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Iran Report: August 19, 2002

19 August 2002, Volume 5, Number 31

AL-QAEDA ACCUSATIONS WON'T GO AWAY. According to the 19 August issue of "Newsweek," 1,000 or more Al-Qaeda operatives had escaped from Afghanistan by mid-December 2001 -- hundreds of them via Iran. These operatives are now lying in wait in small cells in a loosely organized horizontal structure. An unnamed "counterterrorism chief of one Arab intelligence service that works closely with Washington" said in "Newsweek," "The most important destination is Iran." They initially traveled west via Herat, but as Ismail Khan strengthened his hold they left via a more southerly route toward Rabat and then Zahedan in eastern Iran. One of them, a Saudi named Zouhair Hilal Mohammad Tibiti who was arrested in May, arrived in Morocco in January on a flight from Tehran.

This "Newsweek" report supports U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad's 2 August assertion that hard-line elements in Iran "facilitated the movement of Al-Qaeda terrorists -- escaping from Afghanistan -- perhaps without the knowledge of elected members of government." And when combined with the Saudi foreign minister's 11 August discussion about Iran's extradition in June of 16 Saudi Al-Qaeda members (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 August 2002), the "Newsweek" report supports Khalilzad's assertion that Iran's acknowledgment of the Al-Qaeda personnel and the subsequent extraditions came "only after repeated criticism by the President and other U.S. officials."

The extradition of 16 terrorists is negligible, despite the publicity it has generated, in comparison to a 15 August report in Citing an anonymous source, the site reported that Iran has arrested and extradited more than 400 suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists. The anonymous source said that these individuals came from Belgium, England, France, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is dismissive of the reports that Iran captured and extradited some of the Al-Qaeda terrorists. He said on 13 August that Iran is allowing the terrorists to cross the border, and Tehran is at cross-purposes with the U.S. effort to round them up. "There is no question but that they have permitted al-Qaeda to enter their country. They are permitting al-Qaeda to be present in their country today, and it may very well be that they, for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries. But they've not turned any over to us," he said, according to the 14 August "Financial Times."

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, however, rejected allegations that Al-Qaeda personnel are hiding in Iran during a 12 August interview with Iranian state radio's English-language service. Karzai conceded that Al-Qaeda personnel could have escaped across the two countries' long borders but that did not mean that Iran supported Al-Qaeda.

While in Kabul on 13 August, President Mohammad Khatami said that Iran would never allow Al-Qaeda personnel or other terrorists to use its territory, and he went on to say that Iran normally extradites cross-border infiltrators to their country of origin, according to IRNA. Iranian parliamentarian Reza Yusefian, furthermore, said that Iran has no desire to become Al-Qaeda's next base. He said, according to ISNA on 12 August, that the extraditions demonstrate Iran's cooperation with the international community's fight against terrorism.

Mohammad Raufi, a member of the pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party, told ISNA on 14 August that extraditing the Al-Qaeda people was the right thing to do but the timing was wrong. Raufi explained that, with the pending American attack on Iraq and in light of regional tensions, Iranian statesmen found that it was expedient to turn over the terrorists. Nevertheless, Raufi said, "We should have handed over elements of Al-Qaeda earlier, since now the impression has been formed that Iran handed over the Al-Qaeda elements out of fear of an American attack." An editorial in the 13 August "Iran News" said the extraditions show that Iran abides by international law and it has a policy against terrorism. (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI VISITS KABUL... Iran's President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami on 13 August made a one-day visit to the Afghan capital. Transition Authority President Hamid Karzai greeted Khatami upon his arrival, and the two met for closed-door talks at the presidential palace. The only other participants in that morning session were Foreign Ministers Kamal Kharrazi and Abdullah Abdullah, according to IRNA. A member of Karzai's office told IRNA that the two sides discussed bilateral cooperation, reconstruction, counternarcotics, and regional issues. Kharrazi, Economics Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri, Ambassador to Afghanistan Ebrahim Taherian, Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar, and others represented Iran in the second round of talks, and representing Afghanistan were Abdullah, Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and several other ministers and officials.

During a joint press conference with Khatami, Karzai described the long-standing historical, cultural, religious, and linguistic links between Iran and Afghanistan and expressed gratitude for the assistance Iran has provided. In his words, according to Iranian state television, "Iran has not only had an important role in the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan; it has been host to more than 2 million Afghan refugees for many years. And it has done much to provide education and training for them."

In the subsequent joint statement, which was read out on Afghan television on 13 August, Karzai expressed his country's appreciation for Iran's approval of $50 million worth of assistance to Afghanistan this year. Both sides agreed on the formation of a joint committee that will coordinate their counternarcotics activities. Both sides also stressed the importance of rehabilitating the Afghan Army and police force and urged that this process be accelerated. Iran expressed its readiness to assist with this project. (Bill Samii)

...REJECTS CHARGES OF DESTABILIZING AFGHANISTAN... Before President Khatami left Tehran for Kabul, Karzai said that if any power is in Afghanistan it must only try to help in the establishment of peace and progress there. Iran, he said, "is the harbinger of peace and stability in Afghanistan and a strengthener of the government establishment in that country," IRNA reported.

Khatami later rejected U.S. charges that Iran is interfering in Afghan affairs: "America's accusation against Iran are not based on any documented evidence but on unsubstantiated charges. Everybody knows that we have supported the people of Afghanistan and we will continue to do in the future. We have no intention of interfering with the internal affairs of any country."

U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has frequently stated that elements in the Iranian government are trying to destabilize Afghanistan. He described these destabilizing activities in a 13 March speech to the American-Iranian Council: "allowing many Al-Qaeda forces to transit its territory...; sent some Qods forces associated with its [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps] to parts of Afghanistan...; sent Sepah-i-Mohammad, an Afghan militia created by the [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps]...; [and] provided military and financial support to regional parties without the knowledge and consent of the Afghan Interim Authority." And in a 2 August speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Khalilzad said, "the regime has sent some Qods forces associated with its [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps] to parts of Afghanistan. Iranian officials have provided support to regional parties without the knowledge and consent of the Afghan Interim Authority."

Both times, Khalilzad asked rhetorically, "Why are they doing this?" The first time he explained that "hard-liners in Iran feel threatened by the emergence of a moderate and western-oriented Afghanistan that might encourage the Iranian people to demand the same for their own country," and the second time he just said, "Elements in Iran feel threatened by the emergence of a moderate and western-oriented Afghanistan."

Khatami faced other questions about Iran-U.S. relations, according to IRNA. He said that the current U.S. administration is using the 11 September terrorist attacks as a pretext for going to war, whereas the previous administration's approach was more logical and in keeping with the international community's interests. Khatami said that the current state of Iran-U.S. relations can be traced to past U.S. activities, and he added that U.S. politicians should change their policies. (Bill Samii)

...AND SPEAKS WITH HERAT GOVERNOR ISMAIL KHAN. During his trip to Kabul, President Khatami attended a luncheon at the palace with Afghan political figures. Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan was among those with whom Khatami met, and when he got back to Herat, Ismail Khan described their meeting.

Ismail Khan said that he asked Khatami for cooperation in the establishment of checkpoints along the border and for some vehicles to help patrol the border, Herat TV reported on 15 August. Ismail Khan also asked for assistance in the renovation of a cement project. Khatami instructed Minister of Industry and Mines Issa Jahangiri to take action on this, Ismail Khan said, and later "the deputy of the Iranian embassy came to me and informed me about the visits of the minister of mines of Iran to Kabul and then to Herat next week." They also discussed road construction, construction of dams, excavation of wells, and the transfer of electricity from Iran to Herat. Khatami described, according to Ismail Khan, plans for "a railway from Iran to Afghanistan via Musa Abad on the border with Herat, which will connect Herat to the Persian Gulf and Bandar Abbas."

Ismail Khan said that he also raised the subject of refugees and unemployment, according to Herat TV. "I asked Mr. Khatami not to force refugees to leave Iran and pave the way for the creation of some employment in their country [Iran]." (Bill Samii)

'ALL AFGHAN REFUGEES MUST LEAVE IRAN'... Iran is fed up with the burden of some 2 million refugees from Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The refugees use social services, they are accused of criminal activities, and they take jobs that could go to Iranians, who are contending with a 25 percent unemployment rate. Iran is therefore forcing Afghan refugees to go home.

Ahmad Husseini, the Interior Ministry official in charge of dealing with refugees, said that 5.082 million rials ($635.25 at the market rate) a year is spent on each Afghan refugee, IRNA reported on 5 August, and the total cost to Iran is $4.5 million annually. Husseini said that international organizations contribute $6 per refugee per year. Husseini also said that 2.4 million Afghans have been registered in Iran and another 200,000-250,000 live there without permits. Iran and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) signed an agreement setting 11 August as the deadline for unregistered and undocumented refugees to obtain exit permits, but that deadline was extended to 27 August owing to what an Interior Ministry statement termed "the deep interest shown by the Afghan refugees for repatriation." Mashhad radio's Dari-language service on 10 August went on to report that "the disciplinary forces will find any illegal Afghan refugees and send them back to Afghanistan" after the deadline.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry official Javad Assadollahi said in the northeastern city of Taiabad that some 157,000 Afghans have gone back to their country since April. He added that this is the "best time" for them to leave because they could take all their property and up to $1,000 worth of Iranian goods (presumably for resale). Assadollahi also said these returnees will receive a travel grant upon arrival at their final destinations.

Iran's overt desire to see the last of the refugees may be one reason for an 11 August statement by UNHCR's Kabul spokeswoman, Maki Shinohara, who claimed that Iranian authorities are forcing the Afghan refugees to leave. She said that 10,000 Afghans returned in the first week of August, whereas an average of 6,500 a week returned in July. Shinohara went on to say that the Iranian authorities refused to register Afghan children for school and told the refugees that if they do not return to Afghanistan they no longer will be eligible for UN assistance, according to AP.

An interview by the Interior Ministry's Ahmad Husseini in the 29 July "Jomhuri-yi Islami" supports the claims of UNHCR's Shinohara. In Husseini's words, "All Afghan refugees must leave Iran." The first phase of the repatriation program will deal with illegal refugees, he said.

In the second phase, Husseini said, Afghans with residence permits who refuse to leave will be subject to "limitations." "As one of these limitations, we will increase the cost of living for Afghans, because we no longer view them as refugees, and their qualifications do not meet the conditions mentioned in the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. Thus, all Afghans who refuse to return to their country will be deprived of all subsidies granted to refugees. To have a job in Iran, these persons will have to obtain a work permit, and pay tax. Since the Iranian Constitution recognizes free education only for Iranian citizens, Afghans who remain in Iran will have to pay the cost of their children's education. They will not even be able to use subsidies relating to transportation, health, and other services."

Husseini had little sympathy, furthermore, for Iranian women who married Afghan men. He said, "We warned Iranian families that wanted to marry their daughters to foreign citizens to be careful.... The law of Afghanistan imposes the husband's nationality on the wife.... The children of these women will also be regarded as Afghan nationals. We are giving passports to these ladies and their children to leave the country." Husseini added, "Again, I announce that Iranian citizens must avoid marrying foreigners, especially Afghan nationals."

A report in the 15 August issue of Kabul's "Anis" newspaper confirmed that Afghan refugees in Iran are being pressured to leave. An editorial in the 8 August issue of "Shahadat," a Peshawar daily written in Afghanistan's Dari language, also said, "Iranian officials want to get rid of Afghan refugees." The editorial said Iranian police and government officials display a bad attitude toward the refugees and sometimes use abusive language against them. In some cases, the Iranian authorities arrest and deport children without informing their parents, disregarding their possession of proper documentation.

The Iranian government denies reports of forcible repatriations. Mohammad Rostami, another Interior Ministry official who deals with refugees, attributed the increased demand for repatriation to "better security conditions which have been established by the Afghan government," IRNA reported on 15 August.

This seems extremely unlikely. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for a stop to repatriations because of reduced security in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 July 2002). A UNHCR official in Mashhad, Salvatore Lombardo, said that conditions in Afghanistan are not conducive to absorbing millions of refugees, IRNA reported on 13 August. On 16 August, two UN agencies -- the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) -- warned in a joint report that some 6 million people in Afghanistan still are "highly vulnerable to food insecurity." The FAO/WFP report also described "a scarcity of meat, draught animals, and breeding stock" which has led to the import of ruminants and poultry that pose health risks to Afghan livestock. (Bill Samii)

...AND IRAQIS NOT WELCOME, EITHER. Most of the refugees in Iran are from Afghanistan, but a smaller percentage are from Iraq. As it appears that there could be a war to its west soon, Iran is bracing for an influx of Iraqis. Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said at a 5 August conference of officials who deal with refugee issues that an American attack on Iraq would result in an additional refugee problem, state television reported. He said that facilities for housing them on Iraqi territory should be prepared. Tehran took the same approach on the eve of the allied attack on Afghanistan. It attempted to close its eastern borders and set up camps in Afghanistan for displaced persons. International organizations registered their concern at the time about the safety of such camps (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 October 2000). (Bill Samii)

AFGHAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS IMPROVING. Afghan Communications Minister Masum Stanakzai oversaw the 10 August opening of a mobile-telephone center in Herat, according to Mashhad radio. With this development, locals will be able to contact foreign countries with their mobile phones. This is a notable development because, according to a November 2001 study by Pyramid Research, the Afghan analogue telephone network suffered extensive damage in the fighting of October and November. Pyramid also noted that the country's surviving wireless network covered only Kabul and Kandahar.

Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC), a joint venture with the government, began providing mobile-telephone service in Kabul in May. It was established in 1999 as a legal alternative to an American firm that could no longer work in Afghanistan due to sanctions. AWCC intends to provide mobile services for Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, and Kandahar, as well as Kabul and Herat. Ericsson, the Swedish mobile-telephone maker, operates a system for the United Nations in Kabul, the "Financial Times" reported on 23 July.

AWCC also owns the equipment being used in Kabul's first Internet cafe, according to a 2 August report from the Afghan News Network. Located in the Intercontinental Hotel, the cafe charges $5 an hour for use of one of its 11 terminals. Administrators use NetNanny to block offensive websites, chat and news groups, and to monitor online activity.

There are other developments in Afghan telecommunications. Kabul�s Radio Afghanistan reported that under a 7 August protocol signed by the Ministry of Communications and the "U.S. Development Program" (presumably USAID), the U.S. will connect Kabul's underground cable network, restore machinery and equipment, and supply 75 kilowatt generators and a 5,000-line digital telephone system for Kandahar. The U.S. will restore communication links between the capital and Badghis, Helmand, Kapisa, Bamian, Kondoz, and Maydan Wardak provinces. The U.S. also will train personnel at the Ministry of Communications. (Bill Samii)

AFGHAN TELEVISION GETS FOREIGN HELP. Afghanistan's President Karzai on 26 July met with officials from the state broadcasting organization and told them that radio and television should present the public's views as well as those of officialdom, Mashhad radio reported. Karzai instructed Minister of Information and Culture Rahim Makhdum to improve programs for the public. Karzai's wish may be fulfilled with help from Iran and Germany.

When Makhdum returned from an August trip to Iran, he discussed some of the assistance that his country's western neighbor would provide. He said, Mashhad radio reported on 16 August, "I had talks at the cultural center as well as at regional radio and TV studios.... The actual aim of the trip was to confer on cultural cooperation in press and cultural matters." Makhdum described the signing of two agreements, including one with Ali Larijani, the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcasting service, is helping Afghan broadcast media, too. Kabul TV on 12 August began broadcasting 10 minutes of world news daily. The broadcasts are prepared in Germany with Afghan presenters speaking Dari and Pashto and are transferred to Kabul via satellite. Moreover, Deutsche Welle will prepare 1 1/2 hours of additional television programming every week, and these programs will reach Kabul by courier.

Although there are no restrictions on the content of the programs, DW-TV will use a culturally sensitive approach, according to television Director Christophe Lanz. DW-TV sees this as emergency help until Kabul TV can produce the world news on its own, according to a 13 August Deutsche Welle press release. Germany already funds an FM radio station in Kabul called the "Voice of Freedom" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 August 2002). (Bill Samii)

GUARDIANS COUNCIL DEFENDERS SPEAK OUT. The Guardians Council, which is made up of six unelected clerics who must ensure that legislation conforms to religious law and includes another six lawyers who, along with the clerics, must ensure that legislation conforms to the constitution, is often criticized for rejecting bills favored by the people's elected representatives. Several prominent clerics have spoken out recently in defense of the Guardians Council.

Ayatollah Mohieddin Haeri-Shirzai, the Shiraz Friday Prayer leader and Fars Province representative of the supreme leader, on 14 August said that anybody who criticizes or insults the Guardians Council is insulting God and criticizing his commands, IRNA reported. Haeri-Shirazi explained that the Guardians Council and its provincial personnel are connected to God through the supreme leader who appoints them. Denying or accusing the Guardians Council or its provincial personnel, therefore, equals denying the supreme leader, which in turn is the same as denying God, he said.

Haeri-Shirzai said the Guardians Council cares more for Islam and for pleasing God than it does for the nation's will. He added that critics and those who spread discord are trying to promote American tendencies and secularism.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who serves on the Guardians Council, spoke out in its defense during a recorded speech that was broadcast on Iranian radio on 9 August. Yazdi said that critics of the Guardians Council are wearing "glasses of pessimism provided by the enemy." He expressed disbelief concerning those who complain when the Guardians Council does not automatically approve legislation, and he said that the council is doing its job, asking rhetorically, "Do you think that members of the Guardian Council sit around to exchange land among themselves? Do you think they are dividing wealth or positions of leadership among themselves?"

Yazdi also defended the honesty and piety of the council's membership: "Do you really know what sort of lifestyle the members of the Guardian Council pursue? Do you know the clerics, the members of the Guardian Council? They are such good people, so fair, so honest, and with such simple lifestyles. The lawyers of the Guardian Council are just the same, that is, they are all slaves of God." Yazdi also denied that the council's membership considers expediency when it reviews legislation.

Yazdi spoke out against suggestions that the Guardians Council's sessions should be open by asking, "If the Guardian Council sessions are made open, how would it resolve any of the country's problems?" (Bill Samii)

UNEMPLOYMENT AND INFLATION TOP IRANIANS' CONCERNS. Javad Farshbaf Maherian, who heads the Management and Planning Organization in Tehran Province, said on 6 August that the national unemployment rate stands at 14 percent, according to IRNA. UN statistics cited by IRNA on 23 July state that the unemployment rate stands at 16 percent. And the economic correspondent of RFE/RL's Persian Service, Fereydoun Khavand, said on 9 July that the real unemployment rate is above 25 percent. Regardless of the percentages, government statements and public polls indicate that joblessness is a major concern.

A poll has found that the greatest public concerns are inflation, unemployment, and the resulting problems. Of the people surveyed, 74.6 percent said that economic issues are the biggest societal problem, "Siyasat-i Ruz" reported on 23 July. Almost 50 percent of them said that inflation is their biggest concern, 18 percent complained about unemployment, and 10 percent mentioned corruption. But when asked to prioritize their concerns, unemployment came out ahead of inflation and high prices.

First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi on 6 August told officials from the Ministry of Industry and Mines that unemployment is one of the government's top worries, IRNA reported, and that the Fourth Development Plan seeks to create jobs. Minister of Industry and Mines Issa Jahangiri earlier said that renovation of the industrial infrastructure and reduction of red tape are major goals of the development plan.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Seyyed Safdar Husseini on 22 July said that unemployment has turned into a crisis and there are 3.2 million jobless people in the country, according to IRNA. It is expected that 5.5 million high-school graduates will join the unemployed in the next four years.

Husseini also said that some 70 percent of these unemployed people do not have the requisite vocational or professional skills. A measure of a country's development is how well it develops human resources, Husseini said, and Iran has been unsuccessful in this arena. The previous week, Mohsen Mirzai, the head of Iran's Literacy Movement, said there are 8.5 million illiterates in the country, according to IRNA.

The high unemployment rate and concerns about this issue lead one to ask why the state-dominated economy is unable to provide jobs. Shahid Beheshti University economic expert Professor Ahmad Tavakoli said on 6 May during a question-and-answer session at Ilam University, according to IRNA, that the main reason for the ailing economy is government mismanagement. (Only 22.5 percent of Iran's 2.3 million civil servants have bachelor's degrees, according to IRNA on 14 July.) Tavakoli also blamed corruption and the lack of transparency.

Abadan parliamentarian Ahmad Meydari, on the other hand, blamed what he termed poor "financial discipline." This means, Meydari said in the 17 April "Resalat," that funds should be used in the way determined by the law. He went on to explain that some current laws are outdated and inapplicable, while others are being formulated incorrectly. Meydari said that the legislature is trying to overcome these problems. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN TRYING TO INFLUENCE KURDISH DISPUTE. A delegation of Iranian officials arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan on 11 August and held meetings with representatives of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan (IMK), and the Islamic Group in an effort to resolve their differences, Suleimanieh's "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 14 August. The Iranians also met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masud Barzani, "Brayati" reported on 13 August. The timing of this Iranian visit is noteworthy because violent actions of the Iranian-backed Supporters of Islam in Kurdistan (Peshtiwanani Islam le Kurdistan, PIK, but which also has used the names Ansar al-Islam and Jund al-Islam) are causing regional instability, with London's "Observer" newspaper reporting on 11 August that the Kurds are "girding for war" and are "preparing to crush" the PIK.

Kurdish sources told the "Observer" that the Islamists must be crushed because all the peshmerga will be needed once the attack on Saddam Hussein begins. These sources also told the "Observer" that Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Al-Qaeda back the PIK, and the first two want to weaken the Kurds. Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Chekha Omer, a senior peshmerga commander, added some details when he said that Iran has recently supplied the PIK with three truck-mounted Katyusha multiple-rocket launchers, and that Iranian officers give them maps and weapons training.

The IMK has served as an intermediary in PUK-PIK negotiations (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 June 2002), but IMK-PUK relations recently deteriorated over the desecration of Naqshbandi Sufi sheikhs' tombs (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 August 2002). The PIK bore the brunt of the blame for this incident, and the IMK is accused of supporting the PIK.

An IMK spokesman in the 12 August "Hawlati" denied that a special relationship exists. IMK leader Mala Ali Abd-al-Aziz also rejected this assertion, saying in an interview that appeared in the 7 August issue of the IMK newspaper "Buzutnaway Islami" that the PIK consists of individuals who left the IMK. Mala Ali also denied that one of his sons -- Tahsin -- is connected with the PIK, but then he added, "The only thing is that we and the Islamic Republic of Iran have agreed on stationing our forces in Tawella to guard the Iranian border." He added that PUK and KDP forces are there, too. Mala Ali went on to say, "Biyara is on the route to and from Tawella, which is a region under our authority and control. And since the [PIK is] in Biyara, our forces and theirs mix in their daily movements."

Mala Ali said that Iran does not assist the IMK financially. He said that Iran has always helped the people of Kurdistan during hard times, "So in return for those favorable stances we have to be grateful and never to forget them. Therefore, we have political relations with Iran." In another sign that Tehran is trying to influence the current Kurdish crisis, Kurdistan Islamic Group leader Ali Bapir went to Iran for an official visit, Suleimanieh's "Komal" reported on 3 August. (Bill Samii)

CORRECTION: Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ahmad Masjid-Jamei was incorrectly referred to as a Hojatoleslam in the 12 August issue of the "RFE/RL Iran Report." Masjid-Jamei is a layman.