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Ahmadinejad Rails Against ‘Arrogant’ U.N.

Saying the issue of his country's nuclear program was now "closed," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided the United Nations for allowing world powers to bully others. It was the latest in a string of controversial comments from the leader during his U.S. visit.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The president of Iran takes his show on the American road. Judy Woodruff has our story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In his four-day trip to New York City, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been at the center of controversy and protests.

  • PROTESTOR:

    I don't think we would have invited Hitler, so I don't think we should invite Ahmadinejad.

  • PROTESTOR:

    I would like to see that the people of the world get united, get rid of this brutal regime, so a lot of good people like me can go back to Iran.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The official reason for Ahmadinejad's visit came this afternoon, when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He told the U.N. Security Council to back off efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear power.

    MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, President of Iran (through translator): Unfortunately, the Security Council, in dealing with this obvious legal issue, was influenced by some bullying powers and failed to uphold justice and protect the rights of the Iranian people. Fortunately, the IAEA has recently tried to regain its legal role, as supporter of the rights of its members, while supervising nuclear activities. We see this as a correct approach adopted by the agency.

    Previously, they illegally insisted on politicizing the Iranian nation's nuclear case, but today, because of the resistance of the Iranian nation, the issue is back to the agency. And I officially announced that, in our opinion, the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary agency matter.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. and Israeli delegations did not attend his speech. But the high point of contention came yesterday, when the Iranian president visited New York's Columbia University.

  • LEE BOLLINGER, President, Columbia University:

    Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The school's president, Lee Bollinger, delivered a stinging, critical introduction, zeroing in on Ahmadinejad's previous comments on nuclear power and the Holocaust.

  • LEE BOLLINGER:

    In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as a "fabricated legend." One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers. For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda. When you come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.

    Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification in defiance of agreements that you have made with the U.N. nuclear agency? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic sanctions and threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation?

    Frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions, but your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Listening, Ahmadinejad maintained his composure throughout, even as the audience cheered and booed.

  • MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD:

    I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Iranian leader offered lengthy commentary on religion and history. In contrast to past statements denying the Holocaust took place, yesterday, he said more research is needed.

  • MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD:

    I have been told that there's been enough research on the topic. And I ask, "Well, when it comes to topics such as freedom, topics such as democracy, concepts and norms such as God, religion, physics even, or chemistry, there has been a lot of research," but we still continue more research on those topics. We encourage it. But, then, why don't we encourage more research on a historical event that has become the root, the cause of many heavy catastrophes in the region in this time and age?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ahmadinejad also took questions from the audience.

  • LEE BOLLINGER:

    Mr. President, another student asks, "Iranian women are now denied basic human rights, and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?"

  • MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD:

    Freedoms in Iran are genuine, true freedoms. Iranian people are free. Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom. In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ahmadinejad also defended Tehran's nuclear program and maintained it had the right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a claim the West has challenged.

  • MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD:

    If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of other people who want nuclear power? We do not believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.

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