Tags: US | Iran | diplomacy

U.S. Could Open Diplomatic Office in Iran

Monday, 23 Jun 2008 09:44 PM

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The United States is considering opening an interests section staffed by US diplomats in Tehran, similar to the one it has in Cuba, a State Department official said Monday.

"I know it has been discussed," a State Department official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I don't know how active it is."

"I don't think there is anybody out there pushing that right now," the official added.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the US government is debating the move, which would create a US presence in Iran without formal resumption of diplomatic relations, severed in 1980 after 52 US diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran.

The Post said a decision could come in a matter of weeks.

Officially, no-one confirmed the story. But, asked about it as she flew to Berlin for a conference on the Palestinians, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice did not deny it.

"I don't want to comment on internal deliberations in the US," she told journalists accompanying her on her plane.

"The United States has been, for some time, trying to reach out to the Iranian people in various ways. We do have the station in Dubai where they can get visas," she said.

"But we know that it's difficult for Iranians sometimes to get to Dubai. We want more Iranians visiting the United States. ... We're determined to find ways to reach out to the Iranian people."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he had no "updates" on the subject of US-Iran diplomatic relations.

"Certainly, we look all the time at the best way to manage our diplomatic affairs," he said. "But there's no change in the status of the Swiss as our protecting power in Iran at this time."

Washington currently maintains an interests section in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, but it is staffed by Swiss personnel.

It is now considering deploying US citizens who would have diplomatic status there, a State Department source said.

Iran has an Interests Section in Pakistan's Washington Embassy staffed by Iranians with diplomatic status, the source said.

The United States has had a large US Interests Section in Cuba since 1977, despite the strict trade embargo it has imposed on the communist Caribbean island since 1962.

© 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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