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Iran Joins US in Anti-Terrorism Effort - 2001-09-21

Diplomatic efforts by the Bush administration to line up support for its war against terrorism have led to what Secretary of State Colin Powell calls an overwhelming response from around the world. Even some countries that the United States often disagrees with appear to be lending support.

Not only are the United States and China pledging to step up cooperation against terrorism, but last week's attacks in New York and Washington may have provided a glimmer of hope for relations between America and Iran.

A senior U.S. official says Washington is sending a message to the Iranian government through diplomatic channels in response to what is being called a positive statement from Tehran condemning terrorism. What could serve as the first opening in more than two decades of severed diplomatic relations got its start when Iranian President Mohammed Khatami condemned the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and called on the world to eradicate terrorism.

In response, the Swiss ambassador in Iran - who handles American interests there - is being directed to deliver a U.S. government response. A senior State Department official says the message will be the United States finds such comments interesting but that the Iranian government must make a commitment against terrorism in all forms.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will relay a similar message from the United States during his upcoming visit to Tehran. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters it's a potential opening worth pursuing.

"We're anxious to explore what ever opportunities for cooperation there might be in the fight against all forms of terrorism, not just one kind of terrorism," Secretary Powell said.

But President Khatami may have been using last week's terrorist attacks as an opportunity to denounce what Iran views as the enemy in Kabul - rather than trying to send an overture to Washington. Iran nearly went to war with the Taleban three years ago after ten Iranians were massacred in a Taleban offensive against opposition forces in the northern Afghanistan.