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Iran Report: February 17, 2003

17 February 2003, Volume 6, Number 7

IRANIAN GOVERNMENT COMMEMORATES REVOLUTION. In the beginning of February, the Iranian government officially commemorated the anniversary of the 1979 revolution and the return to Iran of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, events collectively referred to as the Ten Days of Dawn. The events climaxed on 22 Bahman (its date in the Iranian calendar, or 11 February), and state television duly showed big rallies in Tehran and many other cities. Public enthusiasm for such events has been waning, however, and there was no evidence that the broadcasts were from this year's events. The state, furthermore, builds up the crowds by shipping in conscripts, by forcing state employees to attend, and by offering incentives for participation.

Curiously, the Iranian government did not try to hide such practices this year. The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on 11 February that participants in the state rallies would get "special tips, including life and accident coverage," and the government set up "special facilities" to transport people to and from the rallies; in other words, attendees were brought in by bus. State officials, military personnel, parliamentarians, clerics, scholars, veterans, students, athletes, and Basijis made their way from seven predetermined points to Tehran's Azadi Square. On the sidelines of the rally, Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi said that through their participation, "our people have...showcased their unity and cohesion to the world people, nullifying enemy conspiracies," IRNA reported.

Crowds chanting "Death to America" and other slogans were featured on state television, as were small children and senior citizens threatening to deliver a "tooth-shattering blow" to the United States and saying that "America can't do a damn thing." A 10-point resolution passed at the end of the rally expressed the country's readiness to confront the United States, condemned the military buildup in the Persian Gulf, and announced support for the Palestinian nation, according to IRNA. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI, TENET EXPLAIN REGIME'S DURABILITY. Major parts of President Mohammad Khatami's speech at the 11 February rally celebrating the revolution's anniversary concerned the United States. It is appropriate, therefore, to compare his comments with those of George Tenet, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on 11 February (

Khatami warned the United States against aiding the Iranian opposition. "I hope that America, which has tried its luck in this country once in standing against this nation and in supporting the shah's regime, will not succumb to delusion and seek to try its luck again at confronting this nation by supporting the dregs of the past regime that were driven out of the country," he said.

Khatami also said that it is normal to have different opinions and that such differences are a sign of growth and maturity. Nevertheless, Khatami said, the people are united and would defend Iran against the United States. "Let America know that our nation is totally united in defense of its authentic revolutionary ideals and in defense of the independence it has attained and for the sake of making religious democracy lasting. And any aggressor will meet with the rage and rejection of all the people," Khatami said.

Tenet, however, testified that feuding between Iran's political elites is continuing and described the reformist-conservative dispute. He pointed to the pending legislation on presidential powers and on the Guardians Council's vetting of candidates and said that some legislators have threatened a walkout if the legislation is rejected and that others have called for a referendum. Tenet said that voices openly questioning the power of the political clergy are gaining an audience. Moreover, the regime faces mounting demographic pressures, with 65 percent of the population under the age of 30, as well as strikes and labor unrest.

Unity is not why one is unlikely to see significant changes in Iranian politics soon, according to Tenet's comments. He noted: "Weary of strife and cowed by the security forces, Iranians show little eagerness to take to the streets in support of change. The student protests last fall drew only 5,000 students out of a student population of more than 1 million." Reformist leaders are reluctant to take to the streets, and the conservatives are prepared to suppress dissent, Tenet said. "For now, our bottom-line analysis is that the Iranian regime is secure but increasingly fragile."

As for Khatami's concern that the United States is backing remnants of the previous monarchy, Tenet had this to say: "We are currently unable to identify a leader, organization, or issue capable of uniting the widespread desire for change into a coherent political movement that could challenge the regime." (Bill Samii)

RAFSANJANI ACCUSES U.S. OF REGIONAL AMBITIONS. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani led the 12 February special prayers in Tehran marking Id al-Adha, the last day of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and also the "Feast of the Sacrifice" that celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, according to state television. Rafsanjani accused the United States of trying to take Iraq over with or without a war, and afterward, he said, "America will consider itself as the sole dominant force in the region." Iran cannot accept the United States as Saddam Hussein's replacement, Rafsanjani said, "And with the mercy of God and the support of Muslims, we will not allow America to establish a base in the region." Rafsanjani also criticized the regional leaders who cooperate with the United States. "Some Islamic countries that should be the guardian of the perimeter of Mecca allow America to use their military bases and ports, and this is a great shame and indicative of the irresponsibility of the heads of Islamic states," he said. (Bill Samii)

IRAN DENIES MEETING U.S. ON IRAQ, BUT U.S. AIRCRAFT SEEN OVER IRAN. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 11 February rejected claims that Tehran and Washington held discussions about Iraq, according to IRNA, and on 9 February he rejected a report in the previous day's "The Washington Post" that described Tehran-Washington discussions about a possible war in Iraq, dpa reported. "We deny the report published in 'The Washington Post' on contacts with American officials in Europe regarding Iraq," Assefi said. According to that "Washington Post" report, "Bush administration officials held a rare private meeting with Iranian envoys in Europe last month to assurance that the Tehran government would not interfere in military operations if the United States goes to war against Iraq." This could explain why an American combat aircraft that was flying north to south was seen in "the northern part of Abadan near the border" on 2 February, and later more aircraft were heard over Khorramshahr, the "Mardom Salari" daily reported on 4 February. (Bill Samii)

IRAN, IRAQ EXCHANGE MESSAGES. When Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri visited Iran on 9-10 February, he delivered a message from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to Iranian President Khatami, IRNA reported on 10 February. An unidentified "Iranian Foreign Ministry source" said that Hussein proposed that Iran and Iraq settle all outstanding issues, Alireza Nurizadeh reported in the 11 February issue of London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat." Iraq would end its support for the Mujahedin-i Khalq Organization if Iran ends its support for Iraqi opposition groups, according to Hussein's proposal, and they would settle border-demarcation issues in compliance with the 1975 Algiers accords.

The Iranian legislature reacted angrily earlier this year when it seemed that Sabri would visit Tehran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 January and 3 February 2003), fearing that such a visit would indicate support for Hussein. That visit was postponed, but Sabri's more recent visit is connected with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's meetings with British officials in the previous week, and Tehran will convey the West's message to disarm or face war, according to the 10 February "Entekhab." Moreover, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sadr said that a country's first foreign-policy interest is relations with its immediate neighbors, and inviting Sabri should be viewed in this context, "Siyasat-i Ruz" reported on 9 February. (Bill Samii)

DEFENSE INDUSTRY'S NEW PROJECTS POSE GLOBAL DANGER. Several new Iranian defense projects were unveiled during the Ten Days of Dawn celebration of the revolution's anniversary. Iranian officials describe such activities as part of the country's pursuit of self-sufficiency, but recent statements from U.S. officials portray such Iranian activities as a serious global proliferation threat.

The Aerospace Industries Organization's factory for producing solid fuel engines for missiles has begun operations, and the first Iranian-built engine was tested on 9 February in the presence of Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iranian state television reported.

U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby testified before the SSCI on 11 February that the United States is likely to face an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat from Iran by 2015 ( Jacoby went on to say that he expects Iranian proliferation to increase. "Iran is beginning to provide missile production technologies to Syria," Jacoby said, adding that, "Over time, Iran, like North Korea today, may have the capability to export complete missile systems."

Jacoby said that Iran has "hundreds of Chinese CSS-8s, SCUD Bs and SCUD Cs," is probably building more SCUDs, and is developing longer-range missiles, such as the 1,300-kilometer-range Shahab-3. Iran is pursuing the technology to develop an ICBM and could test one before 2010, he said.

Tehran is more than happy to benefit from others' experience and to share its knowledge. CIA Director Tenet told the SSCI on 11 February that in 2002 Iran pursued missile-related deals with several countries. Tenet added that Iran "publicly advertises its artillery rockets, ballistic missiles, and related technologies."

Iran is also pursuing more conventional capabilities. The production line for manufacturing Tariq and Ashura small, fast boats (qayeq-ha-yi tondro) and Zulfaqar fast boats (navcheh) was inaugurated in Defense Minister Shamkhani's presence on 8 February, state television reported. Shamkhani said that these vessels are consistent with modern tactics, local conditions, and the country's economic means. He added, "Today, we can state categorically that not only are we independent of foreigners, but in fact, we ourselves are producers of both the necessary know-how and the equipment and hardware required by ourselves and others."

DIA Director Jacoby told the SSCI that the Iranian Navy is the region's most capable and that, "by employing a layered force of diesel-powered [Russian Kilo-class] submarines, missile patrol boats, naval mines, and sea- and shore-based antiship cruise missiles," it could interrupt the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Iran is developing antiship cruise-missile capabilities with Chinese help.

Such "counter-access activities," as described by Jacoby, benefit from the increasing availability of "affordable and effective anti-surface ship systems (cruise missiles, submarines, torpedoes, naval mines)." He warned, "Our adversaries will attempt to exploit political, social, and military conditions in a number of host-nations to complicate the future overseas basing environment for the U.S." Iran's friendliness in recent years toward Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates should be seen in the context of Jacoby's comments. (Bill Samii)

IRAN STAGING NAVAL MANEUVERS. General Bahram Shamlu, commander of the law-enforcement forces in Iran's southern Bushehr Province, announced on 12 February that police naval elements would stage one-day maneuvers code-named Fajr-81 on 15 February, IRNA reported. Shamlu said that 130 police vessels would participate and that they would launch from jetties in Bushehr Province, Asaluyeh Port, and Kharg Island. Among their activities would be waterskiing, scuba diving, attacking enemies, intercepting smugglers, sea inspections, and rescue operations, Shamlu said.

Colonel Mollashahi announced on 3 February that police naval elements would start three-day naval exercises on 4 February, "Kayhan" newspaper reported that day. Mollashahi said the units participating in the exercise would practice patrolling and ambushes, scuba operations, search and rescue, and capturing enemy objectives. The exercises were to take place in the Persian Gulf waters of Sistan va Baluchistan, Hormozgan, Bushehr, and Khuzestan Provinces. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN URANIUM EXTRACTION IS NOTHING NEW. President Khatami's statement in a recent speech that Iran is mining uranium and intends to convert it into fuel has met with concern from the West. It has been known for some time that Iran is exploiting its uranium deposits, but the processing plans point to Iran's determination to develop nuclear weapons.

Khatami said in a 9 February meeting with university teachers and officials from the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology that the Iranian government is extracting uranium from mines in Saqand, near Yazd, and has set up plants in Isfahan and Kashan for extracting uranium and making "yellowcake," which is made into fuel pellets, state television reported. Khatami said China agreed to build the milling facilities in 1991 but that in 1997 the Chinese stopped working on the project. In 1998, Iran decided to finish the project independently. Such capabilities are necessary to generate electricity, he said.

Khatami's announcement was not the first indication of Iran's ambition or potential to produce uranium. In October 1989, Iran announced that it had built a milling plant near the Saqand uranium-ore deposit, which has an estimated reserve of 3,000-5,000 tons. Dariush Forughi, who heads Iran's Center for Research on Energy and Environment, said that Iran has 12,000 tons of uranium reserves, "Hamshahri" daily reported on 23 June 2002. And M. Ghannadi-Maragheh, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, asserted in a paper for the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium 2002 that Iranian uranium exploration began in the 1970s and has continued over the last two decades (

Khatami himself made clear in his 9 February speech that this mining and milling project is not associated with the nuclear reactors in Bushehr, which are being built with Russian help. "The Russians have committed themselves to give us fuel for the project, [but] we cannot depend on others for our plans, production, and programs," he said

Recognizing that Western observers would be alarmed by Khatami's announcement, Iranian officials tried to preempt any statements from foreign capitals. Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said in Qom on 10 February that there is no limit to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) ability to conduct inspections in Iran, and he denied that Iran plans to use nuclear technology for military purposes, IRNA reported on 11 February. Ramezanzadeh added that Iran's nuclear pursuits are based on the desire to avoid dependence on fossil fuels and hydroelectric power to meet the country's energy needs. Vice President for Atomic Energy Qolam Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi said on 10 February that Iran requires a nuclear capability for the production of electrical energy, not for weapons, IRNA and state television reported.

The statements of concern came, nevertheless. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at the 10 February press briefing: "Iran's admission that it's been mining uranium, when Russia has agreed to provide all the uranium fuel for the lifetime of the Bushehr reactor, raises serious questions about Iran's supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Iran's ambitious and costly pursuit of a complete nuclear fuel cycle only makes sense if it's in support of a nuclear-weapons program" ( Boucher added that by mining the uranium Iran avoids outside control of it and of spent fuel, and this only makes sense in the context of a weapons cycle.

Moreover, European Union spokeswoman Emma Udwin said on 10 February that Iran should sign a protocol with the IAEA that would allow inspections of its nuclear activities with little advance warning, Reuters reported. It would "help Iran's cause persuade the doubters," she said.

Indeed, IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei is scheduled to visit Iran on 25 February, and according to Reuters on 10 February he echoed the call for Iran to sign an additional protocol. "I would like to work more closely with them to enable them to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful program," he said. An unidentified Western diplomat linked Khatami's announcement with el-Baradei's forthcoming visit and said that Tehran is displaying greater transparency in an effort to avoid a critical report.

Tehran seems oblivious to such concerns. Expediency Council Chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said on 11 February that the use of nuclear energy is an important step in achieving self-sufficiency, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. "We cannot forego nuclear-energy technology, because nuclear energy has many peaceful benefits, and we have always sought to obtain this kind of energy and to reach this point, and we are gradually achieving this aim," he said.

Washington does not believe that Iran needs a nuclear capability for power generation. Boucher said in December 2002: "There is no economic gain for a state that's rich in oil and gas like Iran to build costly nuclear fuel-cycle facilities. I would point out that Iran flares more gas annually than the equivalent energy its desired reactors would produce" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 December 2002).

Moreover, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert J. Einhorn said in 5 October 2000 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Among the persistent indicators that Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons development program is the fact that Iran is attempting to obtain capabilities to produce both highly enriched uranium and plutonium: the critical materials for a nuclear weapon. Neither of these capabilities is necessary to meet Iran's declared desire to have a civil nuclear-power program to generate electricity, which is itself suspicious in light of Iran's abundant oil resources" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 August 2002).

Nor is the political tendency of the government in Tehran likely to have an impact on Iran's nuclear ambitions. "No Iranian government, regardless of its ideological leanings, is likely to willingly abandon WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs that are seen as guaranteeing Iran's security," CIA Director Tenet testified before the SSCI on 11 February ( (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN BACKS SUPPORT FOR HIZBALLAH. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 13 February did not deny that Iran supports Lebanese Hizballah, according to state television. CIA Director Tenet had said in his 11 February testimony before the SSCI that Iran "sponsors" Hizballah and "supports the most active Palestinian terrorist groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad" ( According to Assefi, however, Hizballah is not a terrorist organization. "The spiritual support of Iran for the legitimate and legal Hizballah group is in line with supporting the freedom-seeking struggles of the Lebanese nation and government," he said. Assefi accused the United States of having double standards and added, "America cannot hope to distort the righteous popular struggles against the Israeli occupiers and label them as terrorism." Tenet noted that conservatives in the Iranian government control the "more aggressive aspects" of foreign policy, such as sponsorship of "violent opposition to Middle East peace." (Bill Samii)

AL-QAEDA CRACKDOWN COULD REFLECT RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 13 February rejected allegations that Iran is hosting Al-Qaeda personnel, state television reported. "The seriousness of Iran in fighting against terrorism and its expulsion of individuals suspected of affiliation to Al-Qaeda are abundantly clear," he said. Foreign Minister Kharrazi said three days later: "We arrested hundreds of people who were suspected of having ties with Al-Qaeda. We expelled them, and we shall continue to do so," state radio reported.

Assefi and Kharrazi were reacting to Tenet's 11 February testimony to the SSCI, where he said, "We see disturbing signs that Al-Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq."

For the last year, U.S. government officials have been saying that Al-Qaeda personnel are in Iran -- President George W. Bush said it on 10 January 2002 and U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad added details in an 18 January 2002 interview (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 January 2002). Such statements have continued, and they have been met with Iranian denials.

Moreover, an Iranian state radio analyst using the name "Mr. Kheradmand" said on 13 February that the CIA was the main creator of Al-Qaeda and that such accusations reflect the United States' failure to defeat the Iranian revolution. "America knows better than any other state that Iran fundamentally disagrees with Al-Qaeda on the principles of [Islamic] belief and on the principles of struggle [against the enemies]," Kheradmand said.

Regardless of Iran's denials, an anonymous "diplomatic source" has said that Sad Bin Osama bin Laden, the eldest son of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been sighted in Iran, the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 13 February. The anonymous source refused to provide details on the status of bin Laden's son or on his relationship with the Iranian government. Sad bin Laden is believed to have taken on more of a leadership role in Al-Qaeda since many of its top officials have been killed.

According to a 17 February report in "The New York Times," Iran recently cracked down on smuggling operations that bring Al-Qaeda personnel into the country. The most significant part of this crackdown came with the dismantling of a network that snuck individuals across the border between Pakistan and Iran's Sistan va Baluchistan Province.

On the one hand, this alleged crackdown against people smuggling could explain a report that Iranian security forces in Sistan va Baluchistan Province killed seven out of 44 men as they crossed the border illegally, according to Lahore's "Daily Times" on 9 February. Iranian security personnel arrested the 37 survivors. Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has ordered an inquiry into the killing of the border crossers, and he has also instructed the Pakistani Interior and Foreign ministries to send a delegation to Tehran to ensure that there are no recurrences, Islamabad's PTV World reported on 9 February.

On the other hand, the information in "The New York Times" about the supposed crackdown could reflect Iranian officials' efforts to deflect an issue that could worsen already sensitive relations with Pakistan. The Pakistani prime minister was supposed to arrive in Tehran on 15 February for a three-day visit, but the trip was cancelled on very short notice, Islamabad's "The Nation" reported on 15 February. (Bill Samii)

JOURNALIST CRITICAL OF THOUGHT-CRIME JAILINGS. Iranian journalist Emadedin Baqi, who was jailed in May 2000, was released from Evin Prison on 6 February, according to ISNA, and in an 8 February interview with ISNA he criticized the jailing of individuals for their opinions. Baqi urged the judiciary to be more farsighted and said that imprisonment is not an effective way to deal with crime, that those who use imprisonment to solve political problems accomplish the opposite, and that such imprisonments undermine society's credibility. Baqi also said that the methodology of right-wing ideologues has in fact damaged the conservatives' prestige and that they will not be able to get back on their feet in 100 years. Baqi advised rational conservatives to abandon the conservative faction.

Baqi had spent more than two years in prison -- he was sentenced to seven years in prison for "undermining national security" and "putting out false news" after he editorialized about the death penalty and Islam, but the sentence was reduced later. According to Reporters Without Borders on 10 February, when Baqi was released from prison he was informed that he would be summoned on 8 March in connection with his articles that accuse top officials of involvement in the 1998 serial killings of dissidents and intellectuals. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and former Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian-Khuzestani filed complaints against Baqi. (Bill Samii)

MONTAZERI MAY UNDERGO SURGERY. Expediency Council member Mohammad Reza Bahonar announced on 8 February in Qom that Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, whose house arrest ended recently, "must not get involved in politics, but he can continue to lecture and go about his own business," IRNA reported. Bahonar also cast doubt on reports about Montazeri's ill health, which was one of the reasons the ayatollah's supporters gave for ending his confinement (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 January and 3 February 2003).

Montazeri went to Qom's Kamkar hospital late on 4 February because of heart problems, and Montazeri's office sent a fax on 8 February that stated he would not receive visitors for a while because the doctors have told him to rest, ISNA reported. On 11 February, dpa cited a report on the Emruz website (not independently confirmed) that Montazeri was transferred to Tehran for heart surgery that specialists told his family is too complicated for the Qom hospital. (Bill Samii)

IRAN MANUFACTURES AIDS DRUG. Medicine Manufacturers Association secretary Dr. Vaqefi announced on 13 February that generic drugs that hinder the feeding system of the virus that causes AIDS have been developed in Iran and will be distributed soon, state radio reported.

Bahram Yeganeh, an adviser to the Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Ministry, announced on 20 December that some 4,237 Iranians have AIDS and that 65 percent of them contracted the virus that causes AIDS, HIV, through intravenous drug use, while many others contracted HIV through sexual practices, IRNA reported. The Health Ministry issued a directive on 29 December that all public and private medical institutions must accept and provide medication to those who may have HIV and that any refusal to do so would be punishable by law, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

EVEN ROMANCE IS POLITICAL IN IRAN. Eighty-two couples participated in a mass wedding on 13 February in Iran's northern Gulistan Province, ISNA reported. Local dignitaries and families of the happy couples attended the ceremony in Gorgan's soccer stadium. The event was stage by the headquarters responsible for providing young couples with a dowry, which was established in 2001 with the express purpose of organizing mass weddings in order to reduce the financial burden of a wedding on families who otherwise could not afford one.

This event should put to rest concerns that romance is forbidden in Iran, since on 12 February the police in Tehran had ordered shops to remove heart and flower decorations and confiscated symbols of Valentine's Day. The police forced several shops in northern Tehran to close. "For weeks, I've been waiting for Valentine's Day to offer my boyfriend a gift of love and affection," a 19-year-old woman named Atena told AP. "The crackdown only strengthens my position in rejecting the hard-line clerical rule." (Bill Samii)

FURTHER STEPS TAKEN AGAINST AFGHAN OPIUM TRADE. Afghan police on 9 February made a bonfire of 2.5 tons of narcotics -- opium, hashish, and heroin -- in Kabul's Chaman-i Hazori park, Radio Afghanistan reported. An Interior Ministry official said that the narcotics were seized in Kabul's outskirts.

In the South Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, the authorities have suspended the salaries and other benefits of 4,000 members of the Wazir, Suleman, and Detain tribes, Karachi's "Islam" newspaper reported on 7 February. This step was taken because they have not reduced opium-poppy cultivation in the area, and Assistant Police Agent Seyyed Anwar Ali Shah said he hoped people would be more cooperative or the administration would take tough measures.

Speaking on the sidelines of a joint Afghanistan-Iran-Turkmenistan border-guards conference in Mashhad on 9 February, Afghan Consul-General Torialai Ghiasi called for international cooperation in countering narcotics smuggling but said that "some time is needed, and I think we cannot say that we can overcome this problem overnight," Mashhad radio reported. Speaking at the same event, Iskandar Momeni, the police chief in Iran's Khorasan Province, said that with improved security in Afghanistan refugees can be repatriated, opium-poppy crop substitution can go ahead, and frontier security can be improved by reducing drug trafficking, IRNA reported.

Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov of the Russian Federal Border Guard Service said on 11 February that Afghanistan must be sealed off in order to stop the flow of narcotics, Moscow's Agentsvo voennykh novostei reported. ""The creation of such a security belt is long overdue. Unfortunately, there has been much talk but little action on this issue," he said. Moscow and Kabul are working on a draft border-security agreement, and it should be finalized in March. Under the agreement, Afghan personnel would be trained at Russian facilities: 50 junior officers in Tajikistan and 20 other Afghan border guards elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Indian and Iranian officials held talks in Tehran in early February about an accord on cooperation in counternarcotics, Mumbai's "The Times of India" reported on 15 February. Home Secretary N. Gopalaswami led the Indian delegation, and Ali Asghar Ahmadi led the Iranian delegation, and Gopalaswami suggested going beyond narcotics issues to counterterrorism and security. The draft agreement includes cooperation in police training and extradition. (Bill Samii)

AFGHANS GET IRANIAN HANDOUT. Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 7 February met with visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, expressed his gratitude for Iran's contribution to Afghanistan's reconstruction, and called for the provision of assistance to be accelerated, Iranian state radio's domestic service reported. Aminzadeh handed over $1 million in cash, Iranian state radio's external Pashto service reported on 8 February. Aminzadeh also met with Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and invited him to Tehran, Afghanistan television reported on 7 February, and he held other meetings with Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim Khan, and Education Minister and presidential adviser on national security Yunis Qanuni. (Bill Samii)

IRAN LOOKS INTO KUWAITI WATER PROJECT... Deputy Energy Minister Reza Amrollahi said during a 3 February ceremony in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, that a joint commission is looking into the legal, economic, and technical aspects of a Kuwaiti request for the provision of fresh water, IRNA reported. Amrollahi said that the water would come from the Karkheh and Karun rivers in southern Iran, "which are currently unused and flow into the Persian Gulf." Iranian Energy Minister Habibullah Bitaraf and Kuwaiti Minister of Electricity and Water Talal al-Ayyar on 13 January signed an agreement on cooperation in the water sector, IRNA reported.

"Iran Daily" had reported on 12 November 2001 that the project to transfer water to Kuwait is expected to be completed by 2004 and envisions a 330-kilometer pipeline from the Karkheh Dam to the Persian Gulf coast and then a 210-kilometer pipeline along the seabed to Kuwait. The Energy Ministry devised the plan in 1999 and 2000, when oil revenues were down, and the water-export plan has the potential to earn billions of dollars, according to "Iran Daily." The newspaper questioned the wisdom of such a project when residents of southern Iran are faced with a drought. (Bill Samii)

...WHILE ISFAHAN REGION FACES WATER SHORTAGE. Isfahan Province official Mansur Shisheh-Forush said that rains from this and the previous year have not compensated for the drought of previous years in Isfahan, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 20 January. Water behind the Zayandeh Rud Dam is 45 percent lower than normal, he said. According to "Iran Statistical Yearbook, 1380 (March 2001-March 2002)," which is the official publication of the Statistics Center of Iran, inflow at the Zayandeh Rud Dam was 939 million cubic meters, and this water was used for hydroelectric-power generation, agriculture, human consumption, manufacturing, and other purposes. (Bill Samii)

NO MORE POWER FAILURES IN IRAN. Energy Minister Habibullah Bitaraf said during a 15 February visit to the northwestern city of Bonab, East Azerbaijan Province, that a 650-megawatt power plant would go on stream there by 20 March, according to IRNA. Deputy Minister of Energy Reza Amrollahi said during the inauguration of the Tehran Province Water and Wastewater Company's website ( on 10 February that in the year starting 21 March there will not be any more power failures, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

PAINT MANUFACTURERS FACE DIFFICULTIES. Iran Paint Industry Association secretary Ahmad Emdadi said on 9 February that only 70 of 345 paint-production facilities are in good financial and technical shape, IRNA reported. Emdadi said that factors hindering the paint sector include a lack of liquidity and investment, as well as smuggling from neighboring countries. Emdadi said that some of materials used in Iranian paints are banned in the United States and Europe. Moreover, "the exorbitant tax and fees levied on the sector are reasons for squeezing the profit rates to about 5 to 7 percent," he said.

Paint-industry expert Hamid Raqami said on 5 February at the second international seminar on "Paint, Resin, Industrial Coating, and Chemicals" that many Iranian paint factories are on the verge of bankruptcy, IRNA reported. Iran's share of global paint production is negligible, he said, and domestic paint consumption is one-tenth of the global standard. (Bill Samii)