Basketball diplomacy: USA and Iran / By Ali Kermalli and Robert Windrem, NBC

Despite rising tensions with Iran, the U.S. State Department today announced that it has invited Iranian athletes to compete in the United States as part of a "people-to-people exchange" program. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, today confirmed a report on MSNBC.COM's "Deep Background" blog.

"With the generous support of Congress, we're in the second year of successful people-to-people exchange programs. Partnering with the U.S. Olympic Committee, we invited 15 members of the Iranian national table-tennis team to the United States last week. This group included the first female Iranian athletes who've ever been to the U.S. on this program. In cooperation with the National Basketball Association, we'll bring the Iranian Olympic basketball team here next week for the NBA summer league," Burns told Congress today.

"We're committed to using educational, cultural, and sports exchanges to help rebuild bridges between our two societies after 30 years of estrangement," he added.

Deep Background Post:

When is a basketball game not just a basketball game? When an NBA team plays an Iranian team in, of all places, Salt Lake City.

Call it the ‘Dunking for Diplomacy’ tour.

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