3 May 2005, Volume 8, Number 18
TEHRAN REJECTS U.S. TERRORIST LABEL. The U.S. State Department has replaced its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report with one called "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004." As it has in previous reports, however, Iran earned top billing as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2004" (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/c14812.htm). Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria also are listed as state sponsors of terrorism.
The State Department publication, released on 27 April, asserts that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security are involved with planning and supporting the commission of terrorist acts. It notes the Iranian role in anti-Israeli activity, referring to Iranian support for Hamas, Hizballah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command (PFLP-GC), and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The report says that Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants are in Iran, and notes the intermittent provision of Iranian aid to the Kongra-Gel (aka Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK).
The report also says that Iran refuses to identify senior Al-Qaeda personnel it claims to have detained, will not provide information on purported trials of those claimed detainees, and will not extradite them. Alleged Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs is noted as well.
The same day that the report was released, State Department counselor Philip Zelikow said: "Iran and Syria are of special concern for their direct, open, and prominent role in supporting [Hizballah] and Palestinian terrorist groups, for their unhelpful actions in Iraq and in Iran's case, the unwillingness to bring to justice senior Al-Qaeda members detained in 2003, including -- I will add personally -- senior Al-Qaeda members who were involved in the planning of the [11 September 2001] attacks." (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/45279.htm)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 28 April rejected the State Department's report, state radio reported. As has been the case with past State Department reports, Assefi responded with denials followed by counteraccusations. He attributed the report to "America's disappointment at the failure of its illegitimate policies in the Middle East." Assefi said Iran fights terrorism and has been in "the forefront of the war against terror."
In what is presumably a reference to Israel, Assefi said, "We must remember that, as the supporter of the most notorious terrorist regime, America is not in a position to speak about the war on terror." Assefi added that the U.S. itself has a "dismal human rights record." (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN OPPOSITION GROUP ON U.S. TERRORISM LIST. The Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK), a group that is opposed to the Iranian regime, is identified in the State Department's "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004" as a foreign terrorist organization. "The group's worldwide campaign against the Iranian government stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorism," according to the report.
Also known as the National Liberation Army of Iran, People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran, National Council of Resistance, National Council of Resistance of Iran, and Muslim Iranian Students' Society, the MKO killed Americans working in Iran during the 1970s and supported the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy, according to the report. Since leaving Iran in the early 1980s, the MKO has conducted many attacks against regime officials and assets.
More than 3,000 MKO members are interned at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, although some have returned to Iran. According to the State Department report, the individuals at Camp Ashraf "remain under the Geneva Convention's 'protected person' status and coalition control." The report also notes: "A significant number of MEK personnel have 'defected' from the Ashraf group, and several dozen of them have been voluntarily repatriated to Iran."
According to the State Department report, the MKO received most of its financial assistance and all of its military aid from former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime, and "has used front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities." (Bill Samii)
IRAN-EU NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN PREDICTED. Iran-EU nuclear negotiations resumed on 29 April in London, and it appears that Tehran believes it has given enough ground in the talks. "We are showing enough patience by attending these long meetings with little results to convince [the world] that Iran is not pursuing atomic weapons," Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in his 29 April Tehran Friday prayers sermon, Radio Farda reported. He added, "Iran wants to have [uranium] enrichment and all branches of nuclear technology, because Iran wants to be able to use the benefits of this very valuable field of science for its people and we will do it by any price."
Hashemi-Rafsanjani's comments reflect official policy. Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aqamohammadi told state radio on 28 April that the negotiations will continue only if the Iranian side believes there is progress.
Unidentified European diplomats in Vienna said on 27 April that Iran is increasing pressure on France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in preparation for its membership in the nuclear club, Reuters reported. One diplomat said to expect angry comments from the Iranians, because they will not get a definitive response from the Europeans. European efforts to play for time will displease Tehran, one diplomat said.
At The Hague, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stressed what he perceives as Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, during an address at the Dutch Society for International Affairs, state television reported. Kharrazi said Iran is committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Israeli nuclear activities. Kharrazi complained that countries with nuclear weapons are discriminating against those that want to use nuclear energy peacefully. Kharrazi said Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment is temporary.
One of Iran's top nuclear negotiators, Cyrus Nasseri, said on 26 April that discussions with Europe will only continue if the Europeans accept Iran's right to possess nuclear technology, state radio reported. Nasseri said that the global need for nuclear fuel will increase in the next decade, so Iran must be able to export it. Turning to the negotiation process and Washington's stance, Nasseri said, "We are the ones who will set deadlines and make decisions. And the Westerners have come to the conclusion that they must come to terms with Iran."
Asked on 24 April about the Iran-EU nuclear negotiations, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi repeated his country's position that it will enrich uranium, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported. "We will put enrichment on our agenda after a while," Assefi said. "We will resume it at the end of the talks, regardless of whether the talks fail or succeed. Therefore, we should not be concerned about enrichment. I believe that Europe and the international community will lose more than Iran if the talks fail." Assefi said the suspension will continue until the talks end. (Bill Samii)
GERMAN MISSILE CRANE REPORTEDLY HEADING FOR IRAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 24 April rejected a report in the weekly "Der Spiegel" about Iran's importation of equipment for its missile program, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
The 25 April issue of "Der Spiegel" reports that a Liebherr LTM 1100-5.1 crane was purchased for 600,000 euros ($784,000) by an Iranian firm named Mizan. German authorities suspect the crane is for use in Iran's missile program. The ship carrying the crane to Iran reportedly left Hamburg on 7 April, and was later seen in Port Said, Egypt. It was only after the ship left Hamburg that the authorities realized that Mizan is blacklisted as a front for the Iranian arms industry. The Germans are reportedly working to retrieve the crane before it gets to Iran.
The ship is chartered out by a Norwegian firm, Leif Hoegh and Company, Reuters reported on 28 April. A company spokesman said nobody has instructed them to take action, so the firm has not intervened. The spokesman said the ship docked in Oman on 28 April and was scheduled to arrive in Bandar Abbas on 29 April. (Bill Samii)
LEGISLATURE LOOKS INTO TOBACCO CORRUPTION. Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad said on 13 April that the head of the state tobacco company, Hamid Rahmani-Khalili, and his deputy have been arrested for corruption, state radio reported. Karimi-Rad said they are under investigation over financial irregularities.
Six days later, and after pressure from unspecified sources to release the tobacco company officials, the legislature took an interest in the issue. An unnamed parliamentarian said the tobacco company's managing director spent 3 billion rials (about $375,000) on redecorating his office, bought a desk for 350 million rials (about $43,750), and hired dozens of his fellow townsmen, "Resalat" and "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 20 April. The parliamentarians are considering several measures, including an investigation of the company's performance over the last five years, questioning judiciary officials, and forbidding the executive branch from interfering in the case.
The public reports on the case only tell part of the story, however. Mohsen Bahrami, spokesman for the central antismuggling headquarters, said his organization is also involved with the investigation, even though the tobacco company case has nothing to do with smuggling, "Hemayat" reported on 20 April. According to Bahrami, this is to prevent a repetition of the problems. He added that the tobacco company case involves the regulation of official trade in tobacco products, as well as the production and packaging of cigarettes.
But it appears that the legislature's interest in this case was not enough. Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi ordered that the tobacco company's managing director should be released, without bail, on 27 April, according to the BBC.
The legislature, meanwhile, appears to have an anti-tobacco bias. It is considering legislation by which Iran would accede to a World Health Organization framework for tobacco control, "Resalat" and "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 20 April. The legislation also calls for the Health Ministry to revise its strategy on tobacco control and to promote educational and other programs to reduce tobacco use.
Nureddin Pirmoazen, who represents Ardabil Province and serves on the parliamentary Health Committee, complained during the 22 February session that the government has not submitted a bill to control tobacco use, "Resalat" reported on 23 February. Pirmoazen said there are 12 million smokers in Iran, which has a population of around 69 million.
An unnamed representative complained on 27 October 2004 that tobacco-company officials tried to give "several boxes" of cigarettes to each visiting parliamentarian during a recent visit, "Resalat" reported on 28 October. "This action surprised some of the representatives as to how a governmental organization could promote a harmful item and attempt to advertise it in such a manner," the lawmaker said. (Bill Samii)
SURVEY PREDICTS LOW VOTER TURNOUT IN IRAN. According to a recent opinion survey, some 42 to 51 percent of the Iranian public plans to vote in the 17 June presidential election, Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said on 24 April, IRNA reported. Khanjani noted that until now participation in presidential elections has surpassed that in others -- an average of 64 percent in eight presidential elections, 61 percent in six parliamentary elections, 59 percent in three Assembly of Experts elections, and 57 percent in municipal-council elections. (Bill Samii)
DRINKING THE 'BITTER MEDICINE' OF PRESIDENCY. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said at a meeting of agriculture, animal husbandry, and biotechnology specialists in Tehran on 25 April that he may soon take the "bitter medicine" of becoming a candidate in the 17 June presidential election, Radio Farda reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani served as president for two terms, from 1989 to 1997. In recent months, he has consistently denied having an interest in serving as president again, saying that he prefers to see new faces at the country's helm. He said the problem lies with weak political parties that do not do a good job of promoting candidates.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani's reluctance to make a clear announcement about his intentions, to date, may be connected with his poor showing in the February 2000 parliamentary race. Radio Farda pointed out that he withdrew from the parliamentary race when it appeared that he would not be among the top 30 finishers in Tehran.
The results of a recent poll conducted by the state broadcasting agency may help to reassure Hashemi-Rafsanjani. The survey of 13,912 people in 30 cities on 5 April found that Hashemi-Rafsanjani garnered the highest percentage of votes (16 percent) in response to the question, "Who would be the most suitable president?" Osoolgara.com went on to report on 23 April that Ali Larijani earned 5 percent; while Mustafa Moin, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Mehdi Karrubi all earned around 4 percent. Earning less than 3 percent were Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Ahmad Tavakoli, Hassan Rohani, Mohsen Rezai, and Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad.
Tehran University's professor Sadegh Zibakalam told RFE/RL that there may be other reasons behind Rafsanjani's reluctance. "He would definitely prefer another political figure, or another person to come and [solve the current problems]. But as we move forward, we see that the conservative candidates do not have the power and ability [to win] and if the reformist candidates gain votes, they will not be able to solve the problems, either. Their power will not be in any case more than Mr. Khatami's power -- [and] he could not in the last eight years achieve many of his goals. And similarly, [reformist candidates] Mr. Moin and Mr. Karrubi will not be able to do more than Khatami."
Serving as president and Expediency Council chairman simultaneously could make Hashemi-Rafsanjani the country's most powerful official. Radio Farda reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would only approve of another Hashemi-Rafsanjani presidency if neither of his preferred candidates -- Ali Larijani or Ali Akbar Velayati -- has a chance.
The growing possibility of a Hashemi-Rafsanjani's candidacy has set Iranian tongues wagging. The conservative speaker of parliament, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, said on 27 April that the fundamentalists (osulgarayan) do not oppose the possibility that Hashemi-Rafsanjani will be a candidate, IRNA reported. The mainstream conservative organization, the Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces, has put its weight behind Ali Larijani.
Hojatoleslam Rasul Montajabnia, who is a leading member of the country's cleric-dominated reformist party, the Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mobarez), said on 26 April that a Hashemi-Rafsanjani candidacy would encourage increased voter turnout, Mehr News Agency reported. He also noted that this would lead to a runoff, in which Hashemi-Rafsanjani and the reformist candidate compete. Montajabnia is involved with outreach for candidate Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi.
Zibakalam told RFE/RL that many Iranians see Hashemi-Rafsanjani as the only leader who could provide some political balance inside the country and improve ties with the West. "When you compare other candidates with Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani, you see regarding executive matters, political authority and international status that his position is not comparable. International power knows that if they reach an agreement with Rafsanjani, it is unlikely that he would not be able to carry it out. We don't have this in regard to any of the other candidates."
But not everybody shares Zibakalam's enthusiasm. "If he became president, he would be a weak president because the opinion polls show that he would gain only about 22 percent of the vote," former parliamentarian Qasem Sholeh-Saadi told RFE/RL. "Therefore, he will not have strong popular support and he will not be able to cooperate with the current parliament, which is dominated by ultraconservatives who do not support him." (Bill Samii)
PROSPECTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SPEAK OUT. Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani reiterated on 28 April that he will be a candidate in the mid-June presidential election if a better candidate does not throw his hat in the ring, IRNA reported. "If I see the thing I had expected is not going to happen, I will put myself forward as a candidate for the presidential election," he said.
Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad said on 28 April he will announce his decision on being a candidate in 10-15 days, IRNA reported. He refused to comment on other prospective candidates or the parties, but he did say that the platform is more important than the individual. (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN-AZERI GROUP PICKS A CANDIDATE. The Association of Islamic Iran Azeris announced on 27 April that it supports the candidacy of Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. The association's statement noted the constitutional articles that refer to ethnic rights and said their implementation will bring about an "Iran for all Iranians" and contribute to unity and national solidarity. (Bill Samii)
SUPREME LEADER DISCUSSES UNITY. Iran is currently commemorating Islamic Unity Week -- the anniversary of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei discussed unity and other subjects in a 26 April speech to Iranian officials in Tehran, state radio reported. He said Islam's enemies are trying to undermine Muslim unity by exploiting "ethnic and factional" divisions. "One can clearly see the enemies' hand, the enemy conspiracy, and the enemy plot behind every plan to divide us." He said that "organized conspiracies" are acting more aggressively than ever against the Islamic community, and "global arrogance" fears Islamic unity. Khamenei accused the United States and Israel of being against Islam, said they are trying to drive a wedge between Islamic governments, and added that they want to dominate the Islamic world. (Bill Samii)
ALLEGED RINGLEADERS OF ETHNIC UNREST ARRESTED. Ahvaz prosecutor Iraj Amirkhani said on 24 April that the five people mainly responsible for the 15-18 April unrest in that city have been arrested, Fars News Agency reported. All have criminal records, he said. Of the 330 people arrested in connection with the unrest, 155 have been released.
Khuzestan Province judiciary official Mohsen Purabdullah said the same day that the five ringleaders have confessed, ILNA reported.
The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization reported on 24 April that 1,700 people were arrested the week before, and more than 130 were killed and 806 were injured (http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/2005/04/ahwaz-intifada-intensifies.html). The organization claimed that Arab demonstrations and state violence continue, that a local natural-gas plant is on fire, and that personnel from Lebanese Hizballah are participating in the repression. Turning to the 22 April solidarity parade in Ahvaz, the organization said people were bussed in from predominantly Persian areas and given Arab clothing to wear.
In the midst of conflicting reports about the restoration of calm in Ahvaz, Iranian authorities arrested Iranian-Arab activist and journalist Yusef Azizi Bani-Taraf at his home in Tehran on 25 April, international news agencies reported. His wife, Salimeh Fotuhi, said, "These agents appeared at our house at about 2 p.m., and after they ransacked the entire apartment, they took away my husband and some boxes filled with documents and manuscripts that they found in his office," Adnkronos International reported. "The agents said that the arrest warrant was in relation to recent incidents that had taken place in the south of the country."
On 26 April, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for Bani-Taraf's immediate release. "We strongly deplore the arrest of [Bani-Taraf], who was simply expressing his personal opinion in articles and in interviews given to other newspapers," it said. RSF said Bani-Taraf is being held at an unknown location, but it assumes he is at Evin Prison with other journalists.
On 1 May the English-language "Iran News" reported that Bani-Taraf was transferred to Ahvaz, citing the "Eqbal" daily. His wife said Bani-Taraf is charged with "acting against the national security and provoking people." (Bill Samii)
ETHNIC AZERIS, ARMENIANS CLASH IN TEHRAN. Armenian-Iranians gathered in Tehran and Isfahan on 24 April to commemorate the killings and mass deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey from 1915-17, Radio Farda reported. The number of casualties is disputed -- Armenians say at least 1.5 million died, but Ankara says 300,000 died and also says thousands of Turks died during that time. Ankara also attributes the deaths to the war and other factors, rather than a deliberate policy.
Participants in the rally included the Armenian ambassador to Tehran and Armenian legislators. Radio Farda cited Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa as saying that Armenia is right to discourage the European Union from granting membership to Turkey until Ankara acknowledges these events.
A number of people were injured when the Iranian-Armenians clashed with Iranian-Azeris who were holding a counterdemonstration, Azerbaijan's ANS radio station reported on 26 April. World Azerbaijani Congress official Ahmad Obali said police beat some of the Azerbaijani students to stop the clash, but did not act against the Armenians. (Bill Samii)
KURDISH JOURNALISTS APPEAR IN COURT IN IRAN. Jalal Qavami and Said Saedi, two Kurdish journalists, were summoned to the Revolutionary Court in the northwestern city of Sanandaj, ILNA reported on 24 April. Qavami said the charges against them were not specified in the summons. He speculated that the summons relates to their speeches about Kurdish reformists at Kurdistan University.
The hearing took place on 30 April, ILNA reported. Charges against them related to their speeches and included: undermining national security by advocating an election boycott, "insulting the leadership and [Islamic] sanctities," encouraging ethnic and religious differences, "portraying the system as ineffective," propagandizing for antiregime groups, and insulting state officials. The plaintiffs include the Student Basij, the provincial Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and the police intelligence unit. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN DAILY'S REPORTERS LAID OFF. More than 50 employees of the "Iranshahr" section of the daily newspaper "Hamshahri" have been dismissed from their jobs, Radio Farda reported on 27 April. "Hamshahri" is affiliated with the Tehran municipality and has become more conservative under Mayor Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad. Reporter Shahram Farhangi told Radio Farda that the layoff is illegal because the employees are entitled to one month notice, and he speculated that there is a desire for more conservative correspondents. However, Farhangi said, "Iranshahr" has never done political work. The reporters plan to demonstrate outside the "Hamshahri" headquarters on 30 April, Radio Farda reported. (Bill Samii)
KHATAMI PROPOSES MAYORAL ELECTIONS. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami proposed in Tehran on 28 April that every municipality with a population in excess of 1 million should hold mayoral elections, state radio reported. Currently, the Interior Ministry appoints mayors. Khatami explained, "This move will strengthen city management and will encourage greater involvement by the people in the affairs of the cities." Iran's first municipal council elections, in 1999, were supposed to have the same effect. Ill-defined powers limited their effectiveness. (Bill Samii)
VIGILANCE AND RESISTANCE DISCUSSED AT IRANIAN-LEBANESE MEETINGS. As Syrian troops reportedly complete their withdrawal from Lebanese territory in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, meetings between Iranian and Lebanese officials continue. These visits may be connected with another aspect of Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Lebanese militias.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Masud Edrisi-Kermanshahi said on 28 April that Resolution 1559 does not apply to Hizballah, the Lebanese National News Agency (LNNA) reported. He explained, "It is well-known that the brave Lebanese resistance is not a militia, but a force of resistance in fraternal Lebanon." Edrisi was visiting the coastal city of Sidon in southern Lebanon. He was accompanied by embassy political officers Asadollah Kafashi and Abdolreza Qassemian, public relations and cultural affairs chief Yusef Bajuq, and the ambassador's chief of staff Ali Shafedin.
In Tehran, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani met with Sheikh Abd al-Amir Qabalan, deputy head of the Supreme Islamic Council of the Shi'a Community in Lebanon, on 27 April, IRNA reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani advised his guest, "The Americans are after the implementation of their colonialist plans aimed at securing their full hegemony in the region and looting its resources." He noted that developments in Iraq will have a regional impact, and expressed the Iranian government's concern about events in Lebanon.
Qabalan said Islamic unity would prevent the United States, Israel, or any other country from challenging the Muslim community. "Today," Qabalan told his host, "Iran is the source of hope for the regional nations and the world Muslims."
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Qabalan on 25 April in Tehran, IRNA reported. Kharrazi warned his guest that there are plots afoot to undermine Shi'a-Sunni unity, and he called on the Lebanese people to be vigilant. Qabalan told his host that Lebanon's enemies are trying to bring about discord, but the people will be vigilant.
Also on 25 April, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official relayed a note from Kharrazi to Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Sha'lan, SANA News Agency reported. The contents of the note were not disclosed.
Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party, met in Tehran with President Khatami on 24 April and Foreign Minister Kharrazi on 23 April, IRNA and LNNA reported, respectively. Jumblatt also met with Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani, "Al-Hayat" reported on 25 April.
During his meeting with Jumblatt, Khatami pledged continuing support for the "resistance" and warned of the possibility of a civil war in Lebanon. Kharrazi and Jumblatt discussed Lebanese developments and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. They discussed the future of the "resistance" and stressed that its armament is an internal Lebanese issue. They agreed on "the danger of any new U.S. attempt to target the countries in the region under the banner of democratic change and devised chaos," LNNA reported.
Another aspect of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the disarmament of Lebanese militias. While still in Tehran, Jumblatt defended Iran's role in supporting Hizballah, "Al-Hayat" reported. He asked rhetorically, "Is there any liberation movement in history that has not received support from abroad?" He continued: "The support of the Islamic Republic is natural against the Israeli occupation. We have to emphasize the constants in protecting Hizballah and the Arab and Islamic dimension of Lebanon."
Turning to the Iranian role in regional affairs, Jumblatt said: "I believe that the aim of some colonialist circles will remain to destabilize the Islamic Republic and to strike at the gains of the regime in Iran. Naturally, the purpose is to prevent Iran from supporting liberation movements such as Hizballah in Lebanon." (Bill Samii)
IRANIANS FALL VICTIM TO AFRICAN SCAM. A Nigerian pastor in Ghana, Apostle Sonny Anwanimi, persuaded two Iranian businessmen that he inherited $39 million and needed help investing it, the Ghanaian state-owned and government-controlled "Daily Graphic" reported on 25 April. In the process, the pastor first persuaded Karim Abdulalizadeh that he had X-ray film to sell and collected a $10,000 deposit. He then said more money is needed, so the Iranian businessmen wired him $15,000. He collected a further $50,000 from Abdulalizadeh and his partner, Khosrow Hassanabadi, on 18 April. When he failed to deliver the film the Iranians complained to the police, who arrested Anwanimi. Anwanimi returned $4,000 and promised to get his Nigerian accomplices to return the rest of the money. (Bill Samii)
IRAN CONTINUES ISLAMIC OUTREACH IN AFRICA. "There are growing concerns about the rise of radical Islam in Nigeria -- home of Africa's largest Muslim population," according to the U.S. State Department's "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004" (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/45321.pdf). Fifty percent of Nigeria's 137 million people are Muslims, 40 percent are Christians, and the remainder practice indigenous beliefs. The Iranian government is working in Nigeria to gain new converts to Islam.
Javad Torkabadi, the Iranian ambassador to Nigeria, presented religious literature and computers to a Muslim umbrella organization called the Jama'atul Nasril Islam (JNI) on 12 April, Nigerian state television reported. The ceremony took place at JNI headquarters in the northern city of Kaduna. The donation included copies of the Koran, two computers, computer disks bearing the Hadith (the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and teachings), and other materials. The Iranian official said this contribution should help propagate Islam in Nigeria and that more should be expected.
Another allegedly pro-Iranian Islamic organization in Nigeria is the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), headed by Sheikh Ibrahim Yaqoub Zakzaky, a Shi'a cleric born in 1953. The IMN was founded in the 1980s, after Zakzaky and others traveled to Iran. The organization calls for creation of an Iranian-style Islamic state in Nigeria (see http://www.islamicmovement.org). It is not clear if there is a formal relationship between Tehran and the IMN, or if the IMN and the JNI are connected. (Bill Samii)
IRAN, TAJIKISTAN SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani and visiting Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khayrulloev signed a memorandum of understanding on defense issues on 23 April in Tehran, Iranian state television reported. Khayrulloev was in Iran for five days. Shamkhani said the agreement focuses on the provision of equipment, as well as training for Tajik military personnel. Khayrulloev underlined the importance of Tajikistan's relationship with Iran, saying: "It is very important when the great Iranian nation and government help Tajikistan. If anyone even thought of betraying Tajikistan, he will think about Tajikistan's supporter first. Its supporter is Iran, it is Mr. Shamkhani." Khayrulloev met with President Khatami on 22 April, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
CONTROVERSY OVER IRAN-TURKEY CELLULAR DEAL CONTINUES. The legislature amended on 25 April a bill on the establishment of a new cellular-telephone network in Iran, Radio Farda reported. In the original February 2004 contract, Turkcell's Iranian affiliate (Irancell) had a majority stake and license to operate Iran's second mobile-phone network. In February 2005, the legislature approved a bill that would reduce from 70 percent to 49 percent the Turkish firm's share of the network, but the Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation, sent the bill back for further consideration. Initial concern about the deal related to close Israel-Turkey relations and Iranian allegations that this could undermine the country's security, according to Radio Farda. (Bill Samii)
NORWEGIAN INVOLVEMENT WITH IRANIAN ENERGY SECTOR INCREASES. The Norwegian Aker Kvaerner company has won a four-year project management contract in Iran worth $25 million, "The Norway Post" and IRNA reported on 27 April. Among the services to be provided by Aker Kvaerner are exploration and production consultancy, field development, maintenance and operations, marine operations, and well intervention.
The company will work with Pars Oil and Gas Company in developing two phases of the South Pars gas field. This will include building two platforms, two pipelines, and a gas treatment terminal, which on completion will produce 57 million cubic meters of gas a day. Norway's Statoil is working on three other phases of South Pars. (Bill Samii)
CORRECTION: The previous issue of "RFE/RL Iran Report" gave the wrong date for Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani's interview with the "Financial Times." The article was published on the daily's website on 19 April, not 19 December.