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Congressional Critics Blast Iran on Human Rights


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the United Nations coincided with sharp criticism of the Iranian leader in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives debated three resolutions dealing with political and human rights issues in Iran

The resolutions, which are symbolic and non-binding, were debated on the House floor a few hours before the Iranian leader delivered his address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

One resolution condemns the repression of Iran's Bahai religious community by the Islamic government in Tehran.

Congressman Tom Lantos, a Democrat, was among lawmakers pointing to a deterioration of conditions for adherents to the Bahai faith in Iran over the past year.

"The U.S. Congress needs to speak out strongly against these policies," said Tom Lantos. "We cannot stand by quietly as another pogrom [crackdown] against the Bahai is quietly being prepared by the bigoted regime in Tehran."

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois linked the issue of persecution of Bahai in Iran, to the address by Iran's president to the United Nations:

"It is incumbent on Congress to reveal the real truth about this Iranian leader," said Mark Kirk. "We must demonstrate to the international community that while Iran's president has become a ruthless dictator who espouses hatred, discrimination and tyranny, the U.S. is standing for liberty, and toleration, human rights and freedom, especially for Bahais in Iran."

Lawmakers cited reports by human rights groups and the U.S. State Department about arrests, detentions and interrogations of the Bahai minority in Iran.

A second House resolution condemned in general terms human rights abuses by the Iranian government.

And a third measure, recognizing the 100th anniversary, of the first Iranian constitution, gave lawmakers another opportunity to reiterate their hopes for political change in Iran.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chairs the Middle East Subcommittee:

"This resolution is an opportunity for the American people to send a positive message to the Iranian people about their indigenous Democratic tradition," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "We hope that this tradition will be an inspiration for the Iranian people as they seek to increase their political freedoms."

Another Republican, Congressman Steve King of Iowa, was more blunt:

"I hope the recognition contained in this bill can help inspire Iranians to rise up and expel their country's dictators," he said. "Given the current threat the Iranian regime poses to global security today, the whole world should join in supporting and encouraging the Iranian people in their fight for freedom and constitutional representation."

Debate on the resolutions came amid attempts by some House Democrats, fueled by some recent media reports, to press the Bush administration on the question of planning that might be underway for a military strike on Iran.

Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich:

"I think we have to be very cautious about the path this country is taking," said Dennis Kucinich. "We can stand for a democracy in Iran. We can stand for human rights in Iran. We can do all those things without taking steps, and letting our efforts [here], that might be in good faith by the way, without letting those efforts be used as a build up towards war."

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, President Bush said the U.S. continues to work for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Tehran over its nuclear development program, adding the U.S. looks forward to the day when America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.