sábado, 12 de maio de 2007

Condolezza Rice meets Iranian Artists

Unease As Rice Meets Iranian Artists
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was all smiles Thursday (10 may) as she met Iranian artists at an event intended to promote cultural links with Iran. Still, there were currents of unease.
Ten of the 14 Iranians who received special visas for the exhibition refused to be photographed with Rice, and two would not even accompany her through the gallery because they were ``uncomfortable,'' two organizers said.
``Art moves above politics and I didn't want to be a part of politics,'' said Behnam Kamrani, a 39-year-old digital artist from Tehran.
Bahar Behbahni, a 33-year-old mixed media artist from Tehran, added, ``It doesn't mean that the artists aren't political or don't (care) about politics. Artists don't want to make political gestures. Our language is our art, we express ourselves through art.''
What was billed as a unique and open expression of culture bridging vast political differences between the U.S. and Iran became an exercise in crowd control as the State Department scrambled to prevent reporters from even glimpsing Rice's tour.
All journalists, including those without cameras, were kept in the final room of the exhibit behind two immense wooden doors that opened only when Rice finished and appeared with four of the Iranian artists to say how much she enjoyed the show.
``This is really a great day,'' she said in brief remarks. ``I have so enjoyed seeing the work of these great artists.
``They are representing so well the great culture that Iran has, the great culture that goes back for so many centuries but that is being brought here today so that the American people can see another side of Iran.''
Rice's visit was announced Wednesday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. He said its importance was ``the symbolism of the American secretary of state reaching out and demonstrating for the Iranian people an appreciation for products of Iranian culture.''
The United States broke diplomatic ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Relations have remained frozen amid mutual recriminations and animosity, notably over Iran's nuclear program, which Washington claims is a cover for atomic weapons development, and alleged Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq and anti-Israel groups.
The cases of three Iranian-American dual citizens detained in Iran and that of a retired FBI agent who has been missing in Iran since early March have further strained the situation.
Still, the State Department has placed great emphasis on cultural, educational and sports exchanges with Iran. The ``Wishes and Dreams'' exhibition that was to open to the public Friday is just the latest in a series that has already involved doctors, wrestlers and teachers.
Many of the artists whose work is on display at Washington's Meridian International Center said they hoped its presence in the United States would have a positive impact among people in the U.S.
``I am just an artist, I am not an Iranian terrorist and if I can do anything for the peace of the world, that is something I would be proud of,'' said Mitra Kavian, 43. She was less certain when asked if she thought the exhibit was a step toward better U.S.-Iran ties.
``I don't know,'' she said. ``Maybe, I hope. I don't like war, I like peace everywhere.''
By MATTHEW LEE Associated Press in GUARDIAN