US sending badminton team to Teheran in bid to engage Iranian people

The United States is sending a women's badminton team to Iran this week as part of a broad bid to engage the Iranian people through educational and cultural exchanges, officials said Monday. Amid a wide-ranging review of US policy toward the Islamic Republic, the trip is the new administration's first foray into such exchanges that began while George W. Bush was in the White House. Past exchanges have involved athletes from other sports, artists, academics and professionals. The team - eight female players and four coaches and managers - will be in Teheran from Tuesday until Febuary 9 to participate in the Iran Fajr International Badminton Tournament, which begins on Friday, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit has not yet been announced publicly. The officials said the US squad was invited by the Iranian Badminton Federation and that they hoped to extend an invitation to Iran's national team to come to the United States in July. This week's trip is being sponsored by the State Department, which has since 2006 promoted people-to-people exchanges with Iran.