Khatami Seeks More Than Words
By William Drozdiak
July 12, 2000
BERLIN - The Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami, said Tuesday he recognized
that a ''new turn'' had taken place in his country's relations with the
United States, but he urged the Clinton administration to take more ambitious
initiatives in pursuing a reconciliation with Tehran.
Making the first visit to Germany since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution,
Mr. Khatami used the occasion to implore the United States to follow up
its recent acknowledgment about mistaken policies in the past with a bolder
shift toward practical steps that could improve relations in the future.
Mr. Khatami's comments, expressed during an interview with German television
during a three-day state visit to one of America's closest allies, were
the most explicit appeal for improved relations with Washington that he
has made since being elected three years ago, diplomats said.
He praised Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's speech in February,
in which she called for a reversal in more than two decades of hostility
between Washington and Tehran, as a promising approach that deserved a
more convincing follow-up. But he lamented that ''no concrete steps'' have
been taken apart from a relaxation of a previous ban on Iran's exports
of carpets and pistachios.
During that speech, Mrs. Albright stopped short of a public apology
but admitted the United States had created a climate of mistrust with Tehran
through its role in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's prime minister, its long-standing
support for the dictatorial shah, and its tilt toward Iraq during the seven-year
war with Iran.
''If the United States now lets this admission be followed by deeds,
and tries through practical politics to make amends for the past, then
we can expect our two countries to enjoy good relations,'' Mr. Khatami
said. ''One knows where the problems are, but the key to solving them lies
solely in the hands of the United States.''
Mr. Khatami expressed his ''abiding respect for the American people''
and said he hoped the United States, as well as Germany and other European
allies, would show patience as Iran engaged in ''a new experience with
democracy that is also connected to the spiritual and moral traditions
of its society.''
Referring to the hard-line revolutionaries at home and opponents in
exile who have staged protests against his visit in Germany, Mr. Khatami
said it was natural that there should be opposition ''at home and abroad''
but that neither democracy, history or human rights could be judged on
a one dimensional basis.
''Every people has the right to its own understanding of human rights
on the basis of its own culture and its own history,'' he said.
Mr. Khatami's visit, following trips last year to France and Italy,
has provided a significant boost to commercial exchanges between Iran and
its biggest trading partner in the West.
The German engineering firm Linde was awarded a $340 million contract
to build a new petrochemicals plant after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
announced that his government would boost export credits to Iran five-fold
to $500 million
Mr. Khatami winds up his trip to Germany with a stop Wednesday in the
cultural capital of Weimar, where he will unveil a monument to Hafez, the
14th century Persian poet who was greatly admired by Germany's most famous
classical poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.