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World - Middle East

U.S. firms attend Iranian trade fair for first time in 20 years

Tehran's trade fair
Tehran's trade fair  
October 4, 1998
Web posted at: 9:22 p.m. EDT (0122 GMT)

From Reporter Kasra Naji

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Several American companies are taking part in this year's international trade fair in Tehran -- the first participation by U.S. firms since the 1979 Iranian revolution that fractured relations between the two countries.

The companies from the United States, one of 74 countries taking part in the fair, are in Tehran despite U.S. trade sanctions still in place against Iran.

CNN's Kasra Naji reports from Tehran, Iran
Windows Media 28K 56K

"We cannot do formal business as far as making contracts for sales or shipping products to Iran. But we can make relationships," says Gene Crocker of World Business Alabama. "We can display the brochures and catalogues of the businesses in Alabama that would wish to trade if those sanctions are lifted."

The Americans here believe that, as in China, those companies who start early developing relationships with the Iranians will do better in the long run.

"I think it would be a large market, some 70 million people," says Crocker. "Of course, there's still a lot of business in oil recovery and processing, and there are companies in Alabama, in the USA, that make equipment that could be used and, as I understand, is needed in that effort."

fair attendees
World Business Alabama was at the fair to build relationships  

Opening the trade fair, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said the presence of more than 500 companies from so many countries was the result of his government's new policy of removing tension from Iran's relations with the outside world.

Early this year, he appealed for efforts to bring down what he called the wall of mistrust between Iran and the United States -- efforts which have been reciprocated by the U.S. State Department's encouragement of visits to Iran.

The question now is whether business people from both Iran and the United States are able to encourage their own governments to move faster in mending relations -- whether trade could prove the catalyst needed to end 20 years of estrangement.

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