DUBAI Nov 19 Iran's state news agency dismissed
a series of reports by Reuters about a multi-billion dollar
organisation controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as
"disinformation" intended to undermine public trust in the
Islamic Republic's institutions.
Last week, Reuters published a three-part series entitled
Assets of the Ayatollah (www.reuters.com/investigates/iran/)
detailing how the organisation, called Setad Ejraiye Farmane
Hazrate Emam, has become one of the most powerful institutions
in Iran through the systematic seizure and sale of thousands of
properties belonging to ordinary Iranians.
Setad's total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the
secrecy of its accounts. But its holdings of real estate,
corporate stakes in a variety of industries and other assets
total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. Through Setad,
Khamenei has at his disposal financial resources whose value
rivals the holdings of the shah, the Western-backed monarch who
was overthrown in 1979.
In an editorial, state news agency IRNA said the aim of the
series was to tarnish the image of the institutions and
undermine "the pillars of the Islamic Revolution".
"The goal of releasing such false reports about Setad... is
creating doubt among the people about it and destroying people's
trust in the popular institutions which serve the Islamic
Republic," the editorial, published on Monday, said.
"In its report, Reuters used an old tactic which is telling
partial truth and strives to present Setad - an important and
charitable institution - to its audience in the way that it
wants," the editorial stated.
Barb Burg, a Reuters spokesperson, said the news agency
stands by the accuracy and fairness of its articles. Its
estimate of Setad's net worth was based on an analysis of
statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock
Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S.
A spokesman for Setad did not immediately respond to an
emailed request for comment.
While critical of Reuters investigation, the IRNA text did
not address Reuters key findings, namely the confiscation of
property or Setad's stakes in nearly every sector of the Iranian
economy, including finance, oil, telecommunications and
Instead the editorial, published in both Persian and
English, said Setad played a crucial role in eliminating poverty
in underdeveloped areas and in reducing the harsh effects of
economic sanctions on Iran.
The Reuters series reported that Setad oversees a charitable
foundation, and that one of its officials said in April that it
had spent $1.6 billion in the past five years on development
projects. But the articles said Setad's claims about its
charity spending are impossible to verify because its accounts
are not publicly available.
The IRNA editorial stated that "Setad has also had an
effective role in decreasing the inhumane effects of sanctions
imposed on the nation ... a move that provoked the Western media
to launch a disinformation campaign against it by using baseless
and false information."
Iran is subject to a range of stringent economic sanctions,
imposed as a result of its nuclear programme, that have hobbled
its oil-based economy.
Iran and the six world powers are due to meet on Wednesday
in Geneva to try to broker an end to the 10-year dispute over
its nuclear activities, which Western nations fear are aimed at
developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Tehran maintains its activities are purely peaceful.
(Editing by William Maclean and Simon Robinson)