Letter: Our brutal friends

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As the dust of the last week's futile bombing raids on Iraqi towns and bases settles and we move into the, hopefully, reflective period of Christmas and year end, it might be an appropriate moment to ponder on the Government's dealing with Iraq and its next-door neighbour, Iran.

All year there has been the spectacle of our Foreign Office sidling up to the murderous mullahs (who are suddenly handing out oil contracts), lauding by turn the new "liberalism" perceived to be prevailing under President Khatami and his "rule of law". Salman Rushdie is publicly mollified (and privately gagged) and there is a scramble to comply with Tehran's orders to "close down" all groups working from this country purported to be in opposition to the Iranian government (first in line being the UK-registered charity Iran Aid; after 15 years of rescuing children orphaned by the regime its funding has been cut off).

On the other hand Saddam Hussein continues to be presented as number one Bogeyman, the sledgehammer comes out again to crush him and his people and Iraqi opposition groups are invited to tea in Whitehall.

Make no mistake, the regimes in question are still equally horrible, so we could ask, which of the two diametrically-opposed policies is the "ethical" one - or are they both?

BELINDA McKENZIE

Friend of Iran Aid

London N6

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