Bloomberg News

U.S. Virtual Tehran Embassy Won’t Overcome Hostility, Iran Says

December 09, 2011

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A new U.S. State Department website for Iranians, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described as a “virtual Tehran embassy,” won’t make up for decades of hostility toward Iran, the Foreign Ministry said.

“This initiative by the American government is in fact an admission of its mistake in cutting relations between the two nations and turning its back on Iranians,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, according to the state-run Mehr news agency. “This action will not make up for the mistake and won’t convey the message of the U.S. to Iranians.”

The Iranian government blocked the site, which is designed to give Iranians basic information on visiting the U.S., within hours of its debut, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said yesterday.

Iran’s decades-old suspicion of the U.S. has been intensified by the growing pressure over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its main allies accuse of being a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. Iran rejects the claim and says the program is purely civilian. The U.S. has spearheaded efforts to impose stricter punitive measures against Iran, adding to four rounds of United Nations sanctions.

The U.S. and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations for more than three decades. After the 1979 revolution that ousted the pro-western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought Shiite Muslim clerics to power, students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days, leading the U.S. to sever ties.

Iranian officials say the move was the result of American interventions in its domestic affairs, including the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.

Hamas Support

Iran also condemns the U.S. for supporting Israel, a state it doesn’t recognize and portrays as the source of tensions in the Middle East. The Persian Gulf country backs the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, militant groups deemed terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. launched the website on Dec. 6 “to support a more direct and robust engagement between us and the people of Iran,” said Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, at a briefing on that day.

--With assistance from David Lerman in Washington. Editors: Ben Holland, Heather Langan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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