IRAN COLD SHOULDERED NEW US OVERTURES
KERMAN-WASHINGTON 30 Dec. (IPS)
President Mohammad Khatami of Iran on Tuesday cold shouldered new American overtures to Iran by repeating that nothing would change in Iran-US relations until Washington changed "basically" its policy and repeated past mistakes.
Speaking to reporters in Kerman, the Capital city of the Province of the same name where is also situated the old city of Bam that was destroyed by a strong earth shake early Friday, the powerless Khatami was answering questions about the possible warming of relations between the two nations following U.S. aid to earthquake victims.
Mr. Khatami welcomed the relief assistance dispatched by the United States but said this must not be mixed with political considerations.
"I don't think this incident will change our relations with the United States", Khatami added, referring to the US Foreign Affairs Minister Collin Powell telling "The Washington Post" on Tuesday that Washington was open to restoring a dialogue with Iran after "encouraging" moves by the Islamic Republic in recent months, including Iran's willingness to accept U.S. aid for the people of Bam, where officials say up to 50,000 people may have been killed.
Since Washington cut off all relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran on November 1979, American military planes landed in Iran, bringing tons of much needed foodstuff, drinking water and light equipments.
Though the American help was much less important compared to that provided by most of other nations that came to the rescue of the grieved people, but it captured the attention of the international media that coined it as "earthquake diplomacy".
"There are things happening and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future", Powell said.
"In incidents like this governments normally do not consider their differences", Khatami observed, adding, "This has got nothing to do with political issues. The problems in Iran-U.S. relations are rooted in history".
"Nevertheless, I thank all...those who helped us and showed sympathy despite our different viewpoints", he said.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatamis meetings with Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have encouraged U.S. officials.
In two meetings since with Bush, King Abdollah II of Jordan who has visited Tehran has pressed Washington to consider resuming talks to Iran under U.N. auspices, officials said.
"All of those things taken together show, it seems to me, a new attitude in Iran in dealing with these issues -- not one of total, open generosity, said Powell told The Washington Post".
But President Khatami said Iran couldnt trust the statement. "The Americans want to change our regime and at the same time they want to talk to us. Besides, the Americans say a lot of nonsense and when they make sense, often they are not accompanied by deeds, if they do not go on the oppsite. Dialogue for what, if there is no trust and so far, the Americans have done nothing rebuilding confidence", he pointed out.
President Bush last year included Iran along with North Korea and Iraq under the former dictator Saddam Hoseyn in an "axis of evil" that is developing nuclear and chemical weapons and supporting terrorist groups.
"The world is a world of terror, violence and war," he said. "Yet beyond all that a spirit of humanity and kindness is alive. Foreigners came (to Iran) during their holidays and festive season and worked alongside our people. This should be lauded."
Meanwhile, as all hopes to find survivors, Iranian and international relief officials said actions must now be directed towards sheltering people from the freezing cold and preventing diseases to spread.
However, a young Swiss man who was in the city when the earthquake took place and was rescued in his hotel with two other friends thanked the local people. "Though they had lost everything, but the people treated us as if we also were from Bam, giving us hot drink and food they needed themselves", he told a French journalist.
Mr. Khatami put the number of dead people at over 28.000, but others said the toll could reach 30.000 and more.
As Mr. Khatami promised to rebuild Bam and its landmark, the "Arg", a fortress dating to more than 2.000 years ago its past glory, most journalists and international relief officials said the situation was getting "more under control".
"Security is restored. There is a semblance of coordination with the Iranian authorities who control better the situation. Electricity is coming back, though slowly and many injured are treated in field hospitals", one official from the International Red Cross said.
ENDS US IRAN QUAKE 3012203 http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2003/Dec-2003/us_iran_quake_301203.htm