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November 2002
5763 Kislev

HOW ISRAELI RADIO MET PRESIDENT OF IRAN
EDUARD DOKS
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How we muffed the chance
To put our man in Shah's place
Our descendants will never forgive
us for this (song)
V. Vysotsky

Edward Doks is an accredited correspondent of "Kol Israel" radio in Ukraine.

There was an official visit of President of Iran Hattami to Kiev on October 15-16, 2002. Frankly speaking, I didn't believe from the very beginning that I would be accredited as an Israeli reporter to cover the visit of such an unfriendly to Israel political leader. (For example, when Pope visited Babiy Yar in the summer of 2001, Vatican insisted upon not allowing Israeli diplomats to be present at the ceremony). So, the news of my accreditation was a pleasant surprise and, at the same time, a miracle to me.

On my way to the joint press-conference of the Presidents of Ukraine and Iran I cherished the idea that this meeting would throw light on the fate of Ron Arad and other war prisoners captured by "Hezbollah". I was also thinking to ask a question about the circumstances under which Iran could use long-range missiles "Shiab-3" that are being developed in this country as " a shield against Israel".

However, about 100 correspondents present at the conference were disappointed.

The matter is that Mr. Kuchma's press secretary Alyona Gromnitska allowed to ask only two questions. The honour was given to the Ukrainian channel "Inter" and Iranian national TV. When answering the question about the Iraqi crisis, Hattami also touched the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said: "Historical events are taking place in the Middle East now. The whole nation is under suppression and violence. The Israeli regime overuses circumstances to impose pressure on the whole nation. All countries of the world should do their best to establish peace in the Middle East. I think it is quite possible. Peace will come when the rights of the suppressed people are recognized". It was just the time when I wanted to ask the leader of the Islamic Republic why "Hezbollah", supported by Iran, continues to attack the northern borders of Israel despite the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops from the southern parts of Lebanon in May 2000.

However, as it was said before, the conference was strictly regulated and restricted. Consoling was only the fact that "Kol Israel" was not the only one to be deprived of the right to ask questions. "Reuter" and many other agencies were found in the same position.

The Iranian President's statement that the peace in the region was possible could be considered as an unprecedented and positive gesture towards Israel since the times of the Islamic revolution if it were not for some other facts worth mentioning. Journalists were given a press-release in which it was written in black and white that Iran doesn't recognize the State of Israel, but supports the creation of the independent Palestinian state, thus rejecting the idea of peaceful solution of the Middle East crisis.

The second fact that emphasizes the invalidity of Iran's peaceful intentions towards Israel and spreads doubts about Iran's readiness for the dialogue of civilizations (Iran's proposal in the UN) is a categorical refusal of the delegation members to communicate with an Israeli journalist.

On the second day of the visit the Iranian delegation headed by President Hattami went to see the Kiev - Pechersk Lavra. The car that brought me to the place stopped right in front of the main entrance. There already were some policemen and TV cameramen. No search, no checking of journalist documents, as it was the day before. I joined a group of people waiting for the arrival of President of Iran. Soon the cortege arrived. President of Iran in his usual oriental clothes exchanged greetings with the receiving party through an interpreter who looked like a Jew from an anti-Semitic caricature.

The visit to the Lavra began. I asked a representative from the press-service of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs how I could exchange some words with any of Iranian officials. He advised me not to do so because it was not "the delegation that likes to communicate with press media". "But what if I still try?" - I insisted. "I do not recommend it", - my interlocutor advised in a friendly way hinting at such attempts' being sharply cut short by the security service.

Realizing I will, probably, not have another such opportunity I dared to start a talk with a guy of oriental looks. He appeared to work in the Iranian embassy and to wonderfully speak "great and mighty". "I am a journalist and much eager to talk to a delegation member", - I told him. "No problem, - he answered, - I'll only settle this with the protocol service". "Just a moment, wouldn't you like to know whom I represent?" - I asked (damned pathological love for truth).

- "And whom do you represent?"

- "Israeli radio..."

- No problem", - my interlocutor got not at all surprised as if he had daily communicated with tens of Israeli journalists. He approached a huge dark-complexioned Iranian (to all appearances, he heads the abovementioned service). I am not a big expert in Farsi but by indignant and astonishing intonations I well understood my request was absolutely inappropriate and God protect me to talk to anybody from the delegation. The young man returned to me and interpreted a protocol fountain of emotions into a laconic "no".

I had no other choice as to leave the preserve with the feeling of anger and self-respect...

Such was the end of another attempt to find out something about the fate of Israeli war prisoners. As well as about the missiles "Shiab -3", reasons of financing "Hezbollah" and, most important, why Iran doesn't recognize the State of Israel and rejects an idea of peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

P. S. I am still curious what would have happened should I had introduced myself as a correspondent of Ukrainian newspaper...

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