Thursday, February 19, 2004

Mohammad Reza Bahonar

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, a "prominent conservative tipped as a possible new head of the Iranian parliament", says that "he is open to eventual talks with US legislators." Bahonar also opines: "The question of relations with the United States is not all black and white. There is an entire range of grey between the two...If there is a desire (from Washington) to build trust, we can move from dark grey to lighter grey. But for the moment, there is no trust."

A prominent conservative tipped as a possible new head of the Iranian parliament says he is open to eventual talks with US legislators after the expected rout of reformists in elections here Friday.

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, one of the top three politicians in the country's religious right wing, also denied plans to impose puritanical Islamic rule on Iran after the polls, but signaled a tough line against truculent reformists.

Bahonar made his remarks in an interview Wednesday with AFP as he campaigned in his native town of Kerman in southeastern Iran, whose two Majlis seats are presently held by reformers.

With the conservative camp expected to recapture the290 -seat legislature handily, Bahonar stressed an open, pragmatic approach to issues such as US relations or the obligation for women to wear a veil.

"The question of relations with the United States is not all black and white. There is an entire range of grey between the two," he said.

"If there is a desire (from Washington) to build trust, we can move from dark grey to lighter grey. But for the moment, there is no trust."

Iranian officials nixed a recent effort to organise a visit by a US congressional delegation to Iran while the reformers held parliament. But Bahonar did not rule out eventual talks between legislators of both sides.

"Dialogue is not bad in and of itself, but you can't allow one of the parties to try to impose its point of view," said Bahonar, considered a prime candidate to run the Majlis after the elections.

And meanwhile...

UN nuclear inspectors in Iran have found undeclared components of an advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuge at an air force base, diplomats say.

Correspondents say the find may be the first known link between Iran's nuclear programme and its military.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has declined to comment on the find.

The diplomats said the parts found were compatible with the P-2 centrifuge - a more advanced type than the model Iran has acknowledged using.

The daily USA Today reported that the machinery was found at the Doshen-Tappen air base in Tehran.

Can't the UN put it together?


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