Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed an anti-Islam film that has provoked a violent reaction in the Muslim world, spoke strongly against homosexuality and said what his country would do if attacked by Israel in an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight".
The president denounced the film, "Innoncence of Muslims," that portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer. The online video has led to a wave of global unrest.
"Fundamentally, first of all, any action that is provocative, offends the religious thoughts and feelings of any people, we condemn," Ahmadinejad said.
"Likewise, we condemn any type of extremism. Of course, what took place was ugly. 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," Ahmadinejad said.
The privately produced film sparked protests against the United States, where it was made. While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, some were marred by violence that has left more than two dozen people dead - among them U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that reportedly followed a demonstration against the film.
With regard to how should the U.S. handle Iran, Ahmadinejad noted that this must be "resolved in a humane atmosphere".
"We believe 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," he said.
When asked by Morgan whether he thought protesters should stop threatening U.S. staff abroad, Ahmadinejad said he cannot say what other people or nations should do, but that he believes "extremism gives birth to following and subsequent extremists."
"Perhaps if the politicians take a better position in the West vis-a-vis offensive words or thoughts or pictures towards what we hold holy, I think conditions will improve," the president said.
Among other topics Ahmadinejad touched on in the interview taped in New York ahead of his visit to the U.N. General Assembly.
When asked what Iran would do if Israel were to attack it, Ahmadinejad said, "Any nation has the right and will indeed defend herself.
"But my question is this: Why should the world be managed in such a way that an individual can allow himself to threaten a rich and deeply rooted historical, ancient country such as Iran? A great country, such as Iran, based on an excuse of his own fabrication. Another country can say, I am guessing that country B is doing activity X, therefore I will attack that country ... can this be ... a successful formula for the management of the world?"
The president was likely referring to his country's disputed nuclear program.
Some world powers, particularly Western nations, suspect that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
In response to whether he feared a war or military conflict with Israel was imminent, Ahmadinejad said: "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 and I do firmly believe that they seek to create new opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors."
"I'm sorry. Let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is giving birth through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly, and others do not accept your behavior, that they're denying your freedom?" he asked Morgan.
"Proper education must be given ... the education system must be revamped. The political system must be revamped. And these must be also reformed, revamped along the way. But if you, if a group recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition."
When asked how he would feel if one of his children dated a Jew, Ahmadinejad replied, "I would have to see who that Jewish man or woman would be. I see love amongst people as completely acceptable. There are many Jews living in Iran with whom we are very close. There are ... some Muslims that marry into Jewish families or marry Christians."
"I - we have no such problems," he added.
"Of course, I think none of us should represent the whole population of the United States, but we believe that color, religion, native tongue, ethnic background shouldn't create differences or distances between people, nor should it be the sole reason to bring people closer together. It has always been like this."
Edited by: S. Isayev