Iran General NewsU.S. considering diplomatic outpost in Iran: Rice

U.S. considering diplomatic outpost in Iran: Rice

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ImageReuters: The Bush administration is still considering setting up a diplomatic outpost in Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday.

ImageASTANA, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – The Bush administration is still considering setting up a diplomatic outpost in Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday.

Her comments appeared to contradict an Associated Press report that the administration, in its waning months in office, had shelved plans to open an "interest section" in Iran.

"We continue to look at the idea, think it's an interesting idea," Rice told reporters who asked about a possible U.S. "interest section" in Tehran.

She was speaking on her plane en route to Kazakhstan, where she planned to have talks with the government.

"But we are going to take a look at it in the light of what it could do for our relationship with the Iranian people," Rice said. She did not comment further.

The United States is at loggerheads with Tehran on a range of issues, including Iran's nuclear program, which the west suspects is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran argues it is for peaceful purposes.

The two nations have been antagonists since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Switzerland handles U.S. Interests in Iran as Washington has no diplomatic ties with Tehran. President George Bush once referred to Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

During the summer, U.S. media reported that senior officials at the State Department were mulling a proposal to establish an "interest section," in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977.

This would stop short of full diplomatic relations but involve sending some US diplomats to Tehran.

Rice has never publicly discussed the idea at any length, saying she did not want to comment on "internal deliberations." But months have gone by without any decision being announced.

Last week the Bush administration took the rare step of granting permission for a U.S. non-governmental organization to open an office in Iran, while saying that Washington's Iran policy — including heavy U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program — remain unchanged.

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