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Iran Report: September 22, 2003

22 September 2003, Volume 6, Number 38

IRAN'S AL-QAEDA PROBLEM WON'T GO AWAY. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter told a 17 September hearing of a joint U.S.-Israeli legislative panel that the United States believes Al Qaeda leaders have been given safe haven in Iran, according to a Bloomberg News dispatch cited by the "Salt Lake Tribune." "We believe that some elements within the Iranian regime have helped Al-Qaeda terrorists transit or find safe haven inside Iran," DeSutter said.

Tehran has been less than forthcoming on this issue, beyond its eventual admission after frequent denials that some Al-Qaeda members are in Iran. It has since claimed to have imprisoned some of them and extradited others, while simultaneously hinting that it would like to trade Al-Qaeda members for Mujahedin Khalq Organization terrorists.

This issue concerns not only the United States but Iran's more immediate neighbors as well.

In Jordan, the General Intelligence Department (GID) identified a 15-member terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam that included 13 Jordanians living in Iran, Amman's "Al-Ray" newspaper reported on 13 September. According to the GID, this group did its planning in Kabul, Tehran, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Norway (where Ansar al-Islam's Mullah Krekar lives). Abu-Musab Zarqawi, whose extradition from Iran Amman reportedly is seeking, provided the funding for this network.

Colonel Fawwaz al-Baqur, chief of the Jordanian State Security Court, has given the defendants 10 days to turn themselves in to be tried for conspiring to conduct terrorism, "Al-Ray" reported on 16 September. Public security personnel have been ordered to arrest these individuals.

Jordan's King Abdullah refused to say if he discussed the Al-Qaeda issue with Iranian officials during his early September trip to Tehran, in an interview that appeared in "The Washington Post" on 18 September.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud met with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, during the latter's visit to Saudi Arabia on 16-17 September. The foreign ministers discussed the possibility of extraditing Saudi Al-Qaeda suspects from Tehran to Riyadh, London's "Al-Hayah" reported on 17 September. Kharrazi, on the other hand, said on his return to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport that Iraq, Palestine, the Persian Gulf, bilateral trade, and the upcoming Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting were among the issues he discussed with his hosts, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Kharrazi also conveyed a letter from President Mohammad Khatami to Deputy Premier and National Guard Commander Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al-Saud, the SPA news agency reported on 16 September.

Iran extradited a number of Al-Qaeda associates to Saudi Arabia in 2002, but more recently Saudi sources said that these were nearly all women and children with no terrorist ties (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 September 2003). This absence of serious cooperation has displeased and frustrated Riyadh.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz, said in an interview that appeared in the 20 September "San Francisco Chronicle" that his government suspects that there could be up to 400 Al-Qaeda members in Iran, but the hardliners in the government do not want to extradite them. "But those people [Al-Qaeda] are there [in Iran], and somebody must be helping them. The question is who? And this is the problem with Iran. The people who we can deal with can't deliver, they can't lead eight ducks across the street." Prince Bandar went on, "And the guys who can deliver, they're not interested." (Bill Samii)

SUPREME LEADER LAUDS ENRICHMENT OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a 17 September speech to young Iranians in Tehran that the effort of Iran's enemies to discourage and falsely depict the aspirations of Iranian youth will fail, state radio and state television reported. Khamenei said that Iran is rich in terms of natural and human resources, and that the spirit of self-sufficiency that was evident during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War continues to be strong.

Most of the people working in the scientific field, according to Khamenei, were active during the wartime era and they continue to work with the same spirit and motives. "Today, one example of their amazing work is the enrichment of nuclear material. This is the most secret component of world knowledge and technology. The world powers have exclusively claimed this to be theirs, yet our young people, relying on their talent, knowledge, and skills, have achieved this great task." Khamenei said that the international outcry over Iran's nuclear pursuits is a "reaction against your talents, abilities, and achievements." (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN CONTEMPLATES IAEA RESOLUTION. Tehran's official stance on the 12 September International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolution on Iran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 September 2003) is that it will continue to meet its international obligations. This publicly stated policy seems to rule out the possibility of Iranian withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The resolution itself, however, is being roundly criticized by a variety of Iranian observers.

Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi said during the 47th regular session of the General Conference of the IAEA on 15 September in Vienna that Iran will continue its cooperation within the framework of the NPT, IRNA reported. Turning to the resolution, Aqazadeh-Khoi said, "We have serious problems with this resolution. From its inconsistency with the NPT to its deadline for cooperation and its venomous language," which he said are "all problematic." He described this as a "preliminary view" and said an official response would be forthcoming "in a few days."

Aqazadeh criticized the way in which the resolution was secured. "This is unilateralism at its worst, that is to say, extreme unilateralism posed under a multilateralist cloak," he said. "We believe there is more to this resolution that meets the eye.... There is an agenda behind it that is conceived in escalating tension and chaos to divert attention from serious issues that deal with partial politics in the United States." He also wondered who has provided Israel with nuclear weapons and reiterated Iranian commitment to a region free of nuclear weapons.

Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad-Ali Abtahi on 17 September reiterated that Iranian cooperation with the IAEA would continue, IRNA reported on 17 September. He, too, regretted the IAEA resolution on Iran.

Iran's representative at the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on 18 September, according to state television, that Iran would announce its official stance "in the next few days." He added, "The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to cooperate with the IAEA concerning the [NPT] Additional Protocol. But, in so far as the resolution is concerned, it will not accept what it considers as contrary to its views."

Scholar Farideh Farhi noted in a 2001 Nixon Center study that the secrecy surrounding Iranian nuclear activities has kept the debate ill-informed and inexpert. Shahram Chubin and Robert S. Litwak add, in the Autumn 2003 "The Washington Quarterly," that what Iran needs is a real debate on the issue. Secrecy and the absence of open and detailed discussion permits hardliners to portray the situation as an American effort to keep Iran backward and dependent. Moreover, Chubin and Litwak write, the regime cultivates and plays on the sense of victimization so popular with Shi'a Muslims.

The trends noted in both articles are evident in Iranian officials' comments about the IAEA resolution. They usually do not address the specifics of the resolution or of nuclear activities. Rather, they put the issue in nationalistic and religious terms.

Expediency Council chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in a 16 September speech to seminarians in Mashhad that what he alleges is a U.S. campaign against Iranian nuclear activities is nothing less than a war on Islam, IRNA reported. The U.S. does not want the Islamic world to be equipped with modern and sophisticated scientific and technological knowledge, he said, and the U.S. would not oppose Iranian nuclear activities if Iran was not an Islamic state. Rafsanjani said that Iran should acquire nuclear technology to keep current with the rest of the world, praising the work of Iranian scientists. He also called on Iranian political parties to maintain unity.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting director Ali Larijani defended his country's nuclear pursuits in a 17 September speech at the two-day International Conference for Arab and Islamic Media in Support of the Palestinian People that was being held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Beirut, the official Radio Lebanon reported. He said that Iran obtained nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but an unspecified "they" do not want regional states, "particularly the Islamic countries," to make more progress in their nuclear pursuits. Nevertheless, he said, "We publicly announce today that we will not abandon our right to obtain nuclear technology, and that, pursuant to the Prophet's saying, we believe that defending the Palestinian people is an Islamic and human duty." Larijani added, "We will not be scared of the childish threats by the American president to launch a crusade."

Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah also gave a speech at the Beirut media conference, Al-Manar television reported on 17 September. Nasrallah defended Iran's nuclear pursuits in terms similar to those of Larijani, contrasting "their" treatment of Israel with "their" treatment of Iran. "Iran seeks to obtain nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but preparations are made to besiege it internationally. This may reach the point of declaring war on it. This happens while Israel, which possesses lethal nuclear weapons, is protected and is given easy loans and annual aid on all levels."

"No noble Iranian can accept the tone and content of such a resolution," the pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party said in a 16 September statement. The statement went on to say that Iran and the rest of the world have the right to peacefully use nuclear science and technology. It expressed ardent opposition to weapons of mass destruction proliferation, said that nuclear weapons have no place in Iranian military doctrine, and added that Iran sees "political deterrence" as the most effective means of dealing with foreign threats. The statement said that Iran advocates a nuclear free Middle East and it encouraged all countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Turning to domestic politics, the statement said that the best way to deter foreign threats is to meet public demands and strengthen national unity.

The Qom Seminary in a 17 September statement referred to the IAEA resolution as "irresponsible" and politically motivated, IRNA reported.

Grand Ayatollah Nuri-Hamedani said in the 15 September issue of "Resalat," "We regard such pressures as a conspiracy by America in order to impose humiliation on the Iranian nation once again." The cleric accused the U.S. and Israel of trying to deprive Iran of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts' Presiding Board, said in the 14 September "Resalat," "our enemies are always seeking to find an excuse and pretext against us, and I believe that accepting this Additional Protocol is a kind of humiliation and degradation for our country." According to Khatami, the Additional Protocol is a "letter of surrender."

Assembly of Experts member and former Intelligence and Security Minister Ali-Akbar Fallahian-Khuzestani said in the 13 September "Resalat" that Iran has already signed the NPT and has cooperated with IAEA inspectors. He said that Iran has withstood U.S. pressure so far and it will continue to do so. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI ENCOURAGES ELECTION PARTICIPATION. An Interior Ministry communique announced on 14 September that the ministry and the Guardians Council have set 20 February 2004 as the date for Iran's next parliamentary election, IRNA reported. Candidates can register from 13-20 December, according to the 14 September dispatch, but according to a 13 September IRNA dispatch registration will take place on 12-19 January.

President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 16 September speech in Sepidan, Fars Province, that the state must get ready for the upcoming election and make preparations for massive public participation, state radio reported. "The people's presence in the arena will be an important source of support for the state and even for military forces," Khatami said. "That is because if the people are in the arena, military forces, which enjoy popular support, will smack all aggressors in the mouth."

State radio indirectly supported the Guardians Council's controversial role in the vetting of candidates by reporting that Khatami stressed the importance of supervising elections and its contribution to the choice of candidates. According to an IRNA dispatch, however, Khatami stressed the need for supervising elections, but that such supervision does not imply an absence of choice. According to IRNA, Khatami said people should exercise free will in selecting their parliamentary representatives.

An unattributed commentary in the 9 September "Yas-i No" addressed the significance of voter participation. It noted that the public's massive participation in the May 1997 presidential election "rendered all predictions futile and changed the fate of the election." People's refusal to vote in the February 2003 municipal council elections was just as significant, according to the commentary, because it showed that the people are unwilling to give up on their earlier demands.

The "Yas-i No" commentary asked, "Has the people's message been understood correctly during recent years?" Probably not, it said, otherwise people would have voted in the most recent elections. (Bill Samii)

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER GUARDIANS COUNCIL PROVINCIAL OFFICES. The Administrative Justice Organization on 14 September annulled an Interior Ministry circular stating that the Guardians Council's provincial supervisory offices are illegal, Fars News Agency reported. The head of the Administrative Justice Organization, Hojatoleslam Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, presided over the session that was also attended by representatives of the Guardians Council, the Interior Ministry, and the Management and Planning Organization.

Creation of the provincial supervisory offices represents the Guardians Council's effort to extend its control over the election process and is opposed by the executive branch and reformist legislators (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 August 2003).

Deputy Interior Minister Morteza Moballegh, who on 16 September was appointed to head up the headquarters for the upcoming parliamentary election, said that simply annulling the circular will not make the problem of the supervisory offices go away, "Iran" reported on 16 September. He denounced the complaint lodged by the Guardians Council with the Administrative Justice Organization as resembling a "political-propaganda show."

Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said on 17 September that he still views the provincial supervisory offices as illegal, "Iran Daily" reported the next day. He said that his ministry would not cooperate with these offices. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATORS, GUARDIANS MEET ON 'TWIN BILLS.' The fate of the "twin bills" -- two pieces of legislation introduced by the executive branch last September that would reduce the Guardians Council's ability to eliminate candidates for elected office and would increase the president's powers vis-a-vis other branches of government -- remains shrouded in mystery. The Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on constitutional and religious grounds, has already rejected the bills several times. Some legislators say the bills will never win approval; other legislators are trying to resolve their differences with the Guardians Council, while still others are calling for a popular referendum.

Boin-Zahra parliamentary representative Qodratollah Alikhani, who is a member of the conservative Tehran Militant Clergy Association, said that the "twin bills" will never become law, "Resalat" reported on 16 September. Alikhani dismissed reports that the conservative political faction is willing to compromise: "[the conservative faction] will never be prepared to accept and approve the twin bills." Alikhani explained: "The twin bills question is not a small matter that can be resolved through negotiation and talks, since the principal leaders and decision makers have already repeatedly tried to hold talks without achieving any result. Hence, the issue of a compromise over the bills and the possibility of their approval is completely ruled out." Nevertheless, he predicted, there would be enthusiastic public participation in the upcoming parliamentary election.

A more optimistic point of view about the legislation was expressed by Tehran parliamentary representative Hojatoleslam Majid Ansari, in an interview with ISNA that appeared in the 14 September "Entekhab." He hoped that the "common wisdom" of the parliament and Guardians Council would prevail and they could find a way out of this legislative deadlock. Ansari added, "Last week several of our cleric friends in the parliament had a very good and long meeting with [Guardian Council Secretary] Ayatollah [Ahmad] Jannati."

Other sources also reported on that meeting. Parliamentarian Assadollah Kian-Ersi, who represents a constituency in Isfahan Province, said clerical members of the legislature met with the Guardians Council on 9 September to discuss the upcoming parliamentary election, "Siyasat-i Ruz" daily newspaper reported on 15 September. Both sides agreed on the need for extensive public participation in the election, with Kian-Ersi saying, "One should try to win the trust of the people in order to increase their motivation for extensive participation in the elections." He added that the two sides discussed the impact of foreign affairs and domestic problems on the public. Both sides also agreed, according to the daily, that "the best way to maintain and strengthen the pillars of the system is to act according to the guidelines of Imam Khomeini -- may he rest in peace -- and to keep in mind the values and aspirations of the Islamic revolution."

Discussing the same meeting, Behshahr parliamentary representative Ali-Asqar Rahmani-Khalili also said that the two sides addressed the need for high participation in the election, "Resalat" reported on 14 September. He described such meetings as a useful way of exchanging ideas in a friendly atmosphere and for building consensus.

Meanwhile, Isfahan parliamentary representative Ahmad Shirzad appears to have given up on the legislative process. In an interview with ILNA that appeared in "Aftab-i Yazd" on 13 September, he said that it is time for President Khatami to call for a referendum. Shirzad said that 194 members of parliament must vote in favor of a referendum and it will be difficult to garner such support. Khatami's backing for a referendum could muster the needed level of support, Shirzad said. (Bill Samii)

WHY DOES EVERYBODY CONFESS IN OPEN TRIALS? Tehran Deputy Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Saberi-Zafarqandi told reporters after the 15 September court hearing of people accused of participating in Tehran's June unrest that the national-religious (melli-mazhabi) group was behind the events, IRNA reported. Mehdi Aminizadeh, Mikail Azimi, Ali Asghar Rahmani-Nejad, Mohammad Rezai, Ali Asghar Sadeqi, and Behruz Tayarani are accused of "acting against national security" and "aiming to disturb the public peace." Furthermore, according to the prosecutor, the six are accused of establishing a nongovernmental organization (NGO) as a cover for the illegal activities of the national-religious activists and of having contacts with the national-religious activists who guided the disturbances via the NGO.

Saberi-Zafarqandi said the accused have confessed and requested clemency, and the prosecutor has requested reduced sentences for them because they cooperated during their interrogations and expressed contrition.

Tayarani was released on 16 September after putting up bail of 1 billion rials ($124,303), "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 17 September. Sadeqi, Azimi, and Rezai were released after paying 200 million rials bail. Aminzadeh and Rahmani-Nejad also were released on bail on 16 September.

The defendants in this case gave televised interviews before being released, according to an editorial in the 18 September "Aftab-i Yazd," and they reportedly received an open trial. Why is it, the editorial asked, "people who have been tried in public and given television interviews have usually accepted the charges brought against them and expressed remorse?" Some observers have wondered if people detained on similar charges, who do not accept the charges against them, are not receiving open trials?

The "Yas-i No" editorial also noted that, in court and on television, the students identified people who have been detained for more than three months and whose attorneys have not been allowed to see them. Is it legal, "Yas-i No" asked, to broadcast the unproven accusations of the students against these people? If these accusations are made public, the editorial suggested, the trial of the accused should be public, too. (Bill Samii)

SUPPORTERS OF POLITICAL PRISONERS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. A number of Iranian political activists released a statement on 14 September announcing that the next day they would stage a hunger strike in support of Abbas Abdi -- who had just declared that he would do the same thing -- and in support of the country's other political prisoners, "Yas-i No" reported on 14 September. Among the signatories of that statement were parliamentarians such as Mohsen Armin, Jalal Jalalizadeh, Elahe Kulyai, and Hussein Loqmanian, as well as journalists such as Hamid Reza Jalaipur and Mashallah Shamsolvaezin.

Relatives and supporters of the political prisoners on 15 September staged their hunger strike and held a meeting at the central office of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party (IIPP), ISNA reported on 16 September. In addition to the families of Abbas Abdi, Hashem Aghajari, Said Razavi-Faqih, and Mohsen Sazgara, ISNA said that senior figures in the IIPP and the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization were also present at the meeting.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament and IIPP Secretary-General Mohammad Reza Khatami expressed concern about the prisoners' health and the situation in the country's prisons, according to ISNA, and suggested that the murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in custody was indicative of this situation. Reformist cleric Mohsen Kadivar called for the unconditional release of the prisoners and described the meeting as a protest against the judiciary's method of operating. National-religious activist Ezatollah Sahabi described fasting as a symbolic way of giving hope to the prisoners.

Sazgara's mother, Aqdas Anisi-Tehrani, had written to the legislature's Article 90 Committee about the problems her son has encountered, "Mardom Salari" reported on 13 September. She explained that bail was set for Sazgara and the family paid the required sum, but he was not released when they appeared at Evin prison at the time set by the court. The family learned 48 hours later that a new detention order has been issued for Sazgara. Tehrani wrote that Sazgara has been in prison for 85 days, has been in solitary confinement, has not received leave to visit his sick 93-year-old father, and has not been allowed to meet with his attorney.

Razavi-Faqih's wife, Mojgan Mudariss-Ulum, also decried the treatment of her husband, "Mardom Salari" reported on 13 September. She said that she and her children briefly spoke with Razavi-Faqih on 9 September, and he told them he was in solitary confinement. His attorney was told on 7 September that the preliminary investigation into the case is continuing, she said, although he was arrested two months ago.

A commentary in the 15 September "Yas-i No" made an unfavorable comparison between the treatment of prisoners in Iran with those in the U.K. Nargis Mohammadi, the wife of imprisoned national-religious activist Taqi Rahmani, said that her husband is still in solitary confinement. He is forced to perform his bodily functions in his cell, she said, and he has difficulty performing prayers. When complaints were made about similar prison conditions in the U.K. of former Iranian diplomat Hadi Suleimanpur, "Yas-i No" noted, British officials promptly remedied the situation. (Bill Samii)

DISSIDENT CLERIC CRITICIZES REGIME. Placed under house arrest in 1997 after criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi regained his freedom on 30 January and has recently resumed teaching (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 February 2003). He has not modified his confrontational approach. Montazeri criticized the government in a 17 September speech to about 300 students in Qom, AP reported. Montazeri told his audience that most Iranians are unhappy with the country's ruling establishment and he called for a popular vote on the matter. "The majority of our population is now dissatisfied with the ruling establishment. The matter should be put to popular vote." After the speech, Montazeri told AP that the path to reform is through public choice of the leadership. "If people are not satisfied," he said, "the establishment is not legitimate." Montazeri also called for greater freedom for writers and intellectuals.

According to the Iranian Labor News Agency on 19 September, furthermore, Montazeri told students about ways in which the seminaries could maintain their independence from the state -- public financial support for the seminaries and the teaching and practice of ethics at these institutions. In an interview with a foreign newspaper that was described by BBC analyst Sadeq Saba on 21 September (, Montazeri criticized the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and called for a resumption of relations with the U.S. Montazeri also criticized President Khatami for failing to fulfill his promises and for disappointing the Iranian people. (Bill Samii)

JAPAN BARRED FROM AZADEGAN BIDDING. Japan's Daily Yomiuri Online website ( reported on 19 September that Iran has invited European and Chinese firms to participate in development of the Azadegan oilfield and has "unofficially notified Tokyo that it will not be invited to take part in the bidding." The Japanese consortium that had acquired preferential bidding rights effectively pulled out of the deal in July due to Tokyo's concern over Iranian nuclear pursuits (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7, 14, and 21 July, 4 and 11 August, 1 September 2003). According to the Japanese daily's anonymous sources, separate talks with the Japanese side will continue but it will be excluded from the bidding. Among the other companies are France's Total, China's Sinopec, and Royal Dutch/Shell. (Bill Samii)

NORWAY'S STATOIL LINKED TO CORRUPTION IN IRAN. The board of directors of the Norwegian oil company Statoil on 16 September voted to retain chief executive Olav Fjell, despite allegations that the firm paid bribes to an Iranian consulting company with direct links to the son of former Iranian President and current Expediency Council chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

The relationship between Statoil and the consulting company, Horton Investments, was brought into the open by the Norwegian Business daily "Dagens Naeringsliv," according to its sister publication, "Upstream Online" (

Statoil had signed a 10-year, $15 million contract with Horton, which is incorporated in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Allegedly owned by an Iranian living in London named Abbas Yazdi, Horton is reportedly associated with Mehdi Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the former president's son. Fjell admitted knowing about the contract with Horton and about the involvement of the younger Rafsanjani. Fjell also confirmed Rafsanjani's key role in the provision of services.

Mehdi Hashemi-Rafsanjani is the managing director of the Organization for Optimization of Energy Consumption, which is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company. A statement from the organization rejected any connections between its managing director and Horton Investments, "Iran Daily" reported on 15 September.

Nasir Shirkhani writes in "Upstream" that the possibility of involvement in shady business deals in Iran is ever-present. However, he warns, "Companies that do try to buy their way into Iran's upstream sector run the risk of being caught out as competing power centers watch out for corrupt practices by their rivals."

Also writing in "Upstream," Vahe Petrossian notes that corruption effectively disappeared in the first few years after the 1979 revolution, but then it mushroomed because of war-induced economic pressures, reduction in ideological commitment, and failure of leaders to set standards. Petrossian goes on to note that there have been widespread allegations of "mafias" that exploit family, political, and other connections for financial gain. Indeed, Petrossian writes, there are suspicions that right-wing opposition to the Khatami government is based on a fear of governmental promises of greater transparency and accountability.

The case is likely to have a greater impact in Norway than in Iran. The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime raided Statoil's headquarters near Stavanger on 11 September and charged the company with illegally influencing foreign government officials. The investigation continues. However, even though Statoil chief Fjell still has the company's support, chairman Leif Terje Loeddesoel has been criticized for failing to inform the board immediately about the deal with Horton Investments, "Aftenposten" reported on 16 September. (Bill Samii)