A debatable ploy creates modest buzz

When he last graced this space, Iranian president Mahmoud "The Bomb" Ahmadinejad was scolded for his less-than-groovy plan to ban all Western music from his country.

When he last graced this space, Iranian president Mahmoud "The Bomb" Ahmadinejad was scolded for his less-than-groovy plan to ban all Western music from his country.

But we're happy to report that he has made a PR comeback by resorting to conventional diplomatic approaches: challenging President Bush to a live public debate.

Ahmadinejad, who recently took time out of his busy schedule to write a long, personal letter to Bush reminiscent of an infatuated schoolgirl, won headlines the world over due to the White House's dismissal of the invitation as a "diversion." In comparison, he manages to look like a defender of democratic values.

"Those who evade the exchange of ideas on world issues cannot defend themselves logically," Al- Bawaba news service reported him saying to a group in Iran. "They are afraid of world public opinion. By rejecting to debate on issues, they show they have no respect for the concerns of nations."

His timing was ideal, of course, just days before the August 31 deadline from the UN Security Council for Iran to stop its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad was determined to remain defiant, and no doubt the sideshow he managed to create over his debate idea will be overwhelmed by more urgent matters.

According to The New York Times, he is already facing tough questions at home about the government's economic program and press freedom.

Open debate is a good idea, if he can embrace some of the principles domestically, and not just try to rattle Bush's cage.

PR Play Rating:

1. Clueless
2. Ill-advised
3. On the right track
4. Savvy
5. Ingenious

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