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September 99, Week 4
|U.S. Asks Iran's Help in Bomb Probe||September 30|
|Clinton Reaches out to Iran in 1996 Bomb Attack||September 29|
|Iranian Hardliners Denounce Play||September 28|
|Iran to Hold International Trade Fair||September 27|
|Sanctions Will Curtail Russo-US Military-Tech Cooperation||September 27|
|Top Iran Cleric Calls for Calm Over Satirical Play||September 25|
|Conservative Iran Body Seen Keeping Grip on Vote||September 24|
|Text of Clinton Letter on Report on National Emergency with Iran||September 23|
|Iran President OKs Peaceful Reform||September 22|
U.S. Asks Iran's Help in Bomb Probe
By Terence Hunt|
AP White House Correspondant
WASHINGTON- President Clinton, in his first direct message to the government of Iran, has asked for cooperation in finding the perpetrators of the 1996 bombing that killed 19 American servicemen at a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia, officials said today.
The president sent his appeal in a letter carried by a senior White House official to Paris and given to an emissary from the Persian Gulf country of Oman and then passed on to Iran for President Mohammed Khatami, a moderate cleric elected in 1997. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic ties.
National Security Council spokesman David Leavy refused to divulge the contents of the letter or say whether there had been a reply. Clinton's message was sent at least a month ago.
However, administration officials who declined to be identified held out little hope of cooperation from Iran, which has been hostile toward the United States since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The United States has been frustrated in the search for the culprits behind the truck bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex on June 25, 1996. More than 500 people were injured, as well as the 19 killed.
Saudi investigators say they have evidence suggesting the attack was carried out by Saudi dissidents with the help of Iran. U.S. investigators have complained that the Saudis have only inconclusive evidence that would not hold up in a U.S. court.
In his letter, Clinton held out the prospect of warmer relations between Tehran and Washington. He said the United States and Iran are two great civilizations and that cooperation on combating terrorism is an important element for any great power.
Leavy said the United States has expressed an interest in better ties with Iran.
"We are open to an authorized dialogue with Iran about our concerns concerning support for terrorism, violence against the Middle East peace process and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction," Leavy said. "As Secretary (of State Madeleine) Albright has said, we are ready to work on a road map for better relations with Iran, taking into account our serious concerns on these issues."
Clinton Reaches out to Iran in 1996 Bomb Attack
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton last month sent a secret letter to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami seeking cooperation in investigating the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia, sources familiar with the matter said.
"The president sent a letter, but I'm not going to get into the details of it," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said. |
Other officials confirmed Clinton's letter sought cooperation in the bombing probe and in combating terrorism, but declined to be quoted directly or identified by name. A report in the Washington Post said Clinton held out the prospect of better relations if Iran helped U.S. investigators find the culprits behind the bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex. An administration official told the Post the letter "should not be seen as a larger diplomatic initiative of warming relations" between Iran and the United States. On the other hand, the official said, the letter did couch the request for cooperation in the context of "the overall relationship."
The newspaper cited unidentified administration officials as saying the letter was carried to Paris by a senior White House official and given to an emissary from Oman, who passed it to Tehran. U.S. investigators have long suspected that Iran was linked to the June 25, 1996, truck bombing, which killed 19 American servicemen and wounded more than 500 other people. The request from Clinton was based in part on intelligence reports linking the bombing to three Saudi men who have taken refuge in Iran, a senior official told the Post. The three men are thought to be affiliated with a Shiite Moslem extremist group known as Saudi Hezbollah.
The newspaper said what role, if any, the three Saudis played in the bombing has yet to be determined but it was assumed they could help jump start the long-dormant FBI investigation of the Khobar attack.
Clinton's request to Khatami for help was reported earlier this month by a Kuwaiti newspaper. At the time, State Department spokesman James Rubin confirmed there was a high-level communication but declined to say how it was transmitted or provide any details of its contents. While the United States has no diplomatic or consular relations with Iran, some sporting and academic exchanges have taken place in the past couple of years following calls from Khatami for the easing of a 20-year freeze in links since the Islamic revolution and seizing of the U.S. embassy.
Iranian Hardliners Denounce Play
By Brian Murphy|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran-In the latest in a series of condemnations, hard-liners closed Tehran's main bazaar for two hours Monday to protest a student play deemed insulting to Islam. One police official vowed to personally execute the satire's authors.
Iran's moderate President Mohammed Khatami joined the conservatives in denouncing the play as blasphemous. But he also criticized the hard-liners for spreading the "blasphemous insult" by making such a public issue out of it. The play appeared in a campus journal that prints only about 150 copies.
"Sacrileges and insults should be dealt with firmly, fairly and according to the law," Khatami told his Cabinet on Sunday, according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency. "But the question is whether the spread of an insult ... is not a more serious offense?"
The coeditors of the tiny campus journal "Mowj," or Wave, at Amir Kabir Technical University were arrested last week for publishing the satirical play. Officials have said the text involved the theme of faking religious convictions to make political gains. The play, which has been banned, also defamed the 12th Imam, one of the holiest figures for Iran's majority Shiite Muslim population.
Merchants at Tehran's main commercial bazaar said hard-liners ordered them to close their shops for two hours to protest the play. The bazaar is an important hub of support for conservatives, who face a test to retain control of parliament in February elections.
The satire has become a rallying point for the hard-liners. They have felt pushed aside recently by efforts to grant greater press freedoms and ease some social restrictions, such as allowing unmarried couples to walk hand in hand.
But putting the two student editors before Iran's Islamic-guided justice could open greater rifts between reformers and those resisting any deep change. The issue of the offensive play appears to be much more sensitive and divisive than the now-abandoned death edict against British author Salman Rushdie for "Satanic Verses," which Iranian clerics had also considered blasphemous to Islam.
Khatami, who has supported greater tolerance for the media, called the play "an intolerable oppression" that took "advantage of freedom."
But he also had harsh words for those whose denunciations of the play gave it far wider publicity than it otherwise would have received.
"Now, can't this act of incitement be deduced as two sides of the same coin?" he asked. "Can't such a notorious act be regarded as a calculated design? Now, shouldn't the spread of such a blasphemous act and insult to the most endeared sanctities of religious faith be regarded as further transgression of religious piety?"
Iran to Hold International Trade Fair
TEHRAN -XINHUA - The 25th Tehran International Trade Fair is to open here on October 2, said Mojata Khosrowtaj, head of the Export Promotion Center of Iran (EPCI), on Monday.
Khosrowtaj told reporters that 84 countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and America will participate in the fair, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. |
For the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Egypt, Mauritania, Central Africa, Uganda, Benin, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mali, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea Conakry will take part in the event, Khosrowtaj said.
Some 1,266 Iranian and 785 foreign companies will put their prod for foreign investment in Iran, license of export to Europe, consulting management and energy management in industry, he added.
Sanctions Will Curtail Russo-US Military-Tech Cooperation
MOSCOW- (Itar-Tass) - The passage in the United States of the bill on sanctions for cooperation with Iran in rocketry technologies will lead virtually to complete curtailment of Russo-US military and technical cooperation, one of the chiefs of the Russian military-industrial complex told Tass on Monday on condition of anonymity. |
He said the adoption by the House of Representatives of the US Congress of the bill on sanctions for cooperation with Iran in the rocketry area has an obviously anti-Russian character and virtually brings back the times of the Cold War. If the bill passed by the House of Representative is endorsed by the Senate, signed by the US president and goes into effect, this will meant the undoing of the nascent Russo-American military-technical cooperation. It will virtually be reduced to nought, said the source.
The statement was made in answer to a Tass request to comment on the new contract between the Boeing corporation and Rosvooruzhenye on the purchase by the US side of 100 X-31A supersonic anti-ship missiles to be used as drones for the US navy.
Top Iran Cleric Calls for Calm Over Satirical Play
TEHRAN,(Reuters) - A senior Iranian cleric has called for calm amid mounting tension over a satirical student play denounced across the political spectrum for insulting Islam.
The crisis began when a small campus magazine invoked the 12th Imam, one of Islam's holiest figures known to Shi'ites as the Lord of the Age, in a veiled attack on conservatives.
Grand Ayatollah Nasir Makarem-Shirazi said the incident must not be allowed to spin out of control and praised student leaders for trying to defuse it. |
Two students have been arrested for publishing the play in "The Wave," a journal run by the Islamic Association of Tehran's Amir Kabir Technical University, and one senior cleric said such an offence was punishable by death.
But Makarem-Shirazi, one of a handful of scholars considered senior enough to set an example to the faithful, said there should not be protest rallies or angry proclamations. "Rather, it should be left to the universities and the thinkers to discover why, in such a religious country, people insult Islamic values," he said in a statement from his office in the holy city of Qom published on Sunday.
BID TO PREVENT ESCALATION
His comments appeared aimed at heading off further escalation of the incident, which conservatives blame on lack of appropriate supervision by liberal culture officials. In a meeting with students from the university, he said no one was infallible but that all must be ready to admit mistakes.
The students went to Qom to consult the religious leadership on the crisis and newspapers quoted him as telling them: "What you are doing today is very wise." A rally by hardline Islamic youth called for Sunday was cancelled at the last minute, although organisers said they would try again later in the week. Some reformers say the case has been overdramatised as part of an assault on free expression, citing the journal's tiny circulation of about 200 and the youth of the authors. However, all sides agree that the depiction of the Lord of the Age is an affront to pious Iranians and an attack on Islamic values. On Sunday, more than 170 members of parliament signed a letter calling on moderate president Mohammad Khatami to be more attentive to cultural issues.
The play has fuelled a running debate over the role of free expression and the press within Iran's Islamic system. Khatami, a former culture minister and newspaper publisher, has fostered press freedom since his 1997 election as part of his drive to create a civil society and ensure the rule of law.
FREEDOM NOT ABSOLUTE
But traditionalists, led by senior clerics, say freedom under Islam cannot be absolute, arguing that close supervision is required to avoid such scandals. On Saturday, newspapers quoted Ayatollah Hossein Mazaheri as saying that "the writers of this text and all who published it were aware of its filthy contents. Under the sacred law of Islam, they are condemned to execution."
Mazaheri last year reaffirmed the death edict, or fatwa, against British author Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy in his novel "The Satanic Verses," even though Iran's government disavowed the order in a diplomatic deal with Britain. In the main Friday sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati denounced the play as an attack on all Shi'ites, then broke down in tears. "Death to the hyprocrites!" responded the angry crowd.
Conservative Iran Body Seen Keeping Grip on Vote
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - Iran's conservative Council of Guardians has reasserted its right to bar election candidates from the ballot at will, a move seen as damaging to reformers' prospects in upcoming parliamentary contests. |
In a letter to parliament, the Guardian Council rejected a portion of the proposed new election law requiring it to state in writing why it had disqualified a candidate. Reformers had hoped the rule would curb the power of the Council, which screens candidates and oversees elections. They have often accused the body of barring moderate candidates on ideological grounds.
"If we explain the reasons for disqualifying someone and it could create corruption or destroy someone's honour or it is against the interests of the state, then it it is contrary to the (Islamic) sharia law," said the letter quoted on Tuesday by the daily Sobh-e Emrouz. The Council also said the measure violated the constitution. Deputies usually amend bills to satisfy the Council, whose approval is required before laws take effect. The six lawyers and six clerics on the council are charged with ensuring that all legislation conforms to Islamic law and the constitution.
In a related move, the conservative-led parliament has given the Council the upper hand over the executive branch in the supervision of the election. Under the new legislation, local election officials appointed by the Interior Ministry could be suspended if they failed to implement the Council's orders.
Last February's local elections saw the Interior Ministry's representatives win a series of high-level disputes over the right of pro-reform candidates to take part. Many were elected and now sit on village, town and city councils at the expense of conservative rivals. "Taking all of this into account, we really don't know how the next parliamentary elections can be held considering the atmosphere that the current parliament has created for the Guardians Council to reject candidates with full and exclusive screening powers," said the daily Khordad, close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
Khatami and his allies have looked to the polls in February to break the conservatives' hold on parliament -- a grip largely maintained by the Council's barring of moderate candidates. But analysts say the new election rules and the recent closing of several leading pro-reform newspapers by hardline-led courts have dimmed the prospects that Khatami will translate his immense public popularity into a working majority in parliament.
Text of Clinton Letter on Report on National Emergency with Iran
WASHINGTON, /U.S. Newswire/ -- Following is the text of a letter from President Clinton, released today by the White House: |
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
As required by section 401(c) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1641(c), section 204(c) of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), 50 U.S.C. 1703(c), and section 505(c) of the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, 22 U.S.C. 2349aa-9(c), I transmit herewith a 6-month periodic report on the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared in Executive Order 12957 of March 15, 1995.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, September 23, 1999.
Iran President OKs Peaceful Reform
Associated Press Writer|
TEHRAN, Iran-In another apparent nod of encouragement for peaceful reforms, Iran's president opened a vast military parade Wednesday by declaring the armed forces would never be used to suppress restrained domestic dissent.
"Day by day our military is getting stronger, but they are not going to be used to crack down on the people and they will only be deployed against the enemies of the country," President Mohammed Khatami said before an annual display of Iran's military power, including the public unveiling of the mobile Zelzal missile that some experts believe is capable of reaching most points in the Middle East.
Khatami's pledge came a day before the resumption of classes for university students, who led violent protests in July demanding the Islamic leadership move quicker to ease limits on the media and political association. Riot police were eventually used to put down the demonstrations and Khatami has repeatedly insisted calm is necessary to allow further freedoms.
The tone of the opening of Sacred Defense Week reflected Khatami's efforts to moderate Iran's policies after two decades of strict Islamic rule. His speech contained no direct anti-Western attacks, but he took an obvious slap at the United States and its allies by declaring Iran "can never accept foreign powers" in the region.
Iran has often denounced the expanded U.S. military in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East since the 1991 Gulf War. This year, however, only one anti-American banner was carried during the martial review: We trample upon the USA.
Doves dyed in the red-white-green pattern of the Iranian flag were released over Azadi Square, an expansive tract that was a rallying point for the Islamic revolution that toppled Iran's Western-oriented monarchy in 1979. Many posters and slogans honored the 100th anniversary of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader until his death in 1989.
The parade, however, was mostly an opportunity to show the escalating firepower and muscle of Iran's armed forced despite a weak economy and being blocked by the United States from acquiring the latest Western military technology.
The showcase of the parade was the Zelzal missile. Iranian officials have not released any details about the missile's range or payload capabilities. But Paul Beaver, an arms expert at Jane's Missiles and Rockets in London, said it is believed capable of carrying a 2,200-pound warhead, including nuclear or biological weapons, for up to 540 miles.
"It demonstrates Iran's technical prowess," said Beaver.
There was speculation that Iran's expanding arsenal could touch off an arms race in the region, with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states leading the way.
Along with waves of troops including black-robed women militia volunteers and the highly trained Revolutionary Guards other aspects of Iran's domestic arms industry were on review. The guards corps carried Iranian-made M-16 rifles.