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September 1998, Week 2

FarsiNet FarsiNews

Americans Advance Through 2 Rounds Sept 9
Road to Tehran Sept 9
Iranian fans cheer U.S. wrestling team in Tehran Sept 9
Iran's Khatami says security forces subject to law Sept 8

 

Americans Advance Through 2 Rounds
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Melvin Douglas and Sam Henson each scored two victories Tuesday as the World W restling Championships began with Americans receiving an enthusiastic reception.

Douglas easily beat Germany's Hiko Balz and Ralf Scherrer of Switzerland in the 97 kilo class while Henson advanced in the 76 kilo class with victories over Vasile Zeiher of Germany and Amirax Karta nov of Greece.

Gary Kolat won one match in the 63 kilo category, but his victory in the second match was reversed by an official ruling.

Stephen Marianetti also split two matches, wrestling in the 76 kilo class.

The second visit by the Americans in seven months is important to the Iranians, who see the visit a s further proof of the potential for improving relations with the United States, long dubbed by Ira nians as ``The Great Satan.''

``Iran is top in wrestling. They are at home and, with the turnout of fans, we will have a hard tas k ahead of us,'' said USA Wrestling president Larry Sciacchetano.

``We have to win at least one gold medal. It is very important that our national anthem is played h ere.''

Road to Tehran
By Jim Hoagland
Washington Post Company
Chocolate cakes, anti-tank missiles and buttery words of praise were deployed by successive adminis trations to improve relations with Iran, to no avail. Now, fear and enmity may be succeeding where coaxing and offers of friendship fizzled.

Iranian hostility currently focuses not on a distant Great Satan but on a troubling neighbor, Afgha nistan, the object of menacing Iranian troop maneuvers last week. Tehran is demanding the release o f Iranian diplomats held hostage (ah, delicious irony). With Russia, Iran also strongly opposes Afg han-based raids into neighboring Central Asian territories.

Washington and Tehran find common cause in opposing the Taliban movement that rules most of Afghani stan: Two weeks ago the Pentagon smashed scores of cruise missiles into Afghanistan in search of ca ve-dwelling terrorists harbored by the Taliban.

The specter of a common enemy is one of two developments this summer that gives the Clinton adminis tration room to maneuver in its long-shot attempt to work out a better relationship with Iran.

The other has been the surprising sound of silence from the Republican side of the aisle as Preside nt Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have maneuvered toward rapprochement with at l east some of the ayatollahs in Tehran.

The most notable absentee in coming after the administration with hammer and tongs is Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. Last winter, as the Clinton administration began considering easing on Iran -- a special t arget of D'Amato's ire and legislation -- officials feared an explosion by the pugnacious New Yorke r.

But in May, after long delay and much agonizing, Clinton announced he would waive economic sanction s against French and Russian companies doing business with Iran. Nothing happened, even though Clin ton had effectively gutted legislation co-sponsored by D'Amato calling for such sanctions.

The administration feared the Republicans would move to squeeze Iran and take away the president's power to waive sanctions. But the measured reactions by D'Amato and other Republicans encouraged th e State Department to proceed with the quiet review already underway on Iran policy.

From that review came a bold public overture by Albright to President Mohammed Khatemi for improved relations in a June speech. Again, administration policymakers, prepared for thunderbolts from Cap itol Hill, heard only an agreeable calm.

Oddly enough, politics partly explain the quiescence. D'Amato, known as "Senator Pothole" for pains taking attention to constituents, is concentrating on New York issues as he seeks reelection. On th e stump, he is the soul of conciliation, not hot-button pushing.

Vote-seeking and diplomacy are often seen at the State Department as the cat and dog of politics: C andidates can undermine delicately crafted foreign policy strategies with blatant appeals to ethnic blocs or destructive demonizing of unpopular regimes abroad. But after this summer, Foggy Bottom p robably wishes the New York Republican had to run every year.

There is also a strategic underpinning to the changed atmosphere on Iran. Khatemi's electoral victo ry last year over harder-line ayatollahs and his liberalization efforts -- which have provoked a se rious power struggle in Iran -- appear to have made an impression on Capitol Hill.

The disclosures in July of Iran's test of medium-range missiles did not cause the administration to back away from its new policy. While not welcome, the tests were seen here as predictable and inev itable.

"The shah had his version of these programs when he ruled Iran," said one U.S. policymaker. "Whoeve r is in power in Tehran will set out to dominate a very tough neighborhood. Our policies cannot con vince them to do otherwise. What our policies can do is to slow and inhibit their efforts and make clear the price they pay for threatening our interests, when they do."

At the heart of the State Department reassessment is the judgment that Khatemi and his closest asso ciates have had nothing to do with Iranian state-sponsored terrorism, in contrast to Khatemi's pred ecessor, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"It is impossible to say we know Khatemi is completely clean," said one U.S. official with access t o sensitive intelligence. "But we don't find his fingerprints where we found Rafsanjani's."

Thus far that judgment appears to hold for the terror bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, where Iranian involvement has not been alleged. As long as Iran eschews terrorism, the administration sho uld pursue its opening to Tehran, and critics should continue to give it a chance to fly or crash.

Iranian fans cheer U.S. wrestling team in Tehran
TEHRAN(Reuters) - A U.S. wrestling team met with deafening cheers from 10,000 Iranian fans at an international championship in Tehran on Tuesday during a rare visit by American athletes to the Islamic republic.

The all-male crowd, which only reserved a more enthusiastic welcome for the home team, clapped and cheered wildly as U.S. head coach John Smith carried the American flag during an opening ceremony at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium hall.

The cheers echoed the welcome given to a U.S. team at another wrestling meet in Iran last February during the first such visit since the 1979 Islamic revolution and nearly two decades of hostility between the two countries.

The sports exchanges, which also included visits to the United States by Iranian wrestlers, have sparked hopes of an easing of tensions through contacts between the American and Iranian peoples as advocated by Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

Cultural, academic and sporting exchanges have expanded modestly since January, when Khatami called for breaking the "wall of mistrust" between the two nations through such contacts.

The United States severed diplomatic ties with Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 hostage crisis, in which militant Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.

Some 206 wrestlers from 40 countries are attending the World Freestyle Wrestling Championships which last until Friday. It is the third time, the first since the revolution, the event has been hosted by Iran, a major wrestling nation.

Iran's Khatami says security forces subject to law
Iran's Khatami says security forces subject to law TEHRAN(Reuters) - Iran's President Mohammad Khatami said on Monday Iranian security forces were answerable to the law, calling on them to respect even dissidents' right to free speech, Tehran radio reported.

"There should be an atmosphere in society in which dissidents also have the right to express themselves," the radio quoted the moderate Khatami as saying at a meeting with officials of Iran's Intelligence (internal security) Ministry.

"Any state body can be made to answer for its actions. If any public body...feels that it will not be questioned, it will do anything it wants," Khatami added. "But when we all know we are answerable, we act in a more judicious manner."

The comments coincided with an outcry across Iran's political spectrum over an assault last Friday by hardliners against two senior officials of Khatami's government. Police have detained several suspects linked to the attack.

Iran's security forces have often been accused by dissidents and critics of being strong-handed and acting beyond the law.

Khatami backers have in recent months publicly criticised Iran's judiciary, police and security forces for their handling of the graft case of former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, a close ally of the president.

The criticism was voiced after several aides of Karbaschi alleged torture and mistreatment was used to force them to confess to wrongdoings by themselves and the mayor. The conservative-dominated judiciary denied the charges. Khatami has provoked the anger of hardliners through his reforms promoting greater political and social freedoms which his opponents see as a threat to Iran's Islamic system.

The president, who has promoted press freedom and licenced dozens of new newspapers and magazines, has made tolerance and freedom of thought within the framework of Iran's laws a staple of his administration.

 

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