Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Discusses Iran's Nuclear Program, U.N. Sanctions, Hillary Clinton, Detained Hikers and Osama Bin Laden
May 5, 2010
"Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a day after Ahmadinejad spoke before the U.N.'s conference on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Monday, claiming his country's nuclear program was not a threat to global security, but the United States' is.
The following is a transcript of the interview, which took place on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thank you for meeting with us. Yesterday, you called Secretary of State Clinton an enemy of Iran. Do you consider President Obama an enemy of Iran, as well?
AHMADINEJAD: In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. I would like to say hello to your audience. I hope that your audience along with nations have a life filled with health, and joy. It wasn't quite clear to me that you said I had said something. What exactly was it that you said?
STEPHANOPOULOS: On Charlie Rose yesterday, you called Secretary of State Clinton an enemy of Iran. And I was wondering if you believed that President Obama is an enemy of Iran, as well.
AHMADINEJAD: No. It's the measure really that we're referring to. That are hostile. Not people. It's not individuals that we're enemies with. If there is an action taken against Iran than it is a hostile action.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what action has he--
AHMADINEJAD: It's clear that Ms. Clinton is constantly taking measures against Iran.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What actions are you referring to specifically?
AHMADINEJAD: Both the positions and the actions that Mrs. Clinton is taking violates the rights Iran over the nuclear issue. It's quite clear and it doesn't need explanation. Do you think that Mrs. Clinton is a friend of Iran?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Ms. Clinton and the President both said that they would like a respectful relationship with Iran. What they say is that there is evidence that Iran continues to enrich uranium, continues to develop nuclear weapons. And it's not only them. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday that it is up to Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns of its nuclear program.
AHMADINEJAD: Do you mean that both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama want to befriend Iran, but that Mr. Ban Ki-moon's statement is preventing them? Is this what you mean?
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I-- I asked--
AHMADINEJAD: Ms. Clinton wants to have good relations with Iran, but, Mr. Bon Kimoon's statements is preventing her from that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it is the actions of Iran, according to the United States, the enriching of uranium, the development of a nuclear program that is not in accord with U.N. regulations, with International Atomic Energy Agency-- which is something the United States feels it has to counter.
AHMADINEJAD: Because we have enrichment, Ms. Clinton cannot be a friend of ours? Is this what you mean? I want to understand you clearly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I'm just asking the question, Mr. President. It was you yesterday who called Secretary Clinton an enemy of Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: So, I would like to know what your question precisely is. Are you saying that Ms. Clinton wants to be a friend of Iran, but because Iran has an enrichment process going on, she's unable to do so? Is this what you mean?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I will go back to the initial question, which is based on your statement. Secretary Clinton, you said yesterday that Secretary Clinton is an enemy of Iran. I asked you a very direct question. Do you consider President Obama an enemy of Iran, as well?
AHMADINEJAD: I consider that there is a difference between Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton. But I'd like to ask, is Ms. Clinton a friend of Iran, in your opinion? As an American? You know your officials. You know your-- your people in government. I'm an Iranian. We're two individuals, ordinary people, having a conversation here. In your mind, do you think she's a friend of Iran?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that Secretary of State Clinton is a friend of the Iranian people. I believe she is opposed to some actions of the Iranian Government, specifically the development of nuclear enrichment, which could lead to a weapons program in the future.
AHMADINEJAD: Very well. We're also friends of the American People. But although the United States has stored several thousand nuclear bombs, threatens others, interferes in others affairs, pressures the agency [I.A.E.A.], is arrogant, we are against these things. Are we considered the enemy of the United States or the wrong attitude of some American authorities? We are against wrong attitudes. Is Ms. Clinton is a friend of the Iranian People? I represent the Iranian People.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How are President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton different?
AHMADINEJAD: In my opinion they are different.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
AHMADINEJAD: Mrs Clinton is interested in speedily moving relations with Iran to the point of a clash. Based on the information we possess , Mr. Obama does not have such an opinion. But there's a lot of pressure going around.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I spoke with President Obama in Prague three weeks ago now. He said he would push very hard for another round of U.N. sanctions, a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran unless and until Iran comes into compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
AHMADINEJAD: That's fine. Any measure he takes will be proportionately confronted by a position that Iran will take.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
AHMADINEJAD: We don't have a special friendship with Mr. Obama. We will act the same way as we have been doing so far against hostilities. Don't worry about us, we know how to defend ourselves. Because we know how to protect ourselves if these kind of statements are made.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not concerned about sanctions, even though it's not just the United States? It's France. It's Great Britain. I spoke with President Medvedev in St. Petersburg. He said now it's time for sanctions against the Iranians as well. Iran is becoming increasingly isolated.
AHMADINEJAD: We will not accept something that's forced upon us. We will not accept an illegal statement. The issue that three or four countries possess a nuclear bomb and want to prevent the others from its peaceful nuclear energy goals. It is in violation of laws and NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and against justice and we will not accept it. Therefore let's put it aside, this is not something that by threatening Iran or putting pressure on Iran, will force Iran to change its positions. This is not something that will work, its time has passed. For them it is better to cooperate with Iran according to the laws. According to the laws, according to justice and on the basis of friendship.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. President, you talk about international law. You talk about principles of justice and friendship. Do you understand how so many in the world cannot community cannot take your statements at face value about nuclear weapons? You say you don't want nuclear weapons when you refuse to comply with the guidelines set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
AHMADINEJAD: 118 member states of the non-aligned movement have declared their support for Iran's positions. Don't they count? 57 Islamic countries have supported the Iranian position, look , Mr. Stephanopoulos, this outlook is wrong. This opinion that some American authorities have are the root cause of the world's problems. That someone who possesses nuclear bombs tell others not to use it for peaceful means.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the United States says other nations can have peaceful nuclear energy, as long as they can comply with the U.N. guidelines.
AHMADINEJAD: Responding to your to your question, no, no they didn't do that. According to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the disarmament should have happened. What disarmament happened? According to Article IV of the N.P.T. all member states are committed, in other words and obligated to provide both the technology and the material required for nuclear fuel development without preconditions to other member states. According to Article IV of the N.P.T., there can be no excuse, reason that can be brought to prevent member states to enjoy enrichement, this is NPT, go read NPT.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Member states must open up the facilities to insprection--
AHMADINEJAD: -- Allow me. Allow me. This is the text of the N.P.T. Now, there some people who tried to put political pressure and force us to change our position. But this doesn't mean much to us (UNINTEL) I gave an official response to these positions yesterday, and if you read my speech yesterday at the U.N. You'll find the answers there too (UNINTEL).
STEPHANOPOULOS: I did read the speech. And I saw that you said you'd sign the agreement. But the I.A.E.A. doesn't agree. The U.N. Secretary General doesn't agree. Clearly the United States Government doesn't agree.
AHMADINEJAD: What are they disagreeing with? What are they disagreeing with?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've not reached an agreement. They say you've not agreed to turn over--
AHMADINEJAD: What does it have to do with them? What business is it whether we have enrichment or not? Article IV states that they don't have the right. Listen, Article IV of the NPT, the guarantee we have given. Neither the Secretary General nor any other member of the I.A.E.A, no goverment can stop a member country from enrichment. This is quite clear. It's them who are violating the laws. Not us. They are violating the NPT and they shouldn't do that.
I told the U.N. Secretary General yesterday, as well, that he has no right to violate the NPT either, you have to defend the NPT. I'd like to ask you a question: If the United Nations was based in Iran, do you think that the U.N. Secretary General say the same thing?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I-- that is a hypothetical so wild... I wouldn't dare to answer--
AHMADINEJAD: Allow me. Allow me. If we veto right at the U.N. Security Council. If we were a permanent member of the Security Council would the secretary general say the same thing or different things? We recognize the root cause of insecurities, wars, conflicts in the existience of these unjust regulations.
We have clear proposals for reforms. Right now, most countries around the world agree with what we say. They consider that the set up of the U.N. Security Council as unjust. Someone who is a permanent member and has a veto right it's quite clear that he imposes his opinion to the agency.
Someone who is a permanent member of the board of governors of the I.A.E.A., it is quite clear that he imposes his opinion. Why is it after 60 years disarment has not happened? I'm asking you. The exitisng atomic bomb or the having the bomb, which one is more dangerous? Yesterday the United States announced that "we have more than 5,000 atomic bombs." Is 5,0000 more dangerous or a country that might get the atomic bomb? Which one is more dangerous for the world's security?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's clear from listening to you that you're not concerned about another round of sanctions. But it's also been pretty clear to most observers that if Iran continues on this path that the state of Israel will take matters into its own hands. And take out Iran's nuclear programs through military means.
AHMADINEJAD: Iran will definitely continue its path. You should not even doubt that we will continue our path. We'll definitely continue our path.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But aren't you playing with fire? The potential of an Israeli military strike?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?
AHMADINEJAD: Those who have stockpiled their bombs and impose their will on others and act unlawfully are the ones who are playing with fire. Have we stockpiled bombs? Do we have atomic bombs? Who has used the nuclear bomb? Who has Is it us stockpiling nuclear bombs? Do we possess a nuclear bomb? Who has the nuclear bomb? Who threatened other with nuclear bomb? We or the Government of the United States?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, a military strike--
AHMADINEJAD: Allow me, who's dangerous? Who wants to attack us?
AHMADINEJAD: I'm asking you Who's going attacking Iran?
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I'm talking about the potential threat against Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: I'd like to ask you when you say this, which group are you referring to is going to attack Iran? The United States? Is it the United States gonna attack Iran? Is the United States going to attack Iran?
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I asked are you worried a potential--
AHMADINEJAD: Have you ever heard of that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: --Israeli military strike against Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: They're not a factor, in our defense doctrine, we don't even count them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't plan for that at all?
AHMADINEJAD: They're finished, the Zionist regime is finished. They can't even manage Gaza. They want to get into a conflict with Iran? Everybody knows about this and I'm surprised that you as a professional journalist don't know. All world politicians know about it.
The Zionist regime can't manage Gaza, do they want to get into a conflict with Iran?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're not worried about the United Nations. You're not worried about Israel. Are you worried, though, and there's evidence to the case, are you worried about [opposition] from your own people? Well, I'm asking, are you worried about opposition from your own people? Because to many outside observers, the actions of the Iranian Government, where they've imprisoned protesters, executed protesters, send the message that you're concerned about your own people and the threat from within.
AHMADINEJAD: Do you think we have to be concerned about which countries attack? Should we be worried about the attack of others? Is this the kind of security that the United States has established around the world? Is this the civilization they wish to gift the world with? Is this the American freedom and democracy?
We are independent, living in our own country, minding our own business. Do we have to be concerned about others attack? Attack from the Zionist regime? Attack by the U.S. Government? Is that a good thing? I mean, I apologize you don't know realize what kind of image you are portraying of the United States to the world. Neither the authorities of the United States are aware, people like Ms. Clinton understand. Nor you who are right now talking with me are aware of the picture that you portray for your country.
For a country that is 7,000 years old, like Iran, which has always been the supporter of friendship and peace, has been at the center of that civilization, has not invaded any country, has always been the supporter of justice. You are saying that it has to live under threat
This is not a good image good image of America that you're portraying to the world. This is why most nation's oppose the government of the United States. It's not just Iran that opposes the government of the United States. With the conduct of the Untied States government, all nations are opposed. If there will be And the kind of behavior they take. All nations if you look around do. If there will be free elections in Europe, I promise you, people will always object to the policies the United States. They say that Iran has to live under threat. For what they have to attack Iran? For what reason?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a man who you say you're committed to peace. As a Muslim you said that you are against all kinds of terrorism. Right here in the United States, right across town an arrest was just made of an individual tried to blow up Times Square. The Pakistani Taliban has followed this up saying that the they will attack American cities. As a Muslim do you denounce these acts?
AHMADINEJAD: We oppose terrorism. We strongly oppose. 16,000 Iranian people have been killed by terrorists. We have given the largest number of victims to acts of terrorism. In Iran Our President was killed Prime Minister was killed The head of our judiciary was killed, 26 parliamentary members Thousands of ordinary people were killed by terrorists. We oppose terrorism but fighting terrorism has a legal method and a scientific method. I'm asking you.
It's the 10th year since the United States has entered Afghanistan. Has terrorism been limited or expanded? After ten years of being in Afghanistan, the United States declares that Taliban terrorists has planted a bomb in a square in New York.
Is this not a clear indication of the United States failure fighting against terrorism? It's quite obvious that the procedure is wrong. Since the United States has entered Afghanistan, 100,000 people have been killed and terrorism has expanded. Now, if someone like Iran came up and says to the U.S. Government that your procedure is wrong. That what you are doing is wrong, your procedure did not cause terrorism to be controlled. Just recently we arrested an individual called Rigi who killed 400 Iranians.
Where was he hiding? In Pakistan? And in Afghanistan? Who was supporting him? The American military [in those countries]. That's is too bad. Why should it be like that? Why should this be the case? We oppose terrorism, anybody who threatens anybody anywhere in the world, threatens the lives of the people, we oppose him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Three American hikers have been imprisoned in Iran since last July 31. No representation. No charges brought against them. Their parents made a direct plea to you to bring them here to the United States on your visit. Did you consider it at all?
AHMADINEJAD: Every country has very strict rules to control its borders. If anyone illegally entered U.S. borders, do you think the U.S. Government will let them go freely? Not bother them? Can anyone enter the borders illegally?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They would be allowed to have representation. They would be charged.
AHMADINEJAD: Allow me. Can anybody enter the borders? No, they can't. These three individuals entered our borders illegally. They have confessed to that. They crossed our border. Now, they're being handled by our judicial system and the judicial system will review their crimes according to the law. We have laws. There's a due process of law that is being observed. The judicial system in Iran is independent of political influence. It's under the influence of judicial laws.
Now, I'd like to ask you. There's seven Iranians right now in prisons in the United States. These seven Iranians did not cross American borders illegally. They had official visas another country, a third country. Either for pilgrimage or for business or trade or for fun. Now, the U.S. Intelligence Service illegally arrested them in a third country and brought them to the United States. There is no clear crime stated. They don't have a lawyer. Their families haven't been able to visit them. Do you think this is fine? Do you think this is any respect for human rights? But there's three Americans who've crossed our border. First of all, why did they do that? What was their reason? They have to give a clear response to the judge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They [American hikers] say they got lost.
AHMADINEJAD: They have to tell the judge exactly why they crossed the border. How do you know they got lost? Were you there? You were not there to see that they were lost.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I told you that's what they said.
AHMADINEJAD: Your government is giving you news --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a very simple question. Will you allow them access to the outside world?
AHMADINEJAD: -- and you accept it. You and I can't judge. It's the judge in Iran that will decide. They have to provide proof and evidence to the judge in Iran that shows that they lost their way or made a mistake
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there's no lawyer.
AHMADINEJAD: No, allow me, when the time comes they will have a lawyer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They've been in prison since July 31.
AHMADINEJAD: I'm not happy when some people are behind bars whether it be in Iran or the United States. I'm unhappy. But I'd like to ask you, do you think the U.S. Government really is concerned about Americans abroad--
AHMADINEJAD: --or in Iran? Are they really concerned for these three people? Do you know how many American soldiers have been killed in Iraq? If someone is concerned about his own people, he wouldn't enter them into wars. Why did the U.S. Government involve American troops in the war? Do you know how many American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? They are Americans too. Why were they killed? For what reason? What was the goal?
Which goal has come to be true? They should declare that "our goal has been this and that and so far we have made so much advance. We were supposed to reach this point and we have advanced this much." What purpose did it serve? Which goal was even material (UNINTEL)? If the U.S. Government can say, is Afghanistan any more secure or less secure? The insecurity has now spread--
STEPHANOPOULOS: That issue is being debate in the United States.
AHMADINEJAD: -- even on security has infiltrated into Pakistan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have a very simple question. Will you allow these hikers to see their families or not?
AHMADINEJAD: It's in the hands of the judge but I will make recommendations to the judge but it's up to him to decide.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is that recommendation?
AHMADINEJAD: My recommendation would be that he should cooperate, help them. But the judge is not under my influence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To see the families? To allow the families--
AHMADINEJAD: --rule the judge--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can-- but you-- you can recommend that. Will you recommend that the family be allowed to see their--
AHMADINEJAD: Generally I will recommend that he render maximum cooperation but the judge is not under my influence. And I'd also like to ask the government of the United States who have been illegally arrested in other countries should have access to lawyers and their families be able to visit them.
This is a humane request.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question. There's a new documentary out that says that Osama Bin Laden is living in Tehran. And the subject of the documentary, a man named Alan Parrot, one of the world's foremost falconers living in Iran, says he's spoken to Osama bin Laden several times since 2003. Is Osama bin Laden in Tehran?
AHMADINEJAD: Your question is laughable.
AHMADINEJAD: The U.S. government has invaded Afghanistan in order to arrest Bin Laden. They probably know where Bin Laden is. If they don't know he is, why did they invade? Could we know the intelligence?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think if they knew, they would find him. They would get him.
AHMADINEJAD: First they should have tried to find his location, then invade, those who did not know about his location first they invaded and then they tried to find out where he is, is that logical? Do you think this is logical?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What I think is that you didn't answer my question. Is he in Tehran or not?
AHMADINEJAD: Our position is quite clear. Some journalists have said Bin Laden is in Iran. These words don't have legal value. Our position towards Afghanistan and against terrorism is quite clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it true or not?
AHMADINEJAD: Maybe you know, but I don't know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking you. You're the President of Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: I don't know such a thing, you are giving news which is very strange.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me ask it a different way. If you did know that Osama bin Laden was in Tehran, would you show him hospitality? Would you expel him? Would you arrest him?
AHMADINEJAD: I heard that Osama bin Laden is in the Washington, D.C.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, you didn't.
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, I did. He's there. Because he was a previous partner of Mr. Bush. They were colleagues in fact in the old days. You know that. They were in the oil business together. They worked together. Mr. Bin Laden never cooperated with Iran but he cooperated with Mr. Bush--
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll ask one more time and then I'll let you go. If you knew that Osama bin Laden was in Tehran, which you say you don't. If you knew, would you expel him? Would you arrest him? Would you show him hospitality?
AHMADINEJAD: Our borders, our borders are closed to the illegal entry of anyone. Anyone who that may be. Whether it's the three American mountaineers, Mr. Bin Laden or anyone else. The borders are closed. Our position is clear.
I'm quite surprised, to see that you adjust your daily lives based on the news that is being broadcast. I'm concerned that the government of the United States takes positions based on such news. If it is so, it is too bad. The news must be accurate and accountable, otherwise it will disrupt the relations between the nations. Just like this, did the government of the United States knew about the location of Mr. Bin Laden? And you said, "No, they went to find out." Well, first you locate--
STEPHANOPOULOS: They lost the trail.
AHMADINEJAD: --to find out they have invaded Afghanistan. First they have to find out his location and then invade. It's like for a judge to arrest someone and then go after the evidence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you deny categorically that he's in Tehran today? He is not-- Osama bin Laden is not in Tehran today?
AHMADINEJAD: Rest assured that he's in Washington. I think there's a high chance he's there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't agree.
Thank you for your time, Mr. President.