WASHINGTON – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call Tuesday for a televised debate with President Bush is not the first time the hard-line leader has made such a direct overture.
Earlier this year, Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to Bush portraying the world as filled with an "ever-increasing global hatred of the American government." Washington was promptly dismissed the letter as irrelevant and not addressing the key issue of Iran's disputed nuclear program.
In a news conference Tuesday, Ahmadinejad challenged Bush to a live debate on "world issues and the ways of solving the problems of the international community."
"We announce our views. They can say theirs provided that there will be no censorship, especially for the American people," he said.
Ahmadinejad said the debate would serve to show the world "how this (U.S.) method is oppressive and compare it with the proposals of the Iranian nation on how to run the world better, different from the U.S. method of use of force and special advantage."
The White House dismissed the proposal as a distraction.
"Talk of a debate is just a diversion from the legitimate concerns that the international community, not just the U.S., has about Iran's behavior, from support for terrorism to pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
When Ahmadinejad sent his letter to Bush in May, the then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused Iran of trying to change the subject from demands that it abandon uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad called that letter "words and opinions of the Iranian nation" aimed at finding a "way out of problems" facing humanity, according to the official Iranian news agency. The letter, an English-language text of which was released by the United States, portrayed the world as filled with people who are tired of corruption and poverty and angry at the U.S.