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Iranian Abandons Push To Improve U.S. Ties

Reuters, Washington Post, Thursday 30 May 2002; Page A18

TEHRAN, May 29—President Mohammad Khatami urged his reformist allies in parliament today to abandon a quest for better relations with the United States because of what he described as the growing U.S. belligerence toward Iran.

Khatami, a moderate cleric who made a dramatic overture to the United States in 1997, said he was put off by the tone U.S. leaders have taken toward Iran.

When a big power uses a militant, humiliating and threatening tone to speak to us, our nation will refuse to negotiate or show any flexibility, he said at a meeting with members of parliament, where his allies hold a majority.

He called on supporters to abandon efforts to reach out to the United States and said they should follow Iran’s official policy instead. Defying old taboos on relations with Washington, reformist lawmakers have held closed-door meetings to explore ways of resolving two decades of hostilities between the two countries.

The move drew rebukes from Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and threats by the hard-line judiciary to prosecute anyone who advocated dialogue with the Great Satan. And a hard-line lawmaker today accused those favoring ties of being U.S. spies.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, headed by Khatami, has reportedly ruled out talks with Washington in reaction to charges by President Bush that Iran is part of an axis of evil with Iraq and North Korea.