Sunday, April 26, 2009 — -- STEPHANOPOULOS: During the last administration, no other world leader next to you was as critical of the American administration as Mr. Chavez. Yet, look at this picture right here.
Is this a picture that you would like to see, you and President Obama? And what do you think the Iranian people would think of you and President Obama meeting, shaking hands, engaging in conversation?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, we are calling for peace and security for all. We would like international relations to be based on justice and friendship. Wherever a hostile relationship turns into friendship, that would make us happy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama says that's exactly what he wants right now. He says he wants a new beginning in a relationship with Iran. He sent a message to the Iranian people on the occasion of the Nowruz holiday where he called Iran a great civilization.
He talked about the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he signaled that he wasn't interested in regime change, and he talked about his vision for the United States/Iranian relationship.
OBAMA: It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace".
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you share that vision?
AHMADINEJAD: You need to appreciate that the American administration, 29 years ago, unilaterally cut its relations with Iran. In the past 29 years, different U.S. administrations have opposed the Iranian people. Now they say that we have given up that enmity. That's fine.
We have welcomed such comments. But an administration which, up until yesterday, was saying that I'm going to kill you, and today says that I'm not going to kill you, is that sufficient?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So there is change, though. What will Iran do in response? The United States has said that the United States is ready to talk with Iran and the other great powers -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Are you prepared to sit down at those talks without preconditions?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, previously, first of all, I sent a congratulatory message to Mr. Obama. This was a major decision, although the Iranian people were very much dismayed with the conduct of previous U.S. administrations. And I was criticized here at home, in Iran.
Nevertheless, I did that. I am yet to receive a response.
With the European group and the American group, we will talk. We have announced as much that we are going to negotiate. But...
STEPHANOPOULOS: When will you join those talks?
AHMADINEJAD: ... again, based on justice and mutual respect.
Well, after everything is said and done -- well, planning needs to be made and timetables need to be set.
We believe in talking, in negotiating, based on sincerity and respect and justice. But the U.S. administration severed its relations with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that was the past administration. And now President Obama said he is prepared to sit down along with the other European powers without any preconditions. And it sounds to me as if you're suggesting now Iran is the one with the preconditions echoing in fact the policy of the last U.S. administration.