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USOC Considering Exchange Program With Iran

Updated:
DENVER (AP) _ The U.S. Olympic Committee is in preliminary talks with Iran to bring a few of that country's rowers and wrestlers to the United States to train for the 2008 Beijing Games.

The USOC has similar exchange agreements in place with many countries, including China. The U.S. brought Iraqi boxers, wrestlers and archers to the country before the 2004 Olympics and could strike another deal with Iraq for this Olympic cycle.

The USOC is working with the U.S. State Department on the negotiations with Iran, which are ``in the very early stages of development,'' said USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel.

The USOC considers these exchange programs a small way to use sports to improve international relations. The deal with Iran would be viewed as unique and dramatic given the increased tension between the United States and Iran, and the sagging popularity of the United States in the Middle East.

Normally, in these exchange programs, foreign countries send athletes to the United States to train for two to four weeks, then later, the American team sends coaches and technical experts to the partner country to run clinics and offer advice.

In January, the United States sent 20 wrestlers to Iran to participate in the Persian Gulf Cup.

``Our wrestlers were very, very well received,'' Seibel said.

That tournament marked the first time American wrestlers had been to Iran since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. Under Ahmadinejad's predecessor, pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami, U.S. teams participated in Iranian wrestling tournaments from 1998 to 2004, and Iran frequently sent teams to competitions in the United States.
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