More than 200 scholars, academics, commentators and former U.S. government officials have issued a strong condemnation of the threat of U.S. military action against Iran and called on the Bush administration to enter into direct negotiations with the government in Tehran.

In a letter sent to the White House May 9, the group urged diplomacy to resolve concerns over the development of nuclear materials that have magnified tensions between Iran and the U.S.

“As the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of research or diversion of materials toward atomic weapons in Iran, concerns about future dual use of nuclear technology ought to be addressed in face-to-face negotiations,” wrote the signers of the statement. They warned that the likely “catastrophic regional and global consequences of escalating this crisis will not serve the interests of the United States, the course of democratic development in Iran, or the cause of global peace.”

Among the signers are professors Juan Cole, Ann Elizabeth Meyer, Charles Butterworth, Richard Falk, Ervand Abrahamian, Ghada Talhami, Ahmad Sadri and Noam Chomsky.

At a May 10 press conference, Sadri, who coordinated the project, said, “We started the letter out of a sense of frustration that the experts in the field were not being consulted as the U.S. develops policy toward Iran. This is the same mistake the U.S. government made before going to Iraq. We’re saying don’t do that again.”

For more information on the statement, visit the web site of the Friends Committee on National Legislation,