By Safa Haeri


As the Iranian authorities were busy to shut the last of reformist newspapers and arrest moderate journalists and politicians, the Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami ended his visit to China by assuring Hong Kong businessmen, some of them among world's most prosperous, that through a "policy of tension elimination, confidence building, and restructuring of the economy", the Islamic Republic has facilitated "effective participation" by international financiers and industrialists in Iran's development.

As Mr. Khatami was inaugurating "The Hong Kong Seminar on the Introduction of the Economic and Commercial Opportunities in Iran", news reaching him from Tehran said the newspaper "Bayan", one of the last reformist publications was closed on orders from the Judiciary and Mr. Ezzatollah Sahabi, the owner-publisher of the biweekly "Iran Farda" was detained.

Run by Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, a former Interior Minister turned reformist, "Bayan" was closed after it wrote an editorial two days ago criticising the Judiciary, accusing it to be more a political machine than a service at the disposal of the public.

On orders from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the Islamic Judiciary shot down two months ago 18 reformists and independent publications and send to prison some of the nation's most prominent journalists, including mr. Akbar Ganji and Emameddin Baqi, on instigation from former president Hashemi Rafsanjani.?

For his part, Mr. Sahabi is sought by the Islamic Revolutionary court for his participation at the now famous Berlin Conference. Like six others, including Mr. Hamid Reza Jala'pour, a prominent journalist and Mrs. Jamileh Kadivar, the second Tehran MP, he was left free on bail.

Managers of 190 Hong Kong companies and 60 Iranian firms are taking part at the two-day gathering, exchanging views on possibilities for investment in Iran.

Iranian newspapers hailed the Mr. Khatami's first official visit to China, where he was preceded by former presidents Ali Khameneh'i, now the leader of the regime and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, pointing to both countries attachment to third world and non engagement ideals and efforts at securing a "multipolar" world against the "unipolar" as sought by the United States.?

Mr. Khatami cited "reform in Iran's monetary system, reorganising the financial markets, protecting and encouraging foreign investment by guaranteeing the security of invested capital, revising our economic regulations and tax system" as being among the Iran's "overall economic policies".

Pointing to Iran's "special position" as a "bridge" between the Persian Gulf and Europe, Central Asia, Caucasus and the Indian Subcontinent in the one hand to the fact that as one of the world's major oil and gas reserves, the country is sitting between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, the two rich energy fields world, Mr Khatami said given this special position, Iran is presently undertaking extensive infrastructure projects in the areas of oil and gas, petrochemicals, power plant construction, transportation and transit sectors.

But observers said given the present political situation of the country, it's Constitution that, unlike China's forbids foreign investments and discourages foreigners, the existence of several exceptional courts like the Islamic Revolution and the Clergymen's Special Tribunal, the omnipresence of revolutionary guards and Basij forces, the shortage of skilled workforce trained to new, advanced technologies, there are no grounds for important investments in Iran.

In a recent article wrote before Mr. Khatami's departure for Peking, the English language "Iran Daily" had noted that there are "a lot of things" Iran has to learn from China, starting from the art of negotiating with the enemies.

In fact, contrary to Iran's harsh Islamic-based laws, China's calls and encourages for foreign investments and dialogue with everyone, including major rivals such as the United States, Russia or Japan.

Good as any Iranian at suggesting extravagance and arrogant as any other his "Don Qixotesque" countrymen, Mr. Khatami said he genuinely believe that the Asian countries, with their past experiences and common, rich and multifarious economic capabilities, their vast underground and immense human resources are quite capable of institutionalisation of an "Asian Convergence Strategy" (ACS), a new "grande folie" out of his imagination. ENDS KHATAMI CHINA 26600


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Iran Press Service
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