Thursday, December 09, 2004

U.S., Iran join in rare Persian Gulf security conference

Description of Selected News: "U.S., Iran join in rare Persian Gulf security conference


MANAMA (Reuters) -- A conference on regional security threats opened in Bahrain on Friday, in a rare gathering of senior officials and strategists from Persian Gulf Arab states as well as Iran, Iraq and the United States.

The Persian Gulf Security Conference: The Persian Gulf Dialogue, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), will focus on terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Senior political, military and security officials from Europe, Australia, Japan, the United States and the Middle East were due to speak at the conference on Saturday and Sunday, which will be closed to the media.

Speakers include U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Iraq's National Security Adviser Kassim Daoud."

U.S., Austrian officers plot to foil Iran - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - December 04, 2004

U.S., Austrian officers foil plot to aid Iran military - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - December 04, 2004: "U.S., Austrian officers foil plot to aid Iran military

By Jerry Seper
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
U.S. and Austrian law-enforcement authorities have disrupted a suspected plot to illegally supply the Iranian military with thousands of advanced military night-vision systems from the United States, arresting two Iranian nationals on charges of attempting to violate Austrian export laws.
Michael J. Garcia, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary, announced yesterday that Mahmoud Seif and Shahrzad Mir Gholikhan were arrested Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, after a meeting during which they took possession of a U.S. helmet-mounted military night-vision system they intended to illegally export to Iran.

Mr. Garcia, who heads the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said the arrests followed a two-year investigation by ICE, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the Austrian Federal Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism, known as the Bundesamt Fuer Verfassungsschutz.
He said the Vienna transaction was the first in what was to be the purchase of 3,000 military night-vision systems from the United States for illegal export to Iran. The equipment ultimately was to be used by the Iranian military infantry.
ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the new night-vision systems, known as Generation III, are among the most advanced in the world and are capable of amplifying virtually any light source, including faint starlight. Used by U.S. forces around the globe, Mr. Boyd said the systems provide a significant advantage to U.S. troops over opponents in nighttime combat.
Because of their sophistication, the systems are classified as U.S. Munitions List items and their export from the United States is prohibited without a valid export license from the State Department, he said. Additionally, Mr. Boyd said, all exports to Iran are prohibited under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The arrests are the latest in a series of ICE cases involving military equipment bound for Iran.
"Keeping sensitive U.S. weapons technology out of the hands of state sponsors of terror is a priority for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security," Mr. Garcia said. "Sophisticated night-vision systems allow U.S. troops to 'own the night,' giving them a key advantage over their opponents during nighttime combat.
"In the wrong hands, these night vision systems pose a threat to our troops around the world," he said.
Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz said the "lives of American war fighters can be placed at direct risk through illegal transfer of military components" in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He said his agency's mission is to deploy DCIS investigative resources, as necessary, to prevent any company from circumventing U.S. controls on technology transfer.
Mr. Boyd said the government's investigation began in August 2002, when ICE and DCIS agents in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received information that a person in Tehran was attempting to buy military-grade night-vision systems in the United States for illegal export to Iran. The original requests, he said, focused on the procurement of up to 3,000 helmet-mounted night-vision systems.
Mr. Boyd said the unnamed person specified that the systems were to be used by the Iranian military infantry.
In September, Mr. Seif and Mr. Gholikhan began negotiations to buy the night-vision systems from the United States, saying they would receive the first system and additional systems in Austria for export to Iran, Mr. Boyd said. The two men also noted their direct contacts with the Iranian government, he said.
Austrian authorities were contacted and later determined that such transactions would violate their nation's export-control laws. The Austrian Federal Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism then joined the investigation.
Mr. Boyd said Mr. Seif and Mr. Gholikhan arrived in Vienna, Austria, to pick up the first military night-vision system and were arrested by Austrian agents. At the time, he said, they gave undercover agents a list of other items they wanted to purchase from the United States."

RP asks Iran to cut duties on fresh bananas to 20 percent

ABS-CBNNEWS.COM: "RP asks Iran to cut duties on fresh bananas to 20 percent

By LAWRENCE AGCAOILI
TODAY Reporter

The Philippines has asked Iran to slash tariff on imported bananas to 20 percent from the existing 66 percent to boost trade and investments relations between the two trading partners, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Thursday.

Trade Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a statement that the recently concluded 4th Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) served as an opportunity for the Philippine government to discuss with Iran market access issues pertaining to quarantine measures affecting bilateral trade of agricultural products. Purisima said he formally asked Iranian Minister of Commerce Mohammad Shariatmadari to reduce tariff on fresh bananas that account for about 80 percent of the country’s total merchandise exports to Iran.

“We are pushing for the tariff reduction from 66 percent to 20 percent on Iran’s import duty on Philippine bananas,” he said, adding that such will boost efforts “to pursue economic-based development and activities in Mindanao.”

The high import duty, he said, has effectively driven up the price of bananas in Iran, making the fruit less affordable among low- and middle-income consumers.

Two-way trade between the Philippines and Iran reached $542 million in the first eight months of the year. Philippine exports to Iran amounted to $19.95 million, and imports from Iran reached $522.36. Iran is the Philippines’ second major trading partner in the Middle East. It is the country’s third-biggest export market and the second-largest import supplier in the region.

Fresh bananas dominated the country’s exports to Iran with a share of 85 percent, while petroleum oils practically accounted for 99 percent Philippine imports from Iran.

Besides fresh bananas, the Philippines and Iran agreed to cooperate in the exchange of expertise on agricultural biotechnology; facilitate exports of agricultural products subject to the respective quarantine rules and regulations; joint research in rice, coconut, pineapple, mango, banana, papaya and other tropical fruits; barter exchange of Iran’s apple, kiwi, pomegranate, dates, cherry and dried fruit with the Philippines’s banana, pineapple and papaya; joint projects in soil and water management; and the exchange of scientific information in different fields of shrimp farming and other aquatics.

Other agreements signed during the three-day meeting that ended on December 8 included the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Trade Promotion Cooperation between the Iran Trade Promotion Organization and the Philippine Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP) as well as the Protocol Amending the 1995 Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investment.

Other agreements included the Executive Program for Broadcasting Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and Philippines Radio and Television as well as the MOU between the Petrochemical Commercial Company and the Metro Alliance A Company to negotiate a contract for the Iranian company to supply ethylene bulk for the period of 2006 to 2010. "

Iran cement scandal ends without conclusion

IranMania News: "Iran cement scandal ends without conclusion

Sunday, December 05, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 5 (IranMania) – The Iranian website of ‘Baztab’ reported of the closure of one of the most controversial financial cases in Iran concerning the cement scandal which topped the news headlines 8 years ago.

The case has been repeatedly dealt with in different court branches in Tehran over the past 8 years. While some of the prominent political, security and judiciary figures are reportedly involved in the case, reports indicate that certain influential figures are launching wide-scale efforts to close the case.

So far Head of the Iranian Judiciary has appointed 4 judges to deal with the case, yet for unknown reasons no rulings have been issued to date.

The case concerns a cement factory which is worth more than $1 bln."

Iran concerned over human rights violations in EU -

Iran concerned over human rights violations in EU -: "Iran concerned over human rights violations in EU
12/5/2004 7:30:00 PM GMT

“We are seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Europe,” Asefi said.

Iran expressed its concern over the human rights violations in Europe and the wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Netherlands.

“We are seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Europe,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Sunday.

“We expect the Europeans to take necessary measures so that we will not see violation of the rights of Muslims, minorities and foreigners any more,” he added.

Asefi’s statements came in response to fresh EU criticism of the human rights situation in the Islamic republic.

Last week, the Netherlands, as the current president of the EU, sent an official letter to Iran demanding the release of all those arrested in connection with Internet and media activities as well as the staff of non-governmental organizations.

The Iranian media said Saturday that four of the arrested journalists, three of them recently freed, have written letters of repentance, saying that they were “brainwashed” by foreigners and ”counter-revolutionaries”.

The letter also said that; “All 25 EU members will back a resolution against Iran as regard the violation of human rights and abuse of civil liberties in the country.”

The EU letter comes as Iran and Europe are expected to continue talks on nuclear, political and economic issues next week.

Asefi reacted to the allegations at The Hague in an apparent reference to the slain filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, widely known for attacking Islam.

“In the Netherlands we see somebody’s appalling act has provoked Muslims, and this has been followed by harsh measures being taken by anti-Islamic circles,” Asefi said."

Bin Ladens brother-in-law speaks

Bin Ladens brother-in-law speaks: "Bin Ladens brother-in-law speaks
11/25/2004 7:30:00 PM GMT

Bin Laden's brother-in-law says he's not surprised that it is difficult to capture Osama, leader of Al Qaeda network.

"Who is going to capture him and where?" Jamal Khalifah said.

Speaking to the CNN, Khalifah said: "For 10 years, the Russians did not capture even one leader of the Afghan Mujahedeen with the full forces everywhere. So I think it is a little bit difficult."

Currently, Khalifa runs a fish restaurant outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"Ten years we are together," said Khalifa. "When we were in the university and after that. Always we are together. We live in one house."

Khalifa said that he and Bin Laden met at Jeddah's King Abdulaziz University in the late 1970s.

"He is the one who suggested ... I marry his sister," Khalifa said. "I told him, 'Osama, we are going to die and you are talking about marriage. So let's go first and if I come alive, we will do it.' So, I came alive."

Khalifah spent most of his life in Pakistan, he established an Islamic relief charity, schools and mosques for refugees displaced by the war in Afghanistan.

Khalifah said that he was troubled at the time that bin Laden starting to form his own fighting force from the men, who were known as the Afghan Arabs. "I saw him starting to group the Arabs in one place and start to let them go and fight by themselves."

Khalifah said he didn’t understand at first that this was the beginnings of al Qaeda network, he said he didn't like what he saw.

"I am the first one who stood up in front of Osama and told him, 'Osama, you are doing something wrong. You are going to the wrong direction,'" said Khalifah, who said he did not approve bin Laden and his advisers’ approach.

Last year Saudi Arabia was hit with a series of attacks, for which Al Qaeda network claimed responsibility. Thus, Khalifah published a letter in a Saudi paper urging Bin Laden to stop those attacks being committed in his name.

"Please come out, tell those people to stop," Khalifa wrote in the letter. "You are the one who can tell that, and you are the one who can stop it."

But Khalifah never got a response from Bin Laden who used to be his best friend.

Khalifa has been the target of an extraordinary amount of scrutiny due to his background.

In the Philippines, from which he headed to Afghanistan, officials accused Khalifah of using businesses and his Islamic charities as a disguise to support militant groups with money. Much of the investigation was done after Khalifah had left the country.

Then Khalifah went to San Francisco, California, and there he was arrested by the U.S. government after it learned he was wanted in Jordan, where he had been convicted in absentia on a charge of plotting to overthrow the government. After being deported to Jordan, he was retried and acquitted.

Although Khalifah is named as a defendant in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit filed by families of Sep 11 victims, he affirms that no evidence linking him to the attacks has ever been found.

On September 11, Khalifah was in Southeast Asia on a business trip. After he returned to Saudi Arabia, he got jailed for several months and was released afterwards. Commenting on that Khalifah says that up till now he has no idea why was he arrested.

"They came and said, 'You are clear and you can go now.' That's it. So I don't know what is going on," he said.

Nawaf Obaid, a national security consultant for the Saudi government, said that authorities now believe Khalifa "does not pose any security threat to any government and that he has broken all ties that have linked him to his charitable groups when he was operating out of the Philippines.""

The Israelis are trying to get Polish passports

The Israelis are trying to get Polish passports: "The Israelis are trying to get Polish passports
11/30/2004 11:25:00 AM GMT


Most of the Israelis who have polish roots are trying to acquire Polish passports

A lot of Israelis have roots in Poland, but they either emigrated during the communist era or were forced out of the country.

Now, most of the Israelis who have polish roots are trying to acquire Polish passports.

Every Monday morning, Israelis, at different ages, line up in front of the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv, digging deep into their pasts, trying to convince the authorities that they have the right to get Polish passports.

What an ironic reversal! Those people, or their parents, were once before lined up in front of foreign embassies in Poland, trying get visas to go to Israel, thinking that they were going to a better life. It seems that the better life now is going back to Poland.

Michael Kerner, 43, an Israeli with two children, says: "I would like to have a Polish passport as insurance for my future". Michael’s parents were born and grew up in Poland, but left in 1957 when anti-Jewish sentiment made life there too difficult for them.

"Israel is not the most stable place," he said. "I want to have a place to go to which will be easier."

The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, together with Gaza withdrawal plan, have led most of the Israelis to start questioning whether their dream of a Jewish homeland is an impossible one. They started looking for other options for themselves and their families.

Now they're starting to see Poland, once the country they and their families fled, as a more stable and attractive place, specially after it joined the EU.

"Young people know that Poland is now in Europe and they want to be free to travel, not to be pressed to show the Israeli passport which always can be attacked because of the conflict," said Miriam Akavia, a novelist who arrived in Israel from Poland in the late 1940s.

As for the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv, the huge number of Israelis applying for Polish passports is quite a challenge, for the staff is ill equipped to put up with the added workload.

"We can accept about 100 applications a month, approximately half of the applicants get a positive answer from Poland," he said."

What is the U.S. planning for Iran?

What is the U.S. planning for Iran?: "What is the U.S. planning for Iran?
12/9/2004 12:15:00 PM GMT
The administration was never able to agree on an Iran policy

While U.S. troops are engaged Iraq war, officials in the Bush administration are busy planning to step up pressure against Iran, another member in Bush’s so called “Axis of evil”.

According to U.S. officials, congressional aides, officials at the Bush administration are seeking to increase public criticism of Iran's human rights record by backing exiles and other opponents of the country's government, as well as collecting better intelligence on the Islamic republic.

With the U.S. military engaged in two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. new campaign is not necessarily aimed at building support for taking military action against Iran, but rather to turn up the heat on Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

The U.S. government was never able to agree on an Iran policy during George W. Bush's first term. The State Department favored engagement and international action, whereas officials in the Defense Department and Vice President Dick Cheney's office were for considering military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

How, the way to handle Iran’s case is a major foreign policy issue in Bush's second term.

But because the U.S. military now stretched by the conflicts in Iraq, Bush appears to have no good military options against Iran, almost four times larger than Iraq and has nearly three times the population.

Even a limited U.S. air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would spark worldwide resentment, and endanger U.S. troops in Iraq, plus it would have no assurance of success.

On the other hand, European nations prefer using diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Top Bush administration officials have been hinting recently that the White House is eager to start pulling out troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, which, according to a senior administration official would give Bush more options in dealing with Iran.

The new, more aggressive campaign is believed to have the backing of Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that among other steps that are being considered are stronger public condemnations of Iran's human rights practices and treatment of women; increased U.S. broadcasting into the country, and financial backing for pro-Western groups.

Rice has studied some of the suggested ideas during a White House meeting with leaders of major Jewish-American groups last week, according to some diplomats who were briefed on the session.

"We have to do more to help the human rights community and the dissidents inside Iran," Rice told the group.

According to one of the administration officials said Rice's remarks reflected a "heightened attempt" to expose Iran's behavior. "We're trying to make plain for the international community the strategic challenge that Iran poses," he said.

Meanwhile, the Broadcasting Board of Governors has suggested a major increase in broadcasting into Iran by Voice of America television, a U.S. official said.

The proposal, more likely to win the White House’s approval, states increasing daily broadcasts to about three hours a day, instead of 30 minutes, the official said.

However, while many Iranians, specially young age, started to turn against their rulers and are even pro-American, they remain deeply suspicious of foreign meddling in Iranian politics."

Xinhua - US Blocking Iran From WTO

Xinhua - English: "Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran apply for WTO membership

www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-09 10:18:14

BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- As the first Afghan democratically elected President was swore in on Tuesday, the long war-torn country also submitted an application for membership to the World Trade Organization.

Afghanistan submitted an application for membership to the World Trade Organization. 148 members are to vote on the application next week, along with Iraq and Iran.

148 members are to vote on the application next week, along with Iraq and Iran.

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says the U.S. is backing bids by Afghanistan and Iraq to join the global trade body.

"United States supports the application of Afghanistan and Iraq of the membership of the World Trade Organization, and we believe there are broad supports within the organization for these applications."

But he indicates his country will continue to say no to Iran's intension to join the WTO, because of the nuclear disputes.
"There is not the same consensus in the question of Iran's accession. There has been historical lack of consensus on Iran's application for the membership. That application will not succeed unless there is consensus." Enditem"

Iran denies Egypt claims over assassination plot

IranMania News: "Iran denies Egypt claims over assassination plot

Thursday, December 09, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Dec 8 (IranMania) - Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi on Wednesday dismissed as "sheer lie" the Egyptian prosecutor general's claims against an Iranian national, alleging Iran's involvement in plots against Egyptian officials.

Asefi expressed his strong protest against the allegations, saying the scenario is full of hostility and animosity, influenced by Iran's enemies, IRNA reported.

The charges against diplomat Mohammad Reza Doust, accused of helping an Egyptian national in the plot, were "without foundation" and Iran is itself a victim of terrorism and our stance against terrorism is clear and transparent," he said.

He stressed that the principled policies of Iran are based on observing the principle of mutual respect and non-intervention in other countries' affairs.

"Such vain allegations serve the policies of the Zionist regime and are against public interests of regional states," he said.

Asefi further said Iran's Foreign Ministry would seriously follow up the case.

Egypt's Prosecutor General Maher Abdel Wahed announced Tuesday that Egyptian Mahmud Aid Dabbus was charged with being paid $50,000 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to assassinate the unnamed Egyptian target and of spying for Iran, charges that carry a possible 25-year prison term.

His alleged accomplice was identified as Doust, who served in the Iranian interests section in Cairo but left the country about a year ago for another post and will be tried in absentia.

Dabbus was also accused of providing Iran with details on a petrochemical facility at the Saudi port of Yanbu, where six Westerners were killed in a shooting rampage in May that was blamed on Islamist militants, according to Agence France Press (AFP).

The Islamic republic broke off full diplomatic ties with Egypt after it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 but relations have thawed in recent years."

IranMania News

IranMania News: "Iran, Serbia sign five agreements

Thursday, December 09, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Dec 9 (IranMania) - Iran and Serbia-Montenegro signed five trade and investment agreements at the end of the 12th joint Iran-Serbian and Montenegro Economic Cooperation Commission session, IRNA said.

Iranian Economy and Finance Minister Safdar Hosseini and Serbian and Montenegro Federation Minister for National Minorities and Human Rights Rasim Ljajic signed protocols on removal of double taxation on trade and investments, support and attracting of foreign investments, and trade and economic cooperation.

Also, an agreement on cooperation on insurance coverage between the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran (EGFI) and Serbian Guarantee Institute and another on provincial cooperation will be signed in Tehran and the city of Arak respectively on Wednesday.

Hosseini said that the 12th economic commission was a good opportunity for identifying the two countries' investments prospects in various areas and expressed satisfaction on the commission proceedings.

Hosseini referred to the determination of the officials of both countries to expand relations, and said "cooperation in trade, transportation, energy and tourism sectors are the priorities among various industries."

The protocols will facilitate closer ties between the two states' private sector, Hosseini said stressing on the necessity for expediting the implementation of the agreements.

Ljajic also underscored the importance of implementing the protocols. He said the two sides should strive to boost bilateral trade exchanges.

In addition to the agreements signed, three more protocols on customs, and in athletic and cultural fields are also on the agenda, which if the contents were agreed upon, would be finalized, the Serbian official added.

He expressed his country's readiness to expand cooperation in the area of broadcasting.

The three-day session wrapped up on Tuesday.

Hosseini said at the inaugural session of the commission that Iran and Serbia should raise the volume of their transactions given their high potential.

Referring to the "very good cooperation" between Iranian and Serbian companies in commercial, industrial, technical, research and educational fields, Hosseini hoped Iran-Serbia Economic Commission would help promote mutual cooperation.

He said the two governments could help and support private sector's activity in economic and commercial exchanges.

He proposed that Iranian and Serbian manufacturing and commercial, technical and engineering companies should strengthen cooperation with each other and implement joint projects.

He added that Iran supports projects for technological progress, information sharing and joint production for exports.

The minister further called for banking and export insurance and investment ties between Iran and Serbia.

The trade between the two sides in recent years stood at $700 mln."

Newsday.com - Iran and Syria Aiding the Democratic Process in Iraq

Newsday.com - Opinion:

Shias are the majority in Iraq and the Sunnis are now trying to impact the elections by blaming Iran and Syria. Better Home Rule than another CIA Puppet State. JBOC


"Iran and Syria fan the flames in Iraq

December 9, 2004
If there were any doubts about the CIA's pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq, they may be put to rest by two disturbing new reports about the influence that Iran and Syria are exerting on Iraq's elections and the operations of the insurgency. Unchecked, those conflicting influences could provide the seeds of a civil war, Iraq's nightmare scenario.

Jordanian King Abdullah and Iraq's interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, both warned earlier this week that Iran is pouring money into Iraq's Shia communities to get out the vote and affect the outcome of the Jan. 30 national elections, with the intent of creating a Shia-dominated Islamic government. Iran's ultimate goal would be to shift the power balance of Shia and Sunni Muslims in the region, with the two largest Persian Gulf nations, both with Shia majorities, ruled by Shia leaders.

At the same time, U.S. military intelligence officials have uncovered evidence in the takeover of Fallujah that the Iraqi Sunni insurgency is directed and funded from Syria to a much greater extent than was suspected. The evidence gathered in Fallujah and other insurgency strongholds in the Sunni Triangle shows that ousted Iraqi Baathist leaders are operating in Syria under the protection of Syria's own Baathist party. From their sanctuary, they are funneling a stream of money to the resistance and are directing or coordinating some of the key insurgency operations against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Abdullah also alluded to Jordanian intelligence reports that foreign jihadists trained in Syria routinely infiltrate Iraq across the Syrian border.

None of this comes as a surprise, except perhaps for the growing intensity of Syrian and Iranian involvement. And perhaps too much can be made of Iran's influence, because Iraq's Shia Arabs have deep cultural and ethnic differences with Iran's Farsi-speaking Shias. Nonetheless, if Iraq's Shias and Sunni Arabs begin to focus their enmities on one another after the election, the specter of an uncontrollable civil war fueled by foreign interests cannot be dismissed lightly. "

Boston.com / News / World / Iran rejects accusations of trying to influence Iraqi elections

Boston.com / News / World / Iran rejects accusations of trying to influence Iraqi elections: "Iran rejects accusations of trying to influence Iraqi elections
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, 12/9/2004 03:42

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran on Thursday rejected accusations it was trying to influence January elections in Iraq, saying that Iraqis have made it clear they won't take orders from abroad, state media reported.

Iraqi officials know Iran considers the right of Iraqis to determine their own fate a step toward stability and tranquility in Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told state-run radio.

''The Iraqi people have a shining record in fighting foreign exploitation and occupation and have proven that they won't accept foreign domination,'' Asefi was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying.

Interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer and Jordan's King Abdullah II, both Sunni Muslims, accused Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran in interviews with the Washington Post newspaper in the United States of trying to influence Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Some 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million population is Shiite.

The United States also warned Iran against trying to influence the outcome of Iraq's election on Wednesday, reacting to fears that Tehran was seeking a Shiite-dominated Islamic government in Baghdad. Such an outcome would alter a regional status quo in which Shiites, though they comprise majorities in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain, rule only in non-Arab Iran. Iraq and Bahrain have long had Sunni rulers, including ousted Saddam Hussein.

Al-Yawer told the Washington Post that Iran is coaching candidates and putting ''huge amounts of money'' into the campaign to produce a Shiite-dominated government similar to its own. Iran is governed by Shiite clerics.

''Unfortunately, some political currents in Iraq seek to tarnish the trend of elections there and cause concern in the public opinion,'' Asefi was quoted by state-run radio as saying. ''We expect that Mr. al-Yawer will take the existing sensitive situation into consideration and avoid repeating such comments.''

Jordan's King Abdullah also told the Post in an interview published Wednesday that more than 1 million Iranians have entered Iraq, many to vote, and said they were being encouraged by the Iranian government.

Asefi described Abdullah's comments as an insult to the Iraqi people and said they showed the Jordanian king's ''ignorance'' of the situation in Iraq.

Washington has accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq and sending money and infiltrators to support the insurgency there. Tehran has denied the charges and maintains that although the long, shared border is hard to police, it tries to block any infiltration into Iraq by insurgents."

RP asks Iran, Saudi Arabia to help with hostage in Iraq - INQ7.net

RP asks Iran, Saudi Arabia to help with hostage in Iraq - INQ7.net: "RP asks Iran, Saudi Arabia to help with hostage in Iraq

Updated 06:11pm (Mla time) Dec 09, 2004
Agence France-Presse

THE PHILIPPINES has asked Iran and Saudi Arabia to help it try to free a Filipino being held hostage in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said Thursday.
"We are working with these foreign governments. We are leaving no stones unturned to secure the safe and speedy release of [Robert] Tarongoy," he told reporters.

He said the request was relayed in separate meetings with Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari and Saudi consultative council president, Sheikh Saleh Bin Abdullah Bin Humaid.

Both assured Romulo they would pass on his request to their respective governments, he added, without saying how the two countries could help to free Tarongoy.

He also said a special team in Iraq had also tapped private individuals to help but stressed the Philippines would not pay a ransom for Tarongoy's release. Romulo did not elaborate.

Tarongoy, an accountant, was kidnapped along with an American, a Nepalese and three Iraqis on November 1. They were seized by armed men who barged into the Baghdad office of the Saudi Arabian trading firm employing them.

The Nepalese and Iraqis have since been freed, but Tarongoy and the American have remained in captivity. The kidnappers' identities and their demands have remained unclear.

A key ally of the United States in its fight against terrorism, the Philippines was among the first Asian countries to back the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Ties soured in July when Manila pulled out its token force from Iraq to save the life of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, who was kidnapped by militants. The truck driver was freed after the pullout."