World

U.S. scorns letter from Iranian president

Iran's president has proposed new ways out of the ongoing crisis over his country's nuclear programs in the first letter from an Iranian leader to the U.S. president in 27 years.

The United States has dismissed a letter sent byIran's president, saying it does nothing to resolve the two countries' simmering dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

The letter, the firstfrom an Iranian leader to a U.S. president in 27 years, proposed "new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world," according to Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham.

The letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sent via the Swiss Embassy.

However, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Associated Pressthat the letter was not a diplomatic opening.

"This letter isn't it. This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort," Rice said. "It isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way … It is most assuredly not a proposal."

She said the letter was 17 or 18 pages long and covered history, philosophy and religion.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush had been briefed on the letter.

"It does not appear to do anything to address the nuclear concerns" of the international community, McClellan told reporters.

Earlier, White House intelligence chief John Negroponte said its deliveryseemed to have been timed to coincide with a United Nationsvote on Iran's nuclear program.

"Given the fact that the issue of Iran is before the United Nations at this time, certainly one of the hypotheses you'd have to examine is whether and in what way the timing of the dispatch of that letter is connected with trying in some manner to influence the debate before the Security Council," Negroponte told reporters.

Washington has not had diplomatic relations with Tehran since 1979, when the U.S. Embassy was stormed.The leaders of the two countries have not directly corresponded in that time.

The United States is leading a group of Western countries, including the European Union, in trying to stop Iran from enriching uranium.

Iran, which announced last week its uranium enrichment program was progressing well, insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful and intended onlyto generate electricity.

However, other countries, including the U.S.,worry that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons.

The Western nations want to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, whichwould allow economic sanctions or even military action to force Iran to comply with the Security Council's demand that it stop enriching uranium.