Iranian dissident snubs Bush on visit to US

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The Independent US

A leading Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, has snubbed the Bush administration and criticised its policy in the region by declining to meet White House officials during his visit to the United States.

Mr Ganji said he had been invited to the White House last week to talk about the current situation in his country but declined the offer because of his disapproval of US policy towards Iran, the BBC reported.

The investigative journalist, who spent more than five years in jail for writing articles linking senior Iranian officials to the murder of dissidents in the 1990s, had travelled to the US to campaign for the release of a number of political prisoners. Mr Ganji and his supporters held a symbolic three-day hunger strike outside the United Nations headquarters in New York to put pressure on Iran to release four dissidents being held without charge in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

During his time in America, Mr Ganji has been keen to voice disapproval of US foreign policy in Iraq which he says has hampered the democratic movement in Iran. "Any intervention by any foreign power would bring charges of conspiracy against us," he said. "What has happened in Iraq did not support our movement in any significant way."

In an interview with The Independent before setting off on his trip to America, Mr Ganji said any attempt by him to speak to government officials could leave him open to charges of conspiracy on his return to Tehran. "My friends are not concerned about me getting detained," he said, "they are concerned about my assassination".

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