US hints at Clinton broadcast to Iran

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The Independent Online
President Bill Clinton is considering whether he might respond in kind to last week's overture from the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, by making a television broadcast to the Iranian people. The idea was initially floated by an Iranian newspaper and was not excluded as a possibility by Mr Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger.

In one of the most positive assessments of Mr Khatami's television interview to have come from US officials, Mr Berger praised the "new tone" in the Iranian President's words and said: "We would like to have a new relationship, a better relationship, with Iran."

Asked about prospects for an interview, he told the CNN network, which conducted and broadcast Mr Khatami's interview: "We'd certainly take a look at it." Diplomatic relations between the US and Iran were broken off in 1979 after Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards laid siege to the US embassy.

Mr Berger said that Washington would consider ways to encourage unofficial exchanges between US and Iranian private citizens - the "popular diplomacy" called for by Mr Khatami last week. He also promised a review of the present, exceptionally tough, US visa regulations applying to Iranians.

These undertakings follow the disclosure last week that the US might reconsider its policy of sanctions against individuals and third countries that do business with Iran - a policy that has strained relations with several countries, in particular France and Russia.

- Mary Dejevsky, Washington