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Congressional Critics Blast Iran on Human Rights

By Dan Robinson, VOA, Capitol Hill

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the United Nations coincided with sharp criticism of the Iranian leader in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives debated three resolutions dealing with political and human rights issues in Iran

The resolutions, which are symbolic and non-binding, were debated on the House floor a few hours before the Iranian leader delivered his address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

One resolution condemns the repression of Iran's Bahai religious community by the Islamic government in Tehran.

Congressman Tom Lantos, a Democrat, was among lawmakers pointing to a deterioration of conditions for adherents to the Bahai faith in Iran over the past year.

"The U.S. Congress needs to speak out strongly against these policies," said Tom Lantos. "We cannot stand by quietly as another pogrom [crackdown] against the Bahai is quietly being prepared by the bigoted regime in Tehran."

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois linked the issue of persecution of Bahai in Iran, to the address by Iran's president to the United Nations:

"It is incumbent on Congress to reveal the real truth about this Iranian leader," said Mark Kirk. "We must demonstrate to the international community that while Iran's president has become a ruthless dictator who espouses hatred, discrimination and tyranny, the U.S. is standing for liberty, and toleration, human rights and freedom, especially for Bahais in Iran."

Lawmakers cited reports by human rights groups and the U.S. State Department about arrests, detentions and interrogations of the Bahai minority in Iran.

A second House resolution condemned in general terms human rights abuses by the Iranian government.

And a third measure, recognizing the 100th anniversary, of the first Iranian constitution, gave lawmakers another opportunity to reiterate their hopes for political change in Iran.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chairs the Middle East Subcommittee:

"This resolution is an opportunity for the American people to send a positive message to the Iranian people about their indigenous Democratic tradition," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "We hope that this tradition will be an inspiration for the Iranian people as they seek to increase their political freedoms."

Another Republican, Congressman Steve King of Iowa, was more blunt:

"I hope the recognition contained in this bill can help inspire Iranians to rise up and expel their country's dictators," he said. "Given the current threat the Iranian regime poses to global security today, the whole world should join in supporting and encouraging the Iranian people in their fight for freedom and constitutional representation."

Debate on the resolutions came amid attempts by some House Democrats, fueled by some recent media reports, to press the Bush administration on the question of planning that might be underway for a military strike on Iran.

Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich:

"I think we have to be very cautious about the path this country is taking," said Dennis Kucinich. "We can stand for a democracy in Iran. We can stand for human rights in Iran. We can do all those things without taking steps, and letting our efforts [here], that might be in good faith by the way, without letting those efforts be used as a build up towards war."

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, President Bush said the U.S. continues to work for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Tehran over its nuclear development program, adding the U.S. looks forward to the day when America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.

Bush Urges Support for Reformers, Moderates in Middle East

By Paula Wolfson, New York

President Bush is urging U.N. members to support reformers and moderates in the Middle East, and do more to stop the bloodshed in Sudan.

The president spoke of a struggle between extremists and moderates who seek peace. He said the future of the world is at stake.

"We must stand with democratic leaders and moderate reformers across the broader Middle East," he said. "We must give voice to the hopes of decent men and women who want for their children the same things we want for ours."

In an address on the first day of General Assembly debate, Mr. Bush spoke of a world beyond terror, where freedom and respect for human rights are the norm.

In doing so, he actually spoke to two audiences: the diplomats gathered in the General Assembly chamber, and the people of the Middle East.

He said the United States does not seek conflict in the region, but wants a better life for all, a life where all the people of the region are free.

"My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush said the goal is to help build tolerant and hopeful societies for people of all faiths. He told the people of Iraq that the United States stands with them, and assured Afghans that their country will not be turned over to terrorists and extremists.

He spoke of his desire to help the Lebanese rebuild their country, and voiced support for moderate Palestinian leaders seeking a future of peace.

His tone shifted when he turned to Iran and Syria, where he said governments are denying the people the freedom they deserve. He said America respects Iran and its rich culture and history, but added its leaders are refusing to let the Iranian people taste freedom and reach their full potential.

"The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons," commented Mr. Bush.

The president also had harsh words for the government of Sudan, which has refused to allow the deployment of a U.N. administered peacekeeping force in the troubled Darfur region. Mr. Bush told the people of Darfur that they have suffered unspeakable violence and said something must be done.

"If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act," he said. "Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations are at stake."

The president then announced that he has named a special envoy to Sudan. He is Andrew Natsios, the former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

... Payvand News - 9/20/06 ... --

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