TEHRAN, Iran – The United States is incapable of inflicting "serious damage" on Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday, as a US Navy carrier group steamed toward Iran in what Washington has termed a warning.
Speaking in an interview with Iranian state television, Ahmadinejad said that "wise" Americans would not let U.S. President George W. Bush attack Iran.
"They (U.S.) are not really in a position to carry out this action (of attacking Iran). I believe there are many wise people in the United States who would not let it happen," he said.
The president said that Washington had not stepped up its campaign against Tehran, despite the furor over Iran's uranium enrichment which saw the U.N. Security Council impose sanctions on the country last month.
"U.S. rhetoric against Iran has not increased," Ahmadinejad said. "In 2003, they openly threatened to attack Iran. Now they have indirectly made such threats."
"They want to put us under pressure because they see the Iranian nation as an obstacle in the way of their goals in the region, but they are unable to do so," he said.
The U.S. aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and accompanying warships have been sent to the Gulf as part of a buildup of forces that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said is aimed to impress on Iran that American power in the Middle East has not been weakened by the war in Iraq.
Iranian opinion-makers have recently criticized Ahmadinejad in the local press, accusing him of stirring opposition to Iran by taking a hard-line on the nuclear dispute and employing inflammatory rhetoric.
Asked if his words were to blame for U.N. sanctions, Ahmadinejad said they were not responsible and added: "On Palestine, I said the root cause of the creation of this regime (Israel) was a historical incident and I asked if (the Nazi holocaust) had happened, why don't they allow research ... This is not a hard line ... It is a logical question."
"Iran is not seeking confrontation with anybody," he told the interviewers in his office.
He appeared to be indifferent to the prospect of a U.S. military strike against Iran, which has been mooted as a response to its nuclear program.
"The United States is unable to inflict serious damage on Iran," the president said.
The United States has led the drive against Iran's uranium enrichment, a process that can produce material for nuclear reactors or bombs, in the Security Council. Washington and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is limited to the production of electricity.
Ahmadinejad has been accused of failing to improve Iran economy and presiding over a sharp rise in the prices of commodities and housing.
In the interview, he blamed the inflation on the economic structure he inherited when he took office in 2005. He also said the rise in prices was partly due to winter's early arrival and what he called fabricated reports in the media.