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July 2000, Week 3
|U.S. Unmoved by Khatami Call for Warmer Ties||July 15|
|Khatami Urges Free Speech, Warns of Explosion||July 14|
|Khatami Urges USA to Take next Step to Boost Ties||July 14|
U.S. Unmoved by Khatami Call for Warmer Ties
THURMONT, Md. (Reuters) - The United States Tuesday responded cautiously to a call by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that it should take the next step in improving relations, saying it was still open to dialogue but it did not expect a quick renewal of ties.
"We don't see anything has changed at this point," a State Department official said when asked to respond to Khatami's comments during the first visit by an Iranian leader to Germany in 33 years that Washington held the key to resolving their differences. |
The United States, which cut ties with Iran two decades ago after its Islamic revolution, has encouraged greater informal contact with contemporary Iran under reformist Khatami. But Washington's initial enthusiasm has dampened as Tehran continues to rebuff U.S. overtures for official contact leading toward improved relations.
The recent conviction of 10 Iranian Jews and two Muslims on charges of spying for Israel, condemned by President Clinton, further stunted overtures toward warmer ties including a decision to open U.S. markets to Iranian carpets and other traditional exports earlier this year. The State Department official, speaking at the press center in the town of Thurmont set up to cover Middle East peace talks, made clear the cautious U.S. stance had not changed.
"Given the number of years that we have had these differences, we are under no illusions that decades of estrangement will be overcome overnight but we are prepared to be patient," the official said.
Khatami has been hampered by a conservative religious elite with a firm grip on Iran's security and justice apparatus. "We have offered to engage in an official dialogue with Iran to discuss the different issues that divide us," the State Department official added.
"These include Iran's support for opponents of the Middle East peace process, Iran's poor human rights record and their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction," she said. A U.S. federal judge earlier on Tuesday ordered Iran to pay more than $325 million in damages to the families of two American students killed in a bus bombing in Israel.
District Judge Royce Lamberth said in his ruling that Iran had provided support and resources for Hamas, a militant Islamic group which immediately claimed responsibility for the 1996 attack.
Khatami Urges Free Speech, Warns of Explosion
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - President Mohammad Khatami urged Iran's clerical rulers to heed a growing public demand for freedom of expression or face the risk of "an explosion."
His comments on Friday came in the face of a campaign by the conservative-run judiciary to silence the independent press and liberal critics of the conservative clerical establishment.
Hardline courts have closed 19 independent publications and jailed a number of liberal activists, accusing them of trying to undermine the Islamic state. |
"We must not expect people to behave as we like, and (threaten) to suppress them if they don't," newspapers quoted Khatami as saying at a public meeting. "We must not act in a way which would widen the gap between people and the government, something which could eventually lead to an explosion," the reformist president said.
"People must be allowed to speak freely and criticise their government. If people are left unsatisfied, this will one day lead to an explosion."
Khatam, who has limited powers as president, has been trying to coax the powerful conservative establishment, which controls the security forces and the judiciary, to go along with public calls for democratic reforms.
A series of disturbances have erupted in Iranian provinces in recent month, including two violent ones in the past week. On Wednesday, rioters protesting at a shortage of drinking water broke windows and set tyres on fire in the southwestern city of Abadan. The riot followed two days of unrest in the northwestern town of Piranshahr.
Conservatives blame such incidents on the government's "inept" administrative skills and tolerant policies. Reformers believe they are prompted by pent-up frustration at years of repression. The president also said the Islamic state should further open up to the outside world to keep pace with modern developments.
"If we want to be strong, we should not shut our doors to foreign countries. We must renovate our religious thoughts to be able to respond to the needs of society," he said. "To be strong, we must offer a new face of ourselves, one which lives up to the exigencies of the time. We must be equipped with new science and technology."
Khatami Urges USA to Take next Step to Boost Ties
BERLIN, (Reuters) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Tuesday it was up to the United States to take the next step towards reviving diplomatic relations broken off after Tehran's 1979 Islamic revolution. |
Using the first visit to Germany by an Iranian leader in 33 years as a platform to direct remarks across the Atlantic, Khatami said problems between Tehran and Washington were known and the U.S. leadership held the key to resolving them.
"You can be sure that when the United States has the key in its hand, it will not give it away," the moderate cleric told Germany's ZDF public television in an interview. Khatami made boosting relations with the West a priority when he was elected on a reform ticket three years ago. But, although he has visited France, Italy and now Germany, there has been little significant rapprochement with the United States.
The recent conviction of 10 Iranian Jews and two Moslems on charges of spying for Israel, condemned by U.S. President Bill Clinton, has also hindered tentative overtures towards warmer ties.