Ahmadinejad Pinstripes 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
NEW YORK — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that "the future belongs to Iran," on Sunday and challenged the United States to accept that his country has a major role in the world.
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The comments came in an hourlong interview with The Associated Press on the first day of his visit to the United States to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations this week.
He insisted that his government does not want an atomic bomb — something he has said in the past — and that Iran is only seeking peace and a nuclear-weapons-free world. He repeatedly sidestepped questions on when Iran would resume talks on its disputed nuclear program, and he said anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect.
Appearing calm and self-assured on his seventh trip to the United
States, the Iranian president showed every sign of being in command of
himself and prepared to deflect questions about his government's harsh
suppression of opposition forces after last year's disputed election
that returned him to a second term.
"The United States' administrations ... must recognize that Iran is a
big power," he said. "Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a
human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We
have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any
"Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the
option of friendship with us in the future, which is unfortunate because
it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that enmities will be
Over the years, Ahmadinejad has become more articulate and polished. He
wore a gray pinstriped suit and a pinstriped white shirt, open with no
tie, for the interview, conducted in an East Side hotel not far from the
United Nations.Stand With Us hold rally against Iranian gov't's oppressive nature
A few blocks away, dozens of protesters demonstrated with tape across
their mouths to symbolize what they consider to be the oppressive nature
of the Iranian government. The nonprofit Israeli education group, Stand
With Us, organized the rally, one of many expected outside the United
Nations and elsewhere in the city before Ahmadinejad leaves Friday.
In the interview in a room crowded with aides, bodyguards and Iranian
journalists, the Iranian leader projected an air of innocence, saying
his country's quest to process ever greater amounts of uranium is
reasonable for its expanding civilian power program, omitting that the
watchdog United Nations agency involved has found Iran keeping secrets
from its investigators on several occasions, including secret research
He also did not acknowledge that the leaders of the political opposition
in Iran have been harassed and that government opponents risk violence
and arrest if they try to assemble. He did allow that there have been
some judicial "mistakes."
Ahmadinejad argued that the opposition Green Movement, which has largely
been forced underground, continues to enjoys rights in Iran but said
that in the end it must respect "majority rule." He also disavowed any
knowledge of the fate of a retired FBI employee, Robert Levinson, who
vanished inside Iran in 2007, saying the trail will be followed up by a
joint US-Iranian committee.
Government opponents "have their activities that are ongoing and they
also express their views publicly. They have several parties, as well as
several newspapers, and many newspapers and publications. And so there
are really no restrictions of such nature," the president said.
He did not mention that many newspapers have been closed down and that
prominent opposition figures were put in prison and then tried after
tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets claiming that the
election that put him back in power in 2009 was fraudulent and stolen.
The public appearances of his rivals Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi
Karroubi have been severely restricted and their offices recently were
raided by police.