Iran letter blasts Bush, democracy

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Shahrukh Khan

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to President Bush.


'Repressive, cruel governments do not survive,' Ahmadinejad says

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Posted: 6:13 p.m. EDT (22:13 GMT)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's president declared in a letter to President Bush that democracy had failed worldwide and lamented "an ever-increasing global hatred" of the U.S. government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swiftly rejected the letter, saying it didn't resolve questions about Tehran's suspect nuclear program.

"This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort," Rice told The Associated Press. "It isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way." (Watch an analysis of the letter -- 1:41)

Rice's comments were the most detailed response from the United States to the letter, the first from an Iranian head of state to an American president since the 1979 hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. (Read the English translation of the letter)

Iranian analysts said Rice's comments will fuel anti-American attitudes in Iran.

"It could have been the beginning of a new process," said Iranian political analyst Saeed Leilaz.

"This gives a pretext to those in Iran who oppose re-establishment of ties with America," Iran's former ambassador to France, Sadeq Kharrazi, said.

Rice's response "strengthens the suspicion (inside Iran) that the U.S. is thinking of a military option only and not a political solution" to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, he said.

The letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made only an oblique reference to Iran's nuclear intentions, asking why "any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East region is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime."

Otherwise, it lambasted Bush for his handling of the September 11 attacks, accused the media of spreading lies about the Iraq war and railed against the United States for its support of Israel. It questioned whether the world would be a different place if the money spent on Iraq had been spent to fight poverty.

"Would not your administration's political and economic standing have been stronger?" the letter said. "And I am most sorry to say, would there have been an ever-increasing global hatred of the American government?

Ahmadinejad on Tuesday called his letter "words and opinions of the Iranian nation" aimed at finding a "way out of problems" facing humanity, according to the official Iranian news agency. He spoke briefly before boarding a plane for Indonesia, where he was to attend a summit of developing nations.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator called the surprise letter a new "diplomatic opening" between the two countries, but Rice said it failed to resolve the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program -- the focus of intense U.N. Security Council debate this week.

The Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, also said Tuesday that Tehran had no intention of withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and promised to cooperate if the U.N. atomic watchdog agency dealt with the issue of its nuclear program, rather than the Security Council.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Bush had been briefed on the letter, which the White House received Monday through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

"There's nothing in here that would suggest that we're on any different course than we were before we got the letter," Rice said.

Security Council action sought
Even though the letter hardly touched on nuclear issues, officials said it appeared timed with a push by the United States and its European allies for a Security Council vote to restrain Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Both China and Russia are opposed to leveling sanctions against Iran and the letter could provide them support.

Rice, who said she expected no quick action on sanctions, met privately Monday night with foreign ministers from the other permanent members of the council.

Ministers from the five permanent members said they had agreed not to discuss specifics of a text, instead focusing on overall strategy. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said diplomats would need "another 10 days, 14 days" to get a resolution.

That was a clear sign that officials had not broken a stalemate with Russia and China, which oppose putting the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, thereby making it legally binding and opening the possibility of sanctions and even military action.

"They have not yet reached full agreement, especially China and Russia have not yet accepted the possibility of a general reference to a Chapter 7 resolution," Steinmeier said. "But it's not something they have excluded at this point in time."

The United States is concerned that Iran's program is a cover for making nuclear weapons, while Iran contends it has the right to process uranium as fuel in nuclear reactors to generate electricity.

Liberalism, democracy 'fail'
In the letter, Ahmadinejad says that people around the world have lost faith in international institutions and questions whether the Bush administration has covered up some evidence surrounding the 9/11 attacks.

Liberalism and Western-style democracy "have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity," said the letter, obtained late Monday by The Associated Press.

"Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the Liberal democratic systems," it read.

Ahmadinejad also suggests that Bush should look inward, saying there was an increasing hatred worldwide of the United States, and that history shows how "repressive and cruel governments do not survive."

"How much longer will the blood of the innocent men, women and children be spilled on the streets, and people's houses destroyed over their heads? Are you pleased with the current condition of the world? Do you think present policies can continue?"

Posted 14 May 2006

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