TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cast doubt Wednesday over the U.S. version of the Sept. 11 attacks, calling it a pretext used to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although Iran has condemned the 2001 al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington in the past, this was the third time in a week that Ahmadinejad questioned the death toll, who was behind the attacks and how it happened.
"Four or five years ago, a suspicious event occurred in New York. A building collapsed and they said that 3,000 people had been killed but never published their names," Ahmadinejad told Iranians in the holy city of Qom.
Under this pretext, the U.S. "attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and since then a million people have been killed only in Iraq," Ahmadinejad said in the speech broadcast live on state-run television.
On the last anniversary of the attacks, the names of 2,750 victims killed in New York were read aloud at a memorial ceremony.
In Washington, the State Department rejected the comments out of hand, calling them "another example of misinformed misguided rhetoric" from the Iranian leader.
"I am not sure what one says about a statement like that," spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "It leaves one speechless. It is misguided, misinformed rhetoric. I can't tell you whether or not it is something he truly believes or if this is just a warped attempt to try to shape public opinion in Iran or elsewhere."
Last year, Ahmadinejad raised questions over the attacks, saying "what caused it, what were the conditions that led to it, who truly was involved" needed to be examined.
Ahmadinejad has said the attacks were a result of "mismanaging and inhumane managing of the world by the U.S." and should not be turned into another Holocaust "used for slaughtering people."
Although Iran has condemned the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the campaigns toppled the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, two regional threats to Iran.