Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi wound up a trip to Paris today with a call for global tolerance, better ties with the West and a hope that a moderate message would win over investors' minds and money.
Khatemi, shadowed day and night by protesters linked to the Mujaheddin armed dissident group, spent much of his three days holed up in a heavily guarded residence, but said as his visit ended he expected more fruitful economic and political links with the West.
He offered President Jacques Chirac, human rights groups and business leaders assurances that the first visit to France by an Iranian head of state since the 1979 Islamic revolution showed that Tehran was opening up after 20 years of isolation, and that change required patience.
Another message, pointed at the United States, was that the next millennium should be one of peace after one of bloodshed, and that globalization would end an era when those countries with economic and military supremacy dictated to the rest.
"If the 20th century focused on the force of the sword, with winners and losers along the way, we should know that the main focus of the next century will be one of dialogue," Khatemi told the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "To the states which, by their economic and military power, commit the sin of pride in using force and domination to achieve their goals, we must say that we prefer the path of wisdom by choosing dialogue."
The three-day trip was billed as a test of both countries' abilities to nurture a thaw in relations since Khatemi's election in 1997, and of their willingness to tackle human rights while also talking about business and investment.
Khatemi avoided directing his remarks at the United States after a U.S. offer of face-to-face talks with Tehran. But he said that American firms lost business because of sanctions levied against Iran, and that he looked to countries--notably France--that could best serve Iran's political and economic interests.
"France is one of Iran's trade partners, and politically we have good relations and ties as well," Khatemi said.
He noted that French oil and gas firms were major investors in Iran and that his trip had coincided with Iranian orders for 100 locomotives from France's Alstom Transport and orders for four planes from the European Airbus consortium, based in the southwestern city of Toulouse.