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US wary of Iranian president's visit to Italy

WASHINGTON, March 11 (AFP) - The United States expressed worry Thursday that Iran might try to use its president's visit to Italy to promote its international trade.

"We believe Iran should not enjoy the benefits of normal international commerical relations until it ceases activities that violate international norms," a State Department official said.

The official, noting that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was ending his landmark visit to Italy later Thursday after meetings with Pope John Paul II and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, said Washington and Rome were in agreement over policy toward Tehran.

"The United States and Italy agree on the need for Iran to change its policies regarding support for terrorism, development of missiles of mass destruction and the need to improve Iran's human rights record," the official said.

Khatami's visit, the first by an Iranian leader to western Europe since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was met by protests from Iranian opposition groups.

However, Khatami -- seen by many in the West as a moderate -- spoke out after his meeting with D'Alema in favor of worldwide democracy worldwide and an end to terrorism.

On Thursday Khatami called for dialogue with the United States "on equal terms," in an interview published in the Italian daily Republicca.

"In the field of sport and culture we have had numerous exchanges with the United States but as far as inter-government relations are concerned, we shall never submit to force," said Khatami.

He called for Washington to "carry out an in-depth review of their attitude and make a fresh start for a healthy relationship with today's world, a free world which wants its independence and its autonomy."


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