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US Legislators Ask Bush to Outline Iran Policy in State of Union Address

No part of President Bush's State of the Union address in 2002, a few months after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, was more controversial than his use of the term axis of evil to describe an Iraq then still ruled by Saddam Hussein, North Korea and Iran.

On Iran he said this: "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom."

It's not known if Iran will figure prominently in Wednesday's speech, but some members of Congress say he should tell the nation and the world on what his administration is doing to help rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions, and address Tehran's human rights issues.

In a roundtable news conference with radio journalists on Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, renewed criticism Iran has been left on what he calls a back burner during the Bush administration.

"Our policy on Iran has been a non-policy," he said. "The negotiating regarding the nuclear facilities in Iran have been conducted by other countries. We have not been a player in that, and I think that is too bad. As important as Iran is to a settlement of the problems we have in the Middle East the president should personally be involved. Certainly we shouldn't leave this to other countries."

He applies the same criticism in the case of North Korea, where he says the Bush administration has allowed China to play too dominant a role in multilateral negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development.

Another lawmaker was speaking about Iran. California Democrat Bob Filner calls U.S. policy on Iran contradictory.

"We have been going on this schyzophrenic policy of preparing for war perhaps, which I think is a dangerous situation, just in a military fashion we seem to be overstrained to our limits just with Iraq and Afghanistan, and to try an even more problematic situation would be difficult for our nation," he said. "On the other hand, the appeasement [of Iran's government] just gives aid and comfort to those in power [in Iran]."

Congressman Filner appeared at a Washington news conference organized by an Iranian-American group aimed at highlighting what it calls continuing human rights violations and oppression in Iran, particularly against women.

"The systematic violation of human rights in Iran requires more vigilance on the part of the international community," said Zolal Habibi, who represents the Virginia-based Women's Freedom Forum. "Iran's human rights dossiers must be referred to the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, the U.N. Human Rights Commission must appoint a special representative to resume the monitoring of human rights in Iran."

The human rights situation in Iran and North Korea is directly linked with the message the President delivered in his inauguration speech earlier this month.

In previous State of the Union speeches, Mr. Bush emphasized international diplomacy and pressure in dealing with Iran and North Korea.

A number of U.S. lawmakers support legislation that would place Congress on record in support of regime change in Iran. But others say doing so would be risky, favoring instead renewed U.S. efforts to persuade Europe, Russia and others to take a harder line toward Iran.