Iran General NewsUS officials doubt congressional Iran outreach

US officials doubt congressional Iran outreach

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ImageAFP: Aides to top US lawmakers expressed surprise on Wednesday after Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said he was mulling talks with members of the US Congress after receiving letters from them.

ImageWASHINGTON (AFP) — Aides to top US lawmakers expressed surprise on Wednesday after Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said he was mulling talks with members of the US Congress after receiving letters from them.

"Everyone thinks this is dead wrong," an aide to a senior Democratic senator who is a key voice in US foreign policy said after asking other congressional experts about Larijani's claim that US lawmakers had written him.

The official, who requested anonymity, said some nongovernmental organizations had been "trying to enlist House members" to support scientific or cultural exchanges with Iran, and that some might have written letters in support of such efforts.

"But I'm not aware of any such letters sent directly to the Iranians. And it'd be highly unusual to ever have Senators engaging directly with foreign governments this way, let alone rogue regimes," the aide told AFP.

His comments came after the conservative Larijani was quoted in the Kargozaran local newspaper on Tuesday as saying "several letters were received from members of Congress and Senators. We feel that it is time to hold bilateral negotiations."

"We have not given a negative response to this issue. It is under examination," he added, without specifying the dates of the letters or who had sent them.

Asked about Larijani's comments, an aide to a top Republican lawmaker replied "that would surprise me" because direct contacts with senior Iranian leaders would raise eyebrows in the United States.

The White House declined to comment on Larijani's remarks.

Since Barack Obama's US presidential election win, Iranian politicians have voiced hope for a shift in US policy towards Tehran and in an unprecedented move, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quick to congratulate Obama.

The two countries have had no diplomatic relations for nearly three decades since Islamist students took American diplomats hostage for 444 days following the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

On July 24, 2008, a group of leading US lawmakers wrote in support to US President George W. Bush after media reports that he was considering the possibility of opening a diplomatic "interests section" in Tehran.

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