White House sets scene for a softer approach to Iran

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The Independent Online
The White House yesterday opened the way for a tentative softening of United States policy towards Iran in response to the Iranian President's television interview on Wednesday evening.

The White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, said that the text of the interview, in which President Khatami called for contacts through popular diplomacy, but ruled out government-to- government contacts in the first instance, was being studied by foreign policy advisers. Stressing that any improvement in relations "depends upon not just what Iran says but what Iran does", Mr McCurry also said: "We believe that President Khatami made many very positive remarks about the United States ... But it's also important to stress that the best way for issues to be addressed is for governments to talk directly." There was a generally favourable reception for Mr Khatami's performance in Iran. After almost two decades of official vilification of the US, his positive assessment of American civilisation was seen as a brave, and perhaps risky, departure.