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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 01:03 GMT 02:03 UK
Iran's president rules out US talks
President Mohammed Khatami
President Khatami hopes reformists will drop the issue

The reformist Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, has ruled out talks with the United States and asked his supporters in parliament to toe the official line on the issue.

Some reformist deputies had been outspoken advocates of opening a dialogue with Washington, despite President George W Bush's inclusion of Iran in his "axis of evil".

But hardline conservatives are vehemently opposed to any talks with Washington.

It is an issue that refuses to go away, despite three public statements of mounting severity from the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ruling out talks.

Now his reformist counterpart, President Khatami, has come out with a clear call to his followers to drop the issue.

No negotiations

It came during a visit to the reformist-dominated parliament by the president and his cabinet.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei has already spoken out against talks
Mr Khatami told the deputies that Iran's basic policy was one of detente with all countries of the world - but he said that when a big power spoke to Iran in a bellicose, insulting, humiliating and threatening manner, Iran would neither negotiate nor show the slightest flexibility.

He asked all those who were talking about possible negotiations with the US to abide by the regime's general policies and not to do anything against the country's interests or dignity.

Some reformist parliamentarians had angered the supreme leader by keeping the issue alive in a closed door colloquium on the future of relations with Washington.

The question now is whether the president's words will succeed in shelving the affair.

He has already been criticised by some of the more impatient reformists for not being assertive enough in pushing the reform process forward against hardline obstruction.

See also:

26 May 02 | Middle East
22 May 02 | Middle East
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08 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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