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    US concerned over Iran legislation

U.S. State Department briefing
August 7, 2000

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, sort of -- as of, I think, it would have been this morning, maybe yesterday, that we checked. Yeah?

Q In Iran yesterday, the spiritual leader there, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, cut off all debate of a press freedom bill in the parliament, resulting in, I understand, a fracas on the floor there. Has the State Department considered or started reconsidering its recent policies with regards to sanctions in Iran? And at this point, do you have any reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think our reaction is to reiterate what we've made clear on many occasions, that we do have very serious concerns about freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Iran. We would expect the government of Iran to uphold the International Human Rights Standards, including the right to freedom of expression.

In terms of the limited measures that we have taken to improve our relationship with the Iranian people, to allow a few avenues of people-to-people expression to occur, no, I don't think this affects that. We have a number of issues that we wish to raise, though, in a direct dialogue with the government of Iran, and that has not begun at this point.

Q If the reformers who are elected can't pass the laws that they'd like to pass, I mean, how -- what does that election end up, ultimately, meaning?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question one could write a master's thesis about. I think we have noted the process of change. There certainly has been some change, some tremendous domestic change, in Iran. As we all have seen, the process is not smooth, has not been smooth, and probably won't be smooth, so we'll watch this closely as we go forward and, as I said, we look to have an opportunity to address some of the issues that we have concerns about, to address those directly with the government of Iran.

Q Maybe I missed this in your answer to the initial question, but are you concerned at all that the debate was cut off and then was followed today by the arrest of another opposition editor? (Off mike.) MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've been concerned about a lot of these events, and I think what I made clear is that we have serious concerns about freedom of expression that's -- (inaudible).

Q Yeah, but do you have serious concern about people cutting off parliamentary debate --

MR. BOUCHER: This is part of the whole picture -- the law to protect freedom of the press and the debate being cut off and the arrests. These things lead to serious concerns on our part.


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