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The BBC's Rob Watson
"Washington would like to make a goodwill gesture towards Tehran"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 00:52 GMT
US maintains Iran oil ban
oil pipes
US companies may not invest over $40m in Iranian oil
US President Bill Clinton has extended a ban on American oil contracts with Iran, accusing the government in Tehran of continuing to support international terrorism.

Mr Clinton's decision to extend the restrictions comes less than a month after reformist candidates in Iran won an overwhelming victory over their conservative opponents in parliamentary elections.

The actions and policies of the government of Iran continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States

President Clinton
The restrictions were imposed in 1995 and the US president has to decide each year whether to extend them.

Mr Clinton said in a statement to Congress: "The actions and policies of the government of Iran, including support for international terrorism, its efforts to undermine the Middle East process, and its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States".

The sanctions introduced in 1995 bar US companies from investing in Iran's oil and natural gas industry, and aim to halt all US exports to Iran.

President Khatami
Many Americans support strengthening President Khatami's government
A broader ban on all non-oil imports from Iran had been enforced after the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

In 1996, Congress approved additional legislation penalising any companies that invested more than $40m in the Libyan or Iranian oil sectors.

American legislation also threatens sanctions against international companies investing in countries like Iran, which are perceived by the White House as supporters of terrorism.

Winds of change

But since last month's resounding victory by reformers backing President Mohammad Khatami, there has been speculation that some of the sanctions might be relaxed.

An Iranian foreign ministry official told the state-controlled (Irna) news agency that any such move would be "welcome".

Sanctions on pistachios might soon be lifted
Washington has not ruled out the possibility of lifting sanctions on other important Iranian exports, such as caviar, pistachio nuts and carpets.

Government officials privately admit that the White House wants to make a gesture of goodwill towards Iran's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami.

Sources in Washington say that, while some members of the Clinton administration are opposed to such a relaxation, most feel the US could afford to make such a gesture.

They suggest it is now more a question of when rather than whether those sanctions will be lifted.

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US-Iranian ties: Chronology
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Analysis: All eyes on Iran
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