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    TEHERAN, January 10, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Nikolai Terekhov) - Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who served as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for two consecutive terms (1989 through 1997), argues that the United States' initiative to restore formal relations with Iran is a premature one, and is not to be taken seriously.

    This was a rushed statement on the part of the Americans, and their intention to send in a humanitarian mission aroused doubts, Rafsanjani said. As he sees it, Iran's grateful acceptance of U.S. humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the devastating Bam earthquake was what must have encouraged the White House to continue along the path of rapprochement. But if it were really keen to lend a hand of friendship to Iran, the United States would have abandoned all anti-Iranian rhetoric, he reasons.

    A delegation under a Bush clan member planned to come to Iran in the wake of the Bam earthquake, but the Iranian government had the Americans postpone their "humanitarian" visit, sensing political motivation behind it. Yet, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has once again reiterated Washington's willingness to resume political negotiations with Teheran on what he has referred to as "specific problems." When the moderate Mohammad Khatami took the presidency over from Rafsanjani in 1997, it seemed likely that Iran would soon restore its diplomatic relations with the United States. The relations had been broken off in 1979 when Iranian Islamists seized the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, taking several dozen Americans hostage. But Khatami and the then-President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, failed to meet the expectations, never going beyond conciliatory statements.

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