12 August 2002, Volume 5, Number 30
BAHRAIN RULER TO VISIT IRAN 'SOON.' The 6 August announcement by the official news agency of the Bahraini government (Bahrain News Agency, BNA) that the country's monarch, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifah, is to visit Iran soon indicates the great improvement in the two countries relations. It also is a worrisome development because the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and Tehran has been encouraging states in the region to prevent the use of their territory for any assault against Iraq (see below and previous issues of the "RFE/RL Iran Report").
Persians ruled Bahrain for nearly 200 years and the original population practiced Shia Islam, the majority faith in Iran. Sunni Arabs took power in 1783 and have dominated since. Iran's 1978-79 revolution and the example of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was an inspiration to groups like the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain and Bahrain Freedom Movement. Iran tried to mobilize the local Shia in Bahrain by sending in Iranian clerics and training local clerics in Iran. At least twice Iranian clerics incited riots, based partly on their claim that Bahrain is an Iranian province, according to Joseph Kostiner ("Shi'i Unrest in the Gulf," in "Shi'ism, Resistance, and Revolution," Martin Kramer, ed., Westview Press, 1987). Tehran also propagandized Bahrainis through the use of radio, pamphlets, and cassette recordings of radical preachers.
Bahrain's regime, in turn, used these events as an excuse to attack any perceived enemies. Members of the al-Dawa movement were implicated in December 1983 bombings that targeted the French and U.S. embassies. In June 1996, dozens of detainees "confessed" to membership in Hizballah Bahrain-Military Wing. Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps financed and directed this group, according to Bahrain's interior minister. In March 1997, Bahraini courts convicted and imprisoned 36 people for membership in Hizballah, some of whom allegedly received terrorist training in Iran.
Bahraini Defense Minister Major General Khalifah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifah suggested in the 16 July issue of the London-based "Al-Hayat" that his country's current relationship with Iran has improved greatly. The defense minister noted that "Iran contains many currents" -- one of which promotes friendship, dialogue, and peace and is led by President Mohammad Khatami -- "but if we are talking about the well-known old Iranian viewpoint, then undoubtedly we are against it and we will fight this tendency." The Bahraini defense minister said that this latter group of Iranians sees it as a "religious duty" to help Shia in Bahrain, Lebanon, and elsewhere. He continued, "They are always talking about exporting what they call revolution; but if any of this reached us, then we would be ready for it to defeat it."
Bahrain may not need much encouragement to go along with Iran's views regarding an attack on Iraq. Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifah Bin-Salman Al Khalifah said on 9 August that the region should be kept clear of the danger of war, and any differences should be settled through international law. He said that Bahrain believes that a danger to one regional state represents a danger to all of them, and this view has been expressed to Iran, Manama's "Gulf Daily News" reported on 10 August. Sheikh Khalifah expressed identical views in the 4 August "Gulf Daily News." Bahraini Defense Minister Major General Al-Khalifah said in the 18 July "Al-Hayat" that his country opposes an attack against Iraq. (Bill Samii)
OMANI VISITOR DISCUSSES IRAQ AND OTHER STUFF. Omani Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf bin Alawi Bin-Abdallah arrived in Tehran on 4 August to discuss bilateral relations, the possibility of a U.S. attack against Iraq, and regional issues. Regarding Iraq, bin Alawi said, "We are opposed to a military attack on Iraq and do not approve of any attack against Iraq or any other Muslim or Middle Eastern country," IRNA reported on 4 August. Iranian President Khatami also spoke out against a war on Iraq when he met with bin Alawi. He stressed the importance of preserving Iraq's territorial integrity, state television reported, and added, "Efforts should be made so that by accepting international standards Baghdad would eliminate the possibility of instability and the interference by foreign powers in the region." And according to the Oman's ONA news agency, "The Omani and Iranian sides underscored the role of the UN in settling differences in the region and the necessity to replace the language of war with peaceful dialogue."
Bin Alawi said that the Palestinian question topped the agenda of his talks in Iran, ONA reported. "We carry identical views with our brothers in Iran on most regional and international issues," he said. Bin Alawi said that Washington's efforts to resolve the Middle East crisis are incoherent and fruitless, according to IRNA. President Khatami added, according to Iranian state television, "It is necessary for Muslim countries to increase their cooperation and solidarity in order to attain the rights of the innocent people of Palestine, establish security in the region, and defend the honor of Islam."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, according to IRNA, said that "excellent" Muscat-Tehran relations have a positive impact on the entire region, and because Oman currently chairs the Gulf Cooperation Council, the two countries' negotiations should also improve cooperation between Iran and the council. (Bill Samii)
SAUDIS TOE IRANIAN LINE ON IRAQ. Less than one week after visiting Tehran, where he parroted Iranian opposition to a U.S. attack against Iraq, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz Al-Saud has said that his country will not allow its territory to be used by U.S. forces in such an assault. Prince Saud said, "We have told them we don't [want] them to use Saudi grounds" for any attack, "The Washington Post" reported on 8 August. Prince Saud said that his country is saying the same thing to Washington privately, too.
Prince Saud traveled to Tehran on 3 August for a one-day visit, and according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), he said that the discussions would center on Iraq. The Saudi foreign minister said, "Our stance is one with Iran over the [possible] American military attack against Iraq." Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi noted that "Our stand with Saudi Arabia is one in the sense that the Islamic Republic of Iran is opposed to any military attack on Arab and Islamic countries." President Khatami said during his meeting with Prince Saud, "If the dangerous phenomenon of a powerful country interfering in the affairs of other countries becomes customary, no government or nation will henceforth be secure," according to Iranian state television, adding that regional states should encourage Baghdad to conform to UN resolutions in order to eliminate the grounds for any military intervention. An editorial in the 4 August "Iran News" suggested that Prince Saud brought a special message about Iraq from Washington for the Iranian leadership.
Prince Saud said that another reason for his visit to Tehran was to discuss "the latest developments in occupied Palestine in the light of the ceaseless Israeli attacks," SPA news agency reported. Prince Saud and Kharrazi "condemned the Zionist regime for its efforts to escalate crisis and tension in the region," IRNA reported. They called on Israel to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. Kharrazi also criticized the United States for supporting Israel. He said that the United States is encouraging the use of "sophisticated weapons" against civilians, and he said that America's regional policies are responsible for the "massacre" of the Palestinian people. President Khatami said during his meeting with Prince Saud that the Islamic community is grief-stricken by events in the occupied territories, and he "expressed regret over the unquestioning support of American statesmen for the leaders of the Zionist regime," according to Iranian state television.
It is probably no coincidence that Saudi Arabia was described as a major sponsor of terrorism and an enemy of the United States and its allies during a 10 July presentation to the Defense Policy Board, a group of intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon. "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," said Rand Corporation analyst Laurent Murawiec, who concluded his briefing by describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. Such an extreme view is not official U.S. government policy, but it is one that is gaining prominence within the Bush administration, "The Washington Post" reported on 6 August. (To see Murawiec's presentation, see "Slate Magazine's" website at http://slate.msn.com/?id=2069119) (Bill Samii)
YEMENI VISITOR DISCUSSES IRAQ AND KHATAMI VISIT. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr al-Qurbi paid a three-day visit to Tehran at the end of July, where he discussed the upcoming visit to Yemen by President Khatami, Iraq, and other regional events. In a meeting with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani, al-Qurbi voiced his opposition to any Western attack on Iraq and said, according to Iranian state radio on 31 July, "Iran and Yemen must initiate intensive efforts and consultations so as to safeguard their bilateral interests as well as the interests of the region and the Islamic world." During a 30 July meeting with Expediency Council Chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, IRNA reported, al-Qurbi also opposed military action against Iraq.
Discussing other regional issues, al-Qurbi said, according to Tehran radio, "In view of the performance of America and the Zionist regime, the Islamic states unanimously believe that the Intifada must be supported. Intifada is the only alternative of the Palestinian nation to achieve victory." Rohani said, "Islamic countries must combat the threats and serious intervention of America and the Zionist regime through unity and steadfastness." And Hashemi-Rafsanjani told al-Qurbi that Yemen's support of the Palestinian resistance is laudable.
According to a 29 July IRNA report, al-Qurbi said that Khatami's upcoming visit to Sanaa should "open a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the two countries in all political, economic and cultural areas." Khatami met with Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih's special envoy Ali Muhammad al-Unsi in Tehran on 23 June, according to IRNA, and was told that the Yemeni people and government are looking forward to his visit. (Bill Samii)
IRANIANS WEIGH IN ON RELATIONS WITH U.S.... Members of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee questioned Foreign Minister Kharrazi about Iran-America issues, "Hambastegi" reported on 7 August, and found his answers to be inadequate and unconvincing. According to "Hambastegi," "The most important questions that the minister was unable to answer were about the strategy for Iran-America and Iran-Iraq relations in the short and long term."
Meanwhile, two opinions polls commissioned by the committee and conducted by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance and by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security found that the majority of Iranians consider the U.S. to be insincere and they consider it to be Iran's enemy, "Iran News" reported on 5 August citing emrooz.org. The polls also found that 71-78 percent of the people surveyed favor holding talks with the U.S., and that 65-70 percent would not find such talks to be humiliating. Emrooz.org did not report when or where the polls were conducted, or the number of people who were polled. (Bill Samii)
...AS WASHINGTON CHANGES IRAN POLICY... U.S. National Security Council senior director for Southwest Asia, the Near East, and North Africa Zalmay Khalilzad, during a 2 August speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, put meat on the bones of the new U.S. policy towards Iran. Indications that such a change would be forthcoming were the inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil" mentioned in the 29 January State Of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush's 12 July statement in which he made a distinction between the Iranian people and unelected officials who disregard their wishes, and President Bush's designation of Iran as a "captive nation" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 February, 15 July, and 23 July 2002).
In Khalilzad's words, "U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran, but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny." He said that U.S. policy is not about reformists and hard-liners or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami; it is about supporting the Iranian people who want a free and prosperous country with an accountable leadership. Khalilzad also asserted that Tehran's domestic and foreign policies are responsible for the poor state of relations with the U.S. and its miserable economy.
In his speech, Khalilzad described Iran's support for Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; its involvement with the 1996 bombing of U.S. military housing in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and its quest for weapons of mass destruction. He pointed out that critical national security decisions in Iran are the work of an "unelected few," and that it is these "unelected few" who have blocked an "authoritative dialogue" with the U.S. (Bill Samii)
...AND TOP IRANIAN OFFICIALS ISSUE WARNINGS. Some leading Iranian officials, meanwhile, are accusing the U.S. of conducting psychological warfare against their country. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in an 8 August speech to thousands of students in Tehran that the enemy is waging "propaganda warfare" against Iran with the intention of "generating a sense of despair." Khamenei accused the U.S. of targeting young people, and said that the country's officials would not carry out "the disgraceful actions which America describes as reforms" and that "[the officials] will block America's path toward re-exerting its domination over the Iranian nation."
Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani said on state television on 8 August that an American display of satellite imagery of the Bushehr nuclear facility is little more than "psychological war against the Islamic Republic of Iran." He went on to say that Iran is ready to defend itself.
President Khatami just accuses the U.S. of being warlike. When asked about Iran-U.S. relations during a 23 July press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Khatami said: "More than the relations with America, we should think of the horrific ambience America has created in the world. An atmosphere in which America is beating the drums of war. And we should try to eliminate this atmosphere." (Bill Samii)
THE HAZARDS OF IRANIAN JOURNALISM. Iran commemorated Journalists Day on 8 August, which is the anniversary of the 1998 killing of an IRNA correspondent by Taliban forces at Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan (see below). Meanwhile, Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Hojatoleslam Ahmad Masjid-Jamei wrote to Labor and Social Affairs Minister Safdar Husseini, urging President Khatami to designate journalism as a "difficult and hazardous job," "Iran Daily" reported on 5 August. Masjid-Jamei noted that the sensitivity of the profession "mentally and physically inconveniences journalists."
Press closures and frequent court appearances might be considered an inconvenience or a hazard, too -- even the official news agency is facing legal harassment. At a ceremony in Kurdistan Province to mark Journalist's Day, Mehrnush Jafari, director-general of the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry's Domestic Press Department, said that 85 publications have been banned since March 1998, "Entekhab" reported on 11 August.
A Tehran court on 8 August ordered the closure of the daily "Aineh-yi Jonub," which had hit the newsstands just one week earlier, for publishing articles that are "contrary to the law," IRNA reported. It also banned "Ruz-i No," which was to begin publication next week. Judge Said Mortazavi explained: "According to statements published in the press, which have explicitly cited 'Ruz-i No' as a replacement for 'Noruz'...and given the similarity between the two in name and logo, the publication of 'Ruz-i No' is considered as contradicting the press law until the six-month suspension of the daily 'Noruz' expires," according to IRNA. A complaint has been lodged against the "Ruz-i No" managing editor, Tehran parliamentarian Mohammad Naimipur.
Journalist Hashem Aghajari, who recently stirred up a hornet's nest after questioning the religious hierarchy (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002), was detained in Hamedan after coming to the court to be interrogated, IRNA reported on 8 August. He was previously subpoenaed for violating religious sanctities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 July 2002). Aghajari's hearing is scheduled for 31 August. The Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, of which Aghajari is a member, protested the arrest in a 10 August communique that it cabled to IRNA.
The Press Court on 5 August found "Guzarish-i Ruz" managing director Ali Mohammad Mahdavi-Khorrami guilty on charges brought against him by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the Law Enforcement Forces' intelligence office, the prosecutor-general, and Abdolhamid Mohtasham, the managing director of the hard-line weekly "Yalisarat al-Hussein," according to IRNA. The court decided against leniency because Mahdavi-Khorrami has a record of press offenses and absence from court sessions. His sentence has not yet been announced.
An arrest warrant was issued for journalist Masud Behnud, who in February 2001 was sentenced to 19 months in jail, "Iran" newspaper reported on 5 August. Behnud is out of the country, and Mehrabad Airport officials have been instructed to keep an eye out for him.
A Tehran court summoned "Aftab-i Yazd" managing editor Mansur Mozaffari to appear by 6 August, IRNA reported on 4 August. He faces 36 complaints from the state prosecutor and the State Inspectorate.
The Revolutionary Court on 7 August said that it had the right to take legal action against the government's Islamic Republic News Agency, for reporting on the Freedom Movement's (Nehzat-i Azadi) rejection of its dissolution (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 August 2002). The court asked why IRNA does not relay statements from "other counterrevolutionary groups." IRNA responded on 7 August that Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) aired the same dispatch, and went on to say that IRNA had the right to transmit the news so that the nation and foreigners would not have to rely on foreign media.
"Hambastegi" deputy editor Rahmanqoli Qolizadeh notes that the press is being asked to promote national reconciliation because Iran is threatened with invasion, "Hambastegi" reported on 31 July. In the report, Qolizadeh asks, "Is there anything left of the press that it can play this role," noting that the public no longer trusts the press. According to Qolizadeh, if the press is allowed to function, it would be "very formal and artificial" and would not be accepted "either by our people at home or by others abroad." (Bill Samii)
HARD-LINERS FEAR EXPLOITATION OF PARLIAMENTARY CRITICISM. During the 4 August parliamentary session, a letter from more than 150 representatives was read out, "Hayat-i No" reported on 5 August. The letter warned against the "perpetrators of policies and methods that lead the land down the slope of hopelessness, despair, and dissatisfaction" at a time when there are frequent calls for unity and national solidarity. The letter asked how the parliamentarians should persuade foreign governments of the effectiveness of Iranian justice when a member of the Iranian parliament, Mohsen Mirdamadi, has been sentenced to prison. The parliamentarians' letter also questioned the closed-door trials of members of the Freedom Movement and criticized the closures of and bans on various newspapers.
Judiciary spokesman Hussein Mir-Mohammad-Sadeqi said in a 5 August fax to IRNA that the comments in the parliamentarians' letter were surprising and the criticism of the Judiciary was unreasonable, "Iran" reported. He warned that the parliamentarians were playing into U.S. hands. "In the current sensitive juncture American politicians like to see that part of the political system is questioned by another part so that they could justify any outrageous act against our country before the public opinion of America and the world." Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, furthermore, told senior Judiciary officials on 5 August that undermining the legal institutions in the current circumstances serves U.S. interests, IRNA reported. He added that any acts against Iranian national unity would be "a betrayal of Islam, [the] revolution, and the people."
Habibullah Asgaroladi-Mosalman of the Islamic Coalition Association also took exception to the legislators' action, saying that a letter such as theirs should not contain material that weakens the legislature. He continued, according to the 7 August "Resalat" daily, "In their letter, the sanctity of the law, the Judiciary, and judges was not respected and, unfortunately, objections were raised to some court verdicts, which had completed all the appropriate legal stages."
General Masud Jazayeri of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps warned that those who "declare support" for the Freedom Movement "will lose their legitimacy," "Iran Daily" reported on 8 August. Support for the Freedom Movement, according to Jazayeri, is akin to "giving the green light to the Americans."
Speaker of parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi expressed disdain for his colleagues' letter, "Tehran Times" reported on 8 August. He said, "Even if they had asked me to sign the letter I would not have done so."
Yet President Khatami seems to share the parliamentarians' doubts about the Judiciary's activities. He has instructed the Constitutional Supervisory Board to investigate the verdicts, "Imruz" reported on 6 August, after the Freedom Movement asked Khatami, parliament speaker Karrubi, and others not to remain silent about the verdicts. Khatami wants the court proceedings to be investigated for their consistency with Article 168 of the constitution, which stipulates that political trials must be open and in front of a jury, according to "Imruz."
Moreover, during a 6 August speech to the central council of the Islamic Society of University Lecturers (Anjuman-i Islami-yi Mudarresin-i Daneshgah-ha), Khatami said that bans of this sort are ineffective and even counterproductive, the Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA) reported. "The problem cannot be solved through the superficial elimination of a group that has its own particular taste, because it has been proved today that tendencies that are repressed are not [thereby] destroyed, they become hidden somewhere and will make themselves felt at a high cost [one day]." Khatami added, "If problems are not resolved within a legal, accepted system, solutions may be sought outside the system; this is the great danger that the country faces." (Bill Samii)
IRAN RANKS 98TH ON UN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT SCALE. Iran ranked 98th out of the 173 countries surveyed in the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) "Human Development Report 2002" that was released on 24 July. This placed Iran in the "medium" human development category. Last year, Iran ranked 90th out of 162 countries. Placement in the Human Development Index is based on factors such as life expectancy at birth, the adult literacy rate, school enrollment rates, and per capita gross domestic product.
In comparison to some if its neighbors, Iran's current ranking puts it ahead of Jordan (99), Kyrgyzstan (102), Syria (108), Tajikistan (112), and Pakistan (138). Yet Iran's ranking was lower than those of its neighbors in the Caucasus -- Armenia (76), Georgia (81), and Azerbaijan (88) -- and three of its Central Asian neighbors -- Kazakhstan (79), Turkmenistan (87), and Uzbekistan (95). Iran placed behind several other regional states: Israel (22), Bahrain (39), Kuwait (45), United Arab Emirates (46), Qatar (51), Saudi Arabia (71), Lebanon (75), Oman (78), and Turkey (85). Little quantitative data was available for Afghanistan or Iraq. As in the previous year, Norway was the highest-ranking country, while Sierra Leone was the lowest-ranking one.
Iran is making progress towards its Millennium Development Goals. It is "on track" in the following areas: halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger and undernourishment, eliminating gender disparity in education, reducing by two-thirds the under-five and infant mortality rates, and halving the proportion of people without access to improved water resources. It is slipping back, however, in ensuring that all children complete primary education in terms of the net primary-school enrolment ratio.
According to the UNDP, Iran's population is reported to be 70.3 million, and by 2015 it should reach 87.1 million. In the year 2000, 37.4 percent of the population was under the age of 15, with that proportion dropping to 27.2 percent by 2015. Each woman had about 3.2 children in 1995-2000.
An article on "nation-building" in "The New York Times" on 28 July asserts that "the new mantra of [the nation-building] industry is governance." "Economic development is impossible," the article continues, in the absence of "effective governance." And this effective governance, in turn, includes the rule of law, anticorruption measures, democracy, and a free press.
Indeed, the theme of this year's UNDP report is the importance of politics in human development, and how political power and institutions shape human progress. For this reason, the role of the state received special attention. In terms of subjective indicators of governance, Iran did not fare well, falling in the "not free" category for civil liberties, political rights, and press freedom. It also received low scores for "voice and accountability" (free and fair elections, press freedom, civil liberties, political rights, military in politics, change in government, transparency, and business freedom), political stability and lack of violence, rule of law, and corruption. Iran got a four out of six -- six being the best -- on "law and order," which considers legal impartiality and popular observance of the law.
The UNDP report carried a letter from Iran's President Khatami that was entitled "The world's future belongs to democracy." Khatami described the main features of democracy as "people's right to determine their destinies; the emanation of authority, particularly political authority, from the free will and choice of the people and its submission to their continued scrutiny; and the institutionalization of such accountability." Khatami noted that "No single form of democracy can be prescribed as the one and final version." In his concluding paragraph, he noted that the international future belongs to "democracy at all levels of governance." (Bill Samii)
BY-ELECTIONS FOR ASSEMBLY OF EXPERTS AND PARLIAMENT. After two weeks of campaigning, three candidates vied on 26 July to represent Yazd Province in the Assembly of Experts and another three competed to represent Ardabil Province in the Assembly of Experts. Moreover, 11 candidates competed to represent the Ardabil Province constituency of Khalkhal and Kowsar in the legislature. There were 580 polling stations in Yazd, provincial Governor-General Kalantari told state radio on 25 July, and there were approximately 1,060 polling stations in Ardabil Province, according to provincial Governor-General Tahai. Supervision was provided by personnel representing the Guardians Council the Interior Ministry, and the governorate. Mehrangiz Morovati of the pro-Khatami Second of Khordad movement won the parliamentary race in Khalkhal and Kowsar, AFP reported. Ebrahim Hatami, a seminary instructor and the provisional Friday prayer leader of Ardabil, won the Assembly of Experts race in Ardabil. (Bill Samii)
KHATAMI TO VISIT AFGHANISTAN NEXT WEEK... President Khatami is to make a one-day visit to Kabul next week, according to an anonymous "reliable source in the Afghan government" cited by IRNA on 5 August and according to Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh on 7 August. An Iranian delegation visited Kabul the previous week and met with Afghan Transitional Authority President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim, and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah to discuss the possibility of such a visit. "Afghan government sources" added that another delegation would arrive in Kabul on 7 August. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said on 3 June that Khatami would visit Kabul within a week, and at that time, Samad said that the topics under discussion would include Iran's role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, regional development, and combating international terrorism and extremism (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 10 June 2002). Karzai was in Iran for a two-day visit on 24-26 February (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 25 February 2002).
...AND WILL DISCUSS MURDERED JOURNALIST, OFFICIALS. Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh on 7 August said that one of the topics of discussion during President Khatami's visit to Kabul would be the case of the Iranian government officials and an IRNA reporter who were killed by the Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif in August 1998, according to IRNA.
Taliban commander Mullah Wali, who is suspected of being responsible for the murders, was detained in Herat in early December, an anonymous "informed source" told IRNA on 27 December 2001. The source told IRNA at the time that Mullah Wali was being held at a prison in western Herat. If Mullah Wali is indeed in custody, it is odd that Herat's Governor Ismail Khan, who is close to the Iranian government, has not made this suspect available to the Iranians.
Tehran claims that the officials were diplomats, but many observers believe that they actually were intelligence officers. The brother of Mohammad Saremi, the IRNA reporter who was murdered in Mazar-i-Sharif, told RFE/RL's Persian Service that the Iranian government does not seem very interested in solving the case, and he speculated that the government does not want the case to be examined too closely because of what might be revealed about the Iranian officials. Saremi compared his brother's case to that of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan. Saremi pointed out that the U.S. authorities made every effort to bring the culprits to justice. Saremi's brother said that his family wrote a letter to Afghan President Karzai, and Saremi even handed a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he visited Tehran, but still there have been no results.
Iran's minister of Islamic culture and guidance, Hojatoleslam Ahmad Masjid-Jamei, sent a letter to Afghanistan's Minister of Information and Culture Raheen Makhdoom asking that the killers be identified and punished, Mashhad radio's Dari-language service reported on 4 August. On the anniversary of the killings -- 7 August -- Makhdoom said: "This tragic incident took place at a time when the holy city of Mazar-i-Sharif was captured by the forces of evil. The martyrdom of the diplomats and the innocent Iranian journalist was against all Islamic and human norms," Kabul's Radio Afghanistan reported. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN DENIES HARBORING AL-QAEDA. Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh during a 7 August press conference denied that there are any Al-Qaeda personnel in Iran, IRNA reported, and he added, "The individual who has raised this issue wants to whitewash his past support for the Taliban regime."
U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had said during a 2 August speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (see above for more on Khalilzad's speech) that Iran acknowledged extraditing Al-Qaeda terrorists in recent months, but that some unaccountable elements within the government facilitated the terrorists' movements through Iran, possibly without the knowledge of elected Iranian officials. Khalilzad said that the extraditions are insufficient: "The Iranian government should follow up with its own people and the international community on how many Al-Qaeda members are in Iran and who and how many have transited out of Iran."
Presumably Ramezanzadeh is referring to Khalilzad's serving as a consultant for an American energy company -- UNOCAL -- that in 1997 was discussing with the Taliban the possibility of a gas pipeline across Afghanistan. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi also rejected the U.S. allegations that Iran is harboring Al-Qaeda personnel, according to a state television report on 5 August.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud said in "The Washington Post" on 11 August that Iran expelled 16 Al-Qaeda fighters to Saudi Arabia. "We asked [the Iranians] to hand them over and they did," Prince Saud said. "Iran has not only cooperated with Saudi Arabia in this conflict in Afghanistan but cooperated extensively with the United States," the prince added. He said that Tehran turned over the suspects to Riyadh knowing that the information that they provided would be shared with the U.S.
Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel al-Jubeir on CNN's "Late Edition" on 11 August said that he could not guarantee that U.S. officials would have access to the Al-Qaeda suspects, and he avoided comment on their possible extradition to the U.S. He insisted that any information the suspects provide would be turned over to the U.S. "There are ways where the objectives can be accomplished without violating issues of national sovereignty. I can assure you that the United States intelligence community, that the U.S. law-enforcement agencies will be fully satisfied with the cooperation they will get from Saudi Arabia. And let me leave it at that," he said according to a 12 August report in "The Washington Times" about the Saudi's television appearance. Saudi cooperation with U.S. investigations has been spotty, at best. Riyadh was not very helpful in the investigation of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, in which 19 American military personnel were killed and hundreds of other people were wounded (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 April 2001). (Bill Samii)
GERMANS ACTIVE ON AFGHAN AIRWAVES... The "Voice of Freedom," a German-funded FM radio station based in Kabul, began broadcasting in the Dari and Pashto languages for one hour a day on 4 August, according to the Chinese Xinhua news agency. The station is based at a German military encampment east of Kabul, and its $2,000 monthly budget comes from the German military. German Brigadier General Manfred Schlenker said that his country wants to support the peace process in Afghanistan, Xinhua reported, and to this end it is essential to inform the Afghan people about the Germans' mission. (Bill Samii)
...AS IS THE UNITED STATES. The U.S. Army's 8th Psychological Operations Battalion runs a popular AM radio station near Kandahar, using mobile transmitters with a 32-kilometer range. The station is on the air 18 hours a day, "Stars and Stripes" reported on 31 July, and it plays "all of the best Afghan music from yesterday and today," as well as three informational spots an hour. Such messages provide information on what to do about unexploded ordinance, news about the Transitional Authority, and reassurances that U.S. forces are not in Afghanistan as occupiers. Afghans can listen to the broadcasts on small transistor radios that originally were dropped to enable them to listen to broadcasts from Commando Solo, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's EC-130 aircraft that had been conducting civil affairs and psychological-operations broadcast missions (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 November 2001 and 25 March 2002). (Bill Samii)
PAKISTANI TRIBESMEN TURN OVER AL-QAEDA COLLABORATOR. Pakistani police announced on 4 August the surrender of Abdul Khaliq Sarkikhel Wazir, the owner of a safe house in the semi-autonomous tribal region of South Waziristan where Al-Qaeda suspects were given shelter, Islamabad's English-language daily "The News" reported on 4 August. The Al-Qaeda suspects had killed 10 Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops during a raid of the hideout. Two suspected Al-Qaeda fighters, believed to be Chechens, died in the shootout on 25 June.
One hundred tribal chieftains held a council and decided to turn over Abdul Khaliq after the central government ordered the closure of shops and gas stations, impounded dozens of vehicles, and arrested 12 tribal elders, "The News" reported on 5 August. Soon after Abdul Khaliq's surrender, the authorities allowed the businesses to reopen and released the tribal elders. (Bill Samii)