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Iran Report: September 8, 2003

8 September 2003, Volume 6, Number 36

LEGISLATURE DEBATES NPT ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL. The parliament began a closed-door debate on 3 September on the possibility of Iran becoming a signatory to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi attended the session. During the session, Ardabil parliamentary representative Nureddin Pirmoazen cited Article 177 of the constitution and five articles of the legislature's standing orders to the effect that such agreements and accords must be approved by the parliament, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.

Parliamentary presidium spokesman Ahmad Burqani, meanwhile, said that during this session Aqazadeh-Khoi reported on the country's nuclear activities and the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs reported on his ministry's efforts to reassure the international community of "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities," according to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Burqani went on to say: "Both the Foreign Ministry and the [Iranian] Atomic Energy [Organization] are conducting negotiations on the signing of the protocol so that they can give the international community the assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activity, and we have to have a positive attitude toward the issue as long as all the aspects of the NPT are administered."

Pirmoazen said after the session that further discussions in President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's presence are required before reaching a "final conclusion," ISNA reported the same day.

There are indications that Iran already has decided to sign the Additional Protocol. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Muhammad el-Baradei suggested during a 2 September news conference in Berlin that Tehran has already made this decision, RFE/RL reported. "They told me last week that they have taken the decision to conclude the protocol. The protocol is a standard agreement; it has been signed by 80 countries. Once a decision has been taken by a state to conclude the protocol I hope that this should not take a very long time to conclude." El-Baradei added, "I would also hope that Iran, until they sign and ratify the protocol, act as if the protocol is in force, because the more transparency we see in Iran the more confidence we can create that their program is dedicated to peaceful purposes." (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI WILL NOT COMPROMISE ON HIS LEGISLATION. Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said in a 3 September interview with AP that President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami will not compromise with the Guardians Council over two pieces of legislation introduced by his administration one year ago. Abtahi claimed that Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmadi Jannati said the council would approve a bill that would increase presidential powers in exchange for the withdrawal of a bill affecting elections. This latter bill would greatly reduce the Guardians Council's ability to vet candidates for elected office. The Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on Islamic and constitutional grounds, has already rejected these pieces of legislation and sent them back to the parliament for revision. (Bill Samii)

SHAKE-UP IN IRAN'S EDUCATIONAL SECTOR. The first item of business for the Iranian parliament on 2 September was voting to confirm Reza Faraji-Dana as science, research, and technology minister, ILNA reported. Later in the day, IRNA reported that the legislature rejected Faraji-Dana; with 220 parliamentarians voting, there were 86 in favor, 127 against, and seven undecided. Faraji-Dana, who became chancellor of Tehran University last year, met with the parliament's Education and Research Committee on 1 September to answer questions about his proposed program for the ministry, IRNA reported.

President Khatami introduced Faraji-Dana in a 24 August letter to Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karrubi, IRNA reported. The previous minister, Mustafa Moin, submitted his resignation in late July mainly because the Guardians Council had rejected a bill for restructuring his ministry (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 August 2003). The acting minister is Jafar Meili-Monfared, IRNA reported on 23 July.

Some 180 parliamentarians on 31 August sent a letter to Khatami in which they called for an investigation into Moin's resignation, IRNA reported. Their letter noted that Moin tried to change the educational system by proposing legislation that would clarify his ministry's goals and duties, but "certain parties" undermined his efforts to achieve this.

Meanwhile, Education and Training Minister Morteza Haji-Qaem has survived an interpellation effort. On 31 August, 159 out of 236 parliamentarians voted in favor of him keeping his job, while 67 opposed this and 10 were undecided, IRNA reported.

A reported 48 parliamentarians had petitioned the legislature's presiding board to impeach Haji-Qaem, IRNA reported on 20 August. The news agency cited the newspaper "Siyasat-i Ruz" as reporting that the petition stems from the parliamentarians' belief that Haji-Qaem's ministry has failed to implement Article 30 of the Iranian Constitution. The article stipulates that citizens are entitled to "free education through secondary school" and that free higher education is to be expanded, according to IRNA.

As grounds for the impeachment, the petition also cited Haji-Qaem's poor management of the ministry and a drop in the quality of education. Sixty-one parliamentarians signed the initial petition sent to the presiding board on 30 July. However, 13 legislators withdrew their signatures before the board on 19 August officially announced its receipt of the petition. (Bill Samii, Mike Scollon)

HANDFUL OF STUDENTS REMAIN IN DETENTION. During the 2 September parliamentary session on the proposed Science, Research, and Technology Minister, President Khatami said that some of the students detained as a result of the June and July unrest would be released soon, IRNA reported. Their release, Khatami said, would be a gift for the new minister. Khatami also thanked Qazvin parliamentary representative Hojatoleslam Mohammad Hassan Abu-Torabi and Tehran parliamentary representative Mohsen Safai-Farahani for their efforts on behalf of the detained students.

Abu-Torabi, who is a member of the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the cases of those detained as a result of the June and July unrest, said on 27 August that a report on the status of arrested students would be submitted to Khatami soon, IRNA reported. He added that the president had met with members of the committee and expressed his satisfaction with the follow-up to the cases. Abu-Torabi said that five students remain in custody.

Abu-Torabi had said on 19 August that these students are still in detention because the Revolutionary Court is considering their indictments, whereas the released students had no such indictments, IRNA reported. Abu-Torabi also said judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmud Shahrudi has called for the students to be released as quickly as possible, as ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Abu-Torabi, the supreme leader responded favorably to a letter calling for leniency toward students who did no "damage to the life and property of people and were not involved in the unrest." Abu-Torabi said Khamenei believes "the students who have committed offenses should be dealt with by the universities rather than the courts."

One of the students who is still in detention (as of 30 August) is Mehdi Aminzadeh, a member of the Allameh wing of the Office for Strengthening Unity. According to a report in the 30 August "Mardom Salari," the Tehran Prosecutor's Office issued a letter for Aminzadeh's release, but the court said that he would not be released until he answers its questions. Aminzadeh's father said that his son has been in detention at Evin prison for 70 days, but his lawyer has yet to see him and his family has met with him only one time. And on that one occasion the interrogators were present so he could not say anything. The father threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the legislature.

Another student detainee is the Office for Strengthening Unity's Said Razavi-Faqih. His wife said that every time "we" go to the court to meet with him a different excuse is given for why this cannot happen, "Yas-i No" reported on 24 August. She said the court is not providing his lawyer with clear information and the family knows nothing about Razavi-Faqih's mental or physical state.

The relatives of Aminzadeh and Razavi-Faqih protested to the legislature on 1 September, IRNA reported. They lodged a complaint with the Article 90 Committee against the violation of the activists' constitutional rights.

Ali Rahmatinejad, a former member of the student association at Khajeh Nasredin Tusi University, was arrested in mid August but no institution has confirmed that it is holding him, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 24 August. He is involved in a judicial case relating to something he published in the "Faryad" student publication. Abdolfatah Soltani, the attorney for Ruzbeh Shafei of Khajeh Nasredin Tusi University, said in "Aftab-i Yazd" that his client's case was completed a month ago but related materials have not been provided to him. Shafei is being held in Evin. (Bill Samii, Mike Scollon)

IRANIAN VIGILANTES' DEATH SENTENCES OVERTURNED. An Iranian court has overturned the death sentences on six men who reportedly confessed to killing five people in the city of Kerman in an effort to uphold Islamic morality, the "Etemad" daily newspaper reported on 3 September, according to AFP. The killers, aged between 19 and 22, reportedly confessed to killing some of their victims by tying them up and throwing them into swimming pools, while others were stoned to death. (Bill Samii)

INVESTIGATION INTO CANADIAN JOURNALIST'S KILLING CONTINUES. The file on the case of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi has been returned to the Tehran Criminal Court for further investigation, IRNA reported on 1 September. Jafar Reshadati, who heads the criminal division of the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, returned the case and called for further information on 17 parts of the original file, ranging from Kazemi's initial arrest to the final report from the coroner's office. The initial investigation blamed two Ministry of Intelligence and Security interrogators for Kazemi's death in July (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 September 2003).

Kazemi's death and the dragging on of the case is likely to affect Iran-Canada relations. Seyyed Mohammad Ali Musavi, Iran's Ambassador to Canada, said in an interview with ILNA that appeared in the 1 September issue of "Nasim-i Saba" daily that the case of Zahra Kazemi "will definitely have a negative impact on public opinion" in Canada, and in turn this would affect economic and political relations. Musavi noted, "Trade relations cannot change overnight. The economic impact of a particular event will be felt over the medium- and long-term unless governments issue instructions to the contrary in writing."

Musavi added that Ottawa has promised to address the death of Keyvan Tabesh, who was shot in Vancouver in mid-July by the police officer he allegedly was attacking with a machete (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 July 2003). (Bill Samii)

FORMER DIPLOMAT'S ARREST WORSENS TEHRAN-LONDON RELATIONS. Tehran-London relations have been going downhill since the British arrest on 21 August of former Ambassador to Argentina Hadi Suleimanpur on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued in connection with his alleged role in the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded another 265.

Shots fired from a passing motorcycle struck the British Embassy in Tehran on 3 September, news agencies reported. "Six shots were fired at the embassy building," Ambassador Richard Dalton told journalists. "Several of them entered offices on the second floor. It was a serious incident." Dalton said he is in contact with the Iranian authorities and local police are providing additional protection. "It was a serious attack and the embassy will be closed until further notice while the investigation continues," Dalton added. Efforts are under way to determine who is behind the attack. "It is too early to speculate who is responsible or why," Dalton said. "My priority is to ensure that there is a full investigation and that the results are shared with us and of course that the incident is not repeated."

As a result of this incident, the British Foreign Office announced on 4 September that nonessential staff and their families are allowed to leave Tehran, BBC reported on 4 September and Iranian state radio reported the next day. The Foreign Office emphasized, however, that there is no threat to Britons traveling or living in Iran and they are not being advised to leave.

Iranian students protested in front of the British embassy in Tehran on 1 September against the continuing detention of Suleimanpur and against the U.K. role in Iraq, dpa reported.

The British embassy has had a tough time of it this year. A truck loaded with flammable liquids slammed into the embassy in the spring, and the embassy has been the site of numerous demonstrations against the war in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 and 21 April 2003).

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi reassured Suleimanpur in a 2 September telephone conversation that Tehran has taken legal action to secure the former diplomat's release, IRNA reported. In fact, Iranian legal efforts to secure Suleimanpur's freedom have not been very successful so far. The British court on 29 August refused to grant bail, with Judge Christopher Pratt explaining this is because of the seriousness of the charges against Suleimanpur, dpa reported. Suleimanpur's lawyer said during the hearing that Tehran is prepared to "stake its own credibility" by providing 500,000 pounds (about $788,450) bail.

Four-Iranian officials -- Foreign Ministry Legal Affairs Department Deputy Director Mohsen Baharvand, attorney for litigious affairs Hussein Mohammad Nabi, Legal Affairs Department expert Hussein Gharibi, and translator Morteza Tafrashi -- arrived in Buenos Aires on 30 August and on 1 September began discussions relating to the July 1994 AMIA bombing, the "Clarin" daily newspaper reported on 2 September. In their 90-minute meeting at the Foreign Ministry, the Iranians said they intend to examine the case closely and learn in detail the charges against Suleimanpur and other officials for whom Judge Juan Jose Galeano has issued warrants. The visitors were informed that the judge is willing to receive them, but Argentinean law requires that they hire an attorney registered in the city of Buenos Aires in order to get access to the case.

The Iranian delegation and Suleimanpur's British lawyer, Richard Holston, met with Judge Galeano for 75 minutes on 3 September. Galeano urged the Iranian government to cooperate with the investigation and to respond to the diplomatic petitions he sent to it more than three years ago, "La Nacion" reported on 4 September. The Iranians replied that they only received two out of the five petitions sent to Tehran and they had not responded to them. Galeano reiterated that the Iranians could have access to the case file only by selecting a nationally registered attorney. The Iranians told Galeano that they were also victims of terrorism, "La Nacion" reported.

Reports have appeared that place in doubt the efficacy of Iran's diplomatic efforts, furthermore. Iranian Ambassador to Britain Morteza Sarmadi has returned to Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 2 September, according to IRNA. Assefi had to deny, however, that Tehran has recalled 400 of its diplomats as a reaction to Suleimanpur's arrest. And on 7 September, Assefi said that Sarmadi had returned to London, according to IRNA.

An anonymous "informed source" in the Iranian legislature also denied the reported recall of 400 diplomats, ILNA reported on 2 September. "Only a few diplomats who were suspected by an Argentinean court of involvement in the case of Hadi Suleimanpur have returned to Iran," the source said. An anonymous "informed source at the Foreign Ministry" said on 2 September that the ministry has prevented two of its officials from traveling to the United Kingdom, ILNA reported. The source explained, "The Foreign Ministry, in view of the possible dangers and threats to Iranian diplomats abroad, has prevented these two people from traveling to London." Alireza Nurizadeh reported in the 1 September "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that a directive from Iran's Supreme National Security Council has banned foreign travel by 40 senior officials and military commanders, "Middle East Newsline" reported. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATOR WARNS OF FACTIONAL EFFORT TO RUIN IRAN-U.K. RELATIONS. Mahmud Akhavan-Bazardeh, a member of parliament from Gilan Province who serves on the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, said on 3 September that the country's senior officials should not let political factionalism affect foreign relations, ILNA reported. Akhavan-Bazardeh said that because they can act unchecked the factions are interfering with the conduct of foreign affairs and this, in turn, causes problems for Iran. He said factional elements are responsible for the shooting at the British Embassy. "Their aim is to destroy relations between Iran and Britain," he said.

As if to prove this point, an unattributed commentary in the 4 September issue of the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" said: "Now we can inflict a heavy kick in Britain's teeth by taking a proper and rational decision, that is, by closing the British Embassy in Tehran. Such a measure will make Tony Blair and his lying accomplices understand -- before leaving 10 Downing Street in disgrace -- that they did not deserve the goodwill of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Great Britain is hostile to Iran because, "It was our system which ended the British interference in Iran's internal affairs."

"Jomhuri-yi Islami" commented that British hostility to Iran is demonstrated through its influence on the EU's emphasis on Iran's signing the additional protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and in its "cooperation with a Zionist scheme to accuse Iran of involvement in the bombing of a Zionist center in Argentina." The newspaper said that former ambassador Suleimanpur was tried in "a Kangaroo court," and in fact the anti-Iranian Mujahedin Khalq Organization was in charge of the proceedings in "the disgraceful mock trial." (Bill Samii)

JORDANIAN KING VISITS IRAN. King Abdullah II of Jordan arrived in Tehran on 2 September and left the next day. He met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami (twice), and other officials, IRNA reported on 3 September.

Khamenei welcomed the improvement of relations between Iran and Jordan, IRNA reported. Events in Iraq and Palestine reportedly were a major topic of discussion, with Khamenei telling King Abdullah, "The occupiers should leave Iraq in the earliest time and opportunity should be given to the Iraqi people to administer the affairs of their own country in a proper way." Regarding Palestine, he said, "The Americans have always supported the Zionist regime over the past 50 years, therefore in regards to the Palestinian issue, the United States is opposing Muslims and cannot be a mediator."

Also present at one of the meetings with Khatami were Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi, and Minister of Industries and Mines Ishaq Jahangiri, ISNA reported on 2 September. During this meeting, Khatami expressed Iran's readiness to invest in Jordan's dam building, gas, irrigation, and petrochemical sectors. King Abdullah said that his country wants to increase contacts in all areas. The two sides also discussed events in Iraq and in Palestine.

King Abdullah visited a defense-industry exhibition on the morning of 3 September, state radio reported. He was briefed by Shamkhani and afterwards registered in the guest book his "amazement" with the achievements of Iran's defense industries.

Tehran media gave the visit a mixed reception. A 2 September commentary in the reformist "Etemad" daily noted, "After two decades of harshness in the relations between Iran and Jordan, the visit by King Abdullah II to Tehran is most auspicious." This marks a turning point in the two countries' turbulent relations and it is based on "a bedrock of diplomatic pragmatism."

Less enthusiastic was the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" daily. On 30 August it criticized the Iranian Foreign Ministry's elaborate arrangements for receiving King Abdullah. The newspaper said that Jordan has been hostile to Iran since the revolution -- Amman backed the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, it cooperated with Saddam Hussein against Iran, it "always cooperated with the Zionist regime," and it "acts like an American pawn." If anything, according to "Jomhuri-yi Islami," "this black record would justify a reconsideration of diplomatic ties." The leader of such a government should make concessions to be accepted as Iran's guest, the daily said, concessions should not be given to him. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN REPORTEDLY REFUSES TO EXTRADITE JORDANIAN AL-QAEDA MEMBER. Tehran has refused to extradite a Jordanian member of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, Abu-Musab Zarqawi (a.k.a. Ahmad Fadil Nazzal al-Khalayilah), "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 2 September. An anonymous Jordanian "informed source" said that the Iranian officials refused to extradite him because Zarqawi holds a forged Syrian passport. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN DENIES TERRORISTS ENTERING IRAQ FROM IRAN. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 6 September denied that terrorists have entered Iraq by crossing the Iranian border, state television reported. Assefi added, "American statesmen are always looking for pretexts and excuses to blame others."

Presumably he was responding to a statement by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was cited in "The New York Times" of 5 September as saying that neither Iran nor Syria have done enough to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. "We are unhappy about the fact that people come across the Syrian and Iranian border," Rumsfeld told reporters. "They know we are unhappy about it." Rumsfeld described Iranian and Syrian efforts to stop cross-border infiltrators as "intermittent, uneven." Moreover, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told Al-Jazeera satellite television on 22 August that captured foreign fighters had entered Iraq from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, "The Washington Post" reported on 24 August. "I'm not in any position to state that the governments of Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia are in any way responsible," Armitage said. "But at a minimum I can state that these fighters are not being stopped at the borders, and this is something that causes us a great deal of concern."

A detailed report in the 7 September issue of "The Washington Post" also contained a great deal of information about the transiting through and presence in Iran of Al Qaeda personnel, including Abu-Musab Zarqawi (mentioned above). Citing American, Arab, and European intelligence sources, the report described a February 2002 meeting at a safe house in eastern Iran between Zarqawi and Al Qaeda military leader Saif al-Adel in which they planned their future activities in Iraq. The Iranian authorities reportedly placed Zarqawi under house arrest after the meeting, but Tehran rebuffed repeated Jordanian requests for his extradition. Tehran eventually released him and he made his way to Iraq. (Bill Samii)

IRAQ AND A BODY BAG FOR UNDER $50. Police in Iran's western Ilam Province found the remains of six Iranians near the border with Iraq on 2 September. The six had died of heat stroke and dehydration, according to IRNA, and some 205 people have suffered a similar fate in recent months. One day earlier, border guards in southwestern Khuzestan Province arrested 30 Iranians who were trying to cross the river that marks the border with Iraq, IRNA reported.

The victims and the detainees in these cases reportedly were trying to make pilgrimages to Al-Najaf and Karbala, where Shi'a Islam's most revered imams are buried. Pilgrimage to these shrines was impossible during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War and restrictions continued even after the war. Iran closed the border with Iraq in February 2003 due to safety concerns relating to the pending war.

There have been vague signals on the status of the border since that time. Qasr-i Shirin's governor, Khosh-Eqbali, told ISNA on 3 September that restrictions on border crossings that were in place at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council have been lifted. Baghdad had requested these restrictions to prevent the influx of people expected for the funeral of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, according to a 31 August report on Al-Jazeera television. (The restrictions were ineffective, with IRNA reporting on 4 September that 20,000 Iranians participated in the funeral procession.) Khosh-Eqbali added, however, that Iraqi pilgrims could enter Iran on the basis of pre-existing regulations whereas Iranian citizens could only enter Iraq with an official permit.

Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Musavi-Lari said on 29 August that the border crossings at Mehran in Ilam Province, Khosravi in Kermanshah Province, and Shalamcheh in Khuzestan Province, would be opened soon so the pilgrimages could resume, state radio reported. Musavi-Lari added on 3 September, ISNA reported, that "A number of our compatriots have left Iran illegally because they love the Imams, but unfortunately because there is no lawful government in Iraq and there is insecurity in the country's western borders, many of them have been killed and others have faced problems inside Iraq. We have repeatedly said that such movements are wrong." The interior minister said that studies are under way to facilitate organized and legal visits to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials have stressed that people should not make the pilgrimage yet. The charge d'affaires in Baghdad, Alireza Haqiqian, said that the illegal pilgrimages are dangerous and said, "My request to those interested in paying a pilgrimage to the grand shrines is therefore to strictly avoid illegal visits and to let us have time to clarify an official and appropriate solution," the official "Iran" newspaper reported on 21 August.

The Iranian army's ground forces commander, Brigadier-General Nasser Mohammadifar, said in a 7 August officers' graduation ceremony speech that people should not make the trip until it is legalized, state television reported on 7 August. He stressed that it is the army's duty to control the borders.

Even senior Iranian clerics have been enlisted in the effort to discourage border-crossers. "We order people not to go," Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi told ISNA in an interview that was published in the 21 August "Resalat." "If the route is dangerous, the pilgrimage should be abandoned," he said. "Pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Hussein has been a matter of choice, but the order to abandon it is a matter of certainty."

Yet devoted Iranian Shi'a are not willing to wait for permission and some of them try to make the trip with unqualified guides. Fishermen on the Shatt al-Arab waterway (the Arvand Rud) are smuggling the pilgrims across for $25, according to the Baztab website on 20 August.

One pilgrim said in a 23 August interview with Iranian state television that his guide charged 300,000-400,000 rials (about $37.50-$50.00) for a one-way trip. "He didn't know how to do a round trip; he knew only how to go there," he said about the guide. The dangers faced by the pilgrims are considerable. Mr. Barani, the Ilam Province Justice Department's director-general, said that casualties include people who fell from mountain passes, stepped on mines left from the Iran-Iraq War, suffered heat stroke, died in auto accidents, succumbed to food poisoning, and were killed by Iraqi bandits.

Akbar Mohammadi, a pilgrim who was wounded in a minefield, said, "The guides that had charged the pilgrims an amount of money, fearing to be caught by the border guards, left our caravan halfway through, and that was the reason why we stepped in the minefield in Sarkhar region," IRNA reported on 19 August. Mohammadi continued, "the pilgrims who did not know the way insisted on proceeding towards Karbala and that was how we lost some of our friends." (Bill Samii)

ITALY WORKING ON $69 MILLION IRANIAN PIPELINE PROJECT. Assadollah Salehfiruz, the managing director of the South Pars oil and gas field, told IRNA on 3 September that Iran and Italy have started a joint project to lay 210 kilometers of pipeline 70 meters under the Persian Gulf for transferring gas from phases 4 and 5 of the South Pars gas field to the Asaluyeh refinery, IRNA reported. The offshore sections of South Pars include two platforms, each of which has 12 wells exploiting reserves at a depth of 3 1/2 kilometers. Salehfiruz said a total of 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas would be extracted by these platforms once they become operational in the spring, and this will include liquid natural gas (LNG), ethane, and sulfur. Salehfiruz said the project is expected to cost some $69.5 million.

In a possibly related matter, a French firm's purchase of equipment for alleged use in the Asaluyeh refinery is being investigated by the United States, "The Washington Times" reported on 5 September. The French firm, Technip-Coflexip, purchased what are described as "cryogenic fluid transfer pumps," and Treasury and Commerce Department officials fear these could be used in nuclear reactors' cooling systems. The officials also acknowledge that the pumps could be used to transfer LNG to ship containers. (Bill Samii)