Gorbeh, Persian Cat

FarsiNet's Iran News
November 1997, Week 2

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U.S. Warns Europe About Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department reminded the European Union Friday that Iran has been accused of international terrorism, but otherwise did not quarrel with a decision to return ambassadors to Tehran.

The ambassadors were recalled for seven months. Most of them returned to Tehran on Thursday, seven months after they were recalled in a diplomatic row over terrorism charges against Iran.

The envoys from all EU countries except France, Germany and Portugal arrived at Tehran's Mehrabad airport before dawn on a single Swissair flight. No Iranian official was on hand to receive the envoys.

The return of the diplomats paves the way for Iran to end its worst diplomatic crisis in recent years.

``It is up to each country to make decisions about their own diplomatic representation,'' Lee McClenny, a State Department spokesman, said Friday. ``We hope the European Union doesn't forget what prompted the withdrawal of the ambassadors to begin with -- Iran's involvement with international terrorism.''

All 15 EU nations, except Greece, withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran in April after a German court implicated Iran's top leaders in the 1992 assassination of Kurdish-Iranian dissidents in Berlin. Greece also withdrew its envoy, but said it was only for consultations.

Russian Special Services Catch Iranian Agent Red-Handed
MOSCOW, November 14 (Itar-Tass) - Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) caught an Iranian national red-handed when he was trying to buy plans for constructing rockets, a diplomatic source said on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry immediately informed Iran's Embassy in Moscow on the incident, the source said.

The FSB confirmed the detention. It said the arrest followed a series of "search operations aimed at preventing illegal exports of technologies, scientific and technical information and services used for constructing mass destruction weapons, armaments and military equipment."

Under the Russian Criminal Code, sanctions for illegal purchase and sale of such products depend on a damage to Russia's national security and may vary from a fine to seven years in jail.

Commenting on the detention, the FSB official said the agency revealed "other facts evidencing illegal actions by foreign individuals and organisations aimed at obtaining dual-purpose materials and technologies."

At the same time, he stressed that the detention was in no way related to any leak of nuclear technologies from Russia. It should not be interpreted as pointing at the violation of the rocket technology control regime in Russia either.

On the contrary, it evidences the efficiency of FSB measures aimed at ensuring that international agreements in this field are observed, he said.

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EU Ambassadors Returning to Tehran in Diplomatic Deal
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran said Thursday it has agreed to let European Union ambassadors return, ending a seven-month diplomatic spat over a German court ruling that implicated Iranian leaders in the 1992 assassination of dissidents in Berlin.

However, there was no immediate indication the EU will revive its `critical dialogue' with Iran, which it suspended in April.

That dialogue, a policy of infrequent high-level meetings with Iranian officials, has been criticized by the United States, which sees Iran as a nation that supports terrorism and seeks to acquire arms of mass destruction.

The normalization of EU-Iran relations was announced six weeks after the French oil giant Total signed a $2 billion deal to develop a natural gas field in Iran.

This quickly led to an American threat of retaliation, which has since dissipated. Under American law, the U.S. can punish companies that invest $20 million or more in Iran's oil and natural gas sector.

All 15 EU nations, except Greece, withdrew their ambassadors from Tehran in April in response to the German court's finding that Iranian leaders were involved in the assassinations of Kurdish-Iranian dissidents. The ambassadors were to return earlier, but Iran insisted the German envoy come last.

Reports on Thursday indicated the German envoy will return after most others, but in a diplomatic move Iran has agreed that the French ambassador accompany the Germans.

Iran's decision to allow the German and French ambassadors to arrive together was seen as a diplomatic way for Tehran to end the crisis. The order for the German envoy to come last was given by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who has the last word on all matters.

Citing the recent election of a new Iranian president, the Luxembourg government, which holds the EU presidency, said the time had come to resolve the problem.

A statement from Luxembourg said the EU envoys will return in two groups by Nov. 21. The second group will include the ambassadors of Germany and France.

Before the quarrel, Germany was Iran's largest Western trade partner. Several EU nations have been involved in large projects in Iran and have been keen to mend fences with the Iranians.

Once the European envoys are back in Tehran, the Iranian ambassadors will return to their posts in the EU capitals.

House Passes Bill to Punish Russians Helping Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) The House has voted to punish foreign business interests believed to be helping Iran develop ballistic missiles.

President Clinton has threatened to veto the bill, which is aimed at Russia. But the legislation, sent to the Senate for consideration, also implements the Chemical Weapons Treaty, a measure he is pushing.

The legislation, passed Wednesday by voice vote, would require the president to report within 30 days any entities where there is "credible information" that they transferred missile goods or technology to Iran after Aug. 8, 1995, the day Russia agreed to a missile control treaty.

Sanctions include denying arms export licenses and eliminating all U.S. assistance for two years. The bill allows the president to waive sanctions for reasons of national security.

Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., said the president is expected to veto the bill even with the chemical weapons provisions he supports. He said the two measures should be separated.

U.S. Says Iran Has Toned down Hostile Rhetoric
By Patrick Worsnip
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has noticed a toning down of hostile rhetoric from Iran since a new government took over there three months ago, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

The State Department's newly appointed Middle East chief Martin Indyk said that while Washington had not detected any concrete foreign policy changes in Tehran, a U.S. conditional offer of dialogue with Iran remained on the table.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has described as ``intriguing'' the election of reformer Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran but has also said the move has not so far been translated into any shift in the policies Washington deplores.

These are: Iran's alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, sponsorship of terrorism and attempts to intimidate its neighbors, and its hostility to the Middle East peace process.

Indyk, sworn in three weeks ago as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, reaffirmed in a speech to a Washington conference that the United States was ``adopting a wait-and-see approach'' and that ``what matters to us is deeds not words.''

But in relatively conciliatory comments, he added: ``We have noticed some toning down in the rhetoric from Iran. We too are not interested in a war of words with Tehran, and we have no hostile intent.''

Indyk said that until Iran altered course on issues of concern to Washington, it was ``not appropriate'' for the United States to change its policy, including its attempts to isolate Iran economically.

But if there were changes by Iran, ``we will welcome it and we will be prepared to respond appropriately,'' he said.

Indyk called for support for U.S. policies by allies who have irritated Washington by refusing to join in economic sanctions against Iran and by attempting to pursue with Tehran a ``critical dialogue'' that the United States says has failed.

``In our view the chance that the new government in Tehran may portend changes means that now is the time for the leading states of the world to make clear that countries that want to benefit from participation in the international system need to play by the rules,'' he said.

Indyk said a long-standing U.S. offer to hold talks with Iran, which is conditional on Tehran agreeing to discuss the U.S. criticisms of its behavior, remained on the table.

``We would like (such a dialogue) to be open with an authoritative representative of the Iranian government,'' he said.

Iran, for its part, has said that the United States must drop its terrorism charges before there can be any dialogue.

Indyk said the United States did not view its problems with Iran as a ``clash of civilizations'' and he noted that in remarks at Columbia University, Iran's new Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had said ``that his government does not see a clash of civilizations either.''

``Nor is there any reason for our current problems to be permanent,'' Indyk said.

In his speech at New York's Columbia University on Sept. 30, Kharrazi said there was still ``misjudgment and misunderstanding'' of Iranian policies in Washington and that it was up to the United States to make the first move in healing relations.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980, while Muslim militants were holding more than 50 U.S. diplomats hostage at the American embassy in Tehran.

Iran Approves Law Allowing in Foreign Companies
TEHRAN(Reuters) - The Iranian parliament voted on Wednesday to allow foreign companies to register branches in Iran, removing restrictions dating back to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In a session broadcast live on Tehran radio, deputies passed a government bill allowing ``companies which are recognised in their country of registration...to register their branch or agent firm'' in Iran.

The bill makes the authorisation conditional on ``reciprocal action'' by each firm's country of origin towards Iranian firms.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri told the session the bill was expected to be endorsed by the Guardian Council, a body of lawyers and Shi'ite Moslem clerics which vets parliament decisions for accordance with Islam and the constitution.

Hossein Irani, a conservative deputy from the Shi'ite Moslem holy city of Qom, was the only deputy speaking against the bill.

``These companies are known to have other activities, such as anti-security and political activities, under the guise of trade,'' said Irani, a Shi'ite cleric.

Iran has been seeking increased foreign investments, particularly in oil, gas and petrochemicals despite U.S. sanctions. Iranian officials have said foreign partners would be allowed to own up to 99 percent of some joint projects, based on a new legal interpretation.

Iranian business executives said foreign firms have been formally barred from registering in Iran since the revolution under an article in the country's constitution which prohibits the government from ``granting concessions to foreigners.''

But since 1982 some firms with state contracts have been allowed to set up branches in Iran under an interpretation of the article issued by the Guardian Council, they added.

Iranian newspapers said on Wednesday a delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was visiting Iran.

Delegation head Antonio Furtado said the IMF would pay special attention to Iran's trade policy in its annual report, the newspapers said.

Khamenei Calls for Strengthening IRAN'S Armed
TEHRAN - XINHUA - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today called for the strengthening the country's armed forces, terming it as one of the most pressing need of the nation.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at the Imam Ali Officers College here, Khamenei also termed the importance of vision and faith as underlying factors strengthening the strength and efficiency of the armed forces.

"The (Iran-Iraq) war and many conspiracies before and after it along with various antagonistic measures by the enemies of Islam have convinced the Iranian nation and its government that the strengthening of the country's armed forces is the most pressing of necessities," he said.

Khamenei noted that "a nation which can't defend its independence and dignity, even with a wealth of natural and spiritual resources as well as noble goals can have no hopes of achieving its ideals."

He called on the cadets of the college to arm themselves with spirituality and faith besides learning the latest military skills, saying that the armed forces should defend the ideals, independence and honor of the nation as well as the country's borders.

The Iranian leader warned the country's armed forces of the presence of foreign military forces close to Iran's borders, saying that the arrogant powers, relying on their technical and financial capabilities, do their utmost to prevent other nations from harnessing their cultural, financial and spiritual resources for their own benefit.

But he stressed that "the presence of the seemingly strong forces of the aggressors in the Persian Gulf region and in close proximity of the Iranian territory does not frighten or shake this nation."

Iran repeatedly announced its opposition to the presence of foreign military forces in the oil-rich Gulf region, terming it as a threat to the regional security and stability.

Tehran stated that the regional security and stability should be maintained by the regional countries through mutual understanding and cooperation.

Mashhad - Iran Holy City - Imam Reza, Nader Shah, Ferdowsi
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