Index

DATE=3/18/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=IRAN CONSERVATIVES (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-260329 BYLINE=DALE GAVLAK DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Washington's decision to lift a ban on certain imports from Iran is sharpening the struggle between conservatives and the reformers there who favor better ties with the United States. Though a government spokesman has welcomed the U-S decision, some Iranian hard-liners are calling it interference in the country's internal affairs. Dale Gavlak reports from Cairo. TEXT: Conservatives in Iran are not happy about the U-S move to improve relations with Iran by lifting an American import ban on carpets, caviar and nuts. The head of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, criticized the measure, saying that U-S policy is just as hostile as before. He called the move an improper attempt by Washington to reward certain forces inside Iran. He added that Americans have no right to encourage or persuade any political trend in his country. Mr. Rouhani lost his seat in parliament when reformists swept last month's elections. Rouhani's sentiments are echoed by Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guard. It has promised to give an appropriate response to what it described as American plots. But it hasn't said just how intends to react to the U-S move. The Guard has hundreds of thousands of men in arms, and its own air force and weapons industry. By contrast, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, says the government welcomes the lifting of non-oil sanctions. He adds that Tehran would respond by importing American grain and medicine. Iran's merchant class said the U-S decision would have little immediate effect on their business. They said the move will help dealers in Europe and Canada that already have a stockpile of Persian rugs ready to flood the U-S market. They added that sellers in Iran would only begin to enjoy the new market once those stocks abroad have been sold. (SIGNED) NEB/DG/JP 18-Mar-2000 15:05 PM EDT (18-Mar-2000 2005 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .