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Iranian president welcomes conciliatory Clinton remarks

DOHA, May 23 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami welcomed as "courageous" on Sunday recent conciliatory remarks by US President Bill Clinton but called on him to back up his words with deeds.

"I think that the point of view expressed by Mr. Clinton was courageous, without knowing to what extent he was convinced of what he was saying or whether it was just a tactic," Khatami said in an interview with the Qatari satellite television channel Al-Jazira.

The reformist Iranian president, added, however, that "this personal opinion (of Clinton) cannot easily change the traditional policies of the United States towards Iran, the Middle East or the Islamic world.

"If this was a signal of a change in US policy, and if behavior really changes on the ground, then this could serve as a basis and we could see a new type of international relationship between the West and the Islamic world, the West and the United States and Iran, and Iran and the United States," he said.

"But this must be proved in practical terms and for the moment we are seeing the opposite," Khatami said.

Clinton made an unusual overture towards the Islamic Republic last month, when he said that "Iran, because of its enormous geopolitical importance over time, has been the subject of quite a lot of abuse from various Western nations."

The United States also moved in April to ease trade sanctions on food and medicine sales to the Islamic Republic.

Khatami said "the current behavior of the United States towards Iran and others is not fair" and that the United States was "reserving the right to say anything it wants and have others obey."

"This type of relationship ... must change," said Khatami, who marked the second anniversary on Sunday of his May 1997 landslide presidential election victory.

Tehran and Washington broke off diplomatic ties after Iranian students seized hostages at the US embassy in Tehran shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the United States imposed a unilateral economic embargo on the Islamic republic in 1995.

In a reference to the presence of US military forces in Gulf states, Khatami also reiterated that the Gulf countries did not need the presence of foreign forces to ensure their security.

He also said that a dispute with the United Arab Emirates over three islands in the Gulf could only be settled through dialogue and called on the UAE to "show its good intentions."

The UAE disputes Iran's claims to the three small Gulf islands, and has demanded that the issue be submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.


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