Friday, September 15, 2006

Bush's message to Iran

David Ignatius asks President Bush to talk directly to the Iranian people. Yet, I am sure that under a regime that shuts down free papers, invades people's homes to remove satellite dishes and proudly boasts of success in filtering more than 10 million websites, the majority of the Iranians won't ever find out about the President's words-Kash:

David Ignatius-Washinton Post: What would President Bush say to the Iranian people if he had a chance to communicate directly with them? I was able to put that question to Bush in a one-on-one interview in the Oval Office on Wednesday. His answer made clear that the administration wants a diplomatic solution to the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program -- one that is premised on an American recognition of Iran's role as an important nation in the Middle East.

"I would say to the Iranian people: We respect your history. We respect your culture. We admire the entrepreneurial skills of your people. I would say to the Iranian people that I recognize the importance of your sovereignty -- that you're a proud nation, and you want to have a positive future for your citizens," Bush said, answering quickly and without notes. "In terms of the nuclear issue," he continued, "I understand that you believe it is in your interest -- your sovereign interest, and your sovereign right -- to have nuclear power. I understand that. But I would also say to the Iranian people, there are deep concerns about the intentions of some in your government who would use knowledge gained from a civilian nuclear power industry to develop a weapon that can then fulfill the stated objectives of some of the leadership [to attack Israel and threaten the United States]. And I would say to the Iranian people that I would want to work for a solution to meeting your rightful desires to have civilian nuclear power."

"I would tell the Iranian people that we have no desire for conflict," Bush added.

The Khatami visit "said that the United States is willing to listen to voices," Bush explained. "And I hope that sends a message to the Iranian people that we're an open society, and that we respect the people of Iran." Clearly, the White House wants to reach out to segments of Iranian opinion beyond the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I asked Bush what next steps he would favor in opening dialogue with Iran. "I would like to see more cultural exchanges," he said. "I would like to see university exchanges. I would like to see more people-to-people exchanges." "I know that the more we can show the Iranian people the true intention of the American government," Bush concluded, "the more likely it is that we will be able to reach a diplomatic solution to a difficult problem."

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