Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Saturday, February 6, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT

World: Middle East

Montazeri urges better US ties

President Khatami's moderates want better US ties

By the BBC's Iranian affairs analysit Sadeq Saba

A leading dissident Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Hussain Ali Montazeri, has said that the resumption of ties between Iran and the United States is possible.

In a written response to a query by a group of university and seminary tutors, the ayatollah said the ban on relations imposed by the former Iranian leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, was a temporary measure.

Mr Montazeri has been under house arrest for about two years for challenging the authority of the current supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

A grand ayatollah in the Iranian Shi'ite hierarchy, Mr Montazeri's views usually carry the weight of religious rulings.

[ image: House arrest for those who challenge the authority of Ayatollah Khamenei]
House arrest for those who challenge the authority of Ayatollah Khamenei
The intervention of Ayatollah Montazeri in the sensitive issue of resuming ties with the US is welcome news for the moderates in the Iranian leadership.

The issue has bitterly divided the two main factions in the government.

The moderates led by President Khatami favour better ties and have urged Washington to abandon some of its hostile policies to make it possible.

Deep divisions

The conservatives, however, oppose any rapprochement with Washington and usually refer to a ban imposed by the late Ayatollah Khomeini after the Islamic revolution two decades ago.

Ayatollah Montazeri said the ban was not indefinite and could change according to political and economic conditions.

He said if experts at present concluded that such relations were beneficial to Iran, there should be an immediate resumption of ties.

Defying the conservatives

He said relations between the US and Iran should be between two independent countries and not, as he termed it, between a wolf and a lamb.

As a grand ayatollah, with a large following among the Iranian faithful, Ayatollah Montazeri is in a position to interpret the rulings of Ayatollah Khomeini.

His views certainly carry weight and will influence policy makers in the country. But the government is not obliged to implement them.

The remarks will anger the conservatives who may insist that the ayatollah's house arrest should be continued.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

08 Jan 99 | Middle East
Ayatollah: Deaths inquiry must go on

25 Sep 98 | Middle East
Tehran power struggle seen in press dispute

Internet Links

The Iranian (magazine)

President of the Iranian Republic

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Iraq oil-for-food aid extended

Israel demands soccer sex scandal inquiry

Israeli PM's plane in accident

Jordan police stop trades unionists prayers

New Israeli raid in southern Lebanon

New demand over PLO terror list

Earthquake hits Iran

New UN decision on Iraq approved

Algerian president pledges reform