WASHINGTON - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he would support the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if the Palestinian public held a referendum on the matter.
"Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that," Ahmadinejad told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
"We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well," the Iranian leader said, without clarifying whether Tehran might recognize Israel if this is the case.
In an about-face from his previous stance on the matter, Ahmadinejad said that there would be preconditions for any negotiations between his country and the United States. This is his first interview with the American press since US President Barack Obama took office.
"We should just have a clear-cut framework for talks. The agenda should be clear," he said when asked whether there would be preconditions.
In the interview, Ahmadinejad questioned Obama's decision not to attend the conference. "I don't think or believe that Mr. Obama supports racism. However, the gentleman should have been there and should have condemned outright racism and racial discrimination," he said.
He also criticized Obama's support for Israel's recent military operation in the Gaza Strip. "The gentleman's support of the massacre of Gazans in support for the criminals who were responsible for that atrocity was a major mistake on the part of the gentleman," Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian president also addressed the UN racism conference in Geneva last week, which the US and numerous European countries boycotted. Dozens of the delegations that did attend the conference walked out during Ahmadinejad's speech in protest of his anti-Israel rhetoric.
"When I was talking against the Zionist regime in the racism conference, the first provision for successful talks would be to give the other party the freedom to speak. Mr. Obama has the right to have his own opinion, obviously.
"He is ready to express his points of view. But the Geneva conference had been organized to combat
racism, to oppose racism. My point of view is that the Zionist regime is the manifestation of racism.
He also refused to retract any of his previous controversial comments regarding the Holocaust, and once again questioned its historical validity, saying more study was needed to establish the historical facts.
If this is a historically documented event, why do Western states show so much sensitivity toward a historical event? They do not want the lid to be taken off. I am asking them to permit studies," he said.