Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Unfreeze assets & we will talk: Rafsanjani tells U.S. -

Unfreeze assets & we will talk: Rafsanjani tells U.S. -: "
Unfreeze assets & we will talk: Rafsanjani tells U.S.
6/8/2005 6:25:00 PM GMT

Rafsanjani: dialogue between the U.S. & Iran is possible if their assets are released by Washington

Iranian presidential nominee Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was quoted as saying that Iran would agree to renew dialogue with the United States if it releases Iranian assets frozen since the Islamic revolution.

"As I have said before, a goodwill gesture on the part of the United States would be for them to unblock our assets," the top Shiite cleric said Wednesday in an interview with the Jomhuri Islami newspaper.

"If such a gesture was made, we could enter into negotiations. This has been my position and I still think the same way," the 70-year-old Rafsanjani said.

Iran and the United States cut off relations in 1980, a year after the revolution, and Iranian assets in the U.S. were frozen.

Rafsanjani has previously said the figure amounts to at least $8 billion plus interest.

"The United States has still not responded. But if they do respond, I will speak to the guide (supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and we can start to negotiate," Rafsanjani said.

The charismatic politician, who previously served as Iranian president from 1989 to 1997, is campaigning for a comeback on a platform of closer engagement with the international community.

Seen as a pragmatic conservative, the frontrunner in the June 17 polls has also said he thinks the problem of relations with Washington needs to be "solved".

Iran's supreme leader, however, is seen as being against any reconciliation with the U.S.

But Rafsanjani said that the revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, had personally requested before his death and "by letter, that seven problems be resolved, notably that of the United States".

With much speculation about the state of relations between him and Khamenei, and many suggesting there could be a power struggle on the horizon, Rafsanjani told the paper the two were "great friends and maybe even had the purest friendship that ever existed".

Informal opinion polls have placed Rafsanjani ahead of the eight candidates approved to run in the June 17 poll, which will mark the end of reformist President Mohammad Khatami's second and final term in office.

Seen as running a distant second is former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, but apparently gaining ground is the main reformist candidate Mostafa Moin.

The main reformist party is hoping Moin can force a second-round run-off vote and go on to score a shock win against Rafsanjani."