Iran President Questions Bush's Christian Values

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – With his 18-page letter to President Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a history lesson, philosophy lecture and religious sermon laced with references to Jesus Christ.

The letter gives rare insight into a man who has largely been a mystery to the West, showing him as fixated on a long list of grievances against the United States and seeking to build on a shared faith in God.

Ahmadinejad declared that Western-style democracy had failed and that the use of secret prisons in Europe and aspects of the war in Iraq could not be reconciled with Bush's Christian values.

But it did not address directly the central issue that divides the two countries: Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In his wide-ranging letter, written in Farsi with an English translation, Ahmadinejad at times challenged and conceded as he directed question after question to Bush but offered no concrete proposals.

In Iran on Tuesday, the Iranian president portrayed it as a blueprint of "suggestions for resolving the many problems facing humanity," the Iranian news agency Irna reported.

Ahmadinejad, whose government is suspected by the West of pursuing nuclear weapons, questions whether Christ and other religious prophets would have approved of U.S. policies and actions in the Middle East.

"I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (Peace be upon him) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth," Ahmadinejad wrote Bush, who has said that Christ is his favorite philosopher.

"If Prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishamel, Joseph, or Jesus Christ (Peace Be Upon Him) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior?" he wrote.

As Ahmadinejad asked Bush to do some soul-searching and atone for past U.S. transgressions, the United States dismissed the letter as irrelevant and devoid of any concrete proposals whatsoever.

U.S. officials portrayed the document as a stalling tactic in the contentious negotiations among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council over Iran's nuclear program.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused Iran of trying to change the subject from demands that it abandon uranium enrichment. He refused to say whether Bush planned to respond.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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