Iranian warns that Bush war with Iraq will play into Bin Laden's hands

October 18, 2002

Iran strongly condemns the terrorism inflicted on the United States by the September 2001 attacks, but by looking to war with Iraq, America will play into the hands of Osama bin Laden, Iranian vice president Sayyid Mohammad Ali Abtahi warned October 16.

Speaking at a high-level international meeting on Christian-Muslim dialogue held in Geneva, Abtahi said the basic measures the US was taking were not working to their advantage due to the country's refusal to right wrongs committed against the Palestinian people and in carrying out attacks on Muslim countries like Afghanistan.

'The type of logic George Bush and Osama Bin Laden are following is the same logic--whoever is not with us is against us,' said Abtahi, speaking at the forum organized by the World Council of Churches, a grouping of 342 churches in more than 100 countries. Abtahi, a theologian who is also president of the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue in Tehran, is known as a strong supporter of reform in the cabinet of President Mohammad Khatami. He said all right thinking Muslims supported peace, but unfortunately the world was getting into a 'vicious circle' of 'war being used to fight war.' Blaming politicians for exploiting religions to fuel their own ambitions, Abtahi said using wars to right wrongs was 'exactly the opposite' of the teachings of such religions as Islam and Christianity.

On the US stance on Iraq, the vice president noted that Iran had itself been 'victimized by Iraq' in the eight-year war the two countries fought during the 1980s in which hundreds of thousands of people died. He also noted that Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in1990 had triggered the unwelcome arrival of US troops in the Middle East.

In an interview with ENI he pointed out the fine balancing act that reform-minded leaders like the Iranian president had to carry out, due to the resistance to change that comes from hard liners in the country's Islamic hierarchy who still wield enormous power. 'The younger generation have been given more importance and significance in our country, but this does not mean that they want to abandon the tradition and the culture to which they belong--they want to reform it. That is why reform is so important in our country,' the 45-year-old Abtahi told ENI.

But the Iranian vice president hinted that pressure on Iran to speed up the process could derail it. He said: 'The democratic goal of this process is what we are looking for, but to reach it very fast might harm the whole process.' He observed it had taken Western countries hundreds of years to reach where they were, 'so you must not expect us to reach this point within five or 10 years.'

Related Topics: