Index

DATE=3/17/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=IRAN REACT / U-S SANCTIONS (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-260302 BYLINE=DALE GAVLAK DATELINE=CAIRO INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Iran's Foreign Ministry has welcomed Washington's decision (on Friday) to lift economic sanctions on key non-oil goods. The ministry said Tehran would respond by importing U-S grain and medicine. VOA's Dale Gavlak reports from Cairo. TEXT: Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi called the U-S decision positive. He spoke to reporters within hours of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's announcement that Americans would now be allowed to import Iranian non-oil goods such as carpets, dried fruits, nuts and caviar. In exchange, Mr. Asefi said, Tehran would permit the United States to export grain and medicine to Iran. The country is currently the world's largest wheat importer after a series of droughts cut domestic production. Mr. Asefi pointed out that although Mrs. Albright repeated past U-S accusations about Iran's involvement in terrorism, she also admitted America's past mistakes. He added that her speech presented a new and different American attitude toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Asefi said Tehran was studying her remarks and would provide a more thorough response at a later time. Ordinary Iranians are hailing the U-S move as a means of restoring relations more quickly and helping their country's ailing economy. A political analyst for several reformist newspapers, Saeed Laylaz, told the Associated Press that President Mohammad Khatami's reform program is now bearing fruit. He said the warming of ties between Tehran and Washington is irreversible and would continue to move ahead. Since coming to power nearly three years ago, President Khatami has encouraged increased people-to-people contact with the United States, but has stopped short of calling for talks. Washington cut its ties with Iran in 1979,after radical students seized the American Embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. NEB/DG/KL 17-Mar-2000 17:27 PM EDT (17-Mar-2000 2227 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .