- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

U.S. embassies and consulates around the world may invite Iranian diplomats to Fourth of July parties as part of the Obama administration’s outreach to a longtime foe, a State Department official said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he is not authorized to talk to the press, told The Washington Times that Iran is on a list of permitted foreign invitees sent Friday to U.S. diplomatic missions. The New York Times first reported the shift, quoting another unnamed administration official as saying the action made sense at a time when the U.S. was seeking engagement with Iran on issues such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Obama administration also wants Iran to start talks on its nuclear program but has not made any specific new offers to Iran in the run-up to its June 12 presidential elections.

The U.S. has been considering other gestures, such as permitting direct flights between New York and Tehran and allowing routine contacts between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

The official said he was not sure if the July 4 offer was a precursor to permitting such contacts.

He said the Friday cable also specified who could not come to the holiday parties.

“For example, Hezbollah [the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group] is not on the list,” he said.

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