AP: Washington has not sent Iran sufficient signals on whether the U.S. wants warmer relations and President Barack Obama's support for Israel during its offensive in Gaza was "a major mistake," Iran's president said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
The Associated Press
By NASSER KARIMI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Washington has not sent Iran sufficient signals on whether the U.S. wants warmer relations and President Barack Obama's support for Israel during its offensive in Gaza was "a major mistake," Iran's president said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments highlight the mixed messages Iran has been sending to the Obama administration, which says it is reaching out to Iran to start a dialogue after decades of political deadlock.
Though Ahmadinejad has expressed a willingness for a new start with the U.S., the deeply polarizing figure also called Israel a racist country at a U.N. conference last week and blamed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on a Zionist conspiracy.
"We have welcomed such comments (from Obama). But an administration which, up until yesterday, was saying that I'm going to kill you, and today says that I'm not going to kill you, is that sufficient?" he told ABC's "This Week" in a rare face-to-face interview with an American news network. The interview, which took place Wednesday in Tehran, was broadcast Sunday.
Ahmadinejad also questioned the Holocaust again, 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.
Since taking office in January, Obama has made overtures to Iran's leaders, saying he ready for a dialogue. Last month, he released a video message to the people of Iran in celebration of Nowruz, the Persian new year and first day of spring.
Iran has been mostly lukewarm to Obama's overtures, saying it would only talk if there was mutual respect. But recently, Ahmadinejad said Iran also wanted engagement, saying his country was ready to forget the past and start a new relationship.
At the same time, however, Iran convicted an American-Iranian journalist of spying and sentenced her to eight years in prison. Washington calls the accusations against Roxana Saberi, who turned 32 on Sunday, baseless, and the case has been a source of tension between the two countries.
One of Saberi's lawyers who works with 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said he was not able to meet with Saberi in prison on Sunday due to administrative delays. Abdolofatah Soltani said he hoped to see Saberi, who is on a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment, on Monday.
Ahmadinejad caused an uproar last week when he called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime" during at the United Nations' racism conference in Geneva. The U.S. had boycotted the conference, and EU representatives walked out during his speech.
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 three-week offensive 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 offensive aimed at halting rocket fire from the militant Palestinian group Hamas started in late December before Obama took office. At the time, Obama mostly deferred to then-President George W. Bush when asked for his position.
The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by hard-line students. The most contentious issue between the two countries is Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The U.S., major European countries and China have invited Iran to another round of nuclear talks. The Iranian president has said Iran is preparing a new package of proposals aimed at resolving the dispute — but Tehran insists that it won't halt its uranium enrichment activities.
Ahmadinejad told "This Week" that he had "no reservations" about talking but stressed that any talks should have a "clear-cut framework." "The agenda should be clear," he said.