Wednesday, September 23, 2009

See Iran as a 'friend'

NEW YORK - IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged President Barack Obama to see Iran as a potential friend instead of a threat before addresses both leaders will give to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
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American hikers
WHEN asked about the three American hikers, Mr Ahmadinejad said they broke the law by illegally entering Iran. Nevertheless, Mr Ahmadinejad said he will ask the Iranian judiciary to treat the case with 'maximum lenience'.The Iranian leader did not elaborate on what that might mean for the fate of the three Americans. Families of the imprisoned hikers have said they hope Mr Ahmadinejad's visit to New York might yield a breakthrough in the case.
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Protesters' deaths regretful
MR AHMADINEJAD said he regrets the deaths of protesters in the violence that followed his country's disputed presidential elections, but denied that his government had any role in the killings.Mr Ahmadinejad said those who died were 'not at fault'. He instead said the responsibility lies with Iranian opposition politicians and with 'European and American politicians' who he said fuelled the violence.
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not building nuclear weapons
HE REITERATED explicitly that Iran is not building nuclear weapons.'I hope that Mr Obama will move in the direction of change,' Mr Ahmadinejad said. At another point he said, 'The sources of insecurity around the world need to be discussed.' The US, Israel and the EU fear that Iran is using its nuclear programme to covertly develop nuclear weapons. But Teheran says the programme serves purely civilian purposes and asserts its right to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power plants to generate electricity.
... moreThe Iranian leader also said in a wide-ranging Associated Press interview Tuesday that he expects 'free and open' discussion of nuclear issues at a meeting next week with six world powers, but stressed that his country would not negotiate on its own nuclear plans.
He sought to open a wider nuclear dialogue with the West, and said the onus should be on the US and other major nuclear powers to give up their weapons and to expand opportunities for all countries to make peaceful use of nuclear power.
Speaking to AP reporters and editors just hours after arriving in the US, Mr Ahmadinejad said he will seek a quick resolution to the case of three American hikers jailed in Iran.
He dismissed last week's US shift away from a planned long-range missile shield in Europe, meant to guard against an Iranian strike, as 'a respectful way of buying out' Russian objections.
'I heard Mr Obama saying the next threat is Iran. Iran is an opportunity for everyone,' Mr Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian leader said Mr Obama is not the first US president to believe Iran is a threat and said the president should read up on history 'to see what the fate is of viewing these problems from this perspective'. 'Historically, whoever made friends with Iran saw a lot of opportunities,' Mr Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian president's remarks on those and other issues in an hour-long interview at his New York hotel appeared designed to present his country as open to a broad international dialogue and to soften Iran's image as a rogue nation bent on spreading its Islamic revolution.
Mr Ahmadinejad is in New York to address the General Assembly on Wednesday. Mr Obama is also speaking Wednesday.
Mr Ahmadinejad remained soft-spoken and almost completely still in his chair as he fielded questions on a wide range of controversies rankling Iran's relationship with the West. He would occasionally nod or offer a small smile, particularly when he appeared pleased with a point he had made, but the Iranian leader never gestured or raised his voice. A few questions prompted an animated flurry of conversation in Farsi among members of his delegation before he gave a response that was translated into English. -- AP

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