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Key US Senator Calls For Closer US-Iran Relations - 2002-03-14

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee has called for better relations between the United States and Iran, despite President Bush's naming of Iran as one of the three countries that are part of an "axis of evil."

Senator Joseph Biden says the September terrorist attacks drastically changed the world, creating a line between civilized countries and nations that support chaos and terrorism.

Mr. Biden says a mixture of forces are at work in Iran, pointing to a positive development, the post-September 11 Iranian offer to help any downed pilots in the U.S.-led military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan as a encouraging move. "I don't think we should be naďve, but I think we should take advantage of openings that hold at least a slight promise, a slight promise, of a change in the relationship," he said.

Senator Biden says improved relations between the United States and Iran are in the interest of both countries. "In that regard, let me also extend an invitation, in my capacity as chairman of the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee, I'm prepared to receive members of the Iranian parliament, whenever its members would like to visit," he said. "If Iranian parliamentarians believe that's too sensitive, I'm prepared to meet them elsewhere and anywhere, if they genuinely wish to engage in discussion. Without speaking for my colleagues, I'm confident many of them would join me in such a historic meeting."

The congressional liaison for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Alireza Jafarzedeh, says U.S. rapprochement with Iran is not the way to go. "First of all, so long as you have a medieval theocracy like the Iranian regime in power, that the entire power is in the hands of the supreme religious leader and its clique, you cannot talk of any change or moderation from within this regime," he said. "And one cannot improve relations with a fascist theocracy, especially at the time that the people in Iran are calling for a fundamental change and are calling for unseating the clerics in the country."

The National Council of Resistance of Iran is a Paris-based group that organized hundreds of people to protest against Iranian President Khatami, who visited Vienna this week.

During his trip, Mr. Khatami met with European Union foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana, who described the EU relationship with Iran as constructive, but critical. The Iranian leader also granted millions of dollars worth of contracts to Austrian companies.