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Iran's President Sends Letter to American People

Iran's president has issued an open letter to the American people in which he criticizes U.S. policies in the Middle East. VOA's Peter Heinlein reports the letter was released at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter deplores what it calls "blind and blanket" U.S. support for Israel. The five-page document, addressed to "noble Americans," accuses the Bush administration of supporting the trampling of rights of the Palestinian people in disregard of its own public opinion.

Mr. Ahmadinejad also criticizes the American military presence in Iraq. He charges that what he calls the administration's "resort to force, to conceal the truth and mislead the American people" has probably weakened the U.S. position in the world.

A state-run newspaper in Tehran Wednesday described the letter as an attempt by the Iranian leader to reach out to Americans over the head of their government.

Last May, Mr. Ahmadinejad wrote an 18-page open letter directly to President Bush. It criticized the administration's policies toward Iran. Mr. Bush did not reply.

Diplomats and U.N. officials reacted cautiously to the latest letter. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton noted that it had been sent to correspondents, but not to U.S. officials.

"With respect to President Ahmedinejad's letter, this American person hasn't seen it. I know you in the press have it, so maybe that's who he's addressing it to, but I won't comment till I see it, although I understand it's only five pages and not 18 pages like the last one," he said.

Although the letter was distributed at the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, made clear that it was not in any way linked to the world body or its staff.

"I don't believe it was sent through the facilities of the U.N. The letter has not been addressed to the secretary-general. We haven't read it or analyzed it so we have no response," he said.

President Bush has repeatedly said he considers Iran a threat to world peace. Ambassador Bolton has been pressing for a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear activities. But action on a European-sponsored draft resolution has been stalled for weeks, and its future is uncertain.

Iran defied an earlier Council resolution ordering it to suspend enrichment by August 31. The resolution had been approved in July to back up an offer by world powers of incentives for Iran to cooperate, accompanied by a threat of punitive action if it did not.