Iran Candidate Rezaei Seeks Path for U.S. Talks


"He. . .proposed forming an international consortium to oversee uranium enrichment in Iran."

The only conservative challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's upcoming elections proposed Wednesday a step-by-step approach to improve ties with the United States and called the election of President Barack Obama an important shift in America's attitude toward Iran.

The comments by Mohsen Rezaei—in an interview with The Associated Press—broadened his attacks on Ahmadinejad to include his handling of foreign affairs and offered clearer hints of his plans for possible outreach to Washington if elected.

He also said he was open to talks with the West on Iran's nuclear program and proposed forming an international consortium to oversee uranium enrichment in Iran.

Rezaei, a former head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, has mostly concentrated his campaign for the June 12 elections on Iran's faltering economy—one of Ahmadinejad's most vulnerable points with voters suffering from rising unemployment and 25% inflation.

It appears that Rezaei will also attempt to challenge Ahmadinejad over best how to respond to Washington's opening for dialogue.

Rezaei, 57, told the AP he seeks a step-by-step "reciprocal change" plan to patch up relations with the United States after a nearly 30-year diplomatic estrangement since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

He proposed starting with non-confrontational issues, such as setting up a committee to protect the Persian Gulf ecosystem or a three-way committee with Pakistan to fight drug trafficking. Later, the two nations could move toward the key impasses such the scope of Iran's nuclear program.

"The issue of Iran-U.S. relations is now up in the air," he said at his campaign headquarters in Tehran. "I'll put an end to this state of no decisions."

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