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In Exclusive Interview, President Bush Extends New Year’s Greetings to Iranian People, Expresses Support for Greater Political Freedoms

(Washington, DC — March 19, 2008) On the eve of the Persian New Year, Radio Farda correspondent Parichehr Farzam interviewed U.S. President George W. Bush from the White House. Topics covered by the Persian-language broadcaster included U.S. policy toward Iran, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a Russian proposal to supply Iran with enriched uranium and the war in Iraq.

At the outset, Bush wished Iranians a Happy New Year on behalf of the American people. “The people of the United States respect the great Iranian history and culture,” said Bush. “We have great respect for the people, [but] we’ve got problems with the government.”

Offering a potential way forward in the international dispute over Iran’s acquisitions of nuclear technology, Bush said it is Iran’s “right” to have a civilian nuclear-power program, but that there is no need for the country to enrich uranium. Instead, he voiced support for offers by third countries, including Russia, to process nuclear fuel for delivery to Iran.

Noting that the interview coincided with the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Radio Farda asked the President about accusations by U.S. officials that Iran has been providing weapons and training to armed opponents of Iraq’s central government, a charge that Tehran has dismissed.

“A peaceful Iraq will depend upon making it clear to the Iranians to stop exporting weapons from Iran into Iraq that arm militias and arm criminal gangs that cause there to be harm for the innocent people,” Bush said.

Bush also challenged Tehran over restrictions on free speech and political participation, noting that dozens of reformist candidates were disqualified from participation in the March 14 parliamentary elections.

Read the full transcript of President Bush’s interview with Radio Farda.

Radio Farda is a joint broadcasting venture between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America.