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Mr. Skorton and Mr. Ahmadinejad

So the big news this week is that President Skorton is touring Iran with a bunch of other leaders from academe. And as the Chronicle reported, there would be no politics in the trip:

The group will not meet with Iranian government officials or engage in political talks, the participants emphasize. The Iranian government has been harshly criticized for its persecution of intellectuals. In mid-October Esha Momeni, an American-born graduate student at California State University at Northridge, was arrested in Tehran while researching Iran's women's movement. Momeni was released on bail Nov. 11.

But now comes a report that the group will meet with Ahmadinejad:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likely to meet with the presidents of 6 US universities who are currently on a tour of Iran.

"We believe it is important to maintain and renew academic ties between our two countries as a means of laying the groundwork for greater understanding and rebuilding what was once a very healthy collaboration in science and higher education," said Robert Berdahl, the president of the Association of American Universities which organized the tour.

This is interesting and we wonder whether or not any of the Cornell Jewish groups will raise concern. But we must say we approve: like Richard Nixon we believe it is okay to talk to those who might be hostile to us without preconditions.

Update: The Sun is now reporting a 'categorical denial' of the report, and even gives us a shoutout in the process.

The American Association of Universities categorically denied yesterday an Iranian news report that stated the six U.S. university presidents currently visiting Iran, including Cornell President David Skorton, were likely to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“The report is inaccurate. That’s not happening,” said AAU spokesperson Barry Toiv.

The Iranian FARS News Agency reported earlier this week that Ahmadinejad was “likely to meet” with the university presidents.

The FARS news story was picked up by several Iranian websites and blogs as well as the MetaEzra blog, which is published by two Cornell alumni. A story on the CBS News website also reported for a brief period of time on Wednesday that Ahmadinejad was expected to meet with the university presidents, according to a Google cache of the page. The CBS story has since been changed.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on November 19, 2008 (#)

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