Friday, September 10, 2004

Khatami Reaffirms Armenia's Importance To Iran "Khatami Reaffirms Armenia's Importance To Iran

By Ruzanna Stepanian 10/09/2004 08:46

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami ended on Thursday a two-day official visit to Armenia, lavishing more praise on Armenians and their long-standing contribution to the development of his country.

Khatami said the Iranian and Armenian peoples remain part of the same ancient "civilization" despite their cultural and religious differences developed over the centuries.

"Every Iranian seems to again find his identity by coming to Armenia," he declared in a speech at Yerevan State University (YSU). "The poetry, the art works and the sparkles of kindness of this land are all testimony to the existence of bonds between Iran and Armenia."

"Since the dawn of history Armenia has had deep and strong links with Iranian culture and civilization," he went on. "Even religious and ideological differences, which usually create serious divisions in geopolitical regions, have been unable to destroy the civilizational unity of the Iranian world and the Armenian people."

Khatami also paid tribute to Iran's ethnic Armenian citizens that currently number more than 100,000. "The role and participation of the Armenians and Armenia in the opening of new horizons and paths of Iran's development has been significant," he said in a speech tinged with philosophical passages about the worldwide "dialogue of civilizations" promoted by Tehran.

The Iranian leader began the second day of the trip with a visit to the genocide memorial in Yerevan where he laid a wreath in memory of some 1.5 million Armenians slaughtered in Ottoman Turkey.

He further underscored the Islamic Republic's strong interest in its sole Christian neighbor by receiving leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential nationalist party which favors close ties with Russia and Iran and a hard line on Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is represented in Armenia's government and has branches in all major Diaspora communities, including Iran.

A statement by Dashnaktsutyun's office in Yerevan cited Khatami as praising the party's "pan-Armenian essence and Armenia's "important role" in the region. The Dashnaktsutyun leaders, for their part, welcomed his visit as "a new stage" in the Iranian-Armenian relationship.

Khatami and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian signed on Wednesday a framework treaty on the "principles and bases" of bilateral relations. They also formalized the release of a $30 million Iran loan to Yerevan to be used for the construction of a gas pipeline that will link the two neighboring countries.

Answering questions from YSU students, Khatami was asked to comment on his recent remark that Iran recognizes Azerbaijan's territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said Tehran respects the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries," but stopped short of describing Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan.

Khatami's Thursday schedule also included a visit to an 18th century Persian mosque in Yerevan renovated by the Iranian government and a meeting with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II. "

Wrong Strategy On Iran (

Wrong Strategy On Iran ( "Wrong Strategy On Iran

By Ray Takeyh
Friday, September 10, 2004; Page A29

Iran, despite its ritualistic denials, appears to be accumulating technology and expertise for the construction of nuclear weapons. Unlike events in Iraq, the Iranian situation has produced a consensus position among the United States and its European allies -- namely, relying on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to defuse Iran's nuclear challenge. There is only one problem with this strategy: It may just ensure that Iran becomes the next member of the nuclear club.

As a watchdog organization, the IAEA focuses on preventing states from acquiring the technology necessary for nuclear weapons. By conducting inspections, limiting Iran's access to proscribed technologies and invoking prospects of economic sanctions, the IAEA seeks to curb Iran's appetite for nuclear arms. But none of these procedures addresses the core of Iran's motivation for the bomb.

While it is convenient to dismiss Iran's quest for nuclear arms as a product of radical Islamic doctrine, this dangerously misconstrues the genesis of the Iranian program. Rather than religious dogma, Iran's nuclear ambitions are born of the compulsion -- crystallized by the bitter experience of its eight-year war with Iraq -- to craft an impregnable deterrent capability. In the post-Sept. 11 period, the massive projection of American power on Iran's periphery and the Bush administration's shrill "axis of evil" rhetoric have further enhanced the value of nuclear weapons in the clerical cosmology.

Despite these dire developments, no one should presume that the perennially fractious Iranian theocracy has settled on its course. Within the corridors of clerical power, a subtle yet significant debate regarding the strategic utility of nuclear weapons is going on. For while all of Iran's contending factions are united on the need to sustain a vibrant nuclear research program, the prospect of actually crossing the nuclear threshold has generated vigorous disagreement. Through bilateral diplomacy involving direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran, the United Sates can still affect Iran's nuclear deliberations.

The primary exponents of a nuclear breakout option are hard-line clerics closely associated with the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A fundamental tenet of the hard-liners' ideology is the notion that the Islamic republic is in constant danger from predatory external forces, necessitating military self-reliance. This perception originates in a revolution that sought to refashion regional norms. The devastating war with Iraq, in which Saddam Hussein employed chemical weapons against Iran with impunity, reinforced such views. Given its paranoia and suspicions, the Iranian right does not object to international isolation and confrontation with the West. Indeed, for many in this camp such a conflict would be an effective manner of rekindling popular support for the revolution's fading élan.

In contrast to the hard-liners, a coalition of pragmatic conservatives and reformers that questions the strategic value of nuclear weapons has gradually emerged. Moderate conservatives such as the powerful secretary to the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, and President Mohammad Khatami's reformist allies in the foreign policy bureaucracy are pressing for restraint. This cohort challenges the hard-liners' central argument by suggesting that the possession of such arms would actually accentuate Iran's vulnerabilities. Should Iran cross the nuclear threshold, the Persian Gulf states and the newly independent Iraq would probably gravitate further toward the American security umbrella. Moreover, such a brazen act of defiance would probably trigger debilitating economic sanctions and estrange Iran from its valuable European and Japanese commercial partners.

Iran's moderates are increasingly drawn to the North Korean model: Pyongyang has adroitly managed to employ its nuclear program to extract economic and security concessions from the international community. Through a similar posture of restraint and defiance, threats and blandishments, perhaps Iran can also use its nuclear card to renegotiate a more rational relationship with its leading nemesis, the United States. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi alluded to this stratagem by claiming, "We are ready for discussions and negotiations, but we need to know what benefits the Islamic Republic would get from them."

The United States, by relaxing its economic sanctions and granting Iran a voice in the postwar Persian Gulf deliberations, could disarm clerical hard-liners who require American belligerence for perpetuation of the nuclear program. In exchange, Iran would have to accept verifiable restraints on its nuclear activities. Indeed, an Iran whose strategic environment is stabilized and enjoys expanding economic ties with the United States is likely to be a more constructive interlocutor on issues ranging from terrorism to human rights.

This is a case where neither the unilateralism of the Bush administration nor the multilateralism espoused by the president's critics will provide a durable solution. Rather, bilateralism, a deal between the United States and Iran, is what's needed -- much more than relying on the IAEA and economic and military threats. In the end, such nuanced diplomacy is the best way to stem another proliferation crisis in the Middle East.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations."

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Yemeni forces kill Shia cleric Hussein al-Houthi

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Yemeni forces kill rebel cleric: "Yemeni forces kill rebel cleric

A $55,000 bounty was on offer for Hussein al-Houthi
Yemen says its forces have killed rebel Shia cleric Hussein al-Houthi.
Hundreds of people have been killed since he launched a revolt against the authorities two months ago.
A statement from the Yemeni interior and defence ministries said Sheikh Houthi had been killed with a number of his aides.
Sheikh Houthi and his men had been hiding in caves in a mountainous area close to the border with Saudi Arabia.
'Today, all the military and security operations to quell the rebellion launched by the so-called Hussein al-Houthi and his supporters have finished with the killing of Houthi and a number of his aides,' the statement said.
Sheikh Houthi is accused of setting up unlicensed religious centres, creating an armed group called Believing Youth and of staging violent anti-American protests.
He had accused Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of seeking to please the United States at the expense of his own people.

Anti-US sentiment in the region is high following the occupation of Iraq and some Yemeni clerics are known to preach hatred of the West.
In June, Yemen placed a $55,000 bounty on the head of Sheikh Houthi and launched an operation to capture him.
The battles have been ongoing in the mountainous province of Saada, some 150 miles (240km) north of the capital, Sanaa.
Sheikh Houthi is a member of the Zaidi community, a moderate Shia sect in the north of the mainly Sunni country"

Belarus, Iran sign cooperation documents

Belarus, Iran sign cooperation documents: "Belarus, Iran sign cooperation documents
Minsk, Sept 10, IRNA -- The Republic of Belarus and the Islamic Republic of Iran on Friday signed six cooperation documents in Minsk in the presence of the two countries' presidents.

photo: ISNA

Mutual cooperation between Iran and Belarus in customs, security, cultural, agriculture and natural disasters are included in the documents.

Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenkov and his visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami signed the statement for mutual relations' principles.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami arrived in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday evening and was officially welcomed by President Aleksandr Lukashenkov here on Friday.

President Khatami is scheduled to deliver a speech for Belarussian academicians and university professors at the republic's Academy of Sciences later on Friday.

The president is in Minsk on the second leg of his three-nation tour of the regional countries which first took him to Armenia and will also take him to Tajikistan at the end of the visit to Belarus.

Khatamihails Belarus position on promoting dialogue

Minsk, Sept 10, IRNA -- Visiting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said here Friday that Belarus, due to its vicinity to western Europe, could play an effective role to promote dialogue between civilizations.

In his formal talks with his Belarussian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenkov, Khatami stressed that Iran considers as important expansion of its relations with Belarus.

Touching upon Iran's exclusive exhibition held in Belarus by private sector, Khatami added "We have to make further efforts to remove the obstacles and expand mutual relations."

Iran-Belarus cooperation secures interests of the two countries, said Khatami, adding it is also effective to restore peace and justice across the world.

Iranian president rejected all types of terrorism around the world, saying the brutal terrorist attack happened a few days ago in southern Russia, killing innocent people, was explicit bitter terrorism.

Violence and terrorism should be condemned throughout the world, said Khatami, adding "The country which has successfully confronted Nazism, can confront injustice, terrorism, war-mongering and violence in a successful way. We agree this kind of policy adopted by Belarus."

In the meeting, President Lukashenkov expressed his satisfaction over the visit by Iranian delegation to Minsk, saying "This visit is a turning-point in bilateral relations between the two countries."

He referred to his private talks with President Khatami and stressed that the two countries are interested in enhancing mutual trade cooperation.

Lukashenkov attached significance to the agreements signed here Friday between Iran and Belarus, saying "We cooperate based on international relations and interests of the two nations. Besides, our mutual cooperation is not in contrast to any other country's interests."

He appreciated Khatami's concern on Belarussian people fighting against Fascism, and confirmed Iran's policy over the issue.

"We condemn colonialistic policies that on the pretext of fighting against terrorism impose pressure on some countries," said Lukashenkov.

After the talks, President Khatami paid tribute to the unknown soldier of Belarus and laid a wreath on his tomb.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami arrived in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday evening and was officially welcomed by President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Friday.

President Khatami is scheduled to deliver a speech to Belarussian academics and university professors at the republic's Academy of Sciences later on Friday.

The president is in Minsk on the second leg of his three-nation tour of the regional countries which first took him to Armenia and will also take him to Tajikistan at the end of his visit to Belarus."

US gives up on getting Iran to UN Security Council in September "US gives up on getting Iran to UN Security Council in September: US official

VIENNA : The United States now realizes that it does not have the majority it needs at the UN nuclear watchdog to bring Iran before the UN Security Council over Tehran's alleged atomic weapons program, a US official told AFP.

"We recognize we are not going to get majority support for a non-compliance finding (to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) in September" at the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors meeting in Vienna that begins Monday, a US state department official told AFP by phone from Washington.

The official said US Under Secretary of State for arms control and international security John Bolton was now talking in Geneva with European diplomats "about a trigger mechanism" to effectively set a deadline for Iran ahead of the following IAEA board meeting in November.

The trigger could be "to require that Iran suspend immediately and fully all uranium enrichment-related work" or "for Iran to grant complete, immediate, unrestricted access to whatever locations the IAEA deems necessary" or for Iran to provide by a certain date, such as October 31, "full information on all imported materials and components relevant to the P1 and P2 centrifuge program," the official said.

Uranium can be enriched through centrifuges into a highly refined form that can be used as fuel for civilian reactors or to make an atomic bomb.

Europe's three main countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- are against taking Iran to the Security Council as they stress cooperating with Tehran to get it to come clean about its program.

But diplomats said the three countries were now backing the US call for Iran to fully suspend enrichment, including the first step of converting mineral uranium yellowcake into the gas that is the feedstock for making the enriched uranium that can be used in bombs.

A "tactical gap" between Washington and the European countries was narrowing but "we have a ways to go," Bolton told a news conference in Geneva, following a US-hosted meeting with his counterparts from the other Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries.

"The objective that the United States has been pursuing has been to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that is an objective shared by all of the G-8 countries," Bolton said.

"There is no disagreement on our broad objective. What we have tried to do here today and yesterday was to close the tactical gap that has existed between the United States and ... Britain France and Germany," he said.

"We made progress in that regard here ... I think discussions will continue over the weekend and into next week and we will see what we are able to do."

The US envoy declined, however, to say exactly what advances had been made.

"I do not want to really get into the specifics because the questions of closing the tactical gap I think are best addressed in private consultations," he said, adding that emails and telephone calls would follow Friday's talks.

The United States and the Euro 3 are separately preparing resolutions for Monday's IAEA meeting in Vienna.

Iran's controversial bid to generate nuclear power at its Bushehr plant is seen by arch-enemies Israel and the United States as a cover for nuclear weapons development, allegations that Iran denies.

Government officials from the G8 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- as well as other nations met in Geneva on Thursday to discuss non-proliferation issues."