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Iran's President Welcomes US Aid - 2003-12-31


Iran's president has welcomed U.S. aid for earthquake victims in southeastern Iran, but says it will not change the status of relations between Tehran and Washington.

President Mohammad Khatami told reporters (today/Tuesday) in Kerman province, near the stricken city of Bam, that only a change in U.S. policy towards Iran would lead to a restoration of dialogue between the two nations.

The Iranian president's comments follow remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Washington Post newspaper (today/Tuesday).

In the interview, Mr. Powell said Washington is open to restoring dialogue with Iran following what he called several "encouraging" moves by Tehran in recent months.

Mr. Powell told the newspaper that Iran's decision to allow surprise inspections of the country's nuclear facilities indicates a new attitude in Tehran.

He said the United States still has "concerns" about Iran, but "should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future."

A State Department spokesman (Adam Ereli) said today (Tuesday) that it is "critical" Iran meet its international commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community before there could be any progress in relations.

U.S. officials quoted by the Post say Mr. Powell's comments come as the administration reviews its Iran policy for the third time since President Bush took office.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush referred to Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Iraq. Iran remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Information for this report is provided by AP.

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