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October 99, Week 1
|U.S. Urges Iranian Cooperation in Bombing Case||October 6|
|Iran Closes Publisher Over "Blasphemous" Book||October 5|
|Trial over 'blasphemous' Iranian play||October 5|
|Khatami opens Tehran international trade fair||October 3|
|Third Iranian Student Arrested Over Play Papers||October 2|
U.S. Urges Iranian Cooperation in Bombing Case
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to reconsider its refusal to help in the probe of the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia, saying cooperation would be a significant first step towards normal relations and an end to economic sanctions. |
President Clinton, in a letter to the Iranian leadership last month, sought a commitment that Iran support bringing to justice those responsible for the bombing, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen in the town of Khobar. The Iranian government has replied that the case is an internal Saudi matter and that Iran has nothing to do with it.
State Department spokesman James Rubin said on Tuesday the United States had information, but not proof, that some of the suspects traveled to Iran after the bombing and that Iranian government officials had a role in the attack.
Wielding both a carrot and a stick, the spokesman said that on the one hand cooperation could pave the way for an end to the sanctions but on the other hand a conclusion of Iranian guilt in the Khobar case would leave Iran open to a U.S. response, possibly including U.S. military action.
"We have made clear to Iran that there cannot be a lifting of sanctions and an improvement of relations unless and until Iran cooperates in the fight against terrorism. Cooperation in this investigation would be a first and significant step towards that end," he said. He added: "We will choose to act against terrorism at times and in ways that is in the best interest of the United States... When we judge that our best interest requires a military action, we have not hesitate to use military force."
Washington has been trying to open a dialogue with the Iranian government for years but Iran has repeatedly rejected its overtures. The most Tehran will allow is more contacts between U.S. and Iranian private citizens. The Khobar case complicates U.S. attempts to improve relations with Iran, especially if an investigation does turn up evidence of Iranian government involvement.
Rubin said the information available to the United States on an Iranian role was stronger than rumor but not strong enough to deserve the description "credible". "That information has come to light and we are making clear, in the last day or so, our determination to pursue this investigation rigorously and vigorously," he added.
In a related development the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday the United States planned to send Hani El-Sayegh, a Saudi dissident suspected of the Khobar bombing, back to Saudi Arabia where he faces charges in connection with the attack. El-Sayegh reneged on a plea agreement with the Justice Department under which he promised to cooperate in the investigation of the truck bombing.
In return, he had agreed to plead guilty to taking part in an unrelated plot against Americans in Saudi Arabia that was never carried out. In a worldwide caution issued on Tuesday, the State Department said the United States had increased security at U.S. facilities worldwide in case of retaliation for sending El-Sayegh back to Saudi Arabia.
"All Americans should take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness to lessen their vulnerability. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel and treat mail from unfamiliar sources with suspicion," the caution said.
Iran Closes Publisher Over "Blasphemous" Book
TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iran has suspended the licence of a publishing house which printed a book deemed blasphemous to Shi'ite Islam, an official at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry said on Tuesday.|
The official told Reuters the book Divaneh-ye Dovvom (The Second Lunatic) was written in what he termed a "cryptic style" and disparaged the 12th Imam, whose return to earth to usher in an era of perfect justice is eagerly awaited by pious Shi'ites. The exact nature of the alleged insult was not clear. Newspapers said the case against the publishing house Narenj had been sent to a state publications board for final review.
The daily Ettelaat said authorities have ordered copies of the book to be withdrawn from bookstores. The suspension follows a recent uproar over a satirical play in an obscure student newsletter which allegedly also insulted the 12th Imam, one of the holiest figures in Shi'ite Islam. Security officials said they had handed over four cases to courts in connection with the play. Campus sources identified the accused as three students and a worker running the copying machine on which the newsletter was produced.
The play triggered widespread direct conservative attacks on reformist President Mohammad Khatami. Hardliners blamed the more liberal cultural atmosphere, fostered by Khatami during his two years in office, for the blasphemy against the Imam.
A senior conservative cleric issued an edict saying death would be a suitable punishment for the writers of the play, and a police general vowed he would personally carry out the death sentence even if the students served long prison terms first. Attacks on Khatami subsided after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the embattled president, and said the issue should be handled by courts and not individual acts of revenge.
Trial over 'blasphemous' Iranian play
By Regional Analyst Sadeq Saba
The Iranian authorities say four people will be put on trial for their involvement in the publication of an allegedly blasphemous play in a campus magazine last month.
In a statement issued on Sunday night, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said its investigations had been completed and the file had been sent to the judiciary for legal action. The publication of the play two weeks ago intensified the power struggle in Iran after conservatives blamed President Mohammad Khatami's policy of encouraging greater freedom of expression for the appearance of such material.
Supporters of the Iranian president reacted by accusing their opponents of being involved in the incident to make political gains. Now the Intelligence Ministry says that after a comprehensive investigation, it has come to the conclusion that there may have been a premeditated plot. It gave no further details and only confirmed that it had handed four suspects to the judiciary for trial.
It is not clear who the suspects are or when they were arrested. "The publication of the sacrilegious play, which coincided with the recommencement of the new Iranian academic year, seemed to be a premeditated plot," said the Intelligence Ministry report, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA.
The play is a dialogue between the Imam and a Bassiji, or member of the hardline volunteer militia. The Bassiji, in a state of despair about his future, mocks Shiites who are waiting in vain for the Mahdi to inaugurate the era of justice.
Ayatollah Khamenei defused the row Later, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, defused the situation by expressing support for President Khatami and ordering conservatives to back down. He also issued a warning against any arbitrary action.
It appears that the conservatives' tactic to use the publication of the play to attack President Khatami's reform policy has backfired.
Khatami opens Tehran international trade fair
The Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, has officially opened the country's biggest international trade fair since the 1979 revolution.
More than eighty countries are taking part, some -- including Egypt and several African countries -- for the first time.
Iranian officals say they attach great importance to this year's fair which comes as Iran is seeking to attract more hard currency, and reduce its dependence on oil exports.
Third Iranian Student Arrested Over Play Papers
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iranian security forces have arrested a third student over the publication of a satirical play which has caused an uproar among Iran's hardliners, newspapers reported on Saturday. |
Abbas Nemati has joined Hamed Ahangari and Mohammad Reza Namnamat in jail while investigations into the play's alleged insult of a holy Shi'ite figure continue, the conservative Entekhab newspaper said.
"Investigations and preliminary interrogations....started on Thursday and will continue in the next few days," Entekhab said. There was no official confirmation of the third arrest, but another newspaper carried a similar report.
Late last month, the intelligence ministry said it had detained two students, identified by campus sources as Ahangari and Namnamat. News reports of the play, originally published in August in a small campus journal, touched off a firestorm of criticism of President Mohammad Khatami's liberal cultural policies. Gholamreza Naqdi, a hardline police general, threatened to kill the students before Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intervened.
"I warn against anyone taking any spontaneous action," Khamenei said in a stern warning to Naqdi and other hardliners to leave the case to the Iranian courts.