Hillary Clinton: 'I'm Trying to Increase the Number of Visas’ for Iranian Students

By Susan Jones | October 27, 2011 | 12:24pm EDT

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours a GM plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Sunday Oct. 23, 2011. Clinton warned Iran not to misread the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)

(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told BBC Persia Wednesday that the State Department plans to set up a "virtual embassy" in Tehran by the end of the year to answer questions about how Iranians can study or travel in the United States.

"I'm trying to increase the number of visas for students so that we have more Iranian students coming to study here. We’re trying to reach out to the Iranian people, and we’ve tried to reach out to the government, just not very successfully," she said in an interview with BBC Persia's Bahman Kalbasi.

Clinton said the U.S. wants to have "better relations" with the Iranian people and also with an Iranian government "that is responsive to its own people" and give more than lip-service to democracy.

Clinton said it is one of her "highest priorities" to help the Iranian people overcome the regime's efforts to jam, filter and block Internet and satellite TV communications in Iran.

“We’re doing a lot of work to try to come up with technologies that can circumvent the jamming and the interruptions and the tracking that the regime are engaged in right now. We are providing technology, some of which is more effective than others. We are certainly training people, both outside and inside, to be able to use the technology to circumvent,” she said.

"I’ve spoken out repeatedly about the right of people to have access to the Internet. It is freedom of speech and expression and assembly, values that we think every human being is entitled to,” Clinton added.

Clinton said U.S. efforts to break through the regime's "electronic curtain" are sometimes successful, but only until Iran's leaders catch up with the technology. "But I want to assure your viewers that we are committed to doing everything we can to provide as much communication freedom inside and outside of Iran to people trying to speak out for their rights as possible."

As part of the interview, Clinton fielded questions from viewers across the Persian-speaking world. Asked why the U.S. did not take a more active role in Iran's abortive pro-democracy Green Movement in 2009, Clinton said the Obama administration was "torn."

The United States did not want to make it look like the anti-regime protests in Iran were being directed or influenced by the United States.

"I will tell you it was a very tough time for us, because we wanted to be full-hearted in favor of what was going on inside Iran, and we kept being cautioned that we would put people’s lives in danger, we would discredit the movement, we would undermine their aspirations,” she said.

“I think if something were to happen again, it would be smart for the Green Movement or some other movement inside Iran to say, 'We want the voices of the world. We want the support of the world behind us.' That’s what the Libyan opposition figures did, as you remember," Clinton added.

Clinton said the U.S. does not advocate violence. "But we do hope there can be a reform movement (in Iran) that has enough power, like we saw in Egypt or in Tunisia, where they had a peaceful revolution, by and large," she said.

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