Iran says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to President Bush, proposing new solutions to resolve tensions between their two countries. It is the first time in 26 years that there has been known communication at the highest level between Iran and the United States.
An Iranian-government spokesman said President Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush was delivered to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which has handled U.S. interests in Iran since the break in U.S.-Iranian relations in 1980.
The spokesman would not disclose the contents of the letter, but he said it proposes new ways of getting out of the current fragile situation of the world.
Cairo University political scientist Amal Hamada says any kind of direct communication is significant after 26 years of nothing but back-channel talks.
"So if there is a chance of direct communication between the two executive leaders of the two countries, that would definitely have new hopes for new options," he said.
News of the letter came as the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany were preparing to meet in New York to discuss the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. Britain, France and the United States are backing a resolution that would require Iran to end its uranium-enrichment program, and could trigger sanctions if Iran fails to comply. The Security Council's other two veto-wielding nations, Russia and China, oppose sanctions and want more diplomacy.
London-based analyst Ali Nourizadeh, the director of the Center for Arab-Iranian Studies, says based on what he has learned of the letter's contents regarding the nuclear issue, it is unlikely to get a sympathetic reading from the American president.
"We know President Bush has got some condition in order to open up towards Iran," he said. "The first one is, Iran has to give up its enrichment program. In this letter there is no suggestion that Iran is ready to do that."
Although the letter's contents are not public, Norizadeh says he has spoken with one of Mr. Ahmadinejad's close advisors in Tehran who was familiar with the general topics it deals with.
"There is no new idea in Mr. Ahmadinejad's letter. He is repeating what he has already said. He wants the Americans out of Iraq," Norizadeh said. "He wants the Americans [to] stop supporting Israel. He wants the Palestinians ... to have all Palestine. And he wants all these organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad to be recognized by the Americans. So I am sure the Americans are not going to accept this."
Other Iran specialists agree that the letter - whatever its contents - is unlikely to prompt a positive response from the American administration.
Mark Fitzpatrick is a former State Department official who now heads the non-proliferation program at the London-based Institute for International Strategic Studies.
"I think the response from the United States may be negative," he said. "There is a sense that talking with this government, engaging with this regime in Iran would be rewarding bad behavior, would be empowering the worst elements of the Islamic republic. So there would be a reluctance to respond positively. But on the other hand, there may be a realization that the options for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis are not looking very good."
Iran has repeatedly vowed to reject any U.N. resolution requiring it to freeze its nuclear program. The Iranian president has threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the Security Council imposes sanctions.
Iran says it aims only to produce peaceful nuclear energy. The United States, Britain and France believe Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.