Iran leader moves to befriend US

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The Independent Online
The Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, went further than any other leader of revolutionary Iran in opening the way to dialogue with the United States. After a week in which he made his international debut as leader of the Muslim world's largest body, Mr Khatami said he hoped for a thoughtful dialogue with the American people "in the close future".

The 55-year-old Shi'ite cleric broached the taboo topic of talks with the Americans, Iran's adversary for two decades, by telling reporters at a news conference in Tehran: "I declare my respects to the great people of the United States and I hope that in the close future I would have a dialogue and talk with the people of America and I hope this will not take long."

Mr Khatami, who defeated conservative rivals for power in a landslide election in May, reiterated his desire for dialogue between civilisations. But he deflected the question when he was asked how he expected dialogue with the US to come about. And he did not go so far as to say there would be contacts any time soon between the two governments.

"The government of the United States is the government of the United States elected by the people. We respect the choice of the people." he said.

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