"More than two decades after the November 4, 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and even before Iran's tacit cooperation with post-September 11 U.S. efforts to defeat Afghanistan's Taliban regime, signs of moderation in Iran had stimulated the United States to try to engage Iran in official talks. Iran, still split between conservatives and reformers loyal to President Mohammad Khatemi, who was elected in May 1997 and overwhelmingly reelected on June 8, 2001, has not accepted to date. However, recent reports of Iranian meddling in post-Taliban Afghanistan and Iran's intercepted January 2002 shipment of arms allegedly to the Palestinian Authority have reversed the warming trend. Iran was grouped with North Korea and Iraq as part of the 'axis of evil' identified in President Bush's January 29, 2002 State of the Union message. The President has identified Iran's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and delivery means, coupled with its support of terrorist groups, as key U.S. concerns. Iran's ballistic missile program has made major strides over the past few years, with the help of several foreign suppliers, and its nuclear program is advancing with Russia's help."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93033
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://www.fpc.state.gov/