Tensions between Iran and the U.S. over Tehran's nuclear program and other issues grab headlines. But this friction belies more amicable overtures taking place between the two nations. Since 1999 an effort has been underway to promote collaboration between American and Iranian scientists in medicine, engineering and technology. VOA's Ana Ward was on hand recently as three members of the U.S. delegation talked about their trip to Iran. Jim Bertel narrates.

Last October a team of twelve American scientists visited Iran for a one-week scientific exchange. Their trip was part of an Iranian-American partnership to promote collaboration between scientists of both nations in medicine, engineering and technology. The American delegation met with scholars and religious leaders in several cities.

William Colglazier, executive director of the National Academy of Sciences, says scientific engagement between Iran and the U.S. is particularly important now when political tension has affected cooperation between the two countries.

"Iran has a very large science and technology infrastructure -- probably it's the leading science and technology country in the Muslim world. This is a country where people value education and training. Many of the senior leaders of the universities were trained in the U.S. and are quite eager for science and technology re-engagement with scientists in the United States," said Colglazier.

For the past nine years, American and Iranian scientists have held joint workshops on scientific topics. Half of them took place in Iran and the other half in the U.S. and Europe. This year, 1993 Physics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Taylor was part of the U.S. team and spoke to students and academics as well as the Iranian media.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami attended one of the workshops and encouraged the participants to use science to benefit mankind.

The three American scientists say now that they are home, they want to encourage efforts to bring the two countries together through cultural and scientific exchanges.

Glen Schweitzer, from the National Academy of Sciences, says in his last two visits to Iran he has noticed a visible decline in the number of Americans visiting the country. He says, "How do we get more Americans interested, how can we convince them it's not a risk to personal safety to go there and how can we facilitate this is really a challenge that I think our organization has a responsibility to address better than we have in the past."

Later this year the Iranian and American delegations will meet again in Iran for workshops on preventing earthquakes. They also hope to develop partnerships between universities and high schools in both countries.