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Iran Report: March 15, 2004


15 March 2004, Volume 7, Number 10

ELECTION RESULTS CHANGED IN IRAN. The Guardians Council announced on 13 March that it has changed the election results in the Babolsar, Darab, Zanjan, and Tarom constituencies, state radio reported. In Babolsar all the ballots in three boxes were cancelled because the votes were solicited through "threats and coercion," and the ballots in two other boxes were cancelled because the seals on the boxes were tampered with. Ballots in two boxes in Darab were cancelled because the votes were solicited through "threats and coercion." After a recount of votes in Tarom and Zanjan the overall results were altered, leading to a new winner and two people going to the second round.

The Guardians Council overturned election results in the constituencies of Iranshahr and Sarbaz, state television reported on 7 March. Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in a letter to Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari that the decision is the result of research that discovered "rampant" vote buying and intimidation.

Tehran Governor Ali-Awsat Hashemi said on 7 March that Ali Abbaspur-Tehrani has been added to the list of candidates who won in the first round of voting in the capital, according to the Interior Ministry website (http://www.moi.ir). Tehran is represented by 30 parliamentarians, and eight candidates will vie for four as-yet-unfilled seats in an upcoming second round of voting.

Mr. Rasuli, the governor of Natanz in Isfahan Province, on 6 March rejected reports about the annulment of election results there, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. He said that such claims have arisen after other elections and he linked this with the area's ethnic composition. Rasuli acknowledged that there were complaints but he classified them as "limited and minor" and said they had been handled. The town's Friday prayer leader and others had complained about voters being shipped in from other constituencies, "Iran" reported on 4 March.

Mr. Ahmadi, the Fars province deputy governor-general for security affairs, on 6 March rejected reports about the annulment of election results in the Sepidan constituency, ISNA reported. "There were some complaints to the supervisory board pertaining to the result of the voting in Sepidan," he said, but the problems were resolved. (Bill Samii)

MORE LEGISLATORS' RESIGNATIONS ON AGENDA. Speaker of parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi on 13 March expressed the hope that legislators who submitted their resignations in February will change their minds, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. They have the right to quit, he said, but added, "If resignation of deputies disrupts the course of current parliamentary business, it would be illegal and should be avoided."

The Iranian parliament on 9 March considered the resignation of Tehran representative Mohsen Armin and next week it will consider the resignation of deputy speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami or deputy speaker Behzad Nabavi, according to the 10 March parliamentary report in "Sharq." The parliament on 7 March accepted the resignation of Urumiyeh representative Mahmud Yeganli, IRNA reported, and on 23 February the chamber accepted Tehran representative Fatemeh Haqiqatju's resignation.

They are among more than 100 legislators who tendered their resignations to protest the Guardians Council's disqualification of incumbents ahead of the February elections (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 February 2004). The Iranian Constitution decrees that there must be a sufficient number of parliamentarians present to form a quorum, so not all of the resignations can be accepted. (Bill Samii)

BROUHAHA IN LEGISLATURE. When Tehran representative Ali-Akbar Musavi-Khoeni read portions of the Iranian Constitution on 7 March that call for the Assembly of Experts to review the supreme leader's performance, conservative parliamentarians reacted by shouting insults and storming the podium, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) and Reuters reported. The microphone was stolen in the ensuing excitement, and conservative and reformist parliamentarians exchanged blows.

Legislators' criticism of the supreme leader has reached unprecedented levels in recent months due to controversy over the parliamentary elections, with some 100 members of parliament sending an unsigned letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 17 February in which they ask if he was actually behind the Guardians Council's rejection of thousands of prospective candidates (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 23 February 2004). (Bill Samii)

VETTING BODY REJECTS STATE BUDGET. The Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on constitutional and religious grounds, on 9 March rejected the state budget for the forthcoming year, state radio reported. The new Iranian year begins on 20 March, and the parliament passed the budget on 29 February. In that day's open session, the legislature approved a 1.15 trillion-rial (about $137 billion) budget, IRNA reported. The budget specified the extent of foreign borrowing, foreign trade regulations, the campaign against smuggling, and increases in prices of government services. The cabinet is authorized to borrow 19.205 trillion rials from foreign sources or by selling bonds. The budget also called for specific targeting of state subsidies, an expanded social services network, and extended medical insurance.

In explaining rejection of the budget, Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in a letter to parliament speaker Karrubi, "In the review of the country's budget bill, eight points were found to be contrary to the constitution and one point contrary to Sharia [Islamic law]," state radio reported. "Not foreseeing the source of the revenue, the unclear amount of expenses, and the nonbudgetary nature of some sections are among the Guardian Council's objections to next year's budget bill." (Bill Samii)

ELECTED INSTITUTION WON'T INFORM PUBLIC. The Assembly of Experts held its semiannual meeting on 7-8 March. The popularly elected 86-member assembly is charged with supervising the performance of the supreme leader, but the extent to which it actually does this is a matter of debate -- as is the extent to which the body is answerable to the public that elects it.

Ayatollah Mohsen Musavi-Tabrizi, who represents East Azerbaijan Province in the Assembly of Experts, complained that the body is not fulfilling its duties, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 8 March. "The most important duty of the Assembly of Experts is to supervise the activities of the leader and the organizations affiliated to him," Musavi-Tabrizi said. "This is a very heavy and comprehensive duty. However, many of the experts do not believe in this." He suggested that the Assembly of Experts create a supervisory code and perform its duties on the basis of that code.

Musavi-Tabrizi also reiterated his frequent criticism that the assembly does not inform the public about its activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 January and 20 November 2000, 10 September 2001, and 3 June 2002).

Assembly member Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani told ISNA on 7 March that the committee that investigates the supreme leader's performance has worked diligently. Movahedi-Kermani, who also serves as the supreme leader's representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said, "Fortunately the leader has not committed any transgression so far. The committee has discussed its concerns and has received satisfactory answers from the leader."

Movahedi-Kermani refused to provide more details, saying, "There is no need to tell the people about the findings of the probes [into the supreme leader's performance]." He continued: "In my opinion, there is no need to provide people with a report because we have numerous domestic and foreign enemies and to openly provide people with reports will not have good consequences. They [enemies] will not be fair in their judgment and look for ways to achieve their own objectives."

Musavi-Tabrizi struck a pessimistic note regarding the outcome of the current meeting, saying, "Unfortunately, there is no special agenda, topic, or issue, and the session will be held in keeping with the previous years."

The Assembly of Experts concluded its meeting and issued its final statement on 8 March, IRNA reported the next day. The assembly praised the supreme leader's advice to the Iranian people to vote in the February parliamentary elections. The statement said that the conduct of the elections "in a free, fair, lawful, and clean environment" foiled foreign plots in favor of certain candidates or to have the elections postponed.

Much of the statement focused on foreign affairs, however, and this is something that constitutionally is not within the assembly's purview. The statement said that the forces occupying Iraq are responsible for "all disastrous events in the country," said the coalition should answer for the Ashura bombings, and said that the occupation forces must leave Iraq in order to establish security there. The assembly's statement also said the gravest matter confronting the Islamic world is Palestine, and it condemned France for banning women's hijab. (Bill Samii)

FOREIGN AID TO BAM EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS DISAPPEARS. Iranian Red Crescent Society head Ahmad Ali Nurbala said in the 9 March issues of "Iran" and "Hambastegi" newspapers that most of the foreign funds sent to Iran after the December earthquake in the Kerman Province city of Bam never reached the victims, Reuters reported. Nurbala said the Red Crescent received only $1.9 million in aid, but documents show that more than $11.8 million in aid came from overseas organizations. Nurbala called on the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance and the Foreign Ministry to account for the foreign aid.

Kerman Province Governor-General Mohammad Ali Karimi said on 8 March that international media exaggerated the amount of foreign aid, state radio reported. "The people of the region think that foreign countries have fulfilled their promises, but unfortunately no cash aid was received from foreign countries; and all their offers of assistance did not go beyond words." And on 4 March he said, "Unfortunately by magnifying the amount of financial and material domestic and international aid the media have increased the expectations of the people of this region to such an extent that they believe we can build two towns the size of Bam with this amount," ILNA reported.

Karimi attended a 4 March gathering of about 500 people from Bam and answered their questions about relief operations and the town's reconstruction, ILNA reported. The meeting became a riot after the actions of unidentified hooligans. Karimi explained, "After the mention of the problems and the issue of foreign relief, some malicious group started chanting provocative slogans while riding on their bikes in the streets of Bam and attempted to destroy public properties." He added that police arrested a number of these people.

Ali Shafei resigned as the governor-general of Bam in reaction to this demonstration, "Sharq" newspaper reported on 10 March, according to Reuters. Sources told "Sharq" that Shafei was attacked during the demonstration, and he resented this because he lost his home and family members in the earthquake and because he has put in a lot of effort to help the people since then. (Bill Samii)

IRAN COMMEMORATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY. Uniformed police reportedly "worked with" baton-wielding Basij personnel who attacked women commemorating International Women's Day in Tehran on 8 March, Reuters reported. The police helped the Basijis disperse the crowd but they did not arrest anybody. The authorities had withdrawn permission for the women's rally to take place, according to Reuters. A Tehran police official named Turani said on 7 March that he had no information from the Interior Ministry about permission for such an event, Fars News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in a 7 March speech called for an end to negative views about the role of women in society, IRNA reported. He criticized narrow-mindedness and said, "Unfortunately our society has suffered great losses due to incorrect understanding of women's ability and adoption of wrong policy to deal with women." Khatami added that Iranian women face a host of other problems, in areas such as policy making, economics, and family affairs.

Tehran parliamentary representative Elahe Kulyai said on 9 March that women's representation in the job market is better now than it was before the 1979 Islamic revolution, IRNA reported. She added that women's political participation has increased, too, as have their demands and expectations. To improve the current situation, Kulyai called for a quota system in which 20 percent to 30 percent of positions in management, parliament, and in municipal and rural councils are reserved for females. She advocated a similar quota system for political parties and organizations. Kulyai said the mass media and education system could contribute to the elimination of stereotypes.

On 8 March Deputy Labor Minister for Planning and Policy Sadeq Bakhtiari decried the relatively small number of employed women, IRNA reported. Bakhtiari said that the unemployment rate for women is 21.2 percent, whereas the national unemployment rate is 11.8 percent. (Bill Samii)

IRAN TO DEAL WITH MASSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT. Rahim Ebadi, who heads Iran's National Youth Organization, told a 6 March seminar in Shiraz that 31 percent of Iranians aged 15-29 are either unemployed or have unsuitable jobs, IRNA reported. The unemployment rate for this age group grows at about 13.2 percent annually, Ebadi said. At this rate, he added, 52 percent of the group will be unemployed within three years. Ebadi attributed the phenomenon to the growing population. Sixteen percent of Iranians aged 25-29 are unemployed, Ebadi said, and 34 percent of Iranians aged 15-19 are unemployed.

Earlier, Ebadi told a conference at Amir Kabir University that 3 million Iranians are unemployed, IranMania reported on 22 January, citing ISNA. He said a national human-resources development project would be launched in three years. The National Youth Organization, the Management and Planning Organization, the Science, Research, and Technology Ministry, and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry will be involved in that project, but it will be implemented by the private sector. (Bill Samii)

IRAN COPES WITH WORLD'S HIGHEST RATE OF BRAIN DRAIN. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has concluded after surveying more than 60 countries that Iran has the highest rate of "brain drain" in the world. The IMF says every year more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave their home country in the hope of finding a better life abroad.

Vahid Garousi is one of those Iranians who have moved overseas. He emigrated to Canada about three years ago, after graduating in computer engineering from one of Iran's best technical universities. Garousi says he left for economic, social and educational reasons. "For a software engineer in Iran, you can find a quite well-paying job [by Iranian standards]. You can get something like 500,000 tomans a month [about $600], but still that [amount of] money is not something that [will give you a comfortable life]," he said. "So this was the economic reason."

It is not just the money, according to Garousi. "Then I had social reasons to leave Iran. The example I'm telling now is that you couldn't listen to music in your car -- Iranian pop music or I like Turkish pop music. There are many examples of these social restrictions you can think of. [And] there is no freedom of speech," he told RFE/RL.

Garousi, now a Ph.D. student in Canada, added that educational opportunities also were better abroad. "Then I had educational reasons. For example, you don't have good access to the Internet with high speed [and] then you have Internet censorship in Iran," he said. "[The authorities] have filtered many websites, even educational websites. We didn't have good libraries in Iran. We didn't have new books, new technical books. And, for example, here in Canada I can go to very prestigious conferences, but in Iran, because of U.S. sanctions, Iranians cannot submit papers to [professional groups like the] IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]."

Garousi says he won't return unless many things change.

His story is increasingly typical. Every year more than 150,000 educated young people leave Iran for countries such as the United States and Canada. Some 4 million Iranians now live abroad. Few of these will ever return.

Many of those who leave cite a lack of basic social freedoms. In Iran, boys and girls cannot mingle together in public. Dancing is forbidden. Women and girls must cover their hair and bodies. Under President Mohammad Khatami there has been a gradual liberalization, but public life is still closely monitored.

The situation is particularly serious among the best-educated young people. Some 80 percent of recent award winners in scientific fields have chosen to emigrate.

Hazhir Rahmandad, who won an international award in chemistry, left Iran in 2000 and now studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "After finishing my undergraduate studies in industrial engineering, I decided to continue my studies for graduate work, and system dynamics was one of the main areas that I was interested in. The only place I could go to was basically the U.S., so that was one of the main reasons," he said. "The other thing was that almost everybody was applying [at foreign universities] at the end of [my undergraduate university study]. I was studying at Sharif [University] in Tehran, so it was kind of the norm. And finally I think another dimension of it was that I was interested to see a different world."

Rahmandad says Iran's political structure does not allow people like him to get involved in the country's future as much as they would like to. "In the short term, I don't think I will be going back. I actually, personally, would really like to go back and be useful to my country and I feel a lot of connection still with whatever is happening in Iran," he said. "But on the other hand, I don't see a way of how I can be useful, how I can contribute to building a better Iran -- so it is a challenge."

Amanullah Gharai Moghaddam, a professor of sociology in Tehran, agrees. He says many young people are forced to leave because society cannot absorb them and respond to their needs. "Based on our research, the most important cause for brain drain from Iran is unsuitable social conditions for the youth. There are several factors contributing to this unsuitable atmosphere," Gharai Moghaddam said.

The costs of the brain drain are high. Gharai Moghaddam said, "For each inventor or scientist who leaves the country, it is as if 10 oil wells would be destroyed."

Afshin Molavi is a journalist and author of "Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran." Molavi cites economic conditions as a main reason young people choose to leave. The unemployment rate is around 20 percent -- and higher for young people. Hidden in the statistics is massive underemployment, with students forced to take jobs below their qualifications.

"Mostly they describe the economic reasons for leaving the country and they describe simply a lack of jobs, number one, and there is also a massive underemployment problem with young Iranians who may have graduated in say engineering ending up working as traders, businessman. Or you might find pharmacists who can't find jobs in their fields so they learn a few software packages and they have to work, say, as part-time software engineers," Molavi said.

Economists say Iran needs to create more than a million jobs a year just to keep pace with its growing population. In reality, though, only about 300,000 new jobs are added each year. Molavi said, "It's a very sad thought and quite a tragedy to think that these people who would really like to stay in their home country but they can't simply because of the massive economic mismanagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

He concluded: "The irony is that everywhere Iranians go they seem to succeed. It is extraordinary what Iranians are capable of when the are given opportunities, and they are simply not given opportunities in their home country." (Golnaz Esfandiari)

MILITARY OFFICER MISTAKEN ON SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Brigadier General Nasser Mohammadi-Far, commander of the Iranian Army's ground forces, said on 8 March that Iran is self-sufficient in making tanks and other armored vehicles, state radio reported. "At present, the Islamic Republic of Iran's army ground force has achieved total self-sufficiency in manufacturing armored equipment, particularly in manufacturing various models of tanks," he told an audience in Urumiyeh that was honoring martyrs of the Karbala-7 operation during the Iran-Iraq War.

Mohammadi-Far must not have been aware that Tehran has placed a $600 million order with Moscow for the delivery of 200 T-80U main battle tanks and 300 BMP-3 tracked infantry combat vehicles, as reported by gazeta.ru on 27 February.

BMP-3s are built by the Russian company Kurganmashzavod, gazeta.ru reported, and fulfilling the order for the tanks will not be a problem. However, the T-80 is no longer produced in Russia. Nizhnii Tagil's Uralvagonzavod is the only active tank-building enterprise in Russia, according to gazeta.ru, and Tehran does not want the T-90S model it builds. Uralvagonzavod therefore would have to obtain the T-80 design from the original manufacturer, the Omsk-based Transmash.

Tehran might be able to acquire the tanks from Ukraine, because according to the Army Technology website (http://www.army-technology.com/projects/t80/index.html), the T-80UD and T-84 are built in Kharkiv. (Bill Samii)

AFGHAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES DRUGS AND BORDERS IN IRAN VISIT. Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali arrived in Tehran on 9 March and the next day he met with President Khatami and Interior Minister Musavi-Lari, IRNA reported. Khatami praised the ratification of the Afghan Constitution and commented on the importance of a strong central government. Khatami also stressed the importance of the international counternarcotics campaign and the role in that campaign of crop substitution. Jalali noted the importance of Iran's contribution to the war on drugs in his country, which is the world's leading producer of opium (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 November 2003, and http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afghanistan_opium_survey_2003.pdf). Musavi-Lari emphasized the importance of secure borders, while Jalali praised Iran's role in the construction of border posts.

Jalali arrived in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad on 11 March so he could participate in an inauguration ceremony for several new border posts, IRNA reported.

Ten of these posts were inaugurated at Herat Province's Islam Qaleh checkpoint, Iranian state radio's Dari-language service reported from Mashhad. Khorasan Province Governor-General Hassan Rasuli said at the inauguration ceremony that 15 more border posts will be built, and this will be paid for with $2 million allocated by the Iranian government. The object of building the border posts, Rasuli said, is to improve Iran-Afghanistan relations and to curb narcotics trafficking.

Jalali was back in Tehran on 12 March, when he and his Iranian counterpart, Musavi-Lari, signed an agreement on border security, border surveillance, and drug interdiction, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

U.A.E. PROCLAIMS SOVEREIGNTY OVER IRANIAN ISLANDS. Ahmed Shabib al-Dhahiri, who is heading the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) delegation to the third Organization of the Islamic Conference's parliamentary union meeting in Dakar, asserted in a 10 March speech that his country is fully sovereign over three Persian Gulf islands, the U.A.E.'s official WAM news agency reported. Iranian forces have occupied the islands -- Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs -- since the British withdrawal from the region in 1971. (For historical background on this controversial issue, see Richard Mobley, "Deterring Iran, 1968-1971: The Royal Navy, Iran, and the Disputed Persian Gulf Islands," "Naval War College Review," Autumn 2003; and Richard Mobley, "The Tunbs and Abu Musa Islands: Britain's Perspective," "Middle East Journal," Autumn 2003.)

Arab League foreign ministers who were meeting in Cairo on 3 March also urged Iran to withdraw from the islands, Egypt's MENA news agency reported. "The continued occupation of the islands destabilizes the region and threatens international peace and security," they said, adding that if Iran wants to improve relations with Arab countries it must take "tangible steps."

The Arab Parliamentary Union voiced support for the U.A.E.'s rights over the islands at the conclusion of its conference in Damascus on 2 March, WAM reported.

Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers who were meeting in Riyadh issued a statement on 29 February that "condemned the occupation" of the islands and regretted that contacts with Iran aimed at resolving the issue have been unproductive so far, Saudi Arabia's SPA news agency reported. (Bill Samii)

IRAN AND NORTH KOREA TO COOPERATE ON NUCLEAR EQUIPMENT. Iran and North Korea will build an underground facility for the manufacturing of uranium-enrichment centrifuges near the city of Kusong, Japan's "Sankei Shimbun" newspaper reported on 10 March, citing an anonymous "military source." A high-ranking Iranian military official reportedly negotiated the project during a late January visit to Pyongyang. After the equipment is manufactured at Kusong, which is some kilometers northwest of Yongbyon, the equipment will be shipped to Iran via a third country, according to the Japanese daily. (Bill Samii)

MORE ENRICHED URANIUM REPORTEDLY FOUND IN IRAN. European and U.S. diplomats say that UN nuclear inspectors found traces of uranium-235 in Iran, "The New York Times" reported on 11 March. U-235, also known as actinouranium, is rare and is reserved for use in weapons. It is not known if the enrichment took place in Iran or if the U-235 was on equipment that Iran purchased on the international black market, as it has contended in the past. (Bill Samii)

IRAN'S FUTURE COOPERATION WITH IAEA ON HOLD. As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors met in Vienna in the second week of March, there were indications that Iran's lack of cooperation was wearing thin. Passage of the board's critical resolution on Iran on 13 March (see http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-21.pdf) not only has upset Iranian officials but it actually seems to have surprised them.

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei in his 8 March statement to the board of governors criticized Iranian obscurity and dissimulation on its nuclear program, according to the agency's website (http://www.iaea.org). He noted that the board has a "progress report" on verification activities in Iran (for the 24 February "Restricted Distribution" report titled "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," see http://www.npec-web.org/projects/IAEAIranReport.pdf).

"I am seriously concerned that Iran's October declaration did not include any reference to its possession of P-2 centrifuge designs and related R and D [research and development], which in my view was a setback to Iran's stated policy of transparency," el-Baradei continued. "This is particularly the case since the October declaration was characterized as providing 'the full scope of Iranian nuclear activities,' including a 'complete centrifuge R-and-D chronology.'" el-Baradei urged Iran to be fully transparent and take the initiative to provide information fully and promptly. He also demanded cooperation from the countries where the nuclear equipment and technology originated.

An anonymous "informed source" on 8 March said that Tehran has formally protested el-Baradei's remarks, ISNA reported. Indeed, Iran submitted a "note verbale" dated 5 March 2004 to the IAEA secretariat that explained issues raised in the earlier IAEA report (http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2004/infcirc628.pdf).

Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA Piruz Husseini said on 8 March that Tehran's previous declaration to the IAEA was never meant to be complete and claims to the contrary were based on misquotations, Reuters reported. Husseini added that Tehran was not obliged to say any more than it did at the time. Iran's then-representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, said at the time that "we have submitted a report that fully discloses all our past activities -- peaceful activities -- in the nuclear field" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003). According to IRNA, however, Husseini was more upbeat, saying after a closed-door session of the board that el-Baradei hailed Iranian cooperation with the agency.

U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Kenneth Brill responded on 8 March by saying that "the Iranians change their stories to fit the facts," Reuters reported.

The United States and European countries participating in the IAEA meeting in Vienna reached a compromise on a draft resolution on the Iranian nuclear program on 10 March, international news agencies reported. The resolution describes the Iranian acquisition of uranium-enrichment technology and expresses concern about Iran's failure to provide "a full picture of its past and present nuclear programs," AP reported. European states reportedly agreed to this resolution after the United States dropped its demand that the issue immediately go to the United Nations Security Council, which could sanction Iran.

According to the "Financial Times" on 12 March, however, the previously supportive Europeans have shown greater resolve since disclosures about the nuclear marketing network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and revelations about the discovery of advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuge designs in Iran.

The Iranians are not pleased by this turn of events. Husseini criticized the IAEA draft resolution on 10 March, IRNA reported. "In the face of constructive activities and cooperation of Iran and implementation of [international] laws and regulations by the Islamic Republic, the draft resolution must not have taken such a shape," he said. Husseini added that U.S. efforts blocked the Europeans' desire to tone down the resolution. He dismissed international concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions by saying, "America, because of the defeats which it faces in all corners of the world, especially in our neighbor in Iraq, is anxious not to suffer another defeat."

Husseini refused to say if Iran would end its "cooperation" with the IAEA, according to IRNA.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi hinted at such a possibility when he said about the resolution on 10 March, "Decisions of this kind will force us to react," ISNA reported. Kharrazi added, "We have voluntarily and temporarily suspended uranium enrichment so that there can be confidence building and, later, when our relations with the IAEA are normalized, we will certainly [re]start uranium enrichment."

Ambassador Husseini told IRNA on 11 March that Tehran has asked IAEA inspectors to delay their visit to Iran because of the pending Noruz holidays, IRNA reported. The inspectors were scheduled to arrive on 12 March, and this year Noruz is scheduled for 20 March.

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani said on 11 March that Iran will announce its position on future cooperation with the IAEA after the agency's board of governors passes its final resolution on Iran's nuclear activities, ILNA reported. At a 7 March meeting of the Assembly of Experts, Rohani made clear that Iran intends to continue with its nuclear pursuits. "Having a fuel cycle and uranium enrichment in the country is the legal right of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said, according to state television. Rohani said the Iranian nuclear issue must be removed from the IAEA's agenda.

On 13 March, Rohani described the resolution as unfair because it did not recognize Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, IRNA reported.

That is not true. The resolution "recognizes that the Director-General [el-Baradei] reports Iran to have been actively cooperating with the [IAEA] in providing access to locations requested by the agency, but, as Iran's cooperation so far has fallen short of what is required, calls on Iran to continue and intensify its cooperation...." The resolution also welcomed Iran's signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol.

Rohani complained that the views of China, Russia, and the Non-Aligned Movement were not taken into consideration. He grumbled about the French, British, and German stances.

Reacting to the resolution, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 13 March described it as propaganda and added, "The resolution does not compel us to any new obligation and we are not obliged to take other measures apart from our current cooperation with the IAEA," IRNA reported. Assefi warned that Iran cannot ignore the behavior of some unnamed countries and the board of governors. (Bill Samii)

WHITE HOUSE CONTINUES 'NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN.' U.S. President George W. Bush on 10 March renewed the national emergency regarding Iran that was declared in Executive Order 12957 of 15 March 1995, the White House website reported (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/03/20040311-4.html). EO 12957 originally was taken in reaction to the threat posed to the U.S. national security, foreign policy, and economy by the government of Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, its support for international terrorism, and its efforts to undermine the Middle East peace process. President Jimmy Carter declared this national emergency on 14 November 1979 by Executive Order 12170, "to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the situation in Iran." Moreover, this renewal is distinct from the emergency renewal of November 2003 (see RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 November 2003). Extension of EO 12957 continues the ban on U.S. investment in Iran's energy sector.

Not only does renewal of EO 12957 ban U.S. investment in Iran's energy sector, but under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), any company that invests $20 million or more in the development of Iran's energy resources will face sanctions. President Bush signed the ILSA Extension Act in August 2001 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 August 2001).

Nevertheless, Tehran would welcome investment by U.S. firms. Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said on 6 March that there are no restrictions on U.S. firms wanting to participate in the development of Iran's oil fields, IRNA reported. He was commenting on speculation that U.S. companies have been invited to participate in Japanese development of the Azadegan oil field. "Not only in the Azadegan field in the form of cooperation with Japan, but in any tender which American companies opt to participate, no problem will be created for them on our part," Zanganeh said. (Bill Samii)

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