TEHRAN TO BECOME A THEATRE OF DIPLOMATIC BALLET
TEHRAN 24 Sept. (IPS) As Tehran is to become this week one of the theatres of an international diplomatic ballet, Iran denied reports that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, expected in Tehran today, Monday, will be carrying a message from US officials for the regime, the state IRNA news agency reported.
"Britain's foreign secretary is not scheduled to carry a special message from American officials", Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told Majles (parliament) Sunday.
"There is no need for Britain's Foreign Secretary to bring along a message from the United States. We are in contact with America through our own channels, meaning the Swiss embassy" he informed lawmakers against a background that messages have been exchanged between Tehran and Washington with British intermediaries.
"America gives Iran messages via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, and Iran for its part uses the same channel to answer" Mr. Kharrazi explained, as the State-run television witch is under the direct control of the regime’s leader reported that the Foreign Minister remained silent when asked by parliamentary reporters if Straw would be conveying any "special" message from the US government.
He said the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US and their consequences have been the reason for Straw's tour of the region, including Iran, but "earlier than planned".
The British Foreign Minister was due to visit Iran on November, but he brought it forward following an exchange of letters and an unprecedented telephone conversation between the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
As the 15-minutes telephone talk took place when Mr. Blair was flying to Washington for a meeting with President George W. Bush, it raised speculations that Mr. Khatami might have asked him to convey a message to his American counterpart.
Iran and the United States have not diplomatic relations, but ties have improved dramatically after the Iranian clerical-led leadership condemned the 11 September terrorist operations, imputed to Mr. Osama Ben Laden and offered to participate in an international fight against terrorism provided it is approved and led by the United Nations.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week that Straw would pass on a message from Washington but did not elaborate.
He also praised Iran for its stance and expressed readiness to participate in a worldwide effort to eradicate terrorism.
Along Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran is also on the American list of "rogue states" that supports terrorism.
Kharrazi told Majlis that Straw can explain the stances of the US but Washington's position is not hidden to Iran.
During his visit, the two sides are not only expected to hold talks on bilateral ties, but also discuss the crisis in Afghanistan following the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, the official news agency IRNA said Sunday.
Asked on Iran's possible plan to join the anti-terrorism coalition, Kharrazi said Iran is for U.N.-led an anti-terrorism campaign.
In reply to a question as to Washington's justifications for attacks on Afghanistan, Kharrazi said the US says all proofs point to the role of Mr. Ben Laden in the attacks against New York and Washington.
However, he added, no evidence has so far been provided in this connection. "Should any action be taken, it should be accompanied by proofs and evidences or else the world public opinion will not accept it" he said.
Kharrazi also noted that attacks on Afghanistan are open to questions from other aspects, namely the effectiveness of the attacks and whether Afghan people would be immune from them. "These are all the points that should be taken into consideration before any attack is launched", he added.
The British Foreign Minister would be followed on Tuesday by Mr. Louis Michel, his Belgian counterpart, who is the current president of the European Union’s presidential council and Mr. Xavier Solana, the 15 members organisation "Super Minister" for Foreign and Security Affairs, also aimed at encouraging Tehran for closer co-operation with the US-led international war preparations against Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban government.
Responding to demands by many Iranian reformists, including officials, lawmakers and experts on President Khatami to play a more active role, Mr. Kharrazi held extensive telephone conversations with several European, Arab and Central Asian colleagues, not forgetting the Russians.
Despite Mr. Bush’s stern ultimatum, the ultra-orthodox Muslim Taleban have refused to arrest Mr. Ben Laden and extradite him to Washington on the ground that the regime’s highest religious council, or Shawra, has called on him to leave the country on his own will.
When he arrives in Tehran, Mr. Straw would become the highest-ranking British official to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
In a message to Iranian people, Mr. Straw said his visit to Tehran would herald a "new chapter in bilateral ties".
In the message, provided to IRNA by the British Embassy in Tehran, Mr. Straw called the attack on the U.S. as a "horrendous affair" in which people of 80 countries, including Iranians, were among the fatalities.
Straw said the sympathy and indignation shown by the Iranian people and government to the attack was a "great solace" to British citizens.
"The prudent and humanitarian judgment shown by Iran is in stark contrast to the glee of the Iraqi regime. This again shows the extent that the leaders of the other Muslim countries ostracize Saddam Hussein", the British foreign secretary said.
He said that the British Prime Minister and other world leaders have made it abundantly clear that a war against terrorism "is in no way a war against Islam", taking into account Iranian leaders warnings that any war against the Taleban should not be turned into a confrontation between Christians and Muslims nor between civilisations.
He said his visit is not only to exchange sympathies, but, is to find out to the what extent Iran's experiences could be of assistance in the issues.
To please the Iranians, Straw said when he was the Home Secretary; he used his rights to declare as "illegal the Mojahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO) and 24 other such groups".
Mr. Straw also expressed hope that Iran and Britain can embark on closer
cooperation on terrorism, adding that he will also raise the issue of the
"deplorable condition" of people of Afghanistan during his meeting
with President Khatami and his Iranian counterpart and drew attention to
Britain's 25 million pound relief help to Afghanistan's neighbors to mitigate
the problems caused by the influx of Afghan refugees. ENDS IRAN BRITAIN US