Iran calls for dialogue

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami yesterday visited the Acropolis and the white marble temples that the ancient Athenians built to celebrate their victory against invading Persian forces in the fifth century BC. Later, the Iranian leader sang the praises of ancient Greek civilization, citing its lasting importance and international influence. «You, people of Greece, cultivated the greatest poets and expressed the most profound ideas on nature and poetry,» Khatami said in a speech at Panteion University. He spoke out in favor of a dialogue of civilizations and religions, of tolerance of political and religious differences, making extensive reference to the close links between ancient Greek and Persian thought, as well as the use Islamic scholars made of ancient Greek ideas. Khatami called on world leaders to use «the power of dialogue» to prevent differences from turning into conflict. «Today, as yesterday, we have to acquire the power of dialogue with others,» he said. «It is only through this that we can explore the boundaries of our knowledge... and create peace and security.» Calling Iran and Greece important contributors to the «ancient book of civilization,» he said the two countries could lead such efforts. Khatami's first day in Athens, Wednesday, was devoted mainly to business, with the two sides signing five memoranda and agreeing to explore ways to extend an Iranian natural gas pipeline from Turkey to Greece. Khatami will leave Greece this afternoon, after meeting with religious leaders.