In an exclusive interview with ABC "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer in Copenhagen, Denmark, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed nuclear weapons, the U.S. hikers being detained in Iran and the United States.
DIANE SAWYER: Mr. President, thank you for speaking with us again. If I may begin with three items of news that the American people have heard about this week. I would like to have you to address them if you will. First of all it is: there is a news story critics of Iran saying this is the smoking gun. There is a news report out of England, a document which purports to show that Iran has been testing a neutron initiator which is a trigger for a nuclear weapon, has no civilian use and they now say this is the document that proves it -- have you been testing a neutron initiator?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: [Ahmadinejad began by reciting a prayer about the 12th Imam in Arabic.] First of all, I would like to express my greetings to the good people of America and I hope that the American people and other nations of the world live in full health and security. I hope that the efforts that are being made in Copenhagen lead to positive results for the betterment of the human society. As far as your question is concerned, I think that some of the claims made by the American and other Western statesmen about our nuclear issue have turned into a repetitive and tasteless joke. They always come up with papers saying that they have got documents. These are all baseless talk. From our point of view, they are of no legal value and not worth paying attention to. Even we are not ready to investigate them.
SAWYER: Would you like to see this document? Is it a joke?
AHMADINEJAD: No, I don't want to see them at all. I don't. Because they are all fabricated bunch of papers continuously being forged and disseminated by the American government. They are of no legal value for us. There is a fact that we should proclaim. The U.S. government is looking for domination over the Middle East region and the world. Its policies are double standard and discriminatory and we oppose these policies. We say this clearly that the nuclear issue and other issues of this kind are just pretexts. It will be good if the U.S. statesmen have got some honesty and speak their mind. They want to dominate the Middle East region, over this political region and over this energy region. The Iranian nation and the Iranian government are huge obstacles. They should have the courage to announce this to the nations in a manly manner. They always come up with these fabricated papers, documents, and excuses -- one day they say it is nuclear, another day human rights. They have become repetitive for us now -- like a repetitive joke that is not funny anymore.
SAWYER: So this is not true?
AHMADINEJAD: They are fundamentally not true. All the American claims are not true -- not only this one, but also the previous ones. We have got written documents from the agency [International Atomic Energy Agency] indicating that these claims have not been true. They asked us six questions that we answered and we received written confirmation from the agency. The agency has announced in 12 official documents that there is not any deviation in Iran.
SAWYER: Another news...
AHMADINEJAD: Who is the American government to talk about our nuclear issue? Who are they? What is the legal position of the American government that gives it the right to comment about our nuclear issue? They should answer who has given them this right? The nations?
SAWYER: But the President has said and the European Union have said that progress must be made on the nuclear issues by the deadline of this year or early next year at the very least and instead, instead, even defenders of Iran are confused because instead of progress, an agreement that was reached on shipping uranium, low grade uranium out of the country to France and to Russia has been backed out on, in addition to that a missile has been launched with discussion of being able to hit Israel, to hit Europe and added to that, there are announcements of more centrifuges for Iranian, for uranium, the question really is: Do you believe there will be stronger, new sanctions? Do you believe there will be a possible strike in the future by Israel?
AHMADINEJAD: I have already given your answer. We think that the American government and some European governments should raise their problem with clarity and honesty. They should say in a manly manner what their problem is. Otherwise, these nuclear allegations have lost their taste from our point of view. There is no ambiguity in Iran. The course of decision making is very clear. Our decisions are completely rational and legal. We announce them with clarity and we aren't afraid of anyone when we declare our decisions. We declare any decision that is based on our national interests and justice very clearly. There is no fear from anyone and therefore we declare our decisions openly. As far as the issue of swapping of fuel is concerned, it was our proposal to do this. Legally speaking, they are obliged to supply Iranian fuel.
SAWYER: But then why change the agreement?
AHMADINEJAD: This is the content of the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]. It is the commitment of IAEA to unconditionally supply our fuel for peaceful consumption. We proposed the idea of swapping fuel in order to give a chance to the American and Western governments to enter into cooperation instead of confrontation. They say they want to give us fuel. We don't care if they don't give. Can they set conditions or deadlines or timelines? This is the literature of Mr. Bush's era. What has changed? We are expecting changes. They want to swap fuel with us, then they come up with deadlines and say until this time. We don't want fuel from Europe and America at all. Is it a sin to say we don't want fuel. Do we have to ask for fuel and on the basis of their conditions? They tell us let's negotiate, then from the other hand they are saying sanctions are coming -- they show the stick.
Respectable lady, the American people, this approach has failed, i.e. raising the stick of sanctions and then saying let's negotiate. It has failed. It's over. It's not repeatable. The world doesn't accept it either. If you want to talk with us under fair conditions, we welcome it. If you are saying you are going to impose sanctions, then go and do it.
SAWYER: (cross talk) Mr. President, many journalists...
AHMADINEJAD: (cross talk) Allow me. We don't welcome confrontation, but we don't surrender to bullying either, whether it is the EU or America or whoever. We don't give in to force. We are people who favor negotiation and logic, but we don't give in to force, whoever it comes from. We expect change to happen. Otherwise, if people want to talk to us with the literature of Mr. Bush, our response is the previous response. There will not be anything new.
SAWYER: May I try a yes or no question?
AHMADINEJAD: To what question?
SAWYER: Many journalists have tried to get a yes or no answer and I'm going to try one more time. Will you say to the American people, tonight, that Iran will never weaponize nuclear material? There will be no nuclear weapon in Iran, ever?
AHMADINEJAD: We have got a saying in Iran which says, "How many times shall I repeat the same thing?" You should say thing only once. We have said once that we don't want nuclear bomb.
AHMADINEJAD: We don't accept it -- finish. You see, the Iranian government and the Iranian people are brave people. And we are frank people, too. Whatever they want to say, they say it with clarity. We said we wanted the fuel production cycle, that was it. And we created it. We said we industrialize it and we did it. Now we announced that we are going to bring in new centrifuges and we will do it. We announced that we were not afraid of resolutions and sanctions and we didn't fear from them. If we had been looking for bombs, we would have had the courage to announce it either. We are not afraid of anyone. We have said it time and again that we don't accept bombs. But now we have got claims and we are saying that America and all those who possess bombs should be disarmed. We will follow this up. They ought to be disarmed. They do not have the right to comment on the nuclear issue until they are disarmed. After they are disarmed, then they will have the right to intervene in the nuclear issue. The reason they are unable to control proliferation in countries in the East of Asia is they have got bombs themselves. If someone has got bombs how can they prevent others from making bombs? But we can, because we don't want bombs and we don't have any. We can disarm [others] and we can also stop proliferation. This is why we have proposed to the agency and to the U.N. to form an independent body for disarmament and proliferation, not those people have got bombs themselves and are sitting there and saying they want to stop proliferation. This is funny. All people of the world are laughing at this.
If the American government is worried about bombs, it should disarm itself first so that the world understands that they are honest. It is very clear this is dishonest.
SAWYER: Did you watch President Obama's speech, accepting the Peace Prize?
AHMADINEJAD: Yes. What shall I say?
SAWYER: And what's the word that....
AHMADINEJAD: Do you think it was right to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Obama? Yes, or no.
SAWYER: It's up to you, it's up to you...
AHMADINEJAD: Did you agree with the idea of giving the Nobel Prize to him? What has he done for peace in the world? Of course, I know why they have given him the prize. It wasn't because of his performance, because Mr. Obama himself says in his book that they do not give prize to anybody for telling the truth. If has told the truth, then they should not give him a prize.
SAWYER: What's the first word that comes to your mind when you see him giving his speech and him today, what's the first word that describes him to you?
AHMADINEJAD: I don't want to comment on him. We welcomed his slogan of change and we declared that we would help and we did help, i.e. I sent him a message. We had talks in Geneva.
AHMADINEJAD: We had talks in Vienna. We proposed exchanging of fuel. I announced that in my trip to New York I was ready to enter a debate with him. We were expecting substantial changes by him, but his behavior makes us worried.
AHMADINEJAD: Not only his decisions aren't going to lead to any change, but they will even exacerbate the status quo.
SAWYER: Speaking of help, a question if I can about the three American hikers who say that they accidentally wandered into Iranian territory looking at waterfalls. These young people, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd. You said that you were going to do your best to set them free and to hope that it happened as soon as possible. Are you still going to do your best to set them free?
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, but I have got a question to you. How do you know they have accidentally crossed into Iran? How do you know they were looking for waterfalls and forests? Who has told you this?
SAWYER: Do you have evidence that it was not accidental, young people on a hike, on a vacation?
AHMADINEJAD: Who has told you this? Who has told you this? Are you a judge?
SAWYER: By all examinations...
AHMADINEJAD: Permit me. Have the intelligence agents told you this? It is a judge who should identify whether they have entered accidentally or intentionally. I don't distinguish this and you don't distinguish this. I announced that we don't like anybody to be imprisoned, but if somebody commits a violation, a judge should investigate it. There is law.
SAWYER: Their mothers and their families, in enormous anguish, have asked can they go to see them, can they speak to them by telephone. Will you help arrange that?
AHMADINEJAD: We aren't happy about it either. We are unhappy about all prisoners. We are unhappy about all prisoners. In America, there are 3.5 million prisoners. We are unhappy about all of them. They are also away from their families. But a judge should make the judgment.
SAWYER: They will go on trial?
AHMADINEJAD: I am not a judge. I am not a judge. We should ask the judge. They might be able to do it. I think they have corresponded. We aren't happy with the fact that people are imprisoned, but eventually if somebody commits a violation, the judge will attend to it. There is law.
SAWYER: A question in the news overnight Mr. President. We have heard in the news that Iran has taken over an oil field in southern Iraq near Basra, Oil field No. 4, has this happened? Did you order it?
AHMADINEJAD: I haven't received such news. It might have been produced by the media. Some Western media fabricate the news and then they use it as their substantiation.
SAWYER: Would you disapprove? Would you reverse it?
AHMADINEJAD: I haven't heard such news.
SAWYER: Would you disapprove? Would you reverse it?
AHMADINEJAD: We are friends with Iraq and have got very good relations. We have got a lot of cooperation.
SAWYER: A question also about Iran and as I said we hope so much to be able to return ourselves and see what is happening but we see the videos on the Internet, we see the Twitter calls from the protestors in the street, we see the signs that say "Death to Dictator." You have said that any one in Iran can express their point of view, that it is fully permitted. Are you saying these demonstrators in the next few days can go to the street in any number they want, and they can protest and they will be safe?
AHMADINEJAD: Do you think such a thing exists in America? Can the people there come to the streets whenever they want, say whatever they want?
SAWYER: You can apply for a permit, yes?
AHMADINEJAD: Are you sure?
SAWYER: And they can go to the street and express their opinions, yes?
AHMADINEJAD: Are you sure?
SAWYER: If you apply for a permit...
AHMADINEJAD: During Pittsburgh meeting, there was a demonstration by 1,000 people. The police beat them and attacked them with tear gas and boiling water. A large number of people were arrested. Did they have the permission to demonstrate or had they come there without permission? Did they have the permission or not?
SAWYER: But thousands of people are allowed to come out and criticize the government, routinely.
AHMADINEJAD: It is the same in Iran, but my question to you is, those people who were beaten in Pittsburgh, were arrested and attacked with tear gas, what were they saying? What was their demand? Was it against the law or was it legal? Why were they beaten?
SAWYER: I would like to debate it, but I'm afraid our time is so short. I want to make sure that I ask this question because so many people have written here in the United States about it. They are reporting that there is a division in the Iranian government between you and the Supreme National Security Council. Is there is a division in the Iranian government now between you and the Ayatollah [Ali Hoseyni] Khamenei and the council on nuclear issues? And what about the division we see with the Ayatollah [Hussein-Ali] Montazeri, with [Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani taking to the streets to criticize the government.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, in every country -- translate it for me. She didn't get me.
AHMADINEJAD: In Iran we have got freedom, more than what there is in America.
AHMADINEJAD: They are free to speak and demonstrate. Yes, we have got elections in Iran. Whoever wins the most votes forms the government. Some people oppose the government. This is natural. There is no problem. They speak their mind.
SAWYER: But as you know, human rights activists, Amnesty International says 4,000 people were arrested among the protesters, that there have been executions, some of them, mass executions of protestors, striking fear in their hearts.
AHMADINEJAD: These things have to do with the judiciary. We have got laws. There is the judge. These people have got lawyers. These are not political questions. They are judicial and legal questions. In our country, we have got a detailed process of legal investigation. There are five stages of investigation with a review stage included. Of course, the judiciary has not yet announced anything. In Iran, the judiciary is independent. I would like to repeat my question to you. Were human rights considered in relation to those people who were beaten up in Pittsburgh and inhaled poisonous gas, tear gas? There are 3.5 million prisoners in America. Has the legal process been applied in relation to them or have they been arrested illegally? In proportion to the population, the number of prisoners in America is five times as much as that in Iran.
SAWYER: But not political prisoners...
AHMADINEJAD: Do the American people commit more offences or human rights are violated? Which one is true?
SAWYER: Will there be progress in the talks by the end of the year? The nuclear talks? Will you return to the talks and again discuss moving Iranian uranium out of the country or is that over, finished?
AHMADINEJAD: It depends on the other side. We don't have any problem. We are living in accordance with the law and are benefiting from our legal rights. It is them who have got problems with us.
SAWYER: But will you return to talks on nuclear issues?
AHMADINEJAD: It is them who have got problems with us.
SAWYER: Will you reconsider moving the low-level uranium out of the country to be enriched and returned to you for medical reasons?
AHMADINEJAD: Today we can produce our 20 percent fuel, but we haven't blocked the course of talks. We have declared that if they wanted, we are ready to carry on with the talks,
AHMADINEJAD: ....just about exchanging and just about nuclear cooperations and technical cooperations, we are ready to talk. But we can produce ourselves. This is our legal right and we are determined to do it, but we haven't blocked the way for them. We provided the 5+1 with a new opportunity so that if they wanted we could negotiate. But this is not a permanent opportunity.
SAWYER: I think if I may ask one final question. You have three children; a daughter and two sons. ... Grandchildren? Too young?
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, I have got one grandchild, 5 months old, from the daughter. One son and one daughter are married now...
SAWYER: When they grow up, when this 5 month-old-baby grows up, do you hope he will ... what do you hope will be his friendship with America? America's friendship with Iran? What to you is the dream when he grows up, these two countries together?
AHMADINEJAD: We believe that if the American government changes its behavior, we don't have to wait until that child grows up. We can do away with the problems just now. But I can assure you that if the American government doesn't improve its behavior, even in 50 years time, we will have the same situation in Iran, generations after generations will remain the same. The majority of the 25 million people who voted for me are young. And most of those people who didn't vote think like me. Regarding the issue of the need for improvement in the American government behavior, the majority of the Iranian nation agree with each other.
Not only the Iranian nation, but all the nations of the world are united. Everybody wants American to change its behavior, to mend its behavior. Why did they invade Afghanistan? Why did they invade Iraq? Why are they threatening Iran? What do the American forces want in the Middle East? Why are they there? Do we have military forces in your region? Do we have warships, fighter jets, and tanks near the American borders? We don't. It is America that has. Why does it have? Why does it intervene in our region? Have the American interventions improved the situation in our region? Has security been established in the Middle East region? Has terrorism been controlled? Have narcotics been controlled? Or has the situation been worsened?
What has been the result of the American intervention in our region been other than killing, insecurity, and growth of terrorism? They should announce this so that everybody knows. The American government should report on its eight years of aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq. What has been the outcome? They should say, so that we know. They should report to the world. Why don't they report? Do you know that approximately 1 million people have been killed? Do you know that approximately 4 million people have become refugees? Do you know how many women and children have been killed? That the infrastructures of Afghanistan and Iraq have been destroyed? How many American and non-American soldiers have been killed? Who is going to answer for all this? Why has all this happened? What has been the outcome?
Politics is not a joke so that some American politicians come and make decisions like playing a game. It is about the fate of human beings, the lives of human beings, the security of human beings. The 1 million people who have lost lives, had wishes in their lives. They have got families, parents, children. They are human beings. Who is going to answer for all this? We don't like this situation to continue. We feel bad. Why should people be killed? Why should American and European soldiers be killed in Afghanistan? For what? What is the purpose of this war? They should say it clearly what the goal is. What has been the outcome? You cannot run the world like this. We object to this way of running the world. We oppose these policies. We oppose killing people.
And we announce that the American government should change its behavior. They are dealing with Ahmadinejad, not even with Iran. They are dealing with all the nations of the world. You should know, in South America, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, the vast majority of nations are against the American policies. In this Copenhagen, there have been so many demonstrations, by groups of people. Who were they objecting to? To Iran or America? About the issue of environment, they are opposing the behavior of the American government. We oppose these policies and we announce it very clearly. We have already announced that we are ready to help these wrong policies improve. Mr. Bush was somebody who was only looking to kill. He had such a psychological condition that he enjoyed killing. He was killing the people. But Mr. Obama declared that wanted to bring changes. Where are these changes? What has changed?
SAWYER: Do you believe that President Bush wanted to see people killed?
AHMADINEJAD: It was definitely the case. Then why was he killing the people? Even he was threatening to kill in relation to Iran. I am asking you. Who is responsible for the killing of 1 million people? Why can I not tolerate to see one person being killed. We become very sad when we hear the news of someone having been killed. We try our best to prevent this. Why was he encouraging bombarding and rocketing? Why did he use weakened uranium bullets in Iraq? Do you know how many people have become ill as a result of this in Iraq? I am talking about ordinary people, women and children, not combatants. Why did he not prevent it? If somebody doesn't like something, he would stop it. He would stop killing. They bombarded a wedding celebration in Afghanistan. Eight hundred people were killed. Mr. Bush didn't even apologize. He didn't apologize for the fact that 1 million people were killed. What do you think?
SAWYER: Mr President, I have so many questions, but I am told that you must go. Just one quickly, what do you most hope for in 2010?
AHMADINEJAD: We hope there is peace in the world and wars and occupations come to an end. Animosities come to an end. The new Christian year is approaching. It is the birth of Jesus Christ. Christ is the prophet of peace, the prophet of friendship, the prophet of brotherhood, the prophet of integrity and honesty, the prophet of defending the oppressed. Of course, I would like to congratulate the new year to the American people and hope that we follow the Christ. If somebody says he/she is a Christian, they should follow him. We believe in Christ. He was a prophet of God, a clean human being. If Christ comes back today, we would follow him and we will put his instructions into action.
I would like to ask a question. Which part of the behavior of the American government corresponds with the culture and teachings of Jesus Christ? They should answer themselves. If Christ was here today, would he not punish the American statesmen for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would he not resist them? He would definitely resist them. He wouldn't allow anybody to occupy and invade. He wouldn't allow the innocent people to be killed. We believe Jesus Christ is the prophet of God and try to follow him.
Once again I would like to congratulate the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ to you and the American people.
SAWYER: Thank you again, Mr President, for your time. And hope to see you in Tehran.
AHMADINEJAD: Good luck.