WASHINGTON – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes the "Zionist lobby" in Washington is preventing US President Barack Obama from improving America's relationship with Tehran.
In an interview with NBC Television, held in Tehran on Wednesday night, Ahmadinejad – when asked about the apparent escalation of tensions between Muslims and Americans in recent weeks – said there was "no conflict between the two cultures."
Ahmadinejad's interview cames week before he is scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York where Iran’s nuclear program is likely to come under further scrutiny.
When asked about growing Western concerns over Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said that his country was justified in barring further visits by IAEA inspectors and challenged other nations to fully disclose their nuclear activities.
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He also dismissed the threat of new sanctions against Tehran, saying: “Our nation does not need the United States whatsoever. Even if the US administration increases the sanctions and — 100 times more, and even the Europeans join the United States to impose heavier sanctions, we in Iran are in a position to meet our own requirements.”
'Constantly threaten Iran'He further denied that Iran was being uncooperative and said the International Atomic Energy Agency should instead focus its attention on Israel, which he named only as an illegal “Zionist regime.”
“They possess nuclear weapons, and they constantly threaten their neighbors,” Ahmadinejad said. “And in the past year, they threatened Iran more than 10 times.”
Israel, which is assumed to be the only Middle East country to have nuclear weapons, has grown increasingly nervous over the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and has hinted that the notion of a preemptive military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities may be in order.
Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran’s stance that it supports only a peaceful nuclear program, saying that “We have repeatedly — expressed our position, and also our position that Iran is against — the development of a nuclear bomb."
As for the Middle East peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Ahmadinejad dismissed the process: “Let them talk, but we think that this is not the solution to the Palestinian issue.”
He said the Palestinian officials negotiating with Israel did not represent the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, various Jewish and pro-Israeli groups are gearing for Ahmadinejad's arrival in the US. The United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) group, which last year pressured New York hotels not to host any events the Iranian president might participate in, is currently pressuring the Hilton Hotels Group, which has a venue near the UN building, to decline his reservation.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has also appealed to various UN member nations to instruct their delegates to walk out of the assembly hall during Ahmadinejad address.
News agencies contributed to this report
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