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Ahmadinejad's Unwelcome Christmas Address on British TV

With less than six months to go before the Iranian presidential elections, Channel 4 handed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad what could be one of his biggest foreign policy achievements by allowing him to address the people of the UK on Christmas Day. At no time since the revolution in Iran, or even before, has an Iranian leader been given such a high-profile public platform in one of the most important countries of the Western world. Ahmadinejad's Christmas message will now be used by right-wingers all over Iran to prove that his controversial foreign policy stance works and therefore must be continued.

Channel 4 is a private company. Therefore its actions do not necessarily represent the government of Great Britain, which actually complained about the broadcast.

However, what the British government should realize is that it is very possible that Channel 4's actions could severely damage relations between London and the people of Iran. To them, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the least popular presidents they have had. His economic policies have led the country into one of its biggest crises. At the same time, Ahmadinejad's provocative foreign policy and statements have brought sanctions upon their country. He has also damaged the image of Iran, which, contrary to Ahmadinejad's behavior, is a tolerant country. Iranians feel this every time they travel. These days, a Somali or Congolese passport is welcomed abroad more than an Iranian one. Citizens of Iran can only enter 12 countries without a visa, and -- amazingly enough -- Lebanon is not one of them, despite billions of dollars of help to Hezbollah by the government of Iran. In contrast, citizens of war-ravaged Somalia and Congo can travel to 14 countries without a visa.

Channel 4 could easily have picked another Iranian figure for its Christmas message. Iran is not short of brilliant minds and speakers. A far better choice would have been Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Prize-winning Iranian human rights activist who has just had her office shut down in Tehran by Ahmadinejad's government. Her message for human rights and justice, for which she has worked all her life, would have been far more befitting the message of Christmas and the beliefs of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ.