________________________________________________________________________ Iranian president addresses Americans as 'great people' ____________________________________________________________________________ Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Agence France-Presse TEHRAN (December 14, 1997 12:30 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday hailed "the great American people," in a speech outlining his vision of an Iranian society where human rights are respected and laws obeyed. In the warmest words towards the United States by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Khatami repeatedly stressed his "great respect for the great people of the United States." "I would like to express my respect to the nation and great people of the United States. I hope in the not too distant future I will be able to address the American people," Khatami told a press conference. Sources close to Khatami said he would send a "New Year's" message to the American people. Khatami said he had long supported "removing tension from the world," but shied away from questions about official dialogue with Washington. "Our political problems with the U.S. are too complex to be easily resolved, but I hope all politicians who enjoy the weapon of logic will contribute so that we can all live in peace and quiet," he said. Khatami, who won a suprise victory in May elections on a platform promising greater openness, complained that U.S. politicians were "out of step with their times" and "seeking monopolistic rule at any price." But he acknowledged the democratic right of the U.S. people to choose their government. "The government of the United States is elected by its people and we respect the choice of the American people," he said. The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since the long-running hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979-80 when U.S. diplomats were detained by Islamic revolutionaries. Washington accuses Tehran of sponsoring terrorism and of trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal, while Iran still calls the United States "the great Satan." "The Americans have been mistreating many countries, especially Iran, in the past 50 years and this is a fact which is very regrettable for me," said Khatami. In contrast to Washington's attempts to isolate the Islamic republic, the European Union has maintained diplomatic ties and followed a "critical dialogue" with the Iranian government. In the past year Iran has moved to mend fences with many Arab enemies who feared Tehran's pledges to export is radical brand of Shia Islam. Khatami has speeded up the diplomatic drive, sealing a tentative reconciliation with countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at last week's Islamic summit here. "My policy has been to remove tension from the world, and we have been completely successful with the countries of the region. Iran and the EU have also been able to resolve their dispute," he said. Khatami condemned the D'Amato Law, a bill passed by the U.S. Congress in September that allows Washington to slap sanctions on any company investing more than $40 million in the oil or gas industries of Iran or Libya. The French oil firm Total signed a $2 billion deal here in defiance of the law, with the support of EU governments. "The United States wants to dominate at any price like its recent insult against Europe. It wanted to make a decision for them as shown in the case of the D'Amato law," said Khatami. The president rejected Washington's terrorism charges against Tehran. "We condemn all forms of terrorism but there is a difference between terrorism and a legitimate defense of one's land which has been usurped and subjected to aggression," he said. Iran supports the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is fighting a guerrilla war against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, and has also defended militant groups like Hamas. Tehran considers both groups, which are on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist movements, to be freedom fighters. Khatami also expanded on the "Islamic civil society" he has pushed since taking office -- praising women, the rule of law and respect for human rights. "I am seriously pursuing efforts to make sure the rights of people in Iran are protected," said Khatami. "Within the law people have rights, and nobody has the right to deny them that right. Definitely there is much we can borrow from the West on this, even their type of civil society," he said. And he defended the status of women, who have been forced to cover themselves from head to toe in public since 1979. "We don't want male chauvinism nor female chavinism. We want merit to rule ... The perception that women are the second sex is very dangerous. Women are the first sex and they can achieve very senior positions," he said.
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