ahmadinejad UN press conference 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday night he was "ready" to meet publicly with both US presidential candidates while he is in New York.
Speaking at an hour-long press conference held after his formal address to the United Nations General Assembly, Ahmadinejad repeatedly blamed the US for breaking off ties with his country and said he thought the UN was a good forum for a meeting.
"The podium given to us by the UN is a great opportunity," Ahmadinejad said. "Far better than threats, political pressures, when words come out that are sometimes baseless."
Such a meeting was unlikely this week. After Ahmadinejad's speech, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said in a statement that he condemned the Iranian leader's "outrageous" remarks and said he was "disappointed" that the UN had provided such a public platform for "hateful and anti-Semitic views."
Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin did not include a meeting with Ahmadinejad in her packed schedule in New York this week after she said in speeches that Ahmadinejad "must be stopped."
Yet, echoing calls he made in his speech for the world to join together against the oppression of "Zionist" forces, Ahmadinejad repeatedly said his country "loves peace" and cast the US as a unilateral aggressor.
He claimed the UN's atomic energy watchdog, the IAEA, had found nothing suspicious about Iran's nuclear program but was manipulated by the US and other Western countries into conducting further inspections.
"I would like to say clearly here and now that we have no interest in satisfying a United States government that can never be satisfied," Ahmadinejad said, insisting that Iran was within its rights to pursue its own nuclear development. "They are asking us to prove something that does not exist."
In his speech to the assembled delegations, he called for inspections to be done in the US and other nuclear powers - even as many of those same nations are considering imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.
"If we have any complaints about the US government who should we turn to? The Security Council, where they veto everything?" Ahmadinejad said. "They cannot speak for the international community at large, it's the language of force and force doesn't solve anything."
He added that Iran was too geographically large to worry about military threats, specifically from Israel, after a Pakistani journalist asked whether Iran considered Hizbullah's arms capabilities as part of its own defenses.
"The Zionist regime is not in a position to create any form of disturbance for Iran and Iran has different ways of defending its interests," Ahmadinejad replied, skirting the question of Hizbullah.
Ahmadinejad did not take questions from The Jerusalem Post or any other Israeli media outlets at the press conference.
President Shimon Peres, who appeared briefly before the press Tuesday evening, repeated the comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler he made earlier in the day, before Ahmadinejad's speech.
"It is again a repetition of the darkest accusations in the name of Hitler and almost anti-Semitism," Peres told reporters.
He said Ahmadinejad's repeated threats to "wipe Israel off the map" violated the basic principles of the United Nations.
"This never took place before in this building, in the UN," Peres said, shaking his head. "No member country can threaten the existence of another country."
He said he felt the UN, with its charter of rights, was the right forum for holding Ahmadinejad accountable - not an international criminal court, as suggested this week by prominent Jewish leaders including Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer.
Cotler said at a conference in Washington Tuesday that he felt Ahmadinejad could be charged with public incitement to commit genocide for his inflammatory comments about Israel and "Zionists."
Peres took a more measured tone, calling instead for Ahmadinejad to be made an international pariah.
"I think this man should remain in isolated experience in a world that is against discrimination, against anti-Semitism, against terror," Peres said. "We should see him as he is and not as he strives to paint himself."
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