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Iran's Letter to President Bush Criticizes Israel Ties

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Iran's Letter to President Bush Criticizes Israel Ties

Politics

Iran's Letter to President Bush Criticizes Israel Ties

Iran's Letter to President Bush Criticizes Israel Ties

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Iran's president sent a letter to President Bush criticizing the United States for its support of Israel and its handling of the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Madeleine Brand talks to Michele Keleman about the letter, the first such communication between leaders of Iran and the United States in 27 years.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, convicted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui wants another trial; our legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick on pleading guilty and then changing your mind.

CHADWICK: First, who says the art of letter writing is dead? Yesterday, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to President Bush, the first official communication between leaders of the two nations since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. In an interview with the Associated Press, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there's nothing in this letter that's useful. But the letter could affect discussions at the UN today, where Secretary Rice holds a series of talks. NPR's Michele Keleman is in New York to cover the secretary's meetings. Michele, you've read this letter. I've only read about it. What's in it?

MICHELE KELEMAN reporting:

Well, the first part is really a critique of U.S. policy. He writes about prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the European investigations into secret CIA prisons. He criticizes the Bush administration's response to September 11th attacks, and, of course, Iraq, which he says was based on lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

Ahmadinejad writes very often - keeps posing the question, do such actions correspond to the teachings of Christ? So we start hearing very religious overtones, very philosophical debates. It's about 18 pages for the English translation. And, toward the end, he has this line about liberalism and western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideal of humanity. He says, today, these two concepts have failed.

CHADWICK: Well, this is a much longer letter than I'd originally imagined when I first heard about it; but where in the letter does President Ahmadinejad address the nuclear issue, which is what the U.S. really wants to hear from him on?

KELEMAN: Well, he really doesn't. There's only one reference. He said why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East region is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime, which, of course, he means Israel. Is not scientific R & D one of the basic rights of nations?

That's the only reference he has to the nuclear issue. The Iranians have always said that their nuclear program is a peaceful one. The Bush administration believes they're trying to achieve nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad doesn't offer any sort of solution on that. This is a much more philosophical discourse, mainly about U.S. Policy in the region.

CHADWICK: How about the issue of aid to Palestinians? That's what Secretary Rice - because she's meeting at the UN with other leaders from various nations, specifically with that question on the table. How is she doing with her counterparts there?

KELEMAN: Well, the secretary went into this meeting saying that they're trying to keep up the pressure on the Hamas Government. The quartet, which she is meeting with - this is the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations - laid out these conditions for the Palestinian government to meet if they wanted outside support; and that is, basically, renounce violence and recognize Israel. The Hamas government has not done so and, now, in its financial bind, it's fallen two months behind in paying salaries. The U.S. wants to keep this pressure on Hamas. The Europeans, though, we're starting to see this split emerge of sorts. Europeans have proposed setting up a sort of trust fund, an alternative delivery mechanism, they say, to pay salaries. They're hoping to avert a real humanitarian crisis in the territory.

CHADWICK: More divisions between the U.S. and Europe. NPR's Michele Keleman. Thanks, Michele.

KELEMAN: You're welcome.

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