Bush can speak at a university in Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has extended an invitation to US President George W Bush to speak at an Iranian university if the American leader ever travelled to the Islamic Republic, state-run television reported on Friday.

As part of his controversial trip to New York, the hardline Iranian leader spoke on Monday at Columbia University, where he faced hostile questioning and a combative introduction by the university’s president, who said Ahmadinejad exhibited “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator”.

“If their president plans to travel to Iran, we will allow him to make a speech at a university,” Ahmadinejad told state TV before leaving New York to travel to South America earlier this week.

His comments were aired on state TV on Friday and signalled an unusual readiness by Iran to receive an American president after more than a quarter century with no diplomatic ties.

The harshness of Monday’s introduction at the Columbia University forum prompted complaints in Iran and elsewhere that Ahmadinejad had been blind-sided by his host. Ahmadinejad complained that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s speech had contained “many insults” and amounted to “unfriendly treatment”, but he otherwise appeared to take the comments in stride.

Back home, Iranians also were dismayed by Bollinger’s introduction and said his words only added to their image of the United States as a bully.