Iran press hails US letter for crossing 'red line'

Iran’s press on Tuesday hailed the hard-line regime’s letter to arch-enemy United States President George Bush—with moderate papers hoping for detente and hardliners praising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “audacity”.

“Regardless of the content of Ahmadinejad’s letter ... such a communication could lead the two sides to direct talks,” the centrist Shargh newspaper said somewhat optimistically.

“Whatever its content, the letter crosses the red line of non-negotiation. If Ahmadinejad’s letter gets a positive response, a new chapter could open and then we could say it is possible to talk and get results in the shadow of war,” it said.

US officials have dismissed the rambling 18-page letter—the first open, top-level communication by Iranian leaders since ties with Washington were cut in 1980—as more of a philosophical treatise than a political overture.

They also said it did not change Washington’s position in a worsening dispute over Tehran’s disputed nuclear-energy programme, which despite Iranian denials is seen in the West as a cover for weapons development.

The US is currently pushing for tough United Nations action against Iran.

But Iran’s reformist Etemad newspaper insisted that “the content of the letter is not as important as the letter itself”, adding the message “opens the way for direct talks between the presidents of two opposing countries”.

“Important and delightful results are expected,” the reformist Aftab-e Yazd paper said, adding that “Iranian politicians have admitted something they had so far denied—America’s undeniable impact on world and regional equations”.

But the influential hard-line press was at pains to point out that Ahmadinejad’s shock diplomatic initiative was far from being a climbdown.

“The letter to Bush has once again displayed Iran’s smart audacity,” the right-wing Ressalet paper chimed.

“The president has taken the initiative in world diplomacy,” it said, adding that Ahmadinejad had merely spelled out that the world’s atomic powers must “accept the reality of a nuclear Iran”.

The Siasat-e Rooz, which also toes an ultra-conservative editorial line, said it was “supporting such an act”.

“We expect the government to make the enemy understand that it should change its hostile positions, as the future belongs to Islam,” it said.

The paper also recalled a letter once sent by Iran’s late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in which he suggested conversion to Islam.

“It has been the Prophet’s way to invite the infidel leaders to the right way,” the paper said, suggesting that Bush—a born-again Christian—still had a long way to go.

In his letter, Ahmadinejad proposed a return to religious principles as a means of restoring confidence between the two countries and revisits many of the grievances that Tehran has against Washington.

“Will you not accept this invitation?” asks Ahmadinejad in the letter, written in English and sent on Monday.

“That is, a genuine return to the teachings of prophets, to monotheism and justice, to preserve human dignity and obedience to the Almighty and His prophets?” read the letter.—AFP

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