Washington, D.C., June 19, 2006 -Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, in an exclusive interview with Voice of America (VOA), called for face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran to resolve issues including Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Speaking via live remote from Rome on VOA's Persian-language TV program Roundtable With You (Mizegerdi ba Shoma), Ganji said, "U.S.-Iranian talks have to be conducted in a transparent and open fashion. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, those interested in world peace need to call for direct talks." He said that such talks would benefit the Iranian and American peoples and the entire world.
Ganji criticized European governments for placing their commercial interests in Iran ahead of human rights abuses. "If we receive greater moral support inside Iran from the West, it could help us tremendously. . . . Europe, which is the cradle of civilization, now turns a blind eye when the government of Iran tramples on human rights."
Gandji told VOA's audience that Iranians now recognize that their "country's salvation will come only through democracy." To transform Iran into a democratic and free country, he said, the Iranian people will have to make sacrifices because "democracy and freedom are not obtained free of charge." Ganji said there should not be a "religious government nor an established religion."
Ganji, now in Rome, plans to return to Iran to promote democracy and human rights. He was jailed in 2001 for articles he wrote that implicated top Iranian officials in the deaths of Iranian dissidents in 1998. Ganji was sentenced to six years, but Iranian authorities granted him an early release on March 18, 2006. On June 5, 2006, he was in Moscow to receive the World Association of Newspaper Golden Pen of Freedom award.
Roundtable With You (Mizegerdi ba Shoma) is one of four Persian-language television programs broadcast into Iran by VOA, which also broadcasts on radio. A recent survey showed that more than one-quarter of the adult Iranian population either watches or listens to a VOA Persian-language program every week. For more information about VOA's Persian Service go to www.VOANews.com/Persian/.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages.
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