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September 1997

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    Iran Protests to Pakistan Over Killings
    KARACHI, Pakistan, (Reuter) - Pakistani police on Sunday denied an Iranian report that gunmen shot dead two Iranian nationals in the southern port city of Karachi.

    Iran's Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with Pakistan on Sunday over the killings.

    But Karachi police chief Mohammad Iqbal told Reuters: ``Two people were killed in Karachi's District Central on Saturday. But they were not Iranians...they were Pakistanis.

    ``They had Pakistani passports and Pakistani identity cards. One of them was the owner of a shop. Their family is settled in Karachi for more than 50 years, even before independence (in 1947).''

    Iran's official news agency IRNA had reported that two Iranians were killed by unidentified gunmen in Saturday's attack in Karachi less than two weeks after five Iranian military technicians were shot dead in Pakistan.

    IRNA said the two Iranians had been working as bakers but gave no other details.

    The director general of Iran's Foreign Ministry in charge of West Asia, Mir Mahmoud Mousavi, summoned the Pakistani charge d'affaires in Tehran and handed him an official letter of protest, IRNA said.

    Mousavi called the killings ``acts of terrorism'' and demanded that Pakistan take serious action to arrest and prosecute the killers.

    The Pakistani police said four gunmen riding two taxi cabs shot dead two brothers in separate incidents inside their bakeries in Karachi's volatile District Central.

    The victims were identified as Asad Ali and Hamid Ali. One of the bakery employees was also wounded in the attack.

    ``One of the brothers owned the shop where he ran his bakery, while the other was operating business in a rented shop,'' Iqbal said.

    He said they were pre-planned and targeted killings, but the motive was unknown.

    ``The killers had used snatched vehicles in the attack and we have recovered them. Our experts have made their pen-sketches and we hope to arrest them soon.''

    More than 350 people have been killed in ethnic, political and sectarian violence in Karachi this year. There were over 500 such killings last year and 2,000 in 1995.

    Iran and Pakistan have extensive trade relations and are partners in the Economic Cooperation Organisation, but their relations have been strained by differences over Afghanistan.

    Iraq To Receive 7 Groups of Iranian Visitors
    BAGHDAD -XINHUA - Iraq has agreed to receive seven groups of overseas Iranians despite Iran's doubt over Baghdad's intention of doing so.

    Iraqi newspaper Al-Thawara today quoted Mowaffaq El-Nasseri, board chairman of the Huda Company for Religious Tourism as saying the applications of these Iranians to visit Muslim holy sites in Iraq have been approved.

    The groups of Iranian visitors reside in the Gulf region and the U.S., El-Nasseri said, but he failed to mention the number of the Iranian visitors and the dates of their arrival.

    He said that his company keeps in contact with many travel and tourist agencies in the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, Tanzania, Jordan and some southeast Asian countries with the aim of making arrangements for Iranians residing in those countries to come to visit Iraq.

    Iraq and Iran fought an eight-year war from 1980-88 and are still at odds with each other.

    The Iraqi government has recently decided to allow Iranian expatriates to visit Shiite Muslim holy shrines in Iraq as a gesture for mending ties with Iran.

    But Iran dismissed the offer, saying it was ambiguous and aimed at diverting attention from unresolved issues between the two countries, such as prisoners of war.

    Shiites and Sunnis are the two major factions of Islam. Iran is the only Shiite-dominated country in the region but the most important Shiite shrines are in Iraq.

    Winners, Losers in Caspian Oil Rush
    How various countries are doing in quest to tap oil and gas reserves of Caspian Sea:

    UNITED STATES: American oil companies play key roles in all major projects, but disappointed by repeated delays in constructing pipelines. U.S. government wants multiple pipelines and varied routes to prevent any country from controlling oil flow; that appears likely, but major new pipelines not expected before 2000.


    RUSSIA: Region's only existing oil export pipeline leads to Russian port of Novorossiisk, giving Moscow considerable leverage by allowing it to limit oil exports from other countries and block plans it opposes. Will remain major player as region's oil industry develops even though future pipelines may not cross Russian soil.


    IRAN: Would make economic sense for oil export pipeline from Caspian Sea to cross Iran, but Washington has blocked that, in effort to limit Iran's influence in region. However, Americans no longer oppose natural gas pipeline crossing Iranian territory from Turkmenistan to Turkey.


    AZERBAIJAN: Looks like first big winner in Caspian oil race. International consortium has Oct. 1 target date for starting oil exports, and country's abundant reserves could bring prosperity within several years.


    KAZAKSTAN: With huge fields on northeast coast of Caspian, production now approaching 200,000 barrels a day, but oil must be exported inefficiently by ship, train and truck. Agreement reached last year to build pipeline across Russia, but not likely to be ready until 2000.


    TURKMENISTAN: Poorest of Caspian countries and slowest to develop oil reserves. Has some of world's largest natural gas deposits, but plans for new export pipeline have stalled. Only existing pipeline was turned off this year because Turkmenistan's main gas customers, Ukraine and Georgia, weren't paying bills.

    Focus-Iran Says Bonn Is Wrong to Involve EU in Row
    TEHRAN,(Reuter) - Germany made a grave mistake by involving other European countries in its diplomatic row with Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was quoted on Thursday as saying.

    Iran's relations with the European Union became strained after a German court concluded in April that Iranian leaders had ordered the 1992 killing of four dissidents in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant. Iran has denied involvement in the killings.

    All EU countries except Greece recalled their top envoys from Tehran after the court ruling. Iran has since said they could return, but that Germany's envoy should arrive last.

    The official Iranian news agency IRNA said Kharrazi made his comments at a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

    ``Involving the EU in the row with Iran has been Germany's grave mistake,'' IRNA quoted Kharrazi as saying.

    ``Germany can solve its row with Iran through compensating for the damage the Mykonos affair inflicted on the Iranian nation's sentiments,'' Kharrazi said. IRNA did not elaborate.

    But German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Bonn's position had not changed and it would not accept Tehran's demand.

    ``Iran bears the responsibility for what happened in the Mykonos affair. The Europeans have declared solidarity with Germany over the envoys' return,'' he said, according to a text of an interview in the London-based Arab-language paper Al Hayat on Thursday. The text was issued by the Foreign Ministry in Bonn.

    ``We are ready to take Iran's hand if it reaches out to us and to resume contact again after a pause for thought. But it is up to Iran to create the preconditions for this,'' he said.

    IRNA said that at the meeting in New York with Kharrazi, the Greek foreign minister had called for a ``suitable formula to pave the way for return of EU ambassadors to Tehran.''

    Kharrazi had over the past two days also had separate talks with Italy's and France's foreign ministers.

    IRNA reported earlier on Thursday that French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine stressed to Kharrazi the need to find a way out of the row.

    Kharrazi told Vedrine that Iran's new moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, was ``a staunch supporter of dialogue and understanding among nations.''

    ``Stating that the EU is keenly following Iran's developments after its presidential elections, the French foreign minister stressed the need to find a way out of the stalemate between Iran and the EU,'' IRNA added.

    Kharrazi said this month that Iran hoped for an EU proposal to resolve the dispute and special EU envoy Paul Meurtz visited Tehran to discuss the envoys' return. He left without any real sign of progress despite a message from Kharrazi that EU ambassadors could go back ``any time at their pleasure.''

    TroubledTehran Stock Exchange Names New Chief
    TEHRAN (Reuter) - Tehran's troubled stock exchange has named a new head after the index lost nearly 17 percent since the beginning of the year, Iranian newspapers said on Wednesday.

    The daily Akhbar said Ahmad Mirmotahhari, a British-trained economist, was named as the new secretary-general by the market's board of directors which consists mostly of senior managers of state banks. He took over on Tuesday.

    Mirmotahhari, a long-time adviser to Iran's central bank who has also headed a bank and an investment firm, said on Wednesday his first priority would be to protect small investors, many of whom have turned their back on the exchange in recent months, the daily Ettelaat said.

    He said he would apply a policy based on openness in providing information to investors about the 257 listed firms, regulating the activities of the companies and brokers, and fighting insider information dealings, it said.

    The exchange has been hurt by articles in the local press charging some companies with questionable practices and insider trading and urging tougher rules by the exchange.

    The market's all-share index, TEPIX, has been on a steadily downward course since last October, after a three year-long bull run. It lost 4.47 points on Wednesday, closing at 1,641.10, down 16.7 percent since the beginning of 1997, the official news agency IRNA said.

    Market capitalisation at end-July was 28.7 trillion rials ($9.6 billion) versus 29.5 trillion at the end of last year.

    The index -- based at 100 in 1990 -- powered over the 2,100 mark in August 1996 as ordinary Iranians and powerful local business interests sunk their cash into the exchange.

    But the prospect of earning better short-term profits in construction and speculative dealings, including on a foreign exchange black market, has led to many pulling out of the bourse.

    Although allowed to hold up to 49 percent in Iranian firms, foreign investors are rare. Their investment accounts for less than four percent of the total because of a lack of guarantees over repatriation of earnings.

    Mirmotahhari replaces Allahverdi Rajaei Salmassi who headed the exchange since it was revived in the late 1980s as the main instrumement for Iran's privatisation programme.

    Mirmotahhari has taught economics at Iranian universities. He has written four books and a number of articles, Akhbar said.

    ($1-3,000 rials at the official exchange rate)

    Iran, Turkey Agree to Exchange Ambassadors
    TEHRAN- XINHUA - Iran and Turkey agreed to put an end to their six-month-old diplomatic crisis by exchanging ambassadors, a report said here today.

    Iran's official news agency IRNA reported that the decision was made by their foreign ministers during talks in New York on the sidelines of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly session on Monday.

    The report did not say whether the two countries would appoint new ambassadors or simply send their previous ones back to work. Nor did it give a specific date for that.

    Ankara had accused Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reza Baqeri of interfering in Turkey's internal affairs by voicing support for the rule of Islamic law in the politically secular country at an Islamists' rally in the Ankara district of Sincan in early February.

    This culminated in Turkey's requesting Iran to withdraw its ambassador and the expulsion of other two Iranian diplomats. Tehran took a tit-for-tat move by expelling Turkish ambassador and diplomats.

    During their meeting Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem also agreed to reactivate joint committees dealing with economic and political cooperation in order to further broaden bilateral relations.

    Kharrazi lashed out at Israel's hegemonic tendencies and warned that the military cooperation between Turkey and Israel has caused concern among regional states.

    Cem was quoted as saying that Ankara was determined to further strengthen relations with Tehran and exchange ambassador with it in the immediate future.

    Kharrazi said that Iran and Turkey, as the two founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) which also groups Pakistan and central Asian countries, should shoulder greater responsibilities in the organization's future activities.

    The two ministers underlined mutual cooperation in connection with the forthcoming Tehran Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in December.

    U.S. to Send Sports Team to Iran
    TEHRAN- XINHUA - The United States is to send its national wrestling team to Iran to participate in the World Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships, a move considered here as a U.S. initiative to improve ties with Iran.

    The English language daily Iran News today quoted Mohammadreza Taleqani, vice-president of Iran's Wrestling Federation as saying that Larry Shagatano, president of the American Wrestling Federation (AWF), and Rich Bender, manager of the American national wrestling teams, had informed him of the U.S. intention to attend some sports events in Tehran.

    The American sports officials said that the U.S. is interested in taking part in the 1997 World Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships, sports events in the 10-Day Dawn celebrations and the World Free-style Wrestling Championships in 1998, all to be held in Tehran, Taleqani said.

    The U.S. has in turn asked Iran to participate in the 1998 World Cup Free-style Wrestling competitions as well as the World Youth Championship to he held in the U.S., Taleqani said.

    The U.S. did not attend the 1995 World Youth Wrestling games and other competitions held in Tehran. Taleqani stressed that only after the U.S. participation in the upcoming competitions here, Iran would consider attending the games in the U.S. next year.

    He said the Iranian teams will participate in the competitions next year if Iran decides that it is not against its national interests.

    Iran and the U.S. broke diplomatic relations in 1980 after the U.S. hostage crisis. Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 14, 1979 right after the Islamic revolution and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

    The United States has imposed economic sanctions against Iran since they broke diplomatic relations. Washington still regards Tehran as a state sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

    However, the administration of the U.S. President Bill Clinton has shown interest in having dialogue with the administration of Iranian liberal President Mohammad Khatami.

    An American women delegation had planned to visit Tehran. But the trip was canceled in the last minute by Tehran.

    Regarding recent U.S. overtures toward Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at a recent press conference that Washington was not seriously seeking resumption of ties with Tehran.

    "We believe that the Americans are not serious in their requests for negotiations. We are ready to negotiate only when it is based on mutual respect, the recognition of Iran's realities and the principle of non-interference," Kharrazi added.

    He further stated that the U.S. must lift its sanctions and stop leveling allegations against Iran, otherwise it is impossible to have any talks between the two countries.

    Iranian Cities Annualised Inflation Is 17.6 Percent
    TEHRAN, Sept 22 (Reuter) - Consumer inflation in Iranian cities ran at an annualised rate of 17.6 percent in the five months to August 22, a newspaper said on Monday.

    The daily Iran, quoting the latest Central Bank statistics, did not give comparative figures for last year. Annualised inflation ran at 17.4 percent in the four months to July 22.

    Inflation in the last Iranian year to March 20, 1997, stood at 23.2 percent against 49.4 percent the year before, according to official figures.

    Economists say the government's estimate of inflation is based on official prices of a basket of commodities and goods.

    In 1994 Iran set up wide-ranging price controls, but economists say most consumers are obliged to buy necessities at higher black-market prices to avoid queuing for goods in short supply sold at official prices.

    Steep price rises are a common complaint, and the government has come under attack in the press and parliament for not doing enough to fight inflation.

    Iranian Editor Sentenced for Anti-State Propaganda

    TEHRAN (Sept. 20) XINHUA - An Iranian court sentenced today Faraj Sarkouhi, chief editor of the Persian Weekly Adineh, to one year in prison on alleged charges of involvement in anti-state propaganda.

    The Islamic Revolution Court said that the Iranian editor was found guilty of having secret contacts with some European nationals.

    The trial was held behind closed doors at Sarkouhi's request, according a statement released by the court.

    The editor was arrested in February along with his brother and two other smugglers while attempting to make an illegal exit in Bushehr, a port city in southern Iran.

    European countries, specially Germany, intervened the case. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said recently that the trial of Sarkouhi will create obstacle to the return of the European ambassadors to Iran and to the Bonn-Tehran relations.

    All ambassadors of the European Union (EU) member nations have been recalled from Tehran since April in a protest against the alleged involvement of Iranian leaders in murdering Kurdish dissidents in Germany.

    Iran has protested against German intervention in the arrest of Sarkouhi, who seeks political asylum in Sweden and Germany.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi termed the statements of Kinkel as "amazing." He said that it is very surprising for the German foreign minister who well knows the international regulations to make such statements "because the trial of a citizen in a country is an affair within the jurisdiction of that country."

    Iran Revolutionary Guards Stage Gulf Exercises
    TEHRAN, (Reuter)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) on Saturday started three days of naval exercise in the Gulf, the official IRNA news agency reported.

    An IRGC naval commander, Hossein Kargar, said that forces under his command launched the first stage of the exercises with the aim of ``maintaining their combat readiness.''

    Iran's army, backed by the Islamic republic's airforce, launched large scale wargames on Thursday outside the city of Qum 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran.

    IRNA said the second stage of the seven-day manoeuvres ended on Saturday. The exercises are expected to reach their peak next week to mark the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

    Iran holds military exercises in late September every year during a ``holy week'' marking the beginning of its war with Iraq.

    Iran's Courts Reviewing 20 Corruption Cases
    TEHRAN,(Reuter)
    An Iranian commission looking into illicit wealth has investigated hundreds of corruption-related cases and referred 20 to revolutionary courts, a newspaper said on Saturday.

    Kayhan evening daily quoted commission member Ahmad Alizadeh as saying that the 20 cases included illegal practices in the privatisation of state-owned factories.

    ``The clear criteria for investigations included illegitimate earning of wealth through influence peddling and (questionable practices) in building high-rise towers,'' Alizadeh told a news conference.

    ``In some cases Tehran municipality has been involved in illegal practices...one such example being the construction of 14 storey-building on an untitled piece of land,'' he added.

    The investigation was launched after a call by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in July for an anti-corruption campaign.

    The call followed a series of trials for embezzlements and fraud at state agencies and banks in the past few years that have featured prominently in the local media and sparked wide public outcry.

    Iranian police in the past few weeks have arrested several senior officials of Tehran's municipality on corruption charges.

    But the city's moderate mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi has strongly defended his colleagues and suggested that the arrests were politically motivated.

    Iran Troops stage mock attacks on 'enemy' forces
    TEHRAN (Reuter)
    Thousands of Iranian troops backed by artillery and helicopters launched mock attacks on "enemy" positions on Thursday ahead of major wargames next week, state-run Tehran radio said.

    It said paratroopers landed behind the "enemy" forces' lines to complete their encirclement in a preliminary stage of the exercises due to be held by 200,000 army, air force and naval troops outside the holy city of Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran.

    Iran has said the seven-day wargames will use live ammunition. No exact date was given for the start of the exercises next week.

    Code-named "Zolfaqar" after the sword of Ali, the cousin of Islam's Prophet Mohammad and the first Shi'ite imam or prayer leader, the exercises would mark the anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

    Iran's air force was also due to complete three days of wargames on Thursday, in exercises covering much of the country's southern airspace.

    Air Force Commander Brigadier-General Habib Baqaei said on Wednesday 150 fighter planes and bombers engaged in electronic warfare and practised defending strategic and economic installations against enemy attacks.

    World Explores Better Iran Ties, Progress Slow
    By Paul Taylor LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuter) - The outside world and Gulf neighbours are keen to explore prospects for better relations with Iran following the election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, but progress will be slow, diplomats and analysts say.

    Tehran's new foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, is likely to be in demand at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York next week as European, Arab and Asian governments try to size up the new Iran.

    But Iran-watchers in Western think-tanks caution that Khatami's priority is domestic reform, and his margin for changing foreign policy, a field in which hardline supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has a major say, may be slim.

    ``The ground is shifting in Iran. Khatami's election proves that. But he has to concentrate on his domestic, social agenda and would be wise not to raise red flags on foreign policy for now,'' said Rosemary Hollis, head of Middle East studies at Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs.

    Diplomats said feelers were out to arrange a meeting between Kharrazi and the European Union's troika of foreign ministers about sending EU envoys back to Tehran, but a deal was far from certain.

    The ambassadors were withdrawn in April after a German court ruled that Iran's leaders ordered political killingsin Berlin in 1992, which Tehran angrily denied. But the EU resisted U.S. calls to join in sanctions on oil and gas technology.

    Tehran has said the envoys are welcome to return but Bonn's ambassador must be the last to come back, a condition the Europeans are determined not to accept.

    ``They (the Iranians) are giving positive public signals that cost nothing, but they have red lines concerning losing face in foreign affairs,'' said an EU diplomat close to the contacts.

    ``Obviously we are keen to normalise relations but it's a very difficult game because we too have red lines -- we have to stand by the Germans,'' the EU diplomat said.

    In the latest hint, the Iranian news agency quoted Kharrazi on Wednesday as telling Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov that Tehran was ready for consultations with other countries on anti-terrorism mechanisms.

    The Europeans, sensing long-term business opportunities, are keen to encourage Khatami's moves to promote civil liberties, cultural openness and the rule of law.

    ``At stake is not just stability in the Gulf but also access to the fabulous oil and gas wealth beneath the Caspian Sea, for which an internationally acceptable Iran would be the natural transit route,'' Hollis said.

    But Iran-watchers say hardliners prevented Khatami's predecessor, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, from rebuilding ties with the West and still have the power to sabotage any such move by Khatami.

    Tehran's Gulf neighbours, which have long feared Iran, by far the most populous state in the region, as a source of militant Islamic subversion and a potential military threat, are also looking for better ties with Khatami.

    The Gulf Cooperation Council, a grouping of six Arab states dominated by Saudi Arabia, on Monday hailed ``positive'' statements by the new Iranian president and called for moves to restore trust.

    The GCC omitted a previously standard line accusing Iran of interference in Gulf states' internal affairs.

    Kharrazi told a news conference the same day that mending ties with Gulf Arab states was a priority for the new Tehran government and he hoped to visit them soon.

    China and Russia are meanwhile building political and trade ties to Iran, resisting pressure from the United States and Israel to restrict sales of nuclear power and missile technology.

    Debate has even begun in the U.S. foreign policy community about easing Washington's ``dual containment'' policy of isolating Iran and Iraq with trade sanctions.

    A bevy of retired senior officials including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft and former Middle East negotiators Richard Murphy and Robert Pelletreau have recently advocated such a shift.

    The Clinton administration, spurred by a strong anti-Iran mood in Congress, is standing firm. But the debate constitutes the first serious rethink of American policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the late Shah and led to the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by militant hostage-takers.

    Five Iranians Killed in Pakistan
    RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) -- Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a van carrying Iranian air force technicians, killing five in northern Pakistan, military officials said.

    A sixth person, whose identity was unclear, suffered minor injuries in the attack in Rawalpindi, outside the capital, Islamabad.

    The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

    The technicians were traveling to a training course at a military air base when men carrying Kalishnikov rifles began firing, said Pakistani military officials speaking on condition of customary anonymity.

    A witness said he saw three men on a single motorcycle spray the van with gunfire, then turn around and flee.

    In Iran, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh called for swift arrest and punishment of the killers. He pressed Pakistan's ambassador in Tehran, Khalid Mehmoud, for a government account of the attack, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

    The attack may have stemmed from hostilities between militant Shiite and Sunni groups in Pakistan.

    The Sunnis accuse neighboring Iran of arming and funding Pakistan's militant Shiites. Most Iranians are Shiite Muslims, while the majority of Pakistanis belong to the mainstream Sunni sect of Islam.

    Last week, police arrested Malik Ishaq, leader of a militant Sunni Muslim group that they said was planning to assassinate Iran's ambassador to Pakistan.

    Iran Calls on US to Change Policy toward Tehran

    TEHRAN (Sept. 16) XINHUA - Iran's official English daily Tehran Times today called on the United States to change its attitude toward Iran.

    An editorial carried by the newspaper said "it is time the U.S. reconsidered its policy toward Iran to pave way for Iran to reassess its U.S. policy."

    The paper said that it is the first time since Iranian-U.S. relations were cut off in 1980 that an Iranian foreign minister says that Tehran is ready to negotiate with the United States under certain conditions.

    Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at a press conference Monday that "we believe the Americans are not sincere in their stated desire to talk to us. We are for understanding and negotiations, but will do so if there is mutual respect."

    Therefore, the paper said, the United States must change its attitude toward Iran. "If Washington fulfills the conditions that Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi enumerated in his press conference, its attitude toward Iran will automatically change."

    The paper urged the United States to take a few steps to prove its sincerity in negotiation with Iran.

    -- Stop accusations against Iran for seeking nuclear weapons, opposing
    peace process in the Middle East and violating human rights;

    -- Release Iran's assets frozen by the United States after the Islamic
    revolution in 1979;

    -- Lift economic sanctions on Iran.

    Iran's Most Powerful Woman Looks to Challenges in Politics
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Massoumeh Ebtekar's face lights up when she lists the reasons she was chosen to become Iran's most powerful woman.

    The first female vice president of the Islamic Republic says her strategy for outdoing rivals in male-dominated Iran has been to "stand on my womanhood," and use the gifts God gave women.

    Ebtekar, 37, is one of seven vice presidents named by President Mohammad Khatami who with backing from female and young voters beat a hard-line conservative rival by nearly 3-to-1 in May's vote.

    Sitting wrapped head-to-toe in a traditional black chador, Ebtekar spoke with The Associated Press on Wednesday in the fluent English she learned as a child in the United States.

    Her appointment as vice president in charge of the environment, she said, is a result of the 1979 Islamic revolution's greater integration of women into social and political life.

    "I think it's not a superficial decision," she said. "It's something based on the natural evolution of thoughts and issues within the revolution."

    She admits she will face resistance for "just being a woman" but feels the climate now is right for Iranian women to achieve new goals.

    "But I do feel that I will stand on my womanhood," she said. "I don't believe that when a woman enters the sphere of serious political ... work that she should turn into a man," Ebtekar said with a smile.

    The differences between men and women "are very delicate," she said.

    "Maybe men resort to power when they want to resolve a conflict. But women resort to logic they try to somehow compromise," she said. "I think that women should be proud of those blessings that they have."

    Ebtekar, a professor with a Ph.D. in immunology from an Iranian university, has an unenviable task before her as head of the environment: Iran's capital long was considered among the world's most polluted cities.

    With a staff of 3,000 at the Environment Department, she says her priority is to encourage research and sensitize people especially the young to "engage them directly in the issue of preserving the environment."

    Ebtekar worries about dumping into the Caspian Sea from former Soviet republics and damage to the Gulf from oil spills in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. She said she also fears problems may arise from Western fleets including U.S. ships that still ply the Gulf.

    Ebtekar spent six years in the United States. She was 3 years old when her parents went to Pennsylvania for university study, but she has never returned to the country Iranians commonly refer to as "The Great Satan."

    Asked if she would accept U.S. environmental consultants in Iran, she noted Americans with the United Nations have not been prevented from coming.

    It's more a question of "expertise ... and technical knowledge" than nationality, she said.

    Ebtekar stressed that as a mother of two boys, she is especially qualified to be an environmentalist.

    "I have a particular perspective on the future generations," she said. "We should give them the right to look to a brighter future.

    Iran Lifts Ban on Children's Magazine
    TEHRAN, Sept 11 (Reuter) - Iran has quashed a ban against a children's magazine published by Tehran's moderate mayor pending an appeal against a court ruling, the Iranian news agency IRNA said on Thursday.

    It quoted Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ahmad Bourqani as saying the weekly Aftabgardan (Sunflower) could resume publication while it appealed against a May court ruling finding it guilty of violating press laws.

    The special press court had also ordered Aftabgardan's publisher, Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, to pay a fine of 20 million rials ($6,700) for publishing a satirical article accusing the state radio and television of lack of impartiality in the country's May 23 presidential elections.

    Karbaschi, who also heads a mass-circulation daily, was among state officials who actively campaigned for the moderate candidate Mohammad Khatami, who won by a landslide.

    Khatami backers had blasted the radio and television, accusing them of giving free publicity to the conservative candidate, Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri.

    Pro-Khatami newspapers had criticised former ministry officials for allowing a hardline monthly to continue publication while it appealed a court ruling but suspending Aftabgardan, a magazine popular among children and youth.

    ($1-3,000 rials at the official exchange rate)

    U.S., Israel Worried Over Iran Nuclear Weapons
    JERUSALEM, Sept 11 (Reuter) - The United States and Israel voiced concern on Thursday at the danger they said Iran posed to the Middle East by arming itself with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

    ``Iran is feverishly arming itself with ballistic missiles and seeking also to develop nuclear weapons,'' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    He said most of their 70-minute meeting was devoted to discussing the ``common threat'' to Israel and the United States posed by Iranian arms.

    Washington has been concerned about reports that Russia and China were helping Iran build long-range nuclear missiles.

    ``The United States has been concerned about Iran's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and their general behaviour,'' Albright told reporters on the second day of a Middle East peace drive.

    ``We had a discussion about the importance of what can be done to make sure that this region which is so important obviously to the Israelis and also to us not be exposed to greater danger,'' she said.

    A senior Israeli official said later that Iran would have acquired enough ballistic missile technology within a year to 18 months ``that it will not require outside assistance.''

    ``There must be an appropriate response in the time that remains,'' Netanyahu told reporters after the meeting.

    An aide to Netanyahu said later that Israel had called a halt to talks between Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry and Russia's Gazprom over the possible supply of natural gas to the Jewish state over Russian military assistance to Iran.

    ``There was a decision to stop negotiations as long as the situation continues as it is,'' Netanyahu's communications adviser David Bar-Illan told Reuters.

    Israeli and Gazprom officials have held talks in both Russia and Israel over a possible gas supply deal.

    Any natural gas carried from Russia would have to travel via pipeline to Turkey and then by undersea pipeline to Israel. Israel has been trying to reach long-term agreements on gas sales to diversify its energy sources and lower energy costs.

    The senior Israeli official, briefing reporters, said Washington and Israel would consider their steps in the coming weeks. Washington for years has followed reports of Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear technology.

    It considers Iran a sponsor of ``state terrorism'' and an enemy of Middle East peacemaking bent on acquiring atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge.

    The Washington Times reported this week that Russia and China were working closely with Iran to build long-range nuclear missiles that could be fielded within three years.

    The newspaper quoted Pentagon officials as saying that a detailed Israeli intelligence report about the cooperation was provided to the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.

    The report was said to confirm that Iran is building two systems based on North Korea's Nodong missile with ranges up to 1,200 miles (1,930 km).

    Iran's 1st Woman VP Eyes Future
    By Scheherezade Faramarzi
    Associated Press Writer
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Massoumeh Ebtekar's face lights up when she lists the reasons she was chosen to become Iran's most powerful woman.

    The first female vice president of the Islamic Republic says her strategy for outdoing rivals in male-dominated Iran has been to ``stand on my womanhood,'' and use the gifts God gave women.

    Ebtekar, 37, is one of seven vice presidents named by President Mohammad Khatami -- who with backing from female and young voters beat a hard-line conservative rival by nearly 3-to-1 in May's vote.

    Sitting wrapped head-to-toe in a traditional black chador, Ebtekar spoke with The Associated Press on Wednesday -- in the fluent English she learned as a child in the United States.

    Her appointment as vice president in charge of the environment, she said, is a result of the 1979 Islamic revolution's greater integration of women into social and political life.

    ``I think it's not a superficial decision,'' she said. ``It's something based on the natural evolution of thoughts and issues within the revolution.''

    She admits she will face resistance for ``just being a woman'' but feels the climate now is right for Iranian women to achieve new goals.

    ``But I do feel that I will stand on my womanhood,'' she said. ``I don't believe that when a woman enters the sphere of serious political ... work that she should turn into a man,'' Ebtekar said with a smile.

    The differences between men and women ``are very delicate,'' she said.

    ``Maybe men resort to power when they want to resolve a conflict. But women resort to logic -- they try to somehow compromise,'' she said. ``I think that women should be proud of those blessings that they have.''

    Ebtekar, a professor with a Ph.D. in immunology from an Iranian university, has an unenviable task before her as head of the environment: Iran's capital long was considered among the world's most polluted cities.

    With a staff of 3,000 at the Environment Department, she says her priority is to encourage research and sensitize people -- especially the young -- to ``engage them directly in the issue of preserving the environment.''

    Ebtekar worries about dumping into the Caspian Sea from former Soviet republics and damage to the Gulf from oil spills in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. She said she also fears problems may arise from Western fleets -- including U.S. ships -- that still ply the Gulf.

    Ebtekar spent six years in the United States. She was 3 years old when her parents went to Pennsylvania for university study, but she has never returned to the country Iranians commonly refer to as ``The Great Satan.''

    Asked if she would accept U.S. environmental consultants in Iran, she noted Americans with the United Nations have not been prevented from coming.

    It's more a question of ``expertise ... and technical knowledge'' than nationality, she said.

    Ebtekar stressed that as a mother of two boys, she is especially qualified to be an environmentalist.

    ``I have a particular perspective on the future generations,'' she said. ``We should give them the right to look to a brighter future.

    ``This goes back a lot to being a mother ... the creator.''

    Russia Denies Iran Missile Deal
    MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia denied Thursday that it was providing missile technology to Iran and China.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin said security institutions have ``repeatedly checked out various versions and rumors'' about Moscow's deliveries of missile technology to Iran, but found them to be groundless.

    Recent U.S. reports named top Russia defense enterprises that reportedly have been helping Iran and China build ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

    ``The Russian side has repeatedly provided exhaustive explanations to its partners,'' Nesterushkin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. ``But there is an impression that nobody ... wants to listen to our explanations.''

    Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran, which involves construction of a nuclear power plant, is under strict international control, and there were ``no grounds'' for any concerns, he added.

    Russian Transfers to Iran Worry US
    By George Gedda
    Associated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is ``very concerned'' about reports that Russian companies may have provided Iran with technology to build long-range missiles, the State Department said Wednesday.

    Spokesman James Foley commented in response to a story in The Washington Times that alleged Iran is receiving such assistance from both Russia and China for its missile program.

    Foley appeared to be more concerned about possible links between Russian firms and Iran.

    ``We take these reports very seriously and have raised our concerns repeatedly and at the highest levels of the Russian government,'' Foley said.

    ``The Russian government continues to assure us that it is committed to the highest nonproliferation standards,'' he said. ``While we appreciate these assurances, we remain disturbed by the discrepancy between these assurances and reports of Russian firms cooperating with Iran.''

    Under U.S. law, sanctions may be imposed against governments or companies discovered to be transferring missile technology regulated by international agreements.

    The Times said its story was based on an Israeli intelligence report sent to the CIA and the Pentagon.

    The State Department normally declines comment on stories based on intelligence reports, and Foley's comments appeared to be a departure from that practice.

    ``Given the far-reaching implications of this matter, we will continue to pursue it at the highest level,'' he said.

    Foley noted that the issue has been raised with Russian officials by President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He also recalled that an inter-agency team raised the issue while visiting Moscow last month.

    Foley said U.S. officials have been in contact with China on the same subject. But there is no evidence, he said, to suggest that China has violated an October 1994 commitment to ban all exports of long-range, ground-to-ground missiles.

    According to the Times, the Israeli report says Iran is building two systems based on North Korea's Nodong missile, which has a range of up to 1,200 miles.

    Pentagon officials told the Times that one Russian official said to be directly involved is Yuri Koptev, head of the Russian space agency. Another participant is said to be the aerospace director of the Russian state arms exporting agency, who was not identified further.

    ``New details about the Iranian missile program have alarmed both the U.S. and Israeli governments because the systems could hit targets throughout the region with chemical or biological weapons, and possibly with a future nuclear warhead, should Tehran succeed in building one,'' the Times said.

    Iran: EU Ambassadors May Return
    CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister said European Union ambassadors could return to Tehran any time they wished, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

    Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, speaking Sunday after a two-day visit by an EU delegate, also predicted a change in Europe's attitude toward Iran, IRNA reported.

    The report, which did not name the EU official, was monitored in Cairo.

    EU countries 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.

    Iran, which vehemently protested the court ruling, had said earlier that EU ambassadors could return as long as the German envoy came back last. It was unclear if Kharrazi's comment was a change in that position.

    Kharrazi said he had informed the visiting EU envoy of Iran's position, IRNA reported.

    He also reportedly said that Western observers were looking at recent developments in Iran positively and he hoped this would help those governments ``correct'' their policies.

    That was an apparent reference to the election of Mohammad Khatami, a moderate, to Iran's presidency. Khatami took office last month.

    Women's Activist Gets Iranian Post
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The interior minister has appointed the country's first director-general for women's affairs, a woman described by Iranian media Tuesday as a rights activist.

    On Monday, Abdollah Nouri appointed Zahra Shojaei as the ministry's director-general on women's issues, said officials at her office, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

    Iran News, an English-language newspaper, called Shojaei a ``longtime women's rights activist'' but gave no details on specific actions that she has taken.

    Shojaei was Nouri's adviser on women's issues when he was interior minister from 1989-1993. She previously was a professor of political science at a Tehran university.

    As director-general for women's affairs, Shojaei would deal with issues such as social laws concerning women and violence against women.

    Shojaei is the third woman to be appointed to a senior post in the government of President Mohammad Khatami. Khatami earlier named Massoumeh Ebtekar, a U.S.-educated lecturer, as a vice president and Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani appointed Aazam Nouri as deputy culture minister for legal and parliamentary affairs.

    They are the first women to serve in top government posts since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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