Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Columbia senior public affairs officer Tanya Domi said in response to inquiries early Wednesday that the university had "no knowledge or information about the claims currently being made in the Iranian media."
The Mehr News Agency quoted an unnamed member of the prospective delegation as saying the apology was the main aim of the trip, which would also include visits to Iranian universities and seminaries.
Columbia University was criticized -- by leading 2008 presidential candidates among others -- for inviting the Iranian leader to speak on campus while he was in New York City for the fall U.N. General Assembly session.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger delivered introductory remarks in which he challenged Ahmadinejad over his "absurd" denial of the Holocaust, his views on Israel's destruction, Iran's human rights record, and its support for terror groups - including those fighting U.S. troops in Iraq.
Ahmadinejad, he said, exhibited the traits of a "petty and cruel dictator."
In his reply, Iran's president denied that free speech was outlawed in his country, and invited Bollinger to visit and see for himself.
Scores of Columbia professors and others later signed a statementtaking Bollinger to task. They said his remarks during Ahmadinejad's visit "allied the university with the Bush administration's war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the university community."
Dozens more faculty members then signed a second statement, dissenting from the first group's stance.
The Mehr report, which was carried by the affiliated Tehran Times and various other Iranian media, did not identify any members of the delegation who are said to be planning to come to Iran.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that Bollinger had declined an Iranian government invitation for him to visit Tehran, citing "security and other concerns." He also banned faculty members from accepting invitations to visit Iran on behalf of Columbia.
The Columbia Spectator subsequently quoted a history professor, who signed the letter critical of Bollinger, as saying the president had "asked no faculty to go to Iran claiming they are representing Columbia University."
"However, if tomorrow I decided I want to go to Iran with my research funds for an intellectual purpose or wanting to visit colleagues, I would go freely," she said.
God and Ahmadinejad at Columbia: Supreme Leader Sees God's Hand in Speech (Oct. 4, 2007)
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