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
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
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
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
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
(Xinhua News Agency September 25, 2007)