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Bush campaign against Iran's religious leaders - Wash Post

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Mar 13 (Reuters) The Bush administration intends to mount a campaign against Tehran's religious leaders in its efforts to build international pressure against Iran's nuclear program, the Washington Post reported today.

Board members of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, who met two weeks ago with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, told the Post they had the impression that the administration had shifted to a more robust policy against the Tehran government.

''The message that we received is that they are in favour of separating the Iranian people from the regime,'' said Esmail Amid-Hozour, an Iranian American businessman who serves on the Hoover board.

The newspaper also said Bush, according to aides, has personally been spending more time on the Iran issue and his advisers have invited 30 to 40 specialists for consultations in recent months.

Iran, which has fought to avoid being taken to the U N Security Council over its nuclear program, suspects Bush is using the nuclear issue as a pretext for promoting a change in the Islamic republic's government.

This week the U N Security Council is due to take up Iran's case after the International Atomic Energy Agency sent the council a report saying it could not verify that Iran's nuclear plans were purely peaceful.

MORE IRAN STAFF AT STATE The Post also reported that the State Department created an Iran desk last week, with 10 staff working full-time on Iran, compared with only two last year. The department also is launching more training in the Farsi language and is planning an Iranian career track, which has been difficult without an embassy there.

Undersecretary of State R Nicholas Burns told the Post that the department will also add staff in Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, as well as at other embassies in the vicinity of Iran, all assigned to watch Tehran. He called the new Dubai outpost the ''21st century equivalent'' of the Riga station in Latvia that monitored the Soviet Union in the 1930s when the United States had no embassy in Moscow.

The campaign also includes expanded Voice of America broadcasts into Iran to 4 hours a day from 1 hour currently.

Richard Haas, a former State Department policy planning director in Bush's first term, told the newspaper he believed the U S should try direct negotiations with Tehran, but added: ''The upper hand is with those who are pushing regime change rather than those who are advocating more diplomacy''.

REUTERS PV DS1215

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