EXCLUSIVE: Iranian President Ducks Charges That Iran Is Arming Iraqi Insurgents

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Says His Country Is Asking for Peace and the U.S. Should Leave Iraq

Feb. 12, 2007 —

In an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refused to address accusations that his country was supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq, saying instead that Iran asked for peace and was against conflict of any kind.

Ahmadinejad skirted questions about weapons smuggling and stressed instead that the key to establishing peace in Iraq was for Americans, and all other foreigners, to leave.

Sawyer: I can begin. They say 170 troops and some 600 have been injured by Iranian weapons. Are you sending weapons into Iraq to kill Americans?

Watch "Good Morning America" on Tuesday for more of Diane Sawyer's interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad: Let me first say good morning to the viewers all over the states and let me tell them we have spring weather in Iran. I hope it will be spring all over the world.

We shy away from any kind of conflict and any kind of bloodshed, and we will be sad by such. We are opposed to any kind of conflict and as we have said repeatedly we think the world problem can be solved through dialogue, the use of logic and a sense of friendship. There is no need for the use of force.

When it come to Iraq, we have made it clear that kind of lack of security, insecurity in Iraq is also to our disadvantage and also disadvantage to the nations of the region. Iraq only for a period when Saddam [Hussein] was in power had a good relationship. We have a very good relationship with Iraq. We are historical friends. We have intermarriages between the two nations, and millions of Iranians and Iraqis travel to each other's countries.

And our position for Iraq is very clear: We are asking for peace, we are asking for security, and we will be sad to see people get killed, no matter who they are. It could be Iraqis. We will be sad if we hear they are killed or anyone who is brought there by force and is put in the middle of the conflict.

Sawyer: But how is it possible to believe this? The Americans have been given evidence. They say they have rocket-propelled grenade launcher. ??? It speaks for itself.

Ahmadinejad: Well it's very easy to make a judgment when you don't have good defense or making a one-sided judgment. I think that Americans have made a mistake in Iraq and unfortunately are losing, and this is a shame for Americans of course and that's why they are trying to point their fingers to other people and pointing fingers to others will not solve the problem. I think that we should be honest and face the reality.

Sawyer: But they say they have serial numbers from Iran?

Ahmadinejad: But we don't need such things. I can give you figures and number, which are known: More than 160,000 American troops are in Iraq, 100 more ??? aircraft, helicopters, what are they doing in Iraq? I think the reason for insecurity of Iraq are these things, and these are some excuses to prolong their stay in Iraq, if they prolong their stay in the first place there would be no insecurity.

Sawyer: Are you saying there are no Iranian weapons in Iraq? Will you close down border? Will you punish anyone found to be taking weapons in?

Ahmadinejad: You see the position of the government is important. We are opposed any kind of conflict in Iraq. This is not to our advantage. Anyone who gets killed in Iraq will make us sad no matter from which religion they are. Can American close their long borders? ??? No, we are opposed to any conflict and also the presence of foreign forces in Iraq, and that's why we are opposed to the Americans. We tell them leave the country and no other foreigners should be in Iraq, then you see that you have peace.

Sawyer: Will you prosecute anyone trying to bring Iranian weapons into Iraq?

Ahmadinejad: To say the U.S. administration and Bush are used to excusing others, the fact that you are showing us some piece of papers and you call them documents, they should not solve any problem. There should be a court to prove the case and to support the case.

The position of the government as I told you and the position of the Revolutionary Guard is also the same. We are opposed to any kind of conflict in Iraq. We do not want the presence of armed forces in Iraq, foreign armed forces in Iraq. We would like to have the strengthening of Iraq and the stability of the Iraq government because it is the legit. ??? But we think that the U.S. is following another policy trying to hide its defeats and failures and that's why is pointing its fingers to others. This is not a solution to the problem.

Sawyer: Does Iran deserve the right to send Iranians in ... Americans have said they had false identities that they were trying to shave their heads, trying to flush evidence ...

Ahmadinejad: I don't think that in the legal system in the U.S. you have this postulation that if you arrest someone you have automatically accused someone, only people who have committed something wrong can be taken to court. I think it was childish for the U.S. government to do something like that to arrest defenseless people, not allowing them to talk to anyone and to publish information in a biased way. I think that this is not a solution to the problem in Iraq; the solution is somewhere else.

Our diplomats are now in Iraq, what are the Americans doing there? These people are now in Iraq, what are the diplomats supposed to do, what is the task of the consulate, of the embassy? We have diplomatic relations with Iraq, we have extensive diplomatic relations, political, cultural ties, every year we have millions of people traveling across the border, so the question is why are the Americans doing there and why against international relations, they attack a consulate office and they will not solve the problem? The administration problems with management can be solved somewhere else.

Sawyer: So you may send more Iranians in. Are they training militia forces?

Ahmadinejad: I do not know what you mean by militia?

Sawyer: ... talking about Shiite forces.

Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you a question, those people who are killing the Shiites, are they organized by Americans?

Sawyer: Sunnis? Baathists?

Ahmadinejad: Anyone, anyone. Are the Baathists organized in Kuwait by Americans? Why do you say no? No, I am just asking you a question, who organizes them? Now based on international regulations, occupation forces are also in charge for trading security. Americans have failed and that's why they are accusing others and as I told you this will not solve the problems.

You see the conflict in Iraq is not in our control. It is controlled by the Americans. I think that Americans that change their behavior so the conflict will end ... Iraq has got its own constitution, it's got its own parliament, it has got a democratically elected president, and I think they should be in charge. The root of the insecurity must be found and if the Iraqi government asks for our assistance we will provide intellectual support and we are also ready to supply Americans with intellectual support so they will pull out.

Sawyer: Are you here to solve the problem of the American government in Iraq?

Ahmadinejad: These are some points that must be discussed at the diplomatic level. You are just a journalist. And of course we think that the Iraqi government has asked the U.S. administration to hand in security to the Iraqi government. And we think that it will help us in solving the problem.

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Sawyer: Do you personally fear an attack by us? And air strikes against Iran by the U.S.?

Ahmadinejad: Fear? Why should we be afraid? First the possibility is very low, and we think that there are wise people in the U.S. that would stop such illegal actions but our position is clear. Our nation has made it clear that anyone who wants to attack our country will be severely punished.

Sawyer: You said you have 52,000 suicide bombers. Where would you deploy them?

Ahmadinejad: Did I say that?

Sawyer: One of the Iraqi officials said that ...

Sawyer: Ahmadinejad was right to challenge me, it was not a statement by an official, but a so-called unofficial organization dedicated to suicide bombing. So we asked, is it not true?

Ahmadinejad: ... [Laughs] Well I think that you should check your source because people say different things. One of the interior ministry officials from Iran said that all of these terrors are done by American forces, and that was an official. He had an official position in Iraq.

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Ahmadinejad: If an American has got the right to live, the same right also applies to Africans and Iranians. If Iranians have the right to live, the same is true about Americans. If we want to have good lives, the same applies to others. So all good things should be generalized to all the people, and also bad things should be -- I mean people should be excluded from good things. So good things for everyone, bad things for no one.

Sawyer: You have hope?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, I'm very hopeful. Very hopeful.

Watch "Good Morning America" on Tuesday for more of Diane Sawyer's interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad.