamenei Rally
TEHRAN(Reuters) - A powerful Iranian state body
praised residents of the central city of Isfahan on Saturday for
what it called a show of support for supreme leader Ayatollah
State-owned television quoted the Assembly of Experts, a body of 83 senior clerics with the power to appoint or remove Iran's supreme leader, as saying Friday's demonstrations reflected the ``zeal and political vigilance of the people in their loyalty to the Islamic system.''
``We would like to thank the people of Isfahan for (the way) they showed that they are ready to nullify the conspiracies of villains with their iron will,'' a statement issued by the assembly and read on Iranian television said.
The crowds, numbering more than 30,000 according to Iranian television, marched in Isfahan to denounce dissident senior Moslem cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who has challenged the paramount power of Khamenei.
Montazeri, who last year questioned Khamenei's credentials, has been under virtual house arrest since then.
Isfahan province, especially Montazeri's hometown of Najafabad, has been a scene of frequent protests since the dissident's detention.
Friday's march was an attempt by Khamenei backers to answer Montazeri's supporters with a rally of their own, analysts said.
It came after Khamenei sharply denounced a planned rally in Isfahan on Friday by Montazeri backers, who had decided to call off their rally to avoid potential clashes.
State television showed large crowds of marchers, led by rows of Shi'ite Moslem clerics, carrying pictures of Khamenei and banners condemning Montazeri's backers.
The demonstrators later packed Isfahan's historic central square for a Friday prayer service, raising their fists to chants of ``Death to America'' and ``Death to Israel'' and vowing to support Khamenei against his detractors.
The Assembly also praised Khamenei for his ``wise leadership'' in handling the matter.
``They (the Assembly) thanked the leader (Khamenei) for his timely guidance in the destruction of the sinister plot of the agents of world arrogance (the West),'' Iranian television said.
Iranian television also slammed the foreign media's coverage of the demonstrations, saying it showed their ``hostility'' to the Islamic republic. It singled out the Persian-language services of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Voice of America, and Radio Israel for criticism.
Iranian television is widely seen as conservative. Key officials at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) monopoly are appointed directly by Khamenei.
Relations with Iran Could Improve if Tehran Makes Changes
WASHINGTON (AP) The Clinton administration would consider
normalizing its relations with Iran if the Islamic theocracy makes
changes that include giving its moderate president more control
over national security policy.
The reform-minded Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, could hold the key to improved ties between the two countries, Assistant Secretary of States Martin Indyk said Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian affairs.
"If ... Khatami is able to turn his constructive rhetoric into real changes in these areas ... that would lay the foundation for an appropriate response on our side, including better relations between our two countries," said Indyk.
While Khatami is challenging conservatives on important issues, he does not yet have power over national security policy, the military, the police, the security or intelligence services or the Revolutionary Guards, Indyk said.
These remain controlled by Iran's supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has led hard-liners in opposing improved ties with the United States.
"Our basic purpose is to persuade Iran that it cannot have it both ways," Indyk said. "It cannot benefit from participation in the international community while at the same time going around threatening the interests of its member states."
Iran also "cannot improve its relations and standing in the West and in the Middle East while at the same time pursuing policies that threaten the peace and stability of a vital region," he said.
Formal relations between the United States and Iran, broken off in 1979, have warmed slightly since Khatami's election last year. But the State Department still considers Iran the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
Thursday's hearing came as the Clinton administration neared a decision on whether a $2 billion oil contract that Iran signed last September with a consortium of French, Russian and Malaysian oil companies violates America's Iran and Libya Sanctions Act.
The 1996 law lets the United States impose sanctions on foreign companies that invest $20 million or more a year in Iran's oil and gas sectors.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the subcommittee's chairman, mentioned "pretty reliable rumors" that the administration may grant a national interest waiver of the sanctions.
"The new leader of Iran seems to have some good intentions, but I also believe that the United States foreign policy is not about intentions; it's about actions," said Brownback. "And in terms of actions, there's been no change."
Indyk said he could not respond in detail because no decision has been made. But whatever it turns out to be, he assured the senators that the administration would remain committed to uphold the law and its purposes.