Powell Sees Possible Friendship With Iran

Secretary of State Colin Powell (searchsays he sees the beginnings of a new attitude in Iran (search) that could lead to a restoration of more friendly relations between the United States and the Islamic republic that President Bush has called part of as "axis of evil." (search

"There are things happening, and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future," Powell told The Washington Post on Monday for a story in Tuesday editions.

Iranian leaders have agreed to permit unannounced inspections of the country's nuclear energy program, made overtures to moderate Arab governments and accepted an offer of U.S. humanitarian aid following a devastating earthquake last week.

"All of those things taken together show, it seems to me, a new attitude in Iran in dealing with these issues -- not one of total, open generosity, said Powell. "But they realize that the world is watching and the world is prepared to take action."

He added that "we still have concerns about terrorist activities, of course, and there are other issues with respect to Al Qaeda and other matters that we'll have to keep in mind."

On Saturday, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage gave assurances of disaster assistance by telephone to Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, who was in Tehran.

Armitage said the earthquake was a humanitarian tragedy that transcended political consideration and called for the support of the United States, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Monday.

Zarif called Armitage back a few minutes later to accept the offer, Ereli said.

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since radical Islamists overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, took Americans hostage and held them until January 1981.

The Pentagon says eight Air Force C-130 cargo planes have flown into Iran with a total of 150,000 pounds of relief supplies, including blankets, medical supplies and water.

Aditionally, an Air Force C-5A cargo plane has flown relief personnel and medial specialists to the region.

"We stand ready to continue our assistance and to respond to the needs of the victims of this tragedy as appropriate and as requested," Ereli said.