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November 2000, Week 1
|Low Turnout at Rally Marking U.S. Embassy Seizure||Nov 5|
|Nonchalant Iran Awaits U.S. Polls Outcome||Nov 4|
|Iran's Parliament Passes Law Letting Iranians Sue U.S.||Nov 3|
|Iranian Prosecutor General to Review Sentences of Jews||Nov 2|
|State Department Offers 'Secret' Arms Deal Documents||Nov 2|
Low Turnout at Rally Marking U.S. Embassy Seizure
(Tehran, Iran -AP) -- Another sign today in Iran that anti-American sentiment may be softening.
It was 21 years ago today that militant students stormed the U-S Embassy in Tehran, and began holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. |
Today, some six-thousand Iranians marked the anniversary by chanting "Death to America" during the annual rally outside the former embassy. The crowd was smaller this year than in previous ones -- when tens of thousands would come out to observe the anniversary.
Some see the drop in numbers as proof of Iranians wanting better ties with the outside world. In 1979, the United States broke all diplomatic relations with Iran. The ties have not been restored, although signals have been warmer since Iran's election of a pro-Western president three years ago.
Nonchalant Iran Awaits U.S. Polls Outcome
TEHRAN(Reuters) - America looms large as ever in Iran's popular imagination but next week's U.S. presidential poll has caused few ripples across the Islamic Republic.
In fact, news of the contest between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush has been mostly notable by its absence from the newspages and airwaves.
But analysts and commentators say tormented relations with the "Great Satan" are far too important for the race to replace Bill Clinton -- who once seemed to hold out promise of a new era of improved ties -- to pass unnoticed in the corridors of power. |
"The difference between Gore and Bush is not so big that anyone really wants to care about it. The difference is quite negligible," said economist and analyst Saeed Leylaz. "But with Iran-U.S. relations at a very sensitive point, even this negligible difference can be significant," Leylaz told Reuters.
Privately, policy-makers here appear to be hoping for a Bush victory, as are their counterparts in much of the Arab world. Latest polls show Bush with a narrow lead in a race that experts say remains too close to call. Many here see his father's 1989-93 tenure in the White House as an almost unprecedented period when the pro-Israel lobby appeared to hold reduced sway in Washington.
FONDNESS FOR REPUBLICANS
A senior Western diplomat said Iran's leaders were acutely aware of the presidential race, to be decided on November 7, but were too shrewd to comment publicly. "I don't think they have any incentive to make a public distinction," said the diplomat, noting a slight preference in the Iranian press for Bush. "They are watching but not saying. They know nothing they can say or do would help." Scattered press reports several months ago hinted at discreet contacts with aides and advisers to Bush, to balance eight years of indirect dealing with the Clinton administration. But there have been few public hints beyond that. Complicating the picture is Iran's own national struggle between reformers intent on creating a civil society within Iran's Islamic system and conservatives out to cement the clergy's monopoly on religion and political power.
Members of Iran's establishment would like to see an improvement in U.S. ties but are fearful that may undermine their grip and confer public acclaim for what would be a popular move on President Mohammad Khatami and his reformist allies.
KHAMENEI WARNS AGAINST U.S. TIES
As a result, they have been quick to denounce any hint of rapprochement with America, preferring to control the pace of events themselves. For their part, many reformers -- some of whom were among the militant students who seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 -- remain suspicious of Washington.
That drama, which led to the final rupture of ties, will be re-lived on Friday, when Iran officially commemorates the 21st anniversary of the embassy takeover, once dubbed by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran's "second revolution."
Khomeini's successor as supreme clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned reformers on Wednesday not to stray too close to the United States. "It is very bad that...the hearts of a group of people lie with the enemy and they repeat what the enemy says and question our values and do exactly what the enemy wants to be done," Khamenei said on state radio. "Those who want to change our animosity towards America... cannot claim to support our national interests," he said.
Iran's Parliament Passes Law Letting Iranians Sue U.S.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- As legislators chanted "death to America," Iran's parliament on Wednesday toughened a law to let Iranians sue the United States.
Under the amended law, Iranian courts will be allowed to grant punitive damages to Iranians who have suffered as a result of "U.S. hostility," state-run Tehran radio said.
Although the law applies to all foreign countries, the radio said it was in retaliation for U.S. legislation against Tehran. |
Last month, President Clinton signed legislation letting American victims of terrorism collect millions of dollars in compensation from the U.S. treasury, which would later get the money from terrorist-designated states. In the session broadcast live on Iranian radio, lawmaker Hassan Qashqavi said the bill was aimed at "protecting the rights of Iranian citizens" who have fallen victim to hostile American actions.
The lawmaker said such actions go back to 1953 when the United States was accused of engineering a coup that toppled populist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq. As the bill passed the 290-seat Majlis, several Iranian lawmakers chanted "death to America," the war cry of the 1979 Islamic revolution. It wasn't immediately clear how the original law was worded.
The amendment lets Iranians "file a complaint with an Iranian court against foreign countries supporting terrorist individuals or groups, or allowing them to carry out activities under its sovereignty which have caused physical, financial and mental damage," the radio said. It added that "Iranian courts are also required to hear the case and issue appropriate verdicts."
Iranian Prosecutor General to Review Sentences of Jews
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's prosecutor general will review the sentences of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of cooperating with Israel, and his decision on the spy case will be final, a judiciary official said Tuesday. |
"If the prosecutor general decides that the final sentences passed by the courts are contrary to the law, he would demand reconsideration," said Hossein Ali Amiri, the judiciary chief of the southern Fars province, where the Jews were tried. "This will be the last judicial consideration of the case," Amiri told The Associated Press. The Jews were found guilty in July of spying for Israel and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. In September, an appeals court revised the convictions to cooperation with Israel and reduced the sentences so that the minimum term was two years and the maximum was nine.
Human rights groups questioned the fairness of the initial trial, which was held behind closed doors, without a jury and with the judge also acting as prosecutor. The United States and Israel, which denies the convicted men were its agents, have called for all the convictions to be overturned. The prosecutor general can reduce the sentences but cannot make them stiffer, Amiri said. He said the convicts had appealed the case to the prosecutor general, who received it on Tuesday. It was not clear when he would issue a decision.
Iranian Jewish leaders have said they hope authorities will consider an amnesty. Only the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can grant pardons. Amiri said the men would be credited for time served while awaiting trial. Arrests of the 10 suspects, and three others were acquitted in July, began in March 1999. Iran has no diplomatic ties with Israel and bans any contact with the Jewish state.
State Department Offers 'Secret' Arms Deal Documents
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration is giving in, grudgingly and only partially, to congressional Republicans' demands for documents relating to a deal that critics say allowed Russia to sell weapons illegally to Iran. |
The State Department offered Monday to produce some documents from the 1995 deal, but only if they would be seen only by Senate leaders. "It's totally inadequate," said John Czwartacki, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.
On Friday, the chairmen of both House and Senate foreign affairs committees in Congress, joined by other Republicans, gave the Clinton administration until noon Monday to turn over all documents related to the agreement, which allowed Russia to continue selling arms to Iran and exempted it from sanctions for the sales. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Monday: "We have offered to provide the leadership of the Senate with access to the key documents at their convenience, and we'll see how that materializes."
Boucher said that because the issue involved "sensitive diplomatic negotiations," the department wants to be "exceedingly careful." "We do have an obligation to sustain a policy that has improved the national security of the United States over the last six years by limiting the number and quality of weapons that (have) gone to Iran," Boucher said. "We are trying to meet the congressional requests in a manner that doesn't simultaneously destroy our policy, which would not be in our national interest."
Administration officials say the agreements made between Vice President Al Gore and Russia's then-prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin were announced at the time and have been successful at limiting conventional weapons Iran has been able to buy. Some documents pertaining to the deal must remain classified, the administration contends, and publicizing them could jeopardize U.S. efforts to curtail nuclear proliferation.
Democrats also have charged the deal was well known and only brought up again to embarrass Gore just before the presidential election in which he is the Democratic nominee. In the 1995 agreement, Russia pledged not to enter into any new contracts to sell Iran conventional weapons but was allowed to continue with delivery on existing contracts until 1999.
In return, the United States agreed not to sanction Russia under a 1992 nonproliferation law, cosponsored by Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that banned weapons sales to Iran and other states considered sponsors of terrorism. Republicans charge that Congress was not told of the deal and that Russia should have been subject to sanctions on the sales, which they say included a submarine, fighter planes and torpedoes.