Published September 25, 2012
Israel has "no roots" in the Middle East and will be "eliminated." International efforts to stop a bloody civil war in Syria amount to "meddling." And he may even break bread with Occupy Wall Street.
With 120 world leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the one getting all the attention. The Islamic firebrand, who is scheduled to speak to the assembly on Wednesday, has made headlines with virtually every interview he's given since his arrival in New York. A Sunday night plea from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to tone down inflammatory rhetoric seemingly had no effect.
Much of Ahmadinejad's bluster was aimed squarely at Israel, which accuses the Islamic Republic of manufacturing illegal nuclear weapons. IN an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan set to air tonight, Ahmadinejad, whose regime has barred international weapons inspectors from key sites in Iran, said the Israelis are making it up.
"Of course the Zionists are very much, very adventuresome, very much seeking to fabricate things and I think they see themselves at the end of the line," Ahmadinejad said. "I do firmly believe that they seek to create new opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors."
He also weighed in on the violent protests that have broken out in the Middle East in reaction to an Internet film trailer that negatively portrays Islam's Prophet Mohammad.
"Of course, what took place was ugly," Ahmadinejad said. "Offending the Holy Prophet is quite ugly. This has very little or nothing to do with freedom and freedom of speech. This is the weakness of and the abuse of freedom, and in many places it is a crime. It shouldn’t take place, and I do hope the day will come in which politicians will not seek to offend those whom others hold holy. We also believe that this must also be resolved in a humane atmosphere, in a participatory environment, and we do not like anyone losing their lives or being killed for any reason, anywhere in the world."
Ahmadinejad's mix of sabre-rattling, provocation and was dismissed by White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, who reaffirmed to Reuters the U.S. commitment to Israel's security.
"President Ahmadinejad's comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous," Vietor said. "They underscore again why America's commitment to the security of Israel must be unshakeable, and why the world must hold Iran accountable for its utter failure to meet its obligations."
Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Iran has been around for thousands of years, Reuters reports, but Israel has existed for only 60 or 70.
"They (Israel) have no roots there in history," Ahmadinejad added. "They do not even enter the equation for Iran."
Israel is believed to be considering a pre-emptive strike to take out Iran's burgeoning nuclear weapons capabilities, but Ahmadinejad scoffed at the prospect of an attack on his country.
"Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists," he said. "We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves."
The White House condemned the Ahmadinejad's comments Monday afternoon.
"President Ahmadinejad's comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive, and outrageous," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "They underscore again why America's commitment to the security of Israel must be unshakeable, and why the world must hold Iran accountable for its utter failure to meet its obligations."
Ahmadinejad has previously taken to the UN podium to defend Iran's nuclear program, attack Israel and the west and even question whether Muslim terrorists were behind the 9/11 attacks. Last year and in other years, western diplomats have walked out en masse as Ahmadinejad spoke.
In his speech at the UN's high-level meeting on the rule of law on Monday morning, Ahmadinejad once again defended Iran's nuclear program, asserting that its enrichment project is for peaceful purposes and that it was not too late for dialogue with the United States to resolve differences. He also said Iran is neutral about the Syrian civil war, and denied it is providing weapons or training to the government of President Bashar Assad.
He refused to say whether Iran would accept a government not led by the Assad regime, which for years has been Iran's closest ally in the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad said this would be his last trip to New York as president of Iran, because his term is ending and he is barred from seeking a third consecutive term. But he did not rule out staying active in Iranian politics and said he might return as part of future Iranian delegations to New York.
While in the Big Apple, the Iranian leader will also meet with members of Occupy Wall Street, Fars News Agency reports.
Christopher DeVito, executive director of the advocacy group Iran180, said the organization will have a protest at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on Wednesday when Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak. Iran180 wants a change in Iran's nuclear and human rights policies.
Tension between some Arab states and Israel is perhaps even more raw this year than in years past. Aside from Iran's nuclear threat, instability in the region, brought on by democratic uprisings, deadly protests generated by an anti-Islamic video and the ongoing civil war in Syria are all weighing heavily on the world body.
Ki-moon predicted that the ministerial session, which starts Tuesday, will be among the busiest ever, reflecting "the tumultuous time in which we live â€” a time of turmoil and transition." It is also taking place "against a backdrop of widespread violence linked to intolerance," he said.
Ahead of the opening ministerial session, which President Barack Obama will address, the U.N. chief has invited leaders to the first high-level meeting on the rule of law on Monday, hoping they "will send a strong signal to the world's people that they are serious about establishing well-functioning institutions and delivering justice."
The Syrian conflict has bitterly divided the most powerful members of the Security Council, paralyzing the only U.N. body that can impose global sanctions and authorize military action. Russia, Syria's key protector, and China, have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to stop the violence and start political talks with opponents of his family's 40-year dictatorship who began demonstrating against his regime 18 months ago.
Fox News' Ed Henry and the Associated Press contributed to this report.