President Barack Obama called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks at the United Nations yesterday “offensive” and “hateful.”
In his first comments on the Iranian leader’s statement that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have been orchestrated to bolster the U.S. economy and “save the Zionist regime,” Obama told BBC Persian that “for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.”
“It was offensive, it was hateful,” Obama said, according to an excerpt of the interview released by the White House.
U.S. and European diplomats walked out of the UN General Assembly hall yesterday when Ahmadinejad delivered his remarks on the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon near Washington. Envoys representing Australia, Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand also left the speech.
The interview with BBC Persian is part of the president’s attempt to communicate directly with the Iranian people as the U.S. and other nations increase pressure on Ahmadinejad’s government to comply with UN demands that it halt uranium enrichment.
Last year and this year the president released video messages to Iranians hoping to strike “a new beginning” of engagement and coinciding with the festival of Nowruz, when Iranians mark the beginning of spring.
The president did the interview with BBC Persian because it reaches millions of Iranians via television, internet and radio, according to a White House official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
The U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia were united this week in telling Ahmadinejad to comply with UN Security Council demands or remain under trade and financial sanctions. The council wants Iran to cease uranium enrichment and answer the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s questions about whether the effort is designed to achieve a weapons capability.
In his speech to the General Assembly yesterday, Obama said while he is willing to negotiate, “the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.”
Political turmoil in Tehran has eroded Ahmadinejad’s standing in foreign capitals and cast doubt on his ability to negotiate an end to the nuclear dispute, said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at New York-based risk consultant Eurasia Group.
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