Khatami shuns press during UN visit

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami criticized US President George W. Bush in interviews published Tuesday, as he joined Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other international leaders at the United Nations for a meeting of a group that promotes understanding between Western and Islamic states. Khatami, in the middle of a two-week tour of the United States, refused to speak with the media as he went in and out of the room at UN headquarters where the meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations took place. The event was closed to the media. Yet in interviews with CNN and USA Today, Khatami faulted Bush on several counts: He refused, for example, to back off a previous comparison between the American leader and Osama bin Laden. He also said the US was partly to blame for the turmoil in the Middle East. "As a result of such wrong policies, such unilateral, violent policies, that is - the voice of logic has decreased and voice of terror and attractiveness of terror unfortunately among youth has increased," CNN quoted him as saying. The former Iranian president will spend a second day at the UN for the event. He spoke in the Chicago area over the weekend, and will attend two Islamic conferences as well as deliver a speech at the National Cathedral in Washington. Khatami reiterated the government's claim that it is not seeking nuclear weapons. The United States insists that it is. "Why should they not trust Iran?" CNN quoted him as saying in an interview. "See, at this moment, Iran is a signatory to the treaty, has declared many times it has no interest in building the nuclear bomb." Khatami distanced himself from comments by his successor that Israel should not exist. "I personally never said that Israel should be wiped off the map," he told CNN. "I always said and backed fair and equal peace in the region."