Iranian conservative says country damaged by poor relations with US

04 December 2002

A high-profile conservative official in Iran has expressed doubts about his country's foreign policy in the local press, saying that Iran has suffered for its failure to improve relations with the US. Muhammed-Javad Larijani, deputy chief of the judiciary's international affairs department, said that the government's actions during the 1979 siege of the US embassy in Iran had damaged the country's image and interests, later exacerbated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's imposition of the death sentence on author Salman Rushdie. He also said that Iran missed opportunities to repair ties when the US was willing to do so in the mid 1980s. Larijani's comments mark a significant departure from the received position of the country's conservative establishment on links with the US.

The trial began on 3 December of three Iranian political activists accused of gathering and selling information to foreign powers. They were directors of a polling institute which studied Iranian attitudes towards the US, and one had reported that over three-quarters of those polled favoured an improvement in relations with the US. Reformists have denounced the trial as a suppression of freedom of expression.

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