Iranian president defends 9/11 remarks
Appearing amused his claim the 9/ 11 attacks on the United States may have been planned by Washington to further the cause of Israel and deflect attention from a failing society, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday defended them to reporters, Xinhua reported.
Less than 24-hours after he ignited in New York a firestorm of shock, incredulity and criticism at his suggestion before the General Assembly of the United Nations on Thursday he discussed his reasoning at a news conference in the Warwick Hotel, about 1.5 kilometers from UN Headquarters, in Midtown Manhattan.
The Iranian president reiterated his call for an inquiry into the attacks to see who was behind them.
The first question, after an opening statement in which he said belief in capitalism has come to an end and "it is in full deadlock," was about his remark many New Yorkers felt was incendiary.
"An event occurred," Ahmadinejad said referring to the attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a plane crash in Pennsylvania in which about 3,000 people died.
"In the pretext of that event two countries were invaded (Iraq and Afghanistan) and up until now hundreds of thousands of people have been killed as a result," the president said.
"Don't you think that that excuse needs to be revised?" he continued. "Don't you feel that if a fact-finding mission was present from the start to explore the true reason behind Sept. 11 that we would not see the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq today? Why do you assume that all nations must accept what the U.S. government says?"
Ahmadinejad said he did not make any judgment about various theories about who sponsored the attacks, just voiced them.
"You can walk on the street here and ask the people of New York about Sept. 11 and you will see that everyone will at some point will bring up one of those three theories," that the attack plans came from the U.S. government, he said.
Some reporters in later questions tried to dispute that allegation.
In his speech at the opening of general debate at the United Nations, Ahmadinejad said, a terrorist group successfully crossed U.S. intelligence and security to carry 9/11 out, or "some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack," or it "was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation."
Posing his question to the president, the reporter, clearly shaky in voice, said many New Yorkers were upset at the Iranian president's suggestion.
"Iran's loony leader sparked an angry exodus from the UN floor Thursday when he dredged up the discredited theory that the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks," the popular tabloid the New York Daily News reported in Friday's editions.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday the Iranian leader's accusations were "offensive" and "hateful."
Ahmadinejad told reporters, "We are trying to defend the rights of the American people here in fact so that their money is not used for killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that their children do not end up in locations where they do not understand and must not go to in the first place to die."
"Do you think that these are bad statements to make and why should you be upset over it?" he continued. "Of course if the U.S, government is upset, yeah, I can see why because the U.S. government expects everyone to follow it and to follow its decisions."
Ahmadinejad accused the reporter, a longtime New York resident, of misrepresenting how the people of New York feel.
"The people of New York are .. realistic people," the president said. "Almost in all the polls over 80 percent of the American people consider the 9/11 tragedy a suspicious event."
Over the course of more than an hour and a half with members of the media, Ahmadinejad, sitting on a dais with four other people, including a woman wearing traditional Iranian black clothing, fielded reporters questions on the 9/11 inquiry, Tehran nuclear energy program, UN Security Council sanctions levied on it for lack of cooperation and the possible resumption of negotiations on the issue.
Asked about the effect of sanctions, he replied, "sanctions have no impact on the Iranian people" and his nation was relied on its "indigent" resources.
"They say they want to use a carrot-and-stick policy," he said. "They admit they want to use a stick on us. It's an insult, a backward and retarded phrase."
But after taking his last question, Ahmadinejad launched into a little farewell to reporters saying how much he respected them and their quest for the truth but understood how their efforts could be thwarted by editors, especially those of "corporate media" and declared U.S. media no longer had credibility in the world.
That was at the end of his elaborately staged press encounter Friday and a hectic round of interviews he gave to both domestic and international media while in New York the last few days.