SMCCDI AND HRW WARNS BRITISH LEADERS ON MEETING WITH IRANIANS

PARIS 6 Feb. (IPS) In an open letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an Iranian studentís organisation drew his attention to the dramatic situation of human rights and freedom in Iran and warned him about the "futility" of talking with Iranian officials when he meets with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

Mr. Kharrazi arrived in London on Wednesday on the invitation from his British counterpart, Mr. Jack Straw, with whom he discussed about improving Iran-Britain difficult relations but mostly on the ongoing Iraqi crisis.

Nothing transpired from the meeting that sources described as "protocolar", and it was not known if the British hosts offered their mediation for improving ties between Tehran and London.

But the official Iranian news agency IRNA said the 30-minutes meeting at Downing Street, attended by Mr. Straw as well as the Iranian senior Foreign Affairs spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi and Iranian Ambassador Morteza Sarmadi is seen as "underlining the importance attached by Blair to Iran's position on the launch of military action to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hoseyn".

According to Mr. Alireza Noorizadeh, a London-based independent Iranian journalist, Iran is anxious about a turn-about of the British policy towards the Islamic Republic in the aftermath of American-British attack on Iraq on the one hand and in support of Iranian dissidents on the other.

He was referring to the recent visit to London by Prince Reza Pahlavi and his talks with some members of the House of Lords.

In the letter, the second to the British leader in as many years, the Students Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI), remind him about "persistent deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and the links of the Iranian regime with terrorist and fundamentalist networks that are jeopardizing the World's peace".

"Pro IRI lobbyists and their friends, such as your Foreign Minister, might argue that such high-profile meetings can be positive points for your government, foster better relations between Iran with the United Kingdom and the European Union and would also open the door to fruitful investments and cheap oil", the Texas-based organisation said, pointing out that "these opportunists" forget to mention the real aspirations of over 70 million of repressed and deprived Iranians for democracy and freedom.

The Organisation then cites "Executions; torture; public hangings, stoning, flogging; abuse of children; child marriages; polygamy; domestic abuse; abuse of women; diseases; hunger; 700,000 imprisoned; soaring crime and drug use and abuse; widespread prostitution; 200,000 homeless children wandering the streets and people reduced to selling their body parts, for organ transplantation to feed their families; inflation rate nearing 20% by official tale and official unemployment around 30%; debt in the billions; unpaid teachers and workers; complete deterioration of the standard of living; petroleum industry in ruins; brain drain and pervasive corruption as "just few of the results of 25 years of theocracy in our country".

According to the group, British and the European policies towards Iran have "only helped the situation for the Iranian people to worsen" by making the clerical regime believe that they are gaining International support or complacency to its "genocide activities" against the Iranian people.

The letter was put on the organisationís internet site www.iran-daneshjoo.org as Mr. Chris Patten, the European Commissar for International Affairs arrived in Tehran to continue the so-called "critical dialogue" and discussions concerning the signing of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

According to informed Iranian and EU sources, in his meetings with some Iranian officials, including President Mohammad Khatami, who is supported by the EU, and Ayatollah Mahamood Hashemi-Shahroodi, the Head of the Judiciary, Mr. Patten has told them that the finalisation of the TCA is "closely attached" to the condition that the Islamic Republic respects human rights, abandons support for international terrorist organisations and regional and Palestinian groups opposed to peace with Israel and also acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

"The European Union's policy of engagement with Iran was a lesson to Washington and Tehran for how to patch up their longstanding rift", Patten said on Wednesday, adding that Iran it must improve human rights, allow greater access to atomic energy inspectors and urge Palestinian groups to end attacks on Israel if it wanted closer economic ties with Europe.

"The clerics have become masters in the art of bribery and the "good cop, bad cop" game when it comes to their relations with your country and its allies. It is necessary to point out that current policies such as yours, are naturally leading to negative reactions among Iranians", the SMCCDI said, warning the continuation of support for the Islamic Republic would lead to "darker perspectives for the future of Iran and European relations".

In a similar letter addressed both to Mr. Straw and Mr. Patten, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also draw their attention to the worsening situation of human rights in Iran, reminding them that there could be no improvement in Iranian political situation without a radical change in the regimeís religion-based constitution. ENDS SMCCDI BLAIR LETTER 6203