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Iran urges US to give up hostility
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in New York on Monday that Iranians will be the "best friends" of the United States if the latter gives up its hostility toward the Islamic republic.



Addressing a Columbia University forum, Ahmadinejad said "If the US government recognizes the rights of the Iranian people, respects all nations and extends a hand of friendship to all Iranians, they will see that Iranians will be among their best friends."


Ahmadinejad, who is here to address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, stepped aside a question from the audience -- What would take for Iran to engage in talks with the US or the West?


The US and Iran, which have no diplomatic ties since 1979, have had two rounds of ambassador-level talks on Iraq this year. But they failed to reach any agreement due to sharp differences.


Washington has been accusing Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear program. There were reports that the Pentagon has made a plan to destroy Iran's military within three days if a war between the two countries breaks out.


Tehran vehemently denies the US charges.


On Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran's nuclear program is not aimed at the development of weapons.


"We don't believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity," he said.


Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency has "verified our activities are for peaceful purposes," he said without providing evidence.


The Iranian leader also criticized the US and "two or three" world powers, apparently referring to Britain and France, for their attempt to "monopolize all science or knowledge."


"They expect the Iranian nation to turn to others for fuel, science and knowledge that are indigenous to itself" and "to humble itself."


Addressing the forum, Ahmadinejad also voiced his regret for being denied a visit to Ground Zero in New York, the site of Sept.11 terror attacks.


"Regretfully, some groups had very strong reactions, very bad reactions. It's bad to prevent someone from showing sympathy to the families of the victims of the 9/11 event, a tragic event."


Ahmadinejad reportedly wants to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site during his stay in New York.


New York police authorities, however, rejected his request after some American lawmakers and organizations opposed to Ahmadinejad's visit.


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday that it would have been a travesty for Ahmadinejad to visit the site.


"I think it would have been a travesty," Rice told cable TV channel CNBC in an interview. "This is somebody who is the president of a country that is probably the greatest sponsor -- state sponsor -- of terrorism."


The US government first identified Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in January 1984. In its annual report on world terrorism in April 2006, the US State Department designated Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism."


In response to questions about the Nazi Holocaust, Ahmadinejad did not call "the most documented event in human history" a "myth," as he did in the past.


Denying that he was questioning the existence of the Holocaust, the Iranian leader said that the Holocaust should not be closed off to academic inquiry.


He also argued that the Palestinians were paying the price for other people's crimes.


"Granted this (the Holocaust) happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?" he said.


"Why is it that Palestinians should pay a price -- innocent Palestinians - for five million people to remain displaced and refugees abroad for 60 years? Is this not a crime?" he asked.


In a public speech in December 2005, Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "myth" and said that Israel should be moved to Europe, the US, Canada, or Alaska.


The UN and many world leaders have condemned his remarks about the Holocaust.


(Xinhua News Agency September 25, 2007)

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