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Iranian president: 'Root of terrorism' must be addressed


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami Sunday expressed his sorrow again to the United States for the thousands killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks, but said the "root causes" of terrorism must be examined before it can be stopped.

"We must confront this phenomenon. We have to do it in a determined manner," he said in an interview with CNN. "We have to address the root causes of terrorism. We have to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and we must fight terrorist bases wherever they are. But again, we have to address the roots as well."

He urged the U.S. government to examine its policies, suggesting they may be one reason the terrorists targeted the United States.

"What kind of anger was created that must have been expressed in that way? So no doubt there must have been some wrong policies that created a kind of hatred that became extreme," Khatami said. "The people of America should demand" that their government "moderate its policies, to improve and change some of it. And if that happens the situation in the world will also improve."

In reference to the United States blaming Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization for the attacks, Khatami conceded Washington may be correct.

"It seems from various developments that the groups and individuals named may have been involved in it," he said, adding that any accusations must be supported by hard evidence.

Khatami cautioned the United States against acting too quickly against any one group, saying it could instigate other groups to commit terrorist acts.

He also said there is a double standard when it comes to the United States labeling Iran a nation that supports terror.

"Although we are victims of terrorism ourselves, we are said to be alleged terrorists, or at least we are on the list of terrorist groups," Khatami said. "I want to say there are many terrorist groups present in the West and in other countries that are supported."

As far as the future of neighboring Afghanistan, the Iranian president said the best-case scenario would allow Afghans to go to the polls to determine their future.

"However, it is clear under the present crisis that this is not possible to attain at this very moment, and therefore we need a transitional period," Khatami said. "In a transitional period, naturally, we need an interim government comprising all Afghan groups -- Afghan groups that are acceptable to the international community and the people of Afghanistan as well."

Khatami, a moderate cleric, has been fighting for greater political freedom and a relaxation of the Iran's strict religious laws. He has been opposed by powerful conservative clerics, led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who fear such reforms will undermine Islamic principles.


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