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11/3/03 - THE U.S. AND IRAN - 2003-11-05

The U.S. is committed to supporting the Iranian people in their aspirations for a democratic, prosperous country. But today in Iran, there is a struggle between extremists mired in the past and those who want a free and modern state.

As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says, “There is no question that the Iranian regime is engaged in destructive policies and actions.” Iran has an abysmal human rights record. The Iranian regime uses torture and arbitrary detention to repress free speech, freedom of association, and religious freedom. Iran’s pursuit and development of weapons of mass destruction have also raised concerns. It is especially important that Iran abide by its international obligations on nuclear nonproliferation.

Iran continues to support terrorists, offering financial and logistical support to terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad. Moreover, White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Iran is still harboring al-Qaida terrorists:

“We continue to –- as do other countries, I would point out, continue to –- urge the Iranians to change their behavior on a number of fronts. That’s one of them right there, is that any al-Qaida terrorist they have in their country, they need to turn them over to their country of origin, or to the United States.”

Mr. McClellan says that cooperating in the war against terrorism is essential:

“Iran must change its course, change its behavior –- particularly on the issue of its relationship with al-Qaida and the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organizations, and that would be –- if they could resolve that issue –- that would be an important step in our relations.”

As Deputy Secretary of State Armitage says, the Iranian people “have made it clear that they want democratic and economic reform, accountability and transparency from their government, an end to corruption, religious moderation, and reintegration with the international community.” The Iranian people, says Mr. Armitage, “should know of our support for their aspirations, but also that the full rewards of that support will only be realized once their government ends its destructive...policies.”