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Iranian Daily Publishes Interview With State Department Official

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

In an unprecedented move, an Iranian daily has published an interview with a State Department official.

On September 30, the reformist "Shargh" daily published an interview with the U.S. State Department's Persian spokesman, Alan Eyre, in which he was asked about the historic telephone conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, and the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities.

"Shargh" posted the interview together with a photograph of Eyre, who is a fluent Persian speaker and a regular guest of Persian-language media outside of Iran, on its front page. The headline: "Alan Eyre, the Persian Spokesman of the State Department: We Are Demanding the Lifting of Sanctions."

In the interview, Eyre said the United States believes there was an opportunity for improved relations between the two countries. He said Washington welcomed the change in tone since Rohani became president, but cautioned there is a difference between words and deeds.

He added that the United States would like to see sanctions against Iran lifted, but that this could only happen if Iran addressed international concerns about its nuclear program.

The move -- which appears to indicate a slightly more open media atmosphere in Iran following Rohani's election in June -- comes in the wake of diplomatic outreach in New York by Rohani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who last week met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In July, the hard-line Fars news agency briefly published an interview with Eyre, but then quickly removed it. Fars did not explain the incident.

Eyre posted the link to his "Shargh" interview on Facebook, where it generated about 3,000 likes and dozens of comments from Iranians, many of whom expressed hope for better ties between the two countries.

One said that at the current pace of events, one could expect Obama to visit Iran any day.

Another wrote: "Don't let this fire be extinguished. As an Iranian, I urge both sides not to allow hard-liners to be victorious."

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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