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British FM to Visit to Iran

Britain says Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will travel to Iran next week as part of a tour of the region aimed at building support for the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Straw will be the first British foreign secretary to travel to Tehran since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The foreign secretary told British radio that Iran could be a natural ally in a global coalition against suspected terrorists who operate from Afghanistan as guests of the Taleban leadership there. "Of all the countries which have suffered from the extremism of the Taleban, no country has suffered worse than Iran," he said. "They have been under threat from the Taleban and they have had to take well over a million refugees across their border."

Mr. Straw said there are two primary goals, the end of terrorism coming out of Afghanistan and a radical change in the Taleban's behavior. "We also want to see the Taleban regime either recognizing its responsibilities to its own people to ensure that they live in a peaceful society or moving on for another, much better government," he said.

Taleban leaders have rejected Washington's demands to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is called the prime suspect in last week's suicide attacks in the United States.

Afghan clerics have recommended that Mr. bin Laden be asked to leave Afghanistan voluntarily, a response that Mr. Straw called "puny and totally unacceptable."

Besides traveling to Iran, Mr. Straw will visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian-controlled territories as part of his coalition-building mission.