Tuesday, August 29, 2006

White House Rejects Iran Leader's Proposal To Debate Bush

Dow Jones Newswires:
The White House on Tuesday dismissed the idea of a televised debate between President George W. Bush and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, describing the proposal as a diversion. Ahmadinejad proposed the debate with Bush on world issues at a news conference in Tehran.

"I'd refer you back to what the president, Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice, and others have said about the Iranian regime knowing what it has to do to engage constructively with international community," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"We've said we are willing to talk to Iran in the context of positive response to the P5+1 package," she said referring to the proposal from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany.

"Talk of a debate is just a diversion from the legitimate concerns that the international community - not just the U.S. - has about Iran's behavior, from support for terrorism to pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability."

Perino said, "Iran may want to look first to allowing free expression and open debate within its borders, as opposed to the current practice of crushing dissent." READ MORE

The move was not the first overture Ahmadinejad made to Bush. Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to Bush that was promptly dismissed by Washington as irrelevant and not addressing the key issue of Iran's disputed nuclear program.