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No official reply to Iranian letter: White House

"We've already given our response," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said.

india Updated: May 10, 2006 02:11 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

The United States will have no formal written response to the surprise letter sent to President George W Bush by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the White House said on Tuesday.

"We've already given our response," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said, referring to various statements by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US officials rejecting Monday's letter from the Iranian leader.

Rice said Monday that the letter, which ended more than a quarter century of official silence between Washington and Tehran at the top governmental level, offered "nothing new" to earlier pronouncements by Teran about its controversial nuclear program.

The spokesman's remarks came after Iran's foreign ministry said it was waiting for a response to the letter from Bush.

Speaking to the IRNA news agency, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the letter was not designed to influence members of the UN Security Council, which is discussing how to deal with Iran's disputed nuclear program, but was meant to elicit a direct response from the US president.

"The letter from Ahmadinejad to Bush was not aimed at influencing the nuclear question. We are awaiting the reaction of the person it was addressed to," Asefi said.

Ahmadinejad's letter was the first from an Iranian leader to a US president in more than a quarter century, and suggested "new ways" to settle long-running tensions that have escalated over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late Monday, in the transcript of a press interview released by the State Department, was underwhelmed.

"There is nothing in this letter that in any way addresses any of the issues really that are on the table in the international community," Rice said.

"It is most assuredly not a proposal," she said. "There is nothing in here that would suggest that we're on any different course than we were before we got the letter."

Speaking in the town of Sun City Center in southern Florida, Bush, without mentioning the letter, said diplomacy was the most effective way of breaking the logjam, and remains the "number one option" in the dispute.

"A president has got to be able to say to the American people, diplomacy didn't work" before escalating to other measures, Bush said.

Bush added that the international community speaks has "a common interest to prevent the Iranians from getting that weapon."

"They understand the consequences of a nuclear Iran, particularly when you have a president who is threatening people," the US president said.

He added that Washington remained committed to ensuring at all costs that Iran never attain the ability to develop atomic weapons.

"Our objective is not let them get in the bomb in the first place," Bush said.

Tehran portrayed the letter as an important diplomatic initiative, but officials in the United States dismissed the 18-page document as more philosophical treatise than political overture.

In the letter, Ahmadinejad proposes that the two countries return to religious principles as a means of restoring confidence between them.

"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.

Tehran announced the letter before a meeting in New York of the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, who were trying to map out a common strategy to force Iran to halt the sensitive nuclear fuel work.

The ministers failed to reach an agreement on a possible UN resolution Monday and a US push for a resolution under Chapter Seven of the UN charter authorizing sanctions and even the use of force.

First Published: May 10, 2006 00:26 IST