President George W. Bush wants to increase contacts between the American and Iranian people. "I like the idea of people coming from parts of the world. . . .to see America as it is," says Mr. Bush.
The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980. The U.S. severed ties with Iran's clerical regime after Iranian students, with the support of Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stormed the American embassy and held fifty-two Americans hostage for more than a year.
Today, the Iranian government's pursuit of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism, and its terrible record on human rights, remain of grave concern to the United States and many other countries. But President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice draw a sharp distinction between Iran's clerical regime and the Iranian people. They support reaching out to ordinary Iranians through a variety of means.
One is to increase cultural contacts. Here is U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns:
"We are now planning athletic exchanges, medical exchanges, professorial exchanges, people to people exchanges from all walks of life; so we can bring. . . .Iranians in much larger numbers to this country, and hopefully have the kind of exchanges that, in the long term, might help us over the horizon to begin to have a more normal relationship, a more normal dialogue especially [with] Iranians outside their governmental apparatus."
In addition, says Mr. Burns, the United States will expand its television and radio broadcasts to Iran:
"Because there ought to be a competition for ideas in Iran, and there ought to be a political debate informed by free ideas and free information."
Under Secretary of State Burns says the U.S. is also giving "support on a grass roots basis to the non-governmental community in Iran and to those who wish to see democracy as the future of Iran." Mr. Burns says, "As President Bush and. . . Secretary [of State Rice] have clearly articulated, we stand with the Iranian people in their century-old struggle to advance democracy, freedom, and the basic rights of all citizens."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.