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CNN Today

U.S. Eases Sanctions on Iran

Aired March 17, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: If you're old enough or know your history, you'll recall it was ping-pong diplomacy that led to better relations between the United States and China. Today, the United States has put pistachios at the center of an opening toward Iran.

Since the Islamic revolution with the taking of American hostages, Teheran and Washington have traded insults mostly. But in recognition of Iran's budding reform movement, the Clinton administration will allow the sale of certain Iranian fruits and nuts. plus Iranian carpets. Though it's not Iranian oil, it is a start.

For more on all of this, from the State Department, let's go to CNN's Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Natalie.

In a speech earlier today, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright signaled a major shift in U.S. policy towards Iran, announcing that the U.S. would make a number of gestures addressing some of the Iranian key grievances, even apologizing for past wrong.

The United States made the decision that following last month's parliamentary elections in Tehran in which reformers swept to victory, those most in favor of improving policies and relations with the United States, that this was the right time to make those gestures. However, Mrs. Albright explained in a briefing to reporters a short time ago, the United States still has serious concerns regarding some of Iran's policies, and these would have to be on the table if and when dialogue resumes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: The dramatic social and political...

(AUDIO GAP)

ALBRIGHT: ... At the same time, we have to continue to take into account what has not changed. And that includes our very serious concerns about proliferation and about Iran's support for terrorism and its impact on the Middle East peace process.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KOPPEL: While Secretary Albright said that the U.S. would be willing to resume dialogue with Iran at any time and at any pace, she did say that the expectation of the United States is that Iran probably won't respond in any kind of conciliatory gesture for many months to come.

However, just a short time ago, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, who also attended this speech, did respond in these comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It is positive in the sense that the administration has decided to ease part of the sanctions against Iran. Nevertheless, it is not yet certain in the minds of Iranians whether it will constitute a precedent to lift all sanctions that were placed against Iran, primarily due to American domestic politics in the first place, including, ironically, those renewed this past Monday by President Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: What the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. was just referring to was President Clinton's decision earlier this week, which he was obligated to do by law, to renew all of the sanctions against Iran, including those preventing American companies from investing in Iran's lucrative oil and gas industry. However, all along, Natalie, the administration said renewing those sanctions didn't preclude them from easing some as they have today.

Reporting live, I'm Andrea Koppel, CNN, at the State Department.

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