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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT


Iranian press heralds historic visit

President Khatami meets his Italian counterpart

The Tehran Times led the way among Iranian papers with an upbeat view of President Mohammad Khatami's historic visit to Rome on Tuesday.

"We are standing at the threshold of the 21st Century," the daily said in an editorial.

"Our past teaches us that hostility, biases and enmity bring nothing but disasters."

As the first Iranian president to visit a European country, Mr Khatami would be laying the groundwork for a "dialogue between civilizations" , the paper said.

"Neither the East nor the West can claim that they are perfect, as both have positive as well as negative points.

"However, they need to share their positive points and exchange views on how to do away with their negative points.

If they do so in a sincere manner, the world will surely become a better place to live," the editorial went on.

"Khatami's landmark visit to Italy marks the beginning of sincere efforts to bring nations closer to each other so that all may enjoy God's blessings through cooperation based on friendship and understanding," it concluded.

Iran Daily was also positive about the Italian visit.

"Today, European and Iranian officials have come to appreciate the other side's importance," an opinion piece on the front page said.

"They will spare no efforts to safeguard their mutual interests," it said, adding that the visit was "indicative of Italy's pragmatism and foreign policy autonomy, plus Iran's enhanced international image" .

Tehran's ties to Europe

Official statements in the media also gave a positive interpretation of Khatami's trip to Rome.

Deputy foreign minister for Euro-American Affairs Morteza Sarmadi told Salam newspaper the visit would put an end to " an era of relations between Tehran and Rome in which a sound understanding of realities about the Islamic Republic of Iran and the importance of Iran's ties with Europe were ignored" , the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

And he said Italy had been at the forefront of moves over the past year and a half to improve ties between Europe and Iran, which had been shown by recent visits to Tehran by Italian politicians.

Iranian politicians defiant

But the Rome visit was not without some tensions, though.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Minister refuted comments by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini in which he said Khatami was trying to overcome Iran's international isolation.

"Nobody can isolate Iran," the spokesman was quoted as saying in Neshat daily.

"Khatami's visit to Italy and the invitations he has received to go to other countries are a demonstration that we are not isolated and never have been by he Islamic Revolution," he said.

His comments were echoed by the head of the parliamentary association for Iran-Italy friendship in an interview in `Iran Daily'.

Mohsen Yahyavi said Dini's remarks "derive from a false interpretation of reality and the international position of the Iranian government," he said.

"I can say that Iran is not isolated and is an active force in the region and in the world.

It's special status is recognized by all countries except those which deny the truth."

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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