Editor’s Note: Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami recently spoke at the Australian National University in Canberra. As he turned to the audience for questions, he was asked about Iran’s treatment of the Baha’is. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
No answers yet, but talk is solution in Middle East: Khatami
After an optimistic, apolitical and somewhat abstract speech calling for global dialogue, the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami turned to the audience for questions.
Immediately the gathering in Canberra turned to the vexed and somewhat murky questions of the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan and Iranian treatment of Baha’is and women.
Asked about possible coexistence with Israel, Dr Khatami, who was speaking at the Australian National University yesterday, called for greater co-operation and respect in the Middle East, but did not refer specifically to relations with Israel.
“The crisis should be resolved through a global approach with respect to the rights of all nations,” he said. “It requires global will. If such a solution based on justice would be realised … we would be able to reach stable peace in the region.”
Asked about the treatment of the Baha’i minority in his country, Dr Khatami said Iran tolerated all religions but admitted there had been some unjust imprisonment of innocent people. “Nobody would be able to claim that in my country there is nobody incarcerated without any crime. For sure there would be such cases … Nobody should be incarcerated because of their beliefs.”
The visit of Dr Khatami, who is a guest of the ANU and La Trobe University, angered some Jewish groups and prompted calls to boycott an interfaith meeting in Victoria. The Federal Government had not decided yesterday whether it would meet with Dr Khatami, although Victoria’s Premier, John Brumby, last week ruled out a meeting.
The former prime minister Malcolm Fraser spoke last night, thanking Dr Khatami for the address and welcoming the call for greater dialogue.
Mr Fraser also welcomed calls by the US President, Barack Obama, for dialogue with Iran and said debate on issues such as Iraq and the Middle East were often more vigorous in the US and Israel than in Australia.
“There’s a new President with a new approach. If President Obama’s initiative [receives] a positive response it will lead to a much more stable Middle East and a much more stable world …
“On Middle East policy there are clearly those who have very firm views. They demand they will be accepted before they enter dialogue.”
[Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/no-answers-yet-but-talk-is-solution-in-middle-east-khatami-20090324-98×7.html. Another article was published by the Brisbane Times at http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-national/israel-iran-can-coexist-says-khatami-20090324-9915.html]