May 8, 2006

Iran president will send letter to Bush: spokesman

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is
writing to U.S President George W. Bush in an attempt to ease
mounting tensions between Tehran and the West, an Iranian
official said on Monday.

Iran has been referred to the U.N. Security Council over
fears it is building nuclear arms, a charge Iran denies.
Washington says it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the
crisis but warns sanctions and military strikes are options.

Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said a letter from
Ahmadinejad to Bush would be delivered later on Monday to the
Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in the
Islamic Republic.

"In this letter, he has given an analysis of the current
world situation, of the root of existing problems and of new
ways of getting out of the current delicate situation in the
world," he told a weekly news conference.

Ahmadinejad had said earlier in the day that he would
announce some "important news." It was not immediately clear
whether he was flagging the letter to Bush.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the ISNA
students news agency the contents of Ahmadinejad's letter would
not be made public until Bush had received it.

Past Iranian public messages to the United States have been
sharp rebukes, accusing Washington of bullying over Tehran's
nuclear programme and of imperialistic intervention in Iraq.


The United States and Iran severed official diplomatic ties
in 1980, amid a crisis that began when radical students stormed
the U.S. embassy in Tehran and seized 52 Americans, who were
held hostage for 444 days.

Ahmadinejad's letter represents one of the most open
attempts to address the United States directly since the 1979
Islamic revolution.

Iranian and U.S. officials met on numerous occasions in
secret during the 1980s, most famously during the "Iran Contra"
scandal when Washington sold arms to Iran in return for help
freeing U.S. hostages in Lebanon.

President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani made an open overture to
the United States in 1995, offering U.S. firm Conoco a $1
billion natural gas deal. President Bill Clinton rebuffed him.

U.S. officials often cite Iran's implacable hostility
toward Israel as a key obstacle to restoring ties.

More than any of his recent predecessors, Ahmadinejad has
raised hackles in the United States, by asserting that Israel
should be "wiped off the map." Bush told Germany's Bild am
Sonntag newspaper such comments should be seen as a serious
threat to Israel and other countries.

Israel lies within range of Iranian ballistic missiles.

Ahmadinejad has also caused a furor in the West by labeling
the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the
Nazis, a myth.

U.S. and Iranian officials have said they are willing to
hold talks focusing solely on co-operating over the continuing
bloodshed in Iraq. But Ahmadinejad has said such talks are not

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central
Asian Affairs Richard Boucher repeated Washington's interest in
a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff during a visit on
Monday to the Central Asian state of Tajikistan.

"Unfortunately the Iranian government, particularly this
new government, is a source of instability in many ways," he
told reporters in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.