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United Nations
The government continued to deny access to the U.N. special representative on Iran, Maurice Copithorne of Canada. In his report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April, Copithorne stated that “the situation is continuing to worsen...the new government must recognize the importanceand urgency of reversing the present trend.” He emphasized the high number of executions in the report, but acknowledged governmental efforts to ease censorship. A resolution passed by the commission in April expressed its concern that “human rights continue to be violated in Iran.”

A slightly different tone was struck by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who visited Tehran in March during a regional governmental human rights conference, which Human Rights Watch was denied permission to attend. Although her scheduled meeting with President Khatami was canceled, the high commissioner observed that she found “certain trends that are encouraging” and noted that “the debate about human rights is developing in Iran.”

European Union
The Iranian government dissociated itself from the reward offered by an Iranian foundation for the killing of the British novelist Salman Rushdie, clearing the way for the resumption of full diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.K. Despite continuing threats against the novelist from parliamentarians and conservative leaders, E.U. relations with Iran warmed throughout the year. E.U. ambassadors withdrawn in protest over the Mykonos restaurant killings in Germany (s ee Human Rights Watch World Report 1998) returned to Tehran in November 1997. In January, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that isolating Iran is not the right response because, “isolating Iran politically won’t help the advocates of change there... [and] isolating Iran economically won’t hit the target we want: Iran’s attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.” In February the E.U. abandoned its ban on ministerial level contacts with Iran. In announcing the resumption of official dialogue E.U. ministers called on the Iranian government to address concerns in a number of areas, including human rights and the situation of Salman Rushdie. Germany had special concerns about German national Helmut Hofer, condemned to death for illicit sexual relations with a Muslim woman. In July, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi became the highest level western official to visit Tehran in six years. European governments continued to object to U.S. law calling for sanctions against non-United States companies involved in sizeable investment activities in Iran. In May, overriding objections from some members of congress, the Clinton Administration waived sanctions against Total of France and two other energy companies which have invested in the capital starved Iranian energy sector, apparently wishing to avoid an open breach with the E.U. over the issue.

United States
While not reaching the levels of normalization achieved between Europe and the Iranian government, official U.S. rhetoric towards Iran also mellowed throughout the year, although sanctions prohibiting trade with Iran remained in place. The thrust of U.S. policy towards Iran did not emphasize human rights in Iran; rather Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its alleged sponsorship of international terrorism were cited as the primary U.S. concerns. U.S. leaders, including President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright, made public statements to invite the Iranian government to begin an official dialogue with the U.S. on issues of concern — a request the Iranian side declined to take up. The Congress was decidedly more hostile to Iran than the administration, appropriating funds intended to destabilise the Iranian government, and passing resolutions condemning Iran’s policies. In May, the State Department listed Iran among state’s sponsoring terrorism, including in its list of “terrorist acts” attacks on supporters of armed opposition groups living in northern Iraq. Nevertheless, the State Department also included the armed opposition group, the People’s Mojahedine Organization of Iran on its list of “terrorist organizations.”







Israel, The Occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority Territories

Saudi Arabia





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