November 1998, Week 1
|Iran to sell draft exemptions for $1,700 and up||November 6|
|Iran's first private news agency gets licence||November 6|
|Iran's President Khatami reaches toward Americans||November 4|
|Iran's President to Visit France||November 3|
|Captors Invite Ex-Hostages to Iran||November 3|
|Religious students, teachers offer reward for killing Rushdie||November 2|
|Iran MPs pave way for ban on mixed-sex hospitals||November 2|
|Iran Leader Denounces Peace Accord||November 1|
Iran to sell draft exemptions for $1,700 and up
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has put a price tag on
mandatory military service, allowing young men to buy their way
out of a 21-month hitch in the army for $1,700 and up.
Under rules approved by the government, exemption fees ranged from 11.5 million rials ($3,800 at the official exchange rate) for those without high school degrees to about three times that for doctorate holders, the daily Resalat said on Wednesday.
The 11.5 million rial fee is worth about $1,700 on Iran's foreign exchange black market.
The amount represents three years earnings of a worker receiving the minimum wage.
The plan is part of government efforts to boost income after a sharp fall in oil revenue due to a slump in petroleum prices.
The scheme had been put on ice in the past year after it drew criticism in newspapers for favouring the rich.
There is a 50 percent discount, including for families of those killed in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Resalat said.
Iranians living abroad have been able to buy draft exeptions for about $5,000 each.
Iran's first private news agency gets licence
TEHRAN(Reuters) - The Iranian government has granted
a licence for the country's first private news agency, Iranian
television said on Thursday.
Fars News Agency, named after a province which was a cradle of Iranian civilisation, will be launched by next March, the television quoted the agency's head as saying.
The government of President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric elected last year on a platform of granting greater liberties, has licensed dozens of newspapers and relaxed censorship.
Iran has many private publications, although most large newspapers are run by state-affiliated bodies.
The radio and television are run by a state monopoly whose head appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They are often accused by moderates of lacking objectivity and siding with conservatives opposed to Khatami.
Conservatives have accused the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) of being influenced by moderates.
Iran's President Khatami reaches toward Americans
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
on Wednesday used the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the
U.S. embassy to renew his message of reconciliation with the
But he charged that U.S. policymakers had failed to heed the call of public opinion backing a restoration of ties between the two countries.
"What happened in Iran was not a fight against the American people, but against anti-Iranian policies," Khatami, a moderate Shi'ite Moslem cleric, told students at a new girls' school.
"The recent change in America's tone has come as a result of pressure from public opinion of the people of America and the world. (But) it can indicate a fundamental change only if proved in practice, which unfortunately has not been the case," Tehran radio quoted Khatami as saying.
Khatami's remarks stood in sharp contrast to Wednesday's official commemoration of the embassy seizure, which featured an extravaganza of anti-American rhetoric and the ritual burning of a U.S. flag.
They also differed markedly in tone from that of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said on Tuesday that the Iranian people must continue to say 'No' to America.
Khatami launched an unprecedented bid to thaw relations in a television interview in January, calling for a "dialogue of civilisations" to replace the Cold War atmosphere then in place.
On Wednesday, however, the president warned U.S. officials that they remained caught up in the past and blasted a new Farsi service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
"Again the same accusations and restrictions and traditional policies continue. The so-called Radio Liberty...is set up to damage our system and nation and independence."
Iran said on Tuesday it recalled its ambassador to the Czech Republic over the broadcasts of the Prague-based station, which Tehran sees as anti-Iranian propaganda. Nonetheless, Khatami said, Iran would not be deterred from its new course.
"Relying on the nation and the young generation, we have decided to defend a peace based on justice in the world and follow a policy of detente," he said.
The United States broke ties with Iran after militant Islamic students seized the embassy in 1979. They held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.
Iran's President to Visit France
PARIS (AP) -- Iranian President Mohamad Khatami is to visit France next year, his first official trip to a Eu
ropean country, a government spokesman said Monday. |
Embassy spokesman Amir Shahidi confirmed a report in the newspaper Le Monde.
Shahidi said the visit would take place toward the end of February, but he could not provide an exact date. < P> Khatami places special importance on Iran's relations with Paris, and has put off invitations from other Euro pean nations until he first visits France, Le Monde quoted Iran's new ambassador to Paris, Ali-Reza Moayeri, as saying.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine extended an official invitation to Khatami during his visit to Tehran in August. Vedrine's was the highest level visit to Iran in seven years.
Captors Invite Ex-Hostages to Iran
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The politics have mellowed, the tone is conciliatory. Even the few cries of ``Death to A
merica!'' lack the usual spark. |
And in courtesy to the American people, demonstrators marking the 19th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy refrained from burning the American flag.
``We invite all the former hostages to come here and be our guests,'' said Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, speaker of th e 400 students who on Nov. 4, 1979, overran the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The crowd of a few thousand broke into thunderous applause.
Asgharzadeh and all but about a half-dozen of the students who were once zealous supporters of the Islamic Re volution and its leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, are now considered moderates who back President Mohamma d Khatami's call for dialogue with the American people.
Some of the former students serve as high-ranking officials in Khatami's administration, including Vice Presi dent Massoumeh Ebtekar, who acted as a translator between the student captors and the American diplomats.
Abbas Abdi, a former student leader and an editor of the pro-Khatami Salam newspaper, finds nothing odd about the zealots-turned moderates.
``Extremism is an exceptional state,'' Abdi said. ``It doesn't mean that we have to have a revolution every d ay.''
The newspaper he works for is run by Seyed Mohammad Musavi Khoiniha, the spiritual mentor of the students dur ing the occupation of the embassy.
Monday's rally outside the former U.S. Embassy was organized by the Office of Fostering Unity, a student grou p that supports Khatami. It decided to hold the demonstration two days ahead of the anniversary to avoid any clash with hard-liners who plan a demonstration Wednesday.
Dozens of riot police formed a human wall between the demonstrators and about 200 hard-liners who tried to br eak up the rally with their cries of ``Death to America!''
The outside walls of the U.S. Embassy -- which was referred to as the ``den of spies'' during the revolution -- were covered with anti-American and revolutionary graffiti. A poster on one wall showed a blindfolded U.S. hostage.
The embassy is now used as a school for the paramilitary revolutionary guards.
Bruce Laingen, who as charge d'affaires was the most senior diplomat among the American hostages in 1979, sai d Monday that ``any indication'' from the Iranian leadership ``that it is open to a new relationship with bot h the people and the government of the U.S. is very welcome as far as I'm concerned.''
``I've said I've looked forward for a long time to going back to Tehran eventually,'' Laingen said in a telep hone interview from Washington with The Associated Press in New York.
``I want to go at the right time and in the right circumstances. ... I want to consider that very carefully. But I welcome this as an indication of increasing openness to the United States.''
Barry Rosen, a former press attache at the embassy who now heads the public affairs department of Teachers Co llege at Columbia University, said he would ``be in favor of going back to Iran.''
``The issue is ... those people who spoke at the commemoration today, one doesn't know where they stand in te rms of the whole power network in Iran. ... Is Iran ready to go that step to invite hostages? I don't know. < P> ``(But) I second the motion and if that possibility occurs, I want to be there.''
The student group that organized Monday's rally is made up of associations of Islamic students from 50 univer sities around the country. It said in a statement that the purpose of the rally was to ``crush the wall of mi strust'' between the American and Iranian people, a phrase used by Khatami in his campaign to end Iran's isol ation.
Although the group said it would not burn the American flag -- instead it set fire to an effigy of Uncle Sam -- demonstrators did shout slogans against the United States twice.
``Death to the Great Satan, America!'' the crowd shouted. But the old fervor was gone and the chant was unemo tional.
Asgharzadeh, bespectacled and wearing a gray suit without a tie, said Khatami should not open direct talks wi th the United States as long as American forces were in the Persian Gulf.
But he tried to show the world the new and gentler face of the former captors.
``We have a new language for the world. ... We defend human rights and we will try to make Islam such that it will not contradict with democracy,'' he said.
``We have been wronged. We are not terrorists,'' he added.
Most of the demonstrators said they were not against the taking of the U.S. Embassy. But all interviewed agre ed that times have changed.
``It was good for our independence,'' said Hassan Haji-Lari. ``At that time our country was in the hands of f oreigners. But now we need to be moderate so we can get on with building our country.''
Religious students, teachers offer reward for killing Rushdie
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Thousands of Iranian clerics and theological
students have pledged a month's salary toward a bounty for the
killing of British author Salman Rushdie.
In an offer sent to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, students and teachers in the holy city of Qom, in northwest Iran, said they were "ready to carry out the edict against Salman Rushdie," the newspaper Kayhan reported Saturday.
Iran's late supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, sentenced Rushdie to death in 1989 after ruling his book, "The Satanic Verse," was insulting to Islam.
In September, Britain restored full diplomatic relations with Iran after Tehran distanced itself from a $2.5 million bounty on Rushdie being offered by a semi-official foundation.
Rushdie, who has been living in hiding for nearly a decade, expressed hope at the time that his ordeal was ending.
But the foundation responded by increasing the reward to $2.8 million, and many hard-liners have criticized President Mohammad Khatami, a political moderate, for softening the government's stance on the author.
Last month, residents of a north Iranian village offered land and carpets to anyone who kills Rushdie.
Iran MPs pave way for ban on mixed-sex hospitals
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iran's parliament on Sunday
approved a measure paving the way for segregating hospitals for
men and women according to strict Islamic rules.
In a session broadcast live on state radio, the conservative-controlled parliament passed an amendment to ensure funding for a controversial law to set up single-sex hospitals.
The Guardian Council, a powerful body which vets legislation, blocked the law last month after saying it lacked funding guarantees.
Deputies said on Sunday the amendment had the approval of the council, which was now expected to approve the law banning mixed hospitals.
The law would apply to state and private hospitals and other health institutions, including pharmacies. Violators would face fines and risk having their licence revoked.
Female doctors are common in Iran, but some health experts told newspapers that women's health care would suffer because there were not enough women specialists across the country to implement the law. They also said its implementation would be extremely costly.
The bill's passage by parliament came amid a backlash by powerful conservatives against the reformist government of moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
Iran enforces strict Islamic rules limiting contacts between unmarried or unrelated men and women. But women work and study alongside men at many institutions.
Iran Leader Denounces Peace Accord
By: Afshin Valinejad|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's spiritual leader on Friday denounced Yasser Arafat as a ``disgrace ful ... traitor,'' heaping on the Palestinian leader some of the worst insults he has faced fo r signing a peace accord with Israel.
``He is an abject, treacherous person, a person who is deeply immersed in the filth of selfish ness and worldliness,'' Ayatollah Khamenei said in a highly-publicized sermon at Tehran Univer sity.
Khamenei was interrupted by chants of ``no compromise, no surrender, combat Israel'' by the hu ndreds of thousands of worshipers hearing him.
Most top Iranian officials including President Mohammad Khatami, Cabinet ministers, Parliament members and military officers were present.
The one-hour speech marked the 1,000th Friday prayers held in the capital since the 1979 Islam ic Revolution and followed intensive media campaigns encouraging people to take part.
Although the gist of Khamenei's speech reflected Iran's longstanding opposition to any Palesti nian peace with Israel, the sermon was remarkable for its vitriolic rhetoric.
Arafat is a ``a disgraceful human, a traitor. He is shameless and is unworthy of being called a member of the Palestinian resistance, let alone the leader of this movement,'' Khamenei said .
Arafat signed an accord with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 23, promising t o crack down on Islamic militants in exchange for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from 13 perce nt of West Bank.
In Gaza, a senior aide to Arafat rebuked Khamenei, saying he had ``no right to make this kind of a statement.''
``We call upon the Iranian leadership to stop playing games in the Palestinian field because t he (Palestinian) Authority will not allow Khamenei or anyone else to make the Palestinian land a new Afghanistan,'' Tayab Abed Al-Rahim said in a statement.
Many Arab commentators and hard-line Palestinian groups have criticized the deal as a sell-out of Palestinian aspirations.
In Damascus, Syria, on Friday, the leader of the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, said the accord liquidated Palestinian rights.
``Arafat is an agent of Israel and the United States,'' Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a rally in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the city.