VATICAN (CWN) -- Iran's minister of foreign affairs, Kamal Kharrazi, has called for "deeper collaboration among the different monotheistic religions." The Iranian leader offered his comments after meetings at the Vatican yesterday with Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See's top foreign-policy official. Kamal Kharrazi delivered a personal letter to Pope John Paul from the new Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami.

      In an interview published today by the Italian daily Avvenire, Kharrazi offered his observations on the relations between Iran and the Holy See. Noting that the Iranian president is a leader of the Islamic Conference, and in that position sought greater cooperation with Christians.

      "A new space has been created in Iran, since the last presidential elections, and the world is taking notice of a new Iranian reality," the foreign minister said. "We now think that there are some very good occasions for developing relations with other countries."

      Kharrazi said that he also spoke with the Pope about religious freedom, and particularly about the rights of Christians living in Iran. He said, "I explained to him that we have Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian minorities. There are 80 churches in Iran-- more than the number of mosques in all of Europe. Religious minorities have freedom of worship as guaranteed by our constitution, and they are represented in our parliament, where there are three Christian deputies, one Jew, and one Zoroastrian."

      Questioned about Iran's links with terrorist groups, Kharrazi said that his government condemned all terrorist acts. But he suggested that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization, but an army fighting to liberate the portions of Lebanon now occupied by Israel.

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February 4, 1998 volume 9, no. 25          DAILY CATHOLIC

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