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World - Europe

Iran gives Albright's remarks a tepid reception


Foreign minister: Words 'must be followed by acts'

June 18, 1998
Web posted at: 9:17 p.m. EDT (0117 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran is reacting coolly to an offer by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to pursue a "very different relationship" with the Islamic republic -- the first definitive sign of a U.S. thaw after nearly 20 years of frosty relations between the countries.

In a commentary aired Thursday, Iran's state-run radio called the remarks made by Albright in a speech Wednesday night "inadequate."

"Washington's mere announcement that it is prepared to establish ties with Iran is inadequate, for Washington (must) show goodwill as well," the broadcast said.

Before relations between the two nations can be restored, the United States must "renounce violence against Iran," end support for Iranian opposition groups based in Iraq, free frozen Iranian assets and "apologize to the Iranian nation for its wrong policies in the past 50 years," the broadcast said.

Much the same line was echoed by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi, speaking to reporters during an official visit to Spain.

"Words are not enough. They must be followed by acts," Kharazzi said. "Until the United States shows that it is ready to have an attitude towards Iran that is based on mutual respect and equality, there won't be very many possibilities for relations."

Clinton and Albright
Clinton and Albright  

Clinton endorses Albright's overture

In a speech Wednesday to The Asia Society in New York, Albright said, "We are ready to explore further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings. The Islamic Republic should consider parallel steps.

"If such a process can be initiated and sustained in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides, then we in the United States can see the prospect of a very different relationship," she said.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said Thursday that he had extensive discussions with Albright about the speech in advance of her remarks, and he echoed her sentiments.

"What we want is a genuine reconciliation with Iran, based on mutuality and reciprocity and a sense that the Iranians are prepared to move away from support of terrorism and the distribution of dangerous weapons," Clinton said.

The president also said he appreciated recent remarks by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami denouncing terrorism. The United States has long maintained that the Iranian government sponsors international terrorist groups.

Equation changed by Khatami's election

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic ties since 1979, when Iranian militants took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held them for 444 days. Over the years, Iranian officials have repeatedly denounced the United States -- allied with the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution -- as the "Great Satan."

But the election last year of Khatami, an Islamic cleric considered to be a moderate, started to change the equation. In an interview with CNN in January, the new Iranian leader offered dialogue between the Iranian and American people, though he stopped short of any government-to-government contacts. The "Great Satan" rhetoric has also been toned down.

Since then, the United States has taken cautious steps, including easing up on visas for Iranians, revising a travel warning and promoting cultural exchanges. A U.S. wrestling team made a widely publicized visit to Iran, and an Iranian team later made a reciprocal visit.

On Sunday at the World Cup in France, the United States will play Iran in a soccer match. Clinton has taped a message to be aired during a broadcast of the game, calling for a better relationship between the two nations.

However, U.S. officials say they are proceeding cautiously in their approach to Iran because of fears that they could end up destabilizing Khatami's government. Many hard-liners in Iran oppose a closer relationship with the United States.

White House Correspondent Eileen O'Connor and Reuters contributed to this report.
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