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Iran Seeks Talks on Improving Ties with US - 2002-09-08

Iran's foreign minister indicated Sunday that Iran wants to discuss better relations with the United States but is waiting for the U.S. to make the first move. Both sides seem unwilling to take the initiative.

Last week U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the United States wants to improve relations with Iran but was waiting for Tehran to take the first step.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference in Tehran Sunday that Iran is waiting for the United States to be more specific. He called Mr. Armitage's remarks "old and ambiguous."

"If the Americans have new words, they must say them give their new suggestions," Mr. Kharrazi was quoted as saying.

Washington cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979 after radical Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held dozens of hostages for 444 days.

President Bush has called Iran part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea for seeking weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism.

Mr. Kharazzi accused the United States of ignoring Tehran's role in supporting forces fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan. He accused the United States of supporting what he called "bandits and local terrorist groups on Iran's borders and organizing them against Iran's national interest." He was referring to Sunni Muslim groups operating close to Iran's eastern borders.

There is fear among many Iranians that their country, after Iraq, could be the next target in President Bush's war on terror.

Mr. Kharrazi told the news conference, "The United States is taking advantage of the September 11 incident because it wants to prove itself a superpower."