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U.S. using sports diplomacy with Iran

July 16, 2008 at 5:26 PM

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- The United States is courting public opinion in Iran through sports exchanges despite sour relations with the government, a top U.S. official said Wednesday.

Undersecretary of State of Political Affairs William Burns said on Capitol Hill that the United States last week invited the Iranian table tennis team to visit while Iran's Olympic basketball squad would take part in four games in the NBA Summer League next week while it trains in Utah for the Beijing games.

"We are committed to using educational, cultural and sports exchanges to help rebuild bridges between our two societies after 30 years of estrangement," Burns told a joint hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Burns told the lawmakers that Iran remains "among the most pro-American populations" in the Middle East and that the Bush administration was actively looking for creative ways to engage the citizenry.