In the first formal communication between the two nations in 27 years, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to President Bush challenging U.S. policies as contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

“I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus, and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” Ahmadinejad said. “We also believe that Jesus Christ was one of the great prophets of the Almighty.”

But the 3,900-word missive cited numerous examples where the Iranian leader said U.S. policy does not comport to values shared by Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They include attacking Iraq under the pretense of weapons of mass destruction, prison conditions at GuantanamoBay, support for Israel and tolerating poverty and hardship both in and out of the United States while spending billions for war.

“Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity,” Ahmadinejad concluded. “Today these two concepts have failed.”

“We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point–that is the Almighty God,” he continued. “Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems.

“My question for you is: ‘Do you not want to join them?’ Mr. President, whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice, and the will of God will prevail over all things.”

Ahmadinejad said both he and Bush will hold office only for a brief time, and then will be judged by history on questions like:

–“Did we manage to bring peace, security and prosperity for the people or insecurity and unemployment?”

–“Did we intend to establish justice, or just support special-interest groups, and by forcing many people to live in poverty and hardship, made a few people rich and powerful–thus trading the approval of the people and the Almighty with theirs?”

–“Did we defend the rights of the underprivileged or ignore them?”

–“Did we defend the rights of all people around the world or impose wars on them, interfere illegally in their affairs, establish hellish prisons and incarcerate some of them?”

–“Did we bring the world peace and security or raise the specter of intimidation and threats?”

–“Did we tell the truth to our nation and others around the world or present an inverted version of it?”

–“Were we on the side of people or the occupiers and oppressors?”

–“Did our administration set out to promote rational behavior, logic, ethics, peace, fulfilling obligations, justice, service to the people, prosperity, progress and respect for human dignity or the force of guns, intimidation, insecurity, disregard for the people, delaying the progress and excellence of other nations, and trample on people’s rights?”

“And finally, they will judge us on whether we remained true to our oath of office–to serve the people, which is our main task, and the traditions of the prophets–or not?”

President Bush professes to be a born-again Christian. Many U.S. religious leaders oppose the war in Iraq, but it is generally supported by the religious right.

Ahmadinejad’s letter mentioned only obliquely the main issue it apparently sought to defuse, growing tension over Iran’s nuclear program. “Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East regions is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime?” he asked. “Is not scientific research and development one of the basic rights of nations?”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abruptly dismissed the letter, telling the Associated Press it “isn’t addressing the issues that we’re dealing with in a concrete way.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan dodged a question about whether the president will respond. “It’s not an issue of whether we respond, it’s an issue of whether the regime will respond to the demands of the international community,” he said. “The international community is concerned about the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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