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Swiss playing role in attempts to improve US-Iran relations

Switzerland has been taking part in a dialogue aimed at improving the strained relations between Iran and the United States, according to a senior Swiss official, Franz von Däniken (picture), who has just ended a visit to Teheran.

This content was published on January 23, 2000 - 10:38

Switzerland has been taking part in a dialogue aimed at improving the strained relations between Iran and the United States, according to a senior Swiss official, Franz von Däniken, who has just ended a visit to Teheran.

Von Däniken, state secretary in the Swiss foreign ministry, said he had taken part in a "critical but encouraging" dialogue with Iranian officials on relations between Teheran and Washington.

He said Switzerland was proud to represent US interests in Iran but added that the US had every right to use other avenues to achieve a rapprochement with Iran.

Switzerland has represented the two countries in each other's capitals since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 in the wake of the protracted siege and hostage-taking at the US embassy in Teheran.

The Swiss official said he had also spoken about US attempts to engage in a political dialogue and Teheran's refusal to allow the opening of a US consular section in Teheran.

Following the meeting, on Monday, the Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, said Teheran was willing to open negotiations with Washington on resuming diplomatic relations. He said Iran was ready for talks on condition they took place on the basis of mutual interest and equality.

The Swiss state secretary, Von Däniken, also revealed that Kharrazi would attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos next Saturday - the day when President Clinton is due at the summit. But he did not say if the two would meet. He added that Kharrazi had also been invited to Berne.

Turning to bilateral issues, von Däniken said Iran wished to improve political, economic and cultural ties with Switzerland.

He also raised issues such as human rights and the case of Kazem Rajavi, an Iranian opposition leader assassinated in Coppet, near Geneva, ten years ago. He recalled that Switzerland had asked for judicial aid from Iran to help clear up the killing.

Von Däniken also pledged Berne's support in helping Iran deal with drug trafficking problems and the influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

From staff and wire reports

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