Iran Radio said Saturday that former President Jimmy Carter wrote to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini offering to serve as a “neutral American channel” in efforts to free U.S. hostages in Lebanon and improve U.S.-Iranian relations.
Khomeini rejected the offer, the radio said.
Carter issued a statement through a spokeswoman confirming that he had sent the letter.
“In my note, I was responding to an initiative from Iran,” Carter said from his home in Plains, Ga. “My purpose was to obtain the release of David Rabhan, a friend of mine who has been imprisoned in Iran for almost nine years. My hope is that in the name of justice and humanity, Iran will use its influence to encourage the release of all American hostages by working through normal channels.”
Rabhan was Carter’s personal pilot when the former President was governor of Georgia, Carter spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said.
Carter did not disclose the circumstances of Rabhan’s arrest.
According to the radio report, Khomeini issued a statement denying any connection between Iran and the hostages in Lebanon.
“Just as I have said before, the relationship of Iran and the United States is like the relationship of the wolf and the lamb, and between these two there can never be reconciliation,” the statement said.
The radio quoted Carter’s letter as saying, “I hope that the American hostages in Lebanon can be released as soon as possible; this act would remove one of the main hurdles in the re-establishment of friendly relations between Iran and the U.S.”
The letter, dated Oct. 30, was received by Khomeini’s office and Iranian experts confirmed it was from Carter.
Ties between the United States and Iran were broken in 1979 when Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage for 444 days.