- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Iranians inspired

Iranian exiles plan to hold a constitutional convention in Washington tomorrow, inspired by the stirring words of President Bush from his State of the Union speech and from America’s own such convention more than 200 years ago.

Zari Sariri, the convention director, said the meeting beginning at 1 p.m. at DAR Constitution Hall was conceived “mainly because of President Bush’s speech.” In his February address to Congress, Mr. Bush sent a message to the Iranian people.

“As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you,” Mr. Bush said.

Mrs. Sariri yesterday said she hopes those few words will spark an Iranian revolution from within the country to replace a brutal theocracy with a democratic government.

The organizers expect members of Congress and members of the Canadian and European parliaments to address Iranian exiles in America from more than 30 states. Speakers also include terrorism specialist Neil Livingstone.

Mrs. Sariri explained that the convention aims to deliver a message to the Bush administration and to the European Union.

She hopes a demonstration of a massive support for democracy will persuade Washington to remove the Iranian resistance from a list of terrorist organizations. The Clinton administration placed the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its armed wing, the People’s Mojahedin, on the black list when it was trying to improve relations with the Iranian government.

“The important thing is to give the resistance legitimacy,” she said.

The message to Europe is to stop “appeasing the mullahs” with “vain attempts” to get the Iranian government to give up its nuclear program, Mrs. Sariri added.

“The Iranian people and the resistance can do the rest,” she said.

Mrs. Sariri said contacts in Iran report growing protests against the regime. She cited 1,500 pro-democracy demonstrations over the past year.

She hopes that massive, concerted protests can bring down the mullahs in the way that Ukrainians and Georgians did in their peaceful revolutions. Failing that, however, Mrs. Sariri hopes that the United States will release members of the People’s Mojahedin from protective custody in Iraq and return their arms.

In December, Maryam Rajavi, president of the Iranian resistance, delivered a similar message to Europe when she addressed supporters in the European Parliament.

“Appeasement is not the way to contain or change the regime,” Mrs. Rajavi said, calling the Iranian government a “medieval theocracy.”

“Appeasement only emboldens the mullahs. The answer to fundamentalism is democracy.”

Struan Stevenson, the Scottish member of the European Parliament who hosted Mrs. Rajavi, warned that Europe would be within range of a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime.

“The threat is not only the complete destabilization of [the Middle East], the threat is to us, to the rest of the world,” he said.

Mellow French

U.S. ambassador to France Howard H. Leach thinks his stormy four years in Paris are ending with a reconciliation between the two old allies.

“We had strong differences of opinions at times, but we were always able to continue discussion in a reasonably cordial tone,” he told United Press International in an interview this week.

Mr. Leach thinks French public opinion is changing with the improving conditions in Iraq. France vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq but now appears to realize that “perhaps George Bush did have some things right there,” he said.

“They’re approaching it from the point of view of what’s happening in the Middle East and was the president on the right track,” he said.

Mr. Leach, a political appointee, is scheduled to leave Paris on Saturday.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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