Friday, January 21, 2005

Iran, Iraq explore avenues for expanding trade

Iran, Iraq explore avenues for expanding trade: "Iran, Iraq explore avenues for expanding trade
Tehran, Jan 20, IRNA -- Visiting Iraqi Finance Minister Abdil Abd al-Mahdi met with Iran Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari in Tehran on Thursday, discussing ways for expansion of bilateral trade exchanges.
Shariatmadari said that Iran attaches importance to trade with Iraq and is keen on signing free trade agreements, establishment of bank cooperation and arranging some parts of trade exchanges in the frameworks of border markets.

He said the opening up letters of credit (LCs) in two countries need government guarantees.

He said that Export Development Bank of Iran has agreed to cover 300 million dollars of LCs.

Iran exported 750 million dollars worth of technical-engineering services during the past six months, he said.

Iran has earned 2.7 billion dollars from export of engineering services last year.

He further proposed the establishment of a joint technical-engineering company.

The Iraqi minister, for his part, said that the volume of Iran-Iraq exchanges was at a low level, calling for a boost in trade cooperation.

He called on Iranian officials to establish a permanent market in Iraq.

The Iraqi official criticized the 9-percent trade exchanges among the Islamic states, saying the current world trade situation is discriminatory to the Islamic nations.

He termed the export of wheat from Imam Khomeini port to Iraq and bolstering the Iran-Iraq transit as 'effective' in increasing the level of bilateral trade.

He underlined the adoption of joint policies, saying that Iraq should use the Iranian experience in country's reconstruction after war.

Iraq is involved with security and political issues, he said, adding the upcoming election would create a peaceful situation in Iraq, he added.

The Iraqi official added that rectifying the investment law, insurance law and independence of Iraqi Central Bank, adopting certain laws for the activities of foreign countries' banks in Iraq and establishment of official export-import gateways were among the measures taken by his country's officials."

Cheney: "Israel will Act First" on Iran -

Cheney: "Israel will Act First" on Iran -: "Cheney: "Israel will Act First" on Iran
1/21/2005 8:30:00 AM GMT

Israel "might well decide to act first" to destroy Iran’s alleged nuclear programme, Cheney said

In direct threat on Inauguration Day, Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that Bush’s administration is determined to confront Iran directly in it its second term.

In a radio interview broadcast on MSNBC, Cheney said that Iran was on the top of the Bush’s list of world trouble spots, expressing concern that Israel "might well decide to act first" to destroy Iran’s alleged nuclear programme.

"You look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list," the vice president said.

Israel would leave the world worrying "about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward," he added.

Cheney’s tough language that day was apparently part of Bush’s administration's efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program; it claims is being used as a covert to produce atomic bomb.

Recently, Washington has been issuing increasingly staunch warnings to the Islamic Republic, thinking that those threats, among which was to refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions, would shake Iran and force it to suspend its nuclear programme.

According to analysts, this is the first time a senior official in the U.S. government amplifies the threat by suggesting that the United States could be unable to prevent military attack by its close alley, Israel.

The startling reference to an Israeli attack was "the kind of strong language that will get their attention in Tehran," a diplomat in Washington said on condition of anonymity.

"There's a rhetorical escalation here: They've ratcheted up the threat level by bringing Israel in," said Henri J. Barkey, a former State Department official during the Clinton administration. "They're using the fact of the inauguration, and the uncertainty people have about where they're going in the next term, to say, 'Look, we're not going to let up on Iran.' "

Last week, Bush said he wouldn’t rule out military action against Iran. "I will never take any option off the table," he said.

During her Senate confirmation hearings this week, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice labeled Iran as one of six "outposts of tyranny" that would require U.S. attention.

Cheney said that Washington believes Tehran has a "fairly robust, new nuclear program."

The EU big three; Germany, France and Britain have been negotiating with Iran over the past few months, in an attempt to persuade it suspend its nuclear program, an approach U.S. officials doubt its success.

"At some point, if the Iranians don't live up to their commitments, the next step will be to take it to the United Nations Security Council and seek the imposition of international sanctions," Cheney said.

Also during the Inauguration Day interview, Cheney admitted he overestimated the pace of Iraq's recovery from the U.S.-led occupation.

Cheney also said he didn’t anticipate how long it would take the Iraqis to be able to run their country.

During the recent weeks, circulating reports suggested that U.S. officials are considering taking a military action against Iran, but Cheney raised the stakes by suggesting that Israel might take the first step.

Asked whether the U.S. could ask Israel to initiate a military strike on Iran, Cheney answered:

"One of the concerns that people have is that Israel might do it without being asked," Cheney said. "If, in fact the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability — given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel — the Israelis might well decide to act first."

Israel also claims that Iran is preparing for producing an atomic bomb in two to three years. And Israeli officials said they might launch military strikes against the country’s nuclear facilities, as a way to set the Iranian program back.

"Iran poses a clear threat to international peace and security," an Israeli diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "Iran is a leading sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, while actively developing weapons of mass destruction and nuclear programs. The world should unite and pressure Iran from these destructive activities.""

Expatica - Living in, moving to, or working in France, plus French news in English

Expatica - Living in, moving to, or working in France, plus French news in English: "Paris, Moscow eye-to-eye on Iran, Iraq and Mideast

NAKHABINO, Russia, Jan 20 (AFP) - Visiting French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Thursday spoke of "real convergence" between Paris and Moscow on Iran's nuclear program, the Iraq crisis and the Middle East peace process.

"We can point to many issues of real convergence on issues facing us. I am thinking of regional crises, such as Iraq, peace hopes in the Middle East and negotiations with Iran on non-proliferation," he told reporters in this Moscow suburb, with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at his side.

The two men are to take up those issues Friday at a meeting of the Franco-Russian security cooperation council which will also be attended by defence ministers of the two countries.

Russia and three western European countries - Britain, France and Germany- share a view that Tehran can be persuaded through talks to restrict its nuclear activities to the civilian sphere and to fulfil its international obligations in this regard, a French official said here earlier Thursday.

"We have kept the Russians informed on our negotiations from the beginning," the official, a member of the Barnier delegation, told reporters, referring to European talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted that Washington was "very sceptical" of the European initiative on Iran but said Paris had heard nothing suggesting that Washington planned to confront Iran militarily over its nuclear ambitions.

US President George W. Bush refused earlier this week to rule out military action by the United States if it found Iran was pursuing development of nuclear weapons.

He was commenting on an article that appeared in The New Yorker magazine stating that US operatives have been working on the ground in Iran since last summer, gathering information on potential military targets.

Iran warned Thursday it would respond to any threat from the United States.

"The Americans know, and we are telling them, that the Russians are on the same wavelength as we are," the French official said here.

"Iran is interested in strengthening its status as a regional power with a nuclear weapon... and we want to persuade them that this can be achieved better through economic development," he added.

Russia is completing construction of Iran's first nuclear power reactor despite fears in the United States and Israel that the project could help the Islamic state develop nuclear warheads.

Turning to what he called the Chechnya "crisis", Barnier said: "We want to encourage the political process so that violence against the civilian population can end, so that politics, dialogue prevail."

"I restated our position on this serious crisis. We want to combat terrorism wherever it exists," he added, while stressing that Russia's territorial integrity must not be questioned."

Some 80,000 Russian troops are based in and around Chechnya, where a guerrilla war continues to rage more than five years since the latest conflict in the breakaway Russian republic began.

Meanwhile in Saint-Petersburg, visiting French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Thursday urged Russia to reject isolationism and instead boost ties with Europe to ensure regional stability.

"It is in no one's interest to see Russia become edgy or to withdraw inward," she said during her visit to Russia's second largest city at the invitation of her Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov.

"When there are periods of edginess, it is France's task to lift some ambiguities and to play this role of facilitator by relying on old ties which we may have but also on personal relations based on trust," she said.

"This serves the interest of Europe and of balanced international relations," she added."

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran tops US 'trouble-spots' list

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran tops US 'trouble-spots' list: "Iran tops US 'trouble-spots' list

Cheney was sworn in for a second term as vice president
Iran tops the list of "potential trouble-spots" worldwide, according to US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
But Mr Cheney said diplomacy was the best way, for the time being, to ease the crisis over Iran's nuclear plans.

As George W Bush began a second term as president, Mr Cheney said the US did not want to another war in the region.

Iranian leaders, who reject suspicions they are building nuclear weapons, have said US forces will not risk a "lunatic" attack on their country.

President Mohammad Khatami said Tehran was fully prepared to defend itself but it did not expect the US, already overstretched in Iraq, to mount an offensive.

Israel risk

Speaking just before his inauguration, Mr Cheney told MSNBC: "We don't want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it.

"And certainly in the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically," he said.

But if Iran continued to resist demands to rein in its nuclear programme - which Tehran insists is solely to produce electricity - the US would seek international sanctions against the country from the UN Security Council, the vice-president warned.

He also suggested that Israel might itself take action against Iran to safeguard its own future - indicating that this would be highly undesirable.

Iran was also cited as a centre of tyranny by the new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in her confirmation hearings this week.

An article by veteran investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, has claimed US special forces are already operating discreetly inside Iran to identify nuclear sites.

'Saddam to blame'

Mr Cheney also said he miscalculated how long it would take Iraq to recover from the impact of Saddam Hussein's rule.

He blamed the brutality of the regime for what he said was the slowness of Iraqis to "take control of their own affairs" following the US invasion.

"The brutality that he [Saddam Hussein] used in 1991 to put down the revolt at the time I think just had devastating consequences in terms of the ability of the Iraqi people to recover from his rule," he said.

The Bush administration has been repeatedly criticised by its opponents for not admitting mistakes were made in the handling of the occupation of Iraq."