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Iran Report: July 23, 2002

23 July 2002, Volume 5, Number 27

BUSH IDENTIFIES IRAN AS 'CAPTIVE NATION.' President George W. Bush mentioned Iran in his annual "Captive Nations Week" proclamation, released on 17 July. "In too many corners of the earth, freedom and independence are the victims of dictators.... These despots deny their citizens the liberty and justice that is the birthright of all people. Some governments, such as those in North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, starve their people, take away their voices, traffic in terror, and threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction." President Bush then said that the world faces the prospect of dictators supplying their terrorist allies with weapons of mass destruction. A Congressional resolution approved in 1959 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated the third week of July as "Captive Nations Week," and at that time the main focus was on countries that were under communist rule. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN GOVERNMENT STAGES ANTI-U.S. RALLIES. The Iranian people were invited to participate in 19 July rallies at the Friday prayer venues to demonstrate their "abhorrence of the conspiracies hatched by America against the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran," according to state television on 16 July. The rallies were intended as a reply to President Bush's 12 July statement about Iran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 July 2002).

In that message, President Bush noted that "the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world," and he recommended that "[The Iranian] government should listen to their hopes." Nevertheless, he said, "their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran.... Meanwhile, members of the ruling regime and their families continue to obstruct reform while reaping unfair benefits." The Iranian people will decide the country's future, President Bush predicted, and he added that as they move towards a freer and more tolerant future they would have "no better friend" than the U.S.

Tens of thousands of Iranians (according to Reuters and AP) took to the streets of Tehran on 19 July, and demonstrations throughout the country attracted "crowds running to millions" (according to dpa news agency). Marchers chanted "Death to America," "Death to George Bush," and "Death to Israel." The banners on display read, "America cannot do a damn thing against Iran" and "The Great Satan is not able to harm Iranians." The crowds who gathered around Tehran University, where the main Friday prayers are held, burned an effigy of President Bush.

Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani gave the Friday prayers sermon (see below). Prominent members of the crowd were Commander in Chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, who said, according to state television, "the Americans are really hostile to anti-American Islam and the focal point of anti-American Islam is the Islamic Republic of Iran." Tehran parliamentarian Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur warned that "Bush is trying to drive a wedge between the people and the state in pursuit of his goals. He wants to reestablish their hegemony in Iran." Other members of the crowd were Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi, and Chief of the Joint Staff Command Major General Hassan Firuzabadi.

Tehran television showed video of rallies in Tehran, Qom, and Mashhad, and it interspersed its reports with poetry and songs about the virtues of Islam and the Islamic revolution. The program also carried nationalist songs.

The resolution passed at the end of the rallies stated that Iran's Islamic revolution "delivered the biggest blow to the illegitimate interests of America in the highly sensitive Middle East region, and smashed to smithereens the paper might and power of America." It also said, according to state television, that the Iranian nation rejected the American president's claim that a new Iran would not have a better friend than the U.S., adding that "Iran will not compromise with America under any circumstances." (Bill Samii)

WHEN WILL RELATIONS WITH U.S. BE EXPEDIENT? In the last month Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has made a number of statements about his country's relationship with the U.S. Because Rafsanjani heads the Council for the Discernment of Expediency (a.k.a. Expediency Council) which is tasked with determining state polices, it would be helpful to examine his views. There is a recurring theme that the U.S. has wronged Iran in the past, but Rafsanjani's comments about the future are less consistent.

During the second Friday prayers sermon on 19 July, when anti-U.S. rallies were held throughout Iran, Rafsanjani discussed U.S. President Bush's 12 July statement to the Iranian people (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 July 2002 and above). Rafsanjani said that this is the first time that an American president has issued his thoughts on Iran in the form of a statement, and some Iranians believe that the statement reveals regret over the "axis of evil" reference in the 29 January State of the Union address. On the other hand, according to Rafsanjani, some Iranians think that President Bush is just using different terminology. "Of course this is still the language of deception," Rafsanjani said.

Rafsanjani urged the U.S. to accept that the Iranian nation has taken its fate into its own hands, and he defended what he claims are the democratic underpinnings of the Iranian system. He accused Washington of wanting the return of the 1,000 Families, and he said that the "thieves, culprits, and SAVAK members [the monarchy's security and intelligence organization]" who fled Iran because of the revolution are "using American assets to establish television stations and propagate against Iran."

One day earlier, Rafsanjani accused President Bush of waging psychological warfare against Iran's revolution, state television reported, and he said that American claims of supporting the Iranian people are false. "The Americans want to defend their own colonialist interests, and in doing so, they are pursuing their conspiracies."

Hashemi-Rafsanjani in a 16 July speech to boys and girls in the Basij Resistance Force discussed President Bush's 12 July statement, too. Rafsanjani warned that "the enemies of the Islamic state were hatching plots" and President Bush's statement was "tantamount to blatant and impudent interference in Iran's internal affairs," state television reported. According to Rafsanjani, "The great revolutionary forces, as well as the Basiji children of Imam Khomeini, may his noble soul rest in paradise, will never permit the sacred atmosphere of Islamic Iran and the country of the Lord of the Age, may God hasten his advent [the 12th Shia Imam is in occultation], to be pillaged by monsters."

Rafsanjani's 21 June sermon, which was broadcast by state radio, started off on a similar tack, with his saying that "most of our difficulties stem from the plans of America and Israel," and his quoting of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark on American foreign policy.

But Rafsanjani was willing to be charitable, saying that if the U.S. ends its "war-seeking, duplicitous, bullying, hegemonic, and despotic policies" and deals with other countries on an equal footing, "it will see that the Islamic Republic will count among those countries which are ready to cooperate in all kinds of ways." Rafsanjani concluded, "We do not pursue a tension-seeking policy against America, and that all we are saying is that America should step down from the back of the devil, to avoid becoming the devil." (Bill Samii)

KHAMENEI AND KHATAMI SEE EYE-TO-EYE ON BUSH. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 17 July also discussed President Bush's statement. He said, according to state television, that it was part of the effort to "sow discord" among the elites, because "ploys involving security, espionage, and other means" have not worked. Khamenei went on to say that Bush's claim to prefer one side over another is false, and "They do not accept those they say they accept." Khamenei also praised President Mohammad Khatami's reply to President Bush's statement. "With his stance," Khamenei said, "our honorable president has slapped the American president."

Khatami had said in a statement that was broadcast by state television on 14 July: "No patriotic person will surrender in the face of American insults. Fortunately, traitors or enemies of Iran and the Islamic revolution are few and far between and they have no place among the people." He also said, according to statements broadcast by state radio on 14 July, that every aspect of the government is based on popular choice and voting, "any differences that may exist in Iran are only natural because this is a pluralist country and nation," and there are no differences over defending the country's independence or territorial integrity "in the face of foreigners', especially America's, attempts to interfere in our affairs or insult us."

The director-general for U.S. affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a Mr. Mohtashami, explained President Bush's statement as "an effort to disrupt the cohesion of the state apparatus and the entire state apparatus of the Islamic Republic of Iran," according to state television on 14 July. And Mr. Abbasi, who heads the Center for Doctrinal Research into Security Across Frontiers said President Bush's comments were based on an incorrect U.S. intelligence community reading of developments in Iran. Abbasi also claimed that Western news agencies and Persian-language television and radio networks disseminated anti-Iranian news in the U.S., leading to incorrect interpretations of developments there. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN SAYS NO SECRET MESSAGE FROM WHITE HOUSE. There are two recent reports of secret messages from the White House to its Iranian counterpart, but the subject of these messages -- Iraq or terrorism -- is not entirely clear. The Iranian government, meanwhile, denies receipt of such messages.

An anonymous source close to the Iranian presidential branch claimed that U.S. President Bush sent a letter to Iran's President Khatami prior to 12 July, according to an article by Alireza Nurizadeh in the 16 July "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" newspaper. The letter was relayed through a European diplomat who heads his country's mission in Tehran, according to the newspaper. The letter supposedly said that the U.S. has information regarding continuing Iranian support for and training of terrorist groups, including the presence of a training camp in Mazandaran Province, and the letter went on to express the belief that Khatami is unaware of this. About three years ago, Nurizadeh had reported on the transmittal of a letter from President Bill Clinton to Khatami, in which the U.S. leader requested Iranian assistance in investigating the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia ("Tehran Times," 13 September 1999).

An anonymous "Tehran-based diplomat" said in the 16 July "Tehran Times" that Washington recently sent a message to Tehran to gauge Iran's view on U.S. efforts to overthrow Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. According to this newspaper, which is affiliated with the conservative Islamic Propagation Office, Washington wants to enlist Tehran's support.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi on 17 July denied that President Khatami had received a message from President Bush, according to IRNA. Assefi also rejected allegations that there are any terrorist bases in Iran. And on the same day Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh issued a similar denial, according to IRNA: "So far no message has been received by Iran." (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN OPPOSES U.S. ATTACK ON IRAQ. President Khatami during his visit to Malaysia spoke out against U.S. plans to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, dpa news agency reported on 23 July, saying, "Any interference in the affairs of Iraq would be against the interest of the people of Iraq, and countries of this region and peace and tranquility of the world." Khatami also expressed concern about Iraq's territorial integrity. Three days earlier, parliamentarian Mohsen Mirdamadi, who heads the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that Iran hopes Saddam Hussein would step down, dpa news agency reported. These comments probably stem from Tehran's reluctance to see U.S. military action or a pro-U.S. government next door.

Earlier statements from other Iranian officials corroborate this analytical insight. Iranian Supreme National Security Council secretary Hassan Rohani stated on 17 July that Iran opposes an attack against Iraq, according to Tehran television, having said that "America has always cast a hegemonic eye on the region" because of its strategic value and so it can have access to its energy resources. Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Yunesi said on 4 July that the U.S. intends to attack Iraq soon so it can divert the world's attention in order to carry out "massacres and killings in Afghanistan and Palestine," IRNA reported. And Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi told a Tehran press conference on 1 July that Iran is "firmly against" an American attack against Iraq, IRNA reported, and he called for greater cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad.

Statements such as these explain why a U.S. Central Command Course for Action document, described in "The New York Times" on 5 July, calls for the attack on Iraq to come from three directions -- the north, south, and west. In other words, Iran is not part of the equation. (Bill Samii)

IRAN-BACKED OPPOSITION IS PART OF ANTI-SADDAM PLAN... U.S. planning for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein now focuses less on the Iraqi National Congress and more on the Group of Four, which includes the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), and the Iraqi National Accord (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 May 2002). The increasingly prominent role for the SCIRI may be unexpected because its leadership frequently has expressed wariness about the U.S., either because of Iranian influence over the organization or because the Shia resent the lack of support they got from the U.S. during their 1991 uprising. Washington may also not have been keen on working with a group with close ties to Tehran.

Hojatoleslam Seyyed Abdolaziz Hakim, who head's the SCIRI's jihad bureau, explained his group's new relationship with the U.S. in the 13 July "Toseh." He said: "We must have relations with the Americans to get support for the Iraqi nation, so that they would not be able to do whatever they wanted in Iraq.... Of course our aims and those of America are completely different. The [SCIRI] is after salvation of the Iraqi nation, whereas the Americans are after destroying weapons of mass destruction and so forth." Nevertheless, he said, the SCIRI must negotiate with the U.S. if it is serious about overthrowing Saddam. Ayatollah Baqer al-Hakim, who heads the SCIRI, discussed how his organization hopes to benefit from a relationship with the U.S. in the 16 July "Los Angeles Times." He said that the SCIRI just wants American air support to counter Iraqi artillery and weapons of mass destruction.

The SCIRI chief said that his organization has been working with the KDP and the PUK, which have sizable armed forces in northern Iraq. Indeed, PUK leader Jalal Talabani was in Tehran in early July to meet with al-Hakim, and according to London's "Al-Majallah" (14-20 July 2002) they reached an agreement on the deployment of the SCIRI's 12,000-man Badr Corps in the PUK-governed Sulaymaniah region. (Bill Samii)

...BUT TEHRAN BACKS OPPOSITION TO THE OPPOSITION. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 1 July that although Iran opposes a U.S. attack against Iraq, Iran would not dictate to the opposition groups it hosts. Yet Tehran may be behind newly active Iraqi opposition organizations. Al-Dawa, for example, announced in May that it opposes U.S. plans for Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 May 2002), and on 25 June the London-based "Al-Zaman" newspaper announced that Al-Dawa is part of an alliance called the Iraqi National Forces Coalition. This is a combination of Al-Dawa, the Group of Mujahedin Ulama in Iraq, the Islamic Action Party, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Arab Socialist Baath Party-Iraq Command, and others. Iraq's Free Muslims, Islamic Gathering, and Islamic Movement issued a statement opposing a U.S. attack on Iraq on 15 June, Tehran radio's external English-language service reported on 15 June. A new Shia coalition -- the Union of Iraqi Islamic Forces -- that some see as a rival to the SCIRI also appeared recently, Doha's "Al-Rayah" newspaper reported on 6 June. SCIRI leader Baqer al-Hakim denied in the 4 June "Al-Ray al-Amm" that this represents a split with the SCIRI.

Tehran maintains close relations with the PUK, which also has been identified as part of the Group of Four. At the same time, Tehran backs an Islamist Kurdish group called the Supporters of Islam in Kurdistan (Peshtiwanani Islam le Kurdistan, PIK), whose leader visited Tehran in May (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 June 2002). On the night of 3-4 July the PIK attacked PUK bases and killed a number of PUK personnel, the weekly "Ray Gishti" reported on 7 July. PUK commander Ramadan Dekoni was quoted as saying that Iran is aware of these attacks, and "They could not attack the PUK if they were not supported by Iran." The PUK is generally reluctant to discuss Iran's relationship with the Islamists, because of its dependence on and vulnerability to the Islamic Republic. (Bill Samii)

BAGHDAD STILL HOLDS IRANIAN PRISONERS. Iranian POW and MIA Commission chief Brigadier General Abdullah Najafi said on 21 July that 900 Iranian prisoners of war from the 1980-88 conflict still are being held in Iraq, IRNA reported. On the same day, Iran returned to Iraq the remains of about 1,200 soldiers. Iraqi state television claimed that they were "martyred in captivity." Iraq returned to Iran the remains of 570 servicemen, but Colonel Feisal Baqerzadeh, who is in charge of the Joint Staff Command's Missing in Action Committee, said that 120 of them had not been identified. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN DENIES QUSAY SADDAM HUSSEIN'S VISIT. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said that Saddam Hussein's son Qusay had not visited Iran, Iranian state television reported on 22 July, and rumors to that effect are "baseless." But if the reports were in fact true, Assefi would not be expected to know about the visit.

This is because, according to Iranian journalist Alireza Nurizadeh in the 21 July "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," the secret visit took place "without the knowledge of President Khatami and his aides." According to Nurizadeh's article, rumors had been circulating that a "very senior" Iraqi official visited Iran and had held security and military talks with senior Iranian officials, and these rumors went so far as to say that Khatami and Saddam were to hold a secret meeting. Then, an anonymous source close to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) command confirmed the rumors.

Qusay Saddam Hussein met with deputy IRGC commander Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr at Mehrabad Airport and then at Saadabad Palace, according to "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat." The Iraqi visitors expressed an interest in buying Iranian military equipment and Shihab 1, 2, and 3 missiles. The Iraqi's also offered to buy back the more-than-100 airplanes they had flown to Iran at the outset of the 1991 Gulf War. The Iranians quickly rejected the prospect of military and security cooperation with the Iraqis, but they did not reject the provision of food and medical supplies for the Iraqi people. (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS COMMEMORATE ANTI-ISLAMIC HERO. Tens of thousands of Iranians gathered in early July at the Babak castle in the town of Kelidar, East Azerbaijan Province, to commemorate Babak Khorramdin, one of the first popular Persian leaders to oppose the imposition of Islam and Arab rule. Babak Khorramdin originally was known as Abdullah Babak. He and his followers promoted a purely Persian religion as an alternative to Islam. During a 20-year rebellion (816-837 AD) they killed many of the Abbasid Caliphate's (750-1258 AD) troops. In the early 1990s, an armed opposition organization called the Babak Khorramdin Organization (BKO) assassinated some Iranian officials.

The Babak Khorramdin celebration has no official program and consists of people staying overnight around the Babak castle, gathering in small groups for informal conversations or musical performances. In 2001, about 350,000 people participated in the seven-day event, but there were fewer participants at this year's commemoration. Tabriz-based journalist Ensaf-Ali Hedayat told RFE/RL's Persian Service on 2 and 4 July that the police instructed musicians and cultural figures in Tabriz and elsewhere not to leave their towns, and policemen searched cars for musical instruments. Moreover, the government ordered tourist agencies and bus companies not to take passengers to the event. According to a report in the "Hambastegi" newspaper that was cited in the 8 July "Iran Daily," every minibus driver was required to pledge that he or she would not convey passengers to the fortress. "Hambastegi" concluded that Turks and provincial locals had set out to visit Kelidar.

Persian Service correspondent Fereydoun Zarnegar explained that some provincial prayer leaders and the hard-line newspaper "Jomhuri-yi Islami" have campaigned against Babak Khorramdin, calling him a killer of Shiites and anti-Islamic. Garmi, East Azerbaijan Province, Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Safari criticized participants in last year's celebrations, "Iran Daily" reported on 22 July, saying that it is unethical to commemorate somebody who killed 250,000 Muslims. According to "Jomhuri-yi Islami" as cited in the 15 July 2001 "Iran Daily," the celebrations are just a pretext for "uniting the Azeris" and pursuing political objectives. (Bill Samii)

LABOR UNREST IN TEHRAN. Police used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse workers (3,000 according to AP and 15,000 according to Reuters) who were protesting new labor laws on 16 July, after the demonstrators attacked the Labor Ministry and the Social Security Organization. The rally had a permit from the Interior Ministry. Witnesses cited by the dpa news agency said that several people were injured in the clashes. The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Shame, shame, capitalist, leave the Labor Law alone," "Violation of the Labor Law means slavery for workers," and "Violation of the Labor Law means the violations of workers' rights," IRNA reported.

According to IRNA the workers are concerned that the new law would make it easier for supervisors to dismiss them, and workers also want greater job security. Clauses 189 and 191 of the law would make it relatively easy to dismiss agricultural employees or employees of enterprises with fewer than 10 workers. These two clauses could affect 96 percent of the Iranian work force, according to RFE/RL's Persian Service.

Some 3.2 million Iranians are unemployed according to official figures, 5 million to 6 million Iranians are unemployed according to unofficial figures, and many of those with jobs go unpaid for months at a time, according to an RFE/RL Persian Service program about the labor unrest. Many wage earners, furthermore, are adversely affected by inflation. Under such circumstances, people are very concerned about changes in the Labor Law. (Bill Samii)

RUSSIAN EXPERTS VOICE CONCERN ABOUT IRAN. Aleksei Yablokov, the president of the Russian Center for Environmental Policy and a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on the "Moment of Truth" program of Moscow's Tsentr TV on 14 July that he had seen an Iran-Russia memorandum of intent that mentioned a uranium-enrichment plant, as well as a nuclear-power plant. If Russia is supplying fuel for the plant it builds, Yablokov asked, why does Iran need an enrichment plant?

Earlier, concerns were expressed that Russia and Iran had not agreed on how to handle spent fuel from the Bushehr nuclear reactor, and if Iran retained the spent fuel it would be in possession of weapons-usable material (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002). On 12 July, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that an agreement on shipping the spent fuel back to Russia should be signed in August, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said during 20 July comments to reporters in Tehran that Russia is willing to accept new proposals on the construction of nuclear-power plants in Iran, according to IRNA. Trubnikov said that Iran-Russia cooperation in the Bushehr power plant does not violate international regulations, and he claimed that Russia-Iran cooperation is transparent and has nothing to do with military matters.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Orlov of Moscow's PIR Center said, "Russia's assistance to Iran in the nuclear and missile areas is dual-purpose and can therefore be used for both civil and military purposes," Interfax news agency reported on 11 July. Two reports from Moscow's "Izvestiya" newspaper on 11 and 12 July indicate that the partnership with Iran is very profitable for Russia. The Bushehr contracts have brought Russia "billions of dollars and provided jobs for supply of modern weapons." Moreover, Moscow is prepared to fulfill previous arms-supply agreements with Tehran that were frozen in 1995. These agreements deal with the supply of MiG-29 and Su-24MK aircraft and Kilo-class diesel submarines, as well as production agreements for T-72 main battle tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles. Tehran also would like to buy S-300PMU-1, Buk, and Tor-M1 antiaircraft missile systems, as well as Igla mobile antiaircraft missile systems. And in a paragraph that speaks of the "secret hope in Iran," there is a reference to "hints" of a possible Russia-Iran military alliance that would coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran later this year, "Izvestiya" reported on 11 July. (Bill Samii)

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL ADDRESSES IRAN'S CASPIAN CONCERNS. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Trubnikov said on 20 July that Russian military maneuvers in the Caspian Sea are intended to improve the navy's navigation equipment and contribute to security in the littoral, according to ITAR-TASS. Such a view is not entirely accepted in Iran. In a discussion about Russian naval activities, Tehran parliamentary representative Elahe Kulyai said, "Deploying military forces will not establish security in the Caspian, nor will it safeguard the common interests of the littoral states," "Hayat-i No" reported on 4 July. A new Great Game is developing, Kulyai warned, and Iran must be alert in light of Russia's new relationship with NATO. She went on, "We must adopt a precise and pragmatic approach toward the staging of military exercises in the Caspian and the militarization of that sea, in view of the Russian Federation's regional objectives, and its coordination [of those objectives] with Western countries, in particular America."

IRANIAN EUROBOND OVERSUBSCRIBED. The withdrawal by Moody's credit rating agency of its rating of Iran's first bond issue in 20 years (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 June 2002) should have undermined investor confidence and thereby reduced demand for the bond. On 15 July, however, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) for Foreign Exchange Affairs Mohammad-Jafar Mojarad said that the issue sold out in 48 hours, IRNA reported. According to the "Middle East Economic Survey" on 15 July, the "500 million-euro ($506.3 million) issue was 300 million-euro oversubscribed." The five-year bonds pay 8.75 percent. And "The Wall Street Journal" on 19 July reported that Iran increased the bond issue by 125 million euros to 625 million euros. A "banker working on the transaction" said the increase was due to good demand, which is equally split between Europe and the Middle East.

CBI's Mojarad said that interest in the bond reflects confidence in Iran's fulfillment of its financial obligations and in the country as an investment. Nevertheless, Iran had to offer a higher return-on-investment than normal in order to attract European investors. In the end, 42 percent of the bond went to European investors, 53 percent went to investors in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, and 5 percent went to Asian investors. The Fitch rating agency announced on 10 July, according to MEES, that Iran has some serious weaknesses, such as state control in major industries including banking, the extent of state subsidies, and unrewarding efforts to diversify the economy. Fitch has given Iran a sub-investment grade B+ rating.

Iranian parliamentarian Majid Ansari, who heads the legislature's Planning and Budget Committee, said that main reasons for international interest in this bond issue are foreign confidence in Iran's stability, in its economy, and in its ability to make its payments. He went on to say, in a 16 July state radio broadcast, that Iran has repaid its foreign loans on time, and it even has repaid some loans ahead of time. Ansari added, "The enthusiasm shown for the bonds by the international community shows that the international community does not pay much attention to the Americans' negative propaganda and their sanctions." Ansari expressed the hope that participation in this international tender would increase the participation of Iranian banks in international monetary and financial markets. (Bill Samii)

KABUL GETS NEW MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS... A decree from Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority, confirmed the appointment of Abdullah Ali, son of Abdullah Ali Khan, as the new minister of public works, Kabul radio reported on 18 July. Abdullah Ali succeeds Haji Abdul Qadir, who was assassinated on 6 July (see "RFE/RL Iran Report, 8 July 2002). (Bill Samii)

...AS ASSASSINATION INVESTIGATION PROGRESSES. The investigation into Qadir's assassination continues. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command issued a bulletin on 17 July, according to Kabul radio, in which it announced its readiness to cooperate with the investigation. ISAF has established a "multinational investigative committee" that will cooperate with Afghanistan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice. Another ISAF committee will bring in technical experts and interrogate detainees. The total number of detainees stands at 16, and includes guards at the Ministry of Public Works and a number of others, according to the head of the investigative commission, Vice President Abdol Karim Khalili, who is quoted in a 16 July Bakhtar news agency report. Khalili said that possible Al-Qaeda and Taliban involvement could not be ignored.

An article in the 11 July issue of "Kabul Weekly" asserted that the murder of Abdul Qadir was political, and it cited an individual who blamed the Northern Alliance because Abdul Qadir was an important Pashtun. Another source in the same article said that Abdul Qadir was not with the Northern Alliance, but he supported Hamid Karzai, therefore "He has not been murdered by the Northern Alliance."

Some sources blame Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). India expressed this view when the India-Russia Joint Working Group met to discuss Afghanistan on 17 July, Calcutta's "The Telegraph" reported the next day. Pakistan created the Taliban, and the Indians are of the opinion that Islamabad is desperate to regain its influence in Kabul, according to the respected daily. Mashhad Radio's Dari-language service on 11 July condemned the ISI for murdering Abdul Qadir, and it vehemently rejected a report in Peshawar's "Frontier Post" that Iran and the Northern Alliance had a hand in the killing. Mashhad Radio said that the "false and groundless report" was an attempt to exonerate Pakistan. (Bill Samii)