Iran General NewsIran rejects idea of U.S. NGO presence: media

Iran rejects idea of U.S. NGO presence: media

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ImageReuters: Iran will refuse any request by U.S.-based non-governmental organization American-Iranian Council (AIC) to open an office in the Islamic Republic, the interior minister said in comments published on Wednesday.

ImageTEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran will refuse any request by U.S.-based non-governmental organization American-Iranian Council (AIC) to open an office in the Islamic Republic, the interior minister said in comments published on Wednesday.

In a rare move, the United States this month said the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control had granted permission to New Jersey-based AIC to operate in Iran.

A U.S. official said the decision to allow the NGO to go to Iran was "carefully reviewed" within the U.S. government, which cut ties with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution and is now embroiled in a standoff with Tehran over its nuclear program.

But Iranian Interior Minister Ali Kordan, an ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made clear in comments carried by Iranian media that his ministry would not give its approval.

"If such a request is handed over the Interior Ministry, because of the country's interest … will not issue permission," Kordan was quoted as saying by the Kayhan daily.

A U.S. official has said Washington wanted to encourage "cultural exchange and mutual understanding" between the U.S. and Iranian people "while trying to isolate the regime."

Iran has often accused the United States of using intellectuals and others inside the country to undermine the Islamic state through a "velvet revolution," a reference to the non-violent overthrow of Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The AIC seeks to "be a catalyst for positive change in the relationship between the United States and Iran," the NGO says on its web site www.american-iranian.org.

"Our mission is to help overcome many of the key misunderstandings, misperceptions and mischaracterizations that exist in this relationship," the NGO says.

The Bush administration has also been debating whether to open a U.S. interests section in Tehran, similar to one it has had in Cuba since 1977. Such a move would involve sending U.S. diplomats to Iran for the first time in almost 30 years.

Iranian officials have made clear they would look at such a request. Influential parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani has described it as a "cunning move" by Washington.

The official IRNA news agency this week said student members of the Basij religious militia, fiercely loyal to the Islamic Republic, planned to set up office in the former U.S. embassy in Tehran to show its opposition to any U.S. presence in Iran.

The United States is spearheading a drive to isolate Tehran over nuclear activities the West fears are aimed at making bombs. Iran says its nuclear program is solely aimed at generating electricity.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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