US and Iranian diplomats said to have met in Beirut
If news reported by a Lebanese paper proves correct, it would confirm allegations that Khamenei’s apparently hard-line response to Obama’s overture was motivated by domestic considerations, and that Iran’s leaders are actually open to dialogue.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Dialogue between the United States and Iran appears to be underway in Beirut, this according to the al-Liwaa daily which quoted informed sources. According to the latter, US and Iranian diplomats met first at the US diplomatic mission in Beirut’s suburban Awkar neighbourhood and then at the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital’s Bir Hassan neighbourhood. The sources cited by the newspaper refused however to name the people who took part in the meetings or what was discussed.

If such information is confirmed, it would support claims by those who saw some opening in the otherwise hard-line stance taken by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his response to US President Barack Obama’s Nowruz video-message to Iranians.

In his message the US leader said he hoped that differences with Iran could be overcome and that the Iranian New Year could mark a new beginning in the relations between the two countries (diplomatic relations were broken off in 1980) if Iran stopped support for terrorism or arms proliferation, including its controversial nuclear programme.

Should you change, our behaviour will change too,” Khamenei said in a speech he delivered on 21 March in the holy city of Mashhad that was broadcast live.

We do not really know who the decision-maker is in America: president or Congress, or elements behind the scene,” he said, but “show us if really anything other than your language has changed. Has your animosity with the Iranian nation changed? Have you unfrozen Iranian assets? Have you lifted sanctions? Have you stopped mudslinging? Have you ended unconditional support for the Zionist regime? [. . .] What has changed? Make it clear to us—what has changed? [. . .] Change in words is not enough—not that we have seen such a significant change in words so far. There should be real change.”

For some observers Khamenei’s statement was made more for domestic consumption in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election.

In fact Obama’s overture could help Iranian moderates against the more radical elements.

The easing of sanctions and the release of frozen Iranian assets could be a signal of availability for dialogue and rumours in Beirut do seem to confirm that. (PD)