Ahmadinejad Defiant in Face of U.N. Sanctions, Israeli Military

The Iranian president says country will "definitely continue" nuclear program.

May 4, 2010, 7:20 PM

May 5, 2010 — -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flatly stated his country will "definitely continue" its nuclear program despite the potential threat of Israeli military action -- which Ahmadinejad brushed off completely -- and the gathering of support for new, U.S.-proposed sanctions.

"[It's] no problem," Ahmadinejad told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos of President Obama's recent push for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. "Any measure he takes will be proportionately confronted by a position that Iran will take ... 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.

"We will not accept something that's forced upon us... 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," he said.

Ahmadinejad said the new round of sanctions -- which both Chinese leaders agreed to in concept and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he would support if implemented effectively -- were illegal based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and implied that the U.S. represented the greater threat to global security.

"Which one is more dangerous? Yesterday the United States announced that 'We have more than 5,000 atomic bombs.' Is 5,000 more dangerous or a country that might get the atomic bomb? Which is more dangerous for the world's security?" he said. "This opinion that some American authorities have are the root cause of the world's problems -- that someone who possesses nuclear bombs [to] tell others not to use it for peaceful means."

Click here to read a full transcript of George Stephanopoulos' interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disclosed the number of U.S. nuclear weapons -- 5,113 -- for the first time Monday at the U.N. before rebuking Ahmadinejad for his claims that morning that the U.S. used its nuclear weapons to threaten other countries.

"This morning, Iran's president offered the same tired, false and sometimes wild accusations against the United States and other parties at this conference," Clinton said Monday. "That's not surprising. Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability."

The following day Ahmadinejad called Clinton an "enemy of Iran" on PBS's "Charlie Rose Show," but later told ABC News he was not referring to her.

"It's the measures that we're referring to that are hostile, not people," he said in the interview with George Stephanopoulos. "It's not individuals that we're involved with. If there is an action taken against Iran, then it is considered a hostile action."

However, he said, "it is obvious that Mrs. Clinton constantly is engaged in taking hostile actions against Iran."

It's a stance Ahmadinejad said Obama does not appear to share, despite his comments last month in support of the new sanctions.

"Mrs. Clinton is interested in speedily moving relations with Iran to the point of a clash," he said. "Based on the information we possess, Mr. Obama does not have such an opinion. But there's a lot of pressure going around."

Ahmadinejad: Israel 'Not a Factor' in Iran's Defense

Ahmadinejad shrugged off the possibility of Israel posing a military threat to Iran.

In April reports emerged about whether Israel would take military action -- with or without alerting the U.S. -- against Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities if the country did not comply with U.N. demands. As far back as July 2008, Obama told House Democrats Israel would likely strike Iran if sanctions do not work.

When asked if pushing Iran's nuclear program was akin to playing with fire and tempting an Israeli military strike, the normally verbose Ahmadinejad offered a simple yet definitive, "No."

He later continued, "They're not a factor in our defense doctrine. We don't even count them... They can't even manage Gaza. They want to get into a conflict with Iran?"

"Iran will definitely continue its path. You should not even doubt that we will continue our path," he said.

The Iranian president spoke at the U.N. headquarters in New York just two days after a man allegedly tried to blow up a car bomb in New York's busy Times Square. The plot, if successful, could have killed or wounded hundreds of people.

In light of the attempted attack, Ahmadinejad said his government categorically opposes terrorism, but said the incident was evidence that America's tactics in the war on terror have failed.

"It's the 10th year since the United States has entered Afghanistan. Has terrorism been limited or expanded? After 10 years of being in Afghanistan, the United States declares that Taliban terrorists have planted a bomb in a square in New York," he said. "Is it not a clear indication of the United States failure fighting against terrorism? It's quite obvious that the procedure is wrong.

"We oppose terrorism, but fighting terrorism has a legal method and a scientific method," he said.

Ahmadinejad: Detained American Hikers Subject to Iranian Judicial System

Before Ahmadinejad arrived in the U.S. this week, the parents of three American hikers detained in Iran since last July wrote an open letter to the Iranian president, begging him to bring their children to the U.S. with him.

Ahmadinejad told ABC News he did not pluck them out of jail because they "are being handled by our judicial system.

"Can anyone enter the borders illegally? No, they can't," he said. "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 law."

The Iranian leader said it was up to a judge to decide whether the hikers' claim that they simply got lost was the truth as they would have to plead their case to him, currently without the aid of a lawyer.

"They have to provide proof and evidence to the judge in Iran that shows that they lost their way or made a mistake," Ahmadinejad said. "When the time comes, they will have a lawyer."

Ahmadinejad said he would recommend that judge "render maximum cooperation" in regards to the case, but said he had no influence over the judge.

After their parent's wish wasn't granted, the Americans reportedly began considering a hunger strike.

"I hope they don't do it," Nora Shourd, mother of detained American Sarah Shourd told National Public Radio on Monday. "I can kind of understand where they're coming from right now I think... This is a day-to-day thing for them. They wake up and they're still there."

Click here to read about Ahmadinejad's surprising comments on Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts.

ABC News' Kate McCarthy, Jennifer Pereira, Kirit Radia, Emily Friedman and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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