PRESIDENT Barack Obama has criticised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads assertion that the US government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks as “offensive” and “hateful,” even as Ahmadinejad continued to defend his remarks.
“Well, it was offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable,” Mr Obama said.
But the hardline Iranian leader, holding a press conference in a Manhattan hotel, claimed – without indicating where he got his statistics – “Over eighty percent of the American people consider the 9/11 tragedy a suspicious one.”
“We are saddened by the fact people were killed on 9/11 but want to bring your attention that hundreds of thousands in our region were killed as a result,” Mr Ahmadinejad said.
During his address to the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad alleged there were differing theories about what occurred on September 11, 2001. One theory, he said, was that a terrorist group carried out the attacks and the US government “took advantage” of them to wage war in the Middle East.
A second was that “some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grip on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime,” he said.
The third was that the attack was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of it.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks caused the US delegation to the United Nations, along with 32 other delegations, to walk out in protest.
I an interview with Fox News Channel’s Eric Shawn, when asked again about his 9/11 remarks and how he “could say such an insane and nutty thing,” Ahmadinejad replied, “Would you address your own president the same way?”
Ahead of Ahmadinejad’s speech Thursday, Obama said in his own address before the UN General Assembly that the “door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it.”
Asked about the comments, the Iranian leader replied, “I have always said before that, except for the Zionist regime, we want to have relations with all countries. The US government cut off the ties with us so what are we to do? We feel that the onus of this does not lay on our shoulders.”
In his BBC interview, Obama was asked about sanctions imposed against Iran for its refusal to demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program and what it meant in terms of his earlier promise to work with Iran via diplomacy and not threats.
“This is not a matter of choosing to impose punishment on the Iranians,” Obama said. “This is a matter of the Iranians’ government I think ultimately betraying the interests of its own people by isolating it further.”
When he was asked about the sanctions, Ahmadinejad appeared to brush them off, saying, “sanctions have no impact on the Iranian people.” He said his country could manage well by depending on its own 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.”
During his one hour-plus news conference, Ahmadinejad, dressed casually in an open-necked shirt and jacket, also said he thought Palestinians should decide their own future, said American politicians must stop using media as a “tool” and even managed to thank the police officers of New York for getting him around the city in traffic-clogged situations.