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Obama sends shuttlecocks & also sanctions to Tehran.

The Obama Administration's first initiatives on Iran look like the carrot and stick of the previous Administration--the United States will send a sports team to Iran and has imposed token sanctions on two more Iranian companies.

Both actions were believed to have been in the works during the Bush Administration and only came to fruition after it left office, so they are probably only technically acts of the Obama team.

The Obama Administration is sending a women's badminton team invited to participate in Iran's Fajr International Badminton Tournament this week as part of an effort to engage Iranians through educational and cultural exchanges.

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The eight-member team will be accompanied by four coaches and managers representing USA Badminton, the governing body of the sport; they will be in Tehran for six days beginning February 3 to participate in the tournament, the State Department announced Monday.

The Obama Administration is also continuing another Iran policy of the Bush Administration. On the same day the badminton team trip was announced, the administration said it had imposed new sanctions on companies in Iran, North Korea and China for violating U.S. laws aimed at stopping the proliferation of missiles and other weapons technologies.

The measure bars the companies from trade with the United States. But since existing sanctions already bar the sale of any U.S. goods to Iran, the new sanctions were merely pro forma. The Iranian companies sanctioned are Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group and Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group.

The badminton trip is the latest in exchanges that began in 2006. According to the State Department, more than 250 Iranians--including artists, athletes, and medical professionals--have participated in people-to-people exchange programs in the United States, while many American athletes, academics, artists and professionals have been sent to Iran.

Tehran has been wary of some of these exchanges. Last month, an Iranian intelligence official claimed that Washing-plane ton was using pretexts such as diplomacy and cultural and scientific exchanges to advance a "soft revolution" in Iran.

But according to the State Department--which is sponsoring the trip--the U.S. women's badminton team was invited by the Iranian Badminton Federation; the State Department said they planned on inviting Iran's national team to come to the United States in July.

Sports exchanges between the United States and Iran, which began in January 2007, have included wrestlers and weightlifters as well as basketball, table tennis and water polo players.

Since then, the department has sent 32 American athletes to Iran and brought 75 Iranian athletes and coaches to the United States.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Feb 6, 2009
Words:424
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