Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that Iran would not launch an attack on Israel or any other country, and he does not believe the United States is preparing for war against Iran.
"Iran will not attack any country," Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press. Iran has always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one, and has "never sought to expand its territory," he said.
Asked whether he believed the US is preparing for war, he responded: "That is not how I see it ... I believe that some of the talk in this regard arises first of all from anger. Secondly, it serves the electoral purposes domestically in this country. Third, it serves as a cover for policy failures over Iraq."
Seated in a hotel room near the United Nations, Ahmadinejad projected a soothing face during the 30-minute interview with the AP. He said that Iran's foreign policy is based on humanitarian concerns and on seeking justice.
'We made people aware of his actions'
He reiterated his call for a debate at the United Nations on world issues with President George W. Bush. Referring to fears of a military campaign against Iran, he said: "We don't think you can compensate for one mistake by committing more mistakes."
The Iranian president, in what is believed to be his first comments on a reported attack Sept.6 by Israeli bombers inside Syria, said the attack stemmed from Israeli expansionism and "it had nothing to with Iran".
Ahmadinejad is scheduled to deliver a speech at New York's Columbia University Monday evening. Some 600 students are expected to attend, while others will be able to view the lecture on giant screens on campus.
Ari Gardner, 22, a member of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, said he decided to participate in the event to hear how members of the university's faculty confront Ahmadinejad regarding the controversial statements he had made in the past.
He said he would wear a shirt reading, "Evil will thrive as long as good people do nothing" and "Stop the evil Ahmadinejad.
American Jewish organizations harshly criticized Columbia's decision to invite Ahmadinejad, and two demonstrations were held against the Iranian leader.
"We're handing out pamphlets explaining who this man is and what his extremist views are," said David Fishman, a Columbia student who helped organize one of the rallies.
"Even if we didn’t succeed in preventing Ahmadinejad from speaking, at least we made people aware of his actions," he said.