Montazeri says U.S. ties possible
TEHRAN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A senior Iranian dissident cleric, in remarks
published on Saturday, called for Iran to study re-establishing ties with
the United States, saying the two countries' estrangement did not need
to be permanent.
``This issue should be studied by foreign policy experts...away from
factional considerations, and one should act resolutely if they conclude
that it is in the interest of the country to re-establish relations,''
the daily Khordad quoted Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri as saying.
``The late Imam (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) called America the 'Great
Satan' and generally rejected all ties with it, but it is obvious that
such a ruling is temporary and could change according to economic and political
conditions,'' Montazeri was quoted as saying in a newly published pamphlet.
Hostile ties between Tehran and Washington have thawed somewhat since
the 1997 election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami. But few political
figures in Iran have openly called for establishing ties with the United
Last year, Khatami called for increased people-to-people exchanges
to ease tensions. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled
out relations with Washington.
``If a bad record were the norm for cutting ties, Britain and Russia
have damaged Iran more in the past than America has. Therefore the norm
is the current situation of states and the world and the interests of our
revolution and system, not what happened in the past,'' Montazeri said.
Montazeri has lived under house arrest since late 1997, when he publicly
criticised Khamenei. The cleric has been Iran's leading dissident since
Khomeini removed him as his designated successor months before his death