Mohsen Nurbakhsh, Iran's Central Bank Governor, who boasted during hisrecent trip to Switzerland that Iran had received $5 billion in government-backloan guarantees from Japan and several European countries in the last 18months, found himself contradicted by four of the countries he named. Nurbakhshtouted this achievement in an interview with the International Herald Tribunewhile attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,calling it a "massive defeat" of the American effort to denythe Islamic Republic access to Western credit.
The Washington-DC weekly, Iran International Times, reported last weekthat in its contacts with five of those governments--Germany, Italy, Spain,Japan, and France--all but France specifically denied the accuracy of Nurbakhsh'sstatements. An official of the French embassy in Washington said severalprojects had been proposed but he was not aware that any had yet been signed.At the same time, COFACE, France's export credit agency, recently gaveIran its lowest political risk ratings for the entire Middle East and NorthAfrica. [Iran Int'l Times, 3/21]
Nurbakhsh's fibbing became public as Hojj. Ali-Akbar Nateq Nouri toldcadets at the graduation ceremony of the National Defense University andthe Academy of Military Sciences.that "Islamic Republic of Iran isthe most independent state in the world." [IRNA, 3/17]
In an exclusive interview with Iran News, Presidential Candidate, HojjatoleslamMohammad Khatami, criticized the "critical dialogue" policy ofEuropean governments. "The idea of a critical dialogue was conceivedand implemented by politicians, and in its current form it is totally one-sidedbecause the West has given it self the right to criticizes us," hesaid.
In his view, there should be shift away from political to what he termed"critical cultural discussions" with European countries. Culturalexperts, unlike politicians, take the interests of human society into consideration,the presidential candidate said.
Discussing his foreign policy views, Khatami said, if elected, "hewill extend a hand of friendship to all neighboring countries, particularlythe Muslim nations," which suggests that the Islamic Republic musthave been pursuing a different policy toward its neighbors until now.
Turning to the Iranian economy, Khatami blamed corruption on the lowsalary of government employees. "Some administrative corruption isthe result of our unbalanced economy. We must first raise the income ofour employees and then amend our administrative system because I thinkour administrative system falls short of meeting the nation's needs. However,what I think is dangerous is embezzlement of government funds and property,which is a very serious crime and should be dealt with squarely by thegovernment," he said
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who had hoped to get a firm pledgefrom King Fahd to attend December's Islamic Summit in Tehran, returnedhome from Riyadh with no commitment from the Saudi king. Velayati has beenshuttling from one Islamic capital to another in the past few weeks toprepare the conference.
If both King Fahd and President Hosni Mubarak are no-shows at the conference,Tehran it will be hard pressed to describe the venue a success. [Iran PressService, 3/16]
Addressing thousands of worshippers gathered in Tehran University compounds,Ayatollah Jannati said that the efforts of the arrogant powers to preventMuslim states from attending the 8th Summit of the Organization of IslamicConference (OIC) in Tehran was in fact blatant intervention in other countries'internal affairs. [IRNA, 3/21]
Meanwhile, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, an Arabic language newspaper publishedin London, called into question "the Iranian concept of good- neighborlyrelations" in an editorial. It commented that "Iran has so farfailed to convince its neighbors that it is trying to establish normalrelations based on the principle of good-neighborly relations and noninterference.The good intentions about which Iran is trying to convince its neighborswould require Iran to review its foreign relations with its neighbor, Turkey.These relations started with Iran showing its good intentions to establishgood- neighborly relations and relations of economic and security cooperation,and developed to the point of interference in Turkish domestic affairs,"it added.
Presidential candidate Ebrahim Yazdi told the Tehran Times that if electedhe would "maintain relations with all countries except the Zionistregime." He added "if we come to power we will establish relationswith other countries on the basis of our interests. We are living in aworld with a divergent systems. But we can protect our interests in thisworld provided we normalize our relations."
Running as a candidate of the Freedom Movement of Iran [FMI], ratherthan as independent, Yazdi believes that the former head of the Budgetand Planning, Ezatollah Sahabi has a better chance of winning approvalfrom the Council of Guardians, which must approve all candidates. [TehranTimes, March 18]
Another presidential hopeful, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi [the former editorof the banned publication Payam-e Daneshju], complained to a group of Iranianand foreign reporters of being shut out of the Iranian media, and expressedfrustration about his inability to get his message across to the public.
"Unfortunately, we are facing some restrictions as far as the expressionof our viewpoints are concerned since most of the press circles that areactive nowadays belong to specific camps. The Voice and Vision [radio andtelevision organization] is only promoting the views of a particular faction,while a number of important newspapers are giving coverage to the candidatesof other factions. All of this means that the independent candidates areleft out. Of course, the foreign media are trying very hard to interviewus but we do not want to express our views through these media since weprefer to tell the people about our viewpoints through the channels ofthe domestic media." [Iran News, 3/12]
The controversial practice of "sigheh" whereby a man and womencan marry for a short, predetermined period of time, was strongly endorsedby Mohiedin Haeri Shirazi, a top cleric in Shiraz. Speaking at a meetingto address the marital problems of today's youth, the cleric said that"sigheh" can be used as a tool to prevent the corruption of moralsamongst younger Iranians and its curtailment would lead to decadence andspiraling social ills.
Salam newspaper, however, criticized Haeri Shirazi, arguing that "sigheh"might address the needs of men, but will leave women worse off.
The German magazine, Der Spiegel, claimed last week that an Americanspy who was expelled from Germany had attempted to recruit an officialof the German Economics Ministry, to obtain information on Iran's buddingnuclear power ambitions. According to the report, Peyton K. Humphries hadinitiated contact with the German official in 1994 and the two continuedtheir meetings with the sanction of the German counterintelligence service.[Der Spiegel 3/17]
The sudden decision to expel the U.S. spy came after he quizzed theGerman official about the Busheir power plant after he had visited thesite in Iran. The U.S. agent was interested in three other topics: a) Theidentities of German firms delivering high technology to Iran b) Iranianconnections to the Mykonos trial c) German government loan guarantees forIranian purchases of German goods [Iran Times, 3/21].
The head of Iran's Pilgrimage Affairs, Mohammad Mohammadi-Rayshahri,criticized Saudi Arabia for seeking to prevent Iranian pilgrims from holdinganti-US and anti-Israel rallies during the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca nextmonth, but stopped short of promising to defy a Saudi ban on politicaldemonstrations.
"It is painful that the slogans against America, the great Satan,and Israel are prevented from the site of the Kaaba," Islam's holiestshrine in Mecca, he told a Friday prayer audience at Tehran University.
The Saudi authorities have issued their customary warning that politicalactivities will not be tolerated during the hajj, which is due to takeplace in April this year.
"As we fulfill our duties every year, Muslims become more familiarwith the divine purpose of hajj. The slogans of `Death to America' and`Death to Israel' are spreading to other Muslims. This is a sign that thetrue meaning of hajj is awakening in other Muslim groups," he said.[Iran News, 3/18]
The Tehran daily Iran News in an editorial wonders why serious stepshave not been taken to attract foreign capital to Iran's ailing economy.The editorial refers to the minister of mines and metals, who declaredin a press conference that absorbing and guaranteeing investments by Iranians,Iranian expatriots, and foreign investors is indispensable for Iran's economicgrowth and development, and urged that serious measures be taken in thisregard.
"Iran's economic and industrial officialdom and specialists arealso of the same opinion. But one question remains unanswered: After theimplementation of the First Five-Year Economic Plan and after going throughhalf the second one, why has Iran failed so far to attract foreign investors?"the paper asked. [3/15]