US elections may change their relations
Jan 28, 2000, TEHRAN, Jan 28 (AFP) - Iranian-US contacts are on the
rise and upcoming elections in both countries may lead to a political dialogue,
and even the re-establishment of ties severed 20 years ago, analysts said
This month Iranian footballers have played a friendly against the United
States in Los Angeles, American wrestlers took part in an international
championship bout in Iran and US mountain climbers scaled 5,671-meter-high
(18,700-foot-high) Mount Damavand, considered the "roof of Iran."
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said Monday his country is "ready
to negotiate" an end to the 20-year break in its relations with the
United States but only "on the basis of mutual interest and equality."
However, Kharazi ruled out the possibility raised by Iranian economic
officials that Washington might be allowed to open a consulate in a free
zone on the Iranian Gulf island of Kish ahead of a full re-establishment
In December, Iran also rejected a proposal for a US consular section
US reaction to Kharazi's remarks was lukewarm, with State Department
spokesman James Rubin saying there was "nothing new" in them.
Another State Department source said: "The first step for developing
relations is for the two governments to engage (in) a dialogue on issues
of concern for each other."
Relations were broken off following the seizure as hostages of staff
at the US embassy here in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Washington continues to accuse Tehran of supporting terrorism.
Only about 150 Americans work in Iran, while 7,000 Iranian-Americans
live in the United States. But in the past few months, Iranians who went
west to study after the revolution have begun returning.
"What's new is that the Iranians no longer rule out holding discussions,"
a European diplomat told AFP as Kharazi left for Davos, Switzerland for
an economic forum that western leaders will attend.
"Iran and the United States have shifting relations. Nothing is
clear on either side," she said.
"There have been an increasing number of small signs recently of
more contacts. But these signs are indecipherable. Like a couple, they
will have to talk to each other, but there is nothing to show that this
will happen immediately or quickly. It will take time."
"In a few days, Iran will hold legislative elections. And in a
few months, the United States will have presidential elections. Inevitably,
change will be the result," the diplomat added.
But hardline conservatives have been swift to resurrect the "Great
Satan" image of Washington to counter the softer stance of the reformists
in the run-up to the February 18 elections.
A press report Thursday said that Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi,
ideologue of the religious right, charged Tuesday that the US Central Intelligence
Agency had infiltrated the pro-reform government, and bribed journalists
and cultural officials.
He echoed the recent denunciation by the head of the elite Revolutionary
Guards, General Rahim Safavi, of the "servants and agents of America
who infiltrate the centres of cultural, economic and scientific decisions."
The pro-reform forces also oppose the immediate mending of ties with
Washington, insisting that people-to-people contacts must come first along
with greater openness in Iranian society.
On Thursday, two American climbers who ascended Mount Damavand as part
of a group of more than 200 Iranian and foreign alpinists said they wished
to see better US-Iranian ties.
Pascual Scattro said: "We shook hands on Everest in 1998, you know.
The Iranians are very sweet and I love them." "For relations
with the US, hopefully, it will get better," he added.
His comrade, Donald Beavon, said: "The Americans have a wrong perception
of Iran. It's a very clean, familiar and agreeable country. Sports are
a good opportunity. We ... climbers are a big family."