U.S. Softens Initial Reaction To Iranian President
By Wolf Blitzer/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 8) -- Concerned that its initial reaction to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's interview with CNN was seen as overly negative, the White House today deliberately decided to soften its tone, offering a more conciliatory response.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said President Bill Clinton believes President Khatami "made many positive remarks about the United States, and the president appreciates those positive remarks."
McCurry also suggested the administration was not necessarily opposed to allowing some initial people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, as proposed by Khatami.
The impression left by the initial State Department statement Wednesday night was that the U.S. was opposed to any exchanges other than on an authoritative, government-to-government basis.
White House officials privately are even leaving open the possibility that the administration may review its two-decade policy restricting travel to Iran by private American citizens. It may also review existing visa restrictions on visits by Iranians to the United States.
But publicly McCurry would only say, "We have visa restrictions that are in place. I'm not aware of any change in our policies at this point. That is a matter that would have to be addressed if there were to be any pursuit of this concept advanced last night. But to my knowledge, there have been no decisions reached on matters like that at this time.
"We welcome the fact that he (Khatami) wants to dialogue with the American people and between two great civilizations," McCurry said. "That could be useful, but it's also important to stress that the best way for issues to be addressed is for governments to talk directly." McCurry added, "Ultimately, improvement in relations will depend upon not just what Iran says, but what Iran does."