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10/08/11

State Department Farsi Spokesman Says Iran Should Consider Hotline, MKO Still Terrorist Group

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Iran should “carefully“ consider a plan to establish a military-to-military hotline between the United States and the Islamic Republic says U.S. State Department Farsi Spokesman Alan Eyre. The plan, which was first reported on September 18 by "The Wall Street Journal," is aimed at preventing potential incidents between the two countries. 

U.S. State Department Farsi Spokesman Alan Eyre
U.S. State Department Farsi Spokesman Alan Eyre

While in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad appeared to welcome the plan. "Any tool that can prevent clashes or potential conflict, we welcome that tool," said Ahmadinejad, who has been weakened and isolated domestically as the result of a power struggle with Iran’s supreme leader and his allies.  

Later however other Iranian officials, including the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, spoke against it. "The Americans should make requests which have something to do with realities," Admiral Fadavi told the semi-official Mehr news agency on September 26.

Fadavi added that in Tehran’s view “the illegitimate presence” of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf makes no sense.

US-Iran hotline

Eyre told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on October 5 that despite the “contradictory statements” from Iranian officials, Tehran should still consider the plan and accept it if it finds it in its interests. 

In a wide-ranging interview, Eyre, who is a fluent Farsi speaker, also said that he didn’t know when the U.S. will announce its decision regarding the terrorist designation of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin Khalq organization (MKO). 

“It’s not like I know and wouldn’t tell you, I don’t know it myself,” said Eyre. 
When asked whether the U.S. consider MKO a viable opposition group, he said: "No. The U.S. considers the Mujahedin Khalq a terrorist organization. That’s it.“
Regarding the sanctions against Iran over its sensitive nuclear work, Eyre said the U.S and other countries see signs that sanctions are hurting the Islamic Republic. He also said that it is regrettable that ordinary Iranians are also being hurt because of the sanctions. 

RFE/RL: Sanctions are pressuring the Iranian government but there is no sign that they will make Iran change course and return to the negotiation table. Is the U.S. still determined to keep raising the pressure on Iran?

Eyre: It takes time. Sanctions are having an impact. We’re hoping that the Islamic Republic will change course and play a more positive role.”

RFE/RL: U.S. officials have said that the sanctions are not against the Iranian people. But in practice we’re seeing that small businesses, ordinary people are being hurt by the sanctions.

Eyre: The sanctions are aimed against Iran’s illegitimate and illegal actions. They’re not aimed against the Iranian people. We haven’t been 100 percent successful and, it’s regrettable. We try very hard so that Iranians don’t pay for the actions of their government. “

Eyre, who was appointed earlier this year in an effort by the Obama administration to reach out to Iranians directly, told RFE/RL that the United States is concerned about all the Iranian citizens whose rights are being violated in the Islamic Republic. 

He made the comments in a question regarding the reported house arrest of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi, and Mehdi Karrubi and why U.S. officials have never directly expressed concern over the situation of the men who have been missing from public for more than six months.

“We work hard so that all Iranians, including Musavi and Karrubi, can enjoy their basic rights including the right to freedom of expression,” said Eyre, adding that Washington expresses concern about the human rights situation in Iran in general without mentioning specific individuals.

Some opposition activists have said that the United States should call on Iran to release Musavi and Karrubi, who are said to be under house arrest without any contact to the outside world.


Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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