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Iranian News Agency Removes 'Exclusive' Interview With U.S. Official

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

WASHINGTON -- Iran's hard-line Fars news agency has published what was billed as an "exclusive interview" with the U.S. State Department's Persian-speaking spokesman Alan Eyre, only to remove it from its website.

Alan Eyre, the U.S. State Department's Persian-speaking spokesman

Fars, which is said to be affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Force (IRGC), has not provided an explanation for the move. The news agency has also not said why it decided to give Eyre a platform to discuss U.S. views and policies, barely three weeks after Iran's presidential election, which was won by moderate cleric Hassan Rohani.

Interviews with U.S. officials are extremely rare on Iran's state-controlled media outlets.

The text of the Fars interview with Eyre is still available on other Iranian news sites.

Eyre also posted a Google cache of the text of the interview on the State Department's Facebook page.

"My exclusive interview with Fars, which was removed after being posted," wrote Eyre. He didn't provide details.

Following an inquiry by RFE/RL about how the interview was arranged and the reason for its removal, a State Department spokesperson said the agency does not discuss such matters.

In an e-mail, the official said, "All of our foreign language spokespeople engage with numerous media outlets to convey U.S. policy on a wide range of topics. We do not discuss the details of how interviews are arranged, etc."

In the Fars interview, Eyre talks about U.S. policy toward Iran, Washington's preference for diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue, and the need for Iran to pay attention to its citizens' demands for change.

"As [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama has said a number of times, we are ready for talks with Iran either in the framework of the P5+1 or bilateral talks. These talks will be based on mutual respect," Eyre is quoted as saying in the interview.

The Fars article said "[Eyre] considered the [June 14] presidential election 'another sign of Iranians' demand to decide and shape their own future' and said the U.S. 'respects' those people who decided to go to the ballot boxes and cast their votes."

It is not clear whether Fars edited Eyre's comments.

The news agency has a record of fabricating news and distorting quotes. Iranian news agencies and news sites often publish news stories and then retract them, most likely because they were deemed unsuitable after coming to wider attention.

The news agency doesn't seem to have included its own commentary in the text of the interview with Eyre, which it sometimes does.

This is not the first time that Iranian domestic media have flirted with interviewing Eyre, who is a regular guest on Persian-language media based outside the country.

In 2012, the conservative Alef website backed away from plans to publish an online interview with Eyre following criticism by hard-liners.

Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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