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DATE=2/14/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=CLINTON-IRAN (L) NUMBER=2-259151 BYLINE=DAVID GOLLUST DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President Clinton has reiterated his hopes for improved U-S relations with Iran, while expressing concern about the fate of 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel. V-O-A's David Gollust reports from the White House. TEXT: Mr. Clinton says having a constructive U-S partnership with Iran is one of the best things that could be done for the long-term peace and health of the Middle East. And he says he is still hopeful such a relationship can materialize despite seemingly- fruitless of overtures to Tehran in the recent past. The president made the comments in an unusual dialogue with internet callers to the C-N-N broadcast network's website, C-N-N Dot-Com, carried live on television. He told a questioner from Iran that he shared the young man's hopes for a "healthy and mutually respectful" relationship between the two countries, while saying the issue rests largely in the hands of the Iranian people and the election process there. Acknowledging the split among Iran's top leaders over restoring a relationship broken off after the Islamic revolution in 1979, Mr. Clinton said he did not want to jeopardize the position of moderates in the Tehran leadership: /// CLINTON ACTUALITY /// I think it's important that the genuine reformers there not be, in effect, weakened because of their willingness to at least talk to us. Because I think that the United States should always remain open to a constructive dialogue of people of goodwill. And I think that the estrangement between these two countries is not a good thing. I think it would be better if we could have a relationship. /// END ACT /// Mr. Clinton said he was troubled by, and has devoted considerable attention to, the case of 13 Iranian Jews jailed and facing possible death sentences for spying for Israel. He said he has been assured by Israeli authorities that the accused were not spies, and said the case is among the obstacles to better relations with Tehran: /// CLINTON ACT TWO /// It is an irritant. The American Jewish community is very, very concerned about it. And we've done a lot of work on it. And I'm hopeful that justice will be done there and that no one will be punished for being a spy who isn't. That's not a good thing to do, and that obviously is one of the sticking points. /// END ACT /// The Clinton administration has sent a number of conciliatory signals to Iran since the election of the relatively-moderate Muslim cleric Mohamed Khatemi as president in 1997. The administration says it wants an authoritative dialogue with Iran on all issues of concern to both parties, including Iran's alleged support for terrorism, strident opposition to Israeli-Arab peace- making and efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. While he did not elaborate, Mr. Clinton said in his C-N-N remarks that the United States has not in his words "been entirely blameless" in its past dealings with Iran. (Signed) NEB/DAG/JO 14-Feb-2000 16:23 PM EDT (14-Feb-2000 2123 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .