TEHRAN, 26 Sept. (IPS) Iran’s embattled President Mohammad Khatami reported sine die an official visit to Turkey, scheduled for Tuesday 28 September 2004, the government’s spokesman Abollah Ramezanzadeh announced Sunday at the end of cabinet’s meeting.
The decision was taken after the conservatives-controlled Majles, or parliament, passed a controversial bill last week imposing on the government to get its approbation before signing any major deal with foreign firms, including contracts passed before the decision, targeting above all two contracts passed earlier with Turkish companies.
But as the bill did not received enough votes in its initial form, it was modified and limited to the agreements signed with the Turkish-Austrian Tepe Akfen-Vie (TAV) consortium that won all handling services at the half-finished Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) in the one hand and Iran’s second mobile telephone contractor on the other, the semi-independent Students news agency ISNA reported.
The visit has been postponed until we reach an agreement inside Iran on these contracts
IKIA was shut down to traffic by the Armed Forces hours only after if was officially inaugurated two months ago, on the pretext that the involvement of a foreign firm in the handling of services at the airport, including baggage, restaurants, coffee shops and duty free caused security risks for the nation.
As for Turkcell, Turkey’s largest independent telephone company, it was said that the firm had also deals with Israel, a nation that the Islamic Republic denies existence.
However, analysts said the bill, passed on the eve of the President’s trip to Ankara, was a major blow to the very person and position of the powerless Khatami, who had described the move as “unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic and revolution, illegal and in total contradiction of the Constitution”.
This last string attached by the Majles to the government follows a series of earlier limitations, some of them humiliating, imposed by conservative lawmakers on the government and very person of Hojjatoleslam Khatami, who’s mandate would finish in eight months.
“Not only the bill is against the Constitution of the Islamic Republic that forbids the interference of one of the regime’s three powers in the affairs of another one, but it would also place under question the credibility of the government and the president when talking to the world”, a visibly bitter and angry Khatami told reporters, adding, "It will paralyse the work of the government. It will discourage foreigners from investing in Iran. This will cost the country billions of dollars," President Khatami warned last week.
Mr. Ramezanzadeh explained that since it was not clear what the Majles would decide concerning the contracts with the two Turkish companies, therefore it was decided to report the President’s visit to Ankara, where he would have to defend the validity of the contracts.
“The visit has been postponed until we reach an agreement inside Iran on these contracts, so that then we can agree with the outside world" Mr. Ramazanzadeh told the French news agency AFP.
According to Mr. Qolamreza Tajgardoun, the Deputy Head of Iran’s Planning and Management Organisation, in case the agreement with Turkcell is cancelled, Iran would have to pay between 300 to 400 billion Toumans (one US Dollar is changed at the free (black) market more than 800 Toumans) in damages to the Turkish firm and as far as TAV is concerned, the damages to be paid are “much, much more”.
IKIA was shut down to traffic by the Armed Forces hours only after if was officially inaugurated two months ago.
Turkcell was awarded the contract in a tender in February to become -- under the name Irancell -- Iran's second mobile phone operator. The deal is conditional on the payment of a 300-million-euro (366-million-dollar) licence fee.
The company would be expected to invest up to three billion dollars in the project, which would rank among the largest foreign investments in Iran since the Islamic revolution 25 years ago.
But in a conciliatory gesture, Mr. Qolam’ali Haddad Adel, the Speaker of the Majles said urging the government to get the approbation of lawmakers before signing agreements with foreign companies does not mean that contracts passed with Turkey are annulled.
In his view, it is normal that lawmakers be sensible to contracts that involve the regime’s security, like communications and aerial transportation, a direct reference to the two deals signed with the Turkish firms.
And to economists and experts who warned that the decision of the Majles would reduce considerably the already very low amount of foreign investments in Iran, estimated at less than ten US Billion dollars except for investments in oil and gas sectors, the Speaker rebuked them, saying investors are attracted to country where corruption is less and have a better financial regulations.
But analysts observed that in this case, no investor should ever chose the Islamic Republic, for it has one of the world’s highest corruption, mostly at the highest level of the clerical-led Administration coupled with a heavily centralised, state-controlled economy. ENDS MAJLES CABINET 26904