Tuesday, December 14, 2004

IranMania News

IranMania News: "Narcotic drug production in Afghanistan up: Iran

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 14 (IranMania) - Narcotic drugs entering Iran from Afghanistan have increased in recent years due to a spurt in drug production in the war-torn country which is now 25 times higher than before the US invasion, said an official of Iran`s Anti-Drug Headquarters.

The director of Iran`s Anti-Drug Campaign Headquarters, Amir Hossein Saliman-Pou, told IRNA in this northeastern provincial capital that narcotic drug production in Afghanistan has gone up by 25% since the US invaded the country in the aftermath of the 9/11 events in the US.

As a direct result of the increase in the amount of narcotic drugs produced in Afghanistan, the amount seized in Iran has also gone up by nearly 60% in the first seven months of the current Iranian year (started March 20, 2004), Saliman-Pou added.

He said some 170 tons of illegal drugs originating from Afghanistan have been confiscated in Iran by anti-drug officers or border guards during the stated period.

Saliman-Pou did not elaborate on the factors that may have led to the rise in narcotic drug production in Afghanistan, but many analysts have said the poverty and slow pace of reconstruction in Afghanistan have led farmers to return or increase their poppy cultivation.

The Taliban militia, which survived on opium production during their brutal rule of Afghanistan, were ousted by US and Afghan forces in 2001."

UN refugee agency closes camps in Iran as Iraqi exiles return home

UN refugee agency closes camps in Iran as Iraqi exiles return home: "UN refugee agency closes camps in Iran as Iraqi exiles return home
14 December 2004 – The United Nations refugee agency is closing several camps in Iran following the departure of more than half the 202,000 Iraqis who sought refuge there, most of whom have returned home on their own initiative despite the violence wracking the country.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not encourage Iraqis to repatriate now, but provides assistance to refugees in neighbouring countries who are determined to go back despite the difficult conditions inside Iraq.

Some 107,000 refugees have returned to Iraq from Iran since the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule last year, many after more than two decades in exile. Only 19,000 Iraqis in all have returned with UNHCR help – more than two-thirds of them from Iran, with the rest from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan.

Amongst refugees staying in camps, the rate of departure has been extremely high, with over 80 per cent choosing to repatriate. This has led to a sharp fall in the number in Iranian camps to 8,000 from 50,000. An estimated 95,000 Iraqi refugees remain in Iran, which still has the largest registered Iraqi refugee population in the world.

Six out of the 22 camps are now empty and another two are expected to be closed by the end of the year. Many of the remaining 14 camps are already nearly empty. UNHCR is working with the Iranian authorities on a phased programme to close some of these and consolidate others.

This will help guarantee that services are maintained at an existing level, since it is not possible in the long-term to continue running schools and clinics in camps with very small numbers of refugees.

The agency is working closely with the Iraqi authorities and implementing partners on the ground to help returning refugees and their communities by running shelter-building programmes, water projects and income-generating initiatives."

Iran, Singapore sign $1b deal for petrochemicals

IranMania News: "Iran, Singapore sign $1b deal for petrochemicals

Saturday, December 11, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 11 (IranMania) - Iran and Singapore signed on Friday a contract valued at $1 bln for the sale of future petrochemical byproducts. Managing Director of Iran Petrochemical Commercial Company Mohammad Ehtiyati told IRNA on Friday that the contract provides for a five-year advance sale by Iran of byproducts of the aromatic 4th unit of the Assalouyeh project.

The deal was signed in the presence of Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari, his Singaporean counterpart and the Iranian ambassador to Singapore. Ehtiyati, moreover, said that the petrochemical production line of the company is to be launched in Assalouyeh next year and its products turned over to Singapore from 2006 to 2010.

The official noted that Iran Petrochemical Commerce Company made a two-billion-dollar annual investment and a total investment of 30 billion dollars during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Five-Year Economic Development Plans.

Ehtiyati said the company has made good investment on various petrochemical products in accordance with its potentials, adding it entered into sales of future products in the international market to keep customers.

Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari, heading an economic delegation, arrived in Singapore City on Thursday for a three-day official visit at the invitation of his Singaporean counterpart. The visit ends today."

Iran expects WTO success after nuclear deal

News: "Iran expects WTO success after nuclear deal
12-11-2004, 11h23

- (AFP/WTO/File)
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran will be looking for concrete EU support and a slight softening of United States policy when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets Monday to consider the Islamic republic's membership application.

The question has been raised at the WTO's General Council meetings since May 2001 and repeatedly rejected by Washington, which broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran after the 1979 seizure of US embassy staff as hostages.

But this time around the Islamic republic see itself in a stronger position to join the 148-member trading bloc.

Last month it agreed to suspend its sensitive nuclear fuel work as part of a deal with Britain, France and Germany.

And in return Iran was promised trade, security and diplomatic incentives -- one of which is the European Union's "actively" supporting Iranian WTO membership.

This in effect means convincing the Americans to ease up.

"Our WTO problem has merely been with one of the members. It is a political issue that has barred us from entering the initial membership negotiations," said Esfandiar Omidbakhsh, an Iranian commerce ministry official charged with the WTO issue.

"Following the initial agreement betwen Iran and the three European countries, especially their commitment to actively support the start of negotiations for Iran's membership of the WTO, our expectation is that this week they pass this test," he told AFP.

Despite support from many Asian countries and the EU, Iran's 19th application for WTO membership was rejected on October 20 due to breach of consensus by the US representative.

For the December 13 and 14 meeting, the United States is still insisting that while it is supporting applications by Iraq and Afghanistan, there is "no consensus" on Iran joining.

But there has been speculation that some countries would only support Iraq's request for observer status if Washington agreed to alter its stance on Iran.

And in addition, EU diplomats say they have made it clear to Washington that yet another veto on Iran could endanger the nuclear deal they have struck with Tehran.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to halt its uranium enrichment activities -- which can produce nuclear power for civilian use or the explosive core of a nuclear bomb -- in return for the promised incentives.

Negotiations on these incentives and on finding a long-term accord on the nuclear issue are set to begin in Brussels on Monday, and an Iranian success at the WTO meeting the same week would provide the talks with a key boost, diplomats say.

"We are not expecting the Americans to join us and the Iranians at the table just yet," one EU diplomat said of the negotiations with Iran.

"But what we don't want is the Americans firing off another torpedo at the WTO. It is not clear if Iran will get through this time around, but we are looking for a softening of their position."

Iran is meanwhile insisting it has taken serious steps to fulfil the economic conditions for WTO membership -- even if the economy is still subject to overwhelming state control and dependent on the oil sector.

During the second term of reformist President Mohammad Khatami's administration, Iran has taken steps to meet the WTO criteria.

The steps have included establishing private banks and insurance companies, breaking government monopolies in some industries, liberalising the foreign exchange system and reducing tariffs.

"The economy is much more prepared for WTO membership in terms of structure and regulations when compared to a few years ago," said Saeed Leylaz, a prominent Iranian economist and analyst.

"Today over 50 percent of the economy can be considered a modern market, while the traditional system controlled some 65 percent of the market during the Iran-Iraq war" of 1980-1998, he said."