TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — If the United States wants better relations with Tehran, it could start by ending accusations that Iran supports terrorism, a government spokesman said yesterday.
“They have to avoid making irrelevant accusations against us,” government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said, referring to the terrorism charges.
He also urged U.S. officials to “release our assets blocked there and lift sanctions.” Iran says billions of its dollars of its assets were blocked by the United States after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“These are the preliminary practical measures to win the confidence of the Iranian nation. We need to justify better ties with America for our people,” Ramezanzadeh said after a Cabinet meeting.
He was reacting to what some saw as a new conciliatory tone on Iran emanating from Washington a day earlier.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, quoted President Bush as saying with regard to Iran: “Not every policy issue needs to be dealt with by force. Secretary (of State Colin) Powell also noted last week that we do not seek conflict with Iran.”
Bush said Tuesday the United States was working closely with Syria and Iran to prevent foreign terrorists from crossing into Iraq. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “At times, we’ve seen a little bit of action. But, frankly, we’ve also made clear that, both in the case of Syria and of Iran, they need to do more.”
Ramezanzadeh said the Americans “appear to be understanding regional realities more than before,” but said Washington should stop its threats if it wants dialogue to develop.
Bush has described Iran as part of an “axis of evil,” together with North Korea and prewar Iraq. American officials also say Iran may be harboring terrorists, including high-ranking members of al-Qaida, the network blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Washington also suspects Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Ramezanzadeh said Washington was expected to live up to its international commitments in fighting terrorism. The State Department’s list of terrorist groups includes the Mujahedeen Khalq, which wants to overthrow Iran’s Islamic government.
Iran and America have had no diplomatic ties since 1979, when Iranian militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took its occupants hostage.