Ahmadinejad: We're Nuclear But Won't Harm Israel

Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 01:30 PM

By Cyrus Afzali

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran now possesses nuclear technology — something the international community has worked hard to prevent — but despite fears to the contrary, Tehran has no interest in attacking Israel.

International sanctions have been in place against Iran since July 2006, as countries around the world have sought to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has consistently maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, a claim that is treated with suspicion in the west.

"We're already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space," Ahmadinejad told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram on Wednesday, referring to the country's recent claim that it launched a monkey into space.

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Ahmadinejad is in Egypt for an Islamic summit, marking the first time since 1979 an Iranian leader has visited the country. He said his nation has no interest in attacking Israel.

"They want to attack Iran, but we're not preparing any attack against them because the purpose of our program is defense," he said, according to an English-language translation of his interview.

He told the Egyptian paper that while Israel might find it easy to launch missiles or attack the country using fighter jets, Iran's defense capabilities could withstand such an attack.

News of a potential Israeli attack on Iran first circulated in late 2012 when Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, predicted a war between the two countries is likely in early 2013. Speaking on the issue in September 2012, Indyk said he thought Iran had at most six months to negotiate a solution to avoid war.

The Iranian leader said the country's economy is able to withstand the impact of sanctions currently in place, saying that domestic oil production has replaced imports.

One of the most damaging effects of sanctions has been a decline in the value of Iranian oil. Speaking to The New York Times in January, Iran's oil minister conceded that the value of oil exports had declined by up to 40 percent in the past year.

Ahmadinejad said he wants the world to treat Iran as a nuclear country and that it "will not go back to what it was in the past."

"They assume we'll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided," he said.

"For years, we have been thinking about sending a human being into space and we will do that, with [God's] help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass and the world must acknowledge our progress."

Ahmadinejad again used anti-Israel rhetoric when discussing the Palestinian situation.

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"For us, supporting the Palestinian people is a matter of human importance in every sense. The Palestinians must receive their rights, and the Zionists are moving closer and closer toward the edge," he said.

Ahmadinejad also indicated a willingness to reach out to Egypt, which has historically been a rival, and was ready to offer aid.

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