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Letter Offers a Look Into Mind of Iran’s Leader

Times Staff Writer

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to President Bush, being scrutinized for clues to the Iranian leader’s thinking, criticizes the U.S. government for everything from the Iraq war to U.S. joblessness to the poverty of Africans.

Addressing Bush as “your excellency,” the Iranian leader also suggests that U.S. policies are inconsistent with Bush’s personal expressions of Christian faith.

“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (Peace Be Upon Him), the great Messenger of God ... but at the same time, have countries attacked?” Ahmadinejad asks in the 18-page letter, delivered to the White House on Monday and distributed publicly Tuesday.

The Iranian president also complains that the United States is trying to block Iran’s progress on a nuclear program that is the pride of its populace. But he doesn’t propose any solution to the long standoff over his country’s nuclear ambitions, and the letter offers no clear indication about Iran’s plans.

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Referring to the Iraq war, he writes, “On the pretext of the existence of WMDs, this great tragedy came to engulf both the peoples of the occupied and the occupying country.”

Nevertheless, he calls deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a “murderous dictator” and says “people of the region are happy” Hussein was toppled.

He criticizes the U.S. for its purported use of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and for the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He writes at length about Israel, asking whether even the Holocaust justified the displacement and mistreatment of Arabs in Palestine.

The Israeli government “does not show mercy even to kids, destroys houses while the occupants are still in them, announces beforehand its ... plans to assassinate Palestinian figures and keeps thousands of Palestinians in prison,” he complains.

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“Another big question asked by people is, why is this [Israeli] regime being supported?” he writes.

Rejected by the Bush administration as a ploy to forestall United Nations sanctions, the missive nonetheless offers clues to the wide gulf that separates two nations on issues well beyond nuclear development.

Apparently referring to the Iranian nuclear program, Ahmadinejad asks, “Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East regions is translated into ... a threat to the Zionist regime?”

Ahmadinejad also shows an interest in Venezuela, a country that has been seeking to build an alliance with Iran. He refers to alleged U.S. support for an attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

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“Don’t Latin Americans have the right to ask why their elected governments are being opposed and coup leaders supported?” the Iranian leader asks.

He writes that while Africans are “hardworking, creative and talented,” their “enormous wealth, including minerals, is being looted, despite the fact they need it more than others.”

Ahmadinejad calls the Sept. 11 attacks “a horrendous incident.” But he suggests that the U.S. government is concealing some of what happened that day and challenges Bush to reveal “who botched their responsibilities.”

The Iranian leader cites “an increasing hatred of the American governments” around the world and warns Bush that history would scrutinize both their presidencies.

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After his long review of world events, Ahmadinejad concludes that “liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity” and “have failed.” Instead, he says, the world’s peoples are turning to the teachings of religion.

“My question for you is: Do you not want to join them?” he concludes.

The letter has been described by Iranian officials as an attempt to discuss the many problems facing the world. U.S. officials have dismissed it, suggesting it is an attempt to disrupt American efforts to bring international pressure on Tehran to halt some of its nuclear activities.

“This letter does nothing at all to address the concerns of the international community, or that the international community has regarding the regime’s nuclear program,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said. “The letter appears to be more about trying to change the subject.”

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Both McClellan and Bush ignored or brushed off questions about whether the White House would respond. Iranian officials said that the letter was not meant to influence the nuclear controversy and that Ahmadinejad was awaiting a response from Bush.


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