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Khatami Takes Issue With West

October 28, 1999

PARIS (AP) _ Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, in a jab at the United States, compared globalization to colonialism and said Thursday that it was a destructive force threatening dialogue between cultures.

In a brief speech at the Pantheon, where the great figures of France are entombed, Khatami said this dialogue should be based on ``respect for equality.″

``The new world order and globalization that certain powers are trying to make us accept ... in which the culture of the entire world is ignored, looks like a kind of neocolonialism,″ he said. ``This imperialism threatens mutual understanding between nations, and communication and dialogue between cultures.″

Meanwhile, Israel’s education minister added his voice to calls for the freeing of 13 Iranian Jews imprisoned since March as alleged spies.

Yossi Sarid, addressing the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, called the spying charges against the group ``totally baseless.″

French President Jacques Chirac met at length with Khatami on Wednesday and asked for an ``equitable examination″ of the case of the arrested Iranian Jews, according to the presidency.

The first Iranian leader to visit France since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Khatami was forced to delay a Thursday speech at UNESCO because of concerns about his safety. UNESCO later announced that Khatami would address its general conference on Friday morning.

Khatami has spent most of his time at France’s tightly guarded official guest residence around the corner from the Elysee Palace.

France has stepped up security during the three-day visit that ends Friday, carrying out raids Wednesday on residences housing members of Iran’s largest opposition group and reinstituting border controls done away with in Europe’s Schengen accords.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, the opposition group with an army in Iraq, hit Khatami’s car with paint-filled eggs Wednesday, according to media reports that said 20 Iranians were later arrested. About 40 Iranian opponents, mainly members of the Mujahedeen, were temporarily detained in raids earlier in the day.

The speech to UNESCO was seen as an opportunity for the moderate Iranian leader to define publicly where his nation was headed, and hint at how far he could go in implementing his goal of dialogue rather than confrontation with the West.

Khatami is in a power struggle with Iranian hard-liners, forced to tread carefully on this trip. The stakes have been raised with legislative elections set for February and growing repression in Iran against intellectuals and journalists.

On Wednesday, the French firm Alstom said it would provide $201 million worth of diesel-electric locomotives to Iran, and on Thursday, Iranian Transport Minister Mohammad Hojjati told Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency that Iran was ordering four European Airbus planes, an agreement worth $480 million, with delivery to start in 2001.

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