Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama Sent Letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Urging Cooperation, Report Says

President Barack Obama sent a letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself, Barbara Slavin of The Washington Times is reporting.

Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed the letter toward the end of a lengthy sermon last week, the Times said, in which he accused the United States of fomenting protests in his country in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election.

Obama's olive branch offer is consistent with his campaign promise to sit down with leaders of nations that sponsor terrorism without preconditions. It is also in alignment with his inauguration day promise "that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

The letter was sent before the election, and its exact contents are not known. Administration officials have been reluctant to talk about the letter a day after Obama gave his strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian crackdown against protesters.

The Washington Times quoted an anonymous Iranian government source as saying that the letter was sent between May 4 and May 10, and laid out the prospect of "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations" and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

The Iranian told the Times the letter was given to the Iranian Foreign Ministry by a representative of the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations. The letter was then delivered to the office of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Times said.

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