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Iran imports U.S. medicine to treat its hemophiliacs

BY: Barbara Slavin
May 4, 2000

WASHINGTON -- As the Clinton administration moves to ease restrictions on importing certain Iranian products, Iran has purchased $ 2 million in U.S. medicine to treat hemophilia.

Richard Bliss, a Washington attorney who was a consultant on the deal, says two officials from Iran's blood transfusion organization visited the USA in March and paid courtesy calls on the National Institutes of Health, the Red Cross and a blood-bank association.

The officials signed a deal for10 million units of the medicine, a blood product known as "factor 8." It is made by Bayer, which is based in Pittsburgh. The medicine has arrived in Iran for distribution.

According to Bayer, 80% of the world's hemophiliacs do not receive adequate treatment.

Iran's government says it provides treatment for all 4,000 hemophiliacs in the country, but it has a minimal capacity to produce the blood product, which is necessary to stem internal bleeding.

Bliss, who is also hoping to facilitate Iran's purchase of up to half a billion dollars of U.S. grain, says he expects Iran to buy other blood products and possibly vaccines. "This is a test case," he says.

Iran has been legally able to purchase U.S. medicine and medical equipment since last year, when the Clinton administration lifted a ban on their sale and on the export of U.S. grain to countries on the State Department's list of sponsors of terrorism. However, Iran has held off from significant purchases. It has insisted that the United States take reciprocal steps by easing a 13-year-old ban on American purchases of Iranian goods. On March 17, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced Americans would be allowed to buy Iranian carpets, caviar and pistachios.

In a wide-ranging speech, she praised the overwhelming victory by reformers in Iran's parliamentary elections in February, apologized for certain U.S. policies toward Iran and urged Iran to "join in writing a new chapter in our shared history."

Iran has yet to respond to Albright's statement in an authoritative way.

In the past few weeks, the country of 70 million has been torn by internal political divisions between those who favor a more liberal society and conservatives who dominate many institutions of state control. Sixteen liberal newspapers have been closed, in part to try to prevent reformers from winning more seats in elections Friday in undecided constituencies.

Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, says a response to the new U.S. overtures is unlikely until the new Iranian parliament meets at the end of this month.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 after revolutionaries seized hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.


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