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"We Do Not Need Attacks"

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GEORGES GOBET / AFP / GETTY

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

TIME: What were your impressions of New York during your visit to the U.S. last year?

Ahmadinejad: Unfortunately we didn't have any contact with the people of the United States. We were not in touch with the people. But my general impression is that the people of the United States are good people. Everywhere in the world, people are good.

TIME: Did you visit the site of the World Trade Center?

Ahmadinejad: It was not necessary. It was widely covered in the media.

TIME: You recently invited President Bush to a televised debate. If he were sitting where I am sitting, what would you say, man to man?

Ahmadinejad: The issues which are of interest to us are the international issues and how to manage them. I gave some recommendations to President Bush in my personal letter, and I hope that he will take note of them. I would ask him, Are rationalism, spirituality and humanitarianism and logicŚare they bad things for human beings? Why more conflict? Why should we go for hostilities? Why should we develop weapons of mass destruction? Everybody can love one another.

TIME: Do you feel any connection with President Bush, since he is also a religious man, a strong Christian?

Ahmadinejad: I've heard about that. But there are many things which take place and are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ in this world.

TIME: Why do your supporters chant "Death to America"?

Ahmadinejad: When they chanted that slogan, it means they hate aggression, and they hate bullying tactics, and they hate violations of the rights of nations and discrimination. I recommended to President Bush that he can change his behavior, then everything will change.

TIME: How do you think the American people feel when they hear Iranians shouting "Death to America" and the President of Iran does not criticize this?

Ahmadinejad: The nations do not have any problems. What is the role of the American people in what is happening in the world? The people of the United States are also seeking peace, love, friendship and justice.

TIME: But if Americans shouted "Death to Iran," Iranians would feel insulted.

Ahmadinejad: If the government of Iran acted in such a way, then [the American people] have this right.

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