Iranian Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani today showed reporters the Bible he said was sent to Iran by President Reagan and said the U.S. leader is courageous but old, weak, in bad health and undercut by political rivals.
Rafsanjani displayed the leather-bound "Open Book Bible--Expanded Edition" at a news conference, holding it open to the title page bearing Reagan's signature and a handwritten New Testament verse:
"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the nations shall be blessed in you.' Galatians 3:8, (signed) Ronald Reagan, Oct. 3, 1986."
Rafsanjani said the Bible is being studied by Iranian intelligence agents.
In Washington, a White House spokesman for the second straight day refused to confirm that Reagan had sent a Bible to the Islamic government as a peace gesture in its arms-for-hostages mission.
Rafsanjani also produced a photostat of the inside page of a forged Irish passport apparently used by White House envoy Robert C. McFarlane when he visited Iran secretly last year under the name of Sean Devlin.
Rafsanjani said other forged Irish passports belonging to 10 crew members of the plane that flew McFarlane to Iran would be produced later.
In the rare meeting with foreign reporters, the Iranian official praised Reagan for seeking better relations with Iran and for saying there is no evidence that Iran is responsible for any terrorist acts in the last year and a half.
"I think this is a courageous statement by Mr. Reagan, contrary to the propaganda in the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Rafsanjani said.
'Has Been Defeated'
But he said Reagan is old, weak and in bad health and unable to counter unspecified rivals within his Republican Party.
"He acted weakly and has been defeated," Rafsanjani said.
Rafsanjani, considered the second most powerful man in Iran after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said that the most recent U.S attempt to renew contacts through Iran's arms dealers was made a month ago in Frankfurt, West Germany, but that Iran rejected the initiative. A Mr. Dunbar of the U.S. State Department was in the delegation, he said.
"I think the time is not right that we have talk or discussion with the United States," Rafsanjani said through an interpreter.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a Senate committee Tuesday that the sole purpose of the December contact was to tell Iran there would be no more arms-for-hostages deals.