A report in the semi-official Iranian news agency, Mehr, claims that a delegation of professors from Columbia University are planning a trip to Tehran to apologize to President Ahmadinejad for critical remarks made by Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, when Mr. Ahmadinejad visited Morningside Heights last year.
The report, which could not be confirmed and did not name any professors, said "the main goal of the visit is to meet the Iranian president and officially apologize to him."
Several Columbia professors yesterday denied the report.
When Mr. Ahmadinejad visited Columbia in September, Mr. Bollinger called the Iranian a "petty and cruel dictator" who lacked the "intellectual courage" to offer real answers on denying the Holocaust who persecuted women and scholars in Iran. Those comments prompted some criticism from Columbia students and faculty.
Mr. Ahmadinejad invited Mr. Bollinger and a group of faculty members to visit Iran, but Mr. Bollinger rejected the invitation. Yesterday, a spokesman for Columbia, David Stone, said, "The university has no knowledge or information about the claims being made in the Iranian media." The Mehr News Agency outlined the itinerary of the trip, reporting "that the delegation also plans to visit Iranian universities in various cities and to hold talks with professors and students, and may even sign memoranda of understanding with some universities." The report also said the delegation was scheduling a visit to seminaries and the shrine city of Qom.
"There is no truth to it whatsoever," a professor at Columbia specializing in Middle East studies, Gary Sick, said.
A professor of history at the Middle East Institute at Columbia, Richard Bulliet, said he had not heard of it. "There is not intention on the part of the Columbia administration to authorize a delegation," he said.