Wednesday, June 01, 2005

IC Publications

IC Publications: "01/06/2005 15:01 TEHRAN (AFP) -
Iran needs to sort out 'problem' with US, Rafsanjani says
Iranian presidential election frontrunner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said he was in favour of ending a quarter of a century of estrangement with the United States, but Washington needed to make the first move.

"If they make a positive sign, I am one of those who believes that we need to sort out this problem," Rafsanjani said Wednesday.

"I am convinced that it is the Americans who need to show their goodwill so that relations can resume," the top cleric and former president was quoted as telling a gathering of university professors.

"They need to deal with us as equals and renounce their animosity," Rafsanjani said.

Iran and the United States cut off diplomatic relations in 1980, after Islamic revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 US personnel hostage for 444 days.

But Rafsanjani, seen as a savvy deal-maker who favours closer ties with the West, has been playing up the issue in the run-up to the June 17 presidential poll -- an apparent bid to draw support from many Iranians keen to see the US problem resolved.

His comments came the day after he called on the 26-year-old Islamic regime to undergo a radical rethink of the way it deals with the international community and how it relates with its own burgeoning youth population.

"There are new demands. Nobody should think that we can act by employing the same literature, the same policies or the same attitudes that we had at the beginning of the revolution or at the end of the (Iran-Iraq) war," Rafsanjani said in a televised campaign broadcast.

His comments were a marked departure from the usual rhetoric from a regime totally at odds with the United States and much of the international community -- and also in contrast to the preceived opposition of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to any talks of resuming ties with America.

According to informal opinion polls in the Iranian press -- to be taken with a pinch of salt -- Rafsanjani currently leads the eight regime-approved candidates hoping to succeed incumbent reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

While Khatami has promoted detente and urged a "dialogue among civilisations", he has also failed to break the ice with Washington.

Although Rafsanjani asserted that "the objectives of the revolution are rooted in our culture and beliefs", he added that Iran needed "new conditions at home" and "a new form of interaction with the world".

"Staying put or moving backwards, reactionary or dogmatic ideas are a poison," said Rafsanjani.

The presidential campaign has been shaping up as a battle between Rafsanjani -- who is presenting himself as a moderating force ready to accept change -- and powerful right-wingers determined to fight off any challenge to their deep-rooted revolutionary dogma.

The right-wing candidates in the race are four hardliners: Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Ali Larijani, Mahmud Ahmadi Nejad and Mohsen Rezai -- all veterans of the hardline Revolutionary Guards.

These four are all seen as being ideologically closer to Khamenei, although the supreme leader has asserted that he was not backing any particular candidate.

Representing the embattled reformist camp in the polls are the leftist former higher education minister Mostafa Moin, centrist cleric Mehdi Karoubi and incumbent vice president Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh."