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DATE=3/16/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=US-IRAN (L-ONLY)(CQ) NUMBER=2-260258 BYLINE=LETA HONG FINCHER DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The United States is about to announce a major change in its policy towards Iran. As V-O-A's Leta Hong Fincher reports, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will spell out the changes on Friday in an attempt to encourage reformists in Iran. TEXT: The speech by Secretary Albright will be the first major U-S response to the victory of reformists in Iran's elections last month. State Department spokesman James Rubin said the success of reform candidates led by President Mohammad Khatami is a tribute to a thriving democracy in Iran. /// RUBIN ACT /// There has clearly been a major stride forward in terms of free press, leading to a free election, leading to an overwhelming victory for reformers in this most recent parliamentary election. As a result, Secretary Albright believes it's appropriate for the United States to respond to that election through a major policy address. /// END ACT /// Mr. Rubin did not give details of Friday's policy speech. But other U-S officials have suggested that Washington will loosen its sanctions on the import of three key non-oil products: Iranian rugs, caviar and pistachio nuts. The United States has imposed a ban on these imports for the past 13 years. On Monday, President Clinton extended a U-S ban on investment in Iran's oil and gas industry, saying that Iran still supports international terrorism and is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. But despite these sanctions, the United States has been trying to open a dialogue with Iran for years. Iran has repeatedly turned down offers of direct talks. But now that the reformist victory in Iran has shifted power away from the hard-liners, U-S officials are hoping to make progress toward reconciliation. /// Opt /// Secretary Albright will deliver her speech to the American-Iranian Council, a private group that seeks better relations with Iran. /// End Opt /// (Signed) NEB/LHF/ENE/JP 16-Mar-2000 16:00 PM EDT (16-Mar-2000 2100 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .