Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Time Mag Interview With Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad :

TIME: What were your impressions of New York during your visit to the U.S. last year?

Ahmadinejad: Unfortunately we didn't have any contact with the people of the United States. We were not in touch with the people. But my general impression is that the people of the United States are good people. Everywhere in the world, people are good.

TIME: Did you visit the site of the World Trade Center?

Ahmadinejad: It was not necessary. It was widely covered in the media.

TIME: You recently invited President Bush to a televised debate. If he were sitting where I am sitting, what would you say, man to man?

Ahmadinejad: The issues which are of interest to us are the international issues and how to manage them. I gave some recommendations to President Bush in my personal letter, and I hope that he will take note of them. I would ask him, Are rationalism, spirituality and humanitarianism and logic�are they bad things for human beings? Why more conflict? Why should we go for hostilities? Why should we develop weapons of mass destruction? Everybody can love one another.

TIME: Do you feel any connection with President Bush, since he is also a religious man, a strong Christian?

Ahmadinejad: I've heard about that. But there are many things which take place and are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ in this world.

TIME: Why do your supporters chant "Death to America"?

Ahmadinejad: When they chanted that slogan, it means they hate aggression, and they hate bullying tactics, and they hate violations of the rights of nations and discrimination. I recommended to President Bush that he can change his behavior, then everything will change.

TIME: How do you think the American people feel when they hear Iranians shouting "Death to America" and the President of Iran does not criticize this?

Ahmadinejad: The nations do not have any problems. What is the role of the American people in what is happening in the world? The people of the United States are also seeking peace, love, friendship and justice.

TIME: But if Americans shouted "Death to Iran," Iranians would feel insulted.

Ahmadinejad: If the government of Iran acted in such a way, then [the American people] have this right.

TIME: Are America and Iran fated to be in conflict?

Ahmadinejad: No, this is not fate. And this can come to an end. I have said we can run the world through logic. We are living our own lives. The U.S. government should not interfere in our affairs. They should live their own lives. They should serve the interests of the U.S. people. They should not interfere in our affairs. Then there would be no problems with that.

TIME: Are you ready to open direct negotiations with the U.S.?

Ahmadinejad: We have given them a letter, a lengthy letter. We say the U.S. Administration should change its behavior, and then everything will be solved. It was the U.S. which broke up relations with us. We didn't take that position. And then they should make up for it.

TIME: Does Iran have the right to nuclear weapons?

Ahmadinejad: We are opposed to nuclear weapons. We think it has been developed just to kill human beings. It is not in the service of human beings. For that reason, last year in my address to the U.N. General Assembly, I suggested that a committee should be set up in order to disarm all the countries that possess nuclear weapons.

TIME: But you were attacked with weapons of mass destruction by Iraq. You say the u.s. threatens you, and you are surrounded by countries that have nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad: Today nuclear weapons are a blunt instrument. We don't have any problems with Pakistan or India. Actually they are friends of Iran, and throughout history they have been friends. The Zionist regime is not capable of using nuclear weapons. Problems cannot be solved through bombs. Bombs are of little use today. We need logic.

TIME: Why won't you agree to suspend enrichment of uranium as a confidence-building measure?

Ahmadinejad: Whose confidence should be built?

TIME: The world's?

Ahmadinejad: The world? The world? Who is the world? The United States? The U.S. Administration is not the entire world. Europe does not account for one-twentieth of the entire world. When I studied the provisions of the npt [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], nowhere did I see it written that in order to produce nuclear fuel, we need to win the support or the confidence of the United States and some European countries.

TIME: How far will Iran go in defying Western demands? Will you wait until you are attacked and your nuclear installations are destroyed?

Ahmadinejad: Do you think the u.s. administration would be so irrational?

TIME: You tell me.

Ahmadinejad: I hope that is not the case. I said that we need logic. We do not need attacks.

TIME: Are you worried about an attack?

Ahmadinejad: No.

TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?

TIME: Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to their own state?

Ahmadinejad: We do not oppose it. In any country in which the people are ready to vote for the Jews to come to power, it is up to them. In our country, the Jews are living and they are represented in our Parliament. But Zionists are different from Jews.

TIME: Have you considered that Iranian Jews are hurt by your comments denying that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: As to the Holocaust, I just raised a few questions. And I didn't receive any answers to my questions. I said that during World War II, around 60 million were killed. All were human beings and had their own dignities. Why only 6 million? And if it had happened, then it is a historical event. Then why do they not allow independent research?

TIME: But massive research has been done.

Ahmadinejad: They put in prison those who try to do research. About historical events everybody should be free to conduct research. Let's assume that it has taken place. Where did it take place? So what is the fault of the Palestinian people? These questions are quite clear. We are waiting for answers.

From the UK Guardian :

The intensifying war of words between Iran and the United States reached the floor of the United Nations last night when the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused America and Britain of violating international law.

Mr Ahmadinejad's speech only once directly referred to the United States, but was infused throughout with criticism of the "exclusionist policies" of what he called the "hegemonic power" and its grip over the UN through its membership of the security council.

"The question needs to be asked: if the governments of the United States or the United Kingdom who are permanent members of the security council, commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the organs of the UN can take them to account?" he said.

Hours earlier, at the same lectern, President George Bush accused the Tehran regime of supporting terrorism. He told the Iranian people that the greatest obstacle to a free future came from their own rulers, who had "chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons".

Mr Bush has refused to meet the Iranian president this week. The criticism levelled at each other by the two leaders at the general assembly, separated by only seven hours, highlighted the increasingly tense stand-off between the two countries over Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Ahmadinejad made no reference to Iran's nuclear activities, instead reminding delegates that America had itself used the bomb.

He accused the US of using terrorism as a "pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq". He also criticised Washington's support for Israel, and accused the UN security council of sitting "idly by for many days" while atrocities were committed in Lebanon this summer.

In his 15-minute address, President Bush chose to speak over the heads of several world leaders seated before him in the general assembly chamber in New York and address their people directly. He challenged the delegations not just from Iran, but also Syria and Sudan.

He invoked the interests of "ordinary men and women free to determine their own destiny" and expressed his desire for a world in which "the extremists are marginalised by the peaceful majority".

Mr Bush's speech was the last in a series he has given around the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The addresses were conceived by the White House as an attempt to regain control of the political agenda and steer it away from the troubles in Iraq towards the need to stand firm in the so-called war on terror.

But Mr Bush spoke against a troubled backdrop. Earlier Kofi Annan, making his last speech to the general assembly as UN secretary general before he steps down at the end of this year, painted a grim picture, saying the past 10 years had "not resolved, but sharpened" the problems of an unjust global economy, disorder, and contempt for human rights. "We face a world whose divisions threaten the very notion of an international community upon which this institution stands," he said.

Mr Bush denied that his administration was anti-Muslim and dismissed criticism that US efforts to spread democracy in the region were backfiring. "The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage. For decades, millions of men and women in the region had been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned and made this region a breeding ground for extremism."

Addressing himself "to the people of Iran", he said he admired their rich history and vibrant culture, and said they deserved an opportunity to determine their own future.

Mr Ahmadinejad's aggressive speech adds further heat to the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme that is dominating discussions at the UN. The French president, Jacques Chirac, told the general assembly that "dialogue must prevail. Our goal is not to call regimes into question."

Mr Chirac met Mr Bush yesterday morning in a bridge-building meeting after cracks in their strategy towards Iran appeared to open up. On Monday Mr Chirac, speaking on French radio, took a notably softer stance on the need for Iran to suspend enrichment before talks could begin - a key demand of Washington. The US and British governments have so far been unbending on this condition.

Following their meeting, the US and French leaders insisted their position was united.

From the Washington Post :

Sept. 19 -- Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials confidently predicted that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would lead to renewed momentum on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track. "The road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad" was a common refrain.

President Bush's speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly showed how much that diplomatic calculation has changed in Bush's second term. With the United States ensnarled in an increasingly difficult campaign in Iraq, war is no longer a viable option. Instead, the administration is struggling with the difficult and messy business of diplomacy. That often means accommodating the interests and demands of other countries, even backtracking on what had been firm positions.

Slowly but surely, the White House has muddied what were once clear lines in pursuit of diplomacy. As recently as a month ago, the administration firmly demanded that Iran must first suspend its nuclear activities before the United States would join negotiations on the nuclear programs, but now U.S. officials have quietly acquiesced in a European-led effort to find a face-saving way for the talks to begin.

U.S. officials are still pursuing the possibility of sanctions, and in fact they have drafted a sanctions resolution to be offered at the U.N. Security Council. But with allies balking, negotiations appear more likely than punishment. Bush, in his speech, used notably mild language when he discussed Iran, suggesting that the two countries one day will "be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted a dinner Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel with her counterparts from Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and Italy. Under the original schedule, the session was supposed to reach decisions on a sanctions resolution. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, briefing reporters Tuesday night, said the foreign ministers expressed "very strong support" for the European Union negotiations with Iran. "We are seeking a diplomatic solution," he said, saying the diplomacy is "in extra innings."

Bush, in his speech, also emphasized that U.S. officials "have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program." This is a reversal from the policy in the first term, when U.S. officials loudly proclaimed that a country with such vast oil and gas reserves had no need for a nuclear program. Under pressure from Europeans, the administration dropped that argument late last year.

On the Middle East, Bush pushed his notion that greater democracy will bring stability to the region. But many foreign officials instead argue that stability can be achieved only if there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

To that end, Bush appeared to announce a new initiative, saying he had "directed Secretary of State Rice to lead a diplomatic effort to engage moderate leaders across the region, to help the Palestinians reform their security services and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts" to resolve differences.

But U.S. officials said Bush was not announcing something new, but rather highlighting an evolving effort to take advantage of the growing anger among Palestinians at the Hamas-led government. The militant group won legislative elections earlier this year, leading to a broad cutoff of international aid because Hamas refuses to renounce its stated goal of destroying Israel.

Rice might travel to the Middle East after the U.N. General Assembly meeting ends, though plans are not firm, officials said. To a large extent, the administration is reacting to pressure from Europeans and Arabs to do more on the Palestinian issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently visited the Middle East and is trying to foster political reconciliation among various Palestinian factions, while French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday called here for an international peace conference to "define in advance the guarantees we are prepared to provide to the parties as soon as they reach an agreement." Both Israeli and U.S. officials regard Chirac's idea as a nonstarter.

Iran's Leader Claims United Nations Controlled By Israel And The United States

Presidents Of Iran and the US Skip Each Other's Speeches At UN General Assembly

BBC : Iran's Growing Regional Influence Grows As Struggle To Free Itself From US and UK Influence Broadens

President Bush's United Nations Address In Full