28 October 2002, Volume 5, Number 39
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AFGHAN OPIUM CROP FULFILLS IRANIAN EXPECTATIONS. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (ODC, formerly known as the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention) released the annual Afghanistan Opium Survey 2002 on 24 October and found a "considerable level of opium production in the country this year," Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told a press conference that day, according to a UN press release. This information was gathered via satellite imagery, extensive ground verification, and targeted ground surveys.
Afghanistan opium production from 1994 to 2002 (rounded total in tons):
1994..............3,400 metric tons
1995..............2,300 metric tons
1996..............2,200 metric tons
1997..............2,800 metric tons
1998..............2,700 metric tons
1999..............4,600 metric tons
2000..............3,300 metric tons
2001.................185 metric tons
2002..............3,400 metric tons
The survey found that 90 percent of the cultivation took place in just five of Afghanistan's 32 provinces: Helmand in the south, Uruzgan in the south/center, Kandahar in the south, Nangarhar in the east, and Badakhshan in the northeast. The survey also emphasized that the cultivation took place in Autumn 2001 during the absence of law and order and before efforts to rebuild a country "devastated by two decades of conflict had even begun." Indeed, on the eve of the allied attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, the Taliban warned that they would give farmers permission to resume poppy cultivation (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 October 2001).
This does not explain poppy cultivation in Badakhshan Province, which was controlled by the same Northern Alliance (United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) that now effectively runs Afghanistan. In 2001, cultivation in Badakhshan increased by almost 260 percent (from 2,458 hectares in 2000 to 6,342 hectares in 2001), according to last year's poppy survey, making the northeastern province responsible for 83 percent of the national poppy area (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 October 2001). In the 2002 survey, 8,250 hectares of Badakhshan Province were under cultivation and it was responsible for 9 percent of the country's total opium output. The "sustained increase," according to the 2002 survey, "seems to have been triggered by the sustained high price levels for opium, as well as favorable climatic conditions."
The survey for 2002 notes that President Hamid Karzai's government has shown strong commitment to preventing illicit poppy cultivation, and it called on the international community to support the Afghan government's efforts. It should help with the development of Afghan drug-control and law-enforcement agencies, the creation of judicial institutions that meet international standards, and enhancement of cross-border monitoring and interdiction efforts. The 2002 survey also called for crop substitution so farmers will not cultivate opium.
The 3,400 metric tons of raw opium from this year's harvest exceeds earlier UN estimates of between 1,900 and 2,700 tons of opium resin. It falls just slightly below the estimate by Iranian Drug Control Headquarters chief Ali Hashemi, as reported in the 15 October "Financial Times," of a yield of 3,500-4,000-tons. Hashemi also said, according to state television on 12 October, that a new national counternarcotics program will go into effect in 2004, and this program will consist of two separate, five-year plans. (Bill Samii)
AFGHAN VISITORS TO IRAN DISCUSS DRUG CONTROL. Opium traditionally has been cultivated in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, and when Governor Mohammad Shafiq Shirzai (also known as Gul Agha) visited Iran's Sistan va Baluchistan Province on 21-23 October, counternarcotics was one of the topics under discussion. Mashhad radio reported on 23 October that the two sides proposed cooperation in crop substitution. In an interview with Mashhad radio the previous day, Afghan spokesman Khalid Pashtun described a newly created 300-man countertrafficking unit equipped with modern vehicles and equipment. This emphasis on counternarcotics was underlined by the inclusion in Shirzai's delegation of rangers commander Ahmad Rahmati, as reported by IRNA on 22 October.
Shirzai's delegation discussed the release of the Helmand (Hirmand) River's water from behind the Kajaki Dam in order to alleviate drought conditions in Sistan va Baluchistan Province (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 23 September 2002). The Afghan guests also visited Mirjaveh border terminal, the Qods-i Razavi Food Industries Company, and the Chahbahar Free Trade Zone on 22-23 October, IRNA reported.
On 21 October, Shirzai met Iranian Deputy Finance Minister Mehdi Karbasian and called for Iranian private investment in Kandahar. Karbasian described Iranian willingness to establish agriculture-training courses and build a power plant in Kandahar.
The visit to Iran by a delegation from Kandahar is surprising. Nine months earlier, Afghans authorities were accusing Tehran of sending Iranian military officers to Farah, Nimruz, and Helmand provinces, and they charged that the Herat Province governor was working with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and allies of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 January 2002). (Bill Samii)
SUPREME LEADER ESPOUSES 'RELIGIOUS DEMOCRACY.' Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a 22 October speech to thousands of people in Tehran on the anniversary of the birth of the 12th Shia imam (known as the Mahdi or "Imam Zaman") discussed his perspective on democracy, according to a report on Iranian state radio that day. Khamenei said that when the Mahdi returns from his occultation, he will rely on the pious to lay the foundation for a universally popular government. Khamenei continued: "But this popular government is totally different from the governments that claim to be popular and democratic in today's world. That which is called democracy and rule by the people in the world today is the same thing as the old dictatorship that has donned a new garb. It is the dictatorship of groups. Even if there is competition, it is competition between groups; the people have no part to play." The world's democracies are based on propaganda, Khamenei added, whereas, "The democracy of the Lord of the Age, religious democracy is totally different."
Khamenei's comments are somewhat cryptic, as he goes on to discuss corruption. Nevertheless, his remarks may deal with pending legislation that would limit the power of the Guardians Council to vet candidates for elected office, a power known as approbatory supervision. Khamenei and other leading figures have in the past described the Guardians Council as a defender of Islam and of the revolutionary system. Usually when there are calls for changes in the council's vetting of candidates, the response is that this is the very body that is keeping inappropriate and corrupt people out of public office. The hard-liners also say the Guardians Council acts in the name of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khamenei, who is frequently referred to as the "Imam." Even though Khamenei was referring to a different imam throughout most of his speech, his usage of the title could have been an attempt to link the two. (Bill Samii)
COMPROMISE ON KHATAMI'S PURSUIT OF MORE POWER. Yazd parliamentarian Mohammad Kazem Mortazavi serves on the joint committee that is reviewing two bills that would increase the president's powers and limit those of the Guardians Council (on this legislation, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 September 2002). He said in the 23 October "Aftab-i Yazd" that the bill to modify the president's powers may be modified. Mortazavi explained that some changes and modifications are required, and he said that Article 2 of the bill definitely would not pass in its present state. In this article, according to "Aftab-i Yazd," the president can refer a legal sentence that contravenes the constitution to a bench consisting of a judge and two associate judges of the Supreme Court, and with a majority vote, prevent the execution of a sentence.
President Mohammad Khatami defended the two bills during a 20 October speech to the parliament about the Third Five-Year Development Plan, according to state television. Hard-line media and political commentators have argued against the legislative measures, saying they would give the president dictatorial powers. Khatami said during his speech that the president is "duty-bound to safeguard and implement the constitution," and he added, "It is incumbent upon [the president] to formulate rational policies to ensure that he can fulfill his responsibilities."
Three days later, government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said, according to Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), "One cannot expect the president -- who has been elected by the people for a limited term and is under the supervision of the [supreme] leader, the judiciary, the parliament, the public, and even ordinary courts -- to turn into a dictator."
Ramezanzadeh also said the government is optimistic about approval of the legislation, IRNA reported. Compromise will be essential if the laws are to win approval. Such compromises, however, could water them down to such an extent that they are meaningless in practical terms. Khatami would then have a Pyrrhic victory in which he can claim to have accomplished something and the hard-liners can, behind the scenes, continue as before. (Bill Samii)
REFORMIST DELEGATION GETS MONTAZERI'S SUPPORT. A 15-member delegation from Iran's main pro-Khatami party, the Islamic Iran Participation Party, visited Qom on 18 October to meet with senior clerical figures. IIPP Secretary-General Mohammad Reza Khatami said in the 21 October "Etemad" newspaper that, during the meetings, participants discussed "general issues, the sociopolitical conditions, the situation of the clergy, and the expectations from senior clerics." Grand Ayatollahs Fazel-Lankarani, Safi-Golpayegani, and Vahid-Khorasani did not meet the IIPP delegation because in the current political climate they are not ready to receive any political groups, Khatami said in the 21 October "Entekhab." The delegation did, however, meet Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, who has been under house arrest since 1997. Montazeri happened to be in his courtyard, and the visitors spoke with him from the balcony of his son's neighboring residence. Former Isfahan parliamentarian Ahmad Salamatian told the RFE/RL Persian Service that the meeting was part of the reformist campaign to win support for legislation that would increase President Mohammad Khatami's powers.
Montazeri subsequently sent a written message to the legislature in which he stated his support for the legislation that would limit the Guardians Council's power, "Iran News" reported on 24 October. Montazeri wrote, "The Guardian Council has denied people's rights and restricted their freedom in vetting hopefuls standing for elections." Montazeri said the council has deviated from its mandate and abused its authority in the vetting process. (Bill Samii)
KHATAMI EXAGGERATES ECONOMIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS. President Mohammad Khatami said during his 20 October speech to the legislature that in the second year of the Third Development Plan, 2,134 megawatts of power was added to the country's electricity output, uncontaminated drinking water was provided to more villages and cities, and more urban sewage systems were built, according to state television. Khatami described developments and expansion in telecommunications systems and in urban railway lines. He also said the government created 410,000 (in the year starting March 2000) and 460,000 (in the year starting March 2001) new jobs and a 4 percent growth rate. Members of the government, outside experts, and regular Iranians are not quite as impressed as Khatami.
The day after Khatami described these accomplishments, First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi described the faults of the development projects. Aref-Yazdi told reporters in Arak, according to IRNA, that it takes an average of nine years to implement a development project and officials have concluded that such projects are beyond the country's capacities. Under the Third Five-Year Development Plan, projects that have not been given priority will remain untouched, and only those projects that have financing will proceed.
Also on 20 October, Management and Planning Organization Director for Social Affairs Majid Yarmand said that 15 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, IRNA reported. Urban households that earn less than 710,000 rials ($88.53) a month and rural households that earn less than 480,000 rials ($59.85) a month are living below the poverty line. Yarmand said the following factors go into determining the poverty line: calories consumed per day and expenses such as clothing, housing, education, and health care. Income distribution has not changed markedly since 1979, Yarmand said, and the top 10 percent of the population earns about 30 percent of the annual income.
Fereydoun Khavand, the economic commentator for RFE/RL's Persian Service, says that Khatami's exaggerated figures still show that the government fell short of the Third Five-Year Economic Development Plan's annual goal of creating 760,000 jobs per year. Khavand said the growth rate in Iran is a product of increased oil income due to higher prices. Khavand noted that Khatami made a few good economic moves, such as unification of the exchange rate and tax reform, but he did not institute any major structural change to transform Iran's oil dependent, state-run economy.
People at the grassroots level also seem underwhelmed by the development accomplishments. The residents of Oltan village of Pars Abad of Moghan say there is not enough drinking water in their village and are critical of official inattention, Tabriz's "Mahd-i Azadi" reported on 24 August. One villager said residents are forced to buy drinking water, while a villager named Mohammadi said that often there is very little water pressure or there is no water at all. As for the gas pipeline, that still has not arrived. The people of Bushehr are complaining about the frequent electricity cuts, "Payqam" weekly reported on 12 August. Housewife Sakineh Rahmani said, "It seems the authorities have blocked their ears, are totally indifferent, and do not hear the people's cries."
That same edition of "Payqam" also reported on a protest by residents of Chahar Mahal in front of the Bushehr governor's mansion to focus attention on interruptions in their water supplies. A housewife complained that it was almost a week that the neighborhood had been without water, her child could not bathe, and now she suffers from a skin ailment. Another housewife said the officials are very good speakers and they shout interesting slogans, but they do not pay attention to people's difficulties. Ahmad Habibi, the parliamentary representative for Bandar Abbas, Hajiabad, Qeshm, Abu Musa, and Hormuz, on 9 June described regional electricity shortages, IRNA reported. He added that the lack of fresh water is the major problem in Qeshm. (Bill Samii)
EDITOR RECEIVES COURT SUMMONS... "Jameh-yi No" Managing Editor Fatemeh Kamali-Ahmad-Sarai, who is married to jailed journalist Emadedin Baqi, appeared before a Tehran public court on 21 October, the ISNA reported the next day. Kamali-Ahmad-Sarai said the charges brought against her concern both the presentation and the contents of the weekly. In terms of presentation, she said, the weekly too closely resembles the banned "Jameh" newspaper and it also follows an irregular publication schedule. As for the contents, the seven issues that have been published to date allegedly contain numerous offenses. These offenses, she said, include propagandizing against the Islamic Republic of Iran, insulting religious beliefs, propagating obscenities, and publishing indecent material.
As if to confirm that this is not an isolated incident, Reporters Without Borders published its first worldwide press-freedom index on 23 October, and Iran ranked 122 out of 139. The index measures how much freedom journalists and the media have and what efforts the government makes to ensure press freedom. RSF did this by sending a questionnaire to local journalists and to foreign journalists living in the country, researchers, legal experts, and regional specialists. The questionnaire asked about murder, imprisonment, and assaults on journalists; censorship and pressure on the media; and the impunity of those responsible for such incidents.
RSF on 24 October protested the seven-year prison sentence for Hassan Yussefi-Eshkevari, a cleric who contributed articles to the banned monthly "Iran-i Farda." His sentence included four years for saying that dress codes for women are unnecessary in Islam, one year for his participation in the spring 2000 conference in Berlin about reform in Iran, and two years for disseminating false news. RSF also noted that "Iran-i Farda" Editor Reza Alijani was summoned by the Tehran Revolutionary Court on 21 October. In recent weeks, according to RSF, the Edareh-yi Amaken has summoned Payam Afzalinejad of "Cinema-Jahan," and the Press Court has interrogated Mansur Bozorgian of "Gulistan-i Iran." The Edareh-yi Amaken Omumi (Public Establishments Office) is a Tehran police unit that deals with important things like listening to music and lewd behavior (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 February 2002). (Bill Samii)
...AS OLD PUBLICATION REAPPEARS. Qom's "Rahian-i Fayzieh" weekly has resumed publication as a daily called "Fayzieh" after a hiatus of almost a year, "Iran" reported on 23 October. (BS)
SPANIARDS COMPROMISE ON KHATAMI VISIT. Spain will host President Mohammad Khatami from 28-31 October. Several official functions -- such as a dinner with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, as well as a lunch with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar -- have been canceled because the Spanish refuse to accede to Iranian demands that wine not be served in their presence. Moreover, Khatami will not have to shake hands with Queen Sofia or Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, dpa reported on 22 October.
Madrid's obsequiousness has displeased some Spaniards. The daily "El Mundo" said that shaking hands with women is "a minimal norm of politeness" in a country with gender equality. Spanish opposition parties also voiced their displeasure, Madrid's "La Razon" reported on 23 October. Micaela Navarro of the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) said Khatami is insulting the Spanish nation, "including men," by refusing to greet a woman. Joan Saura of the Initiative for Catalonia-Greens said agreement to the Iranians' conditions would be a sign of great weakness. (Bill Samii)
MIXED SIGNALS ON POSSIBLE IRAQ ATTACK. On one hand, Iranian officials have been adamant in their declared opposition to a possible U.S. attack against Iraq. On the other hand, Tehran is sending signals that it has had enough of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and would like to see the last of him. This could be because Tehran is trying to convince its domestic audience that it is maintaining the hard line against the United States, while behind the scenes the Iranian government has been persuaded that future events in Iraq will not threaten it.
Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi emphasized Tehran's opposition to a U.S. attack on Iraq and to the creation of "Kurdish state" when he met with Syrian President Bashir Assad and Vice President Abd-al-Khalim Khaddam during an 18-21 October trip to Syria, according to IRNA on 19 October and 20 October, respectively. Yunesi told Khaddam that closer Tehran-Damascus ties could help prevent an attack on Iraq. In a subsequent interview with IRNA on 20 October, Yunesi explained Tehran's fears: "If a U.S. assault on Iraq starts, it would be a process with no end in sight and nobody will be secure. Therefore we believe that an international resolve [sic] must be shaped to stop the unilateralism worldwide."
Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani on 23 October dismissed as the "joke of the year" reports that U.S. troops would be allowed to have bases on Iranian territory, according to IRNA, and he reiterated Tehran's opposition to unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 21 October dismissed such reports, too, according to IRNA.
Shamkhani on 23 October also was dismissive of a report (in "The New York Times" on 10 October) that Washington intends to appoint a military viceroy for Iraq after President Saddam Hussein's ouster. Shamkhani said, according to IRNA, "I think this strategy is more backward than returning to the classic imperialist era and is a form of return to 'cowboyism.'" Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi on 14 October also addressed this topic, IRNA reported. He expressed the hope that the reports were "merely baseless rumors," and he said that any such plan could be part of U.S. psychological warfare.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani expressed a similar opinion about the plan for an American viceroy in Baghdad on 13 October as he watched the Eqtedar-81 war games. "America is waging this psychological war in order to undermine Iraqi morale and threaten the world against opposing the wishes of the U.S.," he said, adding, "This is another psychological war of its type and America wants to say that, 'I can go ahead to the extent of occupying Iraq and choosing a governor for that country.'"
On the other hand, crowds at a 22 October speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were chanting "Death to Saddam," as well as the usual "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," according to Iranian state radio. Such chants are not spontaneous and the crowds have official cheerleaders, which indicates that it is a sentiment expressed by the country's leadership.
A reading of these tea leaves suggests that Tehran would be more than happy to see the elimination of Saddam Hussein. It is also clear that Tehran does not want to see the emergence of an independent or highly autonomous Kurdish state that could threaten Tehran or serve as an inspiration for Iran's own Kurdish population. Moreover, Iranian officials repeatedly have stated their concern about the growing American military presence in their part of the world -- in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caspian, and the Caucasus. They may fear that they are next. Anonymous "diplomatic sources" cited by Reuters on 24 October, however, said Washington has reassured Tehran via a third country that it will not be next in the war on terrorism. It is therefore possible that the anti-Saddam Hussein chants on 22 October were a sign to Washington that Tehran will not interfere in the event of hostilities next door. (Bill Samii)
IRANIANS TO SUE AMERICAN POLITICIANS. The English-language daily "Iran News" on 21 October cited a report in "Afarinesh" daily that Iran's judiciary has sent a legal summons for several American political figures to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The political figures are facing lawsuits, according to "Afarinesh," that are filed by "victims of U.S. interference." The American political figures were not identified. (Bill Samii)
ALGERIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL IN TEHRAN. Iranian Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Admiral Ali Shamkhani and visiting Algerian Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mohammad Lamari have signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation, Iranian state television reported on 23 October. The memorandum deals with personnel exchange that would facilitate familiarity with each other's training, shipping, logistics, engineering, and military-industries capabilities. It also allows for the exchange of military attaches. Lamari arrived in Tehran on 18 October.
Lamari met on 19 October with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who expressed Iran's willingness to expand bilateral relations, according to IRNA. Lamari met with Shamkhani on 19 and 21 October, according to Algerian radio and IRNA. Lamari said he is satisfied by the state of Iranian military industries, and both officials called for regular contacts on defense-related issues as the first step toward lasting stability in the Islamic world. They also expressed satisfaction with the current state of political, economic, and cultural links and called for greater cooperation in the military field. Shamkhani also opined, "Today we are witnessing the massacre of the defenseless Palestinian people by the Zionist forces while the U.S. is trying to divert world public opinion from the ever-increasing crisis inside Palestinian land." (Bill Samii)
RUSSIANS AND IRANIANS DISCUSS NUCLEAR TIES. A delegation from Iran's Atomic Energy Organization met in Moscow on 22 October with Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, Interfax-AVN reported. Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Gholam Reza Shafei also attended the meeting, at which the two sides discussed the possibility of amending the agreement on Russian construction of the nuclear-power plant at Bushehr. The amendment concerns the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
This Iran-Russia meeting occurred the same day -- 22 October -- that the "Washington Post" reported the failure of U.S. officials to persuade their Russian counterparts to cease work on Bushehr. The Americans promised that the White House would work on lifting restrictions on Russian import of spent nuclear fuel in exchange for an end to Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Tehran. The Russians indicated their skepticism about U.S. promises, noting that the commitment to remove Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions -- in which countries that do not have market economies and open emigration policies cannot have normal trade relations with the U.S. -- has not yet been fulfilled. Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Yurii Bespalko said his country would rather have the $800 million for the Bushehr project than depend on U.S. promises of future benefits, according to the "Washington Post."
A U.S. State Department spokesman said on 22 October that, "If the Russians end their sensitive cooperation with Iran," Washington has "indicated" that it will be prepared to "favorably consider" the transfer of spent reactor fuel held by third countries to Russia, "an arrangement potentially worth over $10 billion to Moscow." In cases in which the United States originally supplied the fresh fuel, such transfers would require U.S. approval.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Russian support for Iran's nuclear program is complicating the White House's 10-year plan to contain and destroy Russian chemical- and nuclear-weapon stocks, "The Washington Times" reported on 10 October. Bolton explained, "Iran is seeking all elements of a nuclear fuel cycle, from mining uranium to enrichment to production of reactor fuel," while there is "no economic justification" for such a program in light of Iran's domestic energy resources. Therefore, Bolton said, "The inescapable conclusion is that Iran is building a nuclear-fuel cycle to support a nuclear-weapons program." he said. (Bill Samii)
MINISTER OF INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY TALKS TO TERRORISTS. Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi was accompanied by a sizable delegation of security personnel when he visited Damascus, RFE/RL's Persian Service reported on 21 October. The report also noted that very reliable sources believe he met there with leaders of Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
There are persistent reports that Tehran has supplied Hizballah with long-range rockets. In an article in the 21 October issue of Lebanon's "Al-Safir," Hizballah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim would neither confirm nor deny his organization's possession of such weapons. He said Hizballah will not discuss its military capabilities because maintaining secrets is essential to success in any future battle.
The same article quoted Sheikh Mohammad Yazbak, the Iranian supreme leader's representative in Lebanon, as saying that Israel should not attack Lebanon "because the resistance will respond severely and all sensitive areas in the Zionist entity will be in the range of resistance fire and under the eyes of the mujahedin. If the enemy attacks our infrastructure, we will attack its infrastructure everywhere." (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN MISSILE TEST FLOPS. An anonymous U.S. defense official described on 22 October the failure in July of a Shihab 3 missile that was modified for extra range, according to AP. The missile's normal range is 1,300 kilometers, and it is not known how far the modified version was supposed to go. In September, a Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics spokesman who identified himself as Mr. Khosravi said that no work is being done to increase the range of Shihab 3 and instead the effort is to improve control and navigation of the missile (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 September 2002). The Shihab 3 is based on a North Korean design. (Bill Samii)
IRAN-EU TRADE TALKS PLANNED FOR LATE OCTOBER. Iranian Chamber of Commerce President Ali Naqi Khamushi visited Brussels on 12 October, a European Union trade delegation led by Karl Friedrich Falkenberg visited Tehran the next week, and EU-Iran negotiations will begin in the last week of October in Brussels. This meeting marks the beginning of negotiations on an Iran-EU trade and cooperation agreement.
The European Union and Iran held bilateral talks in Tehran during the second week of September, and during that session the EU followed through on its June promise to discuss human rights, nonproliferation, and terrorism (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 24 June 2002). It said in a statement, according to dpa on 10 September, "The EU encourages Iran to exercise its influence to prevent any action that hampers the chances of returning to a political process in the Middle East and to join without reservation the international consensus on the necessary existence of Palestine and Israel." The EU also called on Tehran to join the international fight against terrorism and to implement nonproliferation instruments.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani represented his country at the talks, and he said on 11 September that any agreements will have to be made without preconditions, according to IRNA on 12 September. "We will not accept any precondition from the EU for implementing the trade agreement," he said.
Iran's official English-language press shared these sentiments. "Kayhan International" -- which is affiliated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office -- editorialized on 17 September that Iran should turn its back on Europe and deal with Asia instead. "Iran Daily" -- which is affiliated with the state news agency -- said on 18 September: "Two items of EU preconditions directly challenge the Islamic system's value system. Iran cannot recognize Israel as a state and cease its support for the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups. This contradicts the very cause of the Islamic Revolution."
The Persian-language press also commented on the EU's preconditions, but it took a more introspective tone. "Aftab-i Yazd" in a 16 September editorial did not care for the EU's preconditions, but it blamed hard-line officials for putting the country in such a position. Another daily -- "Etemad" -- editorialized on 17 September that the negotiations with the EU began optimistically but now are regarded with uncertainty.
A recent poll conducted by the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry's National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls and published by IRNA on 22 September discussed relations with the EU. Some 80.9 percent of Tehran citizens above 15 years of age would like to see an upgrade in ties with the EU, 7.1 percent would like Iran-EU relations to stay at the current level, and 3.3 percent would like to restrict the relationship.
The EU's imposition of preconditions was not so popular, according to the poll. Sixty-five percent opposed the precondition that Iran should join the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition, while 18.5 percent favored this. Some 86.7 percent of people opposed the precondition on human rights, while 71.4 percent opposed the acceptance of Israel's right to exist and 14.4 percent agreed to this condition. People were almost evenly split on weapons of mass destruction -- 44.6 percent opposed the precondition that Iran not have "unconventional weapons of mass destruction" and 41.8 percent favored it.
The EU is Iran's largest trading partner. In 2000, EU imports from Iran totaled some $8.2 billion, while its exports to Iran were worth about $5.1 billion. More than 75 percent of this trade consists of oil products. This trade deficit may explain the comments of Glyn Ford, the European Parliament's rapporteur for Iran, in an 18 September interview with RFE/RL. Ford said the EU has set no preconditions for closer trade links with Iran: "We're in a negotiating process. Nothing has been laid down in terms of things that have to happen, apart from the fact that we want to negotiate in parallel some agreements, a trade protocol with Iran, and at the same time we want to negotiate some agreements on issues such as human rights. But we haven't said that, 'You'll have to agree to X, Y, or Z before we're prepared to sign a trade protocol.'"
This weak European stance was reiterated by Samuel Magid, the spokesman for Denmark's representation to the EU in Brussels. He said Iran-EU negotiations on trade and cooperation will start on 29 October in Brussels, "Tehran Times" reported on 9 October. Magid said discussions about terrorism and human rights are already taking place, but the human rights issue is part of all EU agreements with third countries. (Bill Samii)
EU OPENS ENERGY CENTER IN TEHRAN. The EU opened an Energy Cooperation Center in Tehran on 19 October. Tehran and the EU also signed two energy-related memorandums of understanding that day. One memorandum examined the accomplishments of the past year and described prospects for the expansion of bilateral ties, and the other dealt with the Energy Cooperation Center. Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad-Husseinian said the EU has earmarked 1.7 million euros for the center, according to IRNA. Director General of Energy and Transport in the European Commission Francois Lamoureux said the EU is ready to transfer knowledge to Iran on a variety of energy-related subjects, notably renewable resources.
A one-day Conference on Iran-EU Energy Cooperation was held in Tehran on 20 October. Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said in the opening address that European countries have a better relationship with the Iranian oil and gas industry in the absence of American firms. Namdar-Zanganeh noted that the Iranian gas pipeline to Turkey has the extra capacity to handle exports to Europe, and he called on EU countries to participate in an Iranian project to develop technology to process condensate natural gas (CNG). The managing director of National Gas Export Company of Iran (NGECI), Rokneddin Javadi, told the conference that Iran would like EU technical assistance in gas exports. (Bill Samii)
EU BACKS OFF ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEMANDS. IRNA reported on 21 October that EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg decided not to raise the subject of human rights in Iran at the forthcoming UN General Assembly. Denmark currently heads the EU and, according to Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, the EU has opted to pursue the issue of human rights in a bilateral dialogue with Tehran. Moeller added, according to dpa, that discussions about human rights will be an "integral part" of a future trade pact with Tehran. Negotiations on a bilateral Iran-EU trade agreement are scheduled to begin on 29 October (see above), while the first round of human rights talks are scheduled for December in Tehran. (Bill Samii)