In advance team for the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asked earlier this month that he be allowed to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly next week, but the request was denied, New York City police officials said today.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly caused considerable confusion earlier today when he suggested that the request was still pending. In fact, police officials said later, the request — made at a meeting that included the Secret Service and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — was denied for reasons of security and safety. They added that Mr. Ahmadinejad's aides had asked that he be allowed into the pit, where construction is taking place.
Also today, the president of Columbia University, Lee C. Bollinger, announced that Mr. Ahmadinejad would speak at the university on Monday.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is expected to arrive in New York late Sunday, address the United Nations sometime on Monday, and leave the city Wednesday morning, according to police officials.
On the one hand I know that there are those who lost loved ones on that day who believe that somehow Iran supported Al Qaeda and is therefore responsible for the events of that day. For them it would be like rubbing salt in an open wound.
I also know that there is evidence that Iran is supplying arms to "insurgents."
On the other hand, I ask myself how does a peace process begin?
If we are asking Sunni and Shia to get along.
If Rwandan Tutsis are finding a way to forgive their Hutu neighbors.
If black South Africans are learning to forgive those that kept them oppressed so long.
If white Americans are asking African-Americans to "just get over" the history of slavery
Can this "Christian nation" not extend an olive branch to Ahmadinejad even if we believe that he will break it?
Surely, the FBI/NYPD can scan the wreath and the members of the Iranian entourage to make sure that they are not carrying bombs.
As I said, I have mixed emotions.