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Reformist Iranian newspaper says Iran-US ties "inevitable"

TEHRAN, April 18 (AFP) - An Iranian reformist newspaper said Tuesday that diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States were inevitable, in an unprecedented front page commentary.

The English-language Iran News, which is much read by foreign diplomats and other expatriates, said both sides needed to renew ties broken off in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution, for political, geographical and economic reasons.

"Iran's strategic position in the region is not a matter that can be ignored by Washington," the paper said.

The daily noted that following the election of pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami in 1997 and the adoption of a policy of detente, "tough competition has started between European states to approach Iran."

"Such a fervor has now spread to Washington, which cannot endure the empty place of Tehran in its foreign perspective," the paper said.

"Thanks to its geographical situation, Iran can play a very important political, cultural and economic role in the Middle East and Central Asia," it added. "Washington is trying to benefit from Iran'strategic location."

Finally, "Despite its many capabilities, Iran needs US technology, industry, and capital in its oil, petrochemical and other industries. A remarkable superiority of American companies versus European rivals is their immense capital, their ability to transact in cash, and lower cost of operation".

Washington broke off diplomatic relations in the wake of the seizure of staff at its embassy as hostages by revolutionary students, and has also imposed unilateral economic sanctions against Iran, which it accuses of supporting international terrorism.

The embargo was recently eased following the victory of reformists in the February parliamentary elections, and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted Washington had made mistakes in its policy on Iran.

But conservatives headed by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continue to oppose dialogue with the power still viewed by many as the Great Satan.

The outspoken editorial in Iran News came the day after Iran's outgoing conservative parliament approved a series of tough new measures aimed at the increasingly bold reformist press.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards, a pillar of the Islamic regime under the direct command of Khamenei, also issued a dark warning this week to the press, accusing newspapers, editors and even politicians of defending "US-style" reforms in Iran.

The Guards accused papers of writing articles "along the lines of foreign demands" and "attacking the values of the revolution."


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