RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY
RFE/RL Iran Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iran
18 October 2005, Volume 8, Number 41
IRAN DEFIANT, BUT WILLING TO RENEW TALKS OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAM. Iranian officials have said in the past week that Iran is willing to renew talks with Western states over its contested nuclear program, but they have publicly reaffirmed Iran's stated position that it has a right to master the nuclear-fuel production cycle. While some officials and parliamentarians have adopted a conciliatory or pragmatic tone, others have struck a contradictory note of defiance.
Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aqamohammadi said in Tehran on 10 October that Iran stands by its "legal and natural rights" in the nuclear program but backs talks and "will respond positively to any new proposal," ISNA and AFP reported the same day. Iran's intention, he said, is "clarification." But he said that "the entirety" of a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution condemning aspects of Iran's nuclear activities "is neither acceptable nor feasible, in our view," ISNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 October 2005).
Iran wants a formal recognition of what it states is a right to produce nuclear fuel, but Western powers are concerned lest fuel-production know-how allow Iran to make nuclear bombs. Iran says it runs a strictly civilian program. Aqamohammadi said Iran supports the "strategy of talks" and would talk "rationally, and without preconditions" with the EU-3 (Great Britain, France, and Germany). "Our direction in the nuclear issue is that we should be able to use our rights -- but we are not using these rights presently -- to open the way for talks," he said in a reference to Iran's wish to develop nuclear technology and master the fuel-production cycle. "We do not intend to make all our fuel, but we shall not lose the ability to do that," ISNA quoted Aqamohammadi as saying. "That ability is...not something we are seeking outside legal bounds." Receiving fuel from abroad "is impossible," he added.
On 11 October, Mohammad Saidi, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said in Tehran that his organization "is drawing up the details" of proposals by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad that "can be one of the most important ways of coming out of our recent crisis with the West" over Iran's nuclear ambitions, ISNA reported the same day. Ahmadinejad has proposed that Western firms participate in producing nuclear fuel in Iran and thus prevent its possible use in bomb making, a Western concern. Saidi said the plan would ensure "the highest level of confidence-building" through joint-ownership of the production process. "That means that with the presence of Western firms in the [uranium-] enrichment project in Iran, the possibility of deviation in Iran's peaceful nuclear activities will go below zero, because they will be producing alongside Iran," he added. Saidi said the "broad axes" of Iran's future discussions with European powers will be on safeguarding "Iran's nuclear rights," the "provision of objective guarantees to remove the concerns of certain countries, and commitments negotiating parties can give on expanding nuclear technology in our country."
The Foreign Ministry formally declared Iran's readiness to renew talks without preconditions in an 11 October statement, "to assure Iran's right to expand and access the nuclear fuel cycle within the balance of rights and duties stated" in IAEA charter, to which Iran is a signatory, ISNA and AFP reported on 12 October. The statement adds that talks would be "useful" now to build confidence over its program, ISNA reported.
Striking a note of defiance, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani vowed in Tehran on 9 October that "if they want to speak in threatening language, we will resist," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October. "We will not leave the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], but we do not accept [its] Additional Protocol," he said. The protocol allows for closer checks of Iran's installations. He said Iran will not be cowed into stopping work at a uranium-conversion plant near Isfahan, in central Iran. But he added: "It should not be inferred that Iran's dossier is going to the Security Council. The [IAEA] resolution has certain elements that are feasible for Iran, and others that are not." Separately, he told a gathering of students in Tehran on 9 October that "a legal anarchism" is taking over the world, the daily reported. While North Korea "has no problem at the [IAEA] when it is ahead of us in terms of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment, every day they have to create a problem for Iran." He told the students: "You are living in a world where there is American fascism. The various curtains of American fascism have been laid out across the world, and you can see some of its layers.... They believe that only they must consider everything legitimate."
President Ahmadinejad said in Tehran on 12 October that Iran's conduct over its nuclear program is "rational, lawful, and wise," and "Iran's enemies" can be sure "we will not retreat a single step from our principled and precise position," ISNA reported the next day. Iran's "situation and positions today in important international issues, especially the nuclear energy issue, are much more solid than before," he said at a joint meeting of government and parliamentary representatives. He said the "initiative" on this matter has passed to Iranian officials, as proven by the fact that "for the first time," in the last IAEA meeting, "members could not reach a consensus" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 October 2005). He said critics should not link the country's economic problems with the nuclear dossier, and separately rejected accusations that Iran is meddling in Iraqi affairs. "It is surprising that occupiers from thousands of kilometers away come to control Iran's neighboring country, then brazenly accuse Iran of meddling," he said. (Vahid Sepehri)
SOME REFORMERS CRITICIZE HANDLING OF DOSSIER. Some reformist parliamentarians have said Iran must avoid any confrontation over the nuclear dossier, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on 10 October. Mohammad Reza Tabesh said in parliament on 9 October that no "intelligent person" would force a conflict between Iran's "right to attain peaceful nuclear energy" with "the nation's great right to exist," Radio Farda and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October. Tabesh said the Ahmadinejad government has so far failed to adequately conduct talks with the EU-3, and he urged the return of Iran's former negotiators. There has been no "whiff of an improvement in conditions" since the last IAEA meeting, he said, and "the young negotiating team has shown that it needs the help of its former colleagues." Another legislator, Hussein Afarideh, deplored the government's "mistaken measure" of a "hasty" reshuffle of Iran's negotiating team, Radio Farda reported. Mehdi Karrubi, the former parliamentary speaker, separately urged the government on 9 October to ensure Iran is not referred to the UN Security Council, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day.
Separately, Ali Larijani, the senior nuclear dossier official, has appointed Hussein Entezami as Supreme National Security Council spokesman, ISNA reported on 14 October. Entezami was a founder of "Jaam-i Jam," the daily run by the state broadcasting body Larijani used to head, ISNA reported, without stating if Entezami would replace or complement Ali Aqamohammadi, who currently acts as council spokesman. (Vahid Sepehri)
...WHILE WEST MAINTAINS VERBAL PRESSURE. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London on 11 October that the international community expects Iran's "full obedience" regarding nonproliferation commitments and Western powers are united and determined to ensure it complies, news agencies reported the same day. The EU and United States, he said, have the same position on this. "We will continue the pressure," Reuters quoted Blair, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, as saying. "They have to abide by the rules of the international community on their nuclear capability [and] stop support for terrorism, whether...in the Middle East or elsewhere." Iran would be mistaken, he added, "if they thought the international community lacked the will to make sure that is done." Blair said Europe will continue talks with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program if Iran honors its "obligations under IAEA rules," Reuters reported.
In Vienna on 11 October, unnamed European diplomats suggested to AP that Iran might give IAEA inspectors closer access to and information on its nuclear program. An IAEA team was in Tehran on 11 October to discuss the IAEA's request for access to two military sites, certain military officials, and relevant documents, AP reported.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in Paris on 11 October that "our aim" is to negotiate with Iran, not provoke a "crisis," but that Iran must respect the Paris accord of 2004, Reuters reported the same day. Iran is committed under that accord to halting all uranium-enrichment and related activities during talks. In Washington on 11 October, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli reiterated U.S. support for Iran-EU talks and said the United States wants to see "concrete action" to show Iranian respect for IAEA resolutions, according to the State Department website.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed Iran's nuclear program in a round of meetings with European officials. In Paris on 14 October, she said that "the Iranians need to get involved in negotiations, and restore the confidence of the international community that they are not trying to build a nuclear weapon," AP reported the same day. She added that Security Council referral remains "an option" in response to perceived non-proliferation violations by Iran.
But Russian officials, with whom she met after going to Russia from Paris, seemingly disagreed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on 15 October that all NPT signatories have the right to enrich uranium, according to that treaty, adding that Russia has found no evidence that Iran is running a hidden military program behind a civilian nuclear program, providing grounds for UN Security Council referral, agencies reported. Rice said "the NPT doesn't come only with rights, but also with obligations. This is not a question of rights, but of whether or not the fuel cycle can be trusted with Iran," AFP reported on 15 October.
The strongest words came from the U.S. envoy at the UN, John Bolton. He told BBC television on 14 October that he thought "the Iranians have been pursuing a nuclear-weapons program for 18 years," news agencies reported. Iran has "engaged in concealment and deception and they've engaged in threats before." He wondered if the international community would accept a country "that violates its [NPT] commitments, that lies about its program, and is determined to get nuclear weapons deliverable on ballistic missiles," which it could "supply to terrorists," Reuters reported on 15 October.
Gregory Schulte, the U.S. envoy at the IAEA, said separately in Vienna on 14 October that Iran must clear up outstanding questions on its program and warned, "If Iran continues going down the road that it is going...then the [IAEA governing] board will need to carry out its statutory responsibility to report Iran to the Security Council," AP reported the same day. (Vahid Sepehri)
IRAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS BORDERS SEALED... Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi told ISNA in northeastern Iran on 10 October that a "national movement" is necessary to "close, control, and guard" Iran's borders. He made the comments after visiting a segment of the border with Afghanistan, where Iran is struggling to block the trafficking of drugs and migrants. Iran, he said, must have "suitable control" of its frontier, and while there could be no "100 percent" promises over security, "one can raise indices, and I hope we will reach an entirely satisfactory figure." He accused the United States of boosting drug traffickers in Afghanistan, and said U.S. forces "have come to the region to fight terrorism and drugs, but in the shadow of this presence, these two factors have come to threaten the security and culture of the region." Unfortunately, "with the presence of the Americans in the region, both terrorism and drugs have become more extended," he said. VS
...AS OFFICIAL CLAIMS MORE AFGHANS ARE ENTERING IRAN. Ahmad Husseini, the head of the immigration department at Iran's Interior Ministry, expressed concern in Tehran on 9 October over the rising number of Afghans illegally entering Iran and said the country will conduct a headcount of Afghans in Iran after 6 November to determine how many are there illegally, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October, citing ISNA. He said that "4,500 illegal Afghans" have been detained in the northwestern West Azerbaijan Province "in recent months," adding that Pakistanis and nationals of former Soviet republics are increasingly smuggling people through Iran to other countries. He did not say whether the detained Afghans were illegally staying or passing through Iran. In the year to March 2005, he said, Iran arrested 180,000 Afghans without permits, "and the number has reached 150,000" in the six-month period from March 2005, which "shows we face an increase in the illegal entry of Afghans into the country." He blamed this on the difficulty of controlling Iran's eastern border, "insufficient efforts" by the Afghan government, and the use of illegal labor by Iranian firms, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. VS
MINISTER CONSIDERS INCREASED POWERS FOR PROVINCES. Interior Minister Purmohammadi said in Mashhad, in northeastern Iran, on 5 October that "certain powers" might be delegated to the provinces, ISNA reported. He said the government might "increase the decision-making power of provincial administrators, and give part of the country's budgets to provinces to downsize government." Other, unspecified, ministry tasks would go to municipalities, under the supervision of city councils, he said. He added that more "independent planning" in the provinces, and greater coordination between provincial agencies will bring "serious changes to planning and the focus on programs" in the provinces, ISNA reported. President Ahmadinejad mentioned government downsizing among his electoral programs, but Purmohammadi has been criticized by some legislators for appointing provincial governors without consulting them. On 5 October, conservative legislator Mohammad Khoshchehreh advised Purmohammadi that he had "better consider the opinions of legislators," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. "There is an increasing current of opposition" to the minister, he said, "which is not to his advantage." Khoshchehreh warned that this might "become a negative current that might lead" parliament to interrogate or sack Purmohammadi. Many lawmakers, Khoshchehreh said, are dissatisfied with the provincial appointments. He added that his comments should be taken as "friendly advice," not a "threat." VS
IRANIAN POLITICIANS CONCERNED FOR FINANCIAL MARKETS. Politicians have expressed concern at Tehran's stagnant securities market, as well as the government response and its economic outlook. Legislator Hadi Haqshenas said on 12 October that stagnant money and stock markets were "a measure " of the new government's economic policies and that "the state of the stock market shows the direction of the government's economic policies," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. He said falling share prices are a "message on Ahmadinejad's electoral slogans." If "someone [else] had been elected, we would not be facing" a stagnant market, he argued. He observed that the government's instruction to state-sector banks to buy stocks to prevent their prices falling is a palliative measure, and not a solution. That was echoed by Mohsen Safai-Farahani, the former deputy finance minister, who told ILNA on 12 October that share purchases by those banks were an "inverse" solution that took private money out of the stock market. He blamed falling prices on various measures over the past year, including the decision to cap interest rates and the price of some goods. On 12 October, current Deputy Finance Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri told reporters in Tehran that the government will soon make structural changes to the stock market, ensuring its stability and profitability, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 13 October. VS
HARD-LINE IRANIAN PUBLICATION OBJECTS TO EX-PRESIDENT'S APPOINTMENT. A publication run by prominent conservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi has objected to the appointment by Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani of former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami to head the council's research center, Radio Farda reported on 13 October. The "Parto Sokhan" weekly has attacked the appointment and commented that the Expediency Council Strategic Research Center will become a "refuge" for "self-styled reformers" and Khatami allies, who could use public funds to carry out research that will help shape future policies beneficial to themselves, Radio Farda reported. The weekly observed that the appointment showed that Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khatami have similar views. Khatami succeeded Hashemi-Rafsanjani to the presidency in 1997 but also served in his cabinet as culture minister from 1989 to 1992. Separately, Mohammad Nabi Habibi, the head of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, told ISNA on 12 October that newly appointed state officials must have, among other qualities, "a security perspective." He rejected recent criticisms of the appointment of former security officials to Interior Ministry posts and said "national security is among the most important red lines for the country and the system." VS
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT ASPIRE TO COOPERATE. Iran's conservative-dominated parliament and government hope to coordinate their work and minimize differences, Iranian news agencies reported on 11 October. Parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said in Tehran the same day that in the fight against "economic corruption," the "general feeling is that with the...new government, there has been more coordination among the three branches," IRNA reported. He was speaking after a meeting of the state anticorruption headquarters attended by the president and the judiciary chief. Separately, the government and parliament held their first joint meeting attended by President Ahmadinejad, Haddad-Adel, legislators, Finance Minister Davud Danesh-Jafari, and Farhad Rahbar, the head of the state planning and budgeting body, Fars News Agency reported on 11 October. Haddad-Adel told Ahmadinejad at the meeting that parliamentary committees and provincial associations of legislators want to meet with the president weekly, or at least once a month, Fars quoted legislator Ali Riaz as saying. Also, Vice President Ahmad Musavi told IRNA on 12 October that a committee on government-parliament relations is to be formed, including four legislators, Rahbar, Danesh-Jafari, and himself. VS
DETAINED IRANIAN DISSIDENTS DEPRIVED OF VISITS... Masumeh Shafii, the wife of jailed dissident Akbar Ganji, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on 12 October that her husband is once more being prevented from seeing his family, which has no idea where he is. "It has been 48 days since we saw" Ganji, she said, adding that Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad knows this fact despite reportedly stating that visits should be allowed. "They do not want any talk about [Ganji] outside prison, so they have cut off all communication channels," she said. She said she thinks it "possible he is not being kept in Evin prison" in northern Tehran, where political prisoners are usually kept, adding, "It is not clear which unknown prison they have taken him to." She said when she telephones, staff at Evin tell her to contact Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi, she told Radio Farda. In a different case, Masumeh Dehqan, the wife of detained lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, told Radio Farda on 12 October that prison officials canceled a scheduled 10 October family visit with her husband. The judiciary has told her Fattahi is currently subject to "renewed investigations," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 October. VS
...AS JUSTICE MINISTER TALKS OF JUSTICE. Karimirad said in Tehran on 11 October that "in the justice system, nobody must be left without an answer" and that the judiciary has worked to ensure "that not a single person's rights are violated," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 October. "We are faced with the actions of certain countries" in Ganji's case, Karimirad said, "although domestic actions and reactions are not without effect." The judiciary, he said, does not want Ganji to become "a subject" of publicity. "Certain people going to meet him do things...against his health. Naturally, family meetings with Ganji must be resolved," he said. Separately, three Kurdish-Iranian journalists are to be tried on 21 December for charges relating to recent unrest in western Iran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2005), "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 October. Charges against Ejlal Qavami, Said Saedi and Roya Tolui, include acting against national security, collaborating with PJAK, a Kurdish guerrilla group, organizing the unrest, and "inciting public opinion," lawyer Abbas Jamali told ILNA on 11 October. VS
IRAN'S PARLIAMENT REJECTS FORMATION OF NEW POLICE FORCE. Parliament has rejected a proposal by the judiciary to form a new police corps that would combine policing duties with some judicial powers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2005), Radio Farda and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 11 October. The parliamentary social affairs committee rejected the proposal, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported, because deputies feared an overlap with duties carried out by regular law enforcement, according to Radio Farda. But Justice Minister Karimirad said in Tehran on 10 October that the creation of the so-called judicial police would "not negate the competency of police agents or other judiciary agents" but would provide "a specialist police at the disposal of" the judiciary, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. The head of the Tehran public and revolutionary courts, Muhammad Karami, said on 10 October that the judiciary needs a specialist force due to the "special complexities" of judiciary work and "because the police force, in addition to acting as agents of the judiciary, has other duties," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. Iran has already tried but abandoned a judicial police force in the past, Radio Farda stated on 11 October. VS
FOREIGN MINISTER CONTINUES GULF TOUR... Manuchehr Mottaki met in Al-Ain on 5 October with senior United Arab Emirates officials, including UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, to discuss Iranian-UAE ties and regional politics, ISNA reported the next day. Mottaki expressed Iran's support for the "political process in Iraq" involving its "ethnic and religious groups," adding that "Iraq's problems" should be resolved "with the help and collective consensus of all Iraq's neighbors," ISNA reported. Regarding the occupied territories, he said Israel has evacuated "a negligible part of Palestine's territories" in order to "win great prizes [amid] normalized relations with Muslim states." But those states, he said, "can by their vigilance counter Israel's deceit." He also defended Iran's "legitimate rights" to pursue its nuclear program, and said Iranian scientists have attained "peaceful nuclear science and technology" to bring "prosperity" to Iran. VS
...AFTER TRIP TO SAUDI ARABIA IS PUT ON HOLD. Mottaki was expected to visit Saudi Arabia on 5 October, but the visit was postponed -- officially due to conflicting timetables, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on 6 October, citing the daily "Al-Riyadh." An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that "no solid timetable was set for this trip. Mottaki will visit Saudi Arabia as part of his regional trip," Reuters reported. However, the postponement came after the two states publicly feuded over Iran's role in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). Mottaki reportedly asked to visit Saudi Arabia on 6 October, but this was rejected by Saudi officials who have yet to offer a date for a visit, Radio Farda stated, citing "Al-Riyadh." Mottaki was in Qatar on 6 October on the fifth leg of his Gulf tour. An unidentified Iranian Foreign Ministry official said Mottaki's visit to Saudi Arabia may take place "next week," Mehr reported on 6 October. VS
FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS CHINA. Mottaki was in China on 13 October, where he met with senior Chinese officials including Vice President Zeng Qinhong and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to discuss bilateral ties, Middle East politics and Iran's nuclear dossier, IRNA reported the same day. Li told him that China supports Iran's continued talks on its dossier with the European Union and expressed hope the issue is resolved within the framework of the IAEA, IRNA added. Mottaki expressed Iran's gratitude for Chinese support for peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran but said renewed talks with the EU must have a "direction," and be "constructive."
He told the press in Beijing on 14 October that his talks with Chinese officials had been satisfactory, and that China had stated its support for Iran's access to peaceful nuclear energy, IRNA reported the same day. He reiterated Iran's right to "nuclear energy and the fuel cycle," because the NPT states "we are entitled to it."
Mottaki was accompanied on his visit by Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad-Husseinian, who discussed oil and gas deals with Chinese energy sector officials. Mottaki said Nejad-Husseinian had discussed the signing of a long-term accord to supply liquid natural gas (LNG) to China. He also discussed Chinese participation in various oil projects, IRNA added. Mottaki said another Iranian delegation has talked to Chinese officials and a "one-billion-dollar contract is now being finalized" for a Chinese aluminum production project in Iran, IRNA added. VS
IRAQI MINISTER, IN TEHRAN, SIGNS BILATERAL COOPERATION DOCUMENT. Iraqi Transportation Minister Salam al-Maliki was in Tehran on 10-11 October to meet with senior officials, including President Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Mottaki, Iranian news agencies reported. Ahmadinejad told him on 11 October that Iran supports the establishment of "complete security" in Iraq, but said ongoing insecurity is "affected by the presence of foreign powers and outsiders" in Iraq, ILNA reported. "One of the ways to prolong occupation is to create divisions between Iraq and neighboring states," Ahmadinejad reportedly said, adding that Iran is determined "in spite of foreign plots" to help resolve "Iraq's problems with certain neighbors," without elaborating, ILNA reported. Maliki expressed gratitude and praised Iran's "political, security, and services assistance" to Iraq. Separately, Maliki and Iranian Industries Minister Alireza Tahmasbi signed a communique on 11 October obliging four committees to follow up on documents signed during a visit to Iran in July by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 26 July 2005). The two ministers also signed a memorandum on industrial and mining cooperation, IRNA reported. VS
IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES SEEK PARTY, REFORMERS A COALITION. The Coordinating Council of Revolutionary Forces, an umbrella group of 15 conservative groups, is to be forged into a party supporting President Ahmadinejad, "Sharq" reported on 6 October, adding that the party leader is Ali Larijani, currently Iran's ranking nuclear diplomat. Larijani was the council's chosen candidate for the June presidential elections. He is to succeed Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri as the Coordinating Council's head, "Sharq" reported, citing conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqqi. Nateq Nuri, a former parliamentary speaker, has difficult relations with certain council members and has ceased to attend its gatherings, "Sharq" added. Deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar is to assist Larijani with the new party.
But in moves reminiscent of the council's previous disagreements over selecting its candidate for the June presidential elections, conservatives proceeded to qualify or contradict that report in following days. Taraqqi told ISNA on 7 October that Larijani accepted the "executive responsibility" for making unspecified changes to the council, as Nateq-Nuri had refused to, but the council is not due to become a party. Bahonar told ISNA the council would review its past weaknesses and strengths, and that changes were natural after an election, but "nothing serious has happened and news will be gradually reported." Islamic Coalition Party head Muhammad Nabi Habibi told ILNA on 7 October that Nateq-Nuri had not resigned as head of the Coordination Council, "and nobody has been chosen as his successor." Conservative politician Habibullah Burbur told ILNA "there is no dispute between Larijani and Nateq-Nuri," and "until Nateq-Nuri has resigned, Larijani will not accept being head of the Coordination Council." Unity derived from shared principles and fundamental values is the oft-repeated claim of conservatives, and that is what Burbur stressed. "Real fundamentalists, because of their belief in Islam, the revolution, the Imam [Khomeini] and religious government, never fall into discord," he said.
Meanwhile, the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front is working to form a broad-based reformist front, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 6 October, citing member Said Hajjarian. He said party members have talked with centrist or reform politicians like Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Mehdi Karrubi, and Ghulamhussein Karbaschi, a former Tehran mayor and member of the Executives of Construction -- a party close to Hashemi-Rafsanjani. He said contacts had also been made with the Islamic Coalition Party, which supports the government, but did not say why he thought it would be interested in joining a front including reformers. A wide reformist front is "necessary," Hajjarian said, but the likelihood of "solidarity" between divergent politicians is "very weak," unless "political pressures on them increase."
The comments of reformers in following days seemed to corroborate a guarded pessimism, and the characteristic honesty of reformers over their divisions. Mohsen Armin of the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization told ILNA a front is "not possible" since one could not expect to include such divergent reformist politicians into a single, cohesive front, "even if it is the ideal." Reformers, he said should expend their energies on fortifying their parties, then work on coordinating the activities of those parties. He added there is no pivotal individual now around whom reformers could unite, while the new government seems inclined to let them state their views through affiliated media outlets.
Mohammad Reza Khabbaz of the Solidarity Party told Fars on 10 October that "effectively there will be no alliance or unity in the reformist front," if "radicals" persist in their "expectations." He may have been referring to more liberal reformers like the Participation Front or so-called national-religious activists, who are often marginalized by moderate reformers and pragmatists closer to the state. Liberal politician Ezzatollah Sahabi complained that national-religious activists are being excluded from the "Islamic revolution" and branded as "strangers" or political outsiders, ILNA reported on 11 October.
Mehdi Karrubi, the former parliamentary speaker, said on 11 October that consultations between reformers generally serve little purpose, since they talk without acting on their stated intentions, and thus drift further apart, "Aftab-i Yazd, reported the next day. The reality, he said, is that "reformers have ideological…interpretive, and sometimes fundamental differences, and I do not think these…will be resolved with meetings, suppers or statements," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. If, he said, as a first step, reformers can "stop damaging and weakening each other, and move in the same direction while engaging in healthy competition, then they can protect people's rights and legitimate liberties within the bounds of the constitution." (Vahid Sepehri)
Compiled by A. William Samii.
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|