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Nobel Peace Prize Winners Urge Talks Between US and Iran


Two Nobel Peace Prize winners, one from the United States, the other from Iran, are urging the Bush administration to engage in a constructive dialog with the government in Tehran. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote the human rights of women, children and political prisoners in her country.

She is currently making appearances in the United States with Jody Williams, who won the peace prize in 1997 as the founding coordinator for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Both women are urging the Bush administration to develop a strategic dialog with Iran.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution placing sanctions on Iran because of Tehran's nuclear program. The United States and its Western allies allege Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Ebadi argues that such sanctions or military action against Iran will hurt efforts by political reformists and human rights activists inside her country.

"Negotiations should be to the advantage of the people of both countries and should result in promoting democracy and human rights in Iran," said Shirin Ebadi. "Negotiations should be at the level of the presidents of the two countries, the parliament of the two countries and the civil society of both countries. The issue of war and peace is not an issue that would be a problem of only the governments of the two countries, it is the people who should decide."

In a recent report mandated by the U.S. Congress, the Iraq Study Group recommended the United States engage Iran diplomatically, a move the Bush administration has rejected until Tehran suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing program.

Ebadi's fellow peace prize winner, Jody Williams, says there has to be a nonviolent resolution to what she calls the standoff between the U.S. and Iran.

"I don't think either of us have illusions that Mr. Bush is suddenly going to hear wisdom from the mouths of two women," said Jody Williams. "We feel, however, as Nobel Laureates from Iran and the United States profound responsibility to raise our voices in the call for rational dialog and not go to war yet another time."

Williams, Ebadi and four other women who are Nobel Laureates have formed the Nobel Women's Initiative to promote peace and dialog.

The group will focus on the situation in the Middle East during its first international conference later this year.

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