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DATE=3/21/2000
TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP
TITLE=U-S OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH TO IRAN
NUMBER=6-11738
BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE
DATELINE=WASHINGTON
EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS
TELEPHONE=619-3335
INTERNET=YES
CONTENT=
INTRO:  Reacting to the recent parliamentary elections 
in Iran in which reformers scored a huge victory over 
the anti-U-S religious hierarchy, the United States 
has lifted restrictions on several products from that 
nation.
Some bans, specifically on crude oil, remain, but the 
gesture, made in a speech last week by Secretary of 
State Madeleine Albright, is seen as a major overture 
to the government in Teheran.  Several U-S papers 
agree, and we get a sampling now from  ___________ in 
today's Editorial Digest.  
TEXT: In her speech, Mrs. Albright announced several 
steps including the beginning of a process to return 
millions of dollars in frozen assets to Iran.  The 
money has been held since 1980 after Iranian militants 
stormed the U-S Embassy and took more than 50 people 
hostage.
The changes also included a lifting of an import ban 
on several Iranian luxury goods such as pistachios and 
caviar; relaxing entry for Iranian scholars and 
athletes to visit the United States.  
While Mrs. Albright did not actually apologize, she 
did acknowledge past American meddling in Iran, 
including Central Intelligence Agency cooperation in 
the ouster of nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed 
Mossadegh in 1953.  It was that overthrow that 
restored the reign of the Shah to power, and 
ultimately led to the Islamic fundamentalist 
revolution in 1979.
The Washington Post called the steps "the boldest 
attempt yet by the Clinton administration to 
capitalize on the movement toward moderation" that 
began in Iran with the election in 1997 of President 
Mohammed Khatami, a reformist Islamic cleric.
With that background, we begin our sampling in Ohio, 
where The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer is pleased to see 
the thaw in relations progressing a pace.
VOICE:  By lifting sanctions on a few Iranian consumer 
goods, the Clinton administration has shown U-S 
willingness to reward trends toward less restrictive 
rule in Tehran.  ... How many Iranians or Americans 
will benefit tangibly is hard to predict.  But 
symbolically, the step ... may help Iran's burgeoning 
reform movement.  ... as the Washington Post noted 
recently, the sweeping victory of reform candidates in 
recent elections has made observers in the Arab world 
take notice.  Few pure democracies exist in the Middle 
East, though governments there are under increasing 
pressure over restrictions on civil liberties.  ... 
Americans and Iranians alike should be weary of the 
hostilities their leaders have indulged in since 
Islamic militants seized the U-S Embassy in 1979.  If 
the administration can ... improve the prospects of 
Iranian reformers, it is wise to do so.
TEXT:  For the view from [the state of] Tennessee, we 
check the [Memphis] Commercial Appeal, which is 
pleased that things are beginning to thaw.
VOICE:  With an astute sense of timing, Secretary of 
State Madeleine Albright has chosen the start of the 
Iranian new year to signal Iran that the United States 
is willing to move toward "a more normal and mutually 
productive relationship.  As a first step, [Secretary] 
Albright offered to remove two minor irritants in U-S 
- Iran relations  - a ban on imports of Iranian 
carpets, pistachios, caviar and dried fruit, and the 
removal of cumbersome visa requirements for Iranian 
academics, athletes and professionals visiting the 
United States.  .... But the most important part of 
her overture, as it will be received in Iran, was her 
forthright admission that the United States had 
meddled in Iranian affairs to the detriment of the 
Iranian people.  The Iranians have long sought some 
official public confession, or at least 
acknowledgment, of this history as they see it.  The 
U-S-backed overthrow of a popular Prime Minister, 
Mohammed Mossadegh, was "clearly a setback for Iran's 
political development," [Mrs.] Albright said.  For 25 
years,the United States backed the increasingly brutal 
and repressive government of the shah.  ... The 
Iranian government remains deeply divided, with hard-
liners still in control of the military and security 
apparatus.  That area is where our remaining 
disagreements with Iran - support of terrorism, 
attempts to derail the Mideast peace process, and 
efforts to develop nuclear weapons  - have their 
roots.  But clearly the moderates and reformers are 
ascending in Iran.  [Mrs.] Albright's gesture may 
hasten that process.
TEXT:   The Atlanta Constitution is also pleased at 
this latest development, but talks of the difficulty 
in dealing with Iran, riven as it is by the opposing 
forces of reform and orthodoxy. 
VOICE:  The Clinton administration is right to 
encourage the reform movement in Iran, demonstrated 
last month by the third straight election in which the 
hard-liners lost seats in parliament.  The relaxed 
trade sanctions announced by [Secretary] Albright may 
seem modest, but they mean a lot to entrepreneurs in 
Iran who are in the forefront of those seeking change. 
They also send a message that our two countries can do 
much more business, including dealing in Iran's 
currently embargoed oil, but only after its leaders 
show their acceptance of international norms of 
conduct.  No one expects the bitter memories and 
suspicion separating our two countries to dissipate 
overnight.  But as [Secretary] Albright pointed out, 
the world has a lot to gain from our finding a way to 
work together: regional stability, economic 
development, a firmer grip on the narcotics trade in 
the area, preservation of historic cultural sites and 
environmental protection, to name a few.
TEXT:  Turning to the Pacific Northwest, we read in 
the Seattle Times, this view of the changing policy.
VOICE:  It's about time.  It has been more than 20 
years since religious zealots seized the U-S embassy 
in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for more than 
a year.  Since then, Iran has backed away from the 
medieval theocracy it once embraced.  There has been a 
flowering of business, emergence of a more assertive 
press and an entry into politics by Iranian women.  
... U-S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remains 
concerned that Iran sponsors acts of terrorism -  the 
reason for sanctions in the first place.  Until the 
terrorist link ends, she warned  - quite reasonably - 
relations will not be fully normal.  [Mrs.] Albright 
told Iran the U-S has "no intention or desi4re to 
interfere in the country's internal affairs."  This 
administration -n and the next  - should follow 
through on that.
TEXT: Lastly, The Washington Post also sees the 
difficulties that lie ahead in trying to resurrect 
such a troubled relationship, after the horrifying 
occupation of the U-S Embassy and the hostage taking 
of its staff in 1979.  
VOICE:  Can the Iranian people's evident desire for 
closer ties with the West, as expressed in a series of 
credible democratic elections, force Iran's government 
to change its pro-terrorist, anti-American foreign 
policy?  The Clinton administration hopes so.  Since 
the 1997 election of reformist president Mohammed 
Khatemi, the administration has been trying to start a 
dialogue with Teheran - -efforts that Iran's 
government, divided between Mr. Khatemi's forces and 
largely unelected theocratic hard-liners, has 
rebuffed.  Last week ... the administration tried 
again.  Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 
acknowledged past U-S interference in Iranian internal 
affairs, offered to expand people-to-people contacts 
and legalized the importance of rugs, pistachios and 
other Iranian non-oil exports.  This proposed 
expansion of trade is appropriately modest.  The 
necessity of the secretary's musings about alleged 
American misdeeds in Iran, including c-I-A support for 
the ouster of nationalist prime minister Mohammed 
Mossadegh in 1953 and U-S backing for Iraq during the 
1980-1988 Iran-Iraqi war, was less clear.  ... Her 
words easily could be used to validate the demonized 
view of U-S foreign policy propagated by Iran's hard-
liners, yet, until now, the events of 1953 had not 
prevented the rise of pro-Americanism among youthful 
supporters of Mr. Khatemi.  ... the administration has 
proffered yet another unilateral American gesture; now 
it's time for Iran to reciprocate.  Mr. Khatemi's 
reformist intent is clear on the domestic front, but 
he has yet to show that he can and will take charge of 
foreign policy...
TEXT: With those thoughts, we conclude this sampling 
of editorial comment on the recent concessions made by 
the United States to Iran in the wake of reform 
victories in the recent parliamentary elections there.  
NEB/ANG/  
22-Mar-2000 08:57 AM EDT (22-Mar-2000 1357 UTC)
NNNN
Source: Voice of America
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