Presstitute, Scott Pelley interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Thursday. Ahmadinejad talks about his visit to New York, Iran’s nuclear program and his views on Israel.
Full transcript below.
SCOTT PELLEY: Do you have a greeting to the American people?
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, I would like to greet the American people and the good nations around the world. Right now we are in the city of Tehran. It’s in the afternoon of an autumn day. We’re in the open air in a garden. And the air is pleasant. And fall, little by little, is settling in, mixing with the summer breeze, I guess. And I think that right now, you have different time zones obviously and different climates. We have early morning in the U.S. and other time zones perhaps approaching the noon. So once again, greetings to you. I very much hope that nations around the world start their days with peace, friendship, and happiness.
PELLEY: Mr. President, do you intend to press your request to visit the World Trade Center site in New York?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, it was included in my program, if we have the time and the conditions are conducive, I will try to do that.
PELLEY: But the New York Police Department and others do not appear to want you there. Do you intend to go there anyway?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, over there, local officials need to make the necessary coordinations. If they can’t do that, I won’t insist.
PELLEY: Sir, what were you thinking? The World Trade Center site is the most sensitive place in the American heart, and you must have known that visiting there would be insulting to many, many Americans.
AHMADINEJAD: Why should it be insulting?
PELLEY: Well, sir, you’re the head of government of an Islamist state that the United States government says is a major exporter of terrorism around the world.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I wouldn’t say that what the American government says is the prerequisite here. Something happened there which led to other events. Many innocent people were killed there. Some of those people were American citizens obviously. We obviously are very much against any terrorist action and any killing. And also we are very much against any plots to sow the seeds of discord among nations. Usually you go to these sites to pay your respects. And also to perhaps air your views about the root causes of such incidents. I think that when I do that, I will be paying, as I said earlier, my respect to the American nation.
PELLEY: But the American people, sir, believe that your country is a terrorist nation, exporting terrorism in the world. You must have known that visiting the World Trade Center site would infuriate many Americans, as if to be mocking the American people.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I’m amazed. How can you speak for the whole of the American nation?
PELLEY: Well, the American nation . . .
AHMADINEJAD: . . . you are representing a media and you’re a reporter. The American nation is made up of 300 million people. There are different points of view over there. I would like to think that the points of view of the American people is very close to the points of view of the Iranian people. The American people are very much against and opposed what certain American officials are saying and their points of view. And they’re also, the way that the people have voted in the American elections is very telling. And we are criticizing such behavior on the part of the American government. We believe that if anyone just allows himself to accuse others, there will be no possibility for peace and friendship.
PELLEY: What do you mean the American election is telling? What did you take from it?
AHMADINEJAD: What I’m saying is that the American people very clearly have shown that they do not endorse what certain American officials are saying and doing. I remind you of the rallies in Washington a couple of days ago. What were they saying and shouting? Perhaps 70, 80 percent of the American people are against their troops, their sons and daughters being in Iraq and war. And as I said, they’re very much against war. And for that matter, the American people are peace-loving people. You shouldn’t think that what the American officials are doing and their behavior reflects completely the mood of the American people. And American officials must not make the American people a victim of their wants and wishes. And we make a distinction between the American people and American officials. And the American people are opposed to occupation, the use of force, and also terrorism, the killing of the people of other nations. And this is what we are saying. This is what we believe in. With that in mind, we feel very close to the American people. And I’m sure that this is reciprocal. A couple of days ago, an American scientist, a scholar, wrote to me saying that he has a great love for Iran. And once he passes, he wants to be buried in this country. The two nations are very close to one another.
PELLEY: Mr. President, you say that the two nations are very close to one another, but it is an established fact now that Iranian bombs and Iranian know-how are killing Americans in Iraq. You have American blood on your hands. Why?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, this is what the American officials are saying. Again, American officials wherever around the world that they encounter a problem which they fail to resolve, instead of accepting that, they prefer to accuse others. We basically are very much opposed to any kind of insecurity inside Iraq. Because once we have insecurity in Iraq, the first party, if I can use the word, that will be affected would be Iran. Having said that, we fully oppose occupation and also military attacks. In Iraq we don’t need to do that. For that matter, in any part of the world we don’t need to do that. When it comes to war, we don’t think that war, belligerence, is a good solution for differences of opinion. We have said this in the past to American officials that the Iraqi people very much oppose occupation. And they will not accept this. And experience tells you this. This is a nation with many thousands of years of history. They have stood up to occupiers in the past, and they will stand up again. I’m very sorry that, because of the wrong decisions taken by American officials, Iraqi people are being killed and also American soldiers. It’s very regrettable. And, again, I’m saying that why should they be killed? Why should these boys and girls be killed? Why should we have war in Iraq and insecurity? I believe that the people behind the insecurity are those who, from thousands of kilometers away, have brought in troops. First, they said that they want to topple the dictator and find WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]. They didn’t find WMDs and there’s no dictator there anymore. So the question is: What are American troops doing right now in Iraq? They have to answer, respond to these questions. We are not interfering in Iraq. The Iraqi people are our friends. And the president, the prime minister, the speaker of the parliament are our friends. We don’t need to interfere in Iraq. We are two nations which have been connected through history. Each year millions of Iranians go to Iraq for pilgrimage. And in a number of these bombings inside Iraq, Iranian citizens have been killed. We want peace; we want security in Iraq; and it only serves our own interests. And those American officials who see the interest in a continued occupation of Iraq, I ask them to reconsider. They should leave alone the Iraqi nation and also their own soldiers. And they shouldn’t accuse others needlessly. We basically oppose the killing of any person, innocent persons, from any race or community. As I said, the Iraqi people have been victimized. We feel very sad for them. Equally, we feel sad for American soldiers and troops because they don’t know why they’re there. They are the victims of the, if you will, the wants and wishes of certain American officials.
PELLEY: Mr. President, American men and women are being killed by your weapons in Iraq. You know this.
AHMADINEJAD: No, no, no.
PELLEY: Why are those weapons there?
AHMADINEJAD: Who’s saying that?
PELLEY: The American Army has captured Iranian missiles in Iraq. The critical elements of the explosively formed penetrator bombs that are killing so many people are coming from Iran. There’s no doubt about that anymore. The denials are no longer credible, sir.
AHMADINEJAD: Very good. If I may.
AHMADINEJAD: Are you an American politician? Am I to look at you as an American politician or a reporter? This is what the American officials are claiming. Well, we don’t need to arrest many people to prove that Americans are occupying Iraq or produce fabricated documents. If you go to the streets of Baghdad, you will see American helicopters and tanks and Humvees, so on and so forth. So the Iraqi people are just defending themselves. I think the way out for the American official from this problem that it has created for itself shouldn’t be in accusing Iraq, Iran, rather. You need to understand the realities of the region and also respect the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people, like other people, want to have security, want to have peace, want to be free. When they see that soldiers come into their houses, they react. So if the American government does accept this reality, this truth, everything will changes. If they accuse us 1,000 times, the truth will not change. They need to accept the truth and also the wishes of the Iraqi people. That is a way out of this deadlock.
PELLEY: Mr. President, I want to be very direct and very clear. Many Americans believe that you have American blood on your hands. Are you saying that it is not the policy of this government to send weapons into Iraq? Sir, forgive me, you’re smiling, but this is a very serious matter to America.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, it’s serious for us as well. I daresay it’s serious for everyone. I’m just amazed as the representative of the media, why do you insist on the untrue accusations leveled by your government? This doesn’t solve anything. It seems to me it’s laughable for someone to turn a blind eye to the truth and accuse others. It doesn’t help. And the reason that I’m smiling, again, it’s because that the picture is so clear. But American officials refuse to see it. And I think that as a member of the media, your responsibility here is to talk about the truth and back home to force your officials to appreciate the truth and take the correct decision. The problem in Iraq doesn’t have anything to do with the Iraqi people. For that matter the killing of American troops doesn’t have anything to do with the Iraqi people. And as we have security, things will be better. And we don’t want to see a single soldier killed. The solutions we are putting on the table are very humane. And, again, we are asking for very basic things from the American officials, to respect the wishes of the Iraqi people and also their rights. A dictator has been toppled and WMDs have not been found. Once they say that they are going to leave the Iraq, the Iraqi people will live if that’s so to speak. If they persist on the same course for 50 years and arrest diplomats, so on and so forth, this will not help with the situation. And if you repeat the mistakes of the past, nothing will get resolved.
PELLEY: Mr. President, you must have rejoiced more than anyone when Saddam Hussein fell. You owe President Bush. This is one of the best things that’s ever happened to your country.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I have said this in another interview. Once the dictator was toppled, many people were happy. But the American government did not appropriately use this golden opportunity. Again, this happened sometime ago and it pleased the Iraqi people. They could have used this much better. They should have left the Iraqi people to go their own way and to determine their own fate and to live like other nations in this part of the world. Well, initially, we might have had the impression that American officials want to redeem themselves and the mistakes they have made in the past. Because for eight years they supported Saddam against my nation. Many hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Thousands of people were chemically bombarded. Many people were killed in their own houses. This very city of Tehran was the target of more than 100 missiles. Many people were killed in Tehran. But Saddam was being supported by American officials. So once American officials announced that they were going to deal with Saddam, our first impression was that they’re going to make amends for their past behavior. We have every hope and we were happy. But once Saddam went away, they didn’t find any weapons, American officials later announced that we are here to stay in Iraq. So there was a question: Why do you want to be there? Why do you want to stay behind? Do you think that the Iraqi people cannot take care of themselves? They can determine their own fate. I think that their first biggest mistake was to remain in Iraq. If they had left Iraq, that would have helped with positive interaction between the American government and the peoples of the region. But once they stayed behind and they appointed an American administrator and they tried to influence the elections and also the future government in Iraq, later they tried to sow the seeds of discord and also give a free hand to terrorist groups to come inside Iraq. So once a country is occupied, its security is the responsibility of the occupation. However, they have to answer for all of these. Many thousands of American soldiers have been killed. They need to answer for their action. Instead of answering these questions, they are accusing others. So initially we welcome the developments, but once it continued, this is very regrettable.
PELLEY: Mr. President, can you tell me that you are not sending weapons to Iraq? Very simple. Very directly.
AHMADINEJAD: We don’t need to do that. We are very much opposed to war and insecurity in Iraq.
PELLEY: Is that “no,” sir?
AHMADINEJAD: It’s very clear, the situation. The insecurity in Iraq is detrimental to our interests. We have more than 1,000 kilometers of common borders with Iraq. Each year, many millions of Iranians go to Iraq and millions of Iraqis come to Iran. So we are very unhappy with the insecurity. We are doing our very best to help with security. For security, we decided to sit down and talk with Americans in Iraq.
PELLEY: As a goodwill gesture, will you say right now in this interview that you will do everything in your power to prevent Iranian arms from entering Iraq?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, Iranian forces are not inside Iraq. Can you show me one?
PELLEY: No sir, Iranian arms, sir.
AHMADINEJAD: Please, allow me to continue. Please, allow me to finish my thought. The American government has admitted that with more than 160,000 troops, state-of-the-art military equipment, they have failed to control and put a stop to the activities of these few people. That’s very unfortunate. You shouldn’t accuse others because you have certain problems yourself. Very clearly, we are friends to all. We very much are saddened with war. We are very much saddened that American troops are being killed, losing their lives over there. So you don’t know the people of the region. I think that the British government was smarter. They left the city of Basra, pulled out their forces. And once the British soldiers left the city, the local people celebrated. And today, unfortunately, you’re opposing the Iraqi people. You could have stood side by side with the Iraqi people. Again, whenever you correct your policies, it helps everyone. It benefits you. It benefits Iraq. It benefits all the peoples of the region. We’re using everything in our power to provide security in Iraq. We have said so on many occasions. Whoever is killed in Iraq, that would sadden us.
PELLEY: Mr. President, we appreciate your thoughts. Some people watching this interview, frankly, will think that you’re dodging the questions because many of the questions that I ask you are fairly straightforward “yes” or “no” questions. And let me try this one again, if I may. Will you pledge tonight to do everything in your power to prevent Iranian arms from entering Iraq? Can you make that pledge?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I think you have been charged with a mission to repeat a sentence over and over again. My comments are very clear. I think that you should go back and take American officials to task. Use the same force you’re using right now so that they take the troops out.
PELLEY: Was that a “yes” or a “no,” sir?
AHMADINEJAD: If you are to take sides, well, I don’t know. Well, you shouldn’t tell me what kind of answer I should give to you. You’re free to ask me questions. I didn’t put any limitations on your questions.
AHMADINEJAD: I’m free to give my own answers. I think that all of us should go to American officials and ask them: “What are you looking for in Iraq? Let’s be clear. Why have you stayed behind? Why are you accusing others? And your policies have created insecurity. You are behind terrorism. So once you correct your ways, these things will take care of themselves. Why are you using a road that goes to nowhere? Use the correct road.”
AHMADINEJAD: We support the rights of all nations. We love all nations. And the message of the Iranian people is friendship with all. In our history, we have never attacked another country, occupied another country. This is a peace-loving nation. And you should remember that we are living within our borders. And people who have brought troops from thousands of miles away, they are the ones who should be held accountable and responsible.
PELLEY: Mr. President, you say you love all nations. I have to assume that includes the Nation of Israel.
AHMADINEJAD: Israel is not a nation. Well, we like the people, yes, because they are victims as well. They used to live in their own countries, in their own cities. They were given empty promises, false promises. They said that we are going to give you jobs, we are going to give you security. And they pushed the local Palestinian people out and made them refugees and also made refugees of another community. In other words, from thousands of miles away, people have been emigrating to this country and they are living in fear every day. And we feel for them. Last year in my speech I said that the Zionist entity should open the borders and the gates. Let the people decide where they want to go and settle. They are good people as well. We have no bones to pick with them. We are against terrorism. We are against wrong policies. We are friends with all people, Jewish people, Christians, different people of different faiths. We are, well, we’re in contact with them. Here in Iran there are Jewish communities; there are Christian communities; we’re all friends. Also, non-Muslim countries, we help them when a natural, let’s say, calamity breaks. We love all people. We are opposed to Zionism, occupation, terrorism, dropping bombs on behalf of people when they are inside their own homes, killing men, women, and children. Very openly I have said time and again that I oppose these.
PELLEY: If the Palestinians reach an agreement with Israel for a two-state solution, will you then recognize Israel as well?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, the decision rests with the Palestinian people. This is exactly what I’m saying.
PELLEY: What would you do, sir?
AHMADINEJAD: What I’m saying is that you should allow — oh, please, let me finish my thought. What we are saying, our solution for Palestine is a humane one. We are saying that you should allow the Palestinian people to participate in a fair and free election and determine their own fate. Whatever decision they take, everyone should go with that.
PELLEY: And if that decision . . .
AHMADINEJAD: No other party must interfere. We are not telling the Palestinian people what decisions they should take. Let them make their own decision. Whatever decision they take, we will go for that.
PELLEY: And if that decision is a two-state solution, you’re good with that? You could support a two-state solution?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, why are you prejudging what will happen? Let’s pave the ground first for a free and fair choice. And once they make their choice, we must respect that. All the people, all the Palestinian people must be given this opportunity, allow them to make their own decisions. Let us not tell them what course of action they need to take.
SCOTT PELLEY: You have said in the past that you have 3,000 centrifuges in a line producing highly-enriched uranium. Do you have more now?
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: No. Our plan and program is very transparent. We are under the supervision of the agency. Everything is on the table. We have nothing to hide.
PELLEY: Transparent? Sir, it’s been hidden for more than 15 years. You’ve been operating a secret nuclear program. It’s nothing if it’s not secret.
AHMADINEJAD: Who is saying that?
PELLEY: Well, the IAEA. You’ve, in fact, agreed with the IAEA to confess what you’ve done in secret over the past years. It is not transparent, sir.
AHMADINEJAD: Very good. I think that you are not familiar with the structure and the laws and the regulations of the agency. The agency is supposed to do two things. One, supervision. The other, support for the member states. The agency is supposed to supervise and ask questions and we respond. Interestingly enough, in all agency reports, you will read that there are no signs of diversion on the part of the Iranian people. In no reports. But naturally, the agency has questions to ask. And when it comes to that, interestingly enough, compared to European countries and other countries, the questions they ask us are far fewer. They have scores of questions to ask other countries. But the U.S. and a number of other countries are politicizing matters. They don’t want us to progress, to develop. So maybe it would be best if you ask the agency how many questions they have asked the U.S. and European countries for that matter. Scores of questions. Because they are producing bombs, new generations of nuclear bombs, they are fabricating those. And our activities are very peaceful under the supervision of the agency. We have provided the largest amount of cooperation to the agency. And what we are doing is very transparent.
PELLEY: For the sake of clarity, because there is so much concern in the world about this next question, please give me the most direct answer you can. Is it your goal to build a nuclear bomb?
AHMADINEJAD: What are you driving at?
PELLEY: Simply that, sir. Is it the goal of your government, the goal of this nation to build a nuclear weapon?
AHMADINEJAD: Do you think that the nuclear technology is only limited in a bomb? You can only build a bomb with that?
PELLEY: No, I appreciate the differences, sir, but the question is limited to the bomb.
AHMADINEJAD: It has different uses. Well, you have to appreciate we don’t need a nuclear bomb. We don’t need that. What needs do we have for a bomb?
PELLEY: May I take that as a “no,” sir?
AHMADINEJAD: Please, let me finish my thought. It is a firm “no.” I’m going to be much firmer now. I want to address all politicians around the world, statesmen. Any party who uses national revenues to make a bomb, a nuclear bomb, will make a mistake. Because in political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful, it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union. If it was useful, it would have resolved the problems the Americans have in Iraq. The U.S. has tested new generations of bombs, many thousands of warheads you have in your arsenals. It’s of no use. And also the Zionist entity, they have hundreds of warheads. It’s not going to help them. The time of the bomb is past. The parties who think that by using the bomb you can control others, they are wrong. Today we are living in the era of intellectual pursuits. You should spend your money on your people. We don’t need the bomb. For 28 years we have defended ourselves in the face of enemy onslaught. Every day we are becoming more powerful. And, again, we don’t need such weapons. In fact, we think that this is inhuman. So can you please tell me why the U.S. government is fabricating these bombs? Do you want to provide a more welfare, happiness to the people through the bomb? Are you going to deal with global poverty? Or do you want to kill people? So our belief, sir, tell us and also our culture, because of these, we are very much opposed to the killing of people. This is very clear.
PELLEY: At the moment, our two countries may very well be walking down the road to war. How do you convince President Bush, how do you convince other nations in the West . . . .
AHMADINEJAD: What two parties are walking towards war?
PELLEY: Iran, the United States, Western countries. France this week . . . .
AHMADINEJAD: Who says that?
PELLEY: France this week said that war might be indicated. How do you convince these Western powers that you are not pursuing a bomb?
AHMADEINEJAD: You haven’t read the latest news, I have to say. It’s wrong to think that Iran and the U.S. are walking towards war. Who says so? Why should we go to war? What reasons are there for the two countries to go to war? We have a logic which we have announced for some time now. We very much oppose the behavior of the U.S. administration. We think it’s wrong. And we are saying what we feel, and you are free to say what you feel. And people have a right to choose. Why should we go to war over that? If having said that is a part of a psychological warfare plot. The American people are well familiar with these plots. You shouldn’t make the American people afraid needlessly. There’s no war in the offing. And also I think that certain American officials do not want friendly relations between the two countries and the citizens of the two countries to visit each other. Last year we requested for a direct flight between the two countries because we want to promote trade, promote cultural activities, and also people-to-people contact. But the American government opposed that. There is no war in the offing. Again, this is psychological warfare. If you have differences of opinions, you can use logic to resolve your differences.
PELLEY: You can show the world today that you are not pursuing a bomb. All you have to do is give the order. Open your nuclear facilities. Let the United Nations inspectors in there today and prove that there is no bomb program. Why not take that course?
AHMADEINEJAD: I think that you are a little bit behind the day’s news. You might have been away on an assignment. I don’t know.
PELLEY: I’m familiar with the day’s news.
AHMADEINEJAD: The reports say that we have been complying. And they are inspecting all of our sites every day. What more am I supposed to do? So, I try to be as frank as possible, but . . . .
PELLEY: You’re opening the sites slowly over time, sir. People say that you’re just trying to gather as much highly-enriched uranium as you possibly can.
AHMADEINEJAD: No. No. No. Well, should you say this, make these accusations or agency inspectors? Inspectors have said, that we are saying that Iran has not diverted; there’s no diversion here, in other words. Again, let me repeat. We have not diverted from a peaceful path. This is what the agencies think. There is a solution here, however, a very simple solution. The countries that have atomic bombs should destroy their stockpiles. And that would make everyone happy. You shouldn’t accuse others needlessly, and you shouldn’t lose your temper and make life miserable for others as well. They have made mistakes and have diverted themselves. They think that others will do the same. There are many countries which have the technology. Five or six have diverted from the peaceful path, road, rather. So those five or six should return to the correct path. If certain parties think that they have rights which go beyond the normal rights that any nation should have, that will be problematic. I think that the American government should appreciate that it is like any other member of the international community, respect the views of the agency. It’s very regrettable to see that certain U.S. officials have insulted the very clear positions taken by the agency, and they have lost their temper. And also they have made threats. They have attacked the director general of the agency. That is shameful. If you think that the agency is a reputable one, you should allow it to go ahead with its business. Why should you, or the agency, for that matter, repeat the words of the secretary of state? Rather, what they need to do is report the facts, the truth. So the problems of the American politicians is because they are interested in their own interests. And they want the rest of the world just to say “yes, sir” and go along with whatever they say. That is finished. It’s in the past.
PELLEY: What trait do you admire in President Bush?
AHMADINEJAD: Again, I have a very frank tone. I think that President Bush needs to correct his ways.
PELLEY: What do you admire about him?
AHMADEINEJAD: He should respect the American people.
PELLEY: Is there anything? Any trait?
AHMADINEJAD: As an American citizen, tell me what trait do you admire?
PELLEY: Well, Mr. Bush is, without question, a very religious man, for example, as you are. I wonder if there’s anything that you’ve seen in President Bush that you admire.
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, is Mr. Bush a religious man?
PELLEY: Very much so. As you are.
AHMADEINEJAD: What religion, please tell me, tells you as a follower of that religion to occupy another country and kill its people? Please tell me. Does Christianity tell its followers to do that? Judaism, for that matter? Islam, for that matter? What prophet tells you to send 160,000 troops to another country, kill men, women, and children? You just can’t wear your religion on your sleeve or just go to church. You should be truthfully religious. Religion tells us all that you should respect the property, the life of different people. Respect human rights. Love your fellow man. And once you hear that a person has been killed, you should be saddened. You shouldn’t sit in a room, a dark room, and hatch plots. And because of your plots, many thousands of people are killed. Having said that, we respect the American people. And because of our respect for the American people, we respectfully talk with President Bush. We have a respectful tone. But having said that, I don’t think that that is a good definition of religion. Religion is love for your fellow man, brotherhood, telling the truth.
PELLEY: I take it you can’t think of anything you like about President Bush.
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, I’m not familiar with the gentleman’s private life. Maybe in his private life he is very kind or a determined man. I’m not aware of that. I base my judgment on what I see in his public life. Having said that, I think that President Bush can behave much better. There were golden opportunities for President Bush. He should have used them better.
PELLEY: I asked President Bush what he would say to you if he were sitting in this chair. And he told me, quote, speaking to you, that you’ve made terrible choices for your people. You’ve isolated your nation. You’ve taken a nation of proud and honorable people and made your country the pariah of the world. These are President Bush’s words to you. What’s your reply to the president?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, President Bush is free to think as he pleases and to say what he pleases. I don’t oppose the freedom of speech. I believe in freedom of speech. President Bush is free to say what he pleases. But these would not change the truth. So that President Bush knows the Iranian people are dearly loved today. We can very well put this to the test to find out who has become isolated. Again, maybe one of my friends could go to another country and a friend of President Bush could go to the same country, find out which one of us is isolated. You’re free to choose any country you like. I don’t think that President Bush has said these things. Rather, I prefer to think that this is your impression of what the president has said.
PELLEY: I’m quoting the president directly for the record.
AHMADEINEJAD: This is a direct quote? So, well, this tells me that there’s a great divide between us.
PELLEY: Why does your government confiscate your people’s satellite dishes? What is it that you don’t want your people to see?
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, it’s not prohibited like that. After everything is said and done, this is a law passed by the Iranian parliament. And the members of the parliament have been chosen by the people. Having said that, the Iranian people are, by and large, using satellite television. You can go out on the streets and see this for yourself.
PELLEY: But as you well know, they are confiscated from time to time in sweeps in the country. And I wonder what it is that you don’t want your people to see.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, again, this is the law. Our people are free and express their opinion about all matters internationally. They are well aware of international news. Having said that, I like to think that the Iranian people is one of the most well-informed nations. You can go to the street and ask the people yourself. Reporters from other countries go to different Iranian cities, they’re free to move about and ask questions. But Iranian reporters cannot do the same in the U.S. You can very easily come and see me and just ask me questions, but our reporters cannot ask questions from American officials. Our interview today is going to be aired from the Iranian TV. I very much hope that Iranian reporters will be given a possibility to ask questions from American officials. Then the truth will be uncovered.
PELLEY: You know, I’m curious. Looking back over the years, do you believe today that taking the American hostages in 1979 was a mistake?
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, you have to deal with different things in their own time. If you go back in time, things will go wrong. If you go back 500 years, what happened in Europe and the U.S. for that matter. You shouldn’t look back at what happened in the past. Have your sights towards the future. This wouldn’t help with anything. Because if you are to do that, we have to go over the dossier of the activities of various American administrations in this country from 1337 Iranian calendar onwards. That wouldn’t be a pretty picture. I don’t want to talk about and think about the dark passages of our history. Let’s have our sights towards the future.
PELLEY: Mr. President, I just have a few questions. We have appreciated your answers very much, and I know we’re pressing on time here. We would be very grateful if you wouldn’t mind taking just a few more. Will you, in this interview tonight, rule out the possibility of a nuclear test of an Iranian weapon during your presidency?
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, we don’t have any plans.
PELLEY: But rule it out. Say that “we will not test a nuclear device as long as I am president.” Can you say that?
AHMADINEJAD: Please, please, let me finish my thought. Actually, I very much oppose this behavior. Picture it. If an Iranian reporter kept repeatedly asking the same questions from a U.S. official, how would you feel? Would you feel good about that?
PELLEY: I would.
AHMADINEJAD: I think that instead of going astray here and misleading the public, we should try to help with the uncovering of the truth. You are a member of the media. You are not a government official. You should be concerned with the truth. We should all be concerned with the truth. We don’t need such weapons. Those who don’t have anything to say to other nations and deal with them, they resort to atomic weapons. We are a cultured people and we have good relations with all nations. And the status of a country has nothing to do with atomic weapons, rather its culture and its civilization. And whenever we make a decision, we are courageous enough to come out and say that we have made such a decision. Whatever we want to do, we have nothing to hide. We clearly will announce that. Well, I said sometime ago that if you sanction us, we are going to take the production to an industrial scale, and we did that. And we said that we will continue to push ahead undaunted. We did that. We have no problems. When it comes to that, we are very transparent and we have a frank tone of voice. Let me be frank and very straightforward here. I oppose the unilateral policies and bullying policies of the American administration. I believe that these lead to war, leads to greater poverty and killing. I believe that you can manage the war better through friendship, mutual respect, and by respecting laws and also fair play. Again, I’m being very frank here. I oppose the very idea of the bomb. I have nothing to hide. Also, I oppose the policies of the American administration.
PELLEY: If the United Nations Security Council or the European Union votes in favor of additional sanctions against your country, what will you do?
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, they are just trapping themselves. They can become trapped themselves. Because any person or party who insists on a wrong decision, that will be problematic for him, no other person. For 28 years now we have been under political pressure and economic sanctions. What happened? Nothing. And the Iranian people have managed to push ahead with technology. Our economy is growing each day. And, of course, having said that, I think that that course of action is highly unlikely. There are wise people in different countries which will not go ahead with this. Iran is a member of the agency. We’re under the supervision of the agency. The agency’s reports are very transparent. We have provided the fullest amount of cooperation to the agency. If a party wants to go beyond the law, they will just, this will be to their own detriment. I have said time and again you can do nothing to this country. This is a great country. We have extensive God-given riches and resources. From a political point of view, we are strong and powerful. And under any conditions, we will manage to push ahead. But they need to appreciate that if having said that, I don’t think that such a thing is possible. Again, a number of American officials want this to happen. But you shouldn’t worry about that. Just say that this is not going to happen.
PELLEY: If sanctions do occur, if another round of sanctions occur, you will continue to enrich uranium behind closed doors, I take it.
AHMADEINEJAD: This is not going to happen. I have talked extensively about this. Nobody is able to impose an unlawful course of action on the Iranian people. The Iranian people will not abide by that, accept that. And it will not serve their interests to do that. Both the American government and other countries, it helps them if they are friends with Iran. As a friend, I need to tell you to take this route. Again, you’re free to take any route you want. And you would have to, you will have to go with the repercussions. So these past few years, what has it gotten you? And the conditions will not change to benefit them; I assure you of that.
PELLEY: Would an attack on your nuclear sites, in your opinion, give you leave to attack U.S. forces in the region or the U.S. mainland?
AHMADEINEJAD: Who is going to attack this country?
PELLEY: President Bush has pledged that you will not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon and will use military force if necessary.
AHMADEINEJAD: I think Mr. Bush, if he wants his party to win the next election, there are cheaper ways and ways to go about this. I can very well give him a few ideas so that the people vote for him. He should respect the American people. They should not bug the telephone conversations of their citizens. They should not kill the sons and daughters of the American nation. They should not squander the taxpayers’ money and give them to weapons companies. And also help the people, the victims of Katrina. People will vote for them if they do these things. But if they insist on what they are saying right now, this will not help them. Again, nobody can hurt the Iranian people. And history tells us that the people who have been less than kind to the Iranian people, they have lost out. What I’m saying, I am being very sincere here. I’m a Muslim. I cannot tell a lie. I am supposed to tell the truth. What I’m saying is that President Bush’s conduct in Iraq is wrong. And his wrong conduct is behind his party losing the previous elections. This is very clear. The American people are very much dismayed with the behavior and the conduct of the present administration. They are not dismayed with Iran. In fact, the two nations are very close to one another. An example of that would be the letter sent to me by an American scholar a few days ago.
PELLEY: You mentioned telling the truth as a Muslim, and as you know so much better than I do, Verse 42 of the second sura: “The truth shall not be obscured by falsehood, and those who know the truth must tell it.” But when I ask you a question as direct as “Will you pledge not to test a nuclear weapon?” you you dance all around the question. You never say “yes.” You never say “no.”
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, thank you for that. You are like a CIA investigator. And you are . . .
PELLEY: I am just a reporter. I am a simple, average American reporter.
AHMADEINEJAD: This is not a Baghdad prison. Please, this is not a secret prison in Europe. This is not Abu Ghraib. This is Iran. I’m the president of this country. Well, I think that I’ve gone beyond what you’ve asked me, above and beyond. And I think that if you speak to your job as a reporter, what I have said so far, again, goes above and beyond what you ask me.
PELLEY: One last thing. So important for the American people to understand. When your airplane approaches Manhattan this week, you will look out the window and you will see that the World Trade Center is gone. Many Americans, Mr. President, to be frank, believe that you look out that window and you say to yourself, “Good. Somebody got ’em.” They believe our countries are enemies.
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, you shouldn’t speak on behalf of the American people. I can speak on behalf of the Iranian people, but you cannot speak on behalf of the American people. Why do you insist on doing that? Why do you not allow the American people to speak for themselves? Why? Let them speak for themselves. The people gathered around the White House a couple of days ago. They spoke whatever was in their hearts and minds. Are they not American citizens? Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied against the war. Are they not citizens? Our government at the time expressed its condemnation. We issued an official communiqué condemning that incident. How can you, in your mind, accuse and condemn others? Well, if an Iranian person for that matter had done the same thing, it would have been shameful, and it would not have been fair. So, again, this is not fair. Maybe this is your point of view or also perhaps your editor’s point of view. And you are saying that the American people are saying these things. The American people still don’t know who was behind the bombing of the Twin Towers. Many books in the U.S. have been written about the incident., and there are questions circling in your society. Once you go back, go to the streets, ask the local people who was behind this, what were the reason for that? And, again, I fail to see why you continually say “the American people.“ I have the latest surveys. Eighty percent of the American citizens say that the American government knew about the attack beforehand. They had information.
PELLEY: You don’t believe that, sir.
AHMADEINEJAD: I’m not making a judgment here, mind you. I’m not being judgmental. That’s not important for me. What is important for me is to find out why this happened. We can take a course of action which ensures this never happens. Why should we manage the world like this? It’s very possible for us all to be friends, for the world to be in peace, and for the family of man to love one another and to not hate one another. So who propagates these ideas, I ask you. We should all be friends. We should deal fairly with one another, respect one another. Nations do not have any problems when it comes to interacting with one another. Unethical politicians make war. Nations don’t make war. We’re saying that you should allow our nations to be friends with one another. We condemned that incident right there and then. Why should many innocent people be killed? For what reason? Well, behind this building there is another building, a building which in 1360 Iranian calendar, some 25 years ago, the Iranian president and the prime minister in the office, they were blown up by terrorists, a bomb planted by terrorists. And the president and the prime minister burned in that bomb, by that bomb. And, again, this is very regrettable that those terrorists, which were behind that bombing and other assassinations in this country, can freely have access to American officials are being protected by the American Army in Iraq. So this country is a victim of terrorism throughout its history. So you cannot produce even one document, a single document, about terrorist action on the part of the Iranian government or Iranian officials. We are very clear in our position. We say that we spiritually support the right of the Palestinian people and also independence for Iraq. We have nothing to hide. We are very much opposed to the Iraqi occupation. Again, we have nothing to hide. It’s very regrettable that many thousands of people were killed in the Twin Tower incident. We have announced time and again. And what we are asking is can we do something that ensures this never happens? And the answer is “yes.” We can do that, providing a number of parties do not establish terrorist organizations and set them off on nations. We know who is behind terrorist organizations. You know full well who is behind a number of terrorist organizations around my part of the world, that is. Who provided them with logistical support, political support? It’s a very well-known fact they have made and created these terrorist organizations themselves.
PELLEY: Who, sir?
AHMADINEJAD: It’s very clear. Very clear.
PELLEY: Make it clearer. Name the names.
AHMADEINEJAD: I don’t want to name names. I don’t want to name names. But the terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, who is behind them? And what intelligence organization belonging to what country is behind them? This is very clear.
PELLEY: Shall I say CIA and the United States? Will that . . .
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, maybe you know something that . . . The relations and the developments in this part of the world are somewhat clear. I don’t want to say something which would agitate and fan the flames of the situation. What I’m saying that this is shameful. My country is a great victim of terrorism. We very much oppose terrorism. As I said, we oppose terrorism. Why? Why should innocent people be killed? For what reason? We are saying that each and every person should be respected regardless of their color, creed, what country they come from, what language they speak. We’re all fellow human beings. We should be respected. Why some parties ask more than their fair share? Why do they insult nations? They shouldn’t do that. This is not right.
PELLEY: Would you reestablish . . .
AHMADEINEJAD: If I may. Who created secret prisons in Europe? You don’t know that? Did Iran establish those prisons? This one is very clear and the documents have been revealed. Why are they creating secret prisons? If the law provides the possibility to establish these prisons, go ahead. Why this skullduggery? So this is, again, very clear.
PELLEY: Would you reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States? Is that something you want? Something you would do right away?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, our foreign policy is a policy which says that we should have relations with all countries and nations. Before the revolution, this country was much damaged by American policy. Our late imam said that we will not have relations with two countries: one, the apartheid regime of South Africa; the other, the Zionist regime. We like to have relations with all countries. The American administration cut off relations themselves unilaterally. The Carter administration perhaps they were thinking that this would be to their benefit. But this didn’t happen. We would like to have relations with all countries based on mutual respect. This is the very basis of our foreign policy. I think that we are done.
PELLEY: You have been generous with your time, Mr. President. Thank you for your time very much.
AHMADEINEJAD: Good luck.