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U.S. Policy Stance Surprises Iran
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posted July 12, 2001 10:30
NEW YORK (AP) Jul. 10 - Iran has been surprised by the tone so far of the Bush administration and hopes the United States will change its policy to take more ``positive'' steps toward Iran, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was on his first visit to the United States since pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami was re-elected in a June landslide. Some Iranian reformists said a big Khatami win would bring a renewed push for improving relations between the United States and Iran.
At the same time, Iranian officials had hoped Bush - with ties to U.S. oil companies - would end sanctions restricting American companies' investment in Iran.
But last month, Congress voted to extend sanctions for five years. Tehran was also angered by U.S. statements blaming Iranian officials in the 1996 bombing of an American military barracks in Saudi Arabia.
``We were certainly surprised because everyone was expecting the administration when it came to office to make a change ... in a positive way,'' Kharrazi said during a speech at Colombia University.
He said Congress' extension of sanctions was a ``negative symbol'' and that the Bush administration could have worked ``more seriously to change the law.''
``The desire in the United States' private sector to do business in Iran is a concrete reality that cannot be ignored,'' Kharrazi said.
``We are waiting for the review of the policy of the United States toward Iran, something the administration is engaged in. Therefore until we hear something positive ... we have to wait,'' he said.
The Bush administration has also cooled on former President Clinton's attempts to open dialogue with Iran. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the offer of dialogue with Iran was off the table. The United States has demanded Iran stop alleged support for terrorism before it can take any further steps.
Khatami has advocated improving relations with the United States, which were severed after militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. But he had rejected Clinton's offer of direct dialogue, seeking instead increased cultural exchanges.
All times are PT (US)
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