Iran President Open to Talks with U.S., Religious Leaders Told

February 26, 2007

Source: National Council of Churches Press Release

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2007 – The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a delegation of American religious leaders visiting Tehran last Saturday that he is willing to engage in talks with the United States government.

"I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some good will," President Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a statement issued today at a news conference at the National Press Club here.

The delegation's statement (complete text below) called for immediate direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, an immediate halt to the use of enemy images in each other's rhetoric, and increasing the number of people-to-people delegations between the two countries at several levels.

"What the delegation found most encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad," said the statement, "was a clear declaration from him of no intention to acquire or use nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved through political not military means."

The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), was among the 13-member delegation representing the Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Baptist and United Methodist churches. They spent six days in Iran talking with religious leaders, government officials and general citizens.