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GOP Congressman Urges More Dialogue with Iran

Seeks 'Common ground to talk'

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Washington, D.C., July 29, 2008 - Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) today, said the United States should engage in a "diplomatic surge" with Iran to help find common ground between Americans and Iranians.

"We have to try to develop relationships," Jones said in an interview with VOA's Persian News Network (PNN), a 24/7 satellite channel that reaches millions of viewers in Iran. "Let's find common ground to talk," he said, adding improved ties are "not happening overnight."

Asked if he favored a proposal to establish a U.S. Interests Section in Iran, Jones said he had long believed "you have to have a diplomatic surge" to engage the people of Iran. He urged the Bush administration to "reach out with the hand instead of the weapon ... that's the right thing to do."

Jones, who voted in 2007 to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran, said he would reverse his vote if it were held today. "Sanctions hurt the ordinary people," he said. "The Iranian people are good people."

Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said any support for terrorist activities by Tehran's government is unacceptable.

A Democrat before he was elected to the House in 1994, Jones has not endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., or Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president. But he said whoever wins the November election will have a great opportunity "to build relationships in the Middle East that have been lost."

"Maybe I am a dreamer," Jones said, "but if people don't dream, there is no hope."

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