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State Department: 'Volleyball Diplomacy Strengthens U.S.-Iranian Relations'

9:01 AM, Aug 12, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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Besides centrifuges, uranium enrichment, and sanctions, this month the State Department turned to sets, digs, and spikes in diplomatic efforts with Iran. Samuel Werberg, a press and public diplomacy officer in the U.S. State Department, invoked the spirit of Jesse Owens to tout the Obama administration's latest installment of sports diplomacy:

Jesse Owens, the renowned American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist, once said, “Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.”  In that spirit of friendship, Team USA Volleyball with support from the U.S. Department of State, is hosting the Iranian National Men’s Volleyball Team for a series of four friendly matches in southern California betweenAugust 9 and 16.

With continued antagonism between the United States and Iran, Werberg seems eager to emphasize the good feelings aspect of this avenue of diplomacy, three times referring to "friendly matches" in his article. The Iranian team's visit got off to a rocky though not atypical start with some lost luggage at the Los Angeles airport, but then the world's 11th-ranked team joined the 4th-ranked U.S. team for a simultaneous practice. At the first match on August 9th, the U.S. came out on top three games to one.

This round of volleyball diplomacy comes on the heels of a four-month extension in nuclear talks between the United States and Iran. Even as those negotiations have been ongoing, Werberg notes that during the last year and a half, the two countries' wrestling teams have competed several times.

Three volleyball matches remain between the two teams this week, all in California, before the visit comes to an end. The games are being live-streamed on the web as well as broadcast in the Middle East by Voice of America (VOA) Persia. Twitter users can keep up with events using the hashtag #usavcup.

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