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Ahmadinejad Blasts US Policies in Open Letter to American People


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has strongly criticized Bush administration Middle East policies in an open letter to the American people. The U.S. State Department characterized the Iranian message as a public relations move, but said it would be examined by policy experts. VOA's David Gollust reports.

The five-page letter, distributed to reporters at the United Nations, is described by Iranian officials as an effort by Mr. Ahmadinejad to reach out to Americans over the head of their government.

It includes caustic criticism of the Bush administration, which the Iranian leader says has provided "blind and blanket" support for Israel and crimes against the Palestinian people.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said while Iraqis were pleased at first with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military presence in Iraq has since led to an explosion of violence and terrorism, and done nothing to rebuild the country or alleviate poverty.

The Iranian president cited election losses by President Bush's Republican party this month as evidence of administration failures, and said it is extremely unlikely that Americans consent to spending billions of dollars for what he termed the "military misadventure" in Iraq.

The letter, which included numerous religious references, is similar in tone and content to an 18-page open letter Mr. Ahmadinejad wrote to President Bush last May, and it prompted an equally dismissive response from U.S. officials.

At a news briefing, Deputy State Department Spokesman Tom Casey said the letter would be examined by U.S. policy experts but that at first glance, there appeared to be little in it that is new and he said, as in the case of the message to Mr. Bush, no reply is anticipated.

Casey said that Americans, who, unlike Iranians, benefit from a free society, will discuss and debate the message. But he said the Iranian leader's words are less important than the actions of his government, which continue to be of great concern to the United States:

"Clearly, this is something of a public-relations stunt or a public relations gesture," he said. "I think that what is more important than any of the words on that piece of paper are the actions that the Iranian government takes, the actions it takes in terms of its relations to its own people, and the actions that it takes in terms of how it relates to the rest of the world. And that includes its support for terrorism in Iraq. That includes its support for Hezbollah. That includes its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups. It includes its continued defiance of the international community's efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear program."

The Ahmadinejad letter came as the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, prepared a report for President Bush that is widely expected to include a call for the administration to speak directly to Iran and Syria in hope of enlisting their support in calming the situation in Iraq.

There have also been similar recommendations from Middle East leaders. But a senior U.S. diplomat who spoke to reporters here said he did not see the new Ahmadinejad letter as a proper vehicle to begin such a dialogue.

He asked what the response from Tehran might be if President Bush sent a similar letter to Iranians castigating the Iranian government, saying it would hardly be seen as an opening to engagement.

At the same time, though, he said Mr. Ahmadinejad is free to talk to anyone in the American public or media, through whatever means he chooses.

He said the U.S. administration simply wishes that Iranians were free to debate and criticize the policies of their own government, but said unfortunately when they do try to do that, they have, what he termed, "a nasty habit of winding up in jail."