Reply to Iran letter, says ex-US Secretary of State
As the US announced today that it is ready to join Europe in direct talks with Iran on its nuclear programme if Tehran suspends disputed nuclear activities, a former US Secretary of State has called on President Bush to reply to the Iranian leaderís recent letter.
Earlier in May 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an extraordinary President George W. Bush criticising American foreign and domestic policy and challenging his counterpartís attachment to Christian values ñ by time-and-again asking how his warlike actions squared up with the teachings of Jesus.
Now Madeleine Albright, who served under Bushís predecessor Bill Clinton, has told Channel 4 News in the UK that America should continue the dialogue.
Albright is promoting her new book, ëThe Mighty and the Almightyí, which looks at the role of religion in the geopolitical arena and advocates a more nuanced approach to Islam.
She said today that while the two presidents should not be considered as candidates to be pen pals, an exchange was necessary.
ìWe are not talking about a clash of civilisations, but we are facing a battle of ideas,î she declared.
Meanwhile the current US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said in a Washington DC press conference the US would join EU nations in talks with Iran if the country suspended uranium enrichment and reprocessing work.
President Bush added that he believed the issue could be solved diplomatically and that ìit is appropriate the United States should take the initiativeî.
In fact, say analysts, it is Iran that has been making overtures first, despite belligerent language about its nuclear power ambitions.
Ahmadinejad is adamant that he Iran has no present plans to join the nuclear weapons club, but many in the international community are sceptical about this ñ not least because sworn enemy Israel has nuclear arms, with effective US approval.
The countenance of direct talks for the first time since the Iran-Contra scandal in 1988 comes as a distinct policy shift for the US, which has had little official contact with Iran since the 1979 revolution that ended the Western-backed Shahís reign.
Specifically, Washington broke off diplomatic ties after Iranian militants seized the US embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage.
Ms Rice said today that "as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table".
She also urged Iran to "thoroughly consider" a package currently being agreed by the US and EU nations aimed at persuading Tehran to abandon its nuclear plans.
But Iran has already sniffed publicly at the precondition ñ which violates the one principle it has articulated. However observers believe that it is still possible that the talks could go ahead, because Iranís capacity is sufficiently developed to allow a brief pause in nuclear development that would be required to call President Bushís bluff.
Nevertheless, the prospect of more macho posturing on both sides is likely. America will wish to deny that it is ërespondingí to President Ahmadinejad, and Iran remains resentful at what it sees as US double-standards on nuclear proliferation and at Americaís backing for Saddam Hussein during the bloody Iran-Iraq war.
In his letter to President Bush, the Iranian leader declared: ìLiberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. ... We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point - that is the Almighty God.î
He concluded: ìUndoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is: Do you not want to join them?î
But critics say that just as Mr Bush betrays his claims to Christian virtue, so these pious words are not matched by the policies of the Iranian regime on freedom, dignity and the treatment of minorities.
[Also on Ekklesia: Albright says politicians must face the realities of religion  30/05/06; ëThe Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairsí  (book); Iranian president asks Bush, what would Jesus do? ; Iranís new president a blow to US foreign policy ; Global campaign launched to urge conflict transformation in Iran ; Christian says Iran tensions linked to Israel's nuclear arsenal ; Second class status for Christians maintained in Iran ; Churches strongly condemn anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial ; World churches chief slams nuclear 'outrage' ; Campaigners try to stop brutal killing of Iranian woman ; Bishops call for post-9/11 rethink on force and freedom ]