Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel calls for strengthening ties with Turkey

Description of Selected News: "Majlis speaker calls for strengthening ties with Turkey

TEHRAN (IRNA) -- Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel in a meeting with the Turkish Ambassador to Tehran Halit Bozkur Aran here on Tuesday said that Iran-Turkey trade and economic exchanges can be raised to five billion dollars.

A report released by Majlis Media Department quoted Haddad Adel as saying that given the economic potentials of both sides, the firm determination of Iranian and Turkish officials will pave the way for further exchanges.

The official hoped that closer cooperation between the parliamentary friendship groups will reveal the pivotal role of the parliaments in consolidating mutual ties in all fields.

Turning to the formation of a special Majlis committee to take charge of Turkcell and TAV agreements, he said that the government's proposal to the effect is being examined by the Majlis.

He hoped that after being revised, the agreements will be implemented, in particular since this can help expand bilateral economic relations.

Haddad Adel noted that Iran is closely following up the process of Turkey's membership in the EU and hoped that this will lead to Turkey's further development and protection of its religious and cultural identities.

He pointed to Iran's scientific and industrial potentials specially in the field of peaceful nuclear activities as an indigenous achievement and appreciated Turkey's positive approach to the issue.

Haddad Adel extended an invitation to his Turkish counterpart to pay an official visit to Iran and hoped that the trip will be take place at an appropriate opportunity.

For his part, Bozkur Aran expressed satisfaction with his mission in Tehran and declared his government's complete readiness to bolster multi-faceted relations with Iran and the high significance of such ties.

He hoped that once the problem facing Turkcell and TAV agreements are solved, a leap will be witnessed in the mutual economic ties."

Commerce Minister Shariatmadari urges trade expansion between Islamic states

Commerce minister urges trade expansion between Islamic states: "Commerce minister urges trade expansion between Islamic states
TEHRAN, Jan. 4 (MNA) — Iran’s commerce minister urged Islamic countries to take policies for expansion of bilateral and multilateral economic ties and avoiding interference in internal affairs of one another.
“The Islamic world needs, more than ever, close cooperation of Islamic nations in both economic and political fields, Mohammad Shariatmadari added.

He pointed to the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the past few years saying that “the two big nations should boost economic and trade cooperation.”

Attending a meeting with Saudi Arabian journalists, he said that the trade exchange between Iran and Saudi Arabia has increased fourfold over the past seven years. “However, there is a greater potential in this field between the two sides.”

Iran’s government has eased trade regulations to a large extend during the reform period (1996-2005). For instance, Iranian private banks and insurance companies are now allowed to be active in the mainland and the free trade zones and foreigners are allowed to be active on the issues in the FTZs only, he elaborated.

Meanwhile, the tax payable by local and foreign companies has declined to 25 percent of the profit now from 65 percent before, he cited. “The foreign currency rates have been unified too over the period.”

The meeting was held in Tehran and attended by a number of editors and editors-in-chief of the Saudi Arabian press. A number of officials from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Iran attended the meeting too."

Commerce Minister: Investment in Iran's petrochem sector to exceed $3 billion

Commerce Minister: Investment in Iran's petrochem sector to exceed $3 billion: "12/30/04
Commerce Minister: Investment in Iran's petrochem sector to exceed $3 billion
Tehran, Dec 29, IRNA -- Investment in the petrochem industry has exceeded three billion dollars in the 2004-05 fiscal and the products are expected to earn the country dlrs five billion in the 2005-06 fiscal, said Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari in Tehran on Wednesday.
Addressing a group of officials on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of National Petrochemical Company (NPC) of Iran, Shariatmadari said Iran targets a production of 76 million tons of petrochemicals, worth dlrs 26 billion, a year by the next 11 years.

Shariatmadari said Iran has managed to raise its capacity for production of petrochemical products to 19 million tons annually under dlrs 33 billion investment based on a 19-year plan, starting from 1996.

He said government had adopted the 19-year plan to rid the country of a single-product economy and diversity sources of income.

The minister said Iran, especially its petrochem sector, aims at consumer oriented system as is customary on the world markets.

He called for private sector's involvement in the downstream petrochemical industries to boost export of final products and other petrochemicals.

He also called for plans to raise volume of petrochemical final products and increasing the domestic and foreign investment."

U.S. jets violate Iran’s airspace- Reports

U.S. jets violate Iran’s airspace- Reports

Several press reports suggested that planes were spying on Iran’s nuclear sites

U.S. warplanes, flying out of bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, flew over Iranian air space, apparently to spy on nuke sites, according to Iranian press reports.

Aftab newspaper reported that the latest U.S. violation to Iran’s air space was on Saturday, when a U.S. warplane flew at low altitude over Khorosan province which borders Afghanistan.

Other press reports cited intrusion by F-16 and F-18 fighters over the southwestern province of Khuzestan which borders Iraq.

Several press reports suggested that those planes were spying on Iran’s nuclear sites.

However, the U.S. military didn’t comment on the reports. But one official, who asked not to be named said he would not be surprised if those reports were authentic.

"The circular maneuvering of the two American fighters indicated them as carrying out spying sorties and controlling the borders," said an Iranian official.

No further details were immediately available.

Last month Iranian army chief, General Mohammad Salimi, said that Iran’s army, led by the air force, has been ordered to stand ready to defend the country against any military strike targeting it nuclear sites.

"The air force has been ordered to protect the nuclear sites, using all its power," General Salimi was quoted as saying.

Also Iranian air force chief, Brig. Karim Qavami, ordered his forces last week to shoot down any aircraft violating the country's airspace.

"Given that the intrusion of enemy aircraft over Iran's airspace is possible, all fighter jets of the country have been ordered by the army chief to shoot them down in the event of sighting them," he said.

Washington claims that Iran is covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons, leading to speculation over the possibility of military strikes.

But Iran has repeatedly denied those claims, asserting that its nuclear program was solely aimed as peaceful purposes like power generation.

In August, five U.S. jets were reported to have entered the Iranian airspace from the southwestern Shalamcheh border and over flew Khorramshahr.

Some military specialists say that those intrusions are aimed at assessing Iran's anti-aircraft defenses capabilities.

Iran's NIOC among top three oil companies

Iran Mania News: "Iran's NIOC among top three oil companies

Saturday, January 01, 2005 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Jan 1 (IranMania) - The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has moved up from fourth to third in the latest annual league table of the world's top 50 oil companies published by Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW), IRNA said.

According to the London-based newsletter, NIOC overtook Petroleos de Venezuela in its rankings based on six operational criteria covering 2003--oil and gas reserves, oil and gas output, refining capacity and product sales.

Earlier this month, the new online business publication Dinar Standard rated NIOC as the second largest company in the Islamic countries based on revenue.

PIW does not include total revenues in its rankings due to the wide difference in accounting practices but lists NIOC's income as $28.4 billion, $10 billion less than the total revenue estimated by Dinar Standard, which was extracted from OPEC data for 2003.

Middle East and North African national oil companies continue to dominate the world list, which is headed by Saudi Aramco, whose revenue, although not a criteria, was $10 billion more that the $83.1 billion calculated by Dinar Standard.

Other regional companies include Kuwait Petroleum and Algeria's Sontrach, listed as equal 12th and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company at 14th.

Iraq National Oil Company moves down one place to 22nd but remains just ahead of Libya's National Oil Corporation. The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Qatar Petroleum are ranked 25th and 26th respectively.

ExxonMobil of the US remains the top oil company in the West and second in the world, while Anglo-American BP moves up to joint second place and joint fifth in the world with Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

In terms of annual revenue, western firms remain way out in front, led by BP as the richest with $236 billion, ahead of ExxonMobil's $223 billion and Royal Dutch/Shell Group's $205 billion."

Privatization: Iran's government ready to cede more shares

Iran Mania News: "Iran's government ready to cede more shares

Saturday, January 01, 2005 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Jan 1 (IranMania) - The government has announced its readiness to cede the shares of banking, insurance and steel sectors as per an approval of the State Expediency Council.

Deputy Economy Minster of legal and parliamentary affairs Heidar Mostakdemin Hosseini further told ISNA that the cabinet has been working on an action plan to facilitate the transfer of shares and will go ahead with the plan soon as it is officially notified of the new SEC ratification.

The State Expediency Council last month overturned a key article of the Constitution to allow large-scale privatization in a bid to overhaul the country's sluggish economy.

The official disclosed that shares of more state-owned companies will, in the coming days, be up for sale to the private sector by the Privatization Organization.

Iran's privatization drive is modeled after Germany's experience following reunification.

To this end, reorganizing state-owned companies and setting up holding companies in the Third Five-Year Development Plan (March 2000-2005) are the important tasks of the privatization policy.

The government says it wants to keep at least 35% of the shares of banks which are to be privatized, so that the state can exert its control in the sector.

Analysts say Iran's inefficient state-owned banking system is a bottleneck for the national economy."

No restriction in issuing intl. master cards in Iran

No restriction in issuing intl. master cards in Iran: "No restriction in issuing intl. master cards in Iran
TEHRAN, Jan. 2 (MNA) – A board member of the National Informatics Company said that Iran deals with no sanction or global restriction in issuing master cards for which there has been a large demand in the country.
The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is in charge of issuing international master cards but has not yet issued them, Hossein Navab-Kashani added.

However, some officials believe that the international sanctions imposed on Iran have caused restrictions in using popular credit cards in the country. Master cards are considered a key electronic banking service in the world but Iran has not been able to use them since it has not yet joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Iran has recently taken a policy to make smart cards popular in society which has been a successful experience so far. Although Iranian banks are not able to issue the international master cards, they have issued similar cards for their local clients."

cooltech.iafrica.com | space Meteor hits house in Iran

cooltech.iafrica.com | space Meteor hits house in Iran: "Meteor hits house in Iran
Thu, 30 Dec 2004

A meteorite weighing at least 16kg has hit a house in the southeast of Iran, the state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday.

According to local police official Mohammad Arab, the sparkling crystalline rock hit a home in Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan province. No injuries or serious damage were reported.

The report said most of the meteor had already been broken up and taken away by local people before police arrived at the scene."

Khaleej Times Online

Khaleej Times Online: "Iran threatens to boycott Asian Games
(AFP)

30 December 2004
TEHERAN — Iran is threatening to boycott the 2006 Asian Games if the organisers persist in referring to the “Arabian Gulf” instead of the “Persian Gulf”, which Teheran insists is the only name for the stretch of water, state television has reported.


“If the historical name of the Persian Gulf is falsified during the Asian Doha games in 2006, Iran will certainly boycott the games,” said Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, head of Iran’s physical education organisation. He said that brochures prepared by the organisers of the games to be held in the Qatari capital Doha have used the term “Arabian Gulf instead of the Persian Gulf.”

“If Arab countries fall for the traps and tricks of Zionists, who aim to create discord among the region’s Muslims... it might also negatively affect political relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Persian Gulf’s states,” he said.

The looming dispute is the latest in a series of spats over what the sea between Iran and the Arabian peninsula should be called, with Teheran saying use of the term Arabian Gulf was a “Zionist plot”.

Iranian officials have expressed anger that the latest issue of National Geographic’s atlas that refers to the stretch of water between them and the Arabian peninsula as the “The Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf)”.

In November, Iran also withdrew an invitation to the prestigious US magazine’s picture editor, Susan Welchman, to join the jury for an art exhibition competition. National Geographic magazine has already been banned from going on sale in Iran.

Iranians have also taken the battle to cyberspace, with their site appearing first whenever anyone use the Google search engine to find information on the “Arabian Gulf”.

The site, a parody of Internet error messages, tells surfers that “The Gulf you are looking for does not exist. Try Persian.”"

#1 Google search for Arabian Gulf

Arabian Gulf: " The Gulf You Are Looking For Does Not Exist. Try Persian Gulf.
The gulf you are looking for is unavailable. No body of water by that name has ever existed. The correct name is Persian Gulf, which always has been, and will always remain, Persian.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Please try the following:

Click the button, and never try again.

If you typed Arabian Gulf, make sure you read some history books.

Click Search to look for more information on the internet.



TRUTH 404- Gulf Not Found
Fact Explorer"

We Need a Real Iran Policy (washingtonpost.com)

We Need a Real Iran Policy (washingtonpost.com): "We Need a Real Iran Policy

By Susan E. Rice
Thursday, December 30, 2004; Page A27

Has President Bush quietly concluded that the United States can live with a nuclear-armed Iran? If this seems preposterous, recall the president's words at his year-end news conference. Asked about U.S. policy toward Iran, he said: "We're relying upon others, because we've sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran . . . in other words, we don't have much leverage with the Iranians right now."

This bizarre statement obviously does not portend the president's born-again conversion to multilateralism. Rather, it is a false assessment of U.S. influence and a potentially deadly recipe for U.S. acquiescence to a nuclear Iran.

Consider what's at stake. Oil-rich Iran is arguably the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran was behind the 1996 bombing of the U.S. military barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. It is funding anti-Israeli terrorist groups, harboring al Qaeda operatives and meddling in Iraq. Iran clandestinely built a sophisticated uranium enrichment program that the United States and European nations agree is intended to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has missiles capable of delivering such weapons to Iraq, Israel and even parts of Europe.

President Bush says the greatest threat to U.S. national security is a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. A nuclear Iran, not Saddam Hussein's Iraq, is a truly dangerous manifestation of that threat.

So how has the Bush administration acted to protect us? Overstretched with 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and paralyzed by internal policy disputes, the administration's response has been to posture, threatening to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council, while effectively having no Iran policy at all.

In response to one of the most urgent threats to the United States, Bush has subcontracted American security to the Europeans. Last week the president confirmed this as his approach, arguing that the United States has no choice. "We've sanctioned ourselves out of influence," the president said, almost echoing Vice President Cheney, who as chief executive of Halliburton pressed for lifting U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Britain, France and Germany recently negotiated a fragile, temporary suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities. Some U.S. officials have trashed the E.U. effort as toothless and certain to fail. Others hail it as the cornerstone of the U.S. approach. The logic of this contradiction is that the president expects the Europeans to fail but refuses to help them succeed or to offer an option of his own.

The United States was right to unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran when our allies would not go along. But U.S. sanctions do not eliminate U.S. influence over Iran. Leverage can take the form of carrots as well as sticks. Historically, the United States, working with others, has influenced several states living under sanctions to change course -- from Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa to Libya. Sanctions are no excuse for U.S. inaction.

President Bush should take no option off the table with Iran, including the use of force. But he should start by testing the potential of negotiations to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. No deal can be made with the Iranians without the United States offering significant incentives. Nor is Iran likely to make concessions without the credible threat of the Europeans and the Japanese imposing tough multilateral economic sanctions should negotiations fail.

At the bargaining table, the United States could dangle various incentives the Iranians might find attractive. For instance, in exchange for a full and verifiable halt to Iran's nuclear program as well as termination of its support for terrorism and anti-U.S. elements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States could offer to lift U.S. sanctions; normalize relations; pay some Iranian claims against the United States; promote new trade and investment flows; allow Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization; guarantee access to civilian nuclear power; or provide regional security guarantees.

This approach demands more of the United States than abdication to European diplomacy. It requires U.S. leadership, in partnership with the Europeans, of a complex and urgent negotiation with Iran. Apparently, President Bush finds this prospect too difficult or too uncomfortable.

True, the United States faces tough realities and even tougher policy choices. Iran may be determined to acquire nuclear weapons. If so, negotiations will ultimately fail. But we cannot know this unless we try. In any case, we cannot get Europe to apply sanctions against an Iran destined to go nuclear until we've done our best to negotiate a solution.

Negotiations require making concessions. Neoconservatives argue that such concessions would help sustain the current Islamist government, but most analysts agree that the regime is well entrenched. The alternative to negotiating is for the United States to continue to do nothing. By doing nothing, our self-described wartime president is in fact doing something quite significant: He is ensuring there will be no effective brake on Iran, along with North Korea, going fully nuclear.

The writer, assistant secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution."