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Not normal that we don't have a dialogue

October 21, 1999
Excerpt: State Department Briefing State Department
Deputy Spokesman James Foley briefed.

Following is an excerpt from the State Department transcript:

QUESTION: While we're talking about Indyk, and while Secretary Cohen is in the Gulf - well actually he's in Egypt today - but Indyk made a policy speech on Iran -- I guess last week - once again with a notion that there's a new stream of moderation on Iran, once again offering Iran a dialogue without preconditions. And I wondered if you had any sort of a substantive response from Iran - necessarily through other channels - if Iran has been heard from in some form or another in response to that offer?

FOLEY: I don't have anything to say about private diplomatic communications that may or may not have occurred.

QUESTION: Well, he made a public offer. It wasn't private. He made a public declaration that the US wants to talk to Iran.

FOLEY: I can only point you to the fact that Iranian officials themselves have not reacted positively to the speech. I think one official noted the fact that in our designation of terrorist organizations, that involving the name - I don't remember the name, but the sort of sister organization to the MEK here - was designated as a terrorist organization, and that was noted positively by an official in Iran.

But the other commentary that I saw about the speech was not welcoming. It sort of - those statements trotted out old Iranian positions: that the United States needs to take concrete steps in Iran's direction, needs to make amends and things of that nature - comments that don't really bespeak a willingness to engage in the official dialogue that we've offered. We have not conceived of the dialogue as a dialogue in which the concerns we have about Iranian policies, and the concerns they have about our positions are absent.

QUESTION: Oh, no, his speech made that clear.

FOLEY: On the contrary, we think Iran is a very important country and we have some very serious concern about a number of Iranian policies. We think it's not normal that we don't have a dialogue, and we don't have some kind of a relationship where there is none today. And we think that there is, as Secretary Albright indicated, a pathway towards a better relationship, and that dialogue - official dialogue - is the only avenue that's going to produce that.

But it takes two to have a dialogue, and they have been unwilling to undertake such a dialogue to the present time while, nevertheless, welcoming - and we have welcomed too - the prospect of people-to-people exchanges, in an effort to create a better environment for an eventual dialogue and improvement in relations.

QUESTION: Iranian officials said that Iran had shared some of the - I think it said some of the evidence that it has, allegedly, on these 13 Jewish Iranians who are standing trial for espionage, that some of that evidence was shared with the US after the US criticized this trial.

FOLEY: I am unaware of any such development. It has been our oft stated view that there is nothing to those charges, and that they ought to be dropped, and that has not changed.

Going back to the Seeds of Peace, I can confirm what two different rival press organizations have indicated, that - friendly rivals - that the Seeds of Peace will formally dedicate and open its new international center in Jerusalem on October the 27th.

QUESTION: Did you ever get any cooperation with the Iranians on the President's offer in helping tracking down the people who bombed the Khobar Towers? There was a message that was sent last month and --

FOLEY: Well, I think what we said at the time - this hasn't changed - is that the Iranians have indicated, publicly, that their position is that they had nothing to do with the Khobar bombing, and that they're not - I think they've indicated publicly they're not willing to cooperate on that. We don't have information to the contrary in terms of their cooperation.

Thank you.

(End excerpt)


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