US religious leaders say Iranian-British dispute shows need for diplomacy

By staff writers
March 26, 2007

A delegation of US religious leaders who visited Iran last month has said that the Iranian seizure of British naval personnel underscores in dramatic fashion their call for diplomatic relations between the US and Iran.

"The US and Iran should have the same channels as the United States did with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War to avoid circumstances where misunderstandings, accidents, or other unanticipated events could lead to a military confrontation," said a statement released on Friday by eight members of the delegation.

"When political leaders mess up, religious leaders ought to be here to go and build up the people, build up relationships, and bring the conversation up to the high moral ground," the Rev. Dr. Premawardhana said this weekend in the PBS broadcast, NOW.

A producer from NOW accompanied the 13 religious leaders on its February trip to Tehran and the holy city of Qom.

The leaders of Baptist, Quaker, Mennonite, Evangelical, United Methodist, Episcopal and Roman Catholic church groups were the first official American delegation of any kind to visit Iran in 28 years.

They met with Iranian religious and government officials including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the controversial president of Iran.

They reported his willingness to enter into direct, face-to-face talks with the United States government.

The statement's release came following a meeting of the delegation to plan future actions designed to help lessen tensions between Iran and the US.

The PBS programme can be viewed online at:

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