White House Rejects Renewed Iranian Diplomatic Overtures
The Washington Post is reporting Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to President Bush with new overtures for direct negotiations. According to the Post, the White House has ignored these requests, despite the conclusion of intelligence experts that Ahmadinejad's letter was a major overture. Several anonymous officials said the Bush administration is coming under pressure from government experts to respond to Iran’s letter. Paul Pillar, who served as the senior Middle East intelligence analyst with the CIA until last year, said: "There is no question in my mind that there has been for some time a desire on the part of the senior Iranian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the United States."
House Votes To Ban Assistance to Palestinian Authority
On Capitol Hill, the House voted Tuesday to ban U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act would make it difficult for nongovernmental organizations, except those providing healthcare, to receive U.S. funds. The bill also denies U.S. visas to members of the Palestinian Authority, prohibits official U.S. contact with Palestinian officials, and cuts off U.S. funding of United Nations agencies that directly assist the Palestinian Authority.
Bush Supports Israeli Plan To Annex Settlements
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in the United States for his first official visit since winning national elections in March. On Tuesday, President Bush embraced Olmert’s proposal to unilaterally redraw Israel’s boundaries in the occupied West Bank. Olmert’s proposal would remove around 60,000 Israelis from isolated settlements but would annex to Israel larger settlements that house some 200,000 Israelis, excluding East Jerusalem. Meanwhile Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh repeated Hamas’ offer of a long-term ceasefire if Israel withdrew from all the land occupied in the 1967 war.