Monday, December 13, 2004

Majlis security committee to investigate the issue of kidnapped diplomats

Majlis security committee to investigate the issue of kidnapped diplomats: "Majlis security committee to investigate the issue of kidnapped diplomats
TEHRAN, Dec. 11 (MNA) – The Majlis Foreign Policy and National Security Committee will soon put the issue of the kidnapped Iranian diplomats in Lebanon high on its agenda, top lawmaker Alaeddin Borujerdi who chairs the security committee said on Saturday.

Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel recently met with the families of the kidnapped Iranian diplomats assuring them that the parliament would pursue their case.

The four Iranian diplomats, Mohsen Mousavi, Ahmad Motevaselian, Kazem Akhavan and Taqi Rastgar Moghaddam were kidnapped some 23 years ago in Lebanon.

The diplomats were driving a diplomatic Mercedes escorted by one of the Lebanese national security vehicles in Tripoli-Beirut coastal road, on June 4, 1982, when they were stopped by some Falangist forces and kidnapped.

MP Hossein Sobhaninia also announced on Friday that the Majlis security committee is trying to determine the diplomats’ fate.

Sobhaninia said that according to certain evidences the four diplomats are still alive and kept in Israeli jails.

Ra’ed Musavi, secretary general of the Society to Support Kidnapped Iranian Diplomats, said that the latest reports and developments indicate that the diplomats are still alive.

Musavi, who is the son of Mohsen Mousavi, Iran’s former charge d’affaires in Beirut and one of the kidnapped diplomats, announced that an internet information dissemination site (www.asikd.com) has been launched to offer the latest information about these diplomats.

Meanwhile MP Reza Talaei-Nik said that the measures taken by Iran to clarify the fate of the diplomats were all in vain, stressing that the foreign ministry should make use of all its capabilities in order to resolve the issue.

Ahmad Pishbin, who represents Baft in the Majlis, asserted that the parliament would spare no effort to clarify the diplomats’ fate, adding that Iran should study the prevailing information and news about the diplomats and step up its efforts in this regard."

Shirin Ebadi Tells US Stay Out of Iran

IranMania News: "America would face tough resistance in Iran

Sunday, December 12, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 12 (IranMania) - Nobel peace prize laureate in 2003, Shirin Ebadi, said in case of a US military attack on Iran, the aggressors would encounter very tough resistance.

Addressing the European conference themed "Cities for Human Rights" in Nuremburg, Germany, Ebadi said the Iranian nation will neither tolerate foreign interference nor a foreign attack, according to Iran's State News Agency (IRNA).

She stressed that the Iranian people's desire for reforms does not necessarily imply that they would tolerate foreign interference in their internal affairs.

"The Iranian people never desire foreign interference in their affairs," she said.

Ebadi noted that democracy cannot be imported to other countries like goods.

"Democracy is not a gift that could be given to other countries. Democracy is not established by bombarding other countries either. It is established when the overall climate is calm and normal," she said.

Over 96 experts from different countries exchanged views about human rights policies in the conference, which ended on Saturday.

The first such event was held in Barcelona in 1998."

Iran multibillionaire luxury apartment in Mecca

IranMania News: "Iran multibillionaire luxury apartment in Mecca

Sunday, December 12, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 12 (IranMania) – According to the Iranian website of ‘Baztab’, months after the purchase of a six million dollar apartment in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by a famous Iranian multibillionaire, rifts are underway between the Saudi government and the Iranian trader.

The Iranian businessman reportedly one of the main figures involved in the cell phone business in Iran recently bought a luxury apartment in the most expensive district of Mecca. The apartment is located in front of King Abdulaziz’s palace. However there are differences between the Iranian and the Saudi government over the location of the apartment and the residence of the Iranian there.

The Iranian businessman is said to have close links with the Iranian government officials and owns vast areas of lands in northern Iran."

Iran says recent accusations against Tehran part of a scenario

Description of Selected News: "Iran says recent accusations against Tehran part of a scenario


TEHRAN (MNA) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that the recent accusations against the Islamic Republic are part of a scenario adding that it will seriously investigate the charges.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the accusations started pouring in after Iran succeeded to settle its nuclear crisis through wisdom and patience.

Asefi added that new accusations will yet be brought against Tehran besides the recent charges saying that his country will not be surprised to see a rise of new allegations.

There was an array of accusations against Iran in recent days. The Jordanian monarch told the Washington Post that Iran was trying to influence Iraqi elections set for January 30 in a bid to create a "crescent" dominated by Shiites extending from Iraq to Lebanon. Abdullah also said that one million Iranians have crossed into Iraq to vote for Shiite candidates.

Similarly, Iraqi interim President Qazi al Yawar also said Iran is interfering in Iraqi internal affairs. The Egyptian Public Prosecutor Maher Abdel Wahed announced Tuesday police arrested an Egyptian agent for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards recruited by an Iranian diplomat in Cairo to carry out terrorist attacks against Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to assassinate important Egyptian officials.

Asefi said the remarks of the Jordanian king are more like a joke.

“There is no need to respond to such indiscreet statements. They don’t seem to know what ‘one million people’ actually means,” he mentioned during his regular press briefing.

The spokesman stressed that charges by the king of Jordan are unrealistic, irresponsible and an insult to the Iraqi people.

The Najaf Seminary in Iraq also issued a statement on Saturday asking Abdullah to apologize for his remarks.

Iraqi Vice-President Ibrahim al-Jaafari denied in remarks published Friday that Iran was trying to influence Iraqi elections with the aim of creating a "crescent" dominated by Shiites in the region.

"I don't believe that Iran seeks to create a crescent of Shiites in the region. We in Iraq have not seen any sign of that," Jaafari was quoted by Kuwaiti newspapers as saying during a visit to the emirate.

Asefi also said Iran has officially announced its protest against the remarks of the Iraqi president through diplomatic channels. Of course, he said, these accusations by the Iraqi president have been rejected by other Iraqi officials.

On the accusation of the Egyptian prosecutor general, Asefi said the accusation is undocumented and totally baseless. He added that Iran will ask the Egyptian charge d’ affaires in Iran to give an explanation in this regard."

WTO agrees entry talks with Iraq, US blocks Iran

Khaleej Times Online: "WTO agrees entry talks with Iraq, US blocks Iran
(Reuters)

13 December 2004
GENEVA - The World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed on Monday to begin accession talks with Iraq and Afghanistan, but the United States again blocked any such negotiations with Iran, diplomats said.


The go-ahead for Iraq and Afghanistan came with no dissenting voice amongst the trade body’s 148 member states, but Washington said it was still studying Iran’s request -- the same answer it has given for the past three years.

“They have approved Iraq and Afghanistan, but, as it has always been, there was no consensus on Iran,” said one diplomat about the deliberations of the WTO’s executive General Council, where all decisions must be unanimous.

But while the door to the WTO is open for Kabul and Baghdad, entering the Geneva-based organisation can be a lengthy process, with Russia and Saudi Arabia still in talks after a decade.

The decision puts the US-installed administration in Baghdad on a level with more than two dozen other nations who want to join or are in the process of doing so.

But actual negotiations with Iraq, which has the world’s second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, are unlikely to start before elections there, which are due to be held in late January -- violence permitting.

“The new Iraq looks with great optimism at achieving political stability, economic prosperity and social development,” Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed al-Jibouri told the closed-door council meeting.

“Our re-integration into the world trading system is an essential element to fulfill those aims,” he added.

Being in the WTO guarantees that a country’s goods receive equal treatment in the markets of other member states. Many new members -- China being a recent example -- have reaped huge economic benefit from belonging to the club.

LONG ENOUGH

The decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran were no surprise. Many nations, including developed ones, strongly support Iran’s case, but they had indicated that they would not demand that all three be approved together.

Washington has extensive sanctions in force against Iran, which it accuses of wanting to develop a nuclear weapons programme and of supporting terrorist groups.

Iran’s accession has been on the council’s agenda since early 2001, always with the same result.

“We told them that this Iranian situation has been going on long enough, and that these decisions should be made on merit, and not political grounds,” said one European Union diplomat, citing a statement to the session by EU envoy Carlo Trojan.

Some 15 or 16 other developed countries had backed the EU line, he added, while Middle Eastern states have long been pressing for the trade body to open its doors to Tehran.

Afghanistan’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, Assad Omar, said that his country’s accession would contribute “to regional prosperity and global security.”

The mountainous nation of some 26 million people produces fruit, wheat, minerals and wool. But its principal crop is opium poppies, which provide the raw material for nearly 90 percent of the world’s heroin and morphine.

According to international estimates, the drugs’ trade makes up some 60 percent of the Afghan economy, although the new government of President Hamid Karzai has promised a crackdown."

Tripartite agreement between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan results in integrated power network

Tripartite agreement between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan results in integrated power network: "Tripartite agreement between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan results in integrated power network
Tehran, Dec 11, IRNA -- By signing a tripartite agreement in a meeting here Saturday, Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan agreed to synchronize their power grids.
The document was inked by the managing directors of Iran's Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Company (TAVANIR), Russia's Reivas and Azerbaijan's Azer Energy.

Managing Director of TAVANIR Mohammad Ahmadian said that such synchronization will enable the three countries to benefit from the facilities of one another's grids in case of power shortage or failure.

Putting the volume of energy exchanged among the signatories of the document at 500 MWs, he noted, "The operations for construction of power transmission lines are already underway and the exchange of electrical energy will start in 2006.

"The synchronization of the three power grids will expand the national power network on the one hand and will make it more stable on the other. Thus, Iran's power network will be synchronized with Russia's 200,000-MW power grid via Azerbaijan, which will pave the way for introducing Iran's power industry to the world market."

For his part, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Russia's and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) electricity monopoly United Energy Systems (UES) Anatoli Chubais underlined the significance of synchronization of Iran's power grid with that of Russia to his country.

"Once the project is implemented, the power grids of the three countries will operate in parallel. This would facilitate transmission of power to any destination in the three countries at any time," he added.

Addressing the meeting, the deputy head of Azer Energy, Marlen Askarov, he said that given that peak time in Iran and the two CIS countries occur in summer and winter respectively, the three states can compensate each other's shortages.

"Besides exchange of energy, the project aims to stabilize the power networks of the three countries," he added, hoping that other regional countries will also sign such agreements in the future."

How to Approach Iran (washingtonpost.com)

How to Approach Iran (washingtonpost.com): "How to Approach Iran
Monday, December 13, 2004; Page A21

The following article was signed by Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and by seven former foreign ministers: Robin Cook of Britain, Hubert Vedrine of France, Lamberto Dini of Italy, Lloyd Axworthy of Canada, Niels Helveg Petersen of Denmark, Ana Palacio of Spain and Jozias van Aartsen of the Netherlands.

Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Britain meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator this week at a moment of enormous consequence. The United States will not be there, but the subtle signals it will send from a distance will have a tremendous impact on the outcome. There are some who believe that Washington expects, and perhaps hopes, that the talks will collapse altogether. But if the United States and Europe are to be successful in preventing a radical regime from gaining nuclear weapons, there will have to be much greater coordination and new approaches on both sides of the Atlantic.

We are a group of former foreign ministers from Europe, Canada and the United States who are very concerned about the current state of transatlantic relations and the effect it is having on our ability to join together to address a number of global challenges. Halting Iran's nuclear ambitions is a case in point. We have met a number of times under the auspices of the Aspen Institute to consider why habits of cooperation are yielding to a psychology of competition and strain. We believe that genuine transatlantic cooperation is the only path to viable solutions.

As a result of the work of the British, French and German foreign ministers, the Iranians agreed last month to suspend their nuclear programs while negotiations for economic and technical cooperation take place. This agreement represents progress, but it will not be successful until Iran permanently suspends any attempt to create a nuclear weapons capacity. As people who have experienced firsthand the challenge of balancing carrots and sticks in these sorts of delicate and serious negotiations, we offer the following ideas on obtaining full cooperation from the Iranians.

First, the United States and Europe must be clear about their collective purpose. The Iranians have made splitting the Atlantic partnership their modus operandi, hoping that disagreements between the United States and Europe will buy them the time to progress down the nuclear path to the point of irreversibility. In order to counteract this strategy, European and U.S. policymakers must repeatedly and jointly articulate that they seek to hold Iran to the obligations it has accepted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to refrain from building nuclear arms. In the same breath, American and European heads of state must emphasize that the West does not seek to deny Iran the right to a peaceful civilian nuclear energy program under the necessary safeguards.

Second, the major nuclear suppliers (Russia, the United States and Europe) should provide a firm guarantee to supply fresh reactor fuel for civilian nuclear power and to retrieve and dispose of spent fuel in exchange for Iran's agreement to permanently forswear its own nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities, including enrichment, reprocessing, uranium conversion and heavy-water production.

Third, the Bush administration should support the recent agreement the three European countries negotiated with the Iranians as an important first step. While it is unclear whether this deal will ultimately halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, only a unified approach will enable Europe and the United States to find out. Washington should put its full support behind this diplomatic effort and consider launching commercial and diplomatic engagement with Iran. That country's political leadership and culture have changed dramatically over the past two decades and are much more complex than many realize. Understanding the various political operatives inside Iran and their motivations requires the United States to instigate face-to-face interaction. Doing so could bring direct benefits to the United States as disagreements over the nuclear question need not, for example, disrupt efforts to achieve cooperation on such matters as narcotics enforcement, Iraq, the fight against terrorism and peace in the Middle East.

If the Americans need to increase their support for diplomatic efforts, Europeans must prove to the Iranians that severe political and economic consequences will result if Iran does not renounce the nuclear weapons option. In the event that diplomacy fails and Iran decides not to abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, Europeans should be ready for alternative courses of action, including going to the U.N. Security Council, and they should repeatedly stress their willingness to act. The transatlantic community should not be trying to force a confrontation with Iran, but we must not fear one if that's what is necessary to prevent the introduction of another nuclear weapons program into the combustible Middle East.

The interests of every nation will be served by an arrangement that gives Iran the civilian nuclear program it says it wants and the international community the insurance it needs. Together, with sufficient patience and resolve, Europe and America must push as hard as possible to achieve that outcome and stand together, as well, in the event the effort does not succeed."

Khaleej Times Online

Khaleej Times Online: "Fatah chief in Iran for talks
(AFP)

13 December 2004
TEHERAN - The new head of Fatah, the dominant grouping in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has arrived in Tehran for a three-day visit, Iranian media reported on Monday.


Reports said Faruq Qaddumi was lined up to meet Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, parliament speaker Gholamali Haddad Adel, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and powerful former president and top cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The official news agency IRNA said the visit was aimed at ”discussing issues of mutual interest” and “consolidating relations between the Iranian and Palestinian nations.”

Qaddumi, the long-time politburo chief of the PLO, was appointed head of Fatah after Yasser Arafat’s death in November.

He has been a consistent opponent of the Oslo peace accords, which ushered in the Palestinian Authority, and remained in exile after the rest of the Palestinian leadership returned to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1984."

Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron farmers

Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron farmers: "Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron ers:
[Business India]: Pampore, Dec 13 : Kashmir's saffron farmers no longer have a monoply over the trade, as they are facing stiff competition from their counterparts in Iran.

The crux of this competition lies in Iran taking the initiative to introduce modern farming techniques, good packaging and moderate pricing. Farmers in Kashmir are now complaining that it is difficult for them to break even in terms of costs. "This year the price of flowers is Rs.200 to Rs.250 per kg. It was Rs.500 four years back.The production has come down, it is also less in demand in the market, and whatever we invest, even that amount does not come back," said G M Pampori, a farmer.

"They are having problems as the farmers are facing tough problems from Iran," he added. Iran is the world's top producer of the spice. It supplies more than 80 percent of the world's demand with a plantation area of about 36,724 to 41,325 hectares and an annual production of 150 to 170 tons.

Due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, Iran's agriculture products are rated among the best in the world with saffron being no exception. While saffron is planted in many regions of the country, including the southeast, Khorasan province in the northeast has the highest production share. Vast regions in Khorasan province have managed to achieve an excellent position on the production and export of saffron over the years, to the extent that some 90 percent of saffron production in Iran is obtained from this area. The Ghaenat region is well known for its quality saffron.

Iran's saffron production has in the past decade been increasing steadily, most of which is exported overseas, mostly to the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and even the US.

The number of countries importing Iran's quality saffron is increasing, While Iran's major markets are places like US and Japan, Indian saffron is exported to the UK, Spain, Brazil and several Asian countries.

Farmers said modern techniques make Iranian saffron more competitive in the world market. "First of all the management is wrong. Crop management practices are not followed at all," said Mohammud Hussain Shah, the Assistant Director, Agricultural Research University.

At Rs.5000 a pound, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. The delicate flowers are harvested only in mid-autumn. The saffron flowers begin to grow after the first rains and the blooming period is usually mid-October.

Kashmir's cool climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content make the location an ideal thriving ground for this spice but a lapse in any one of the conditions can spoil the entire crop.

The area under saffron farming in the state has gone up from 4000 hectares in early 90s to 5000 in 2002.Saffron derives its name from the Arabic word Zafran meaning "be yellow".

It is desired all over the world for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties. What make it so rare is that Saffron filaments, or threads, are of the saffron flower, "Crocus Sativus Linneaus". Each flower contains only three tigmas, it takes 75,000 crocus flowers to get one kg of saffron.

Exports of spices have registered substantial growth during the last one decade. It has increased from 109636 tonnes valued 135 million dollars in 1990-91 to 235611 tonnes valued 472 million dollars in 1999-2000.

During the year 2002-03, the spices export quantity touched an all-time high of 264107 tonnes. Total exports during April- September 2004 stood at 1,82,300 tonnes valued at Rs 1,100.41 crore as against 1,04,860 tonnes worth Rs 842.16 crore in the same period a year ago. In dollar terms, it was an estimated 415 million dollars.

The decline was mainly due to decline in export of Mint Products and also because of low volume of pepper exports coupled with low unit value realization.

India still commands a formidable position in the World Spice Trade with 46 percent share in Volume and 27 per cent in Value. (ANI)"