AFP: The White House scoffed Tuesday at an Iranian university’s invitation to US President George W. Bush to address its campus, saying he was “not taking it too seriously.”
WASHINGTON (AFP) The White House scoffed Tuesday at an Iranian university’s invitation to US President George W. Bush to address its campus, saying he was “not taking it too seriously.”
“If Iran was a free and democratic society that allowed its people freedom of expression, and wasn’t pursuing nuclear weapons, and wasn’t advocating to destroy the country of Israel, the president might consider that invitation,” said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
“But I think that we’re not taking it too seriously,” she told reporters.
Earlier, the head of Ferdowsi University in Iran’s second city of Mashhad, one of the oldest universities in the country, said Bush should visit to answer questions from students and lecturers on human rights and terrorism.
The invitation came roughly one week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a hostile reception at the prestigious Columbia University in New York while he attended the UN General Assembly.
“President Bush is invited to give a speech and respond to numerous questions, must notably about human rights, terrorism and the Holocaust,” said university president Alireza Afshour, according to the government daily Iran.
“This is what President Ahmadinejad did, despite the lack of respect shown towards him,” he added.
Ahmadinejad himself, during a visit to Latin America, told state television that “if their president (Bush) wishes to come, we authorize him to make a speech” at an Iranian university.
The White House had repeatedly declined to criticize Columbia — or the Washington-based National Press Club, which Ahmadinejad addressed via teleconference — for inviting the fiery Iranian leader, calling it an example of the freedom of speech Washington says Iran denies its people.
Iranians across the political spectrum, however, condemned the way Ahmadinejad was treated at Columbia as insulting, after university president Lee Bollinger introduced him as a “petty and cruel dictator.”
Ahmadinejad also drew jeers when, to widespread disbelief, he asserted that there were “no homosexuals” in Iran.
However given the current hostility between the two arch enemies over Iran’s nuclear drive and alleged support for militants in Iraq, there appeared virtually no chance of such a visit taking place.
Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic relations for the past 27 years after Washington cut ties in the wake of a siege of its embassy in Tehran by Islamist students.