Iran Paper Breaks Taboo by Printing Picture of U.S.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An Iranian newspaper broke a taboo by printing
a color picture of the U.S. flag on its front page today, underscoring
growing calls within the country to end more than 20 years of estrangement
between the former allies. Related photo
The daily Hammihan, which often endeavors to project the viewpoints
of both the hard-liners and reformers inside the Islamic government, carried
pictures of the U.S. and Iranian flags above an editorial entitled, "Iran-U.S.
ties: dark and bright aspects."
It was the first time in more than 20 years that the U.S. flag, which
the hard-line clergy has portrayed as a symbol of hatred since the 1979
Islamic revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed shah, was published with
respect in a mainstream Iranian daily.
"Political activists, politicians and party leaders in Iran do
not seriously oppose resumption of ties with the United States," the
editorial said. What divided politicians, it said, was how far Iran should
go to re-establish ties.
Earlier this month, the United States eased sanctions on some Iranian
goods and called on Tehran to help start a new relationship. Washington
severed ties with Tehran after militants loyal to the new revolutionary
government stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans
hostage for 444 days.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's call on March 17 for a better
relationship has provoked a mixed response in Iran.
Reform lawmakers, and newspapers that back the moderate President Mohammad
Khatami, have welcomed the U.S. gesture. But hard-liners, including Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have slammed it as "deceitful."
Hammihan said that American leaders were similarly divided because they
appeared to favor ties, but were unsure about the terms.
The U.S. flag was displayed with respect rather than revulsion for the
first time during a 1998 visit to Iran by a group of U.S. wrestlers.
Although there is no written rule, prior to Khatami's 1997 election
printing the U.S. flag in a respectful manner could have led to the permanent
closure of a newspaper and heavy fines for its editors.