TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's fiercely anti-U.S. president has come out against a bill that would require Americans to be fingerprinted on arrival in Iran.
Speaking to a crowd in the northern Tehran suburb of Shemiranat, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he had asked Iranian legislators to set aside a bill that would require immigration officials to take fingerprints of all U.S. passport holders.
"We do not have a problem with American people. We oppose only the U.S. government's bullying and arrogance," Ahmadinejad said Monday night, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The bill, which passed a preliminary reading in the Iranian parliament earlier this month, was drafted by conservatives who sought to retaliate for the U.S. requirement that Iranian visitors be fingerprinted.
The U.S. measure, which also applies to nationals of some other countries, was implemented in 2002, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
"In spite of Washington's decision to fingerprint Iranian travelers who visit the United States, we have asked legislators to avoid a countermeasure," Ahmadinejad said.
"If somebody, and that includes an American, is entitled to enter Iran, then he will be welcomed with respect," the president said.
Small numbers of American passport holders visit Iran, mostly academics interested in Persian history and culture. However, some U.S. basketball players play for Iranian teams and U.S. wrestlers occasionally take part in tournaments in Iran.
The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since Iranian militants stormed the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
The atmosphere between the two countries improved marginally under former President Mohammad Khatami, who encouraged sport and cultural exchanges, but it deteriorated after the Sept. 11 attacks when President Bush declared that Iran belonged to an "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea.
Since taking office last year, Ahmadinejad has widened the gap with Washington by taking a hardline on Iran's nuclear program and calling for Israel's destruction.