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Iran Report: June 24, 2002

24 June 2002, Volume 5, Number 23

AFGHANISTAN'S NEW GOVERNMENT: INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS. The new Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, introduced on 19 and 22 June a cabinet that apparently aims to be more accommodating to ethnic groups that felt sidelined by the interim administration. There is some controversy about the new ministers -- the insiders -- and also about individuals who do not have a formal role in the government -- the outsiders. Nevertheless, Karzai has vowed to quit if he fails to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.

Ethnicity has been a thorny issue since the Tajik-Uzbek-Hazara Northern Alliance (United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) captured Kabul from the predominantly Pashtun Taliban. Karzai is a Pashtun, and his new vice presidents are Mohammad Qasim Fahim (Tajik), Karim Khalili (Hazara), and Haji Abdul Qadir (Pashtun). Karzai said he might appoint two or three more vice presidents. The cabinet contains a few changes from that of the interim administration, and it probably will be smaller in size. (Names in parentheses are interim administration ministers.)

Agriculture: Seyyed Hussein Anwari, Shia Hazara

Air Transport and Tourism: Mir Wais Saddiq, Tajik (Abdul Rahman)

Border Affairs: Arif Nurzai, Pashtun (Amanullah Zadran)

Commerce: Seyyed Mustafa Kazemi, Shia

Communication: Masum Stanakzai, Pashtun (Abdul Rahim)

Defense: Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Tajik

Education: Yunis Qanuni, Tajik (Qolam Ylagi)

Finance: Ashraf Ghani, Pashtun (Hedayat Amin Arsala)

Foreign Affairs: Abdullah, Tajik

Hajj and Waqf: Mohammad Amin Naziryar, Pashtun (Hanif Balkhi)

Health: Soheila Siddiqi, Pashtun

Higher Education: Sharif Fayz, Tajik

Information and Culture: Rahim Makhdum, Tajik

Interior Minister: Taj Mohammad Wardak, Pashtun (Yunis Qanuni)

Irrigation: Ahmed Yusuf Nuristani, Pashtun (Haji Mangal Hussein)

Justice: Abdul Rahim Karimi, Uzbek

Labor and Social Affairs: Noor Mohammad Karkin, Turkmen (Sadeq Mir Wais)

Light Industries: Mohammad Alim Razm, Uzbek (Arif Nurzai)

Martyrs and Disabled: Abdullah Khan Wardak, Pashtun

Mines: Juma M. Muhammadi, Pashtun

Planning: Mohammad Mohaqeq, Shia Hazara

Public Works: Haji Abdul Qadir, Pashtun (Abdel Khalq Fazal)

Reconstruction: Mohammad Amin Farhang, Pashtun

Refugees: Inyatulah Nazeri, Tajik

Rural Development: Hanif Asmar, Pashtun (Abdel Malik Anwar)

Transportation: Mohammad Ali Jawad, Shia (Sultan Hamid Sultan)

Urban Planning: Yusuf Pashtun, Pashtun (Haji Abdul Qadir)

Water and Electricity: Ahmed Shaker Kargar, Uzbek

Women's Affairs: (Sima Samar)

New York University's Professor Barnet Rubin discussed the new cabinet in an interview with Salimdjon Ayoubov of RFE/RL's Tajik Service. Rubin explained that in making his choices, Karzai had to strike a balance between the actual military power of the Panjshiris on the one hand, and pressure to make the government look both broadly representative yet smaller and more efficient on the other. Rubin noted the greater presence of Pashtuns. Rubin did not think that this cabinet was forced on Hamid Karzai. "It certainly was not a choice that he made just by himself but was the result of a long negotiation. But at the same time, nobody came to him with this list and said, 'This is what you have to agree to,'" Rubin said.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, admitted that the cabinet is not ideal, but it is a move in the right direction. "Is it perfect? Clearly not. We have to wait to find out what the final balance of the cabinet is. But I regard it as a positive step in consolidating the new order of healing the wounds of Afghanistan," he said, according to Reuters on 19 June.

Two delegates to the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, Omar Zakhilwal and Adeena Niazi, were far more critical of the new cabinet. They wrote in "The New York Times" on 21 June that the three vice presidents are "the very forces responsible for countless brutalities under the former mujahedeen [sic] government." And when the cabinet was announced, a female delegate said, "The warlords have been promoted and the professionals kicked out." Delegates at the Loya Jirga only had a symbolic role, according to Zakhilwal and Niazi, while a "small group of Northern Alliance chieftains led by the Panjshiris decided everything behind closed doors and then dispatched Mr. Karzai to give us the bad news."

Zakhilwal and Niazi predicted that Women's Affairs Minister Sima Samar would be ousted once the world's attention was focused elsewhere. That did not take long. Samar was not mentioned when the entire cabinet was named on 22 June. Afghanistan's Supreme Court ruled that Samar could never be a minister because she said she did not believe in Islam, dpa quoted the Afghan Islamic Press as reporting on 22 June.

Several powerful individuals remain outside the government, and this could cause difficulties later. Herat's Governor Ismail Khan and Mazar-i Sharif's Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, according to "The New York Times," turned down vice-presidency posts. These individuals control customs revenues, and they also maintain sizable militias. Ismail Khan downplayed concerns about the militias in an interview with RFE/RL's Afghan Service, saying, "We hope those who were previously commanders in the battlegrounds become the future reconstruction leaders. We shed blood to rescue our country, and now its time to persevere for her development." He continued: "We have collected arms from all villages and stored them in the military campus. Today our duty is to reconstruct Herat -- we have started the foundations of more than 100 buildings, construction and mending of roads and highways, schools have reopened and even arranged transportation of students. So the atmosphere is really different from all other provinces in Afghanistan."

And Karzai himself downplayed concerns about Dostum. Karzai told the Loya Jirga on 19 June, "Dostum said to me that he wants to be a hero for peace. He said that he wants to serve in the interest of peace and fight against bloodshed and guns and work for disarmament." Karzai added, according to Reuters, "I hold you to your promise."

The most controversial change in the cabinet is the replacement of Yunis Qanuni as interior minister. Karzai offered Qanuni the post of education minister, but there was confusion about his acceptance of the offer. Karzai said, "Mr. Qanuni shouldn't refuse this post. In front of your eyes, [the Loya Jirga] has applauded and he has accepted. Yes, he has accepted. Very good. Very good. Now we no longer have a problem about appointing an education minister." But Loya Jirga delegates close to Qanuni said that he rejected the offer in remarks that were not picked up by the microphones.

Clearly, Qanuni's supporters did not accept the situation. According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Kabul, Ron Synovitz, troops from Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley -- mostly members of Qanuni's Jamiyat-i-Islami faction -- cut off traffic around the Interior Ministry complex in the city center for several hours. They also drove vehicles around Kabul while openly displaying AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), and heavy-caliber anti-aircraft weapons. Many Afghans saw this demonstration as a way of pressuring Karzai into offering Qanuni a more substantive post in the Transitional Authority, and there was speculation that Qanuni might head a National Security Council that has yet to be created.

Indeed, by 22 June Qanuni had accepted the post of education minister, as well as special adviser to the president on security issues. Qanuni explained how he and Interior Minister Wardak will share domestic security responsibilities in a 23 June interview with Radio Free Afghanistan. "The relation of the [internal security adviser's] post to the Interior Ministry and the intelligence services is that they must contact the head of the Transitional Authority through the security adviser. The internal security adviser will have control and supremacy over other Afghan security organizations," Qanuni said.

Despite these apparent difficulties, Karzai has promised not to waver and said that he will quit his job if he cannot fulfill his promises: "We have promised to the people of Afghanistan through you [the Loya Jirga] and through your votes to bring security and peace and dignity to this country until our mothers and sisters are no longer afraid in their homes of the evil of the guns. And I swear that if I do not act on this promise, then I will present my resignation." (Bill Samii)

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN INTERVIEWS SHIA LEADERS... Leaders of Afghanistan's Shia minority -- which makes up about 15 percent of a total population of some 27 million -- have been active in the June Loya Jirga. They recently discussed the selection of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority, and their minority's role in Karzai's cabinet, in interviews with Masir Begzad of RFE/RL's Afghan Service.

Karim Khalili, leader of the predominantly Shia Hizb-i-Wahdat, discussed the selection of Karzai in a 14 June interview. "I am pleased that after decades of warfare the Loya Jirga convened in peace and that people from all provinces could assemble and select the head of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority," Khalili said. "This is a moment of total happiness for every Afghan, and I congratulate Hamid Karzai on his victory and wish him success." Khalili also rejected reports that the selection of Karzai was undemocratic. "It was quite pleasant, very democratic, and flawless. People were free to vote for whomever they desired, and I saw no flaw in voting or tallying of the ballots," Khalili said. "Obviously, in an assembly of 2,000 people there are bound to be moments of squabble and use of inappropriate language."

Khalili participated in a meeting at which it was agreed that Hamid Karzai should head the Transitional Authority, according to an 11 June report from the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency. Other participants in the meeting were former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ittihad-i-Islami leader Abdur Rasul Sayyaf, Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan, Nangarhar Province Governor Haji Abdul Qadir, and some Northern Alliance commanders.

Ayatollah Assef Muhseni, who heads the predominantly Shia Harakat-i Islami, also backed Karzai's candidacy. According to Afghan state radio on 13 June, Muhseni presented Karzai's candidacy form to the chairman of the session and he expressed support for Karzai's candidacy. Muhseni also proposed a name for the state of Afghanistan -- the transitional Islamic government of Afghanistan -- according to Kabul radio on 15 June.

[Abdur Rasul Sayyaf, who heads the fundamentalist Sunni Ittihad-i-Islami, also demanded inclusion of the word "Islamic" in the state's name. God chose Islam as the country's religion and its political system, he told the assembly, and then he had a warning for Karzai: "It is our duty to obey Karzai as we obey god and (his Prophet) Mohammad. But if (Karzai) does not obey God and the Sharia laws, then we should not obey him."]

Minister of Planning Mohammad Mohaqeq, who also is a leader of the predominantly Shia Hizb-i-Wahdat party, spoke about his expectations of the cabinet in a 17 June interview with Masir Begzad of RFE/RL's Afghan Service. Mohaqeq said, "Hazara people expect adequate and logical cooperative participation in the future administration of Afghanistan. They enthusiastically participated in the elections, and expect to actively be a part of future infrastructure and administration too. The ministries in the hands of Hazaras have not raised any concerns other than emphasizing participation of all different ethnic Afghans and that the future ministers should not have manipulative policies or treat [ministries] as their personal property." (Bill Samii)

...AND OTHER AFGHAN MINORITIES EYE LOYA JIRGA. It is not just the Shia, most of whom are from the Hazara ethnic group, who are watching the Loya Jirga with great interest. Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group is Pashtun (38 percent), and this is followed by Tajiks (25 percent) and then Hazara (19 percent). Then there are smaller ethnic groups like the Aimaks, Baluchis, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, and Uzbeks.

Turkmen leaders estimate that their community numbers some 2 million people. Representatives of the Turkmen minority complained that they were bypassed in the elections to the Loya Jirga, according to RFE/RL's correspondent in Kabul, Charles Recknagel. As a result, only 30 Turkmen became delegates to the assembly, and they say that many other candidates who tried to win election from mainly Turkmen areas were prevented from doing so by the non-Turkmen armed factions that control northern Afghanistan.

Abdullah Furqani, a Turkmen leader, described the situation in an interview with RFE/RL. "Some people were forced to step back during the elections. As an example, in Kondoz province, a person whose name I won't tell you was elected as a delegate. But he was threatened by some people that if he remained a delegate, then dangerous consequences would await him. And in this way, they presented people from their own [non-Turkmen] tribe."

Furqani told RFE/RL that the UN-assisted Special Independent Commission for Convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga ignored the Turkmens' complaints. Many Turkmen refugees in Pakistan, therefore, became disillusioned with the Loya Jirga process. Furqani explained, "Hearing that, the Turkmen refugees were completely disappointed, and they said that until they were given their rights they would [maintain their distance from Afghanistan's factional conflicts] and stay in Pakistan as refugees. They also said they had lots of hopes for this Loya Jirga, but unfortunately they were disappointed." Moreover, Turkmen leaders say that many Turkmen refugees in Pakistan are delaying their return to northern Afghanistan because of their concerns.

Representatives of other minorities also want a voice in the Loya Jirga, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on 17 June. Tordi Akhund is from the Kyrgyz minority in the Wakkan corridor in the province of Badakhshan, and he stated, "No one has even come to discover our problems. There is no road for vehicles. Even horses and donkeys find it difficult going." Hashmat Ghani of the Kuchi nomads told IWPR that his group of 6 million people is facing difficulties, too. "We have lost our traditional grazing lands in Hazarajat over the past 23 years of wars -- and they should be given back or exchanged for other lands," he said. He called for schools and hospitals.

Demands have even come from the Ismailis and the Sikhs. Seyyed Ismail from Badakhshan said that the Ismailis no longer have a place of worship in Kabul, and they faced repression from the mujahedin and then the Taliban, according to IWPR. Preet Singh, a Sikh representative to the Loya Jirga, said, "We should be given a chance in all state affairs and services. Even before Islam we lived here."

Parvin Bashir-Mohmand, who represented the Kuchis at the Loya Jirga, described the situation in an interview with Radio Free Afghanistan. She said, "They [Kuchis] needed two pieces of land in the cold and warm climate to build houses for themselves. I also wanted to form an organization for them [Nomads] so they could refer their problems to it, but none of these issues were addressed." (Bill Samii)

KARZAI THANKS IRAN. Afghan President Hamid Karzai singled out the Iranian ambassador to Kabul for his help in organizing the Loya Jirga. Karzai said during his 19 June speech to the assembly, according to Kabul state radio: "Dear brothers and sisters, our neighboring countries too have helped us. Especially during the past few days of the Loya Jirga, and before the opening of the Loya Jirga until today, Mr. Taherian, the ambassador of Iran to Afghanistan, has made a lot of efforts for this Jirga to be held properly. We praise and appreciate his services. [Applause] Is he here or not? His representative is here, that is good. You should let him know." (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN PLEASED WITH EU AGREEMENT. The European Union on 17 June announced that it will negotiate a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iran which is linked to separate instruments on political dialogue and counterterrorism. The EU's expectation is that this agreement would help in the development of economic exchange and cooperation with Iran while contributing to the process of political and economic reform there, according to the EU website ( Washington and Tel Aviv tried to block this agreement beforehand, according to reports in the European and Iranian press, and now official statements from Iran are indicating great satisfaction.

The EU professes, in its 17 June announcement, that it would like to see improvements in its dialogue with Tehran, as well as Tehran's stand, on four areas: (1) human rights and fundamental freedoms; (2) nonproliferation; (3) terrorism; and (4) the Middle East peace process. On this latter point, "The European Union encourages Iran to join without reservation the international consensus on the necessary existence of two States, Palestine and Israel, living peacefully side by side within secure and recognized borders." Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands had pushed for a single agreement that would link commercial, political, and human rights issues, while France, Greece, and Italy favored a simple free-trade agreement, "The Guardian" reported on 18 June.

The EU is Iran's largest trading partner. In 2000, EU imports from Iran totaled some $8.2 billion, while its exports to Iran were worth about $5.1 billion. More than 75 percent of this trade consists of oil products. Statements from Tehran demonstrate the belief that trade, rather than concern about human rights, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or the Middle East, drove the European decision.

An 18 June Iranian state radio commentary said that the EU considered its economic interests when pursuing the accord with Tehran and overcoming American and Israeli pressures. Tehran radio said that this accord would serve as the basis for eliminating economic obstacles, such as customs tariffs and double taxation. Another Tehran radio commentary later that day said that Europe wants to expand and institutionalize its trade ties with Iran "despite some minor differences on political issues, such as the human rights debate, weapons of mass destruction, and Middle East developments."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 18 June that the EU decision is a step forward in developing mutual ties, IRNA reported, and Tehran would welcome the expansion of EU-Iran relations "without any preconditions." Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 19 July that Iran will try to promote its relationship with the EU regardless of third parties' stances, IRNA reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had met with EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten one day earlier, said on 19 June that the opportunity for further dialogue with the EU is important, IRNA reported. According to Zarif, Iran would be able to express "our concerns about various elements of behavior in the West as well as listen to the concerns of the West and in the process reach a better understanding." Iran's concerns are terrorism and post-11 September attempts to use this issue for other purposes, as well as the proliferation of WMD, according to Zarif. Such terminology usually implies criticism of Israel. (Bill Samii)

CROATIA CANCELS DEALS WITH IRAN. Croatia has dropped $12 million worth of economic projects with Iran as a result of U.S. pressure, Zagreb's daily "Vecernji List" reported on 19 June. Foreign Minister Tonino Picula told the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, "The Americans asked that we cancel the deals with one country that is not doing enough to fight against terrorism." He added that Croatia wants to show that it is an active partner in the war on terror. The most important deal involved an Iranian contract to build several small patrol vessels in Croatia's ailing shipyards on the Adriatic. Washington reportedly offered its own deal as compensation. Croatian Defense Minister Jozo Rado confirmed the next day that "the U.S. has expressed readiness to compensate us in some way," "Vecernji List" reported. He said the method of compensation for losses suffered in the war on terrorism has yet to be determined. Croatia's exports to Iran last year amounted to $4 million, according to "Vecernji List."

Zagreb's decision will come as a disappointment to Tehran. When Croatia's deputy speaker of parliament, Zdravko Tomac, was in Tehran in April at the head of a parliamentary delegation, he noted that Iran is interested in economic cooperation, according to Croatia's Hina news agency on 17 April. Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi told Tomac that the two countries' economic relations lag behind their political ones, and he complained that the joint Croatian-Iranian economic cooperation committee had not met in the past two years. Tomac and his delegation came to Tehran on 14 April for a six-day visit, and according to IRNA he was scheduled to meet with Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karrubi, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and Minister of Roads and Transportation Ahmad Khoram. (Bill Samii, Patrick Moore)

TURKS TOUR TEHRAN AND TABRIZ. Iranian Minister of Roads and Transport Ahmad Khoram and Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh greeted Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on the latter's arrival at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on 17 June. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami officially welcomed Sezer at Sadabad Palace later in the day, and they immediately went into a two-hour closed-door discussion. According to IRNA, the meeting dealt with expansion of bilateral ties, developments in Iraq, the Middle East crisis, and the reconstruction of Afghanistan. "The happy faces of the presidents, leaving the venue of the meeting, signaled their satisfaction with outcome of their talks," according to IRNA.

Aminzadeh provided a bit more detail in an interview with the Anatolia news agency. He said that the focus of the Sezer-Khatami meeting was bilateral relations, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, and commercial affairs. Turkey and Iran expressed similar views on the importance of maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity, according to Aminzadeh, but they did not discuss possible use of Turkish territory for anti-Iraq operations because they hoped that the possibility would not arise. Both sides believe that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) are terrorist groups, Aminzadeh said, and they would not allow any terrorist activities from their territories against each other. Aminzadeh added that Tehran expressed its concern about Ankara-Tel Aviv relations.

The official talks began after the closed-door session. President Khatami said Sezer's visit was a turning point in Tehran-Ankara relations, according to IRNA on 17 June, and better economic cooperation could lead to improved political, security, and cultural ties. Sezer was very enthusiastic about the potential for bilateral cooperation, too, according to IRNA. He added that expanded Iran-Turkey security cooperation would contribute to regional peace and stability. Subsequently, Iranian Minister of Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri and a visiting Turkish official signed an agreement to eliminate double taxation.

Trade between the two countries was worth some $1.2 billion in 2001, and Sezer was accompanied by some 120 businesspeople. The first meeting of the Iranian-Turkish tradesmen's council began on 18 June in the presence of Khatami and Sezer. Speakers at this meeting discussed elimination of nontariff barriers, Iranian gas exports to Europe via Turkey, and the readiness of Iranian investors to carry out joint ventures with their Turkish counterparts, IRNA reported. Sezer told the meeting that recent Iranian legislation on foreign investment is important and will encourage Turkish entrepreneurs. Sezer pointed out that there are more Iranian enterprises in Turkey than Turkish ones in Iran.

On his way home on 18 June, Sezer stopped in Tabriz. He toured some of the city's historical monuments, such as the Kabud (turquoise) bazaar and the Tabriz Carpet Museum.

The Iranian press was cautiously enthusiastic about the Turkish president's visit. According to the English-language "Iran News" on 17 June, "Iranian public opinion is of the view that Turkish foreign policy is increasingly influenced and dependent on Western powers," and Turkey's security cooperation with Israel hampers its ties with Iran. The English-language "Iran Daily," produced by IRNA, noted on 18 June that foreign policy officials in Ankara and Tehran have adopted a more realistic approach regarding issues of mutual concern. Both sides are aware, the daily said, that "Iran and Turkey are after all neighbors and must be able to co-exist peacefully in today's volatile world," and they must put together a "coalition for peace." "The good omen is that both leaders are prudent personalities and well aware of the far-reaching implications of the true spirit of unity," "Iran Daily" concluded.

A 17 June editorial in "Kayhan International" -- which is under the supervision of the supreme leader's office -- praised Turkey for expanding its relationship with Iran: "Despite the obstacles thrown in the way by the enemies of the Islamic ummah, especially the U.S., Turkey has shown remarkable maturity in adhering to the agreements inked with Iran." The daily said an important point during the Turkey-Iran meeting is that some countries should not be in the region, and it described the "U.S. scheme of increasing Zionist influence in Turkey." (Bill Samii)

BERLIN AND TEHRAN DISPUTE TRAVEL REGULATIONS... An Iran Air aircraft landed in Berlin on 17 January, marking the resumption of daily flights from Tehran, according to IRNA. Iran Air had canceled the flights in October, citing a reduction in demand following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. It is not clear, however, if demand for the Germany-Iran route will be very high because of a dispute over visa requirements. The German charge d'affaires in Tehran, Fritz Klaus Geyer, was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry regarding news reports that Iranian nationals will be fingerprinted upon their arrival in Germany, IRNA reported on 17 June. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said that a possible consequence of the German action would be "similar action against the nationals of those countries whose governments take such actions." Two weeks earlier, an anonymous German Foreign Ministry source said that there is no definite decision about placing Iran on a list of 22 countries whose nationals would face toughened visa requirements. Among these requirements, IRNA reported on 3 June, would be fingerprinting and background security checks of the applicants. (Bill Samii)

...AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Adding to the tension over the possibility of travel restrictions on Iranians, Tehran has taken exception to a critical German government human rights report that was released on 7 June. Berlin's human rights report covers the 1 January 2001-31 March 2002 period and it states, according to AFP, "While Iran has made progress [on human rights issues], namely strengthening democracy, curtailing suppression of information, and the relative improvements of women's positions in the public, Iran continues its massive human rights violations." The report cites arbitrary arrests, torture, "frequent death sentences and other severe bodily penalties," violations of freedom of expression, and failures to comply with the rule of law. Iranian state radio on 8 June discussed German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's related comments about human rights in Iran. Tehran radio described Fischer's comments as "blatant intervention in Iran's domestic affairs," and it complained that Germany allows the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) to operate on its territory. Tehran radio cited the power of the "Zionist influence in Germany," because of which nobody dares to question the "much inflated myth of the Holocaust in Israel's claim on the alleged massacre of Jews by Germans during World War II." (Bill Samii)

WAR GAMES HELD NEAR SHIRAZ. The Bayt-ol Muqaddad-14 military exercises -- code-named Pride and Honor of Imam Hussein -- were held over several days in the Darengun region of Shiraz, Fars Province, and ended on 15 June. Participating in the event were armor, artillery, and infantry from the 55th Airborne Brigade, as well as rotary-wing assets from the Havaniruz and fixed-wing fighter-bombers from the air force. Army commander General Mohammad Salimi told state television on 15 June that this was primarily a training exercise and an opportunity for students to put theory into practice, but "the distinguishing feature of this maneuver, compared to previous maneuvers, is that all the operations here are based on the experience gained during the eight years of the imposed [Iran-Iraq] war." According to a 16 June IRNA report, the exercises also were an opportunity to test the accuracy of artillery and missiles. There was a nocturnal operation on 12 June. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN TO EXPORT UAVS AND REPAIR TANKS. General Hussein Alai, who is the chairman of the Iranian armed forces' Aviation Industry Organization, announced on 19 June that the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics intends to export unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Alai claimed, according to IRNA, that Iran has the appropriate technology to make UAVs. Indeed, the Mohajer 4 and Saeqeh UAVs underwent test flights in February (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 March 2002). Moreover, ground-forces personnel have repaired and upgraded 385 tanks and personnel carriers, as well as 15,000 light and heavy weapons, over the past year, according to state television on 11 June. Army commander General Mohammad Salimi inspected the equipment and then said that such self-sufficiency improves the country's defensive readiness. (Bill Samii)

INTERNET ACCESS IN IRAN COULD IMPROVE. About half the Iranian population will have Internet access within five years, according to Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) Information Affairs Director Mohammad Sadri, whereas 2.5 percent of the population has Web access today. Sadri went on to say, IRNA reported on 16 June, that two more Internet gateways will become operational by December, and laws dealing with illegal Internet providers have been outlined.

Internet Networks Employers Guild head Mustafa Mohammadi told RFE/RL's Persian Service on 18 June that such efforts to control Internet access do not have a legal basis. Mohammadi went on to complain that TCI and even Minister of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Ahmad Motamedi have ignored the private Internet providers' advice on this subject.

But there could be a way around such laws. The head of Dubai's Internet City announced that Iranian Internet companies will be welcome to set up shop there, RFE/RL's Persian Service reported on 12 June. Economic journalist Mohammad-Reza Balideh told RFE/RL that Iranian Internet companies could offer goods through the Internet using Dubai's facilities, but he was skeptical about anything more substantive. Regarding the possibility of similar facilities being offered in Iran, Balideh said this could accelerate the process of getting away from an oil-based economy.

Meanwhile, Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN, Hadi Nejad-Husseinian, proposed that there be greater technology transfers to developing countries so they can take advantage of modern communications technology, IRNA reported on 17 June. Nejad-Husseinian said that UN funding is insufficient to bridge the North-South digital gap.

In another part of his comments, Nejad-Husseinian called for rules of "decency and morality" to cover the Internet and other forms of communications technology, IRNA reported. He also called for greater respect of different cultures. A website of which he is likely to approve is that of the supreme leader's university representative ( which opened recently. The site includes about 4,000 student questions and the related answers, information on marriage, information about students who died in the Iran-Iraq War, and a link so people can post questions. (Bill Samii)