Index

DATE=2/24/2000 TYPE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=BIG VICTORY FOR REFORMERS IN IRANIAN ELECTION NUMBER=6-11699 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 CONTENT= INTRO: Results are still being counted in Iran, but it is clear that reform candidates won a substantial victory in last week's election, assuring them of a majority in the Majlis or parliament. Reports from Tehran say that after run-off elections in April, the reform movement backing President Khatami could have as much as an 80 percent majority in the legislature. Around the world the daily press is dissecting the results, and many papers are pleased at the prospect of a more moderate government in the critical Middle Eastern nation. We get a sampling of reaction now from ___________ in today's World Opinion Roundup. TEXT: It has been more than 20 years since the Shah of Iran fled the country in the wake of a popular uprising by supporters of a stern, Islamic cleric, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He had run his campaign for power in Tehran from exile in Paris, but when the people had had enough of the ailing shah, he returned triumphant. However, the ayatollah then instituted an extremely harsh theocracy, in which orthodox Islamic rules applied. During the past few years, the increasingly youthful population of the nation tired of the strict rules, as the economy continued to stagnate. In 1997, young voters joined with their by-now-disenchanted elders, to elect a moderate cleric, Mohammed Khatami, as president. But he has been hampered by the unelected, but almost totally powerful successor to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Ali Khameini. In last Friday's [2/18] elections, however, the reform movement scored an even more impressive victory, sending a clear majority of progressive, reform-minded candidates to parliament, to support the president. We begin our sampling in Paris, where the well-known French daily Liberation noted: VOICE: The Iranian reformists did not wait long after their victory to speak about a change in Iran's attitude toward the U-S. Reza Khatami, President Khatami's brother and a great winner of these elections, says that although the new parliament cannot have a direct role on the issue, "it can create a new atmosphere which can in turn help to eliminate tension..." Because relations with the U-S are a major domestic policy issue in Iran, Reza Khatami's remarks can be considered as a step forward in Iran's traditional position. TEXT: To Bavaria, in southern Germany, where Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung observes: VOICE: Germany and the other E-U [European Union] states are perceiving the Iranian elections as a true sign of change. During the first wave of optimism, business groups are out- doing each other with statements of respect for Iran's reformers, and they are jockeying for the best positions to gain access to the new market. ... [However,] terror and oppression still reign in Iran; people are still being executed and the simplest rights are being violated. Iran has not turned into a stronghold of freedom and democracy overnight. TEXT: From Germany's financial capital, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also sees the Iranian results as a positive step. VOICE: The election results give Iran the chance of opening up to the world and of changing its policies, which used to emphasize confrontation and the export of fundamentalism. The strengthening of reformers, however, is also an opportunity for the West to check its political stereotypes and fixations in the face of a less fundamentalist Iran. Even America may manage to overcome its reservations ... in light of new possibilities. TEXT: In Israel, for whose leaders Iran was long seen as an intractable foe and a supporter of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, the Tel Aviv daily Yediot Achronot is definitely pleased: VOICE: The elections ... have had an unexpected influence on the mood of the Arab world. The fact that fanatical "revolutionary" Islam has been rejected and defeated by almost the whole Iranian population has made extremist Islamic groups in other areas feel isolated and abandoned. ... The reformists' victory in Tehran is certainly the most positive event in the Muslim world. But it also has other, worrisome aspects -- similar to those which have accompanied the fall of communism to this very day. TEXT: Turning to Cairo's internationally-known daily al Ahram, we get an Egyptian perspective. VOICE: Iran is currently witnessing the most honest elections in the region. ... There is public consensus on change conveyed, not through bloody clashes and thuggery, but even more powerfully, through the ballot boxes. This revolution is empowered by the youth and veiled women. TEXT: In Israel's neighbor, Jordan, we read in the Amman daily Al-Ra'y: VOICE: The Iranian elections have finished safe and sound and the results are going to have a big effect on the future of the country and of the region. ... The Americans received the results of those elections with great joy and praised them as if they represented their own victory. But what is the future of the Iranian- American relations? Do the leaders in the White House think that they can control Iran and make it subordinate after what happened in the elections? I don't think so. TEXT: In Beirut, the pro-Syrian daily Ash-Sharq pondered the future of the Iranian-supported Hezbollah organization, condemned by Israel as a terrorist gang for its attacks in southern Lebanon. VOICE: There are three possibilities for a future relationship between Hezbollah and Iran: 1.) The relationship might not change at all. ... 2.) The relationship might be shaken because the reformers might reduce the ... authority [of Ali Khameini, Hezbollah's guide or counselor]. ... 3.) The relationship between Hezbollah and Iran might be restricted and pass through Lebanese government channels only. TEXT: From the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Bayan, in Dubai, writes: VOICE: There is no doubt that the recent elections in Iran are important not only to Iran but [also] in terms of Iran's regional and international relations. ... We sincerely hope the new developments in Iran will further foster relations between Iran and the G-C-C [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries and therefore solve all pending issues between them by peaceful means and build relations based on confidence and cooperation. TEXT: Quickly to New Delhi now, where The Times of India views the changes in Iran in the perspective of President Clinton's forthcoming trip to the region. VOICE: Even as President Clinton considers stopping over at Pakistan ... comes news of the Islamic Republic of Iran adopting democracy through the ballot box. ... The country that had often been denounced as an extremist state by successive U-S administrations has demonstrated its unimpeachable democratic and moderate credentials. ... Should [Mr.] Clinton go ahead and stop over in Pakistan, he will be doing so at the cost of moderate Islam. ... The right place for President Clinton to stop over, if he is serious in fighting religious fanaticism and terrorism, will be the democratic and reformist Iran, not Pakistan. TEXT: Finally, from North America, we get this very cautious, even skeptical Canadian view in this editorial from the National Post in Toronto: VOICE: ... It is already clear that a broad alliance sympathetic to President Khatami's policies has won control of Iran's parliament. ... But though Iran may be starting down the right path, the breathlessly optimistic tone that animates much of Western news reporting is overblown. ... Increased foreign investment and an overhaul of Iran's repressive system of import controls may, indirectly, lead to the normalization of foreign relations, greater internal liberalism and an end to Iran's sponsorship of terrorism. But such policies are not central to Mr. Khatami's program. And they have not happened yet. TEXT: On that note from our northern neighbor, we conclude this sampling of the world press on the recent reformist victory in Iran's parliamentary elections. NEB/ANG/WTW 24-Feb-2000 17:29 PM EDT (24-Feb-2000 2229 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .