November 21, 2008

AAU Denies Reports of Meeting Between Skorton and Iranian President Ahmadinejad

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The American Association of Universities categorically denied yesterday an Iranian news report that stated the six U.S. university presidents currently visiting Iran, including Cornell President David Skorton, were likely to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The report is inaccurate. That’s not happening,” said AAU spokesperson Barry Toiv.
The Iranian FARS News Agency reported earlier this week that Ahmadinejad was “likely to meet” with the university presidents.
The FARS news story was picked up by several Iranian websites and blogs as well as the MetaEzra blog, which is published by two Cornell alumni. A story on the CBS News website also reported for a brief period of time on Wednesday that Ahmadinejad was expected to meet with the university presidents, according to a Google cache of the page. The CBS story has since been changed.
FARS, based in Tehran, is privately-owned and independent, according to its website.
The delegation in Iran, organized by the American Association of Universities, includes Jared Cohon of Carnegie Mellon University, David Leebron of Rice University, J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida, C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park, Larry Vanderhoef of the University of California-Davis, and AAU President Robert M. Berdahl, according to a Cornell press release.
“Generally speaking, [the delegation is] meeting with university presidents, faculty and students,” Toiv said. “They did not have any specific plans to meet with government officials.”
According to a University press release, the trip would not include a meeting with government officials or engage in political talks, citing “The Iranian government has been harshly criticized for its persecution of intellectuals.”
An official, government-funded news organization in Iran, the Islamic Republic News Agency, reported earlier this week that university presidents “held talks with Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad-Mehdi Zahedi.”
However, Toiv said that he was unable to confirm the veracity of the report.