IranIn an Exclusive Interview with Katie Couric, Ahmadinejad Speaks Out on Iran's Nuclear Ambitions
By Katie Couric, CBS
September 23, 2009
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat down for an exclusive interview with CBS News Anchor Katie Couric hours before his planned address to the United Nations Wednesday. Ahmadinejad spoke on a wide range of issues, including his crackdown on election protesters and the future of Iran's nuclear program.
Katie Couric: In early October, high ranking member from the Obama administration, along with the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will meet with members of your government. I understand you're now saying your nuclear program is on the table. What changed your mind?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: We have not actually changed our mind. Our nuclear program will be pursued in accordance to international law.
Couric: The International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. President, has complained that they have not been given full access to all your facilities. A recent report leaked from the IAEA says you have quote "sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device." Yet you continue to refute this. Why?
Ahmadinejad: Based on the last official report by the agency, issued in September, it was said that Iran had not deviated from its peaceful nuclear path. There are countries that have 10,000 nuclear warheads. Don't you believe that those are the ones that need to be inspected, instead of the countries that don't have them?
This is the Iranian President's first trip to New York since his controversial victory in last June's elections. Critics claim the election wasn't only fraudulent but voters supporting the opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, were threatened and intimidated.
Couric: During and after the presidential election, Mr. President, thousands of opposition supporters and journalists were arrested, badly beaten and tortured. Arrested, badly beaten and tortured. One woman - 27 year old Neda as you know, was shot to death while protesting. Her death was captured on a cell phone camera. Here is a shot of that cell phone picture which I'm sure you've seen.
Couric: What would you say to her family?
Ahmadinejad: We are - very sorry that one of our fellow citizens has been killed. As a victim of an - agitation of circumstance. An agitation that was carried out with the support of some American politicians, the voice of America, and the BBC.
Couric: Do you really think so little of your citizens that they can be manipulated and brainwashed by Americans and the UK?
Ahmadinejad: No. That is not what I'm saying. But I do say that some agitations from outside were there. I mean, there are plenty of documents pointing to that. Regrettably, one of our citizens lost her life--
The president then produced a photograph of an Egyptian woman - Marwa el-Sherbini - who was brutally murdered inside a German courtroom while taking part in a trial over the right to wear a hijab - or headscarf. He suggested that the western media - who turned Neda into a martyr - ignored Marwa's story.
Ahmadinejad: American politicians do not want American people to see what goes on around the world.
Couric: Mr. President, three months after the protests, hundreds remain jailed and continue to be tortured for their dissenting political views. Doesn't this overt abuse of human rights discredit you within the international community?
Ahmadinejad: There were certain officials that violated the law, and the judiciary is looking into it. And they will be punished. Anyone who violates the law should be punished. It doesn't matter who it is.
Since Ahmadinejad took office four years ago, he has built a reputation as a provocateur - slinging most of his fiery rhetoric at Iran's biggest foe: Israel.
Couric: You have consistently denied the Holocaust happened. You have called it a lie. And I'm just curious, I have some photos - dead bodies from a German concentration camp taken by the associated press. Mr. President is this photo fabricated, is this photo a lie?
Ahmadinejad: There are many historical events, similar historical events. Why is this one in particular so important to you?
Couric: Because you're denying it happened.
Ahmadinejad: But in World War II, 60 million people were killed. Why are we just focusing on this special group alone?
We're sorry for all the 60 million people that lost their lives, equally. All of them were human beings. And it doesn't matter whether they were Christians or Jews or Buddhists or Muslims. They were killed. So, we're sorry for everyone.