RFE/RL Iran Report – 04/19/2004

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
_________________________________________ ____________________
RFE/RL Iran Report
Vol. 7, No. 15, 19 April 2004

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional Specialists
of RFE/RL’s Newsline Team

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HEADLINES:
* TEHRAN CONDEMNS KILLING OF HAMAS LEADER
* WHO ASKED TEHRAN TO HELP IN IRAQ?
* LEADERS BLAME COALITION FOR DIPLOMAT’S DEATH
* SUPREME LEADER EXPECTS AMERICAN HUMILIATION IN IRAQ
* HOLDING PATTERNS ABOVE NEXT CASPIAN SUMMIT
* IRAN HOSTS ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
* TEHRAN ATTACKS U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD
* NEW DATE FOR SECOND ROUND OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
* LEGISLATURE FORMALLY APPROVES WITHDRAWAL OF ‘TWIN
BILLS’
* LEGISLATURE REJECTS ONE PARLIAMENTARIAN’S RESIGNATION,
ACCEPTS ANOTHER’S
* TWO NEW CABINET MEMBERS INTRODUCED
* KHATAMI VISITS EARTHQUAKE SITE
* IRAN’S NEW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT UNUSABLE
* IRAN COOPERATES WITH GLOBAL COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS
* UN REFUGEE AGENCY CHIEF IN IRAN
* LEGISLATURE BRIEFED ON NUCLEAR ISSUE
* UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES CONTINUE TO RISE
* NORTHERN TEA FACTORIES FACE CASH CRISIS
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TEHRAN CONDEMNS KILLING OF HAMAS LEADER. Less than a month after
assassinating the leader and founder of Hamas, Shaykh Ahmad Yassin,
missiles fired from Israeli helicopters killed his successor, Abd
al-Aziz Rantisi, news agencies reported. Two of Rantisi’s
bodyguards were killed and bystanders were injured in the incident in
Gaza City. Hamas refused to divulge the name of Rantisi’s
successor, the “Los Angeles Times” reported on 18 April. Hamas
spokesman Ismail Haniyeh vowed that the death would be avenged,
saying, “This sacrifice will not be wasted.” He added, “It is our
fate in Hamas, and as Palestinians, to die as martyrs…. This
struggle will not weaken our determination or break our will.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi
condemned Rantisi’s killing on 18 April, saying such measures
undermine stability and will not resolve the basic problems Israel
faces, IRNA reported. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani said the killing of Rantisi is an example of
Israeli terrorism under U.S. protection, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

WHO ASKED TEHRAN TO HELP IN IRAQ? Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal
Kharrazi announced after a 14 April cabinet meeting that the United
States had requested Iranian assistance in calming the current unrest
in Iraq, AFP and Al-Jazeera television reported. Kharrazi said Tehran
would help and added that the United States is complicating the
situation there. The Foreign Ministry’s director-general for
Persian Gulf affairs, Hussein Sadeqi, arrived in Baghdad on 14 April,
the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.
An anonymous “senior State Department official” said on 14
April that the United Kingdom invited the delegation of Iranian
officials to visit Iraq in an effort to reduce tensions there, AFP
reported. “Obviously, we did not object,” the source added, going on
to say that Washington did not ask London to invite the Iranians.
“Since Iran does have some influence with the Shi’a community, we
hope they would make clear that they are not in any way supporting
violence or confrontation and that, in fact, they are supporting the
authority of the central government,” the source said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also denied
that Washington asked for Iranian mediation, but he did acknowledge
the recent dispatch of messages to Tehran, AFP reported.
“Our intervention is not based on the U.S. request,” Iranian
presidential adviser Mohammad Shariati said in a 14 April interview
with Al-Jazeera. He went on to explain Tehran’s reasons for
acting at this time and in such a public fashion. “We wanted the
world to know our role in solving the problems,” Shariati said.
“America had prevented us from doing so. Britain was more
understanding of the peaceful Iranian role in solving the problems.
Now it [the United States] has dropped its objection.” Shariati said
Iran does not want to interfere in Iraqi affairs, but it “must not
leave Iraq and its people alone in their ordeal…. Iran believes the
U.S. behavior is wrong.”
While in Baghdad, Sadeqi held talks with a number of Iraqi
political figures, state radio reported on 15 April. Among the
officials that Sadeqi met were Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq’s (SCIRI) Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, Iraqi
Governing Council (IGC) President Mas’ud Barzani, Oil Minister
Ibrahim Bahr-al-Ulum, IGC member Jalal Talabani, and Foreign Minister
Hoshyar Zebari. The Iranian delegation also met with Ahmad Chalabi,
the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on 17 April.
Nevertheless, the exact role played by Sadeqi and his
colleagues remains somewhat unclear. Adnan Ali, a member of the
Al-Da’wah al-Islamiya party, said in a 15 April interview with
Egyptian radio, “The Iranian delegation led by Mr. Sadeqi had a
significant effect during talks with Shi’a clerics and
personalities as well as with the office of Seyyed Muqtada [al-Sadr].
I have recently met Mr. Sadeqi, and he assured me that the Islamic
Republic seeks to calm the situation to avoid any dissension [among
Iraqi factions] under occupation.”
But neither the American nor the Iranian side was so
forthcoming. CPA spokesman Dan Senor said on 16 March, “It is our
position that there is no role for the Iranians to play middleman
here in discussions between us and Sadr,” RFE/RL reported. “There is
no role for the Iranians, from our perspective, in the Sadr
situation. And, in fact, we believe that the issue with Sadr and his
militia should be resolved by Iraqis, not Iranians.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi sounded a similar note on
16 April. He asked in a statement faxed to IRNA, “How can one mediate
between the Iraqi people and the occupiers?”
The Iranian diplomats ended their visit on 17 April without
visiting Al-Najaf or Muqtada al-Sadr, IRNA reported. This is
reportedly because the Iraqi cleric refused to meet with the
Iranians, the Shi’a news agency () reported.
(Bill Samii)

LEADERS BLAME COALITION FOR DIPLOMAT’S DEATH. Khalil Naimi,
identified by IRNA as the cultural and press attache at the Iranian
embassy, was shot dead in Baghdad on 15 April by unknown assailants.
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a message
released the same day, “The current situation in Iraq is undoubtedly
the result of U.S. negligence toward the realities and the sentiments
of people in the region and the continuation of terrifying policy
that has already been proved ineffective,” IRNA reported. “It is
necessary that the U.S. changes its behavior toward the Iraqi people,
stops killing them and leaves the affairs to themselves.”
Later that day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi urged Iraqi
officials and the Iraqi Governing Council to protect the embassy and
its staff, as well as visiting diplomat Hussein Sadeqi, ILNA
reported. He added that Iran has been trying to resolve the crisis in
Iraq and added, “Unfortunately, America’s wrong policies are
making the crisis more complicated every day.”
After condemning the killing, parliamentary speaker
Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi said, “We hold the occupiers [of Iraq]
responsible for such incidents, but this does not mean [that we
should] overlook the terrorist move of those who carried out the
attack,” state television reported. “We do condemn their move,
although we do not know who they are.”
“The attack took place in the region under the control of
Paul Bremer, the American governor of Iraq,” Iranian state television
reported on 15 April. “This is while the occupying American forces
have taken no measures to follow up the case,” it added.
Addressing mourners at Naimi’s 17 April funeral, the
supreme leader’s representative, Abbasali Akhtari, said, “The
occupiers must know that they are directly responsible for the blood
of this beloved martyr and others, which is shed each day in Iraq,”
IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

SUPREME LEADER EXPECTS AMERICAN HUMILIATION IN IRAQ. Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a 14 April speech in Tehran that “an
alien power” invaded Iraq in order to fill the pockets of oil
companies “and the Zionists,” state radio reported. He went on to say
that nobody is inciting Iraqis to acts of violence. “There is no need
for anyone to incite the Iraqis,” he said, adding, “You [Americans]
yourselves are the biggest and the filthiest inciters of the Iraqi
nation.” Khamenei said U.S. policy in Iraq is like Israeli policy in
Palestine.
In an apparent reference to the closure of Muqtada
al-Sadr’s “Al-Hawzah” newspaper that disregarded the nearly 100
press closures in Iran, Khamenei said, “They close down newspapers.
They ban the press.”
Khamenei predicted, “Sooner or later, the Americans will
leave Iraq in wretchedness and humiliation.” Khamenei said the Iraqi
people can facilitate this through unity and reliance on Islam, and
by heeding the clerical authorities. (Bill Samii)

HOLDING PATTERNS ABOVE NEXT CASPIAN SUMMIT. Foreign Minister Kharrazi
said on 5 April in Moscow that Iran offered to host the next summit
meeting of the Caspian Sea’s littoral states — Azerbaijan, Iran,
Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan — ITAR-TASS reported. Referring
to issues such as the division of the sea’s resources, fishing,
and military use of the sea, Kharrazi said, “The negotiations on the
Caspian problems are moving at a good pace. The sides have reached a
number of concrete agreements, and they have to be firmed up now.”
The official meeting began on 6 April.
Kharrazi said at the 6 April opening session of the foreign
ministers’ meeting, “This [Caspian] sea belongs to the countries
that are bordering it. It is a sea that represents peace and
friendship, and it is a symbol of the peaceful coexistence of the
countries surrounding it,” RFE/RL reported.
The meeting covered issues that include the sea’s legal
regime, IRNA reported, and Kharrazi expressed the hope that the legal
convention currently in progress will meet with all the
countries’ approval. He also said foreign powers should not
interfere in the region and that countries should avoid unilateral
measures that cause complications. Kharrazi returned to Tehran on 6
April, according to IRNA.
Although the summit’s final communique stressed such
positives as stability and cooperation, the summit did not achieve
any breakthroughs on the thorny issue of demarcating the
Caspian’s waters and seabed, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 April.
Summit participants agreed that differences remain on a number of key
issues.
An analytical article in the 5 April “Sharq” noted that, in
the absence of a legal regime accepted by all five littoral states,
they are turning more frequently to bilateral agreements. Azerbaijan,
Russia, and Kazakhstan have reached agreements without Iran’s or
Turkmenistan’s approval, and Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and
Azerbaijan have begun trilateral negotiations. Even Iran, according
to the article, has entered bilateral negotiations with Azerbaijan.
Iran’s advantage, according to the “Sharq” analysis, is
that it is far less dependent on Caspian energy resources than the
other littoral states. It can concentrate on transporting oil and gas
for the other countries, and they must therefore heed its interests.
International law expert Yusef Molai said in the 6 April
“Jomhuri-yi Islami” that the Russia-Kazakhstan bilateral agreement
has replaced the Caspian legal regime. He said Iran has forsaken a
number of opportunities and predicted that the forthcoming summit
meeting would not accomplish anything. (Bill Samii)

IRAN HOSTS ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER. Armenian Foreign Minister
Vartan Oskanian was in Tehran on 12-13 April, IRNA reported, where he
met with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary
Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, Vice President Mohammad-Reza Aref-Yazdi,
and Foreign Minister Kharrazi.
The need for expanded bilateral relations was discussed in
every meeting, and Rohani noted that the two countries’
long-standing cultural connection contributes to such cooperation.
The natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia was also discussed at
every meeting, as was construction of a dam on the Aras River.
Kharrazi told his guest that tradesmen and public and private firms
would be more motivated to engage in trade exchanges by improved
facilities.
Aref told Oskanian that Iran would like to help in a
negotiated and consultative solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
In the same vein, Rohani said, “Regional stability is prerequisite
for economic development and without settlement of the regional
crisis, the ground for extensive investment would not be prepared.”
Oskanian said upcoming negotiations with Azerbaijan on this issue are
important. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN ATTACKS U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Assefi said on 12 April that U.S. criticism of the Iranian human
rights record is “invalid” and its definition of the terms “human”
and “rights” is at odds with that of the rest of the world, IRNA
reported. He said the United States is not qualified to comment on
human rights issues because its actions in Palestine, Iraq, and
elsewhere cost lives and make people miserable and homeless.
A 12 April commentary on Iranian state television said that
while “American forces are busy mercilessly slaughtering the Iraqi
people in front of the eyes of the world, and while the regime
occupying Jerusalem [Israel] is also continuing its barbaric and
inhumane crimes against defenseless civilians in the occupied
Palestinian territories,” the United States has published a
“repetitive” report on human rights violations in Iran.
These are presumably references to a 9 April U.S. State
Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and Bureau of
Public Affairs Fact Sheet, titled “Iran: Voices Struggling To Be
Heard” (). The fact sheet
notes that unelected government institutions are rebuffing and trying
to stifle Iranians’ calls for respect for their beliefs. It cites
the case of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was detained
outside Evin Prison in Tehran in June 2003 and who died three weeks
later of head injuries suffered, it is suspected, in a beating she
underwent at the hands of her jailers.
This State Department publication notes the closure of up to
85 newspapers, as well as the detention, physical punishment, and the
fining of journalists. The continuing persecution of practitioners of
the Bahai faith is described as well, citing data on four Bahais
currently in prison for practicing their religion.
Other topics addressed in this State Department publication
are the failure of political reform at the hands of unelected
government institutions, particularly the Guardians Council; Nobel
laureate Shirin Ebadi; and the pro-democratic mobilization of the
country’s young people. (Bill Samii)

NEW DATE FOR SECOND ROUND OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. The Guardians
Council has agreed to an Interior Ministry proposal to hold the
second round of the parliamentary elections on Friday, 7 May 2004,
state television reported on 12 April. An Interior Ministry official
had announced previously that the second round would take place
between 20 and 30 April (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 5 April 2004).
Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati added in
a letter to Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari that only an
amendment to the election law would allow further delays in the
scheduled voting in the Tehran, Rey, Shemiranat, and Islamshahr
constituencies, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on
15 April.
The first round of the elections took place on 20 February,
and a Guardians Council member explained in late March that there
will be a second round of voting in 39 constituencies where
candidates did not earn a sufficient number of votes to win outright.
Sixty-four candidates will be elected in the second round, and the
seventh parliament will begin work on 27 May. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATURE FORMALLY APPROVES WITHDRAWAL OF ‘TWIN BILLS.’ In
a letter to parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi that was
read out at the end of the 13 April open legislative session,
President Khatami formally withdrew two pieces of legislation
submitted in August and September 2002, IRNA reported. Known as the
“twin bills,” the first would have amended the election law by
reducing the role of the Guardians Council, and the second would have
increased the authority of the president.
Khatami’s letter noted that the Guardians Council
rejected the election-law amendment and added that the Guardians
Council and supervisory boards broke the current election law. His
letter concluded, “I predict that keeping these bills on the
parliamentary agenda in the future will have a detrimental impact on
the people’s rights and interests and the president’s
position.” Khatami had announced the bills’ withdrawal in
mid-March (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 22 March 2004).
On 18 April, the legislature formally agreed to hand the
bills back to the executive branch, IRNA reported. Vice President for
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi
attended that session and said that the Guardians Council must
account for the president’s inability to do his job.
Conservative columnist Hussein Shariatmadari praised
Khatami’s decision to withdraw the “twin bills” in the 14 April
“Kayhan” newspaper. Shariatmadari, who is the supreme leader’s
representative at the Kayhan Institute, said Khatami’s decision
clears his record and eliminates the danger of reducing freedom.
Shariatmadari wrote that the bills would have eliminated people’s
right to prevent unqualified individuals from serving in parliament
and would have invested the president with dictatorial power.
Shariatmadari wrote that Khatami was ill advised to have submitted
the legislation in the first place, and he hinted that the bills were
imposed on the president by spies and agents of foreign countries.
Shariatmadari wrote that Khatami’s criticism of the
Guardians Council, which rejected the bills several times, was
unjustified and unfriendly. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATURE REJECTS ONE PARLIAMENTARIAN’S RESIGNATION, ACCEPTS
ANOTHER’S. Parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi said
on 14 April that he is glad the Iranian legislature did not approve a
parliamentarian’s resignation request, IRNA reported.
Some 120 parliamentarians submitted their resignations in
February to protest the Guardians Council’s rejection of
incumbents’ candidacies for the parliamentary elections, and to
date the resignations of Tehran representatives Mohsen Armin and
Fatemeh Haqiqatju and Urumiyeh representative Mahmud Yeganli have
been accepted (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 16 February and 22 March
2004).
The legislature rejected Isfahan representative Rajabali
Mazrui’s resignation, however. The request needed 98 “yes” votes
to be accepted by the 174 of 194 parliamentarians in the chamber who
voted on it; only 92 did so. Seventy-seven voted against Mazrui’s
resignation, and five abstained. Deputy parliamentary speaker
Mohammad Reza Khatami said on 17 April that nothing could stop his
colleagues from resigning, IRNA reported. Asked about Mazrui’s
abortive attempt to quit, Khatami explained that he is needed because
of his important role in the budget committee.
The next day, the legislature approved the resignation of
Tehran’s Behzad Nabavi, IRNA reported. There were 154 votes in
favor of his quitting and 22 votes against it. (Bill Samii)

TWO NEW CABINET MEMBERS INTRODUCED. In a letter to the speaker of
parliament, President Khatami introduced two new cabinet members,
IRNA reported. Khatami named Safdar Husseini to replace Finance and
Economic Affairs Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri. Husseini currently serves
as labor and social affairs minister. Isfahan parliamentarian Nasser
Khaleqi was introduced as Husseini’s successor as labor and
social affairs minister. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI VISITS EARTHQUAKE SITE. President Khatami arrived in the
southeastern city of Bam on 13 April to inspect the progress of
reconstruction efforts since the 26 December earthquake there, IRNA
and state radio reported. Housing and Urban Development Minister Ali
Abdol-Alizadeh, Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed
Musavi-Lari, Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ahmad
Masjid-Jamei, and Health Minister Masud Pezeshkian accompanied
Khatami.
Construction of 800 housing units began that day, and Khatami
visited other housing projects. Locals asked him to speed up the
construction of homes, IRNA reported. He also inspected work on a
96-bed hospital, the completion of which is expected by the end of
the summer.
At a meeting of the aid headquarters, Khatami said the
government allocated 2.1 trillion rials (about $256 million) for the
city’s reconstruction in the March 2003-March 2004 year, and
another 2.4 trillion (about $292 million) for the March 2004-March
2005 period, state radio reported. Khatami vowed that nobody will be
living in a tent by 20 May 2004.
Meanwhile, Bam Governor-General Ali Shafei said on 13 April
that Interior Minister Musavi-Lari has accepted his resignation and
he will leave within 48 hours, ISNA reported. His resignation was
reported in March (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 15 March 2004). Shafei
explained that the interior minister and the provincial
governor-general had opposed his resignation. He added that a Bam
native identified as Dr. Makarem will succeed him. (Bill Samii)

IRAN’S NEW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT UNUSABLE. Supreme Leader
Khamenei declared this Iran’s year of accountability (see “RFE/RL
Iran Report,” 29 March 2004). He could start by determining why
Tehran’s newest and grandest international airport remains
unusable, almost three months after being inaugurated amid much
fanfare.
The Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran cost a
total of 2.6 trillion rials plus $60 billion, IRNA reported on 31
January. It is intended to handle about 6 million passengers its
first phase, 15 million in the second phase, and 40 million a year
when the third phase is complete; IRNA did not specify when this
would be.
President Khatami inaugurated the airport on 1 February at a
ceremony attended by the Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram;
Housing and Urban Development Minister Ali Abdol-Alizadeh; Post,
Telegraph, and Telephone Minister Ahmad Motamedi; and foreign
dignitaries, IRNA reported at the time.
Yet the airport still cannot be used, according to Radio
Farda on 14 April, because construction on the project is below par
and does not conform to international standards. The original project
engineers quit after the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, and the
government at that time allowed the Oppressed and Disabled Foundation
(Bonyad-i Mostazafan va Janbazan) to take over the airport project.
The foundation changed many of the original specifications. As a
result, the runways were made with asphalt instead of cement and must
be repaved; neither the electrical power nor the runway lighting
function properly; and the aircraft refueling equipment is
inadequate. Until these problems are resolved, Radio Farda reported,
the airport cannot be used.
Meanwhile, a new airport was inaugurated in the West
Azerbaijan Province city of Khoi on 8 April, state radio reported.
Built at a cost of 40 billion rials, its runway is big enough to
handle medium-sized aircraft. Roads and Transport Minister Khoram
said at the inauguration that plans are under way to build airports
at Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz, and Tabriz. (Bill
Samii)

IRAN COOPERATES WITH GLOBAL COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS. Iran plays an
active role in the international effort to stem the flow of narcotics
from Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium. Iran,
Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors — China,
Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — on 1 April
signed an agreement on creating a “security belt” around Afghanistan
that will clamp down on narcotics trafficking, the “Financial Times”
reported on 2 April. The agreement calls for more border troops,
tighter border controls, coordinated counternarcotics strategies, and
more information exchanges. The concept of a “security belt” has been
promoted since 2002 (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 20 May 2002).
The signing of the “Good Neighborly Relations Declaration on
Narcotics Control” coincided with the 31 March-1 April Berlin
conference on Afghanistan, at which time UN Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC) chief Antonio Maria Costa released a statement stressing the
importance of drug control in Afghanistan and welcoming the
agreement.
Speaking at the same conference, Afghan Transitional
Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said, “Drugs in Afghanistan are
threatening the very existence of the Afghan state,” “The Union
Leader” of Manchester, New Hampshire reported on 1 April.
Furthermore, Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said at an 18
March news conference that drug enforcement is his ministry’s top
issue for the coming year, Kabul’s Afghanistan Television
reported.
Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ) chief Ali Hashemi
met with European Union officials on the sidelines of 47th Session of
the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on 18 March, IRNA
reported. Both sides concurred that the situation in Afghanistan is
the most intractable problem facing Iranian, regional, and European
drug control efforts. Hashemi said that Iran hoped the end of the
Taliban would reduce the drug threat, adding, “But after more than
two years, we are still witnessing a daily increase in the production
and trafficking of illicit drugs from the country.”
The next day, UNODC’s Maria Costa told Hashemi that his
organization is impressed with Iran’s efforts along its eastern
border, IRNA reported.
A delegation of Italian counternarcotics personnel visited
Iran in late February. The head of the delegation, identified by IRNA
on 24 February as Francesco Petroka, said in a meeting with Deputy
Interior Minister Ali Asqar Ahmadi that Italy’s counternarcotics
agency eventually would like to set up a branch office in Iran, IRNA
reported on 24 February. In Italy, the Central Directorate for
Antidrug Services runs narcotics-enforcement activities. This is a
multiagency body established in the Public Security Department with
personnel from the State Police, the Carabinieri Corps, and the
Guardia di Finanza (Customs and Excise Police) (see
).
DCHQ chief Ali Hashemi met with his Italian counterpart,
identified by IRNA on 24 February as Peter Kaba. Hashemi stressed the
need for controlling narcotics production in Afghanistan, and he
added that Iran’s strategy is to establish a stable government
there through economic assistance. Kaba expressed interest in an
information exchange on demand-reduction activities, and he suggested
that Italy’s experience might be useful for Iran.
There have been more recent meetings. Iranian Ambassador to
Moscow Gholam-Reza Shafei and Russia’s Federal Drug Control
Service chief Viktor Cherkesov (a colonel general of the Federal
Security Service) discussed cooperation in the counternarcotics field
on 15 April, IRNA reported. Shafei said narcotics production in
Afghanistan is on the increase “because of the lenient approach of
the coalition forces, mainly the U.S., toward the issue.” Shafei
suggested that Tehran, Moscow, and the United Nations work together
to stop the production of drugs in Afghanistan and prevent drug
trafficking. He added that Iran is ready to sign a counternarcotics
agreement with Russia and Tajikistan.
DCHQ chief Hashemi and the head of the Indonesian
drug-control agency met in Tehran on 14 April, IRNA reported. They
discussed preparations for a memorandum of understanding on drug
control cooperation that is due to be signed in Jakarta in May, IRNA
reported.
Such meetings do not seem to be making much of an impression
on some Iranian officials. Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh
said in Moscow on 13 April, “European countries and the United States
give little attention to this problem while narcotics production is
rapidly growing in Afghanistan,” ITAR-TASS reported. He said that
drug trafficking and terrorism are connected, and the money from the
Afghan narcotics trade goes to terrorists, especially Al-Qaeda.
Deputy Interior Minister Ahmadi complained to a 12 March
meeting of Iranian and Afghan officials in Herat Province’s Taleh
Mush region that European countries and the West generally are not
very serious in the global war on drugs, IRNA reported. If they are
serious, he added, they must assist Iran’s counternarcotics
campaign. Ahmadi said that narcotics mafias are taking advantage of
Afghan farmers’ economic needs. He said Iran is ready to help
Afghanistan in any fashion, and he cited Iran’s experience in
police training, local and municipal councils, issuing passports, and
anything else. (Bill Samii)

UN REFUGEE AGENCY CHIEF IN IRAN. United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers arrived in Tehran on 13 April as part
of a trip that will take in Afghanistan and Pakistan, irinnews.org
and IRNA reported. Some 2.5 million refugees have returned to
Afghanistan since the Taliban’s fall in December 2001, and UNHCR
intends to help another 400,000 go home in 2004. Just this year,
according to irinnews.org, 26,000 Afghans have “spontaneously”
returned from Iran.
Lubbers met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi and
reportedly told him that the Afghan security situation is suitable
for the refugees’ return, according to IRNA. Kharrazi expressed
the hope that repatriations would be facilitated by the cooperation
of the UNHCR and the Afghan interim administration. Kharrazi added
that international organizations should be more active in the
refugees’ repatriation. International refugee agencies working in
Iran recently complained to RFE/RL that the Iranian government
impedes their work, driving some to leave the country (see “RFE/RL
Iran Report,” 22 December 2003). (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATURE BRIEFED ON NUCLEAR ISSUE. Officials from the Foreign
Ministry and Atomic Energy Organization on 13 April briefed members
of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Affairs committee
on the progress of the country’s talks with the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), IRNA reported.
Committee spokesman Jafar Golbaz said they were apprised of
the government’s discussions with IAEA Director-General Mohammad
el-Baradei and on “U.S. pressure on the IAEA.” Golbaz said the United
States is trying to obstruct Iran-IAEA talks but that these
obstructions can be removed. Legislators have complained that they
are out of the loop on the nuclear issue and are forced to conduct
their own research to know what is going on.
One day earlier, five inspectors from the IAEA arrived in
Iran, Mehr News Agency and AP reported on 12 April. The IAEA
personnel were scheduled to meet with representatives of Iran’s
Atomic Energy Organization and to supervise the suspension of uranium
enrichment and the making of uranium centrifuges, Mehr reported. AP
added that the inspectors intend to confirm whether or not Iran has a
covert nuclear program. Atomic Energy Organization chief Gholamreza
Aqazadeh-Khoi said on 16 April that Iran expects its nuclear dossier
to return to a normal status on the basis of its negotiations with
the IAEA, state television reported.
Meanwhile, Minister of Science, Research, and Technology
Jafar Tofiqi-Darian told visitors to the Arak heavy-water
installation that it would start test production “in the coming
months,” Iranian state television reported on 16 April. The output
will be stored until a 40-megawatt research reactor is built at Arak.
(Bill Samii)

UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES CONTINUE TO RISE. Farshid Yazdani,
director-general of the social and economic planning department at
the Social Security Organization, said on 12 April that the number of
unemployed in Iran has doubled in the past four years, “Iran Daily”
reported on 13 April. Yazdani attributed this increase mainly to
mismanagement and added that management shortcomings are ignored
while the blame for unemployment is shifted to the workforce. Yazdani
said the government’s industrial renovation plan will render
another 30,000 people jobless.
Minister of Mines and Industries Ishaq Jahangiri said on 17
April that privatization and less government intervention in the
economy are the keys to creating more jobs, IRNA reported. (Bill
Samii)

NORTHERN TEA FACTORIES FACE CASH CRISIS. Ghasem Rezaiyat, who heads
the association of tea factories in northern Iran, said in the 13
April issue of “Entekhab” newspaper that the factories do not have
enough money to buy green tea from the growers. Gilan Province tea
factories have a 150-billion toman (about $187.5 million) debt, he
said.
Meanwhile, Iran is planning to export tea to Germany, Japan,
and Kuwait, “Iran Daily” reported on 13 April, citing the previous
day’s “Sobh-i Eqtesad.” The article described the creation of a
tea factory in the northern city of Lahijan, and it quoted tea
industry official Abdosamad Gharavi as saying that exports will begin
once the factory becomes operational. Gharavi said the factory will
make 5,000 kilograms of tea essence, 1,000 kilograms of tea powder,
and 200,000 tea bags during the first phase of the project, which
should become operational in a month. (Bill Samii)

*********************************************************
Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

The “RFE/RL Iran Report” is a weekly prepared by A. William Samii on
the basis of materials from RFE/RL broadcast services, RFE/RL
Newsline, and other news services. It is distributed every Monday.

Direct comments to A. William Samii at [email protected]
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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS