"We Do Not Need Attacks"

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GEORGES GOBET / AFP / GETTY

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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TIME: Are America and Iran fated to be in conflict?

Ahmadinejad: No, this is not fate. And this can come to an end. I have said we can run the world through logic. We are living our own lives. The U.S. government should not interfere in our affairs. They should live their own lives. They should serve the interests of the U.S. people. They should not interfere in our affairs. Then there would be no problems with that.

TIME: Are you ready to open direct negotiations with the U.S.?

Ahmadinejad: We have given them a letter, a lengthy letter. We say the U.S. Administration should change its behavior, and then everything will be solved. It was the U.S. which broke up relations with us. We didn't take that position. And then they should make up for it.

TIME: Does Iran have the right to nuclear weapons?

Ahmadinejad: We are opposed to nuclear weapons. We think it has been developed just to kill human beings. It is not in the service of human beings. For that reason, last year in my address to the U.N. General Assembly, I suggested that a committee should be set up in order to disarm all the countries that possess nuclear weapons.

TIME: But you were attacked with weapons of mass destruction by Iraq. You say the u.s. threatens you, and you are surrounded by countries that have nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad: Today nuclear weapons are a blunt instrument. We don't have any problems with Pakistan or India. Actually they are friends of Iran, and throughout history they have been friends. The Zionist regime is not capable of using nuclear weapons. Problems cannot be solved through bombs. Bombs are of little use today. We need logic.

TIME: Why won't you agree to suspend enrichment of uranium as a confidence-building measure?

Ahmadinejad: Whose confidence should be built?

TIME: The world's?

Ahmadinejad: The world? The world? Who is the world? The United States? The U.S. Administration is not the entire world. Europe does not account for one-twentieth of the entire world. When I studied the provisions of the npt [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], nowhere did I see it written that in order to produce nuclear fuel, we need to win the support or the confidence of the United States and some European countries.

TIME: How far will Iran go in defying Western demands? Will you wait until you are attacked and your nuclear installations are destroyed?

Ahmadinejad: Do you think the u.s. administration would be so irrational?

TIME: You tell me.

Ahmadinejad: I hope that is not the case. I said that we need logic. We do not need attacks.

TIME: Are you worried about an attack?

Ahmadinejad: No.

TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?

TIME: Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to their own state?

Ahmadinejad: We do not oppose it. In any country in which the people are ready to vote for the Jews to come to power, it is up to them. In our country, the Jews are living and they are represented in our Parliament. But Zionists are different from Jews.

TIME: Have you considered that Iranian Jews are hurt by your comments denying that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: As to the Holocaust, I just raised a few questions. And I didn't receive any answers to my questions. I said that during World War II, around 60 million were killed. All were human beings and had their own dignities. Why only 6 million? And if it had happened, then it is a historical event. Then why do they not allow independent research?

TIME: But massive research has been done.

Ahmadinejad: They put in prison those who try to do research. About historical events everybody should be free to conduct research. Let's assume that it has taken place. Where did it take place? So what is the fault of the Palestinian people? These questions are quite clear. We are waiting for answers.

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