Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is visiting the United States. He was invited by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to attend a conference in New York City. He is scheduled to speak to a number of academic and religious organizations in various U.S. cities as well.
Mr. Khatami is traveling as a private citizen and will not meet with U.S. government officials. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the decision to grant Mr. Khatami a visa does not mean that the United States harbors "any illusions about the nature of the Iranian regime:"
"The fact of the matter is that Iran is, and was, a state sponsor of terror. Iran is now, and was, seeking nuclear weapons in contravention of its international obligations."
Mr. McCormack says that during his visit to the U.S., Mr. Khatami "will be able to speak his mind":
"That is not something that people in his country are allowed to do. And we would hope that these organizations and the individuals attending these events [with Mr. Khatami] might take the opportunity to ask him hard questions about Iran's role in the world, how it treats its own people, and why it continues to be the world's most significant state sponsor of terror. . . .Former President Khatami has said he wanted to start a 'dialogue of civilizations.' Well sponsorship of terror is not a hallmark of a civilized kind of behavior."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that former Iranian President Khatami should be asked "the kind of questions that if asked in Iran would get the questioner thrown in jail."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.