Number 3265 - Sun, Nov 09, 2008 - Aban 19 1387- Ziqada 10 1429

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Published by Iran Cultural And Press Institute

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Gov’t Supports
Tourism Promotion
57 Nations at Investment Confab
By Sadeq Dehqan

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday his administration is among supporters of the tourism industry.
Addressing the Second International Conference on Investment Opportunities in the Tourism Industry, he said the Islamic Republic welcomes tourists and related activities.
Tourism is not limited to economic and trade issues, rather it is an effective instrument in helping provide durable security, he said.
Underlining the importance of the key sector in the globalized world, he called for addressing obstacles to the local tourism industry.
He referred to tourism as a “valuable, essential, and creative cultural industry.“
The Islamic Republic as a harbinger of progress, peace, and security for all nations, strongly supports investment in and promotion of tourism, he added.
Referring to Iran’s huge tourism potential, the president stressed that such valuable cultural trait belongs to all the peoples of the world.
Ahmadinejad noted that Iran welcomes all tourists and investors.
“We believe that the legacy manifested in Iran today belongs to the human race. Tourism industry should not only be supported from the economic point of view, but it should also be supported from the cultural perspective.
Expanding tourism is significant, in that it helps expansion of human interaction, and those working in the tourism sector are more cultural-oriented than economic-oriented.“
The two-day meeting opened on Saturday morning.
Some 500 companies from 57 countries including the UK, Germany, France, India, Italy, Japan, Bulgaria, UAE, Kuwait, Indonesia, South Korea and the United States, plus 20 delegations from the World Tourism Organization are in attendance.
Ahmadinjad has been a strong proponent of people-to-people contacts among the comity of nations and during most of his international tours called on the peoples of the host countries and their press corps to visit Iran and get acquainted with Iranian culture, civilization and hospitality at close range.
Economic experts and social scientists have called on the relevant authorities to expand the playing field and give more voice and space to the private sector in promoting tourism and by extension Iran’s unique natural attractions.
Religious tourism has improved significantly over the past two decades as increasing number of Muslims from across continents visit Iran and its mausoleums in the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom.

$30b Needed
Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Esfandiyar Rahim-Mashaei, addressed the meeting and said $30 billion should be invested to promote the tourism sector.
“From this amount the government should come up with $5 billion to help procure infrastructure, and the remaining $25 billion should come from the private sector,“ he added.
The ICHHTO chief who doubles as vice president said Iran has been wrongly classified as unsafe and the world is not fully informed about the vast potential and capacities of the nation.
“We have no need to exaggerate anything about our country. Suffice to say that the free peoples of the world know Iran as it is. Moreover, we have no problem in issuing visas.
Issuing visas through the Internet has ended the negative attitude and prejudices against Iran to a great extent,“ he noted.
Governor of Central bank of Iran (CBI) Mohammad Ali Bahmani recalled that the CBI is considering establishment of a tourism bank as requested by the ICHHTO.
“Expansion of tourism is indicative of sustainable security in the country.“
He recalled that in the Fourth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2005-2010) the average growth rate of tourism is projected as 30 percent.
Deputy head of ICHHTO for investments, Mehdi Jahangiri said his organization is working to pave the way for more investments in tourism in collaboration with relevant provincial bodies.
“Domestic and foreign investors are aware of the value added and suitable recovery rate of tourism projects. They know that Iran possesses vast potential in terms of cultural heritage and religious/historical considerations, and can play a crucial role in promoting tourism based on global standards and 1.2 million plus historical sites,“ he said.

Zardari Thanks Iran
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari (l) in talks with Iran's
ambassador to Islamabad, Mashallah Shakeri, on Saturday
(See Page National)

Opportunities Missed in Sudan
Reza Ameri
By Davood Baqeri

Iran’s ambassador to Khartoum, Reza Ameri is an expert on Sudan and African affairs. He has been in Khartoum for almost nine years -- four years as ambassador. In an interview with Iran Daily in the Sudanese capital he talked about his work and the opportunities Iran missed in that country and did not utilize effectively.
Excerpts follow:

Iran Daily: What is the quality of Iran-Sudan ties? Are there any constraints in the way of bilateral cooperation?
Ameri: We should categorize relations into two parts, namely ties with the people of this country and interaction with the government. I must say that bonds are very good and Sudanese people cannot distance themselves from Iran due to their religious beliefs. The people here are like the freedom-seeking masses in other countries, and whenever their president speaks out against global arrogance it has a very positive feedback.
Regarding ties with the Sudanese government, it should be noted that if Iran does move fast and does not draw on the prevailing conditions, the golden opportunity will be missed. I believe we have lost opportunities in the past. For instance we lost opportunities in relation to cooperation in the oil sector. When Sudan started to exploit oil in the late 1990s, it discussed cooperation with Iran, but since Iran then had limited ties to other countries in the oil sector, and since it was preoccupied with exploiting oil at home, it could not collaborate with Sudan.
Hence, Sudan was compelled to cooperate with China, India and Malaysia.
Now Sudan has proposed cooperation with Iran in developing its oil fields. The Iranian company Petropars has studied the offer and come to the conclusion that the fields are not economically feasible. The company is willing to invest in the oil fields only in collaboration with another foreign country.
Development of oil fields in north and south of Sudan has been assigned to foreign firms and there is little room for Iranian companies to step in.

Could you elaborate where the problem lies when it comes to meaningful economic collaboration?
Sudan owes Iran $180 million not including charges for delays in repayment This is among the hurdles to Iran’s active role in Sudanese projects. Sudan wants Iran to overlook the extra charges (incurred for the delay), which are quite high. Of course, in the past it was proposed that instead of repaying its debt, Sudan provide the Iranian side with land ownership or other assets. But since the decision on the issue was not made on time, this opportunity too was lost.

Is Iran worried about change of government in Khartoum?
Let me say that Iran has very good relations with Sudan’s ruling party and the incumbent government. We have no worry regarding the stability of the government and believe it will continue without facing any problem. Of course, the 2009 presidential election here will be decisive. The government has a high chance of retaining power given its popular support base and the development projects it has implemented.
In what area(s) do you think ties could be affected negatively?
What I’m worried about and have conveyed the same to Tehran of is that at times the expectations that Sudan has from us exceeds our economic ability. There are many projects in which Iranian companies can participate in and invest. But the projects are huge and beyond the economic might of our companies. For example, Sudan has proposed that we invest in several agro, industrial and road construction projects worth a few hundred million dollars. But given the problem that we encountered in the repayment of Sudan’s previous debt to us, it is difficult to enter new ventures. The past debt has overshadowed our future cooperation.
We are doing our best to differentiate new cooperation prospects from the debt dilemma. Iran provides Sudan $200 million in hard currency credit every year. This is hardly impressive. Currently, we have a water purification project in Sudan the contract for which has been finalized with a private Iranian company and is worth 70 million euros. A portion of the 200 million dollar credit goes for the defense sector and little amount remains for other deals.

Has Khartoum done anything to improve the situation?
In some cases the Sudanese side provides guarantees for capital returns that are not acceptable to Iran. For example, they say that in some projects a particular bank provide the necessary guarantees, but the Iranian side does not agree. Iran holds the opinion that Sudan’s Central Bank underwrite the investments. This is while the central bank says it does not offer guarantees for private enterprise and only guarantees state projects. This is a major problem for which we are trying to find a solution.

How is the two-way cooperation on the international level?
The two countries have perpetually supported each other in various international forums. Sudan supported Iran’s membership bid in the UN Security Council. At times when Sudan had problems with other Arab countries Iran helped it to settle the problem and move forward. Last year Sudan was the rotating chairman of the Arab league and contributed significantly to interaction between Iran and the Arab states.

Afghan Governor, 30 Taliban Killed
Afghan government and international military officials said Saturday that Taliban insurgents had gunned down a district governor overnight and about 30 militants had been killed in various clashes.
Two men delivering voter registration materials for presidential elections due next year were meanwhile missing for a second day and believed kidnapped, the Independent Election Commission said.
Militants ambushed the governor of Taywara district in the remote central province of Ghor late Friday as he was driving to the provincial capital, police said.
“The district governor was killed and his driver was wounded,“ Ghor police chief Shah Jahan Noori told AFP.
He blamed the attack on Taliban militants who have increased their attacks against Afghan government and non-governmental organizations to a new high since they were ousted from power in late 2001.
Separately, the government of Ghazni province said that 20 militants were killed on Friday in an operation involving Afghan and international troops.
The bodies of the dead had been left at the scene of the fighting in Ab Band district, provincial government spokesman Ismail Jahangir said.
The US-led coalition helping the government to put down a Taliban-led insurgency also announced that its forces had killed 10 militants and detained 13 in operations Friday against “terrorist networks“ in eastern Afghanistan.
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