TEHRAN, Iran: The dean of a northeastern Iranian university has invited U.S. President George W. Bush to address professors and students and answer their questions on human rights, terrorism and the Holocaust, state television reported Monday.
The invitation from Ferdowsi University came a week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial visit to New York, where he faced tough questioning and received a combative introduction from Columbia University’s president at the campus forum.
“The dean of Ferdowsi University has invited the U.S. president to address professors and students and answer their questions about human rights, terrorism and the Holocaust,” the television reported. The broadcast did not give further details including saying how or when the invitation was issued by the prestigious Iranian university in Mashhad.
Late last week before he left New York, Ahmadinejad invited Bush to speak at an Iranian university if the American leader ever traveled to the Islamic Republic. The hardline leader was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad’s appearance a week ago at Columbia University caused an uproar after a blistering introduction from university President Lee Bollinger who said Ahmadinejad was exhibiting “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator” who was “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated” for his denials of the Holocaust.
Bollinger’s lashing offended Iranians especially in regard to the region’s hospitality traditions that a host should be polite to a guest, no matter what he thinks of him.
In response, the chancellors of seven Iranian universities last week issued a letter to Bollinger saying his “insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with … a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful.”
They invited Bollinger to Iran, adding, “You can be assured that Iranians are very polite and hospitable toward their guests.”
Back home, Ahmadinejad said the negative reception he received at Columbia University failed to damage Iran’s image and instead hurt America’s prestige abroad.
Tensions are high between Iran and the U.S. over Washington’s allegations that Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and supplying Shiite militias in Iraq with deadly weapons that kill U.S. troops. Iran denies both claims.
Iran and the U.S cut off diplomatic relations in 1979 after Iranian militant students seized the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.