Ver la versión completa : Ahmadinejad speaks; outrage and controversy follow

José Benito
08/10/2007, 21:28
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Columbia University President Lee Bollinger excoriated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday, going through a long list of documented actions and remarks by the firebrand Iranian leader and
his government.

Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said to applause from many of the 600 people in the room for a speech from the Iranian leader.

Bollinger cited the Iranian government's "brutal crackdown" on dissidents, public executions, executions of minors and other actions. And he assailed Ahmadinejad's "denying" of the Holocaust as "ridiculous" and "dangerous propaganda." He called the Iranian leader either brazenly provocative "or astonishingly uneducated."

"The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history," he said.

He said he doubted Ahmadinejad would show the intellectual courage to answer the questions before him.

Ahmadinejad responded quickly. Ahmadinejad responded quickly. "We don't think it's necessary before the speech is given to come in with some series of claims," the Iranian leader said.

He said Bollinger's comments included "insults" and false claims, and flew in the face of an environment that's supposed to let people speak their minds.

On the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad asked why history can't be questioned and further researched. "If the Holocaust is a reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?" he asked.

The Iranian leader has made statements in the past suggesting that Israel be politically "wiped off the map," though he insists that can be accomplished without violence.

While he would not respond with a "yes" or "no" when asked Monday if he sought the destruction of Israel, he said the status of Israel should be determined by a free election.

"Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future," he said.

Asked about widely documented government abuse of women and homosexuals in his country, Ahmadinejad said, "We don't have homosexuals" in Iran. "I don't know who told you we had it," he said.

He also repeatedly said that women have freedoms in Iran and refused to comment on reports that their freedom is severely constrained.

Ahmadinejad said Iran questions "the way the world is being run and anaged today."

But he said Iran would hold talks with the U.S. government "under fair and just circumstances."

As he ended his talk at Columbia, he invited faculty and students to visit any university they liked in Iran. Earlier Monday, in a question-and-answer video conference with the National Press Club, Ahmadinejad said the Middle East can govern itself without interference from the United States and other Western nations.

Speaking from New York to the luncheon in Washington, Ahmadinejad said Iran wanted to see "an independent powerful Iraq ... which will benefit the entire region." "We are two nations interconnected," he said of Iran and Iraq. "We are brothers and friends." But he said the region didn't need U.S. help.

"We oppose the way the U.S. government tries to manage the world. ... We propose more humane methods of establishing peace," he said. He also said all the world's religions have the same common ground, "justice and friendship."

The views of all religions must be respected and "we must all move hand in hand," Ahmadinejad said.

Earlier in an interview with The Associated Press, Ahmadinejad said he didn't think the United States was preparing for war against Iran.

"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," he told the AP. The Iranian president said his country would not attack Israel. "Iran will not attack any country," the AP quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Despite an outcry against Ahmadinejad that included New York tabloid headlines such as "The Evil Has Landed," John Coatsworth, acting dean of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, said it is important for Americans to hear from the Iranian leader.

"Iran is going to ... hold the key to peace in the Middle East. We have to deal with and negotiate with leaders like this however much we may disagree with their views," Coatsworth said on CNN's "American Morning."

Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, said Columbia should not be giving Ahmadinejad a platform. "All he will do on that stage ...is spew more hatred and more venom out there to the world," Quinn said.

Hamid Dabasi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia, called the whole forum "misguided."

Ahmadinejad also has drawn fire for his insistence that Iran will defy international demands that it halt production of enriched uranium. Iran insists it is producing nuclear fuel for civilian power plants, but Washington accuses Tehran of trying to create a nuclear weapons program. Watch Ahmadinejad's comments on the nuclear issue »

Also, the United States says Iranian explosives and weapons are making their way to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq's sectarian conflict and have been used against U.S. troops in the 4-year-old war. U.S. commanders say they have captured Iranian agents involved in supplying those weapons to the militias,some of which have longstanding ties to the Islamic republic.In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Ahmadinejad denied U.S. accusations that Iranian weapons are being used against American troops in Iraq, saying, "Insecurity in Iraq is detrimental to our interests." He said U.S. officials are blaming his country for problems unleashed by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"American officials, wherever around the world that they encounter a problem which they fail to resolve, instead of accepting that, they prefer to accuse others," he said. "I'm very sorry that because of the wrong decisions taken by American officials, Iraqi people are being killed and also American soldiers."

He added, "If they accuse us 1,000 times, the truth will not change."

Ahmadinejad landed in New York on Sunday to attend the U.N. General Assembly session, which opens Monday. He is set to speak Tuesday at the United Nations