Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad warned the Obama administration today that if Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked, the U.S. will face a war that "would know no boundaries."
The Iranian president, who is in New York for the annual meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, spoke at a breakfast meeting with reporters and editors at Manhattan's Warwick Hotel.
He said that Iran is on the brink of becoming a nuclear power, and warned Israel and the U.S. against attacking its nuclear facilities.
Asked about the possibility of a U.S.-supported Israeli air strike against Iran, the fiery Iranian leader said an attack would be considered an act of war, and suggested the U.S. is unprepared for the consequences. Such a war "would know no boundaries," Ahmedinejad said. "War is not just bombs."
Iran claims it has no plans to make a nuclear weapon, but the country is faced with United Nations sanctions, spearheaded by the U.S., meant to convince Iran to comply with international regulations and abandon its nuclear program.
In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Ahmedinejad said he was prepared to meet with the Obama administration, but that "the whole outlook has to shift." Sanctions in particular, he said, had damaged the chances for an improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations.
He took some credit for last week's release of Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers who were jailed 14 months ago and accused of espionage.
The decision to free Shourd, he said, was a judgment made by the judiciary and by Ahmedinejad himself. "A combination of both" a judicial act and an act of sympathy, he said.
Shourd, who still faces charges, had to guarantee a $500,000 bond before she was released. Her fiance and and another male friend remain in Iranian custody.
Ahmedinejad acknowledged the possibility that Palestinian leaders may ultimately make peace with Israel, he questioned the legitimacy of Palestinian negotiators and raised questions about the Holocaust that have marked his tenure as president.
The Holocaust, Ahmedinejad said, was "a historical event used to create a pretext for war."
Asking questions about the Holocaust, he said, should not to be equated with anti-Semitism. "We need to ask, where did this event occur, and why should the Palestinian people continue to suffer for it? I am not an anti-Semite. I am anti-Zionism," he said.
The Iranian president disputed suggestions that leaders of Iran's opposition movement are facing persecution or jail terms. "Those individuals face no problems, no difficulties," he said. "They are all free in fact."
Jailed protestors, however, have "created chaos" or "had clashes with police," he said.
Later, Ahmedinejad said in remarks to Islamic clerics in New York that Americans were being hypocritical in condemning Iran for sentencing a woman accused of adultery to be stoned to death, while Virginia is planning to execute a woman Thursday who is convicted of hiring hitman to kill her husband and stepson.
The stoning sentence has been suspended, Ahmedinejad said.
"Meanwhile, nobody objects to the case of an American woman who is going to be executed," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"Today Western media are propaganda agents who continuously speak about democracy and human rights though their slogans are sheer lies," he said.