Monday, August 16, 2004

Japan’s interests lie in cooperation with Tehran: ambassador

Japan’s interests lie in cooperation with Tehran: ambassador

Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) – Japan’s ambassador to Iran, Takekazu Kawamura, said on Monday that his country’s interests come first and Tokyo’s interests lie with cooperation with Tehran.

In a meeting with Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani, Kawamura said that the economic and political relations between Japan and Iran are on a positive course.

He said all these successes have been achieved due to mutual confidence and common interests.

Iran enjoys ethnic diversity and abundant natural resources and it is very important for Japan to expand cooperation with the country, the Japanese envoy noted.

Rafsanjani, for his part, said that Iran sees no limitations to the expansion of cooperation between the two states in all fields and expects the relationship between the two Asian nations to not be influenced by other countries.

Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran’s foreign policy unchanged

Iran’s foreign policy unchanged: Leader
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) -- Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said here on Sunday that confronting hegemonistic policies, defending oppressed nations and the world’s Muslims, and supporting Islam are some of the main points of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.

Addressing a gathering of Iranian ambassadors and envoys stationed abroad, Ayatollah Khamenei added that the Islamic Republic's strategic goals and the general framework of the country's foreign policy are the same as those of 25 years ago and have been followed up in Iran’s regional and international diplomacy.

The Supreme Leader pointed to the progress the Iranian nation has made in the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific spheres and said even the enemies admit that the Islamic Republic has become more powerful.

“They are aware that the Islamic vigilance of Muslim nations throughout the globe is a result of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran,” he added.

On the recent fundamental changes in international diplomacy, Ayatollah Khamenei stated that the world’s nations are opposed to modern Western liberal democracy. U.S. diplomacy is in the abyss of political failure, and the United States has become isolated internationally.

"The Islam we believe in is based on the three principles of spirituality, rationalism, and justice and it is completely different than the liberal or petrified Islam," he noted.

Elsewhere in his speech, Ayatollah Khamenei urged Iranian officials responsible for foreign policy to make use of all the potential and capabilities of the Iranian nation in order to make Iran’s diplomatic apparatus more efficient.

The Supreme Leader expressed his appreciation of the country's diplomats and called on officials to make efforts to give the country a more active role in regional and international affairs.

Calling the Islamic Republic's positions on various issues logical, Ayatollah Khamenei said that in regard to issues such as human rights, the rights of minorities, the campaign against terrorism, women's rights, the ban on weapons of mass destruction, and every nation’s inalienable right to gain access to nuclear energy, Iranians should be recognized as the champions in such matters and not the Westerners.

As to Iran's legitimate right to make use of nuclear energy, the Supreme Leader underlined the need for confidence-building between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Referring to the clamor raised by Westerners over Iran's nuclear activities in the past few months, Ayatollah Khamenei said they are doing the same thing with regard to Iran’s manufacture of nuclear industry centrifuge components, even though manufacturing such parts is not a violation of any treaty.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is paying no attention to such tumult and continuing to pursue its logical objective of developing nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes, he added.

Prior to the Supreme Leader's remarks, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi briefed Ayatollah Khamenei on the performance of the Foreign Ministry and the numerous challenges the country is currently facing.

Iran calls for U.N. intervention to stop fighting in Iraq

Iran calls for U.N. intervention to stop fighting in Iraq
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, 8/16/2004 14:49

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran and Saudi Arabia called Monday for the United Nations to intervene in Iraq to stop the fighting between U.S. forces and Shhite militants hiding in the holy city of Najaf.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi made the request in a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Monday.

''Americans once again made a grave blunder in calculating developments in Iraq and provoked the sentiments of the Iraqi people through resorting to the use of force,'' IRNA quoted Kharrazi as telling Annan.

The Saudi Cabinet issued a statement expressing ''deep pain and sorrow'' over the situation in parts of Iraq and calling for ''a greater role for the United Nations in efforts to stop the bloodshed,'' the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers have fought U.S. and Iraqi forces from within the compound of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, in central Iraq, for over a week.

U.S. forces on Sunday launched a new offensive against the militants in the mosque, the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, who is revered by Shiites.

Predominantly Shiite Iran is keenly interested in the security of the holy sites. It also has links to Iraq's Shiite majority, and Iraqi officials have accused Tehran of meddling in the country's politics a charge Iran denies.

Meanwhile, Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Tehran holds the interim Iraqi government responsible for the safety of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Baghdad.

A militant group holding Iranian diplomat Faridoun Jihani has said it would release him if Iran frees 500 Iraqi prisoners it is holding but Tehran has rejected the conditions, saying there were no Iraqi prisoners in Iran.

''We hold the Iraqi interim government responsible for the safety of the diplomat,'' Ramezanzadeh told reporters Monday.

According to the Arab television station Al-Jazeera, the kidnappers who say they belong to a group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq has threatened to ''punish'' the diplomat but hasn't specified how.

Jihani, the Iranian consul to the Iraqi city of Karbala, was kidnapped while traveling from Baghdad to Karbala, 50 miles south of the capital last week.

Scores of other foreigners have been kidnapped as leverage to force foreign troops and businesses from the country.

There has been tension between Iraq and Iran in recent weeks. Last month, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan said Iran was Iraq's ''first enemy'' because it was playing a role in the insurgency. Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi later distanced his government from the remark.

Ramezanzadeh said such hostile comments resembled the language used by the toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iran, a Shiite Muslim country with close ties to Iraq's majority Shiite population, is suspected of using money to influence the political field in Iraq.

The Iranian government has denied interfering in Iraq. It says it does not allow fighters to cross into Iraq, but it does not rule out that such people might cross the long border illegally.

Iran can see opportunity across border

Iran can see opportunity across border
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
Iran's increasing support for insurgent Shiites in Iraq is giving the fighting in Najaf the appearance of a proxy war between Iran and the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Iran denies charges by Iraqi officials that it is interfering in Iraq but has protested U.S. efforts to remove the forces of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr from Shiite Muslim shrines. Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi urged the United Nations to intervene to stop the fighting. "Americans once again made a grave blunder in calculating developments in Iraq and provoked the sentiments of the Iraqi people through resorting to the use of force," Kharrazi told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.

U.S. officials say that for most of the year, they have been watching with alarm a buildup of Iranian spies and militants in Iraq. "We are aware that the Iranians have been engaged in some activities in southern Iraq," White House spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday. "We have encouraged Iraq's neighbors to engage in constructive activities that help Iraq on its pathway to development."

Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim nation, sees an opportunity to extend its influence in Iraq, where Shiites are also a majority, and to undermine the Bush administration, which has called Iran part of an "axis of evil." Washington is trying to rally international opinion to force Iran to give up its nuclear program.

The fighting in Najaf, a city revered by Shiites, could also help Iran's Islamic government increase its popularity in Iran. (Related story: Delegates call for al-Sadr to back down)

"There's been a more aggressive Iranian pursuit of all options in Iraq," says Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington and a former analyst for the CIA who monitors developments in Iraq and Iran. "They are helping a number of elements within Iraq," including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, she says.

Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei, Iraq's interim defense minister, accused Iran last month of being Iraq's "No. 1 enemy" and trying to "kill democracy" in Iraq by sending spies and weapons into the country.

Last week, Iraqi security officials arrested more than two dozen Iranians in the southern Iraqi town of Kut and said they intercepted two trucks filled with weapons on the Iran-Iraq border last Wednesday.

Iran has had close ties to southern Iraq because Shiites predominate in both places. But Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, launched an eight-year war against Iraq in 1980 and suppressed Iranian influence in Iraq until his overthrow last year. Since then, tens of thousands of Iranians have entered Iraq claiming to be religious pilgrims. An unknown number have remained.

Iran has retained ties to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an anti-Saddam group that was based in Iran until Saddam's ouster. Iran also has links to the Dawa or Islamic Call party, another important Iraqi Shiite group, and to Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite exile leader who has fallen out of favor with the Bush administration over allegations that he provided U.S. intelligence information to Iran. Iran has established clinics and schools in Iraq as part of a campaign of economic aid that competes with U.S. assistance.

Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan, says Iran is "behaving like a Washington lobbyist who gives money to all the major candidates" to ensure that whoever emerges in power in Iraq is not hostile to Iran's leaders.

Iran's hopes of seeing a friendly government installed in Baghdad have been shaken by the selection of Ayad Allawi as Iraq's first post-Saddam prime minister. Allawi, although Shiite, is a former member of Saddam's Baath Party, and has backers in the Sunni Muslim countries of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Allawi was based in Jordan in the 1990s and organized the Iraqi National Accord, an anti-Saddam group, with the financial support of the CIA.

"The Iranians are very afraid that the United States will find a way to maneuver an anti-Iranian government into power," Cole says. He says the Iranians fear elections will not be held or that Allawi will shut out pro-Iranian factions.

Khatami hopes the first Iranian ship can be launched next year

Khatami hopes the first Iranian ship can be launched next year
Tehran, Aug 16, IRNA -- President Mohammad Khatami on Monday expressed hope the first ship to be built by Iran can be launched in sea waters next year.
Speaking at a meeting with managers, staff and sailors of the Iran Shipping Company affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce, he referred to the nation's shipbuilding poetenial and said that despite the slow progress in this field, the country can move forward with the effective measures that have been taken.

"Several big ships are currently being built in the country which can prove to be a major achievement," he added.

Turning to the importance of the shipping industry and waterways in the country's economic development, he equated the power of world governments and nations to the extent of their access to sea waters and use of these waters.

Underlining that "one managing to harness the sea waters can manage to administer the affairs on land," he said that waterways have played a crucial role in the course of history particularly in time of war.

"Just as the sea can contribute to the fulfillment of a world power's hegemonic aspirations, it can be used by a nation and government as a source of power and authority," he added.

Referring to Iran's unique geographical location and its access to international waters and its being a gateway for other countries to international waterways, he said that although the Caspian Sea is being encircled by five littoral states its impact on the social life of those countries is remarkable.

"In view of the vital role of the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea in Iran's economy, politics, social situation and security, sailors and those involved in marine affairs have a high status in the domestic scene.

"Besides marine industries give momentum to the country's industries, technology and economy," he added.

Pointing to the role of shipping in the export and import of goods, the president said that to pave the way for economic development major steps in the marine field are indispensable.

Putting the value of national imports at 30 billion dollars, he said that this may be a cause for concern.

"However, in general imported goods used by intermediary industries and those giving momentum to the national industries mark economic development," he added.

The chief executive also praised Iran's performance in the transfer of goods by containers, which made a record of one million 20-foot containers in the past Iranian year (ended March 19).

Prior to the president's speech, Minister of Commerce Mohammad Shariatmadari addressed the gathering and referred to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines as Iran's major trading fleet and lauded its sincere services in the past years.

The minister said that more than 40 percent of the revenue of the company has been earned through its foreign activities which point to the high potential of Iranian sailors.