Iranian Lawmakers Look to Form Iran-U.S. Friendship Committee

Iranian deputies were gathering signatures to try and form an Iranian-U.S. friendship committee in parliament, one of the legislators involved in the effort said Tuesday.

Darioush Ghanbari, one of at least 10 deputies who has signed the document calling for the establishment of a Iran-U.S. friendship committee, said Iranian parliamentarians were seeking to reduce tensions with America and "explain Iran's realities to the U.S. Congress."

"In the absence of formal diplomatic relations, we seek to establish a parliamentary relationship with the U.S. Congress and fill the existing gap of contacts between the two nations," Ghanbari told The Associated Press.

Ghanbari said the document was signed by both conservatives and reformists and more signatures were expected by the end of the day.

It was the first effort organized inside the 290-seat parliament during the past three decades to find a way end nearly 30 years of estrangement between the two nations.

No specific number of deputies is required to form such a committee. The document signed by lawmakers will be presented to the parliament's speaker, who has the right to accept or reject it. It was unclear what he would do.

The United States and Iran said Sunday they will hold talks in Baghdad soon about improving Iraq's security — a rare meeting between the two countries. There have been growing efforts, especially in the Arab world, to have Iran and the U.S. end their cold relations.

Washington severed diplomatic ties with Tehran after Iranian militant students stormed its embassy in Tehran in 1979, to protest America's refusal to hand over Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for trial.

Ghanbari said the formation of a friendship committee would help ease tensions between Iran and the United States.

"This is our positive response to calls by members of the U.S. Congress to establish contacts with Iranian parliamentarians. It will also provide an opportunity to reduce tensions and block anti-Iran legislation in the U.S. Congress," he said.