- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

President Bush yesterday said Iran’s new president will probably come to New York for meetings at the United Nations next month, even though he might have taken U.S. hostages in Tehran in 1979.

“We’re still investigating allegations and/or this guy’s potential involvement in the hostage crisis,” the president told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. “We have an agreement with the United Nations to allow people to come to meet, and I suspect he will be here to meet.”

The remark appeared to put an end to speculation that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be denied a visa to enter the U.S. because of accusations that he was a student leader during the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has denied taking hostages.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who became Iran’s president last week, wants to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting of heads of state. The State Department has never blocked anti-American leaders from visiting the United Nations for such meetings.

Mr. Bush praised the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for issuing a report yesterday that expressed alarm over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I appreciate the IAEA’s positive first step,” he said. “But the point is that the world is coalescing around the notion that the Iranians should not have the means and the wherewithal to be able to develop a nuclear weapon.”

The Bush administration wants the IAEA to take the next step by referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. But such a move is opposed by France and China, which have veto powers on the Security Council.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bush yesterday reiterated his support for France, as well as Germany and Britain, for negotiating with Tehran on behalf of the U.S. The European trio is known as EU3.

“Our strategy is to work with the EU3 … so that the Iranians hear a common voice speaking to them about their nuclear weapons ambitions.”

Mr. Bush’s remarks came during a day of meetings with his defense and national security team at his ranch. While speaking to reporters under the Texas sun, the president was flanked by Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley; and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard B. Myers.

Turning to Iraq, Mr. Bush said “it would be a mistake” to heed the advice of war protester Cindy Sheehan, who is calling for a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq after her son died in Baghdad.

Mrs. Sheehan is staging a vigil on the road leading to Mr. Bush’s ranch.

“I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan,” the president said. “I’ve thought long and hard about her position. I’ve heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now.

“And it would be a mistake for the security of this country — and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run — if we were to do so.”

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