NEW YORK - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that Iran would not launch an attack on Israel or any other country, and he does not believe the U.S. is preparing for war against Iran.
'Iran will not attack any country,' Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press, when asked if his country would ever strike first against Israel. Iran has always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one, he said, and has 'never sought to expand its territory.'
He said he did not believe the U.S. was preparing for war.
'I believe that some of the talk in this regard arises first of all from anger. Secondly, it serves the electoral purposes domestically in this country. Third, it serves as a cover for policy failures over Iraq.'
Ahmadinejad dismissed statements by U.S. military officers and intelligence reports that Iran secretly provides weapons to insurgents fighting against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly the shaped projectiles that have harmed U.S. troops in roadside attacks.
'Why would we want to do that?' Ahmadinejad declared. 'This would really be inappropriate for us. We are friends with both Iraq and Afghanistan. Insecurity in Iraq and Afghanistan undermines our own national security; it basically goes against what we believe.'
Instead, he described himself as 'extremely unhappy with the situation prevailing in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It saddens us that people lose their lives in Iraq. We also regret that American troops are losing their lives there,' he added.
In the 30-minute interview at his hotel near the United Nations, Ahmadinejad seemed to seek to project a consistently soothing tone. He said Iranian foreign policy was based on humanitarian concerns and seeking justice, and that it is not in its interest to stir up problems for itself or its neighbors.
He however reiterated his call for a debate at the United Nations with President Bush, suggesting throughout the interview that many of the tensions and the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan stem from American miscalculations, rather than Iranian provocations.
Referring to fears of a military campaign against Iran, he said: 'We don't think you can compensate for one mistake by committing more mistakes.'
A slightly built, physically unimposing figure in a simple beige jacket and gray slacks, Ahmadinejad said that he was happy to be in New York as an opportunity 'to be with many friends.' He affected an air of being oblivious to the anger that his visit has stirred here, including headlines like: 'The Evil Has Landed.'
Iran wants tensions to decline, he said.
'We oppose war because we believe that through negotiations and talks, all the problems can be resolved, provided that the parties to the talks believe in justice and uphold justice.'
Ahmadinejad said Iran already has made proposals to U.S. politicians over Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine that are all based on seeking peace in the region.