BOSTON – Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday ordered all state agencies to refuse any assistance — if it is requested — when the former president of Iran visits Massachusetts this weekend.
The Republican chief executive, a potential candidate for his party's 2008 presidential nomination, said Mohammed Khatami oversaw torture and the murder of dissidents, as well as Iran's secret nuclear program, while in office from 1997 to 2005.
"State taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel," Romney said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department will be providing security for Khatami during his visit Sunday to the Boston area, which will include a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Romney's action, however, means Khatami will be denied an official police escort and other VIP treatment when he is in town.
The visa issued to Khatami also will allow him to speak at the National Cathedral in Washington, making him the most senior Iranian official to visit the capital since Islamic fundamentalists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans hostage for 444 days.
In addition, Khatami was participating in a United Nations conference Tuesday and Wednesday.
For the second time in a week, Romney also clashed with Harvard, the school that conferred upon him his law and business graduate degrees in 1975. Numerous conservatives criticize such East Coast liberal arts schools for their teachings and program offerings.
The governor said that by "honoring" Khatami to speak, Harvard had committed "a disgrace to the memory of all Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of extremists, especially on the eve of the five-year anniversary of 9/11."
Last week, Romney criticized Harvard scientists for seeking to engage in a type of stem cell research that the governor labeled "embryo-farming" and "Orwellian."
Harvard issued a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed by Romney's position, and expected to go forward with the event, adding that it was reviewing security arrangments for Khatami's visit and "safety will remain a paramount concern."
"Given this critical moment in the Middle East, and the attempt by the U.S. and other nations to find a peaceful accommodation with Iran, a visit by Khatami seemed very much in the tradition of the free exchange of ideas that is a central part to the life of the University," the statement said.
The Kennedy School is planning a separate forum on the Sept. 11 attacks on the actual fifth anniversary next Monday.
In a statement announcing his decision, Romney cited "a litany of hateful actions" by Khatami, including:
— Describing the terrorist group Hezbollah, involved in the recent Israel-Lebanon border war, as a "shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world."
— Endorsing the call of the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to seek the annihilation of Israel.
— Refusing to hand over the Iranian intelligence officials who were responsible for the attack on the Khobar Towers that killed 19 U.S. military personnel.
"Khatami pretends to be a moderate, but he is not," the governor said. "My hope is that the United States will find and work with real voices of moderation inside Iran. But we will never make progress in the region if we deal with wolves in sheep's clothing."