Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Iran throws support behind President Bush, despite "axis of evil" label

Iran throws support behind President Bush, despite "axis of evil" label: "Iran throws support behind President Bush, despite "axis of evil" label

TEHRAN, Iran A nation considered part of the so-called "axis of evil" is endorsing George W. Bush -- the man who called it "evil" in the first place.

Officials in Iran say despite that label, their country wants President Bush to be re-elected.

They say that in the past, Democrats have done more harm to Iran than Republicans. In particular, they point to sanctions that went in place under former President Clinton.

This marks the first time in decades that Iran has openly supported any American presidential candidate.

The head of Iran's security council says while Iran doesn't appreciate President Bush's remarks about Iran, he hasn't taken any dangerous actions against the country.

The U-S cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979. The Bush administration says the country is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons and has hidden terrorists within its borders.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed."

AP Wire | 10/19/2004 | AP: Fund-Raisers Trade With Iran, Iraq

AP Wire | 10/19/2004 | AP: Fund-Raisers Trade With Iran, Iraq: "AP: Fund-Raisers Trade With Iran, Iraq

Associated Press
WASHINGTON - More than two dozen top fund-raisers for President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry are current or former senior managers of companies punished for trading with Iran or Saddam Hussein's Iraq - including the chairman of Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Committee and Kerry's fund-raising chairman.

Both candidates say they want the United States to hunt down and kill or capture terrorists. They say those who harbor and finance terrorists are just as guilty. Bush famously described Iran, Saddam's Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" threatening to give terrorists weapons of mass destruction.

But the tough talk doesn't address the role of American companies that do business, intentionally or not, with countries such as Iran on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Nineteen people who have raised more than $100,000 for Bush are current or former executives or directors of a dozen firms fined for transactions with Iran and Iraq during the past decade, government records show. Nine top Kerry fund-raisers work or worked for five of those companies. All held their respective positions when some or all of the disputed transactions took place.

Does that cast a cloud over the contributions?

"The companies themselves aren't contributing," Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stenzel said.

Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan had a similar response: "Those individuals represent themselves and not their places of employment."

Some of the executives and companies involved said the violations were unintentional slip-ups inevitable in large firms with global operations.

"In most of these cases, the violations are certainly not intentional and usually inadvertent," said Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton. The Treasury Department cited Bank of America or its subsidiaries seven times in the past five years for transferring funds to or operating accounts for people in Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

Bank of America Vice Chairman James H. Hance, Jr., has raised more than $200,000 for Bush's 2004 campaign.

As for Iraq, Bush has seven and Kerry has three top fund-raisers from companies fined for doing business with Saddam's government.

One example is Joseph J. Grano, Jr., a top Bush fund-raiser and chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Grano is the former chairman of an American subsidiary of the Swiss bank UBS AG and was one of the bank's six executive board members. He now runs a consulting firm, Centurion Holdings LLC.

The bank paid a $14,750 penalty for permitting a 2001 funds transfer to Iraq. UBS also paid a $100 million fine to the Federal Reserve this year after regulators discovered that UBS workers in Zurich traded billions of dollars worth of U.S. currency with Iran, Libya, Cuba and Yugoslavia between 1996 and 2003.

Some of that cash ended up in Iraq, where U.S. troops seized hundreds of millions of dollars last year - some still in wrappings from the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Grano, a former Army Green Beret, said he was never involved in either case while he was with UBS from 2001 until earlier this year. He said he never saw evidence of support for terrorism at UBS.

"All their activities I was involved in were 1,000 percent in support of our country in the war on terrorism," he told The Associated Press.

Grano said he never discussed the UBS cases with anyone at the Department of Homeland Security. He didn't have to, said Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

"There are no legal requirements that require council members to discuss anything about their employers," Roehrkasse said.

Another UBS executive with political connections is Blair Effron, a managing director of UBS Investment Bank. Effron is a top fund-raiser for Kerry and co-chairs Kerry's business outreach program. Robert Wolf, chief operating officer of UBS Investment Bank, also raised more than $100,000 for Kerry.

UBS spokesman Mark Arena said the bank would not arrange interviews with Effron or Wolf. Arena said UBS recognized "very serious mistakes were made" in dealing with terrorism sponsors.

The punished firm with the most extensive links to the presidential candidates is JPMorgan Chase & Co. Two longtime JPMorgan directors are Bush fund-raisers, as are two former and one current executive. Another JPMorgan executive, Nancy Pfund, is a top fund-raiser for Kerry.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has cited JPMorgan and its subsidiaries five times for business with Iran in the past decade and once for a $50,000 funds transfer by subsidiary Chase Manhattan Bank to Iraq in 1999.

"JPMorgan Chase has appropriate policies and procedures in place to fully comply with the OFAC regulations," spokeswoman Judy Miller said.

Both Kerry and Bush also say they're concerned about Iran's nuclear programs, which U.S. officials say are designed to make bombs but Tehran says are only to produce electricity.

The 12 punished companies managed by Bush fund-raisers have been cited 27 times for dealings with Iran since President Clinton banned all trade with Tehran in 1995, records of the Office of Foreign Assets Control say. The five punished companies managed by Kerry fund-raisers were cited 12 times for Iran dealings.

One example is Citigroup, which has one Bush fund-raiser on its board of directors and four Kerry fund-raisers in top executive ranks. Kerry's campaign finance chairman, Louis B. Susman, is vice chairman of Citigroup Global Markets.

The assets control office cited Citigroup three times for transactions involving Iran and twice for doing business with entities on the U.S. terrorist watch list.

Susman and Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell did not respond to requests for comment."

Newsday.com - Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran

"Newsday.com - AP Washington: "Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran

Associated Press Writer
October 19, 2004, 4:22 PM EDT
TEHRAN, Iran -- The head of Iran's security council said on Tuesday the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

"We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of Clinton," Rowhani said of the former Democratic president. "And we should not forget that during Bush's era -- despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran -- he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran."

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked if Iran was supporting Kerry against Bush.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Iranian clerics were crucial in determining the fate of the 1980 U.S. election when Republican Ronald Reagan won in part because Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter was unable to secure the hostages' release.

The hostages were freed as Reagan was inaugurated.

The United States supported Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, but by the late 1990s, U.S.-Iranian relations were somewhat better. They plummeted again after Bush accused Iran of being part of the "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.

The Bush administration also accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and sheltering operatives of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network. Still, Iran was happy to see Bush destroy two big regional enemies -- the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Iranian political analyst Mohsen Mofidi said ousting the Taliban and Saddam was the "biggest service any administration could have done for Iran."

And Bush, he said, has learned from his mistakes.

"The experience of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the responsibility Bush had, will make it a very remote possibility for him to risk attacking a much bigger and more powerful country like Iran," he said.

Mofidi added that "Democrats usually insist on human rights and they will have more excuses to pressure Iran."

Republican and Democratic presidents have issued executive orders against Iran, with Reagan in 1987 barring Iranian crude oil and other imports, and Clinton in 1995 banning U.S. trade and investment in Iran.

Bush has been reluctant to offer Iran any incentives for better U.S.-Iranian relations, but in recent days there have been signs Washington will back European economic incentives if Iran stops uranium enrichment activities.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted by state-run television Tuesday as saying Iran is interested in buying nuclear fuel from the West, but will not concede its right to the technology.

The nuclear issue has been most sensitive, and the Bush administration is threatening to press for sanctions against Iran over it. Washington accuses Tehran of trying to build bombs. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, for energy purposes.

Kerry, who says halting nuclear proliferation will be a priority if he becomes president, believes Bush should have done more diplomatically to curb Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. He says Iran should be offered nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, but spent fuel should be taken back so it cannot be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Kavoos Emami, another Iranian political analyst, praised Kerry for mentioning the need for dialogue with Iran, and said the Democrat would be better for Iran.

"Bush has insulted Iran more than any other U.S. administration. If Kerry is elected, a U.S. military attack against Iran will never happen or will be a very remote possibility," he said.""

Majlis, government’s economic team upbeat over joint meeting

Description of Selected News: "Majlis, government’s economic team upbeat over joint meeting

TEHRAN (MNA) -- First Vice-Speaker, Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Vice- President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Majid Ansari on Tuesday expressed happiness and satisfaction over joint closed door session of government’s economic team and the MPs.

The session was attended by the Minister of Oil, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Minister of Commerce, Mohammad Shariatmadari, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Safdar Hosseini, Head of the Management and Planning Organization, Hamid-Reza Shoraka, Governor of Central Bank of Iran.

Bahonar called the interaction between the legislative and executive branches, a sign of amity and cooperation aiming to solve the people’s problems. By holding this session the government and Majlis translated this interaction into reality, hoping that these interactions will continue in the future.

He stated that some MPs believe that recent price hikes can be controlled though proper measures.

Ansari, who has recently been appointed to the job, also called the meeting fruitful and hoped that such sessions will contribute to positive and constructive outcomes between government and Majlis. He further hoped to see closer cooperation between the government and Majlis during the remaining days of the present government.

Assessing such cooperation as beneficial to the country and people he viewed that lawmakers go with the national interest and that the government as an executive body is determined to take steps in favor of the people.

In response to the protest of some lawmakers to the high prices of some commodities, he said that the negotiations will be effective in drawing up the budget.

Both government and parliament are determined improving national economy, paying more attention to the low-income social classes, reducing the everyday expenses and taking steps towards achieving the goals set by the 20-year vision plan, he said, adding that there are no distinct differences of opinions between the two bodies.

Being familiar with the process of parliamentary affairs, Ansari determined to render more satisfactory service to the people through close coordination with the government."

Rafsanjani conditionally stands for President

IranMania News: "Rafsanjani conditionally stands for pres. vote

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Oct 19 (IranMania) - Head of a political group`s Presidential Elections Headquarters told IRNA after a meeting with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Monday that he would nominate himself for the post "if the ground is paved for the purpose."

Association of Experts member Mohammad-Reza Tourani added, "The Central Committee and Presidential Elections Headquarters members of our association, along with 50 MPs, a number of mass media representatives and some political and cultural personalities met with the head of Expediency Council on Monday on the Issue."

He said, "During the meeting Hashemi emphasized that if the ground would be paved for the purpose and the atmosphere would be ripe for a sound competition, and if he, or the parties that favor his presence would come up with the conclusion that he is the ultimate choice, he wouldn`t hesitate in nominating himself for the post."

Tourani said, "In Monday meeting Mr. Rafsanjani appreciated the efforts made by those who encourage his presence at May 2005 Presidential Elections, adding that he is a devoted servant of the Islamic system, no matter at what post his services would be deemed as necessary."

According to Tourani, after gaining the positive response from the head of the Expediency Council, it was agreed that the parties favoring Rafsanjani`s presence at the elections would establish a front commissioned to pursue the related affairs."

Iran government in no hurry for car imports

IranMania News: "Iran government in no hurry for car imports

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Oct 19 (IranMania) - Iran's Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari said on Monday that the government is in no hurry to flood the market with imported cars, stressing that no decision has yet been made on importing low-priced Chinese vehicles.

The Minister told ISNA that the procedures for importing automobiles are transparent and all companies interested in bringing in vehicles must follow the same process, with Chinese cars being no exception.

"We are not worried about the prospect of these procedures leading to a slowdown in car imports," he said, stressing that the government has not yet made a decision about the proposal to consider certain privileges for car imports by students and state employees.

Earlier, Head of Iran's Customs Administration Masoud Karbasian told Fars news agency last month that the projected revenues from car import duties will not be achieved this year.

The government has projected revenues of 6.4 tln rials from car import tariffs until March 2005.

"With the approach of the new Christian year, not many people would be willing to import 2004 models," he said, adding that customs offices nationwide have tried to do away with unnecessary formalities to facilitate automobile imports in recent months.

He said, however, that any further initiative to make auto imports easier must be announced by the Commerce Ministry.

Minister of Industries and Mines Es'haq Jahangiri also said earlier that the government has not authorized the import of second-hand vehicles and lambasted the media for fanning rumors which he said create expectations among the public.

"While no decision has been taken on importing second-hand cars, the press built up such expectations among the Iranians," Jahangiri told ISNA.

The Minister said that the only decision which was made recently by the government on this issue was that Iranian expatriates can bring in their personal effects including used cars when returning home."