The Bush administration reiterated Monday it is ready to talk to Iran, provided that government stops sponsoring terrorism and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. The comments came amid continued Iranian condemnation of President Bush's depiction of Tehran in last month's Stat-e of the Union address to Congress, as part of an "axis of evil."
Iran celebrated the 23rd anniversary of its Islamic revolution Monday with an anti-American demonstration by hundreds of thousands of people, and harsh criticism of U.S. policy from President Mohammad Khatami.
But officials here say the events in Tehran have not changed the Bush administration's readiness to engage Iran, provided that government will deal with issues of U.S. concern.
Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said President Bush listed Iran along with Iraq and North Korea in his "axis of evil" because of its links to terrorism and weapons activities but he said the administration also acknowledges positive developments there as well.
"There are things going on in Iran, movement towards more openness and democracy, which are positive, which may portend eventually some kind of change in policy," he said. "There have been actions that Iran has taken that we have been able to appreciate, support, cooperate with, like the effort that they did make in Bonn to urge the Afghans to cooperate with each other. At the same time, as I said again today, we're not going to ignore reality. Iran has maintained ties with terrorist groups, has had a dismal human rights record, has had a continuing effort to develop weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, and has taken some actions in Afghanistan which we find meddlesome and troublesome."
Mr. Boucher said the language of the President's State of the Union address notwithstanding, the White House has taken a "pretty balanced view" of Iran.
He said if authorities there want to, in his words "set a clear course toward the modern world," the United States will be happy to talk with and work with them.