Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Jimmy Carter calls for US to make friends with Iran after 27 years

The former US president Jimmy Carter has called for his country to resume trade relations with Iran, which he described as a "rational" nation. Speaking at the Hay Festival yesterday, Mr Carter also suggested the US should provide nuclear power technology and fuel to Iran as a show of goodwill.

"What happens if, in three years time, Iran has a nuclear weapon," Mr Carter asked. "I'm not sure that is going to happen, but if it does, what do we do? They are rational people like all of us in this room. Do they want to commit suicide? I would guess not. So what we have to do is talk with them now and say to them we want to be their friends. The United States must let Iran know that we want to give them fuel and everything they need for a non-military nuclear programme. Twenty-five years ago we cut off trading with Iran. We've got to resume trading to show Iran we are friends."

During the Carter administration , 52 American diplomats were held hostage by the Iranians for over a year, and only freed on the last day of his presidency in 1981.

Mr Carter also criticised President George Bush, saying it was a "serious mistake and terrible departure" from the actions of previous US presidents not to engage with countries with which they differed. "The president of the administration in Washington is the first one to have ever done this and I think we close off ourselves from any sort of rational accommodation of the views of other parties in order to reach out on major goals," said Carter, in a further interview with Sky Arts, to be broadcast today.