WASHINGTON – The White House on Tuesday played down a suggestion by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a day earlier that the U.S. could open an interests section in Tehran to help process visas for Iranians to visit America.
Press Secretary Dana Perino said the U.S. government has nothing to announce, and Rice was merely floating one of several ideas for greater outreach when she spoke with reporters on a plane ride to Berlin, Germany, on Monday.
"There might be lot of ideas out there that aren't necessarily ripe yet, but [what] she's pointed back to is that the president of the United States has always and goes out of his way to make sure that he's communicating as best he possibly can and as often as he can directly to the Iranian people; to say that we respect you, we respect your history, we respect your culture, we think that you have a bright future in front of you. Our problem that we have is with your regime," Perino said.
Speaking at the start of a weeklong trip abroad, Rice said that she doesn't want to comment on "internal deliberations" about U.S. policy toward Iran, but the Iranian people should be encouraged to get out from under the isolation created by their government.
"The United States has been, for some time, trying to reach out to the Iranian people in various ways. We do have the station in Dubai where they can get visas. But we know that its difficult for Iranians sometimes to get to Dubai. We want more Iranians visiting the United States. We want the efforts that we've engaged in to have Iranian artists in the United States, American sports people in Iran. Were determined to find ways to reach out to the Iranian people," she said.
The U.S. and Iran cut diplomatic ties 30 years after the Iranian revolution resulted in the capture of 52 American hostages who were held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran for 444 days.
The State Department also runs an interest section in Havana, Cuba, in an effort to give the U.S. a presence on the ground to reach out to students, dissidents and others instead of direct government contact.