In his wide-ranging comments during a press conference on Saturday, President Khatami said he regrets that an opportunity was lost to normalize relations with the US during Clinton Administration, after the US offered an apology for backing the 1953 pro-Shah coup. Houshang Amirahmadi, head of the American-Iranian Council, tells Radio Farda that former US State Department Undersecretary Thomas Pickering confirmed to him in an interview that the Clinton Administration had decided to go ahead with normalization of ties, and was waiting for a positive signal from Tehran.
August 29, 2004 - During his press conference yesterday, President Khatami said he regretted that the Islamic government did not use the opportunity offered by the Clinton Administration.
President Khatami was referring to a 2000 speech by US Secretary of State Madeline Albright at a conference in Washington organized by the American-Iranian Council, according to Houshang Amirahmadi, head of the US-Iran relations advocacy group. He tells Radio Farda's broadcaster Fereydoun Zarnegar that Khatami's admission is important, but too late.
"I am certain that even the conservative faction of the Islamic regime regrets the loss of opportunity offered by President Clinton and Secretary Albright," Amirahmadi adds.
"Also, in an interview which will be published in the next issue of AIC's journal, Ms. Albright's deputy Ambassador Thomas Pickering confirms that the decision had been made by President Clinton to normalize US-Iran relations," he says, adding that Pickering told him that before Isaac Robin assassination, the Israeli government maintained that a US-Iran détente was the best thing that could happen to Israel.
"The Clinton Administration not only sent Ms. Albright to offer an apology to Iran, but had made the decision to normalize relations and this opportunity was lost because of the Islamic government's reaction," Amirahmadi adds.
"The Islamic government officials have a history of lost opportunities in foreign policy during the past 25 years, as we saw in the US hostage crisis, Iran-Iraq war and many other occasions," he says. "They always first hike their price, but when they see no takers, they begin drastic discount!"
"I believe that in the future there will be more similar opportunities. Regretting is one thing, but learning from the past and planning for the future is another," Amirahmadi says. "The Islamic government must create the opportunities (for normalization of ties with the US)," he adds.
"Khatami's comments warm the hearts of those forces in the US who are interested in creating opportunities (for improvement of relations with Iran) in the future, but unfortunately those who would want to create those opportunities are few and their power is too little.
"The problem is that the US officials cannot be sure that Khatami's sensible comments have any buyers within the Islamic Republic," Amirahmadi adds.
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