State Department Noon Briefing, September 20, 2000

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2000 Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman Q: Can you confirm that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr. Kharazi, was allowed to travel inside the US territory, outside the UN perimeter in New York, to attend a conference in L.A. today and in Boston a few days ago? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We have facilitated contacts by a number of Iranian officials over the past few years in the United States, aimed at fostering dialogue, allowing people-to-people discussions between the US and Iran. The trip by the Foreign Minister is consistent with this policy, and my understanding is he is going to Boston and around the US, mostly on college campuses. Q: And L.A.? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have L.A. listed here, but my understanding is L.A., and I'm not sure where else. Q: But, I mean, you facilitate it? I mean, can you elaborate a little bit? I mean, you see no problem with the Foreign Minister of Iran speaking on campuses - several campuses, evidently? There's no ban on that, is there? MR. BOUCHER: It's consistent with our people-to-people exchanges, with our desire to foster a dialogue between the United States and Iranian people, and so this is completely consistent with what we are doing. Whether we have to annotate his visa to permit the travel or not, I would have to check. ... Q: Iran. Iranian terrorism, right? You keep saying - and we have no reason not to believe you - if you ever have a real conversation with him, that will be one of the things you'll make a point of. But you also seem to detect some moderate trends in Iran at the same time. Has this moderation, which not everybody perceives but the State Department says it is the basis for, has that in any affected their support for terrorism? Are they toning that down, as far as you know? MR. BOUCHER: The positive signs that we have seen in Iran - the election, the support for reform, the movement of changes, overall evolution of the society - these we've seen as positive trends, which we want to try to reciprocate in the people-to-people fashion. The serious issues that divide us remain serious. I'm not sure I can give you sort of a barometer of ups and downs in the support for terrorism, but they continue to support groups that engage in terrorism, and we make that clear every year when we do our terrorism report. That's the most recent sort of update on where they stand. I'm not aware of any - I wouldn't characterize the situation as having changed significantly since we did our last terrorism report. Q: All right. Because two years ago, before this process began, American officials, Administration officials, called Iran the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. Now, if they're now only the co-chief sponsor, that would be an improvement. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I will refer you to this year's terrorism report and tell you that I'm not aware that anything has changed since this year's terrorism report. Q: On the Iran meeting, do you know if he is the most senior Iranian official who has been given the permission to -- (inaudible)? MR. BOUCHER: Permission to travel in the US? I'll have to check on that. I'll have to see.