Iran calls for more EU links

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, yesterday called for better ties with Italy, saying relations should be based on "respect and mutual understanding", Iranian radio reported.

During a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, President Khatami expressed regret that years of animosity with the West have deprived Iran of the opportunity to better understand that part of the world.

"We would like to join hands and enter a century in which human ties are based on respect and mutual understanding," he said.

Mr Dini, who began his visit at the weekend, is the first Western cabinet official to travel to Iran since the European Union lifted is ban last week on high-level visits. EU foreign ministers said several encouraging developments in Iran, including the election in May of Mr Khatami, required a positive response toward the country.

The new EU position differs sharply from United States policy, which sees Iran as a rogue state that must be isolated. US sanctions ban large investments in Iran by any country.