Rice Is Seeking Millions to Prod Changes in Iran

The Bush administration, frustrated by Iranian defiance over its nuclear program, proposed Wednesday to spend $85 million to promote political change inside Iran by subsidizing dissident groups, unions, student fellowships and television and radio broadcasts.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, announcing a request for the money at a Senate hearing, said the administration had worked out a way to circumvent American laws barring financial relations with Iran to allow some money to go directly to groups promoting change inside the country. “We are going to begin a new effort to support the aspirations of the Iranian people,” Ms. Rice said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We will use this money to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists.”

Senior State Department officials said they did not intend to publicize recipients of the money in the future, for fear that they could be jailed or even killed

The scope of the administration’s effort goes beyond the numbers. Until now, the United States has been cautious about supporting dissident groups, fearful that Iranians may view these efforts as an echo of past American meddling in Iran’s affairs

Ms. Rice said the State Department was requesting $75 million to promote democracy in Iran, which she said would be added to $10 million already appropriated for that purpose. The total is an increase from only $3.5 million the previous year.

American officials, asking not to be identified while discussing internal administration deliberations, said the election last year of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose actions and statements have alarmed the West, had strengthened the hands of those who want to promote internal change in Iran.

The American aid announced by Ms. Rice is to include $25 million to support “political dissidents, labor union leaders and human rights activists” and to work with nongovernmental organizations outside Iran to build support inside the country. The administration plans $50 million to increase television broadcasting to 24 hours a day all week in Farsi into Iran. Another $5 million is aimed at bringing Iranian students and scholars to study in the West, and $5 million more is earmarked for setting up Internet sites.