Monday, October 18, 2004

Gulf Daily News Iraq seeks ports in Iran and Kuwait for wheat imports

Gulf Daily News: "Iraq seeks ports in Iran and Kuwait for wheat imports
BAGHDAD: Iraq is negotiating with Iran and Kuwait to use their Gulf ports to import one million tonnes of Australian wheat, Iraqi officials say.

The Australian Wheat Board was last month awarded a tender to sell one million tonnes of wheat for delivery through Iraq's Um Qasr port during the first quarter of next year.

But congestion and a shortage of equipment at Um Qasr has prompted Iraq to seek help from Iran, with which relations have been uneasy, and Kuwait, the officials say.

Ties worsened after Iraqi officials accused Iran of supporting "terrorist" attacks against Iraqi targets. Tehran denied involvement, saying a stable Iraq was in the region's interests.

"There is simply no way we could bring the shipments through Um Qasr. The situation there is a mess," a senior Iraqi trade ministry official said.

"A deal with Iran to use its Bandar Al Khomeini Gulf port is effectively sealed and the Kuwaitis have indicated no objection to use their Shouaikh port," said the official.

Iran has been upgrading its Gulf ports, unlike Iraq. Iraq's now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority has already paid Australia millions of dollars in demurrage payments for shipments delayed at Um Qasr, using Iraqi oil revenues.

Iraq imports three million tonnes of wheat a year, mostly from Australia, and distributes it to Iraqis as part of their food rations.

Saddam Hussein's government stopped buying US wheat in the early 1990s, and postwar Iraqi officials have continued to import wheat from Australia."

Iran, well-prepared for any scenario over nuclear program

Description of Selected News: "Iran, well-prepared for any scenario over nuclear program

TEHRAN (IRNA) -- Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said on Monday that he believes that Iranian case will not be referred to the UN Security Council.

Talking to reporters he said Iran is well-prepared beforehand for any scenario in this respect.

He said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is fully aware of the Iranian nuclear program and the specialized agency has taken for granted that its safeguards are observed in Iranian nuclear sites.

Iran signed additional protocol to Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which grants unlimited access to the IAEA inspectors to ensure that the agency's safeguards are being observed in Iranian nuclear sites.

Iran has stood strongly against the Western double-standard policy which ignores the Iranian nation's rights as stipulated in the NPT to generate electricity from nuclear energy.

Iran has a complete fuel cycle to produce fuel for power plant. Western countries which have forged monopoly on nuclear technology in the past four decades see Iran as a market for exporting fuel while Iran says that it is not economical for it to import fuel. -Ramezanzadeh expounds on cabinet's recent ratifications

Ramezanzadeh expounded on the recent ratifications of the cabinet.

He said that based on the cabinet's approval, the Medical Insurance Organization will be provided with its 60-billion-rial budget deficit for extension of validity of the medical treatment booklets for 150,000 disabled.

Meanwhile, based on another cabinet ratification, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance is authorized to guarantee the reimbursement of medium and long-term credits financed by foreign investors via banking system for various domestic projects.

"Up to 2.51 million euros will be financed for purchasing meat and potato processing machinery. The project on financing the water supply of the city of Kerman will receive up to 118.475 million euros.

"Meanwhile, a credit 164 million dollars will be allocated to another project on electronic and mechanical systems required for engineering services for development of northern Tehran Metro lines," he added."

Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will promote security: Rafsanjani

Description of Selected News: "Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will promote security: Rafsanjani

TEHRAN (MNN) – Iran’s Hashemi Rafsanjani on Monday expressed hope over a rapprochement between India and Pakistan and its positive effects on the region especially for transferring Iranian gas to India through Pakistan, a report released by the Expediency Council said.

In a meeting with the Indian National Security Adviser Jyotindra Nath Dixit, Rafsanjani said the project will bring about economic development and help consolidate security between the involved states.

Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council, said Iran and India have good cooperation on regional issues including Afghanistan.

He called for more intensive cooperation between the two giant Asian states for countering pressures by the colonial powers and making efforts to solve the crises facing the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir.

Given the potentials of the two countries, Rafsanjani reiterated the need to expand cooperation based on a proper planning.

He also urged broadening of economic cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the fields of energy, transit, information technology, agriculture, trade and space.

For his part, Dixit referred to attempts by foreign powers to disrupt relations between New Delhi and Tehran, saying that the two countries’ relations have been planned based on long-term objectives.

The Indian official said that his country is determined to raise the level of bilateral, regional and international cooperation with Iran.

Turning to the close stance of the two states on many issues including Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, drugs and terrorism, he called for bolstering of collaboration in these fields.

Dixit said India has the second largest Muslim population and the second largest Shiites in the world and this is a source of spiritual unity between the two countries.

India is the greatest democracy in the world.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani also held talks with Dixit on Monday.

During the meeting Rowhani referred to Tehran-Delhi ties in the field of energy as part of strategic economic cooperation between India and Iran.

Rowhani said Iran-India cooperation with regard to the Afghan crisis and the North-South corridor is strategic and beneficial to the whole region.

The North-South corridor plays an active role in enhancing regional economic ties and Iran and India enjoy an important position in the progression of this great regional and international plan, the SNSC secretary said.

Rowhani stressed that terrorism is a big threat to region and the world, saying that Iran is prepared to actively cooperate with India in this regard.

He stated that Iran-India cooperation in Afghanistan had significantly influenced the resistance against Taliban.

However, Rowhani said, there are still certain countries which like to see the Taliban to regain power and therefore danger is still at hand.

The secretary stressed that Iran and India should continue their cooperation in maintaining stability in Afghanistan and boost the country’s reconstruction process.

Pointing to the unprecedented production of illicit drugs in 2004 as a serious danger Rowhani said that regional and international cooperation is needed to put an end to the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in his remarks the secretary said that Iran will continue its active cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but will not allow political issues to hinder its efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear dossier.

Iran will defend its legal rights within the framework of the nuclear treaty and will continue its peaceful nuclear activities by winning the global confidence, he added.

Dixit on his part expressed an optimistic view over the future of Iran-India ties.

Dixit said the issue of Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will be placed on the agenda of the next session to be held between Indian and Pakistani officials.

The official said that Tehran-Delhi security cooperation is in line with the strategic interests of both sides and will help boost peace, stability and security.

He referred to India’s investment in Iran’s energy sector as part of the significant strategic ties between the two countries.

Dixit further announced India’s readiness to cooperate with Iran to help maintain security and reconstruct Iraq.

Pointing to Iran’s nuclear issue, he stressed that gaining access to peaceful nuclear technology is a right for all countries and no country has the right to prevent another country from achieving its national rights.

The official said that India will continue its cooperation with Iran in the IAEA beside other Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member countries."

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Iran's Strongman Plots Comeback Amid Domestic Political Struggle

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Iran's Strongman Plots Comeback Amid Domestic Political Struggle: "EURASIA INSIGHT
IRAN’S STRONGMAN PLOTS COMEBACK AMID DOMESTIC POLITICAL STRUGGLE
Kamal Nazer Yasin 10/14/04

A pitched political battle is raging in Iran over control of economic policy. Radical-conservative elements in the Iranian parliament are seeking to preserve the state’s dominant role in the economy. They are opposed by prominent Iranian politician, Aliakbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Political analysts in Tehran say Rafsanjani wants to use the political dispute as a stepping stone to the presidency in 2005.

Rafsanjani is a pragmatist among Iranian conservatives and is one of giants of the Islamic republican era, having served as parliament speaker from 1980-89 and president from 1989-97. He has maintained a low political profile in recent years. However, Rafsanjani has continued to wield immense influence, operating in the shadows as the head of the Expediency Council, one of the country’s unelected political oversight bodies.

Over the past two weeks, the Expediency Council has become embroiled in a bitter dispute with parliament over the privatization of state-owned assets. A hard-line faction, which has seized control of parliament’s agenda, has been pushing legislation that would drastically curtail executive power and effectively retain state control over the economy. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. On October 2, Rafsanjani engineered an Expediency Council decision that trumps the parliamentary effort to preserve much of Iran’s current economic structure.

The Council’s decision provided for changes to Article 44 of the Iranian constitution, which at present mandates that the state play a dominant role in key economic sectors. The move paves the way for privatization of inefficient enterprises, which consume a large portion of the state budget. "All major industries, manufacturing and service sectors will be ceded to the private sector in a bid to prevent the state sector from being a big employer," said a statement issued by the Expediency Council. One of the few sectors not covered by the privatization decision is broadcast and print media.

Tinkering with the constitution is highly unusual, but within the Expediency Council’s prerogatives, political observers said. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the authority to overturn the council’s decision, but he is unlikely to do so, analysts added.

Prior to the council’s decision, radical-conservative legislators, who seek to rekindle the revolutionary fervor that created the Islamic republic in 1979, appeared poised to seize the political high ground in Tehran. Rafsanjani’s action via the Expediency Council is widely seen as having stopped the radical-conservatives’ momentum. It is also being hailed by centrists and reformists as a move that could salvage Iran’s economy.

"The intervention by the Expediency Council is an unprecedented decision, for revitalizing the economy," a reformist government spokesman, Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, said at an October 4 news conference.

Iranian centrists and reformists – as well as influential members of the conservative establishment -- hope that large-scale privatization will help the country attract billions in foreign investment, and lead to the modernization of Iran’s energy infrastructure. A retooled infrastructure could stimulate job creation, thus easing the country’s crushing unemployment problem. According to some estimates, Iran will need to create at least 700,000 jobs per year in coming years just to keep pace with the growth rate of young people coming of working age.

The radical-conservatives in parliament are actively trying to discourage foreign investment, mainly by seeking to place restrictions on the government’s ability to negotiate international trade deals. Outside investment, the radical-conservatives apparently believe, could undermine the Islamic republican ideals that they seem intent on restoring.

Accordingly, media outlets controlled by Iranian hardliners condemned the Expediency Council’s decision. "The Expediency Council’s decision on Article 44 of the Constitution is a grave mistake," said an October 10 editorial published by the ultra-conservative Jomhoori Islami newspaper. "Any modification of the Constitution by the council lacks legal legitimacy."

Meanwhile, hardliners have launched a whisper campaign designed to discourage Rafsanjani from running for president, playing up reports that the former speaker and his family members have engaged in improper business dealings.

Political analysts in Tehran say that Rafsanjani’s recent maneuverings are designed to aid a bid for the presidency in 2005. In mounting his quiet campaign, Rafsanjani is attempting to cast his himself as Iran’s "savior" from retrograde radical-conservatives. In keeping with his cagey political style, however, Rafsanjani is publicly adopting the stance of reluctant politician. "I am disinclined to run for office [the presidency]," he said in comments published October 9 by the Hambastegi daily. "However, if Islam and the country come under threat, I will not hesitate to rise to the occasion."

Rafsanjani’s candidacy stands to gain support from Iran’s managerial class, moderate conservatives and elements of the clergy and armed forces. Ironically, the realization of his presidential ambitions in 2005 may depend on reformists, who during the 1997 presidential election campaign, won by incumbent Mohammad Khatami, heaped scorn on Rafsanjani’s political legacy.

Reformists now find themselves in a state of disarray, having been routed in a political battle with hardliners, culminating in the parliamentary elections last February, in which conservative elements won a dominating majority of seats. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. A consensus reformist candidate for president has failed to materialize. Thus, many reformists may at least consider throwing their support behind Rafsanjani.

Reformists continue to view Rafsanjani as an unscrupulous politician, ready to sacrifice any policy position for the sake of personal political aggrandizement. Yet, at the same time, some reformists admit that he may be the "lesser evil" candidate – someone more likely to steer a centrist political course. Others see him as one of Iran’s few politicians with the skills needed to address not only the country’s domestic political and economic turmoil, but also the mounting international crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Rafsanjani at present appears the odds-on favorite to capture the election. Whether he can be effective as chief executive, however, remains uncertain. His relatively narrow political support base, combined with reformists’ skepticism and the bitter radical-conservative opposition, means that he would likely face draining policy fights in the future. But as one analyst said: "Those who underestimate Heshemi’s [Rafsanjani’s] prodigious skills do so at their own peril."

Editor’s Note: Kamal Nazer Yasin is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist specializing in Iranian affairs."

Iranian govt given green light to proceed with privatisation - News Details, Webindia123.com

Iranian govt given green light to proceed with privatisation - News Details, Webindia123.com: "Iranian govt given green light to proceed with privatisation
Nicosia | October 14, 2004 5:39:52 PM IST

Iran's supreme legislative arbitration body - the Expediency Council- which is headed by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has given the reformist government of the Islamic Republic the green light to proceed with the privatization of key sectors of the economy. These sectors include banking, insurance, foreign trade, telecom and postal services, airlines, railways, shipping, power generation, petrochemicals, lubricants and distribution of products.

A few months ago, the Guardians Council, which is controlled by conservative hardliners, had managed to block key parts of the five-year development plan prepared by the government of reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The Guardians Council claimed that ceding big industries to the private sector would be a violation of articles 43 and 44 of the Iranian Constitution. The dispute was referred to country's Expediency Council, which is the final arbiter of disputes between legislative bodies in Iran.

The decision of the Expediency Council was taken on October 2 said that with a view to assisting economic development and preventing further losses to the Iranian economy, the government is authorised to cede large industries to the private sector. The oil and gas industries, as well as radio and television will remain in the hands of the state.

It should be mentioned that the Iranian Parliament would have to approve the necessary legislation to facilitate the entry of private firms into the privatized sectors."

Iran reiterates pledge to shun nuke arms plans

IranMania News: "Iran reiterates pledge to shun nuke arms plans

Saturday, October 16, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Oct 16 (IranMania) - Iran reiterated a pledge Friday to restrict its nuclear development programs to non-military objectives, Agence France Press (AFP) reported.

"We have a very great need for civilian nuclear energy for our economic development and we are in no way seeking the part of that industry that could have a military objective," Iranian Finance and Economy Minister Safdar Hosseini said.

Hosseini, speaking to AFP after conferring Thursday with French Finance Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, also said he had called for stepped-up economic cooperation between France and Iran in a number of areas.

"Mr. Sarkozy very favorably received these proposals for strengthened economic cooperation and they are now being considered by the French party and we are anxiously awaiting initiatives from the French side," he said.

Sarkozy's office on Thursday said the Minister -- in his meeting with Hosseini -- had explained that France can go no further in its exchanges with Iran "until the Iranian government shows signs of nuclear transparency."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has given Iran until November 25 to alleviate fears that it is secretly developing a nuclear bomb and has called for the suspension of all its enriched uranium activities.

"We are ready to work within the framework of the Tehran accord" to ease international concerns, Hosseini said Friday.

"This is the solution that will enable us to preserve our legitimate right and to create international confidence."

Under terms of the accord, signed late last year with Germany, France and Britain, Iran pledged to suspend its enriched uranium activities and to accept unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities."

Iran Khodro builds new platform for Samand

IranMania News: "Iran Khodro builds new platform for Samand

Saturday, October 16, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

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LONDON, Oct 16 (IranMania) - The new model of Samand will use a brand new platform, head of Iran Khodro Research Center, Nasseri told ISNA on Friday.

According to Mehr News Agency (MNA), this new model spawns a new engine and a new gearbox, he added. “Radical changes will also be made in X and H-back platforms to have a completely different model in 2006,” Nasseri stated.

Iran Khodro Industrial Group surveyed people in several auto fairs in order to find out which model is most popular. “The 2006 Samand prototype has tried to resemble Pardis according to its popularity,” Nasseri uttered.

“We will change motor components, power units, automotive suspension and steering systems in this new model”, he said, adding that they are to form an entirely Iranian model on the car.

Iran Khodro experts have designed the next generation of Samand with L-90 platform. “We might also use Peugeot 307 platforms for Samand if negotiations produce good results.”

Iran Khodro cooperates with a German research center in order to provide a national design for the engines of all Iran Khodro cars. “The new engine is to be mounted on Samand 2006”, Nasseri stated.

According to Nasseri, Iran will soon be able to make cars with X-90 and other platforms. “With a joint platform, we can design different engines, different gearboxes and different suspension systems, thus, we would make different platforms”. That is the way Volkswagen, Audi, Mitsubishi, Proton, Nissan and Renault manufacture various models of cars, he added."

80 percent of Iran's oil reserves unexplored

80 percent of Iran's oil reserves unexplored: "80 percent of Iran's oil reserves unexplored
Tehran, Oct 18, IRNA -- A senior Iranian parliamentarian on Sunday urged the government to speed up efforts to exploit joint hydrocarbon reserves, stressing that some 80 percent of the country's oil fields remains unexplored.
The English-Language 'Iran Daily' quoted Kamal Daneshyar as saying the downstream oil industries in Iran have not progressed sufficiently in recent years, adding the country does not need foreign expertise in developing its upstream industries as much as it does its downstream sector.

"Iran's oil and gas industries are such that it is profitable for foreign firms which...are ready to participate in any sector," he said.

He added that poverty, corruption and unemployment are chiefly the result of insufficient foreign investment in the country.

He called on the government to reduce bank profit rates to zero in a bid to encourage greater investment in all economic areas.

"The rise in inflation which will follow a cut in bank profit rates could be brought under control by boosting production and promoting industrial activities," he said, adding that foreign investment is crucial to the development of Iran's oil fields.

The official, however, admitted that the country still had to improve its domestic knowhow in field of oil and gas exploration and utilization. "

Lavrov’s visit to Iran could signal Russia’s return to Eurasian outlook

Description of Selected News: "Lavrov’s visit to Iran could signal Russia’s return to Eurasian outlook

Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent visit to Iran has special significance in light of Iran-Russia cooperation in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the efforts made by the United States and its allies to sabotage Tehran-Moscow relations and to isolate Iran.

During his one-day visit to Tehran, Lavrov met his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Hassan Rowhani.

After his visit with Kharrazi, Lavrov said that Russia would support Iran in its negotiations with European countries on the nuclear issue as well as in its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. He added that Russia recognizes Iran’s right to access to nuclear technology and believes that Iran can allay the West’s concerns about its nuclear program through the continuation of confidence-building measures.

During Lavrov’s visit with the SNSC secretary, Rowhani said that this is the most appropriate time to boost bilateral ties between Tehran and Moscow and underlined the need to complete construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant as soon as possible.

Lavrov also emphasized the importance of the continuation of warm relations between Iran and Russia, saying that the nuclear fuel contract between the two countries would soon be signed and that Moscow would not let any foreign pressure influence bilateral cooperation.

The Majlis speaker lauded Russia for its independent positions on international and regional affairs. He added that public opinion in Iran is especially sensitive toward the issue of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, calling it the symbol of Tehran-Moscow relations.

Lavrov also said that Russia is committed to continuing its cooperation with Iran."

Iran's Basij militia wants observers at US vote

IranMania News: "Iran's Basij militia wants observers at US vote

Monday, October 18, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Oct 18 (IranMania) - Iran's hardline Basij militia has written to UN secretary general Kofi Annan to ask if the Islamic republic can send observers to the US presidential election in November, a government newspaper said on Monday.

"By this symbolic request, we want to ridicule the so-called democratic slogans of the American leaders," a Basij official, Said Toutunchian, told the Iran newspaper.

"We want to say to the whole world that the presence of observers from the Islamic republic of Iran, the most democratic regime in the world, is necessary to guarantee the smooth running of the American elections."

The Basij is a volunteer army attached to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic republic's ideological army.

Predominantly Western groups frequently send observers to pass judgment on the "democratic status" of elections in other countries.

On Monday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europesaid in a statement that weekend legislative elections in Belarus fell "significantly short" of democratic standards."

Iran, Kuwait resume gas exports negotiations

IranMania News: "Iran, Kuwait resume gas exports negotiations

Monday, October 18, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Oct 18 (IranMania) - An Iranian delegation arrived in Kuwait city Sunday to resume negotiations on gas exports to the Persian Gulf country.

A member of the delegation told IRNA that this round of discussions aims to finalize an agreement and will focus on the quality amount and price of gas exports from Iran to Kuwait.

Several Kuwaiti media quoted its oil officials last week as saying that negotiations have been moving slowly on the issue, "but given the importance of signing of an agreement the Kuwait is satisfied with the discussions."

The official said that Kuwait has informed Iran it is not satisfied with quality and proposed price of gas and wants to negotiate a better rate. Kuwait has said that upon ratification of an agreement with Iran technical work for laying the pipeline will start immediately.

The initial estimates are that the pipeline expenses will hover around $200 mln. Kuwait has no gas reserves and in addition to Iran is negotiating with Iraq and Qatar for imports of gas.

An official said in August that although Iran has embarked on extensive development of its gas fields, "it has only 5% of world gas production." Speaking at a first session of BOAO Energy Forum Managing Director of Iran National Gas Company (INGC) Rokneddin Javadi said that Iran`s share in the world`s gas export market is meager. "Iran has plans to increase its share to over 10% of the international exports by 2020," he added.

To achieve this aim INGC has four Liquid National Gas (LNG) projects deigned and is reviewing several other project for exports of gas to Persian Gulf Littoral states, Caucuses, Europe, Pakistan and India, Javadi underlined. "Iran has 27,000 bln cubic meters of gas reserves and approximately 18% the total of proven gas reserves in the world."

The country produces 313 mln cubic meters of gas daily which is slated to increase to 580 mln cubic meters by the end of the fourth five-year development plan (March 2005-2010).

Also, the plans call for the capacity of the first unit of South Pars phase 1 refinery to reach 500 mln cubic meters in the near future."

Iran’s export portfolio, bright in 1st half

IranMania News: "Iran’s export portfolio, bright in 1st half

Monday, October 18, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Oct 18 (IranMania) - Some 152,936 tons of dried fruits, worth $310 mln and 500 thousand, were exported in the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 20), it was announced on Sunday.

According to a report released by Iran Customs Administration, the above-stated figures point to an increase of 7% in terms of weight and a one percent decline in terms of value, respectively, compared to corresponding figures in the preceding year.

Pistachios, almonds, dates, and dried apricots were the major items exported to different countries during the period, the report said.

Meanwhile, some 156,801 tons of various metal products worth $512 mln were exported in the same period.

In related developments, Iran Customs Administration announced that exports of wooden and cellulose products in the first six months of the current Iranian year increased by 80% compared with the corresponding figures last year.

Some 14,636 tons of wooden and cellulose products, worth over $13 mln, were exported during the above-stated period, the report added.

IRAN’S SEDAN EXPORT HIT $36m

During the first half of the year, Iran exported $35.68 bln worth of sedans, showing 261% growth.

According to the Customs, some 28,362 tons of cars and spare parts, valued at $86.7 mln, were exported in the period. It corroborated 57% and 110% increase compared with the corresponding period last year. Wood, cellulose exports grow 80%

Iran exported some 14,636 tons of wood and cellulose products in the first six months of the year.

The volume was worth of $13.3 mln, corroborating 80% growth in comparison with the corresponding period last year.

KERMAN'S EXPORTS DIP BY 22%

Exports of Kerman province dipped by 32% and 22% in terms of weight and value, respectively, during the first six months of the current Iranian year (started March 20, 2004).

Some 45,910 tons of goods valued at over $1.5 bln were exported from this southeastern province during the period, the head of Kerman Customs Office announced on Sunday.

Mohammad Hossein Jalali said that pistachios, copper products, food stuff, dates and wool were among the exported goods.

The goods were sent to European countries, Russia, Central Asia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey.

He attributed the decline in Kerman's exports to the decrease in production of copper and pistachio.

He added that some 34,621 tons of pistachios valued at $136 mln were exported from the province which shows a decrease of 34% and 26% in terms of weight and value, respectively, compared to corresponding figures last year.

Exports of dates increased 99% and 190% in terms of weight and value, respectively, compared to corresponding figures in the previous year.

He further said that Kerman had imported 30,427 tons of goods valued at $87.2 mln during the first half of the current year.

Industrial, mechanical, road construction and agricultural equipment and machinery were among the goods imported into the province, he said.

Kerman Customs Office earned over $72 mln during the said period, Jalali said.

QAZVIN EXPORTS $287m WORTH OF GOODS

Some 55,500 tons of goods valued at $287 mln were exported from this province during the first half of the current year.

Detergents, ceramics, cotton, chemical products, decorative stones, blankets and glassware were among the goods exported, the head of Qazvin Customs Office announced on Sunday.

Gholam-Hossein Nuhi added that the amount of exported goods points to a rise of 10% and 45% in terms of weight and value, respectively, compared to the figure in the same period last year.

He further said that some 14,400 tons of goods valued at $1 bln were imported into this western province during the period.

The amount of goods imported into the province shows an increase of 46% and 66% in terms of weight and value, respectively, compared to the last year figure.

Paper, ironware, industrial, mechanical and electrical equipment were among the major goods imported."

Reuters.com: Iran Ready to Negotiate Enrichment Halt Length

International News Article | Reuters.com: "Iran Ready to Negotiate Enrichment Halt Length

TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday it was willing to negotiate with European nations the length of its uranium enrichment suspension but will never renounce its right to carry out the process, which can be used to make atom bombs.
"If they (the EU trio) want to negotiate about tactics such as how long Iran will suspend uranium enrichment for, then these are negotiable," Hassan Rohani, secretary general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told state television.

"But if the issue is to stop Iran from pursuing its right, our representatives are not even allowed to have talks about these issues with anyone," Rohani said.

The European Union's top three powers Britain, Germany and France are expected to present a proposal to Iran this week aimed at convincing the Islamic state to give up its pursuit of uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned Tehran it could be reported to the United Nations Security Council if it has failed to halt all enrichment activities by the time of the next IAEA board meeting on Nov. 25.

Washington says Iran's nuclear program is geared to producing nuclear weapons. Tehran says it wants to master the full nuclear fuel cycle to provide fuel for atomic reactors that generate electricity.

Although it is not enriching uranium at present, Iran has gone back on an earlier promise to the EU trio to halt related activities such as the manufacture and assembly of enrichment centrifuges.

Iran insists its suspension of enrichment is "temporary and voluntary." Rohani again said on Monday that the suspension would only be "for a short time."

"It is not acceptable for us for someone to tell us that it's okay for European countries or the United States to have the fuel cycle and nuclear power plants but that Iran cannot," Rohani said.

Rohani, Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, reiterated that Tehran believed its nuclear dossier at the IAEA should be closed.

"We have answered all the questions which the inspectors asked. We have nothing more to say," he said.

"If Iran's case is not closed in November it will harm the IAEA's reputation more than it will harm Iran because then the whole world would know that the IAEA is under pressure from some countries such as the United States.""