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Former anti-Western firebrand calls for Iranian rapprochement with US

TEHRAN, May 4 (AFP) - Former parliamentary speaker and longtime anti-Western firebrand, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, has called on the Iranian government to adopt a policy of detente towards the United States, the Tehran press reported Tuesday.

"The best way of re-establishing ties with the United States is through detente," Karrubi told a student meeting.

"The question of re-establishing relations is not new, but it has come up more and more frequently since the death of Imam Khomeini (in June 1989)," the leading radical said.

"The imam thought that relations between Iran and the United States were similar to those between a sheep and a wolf. But today, although the United States may still be a wolf, Iran has turned into a lion," Karrubi said.

Mehdi Karrubi, 62, is secretary general of the Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC), a left-wing politico-religious group, which was influential during the heyday of radical policies under the late revolutionary leader.

His eviction as speaker of parliament in 1992 was interpreted as a sign that the "pragmatic" faction of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was gaining the upper hand within Iran's Islamic regime.

Today, the two factions -- moderate and radical leftist -- have allied to form a reformist coalition in support of President Mohammad Khatami against conservatives and hardliners.

In recent months, several radical and ex-radical political personalities have called for a rapprochment with the "Great Satan" angering conservatives.

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, disgraced former heir apparent to Khomeini, recently called for a rapprochement with the United States if the move proved to be "in Iran's interest."


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