In an attempt to reach out to the Iranian people, U.S. President Barack Obama granted on Friday morning an interview to BBC Persian - a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cited conspiracy theories blaming the United States for the 9-11 terrorist attacks during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
Obama called Ahmadinejad’s remarks “offensive”, “hateful” and “inexcusable”.
“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,” Obama said.
Shortly after Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN that many Western delegations walked out on, Mark Kornblau, the spokesman of the United States Mission to the UN, said in a statement: “Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable."
In a conference call with reporters, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explained Obama's decision to grant an interview to BBC Persian.
“The president is always interested in ways in which he can speak directly with people of Iran, and this interview is an opportunity for that as well,” Rhodes said. “BBC Persian has millions of viewers in Iran, web site - one of the most trafficked in region, radio – and we saw it as a good way to reach people of Iran. We believe that the comments (of President Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly) are outrageous and inexcusable and don’t serve the interest of the Iranian people."
"(But) with regard to the dialogue, the Iranian government has a choice. If they do not live up to their international obligations, there will be consequences. But for diplomacy’s sake – the door is always open to the dialogue. The president is making clear in the interview that the Iranian government has a choice. It would be irresponsible to say that we rule out diplomatic solution to Iran’s problem”.
Responding to a question on what he will do if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, Obama told BBC Persian: "I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I think that, understandably, Israel is very concerned when the president of a country, a large country near them, states that they should be wiped off the face of the Earth. And so, again, this is an example of where the Iranian people I believe are ill served. To have a President who makes outrageous, offensive statements like this does not serve the interests of the Iranian people, does not strengthen Iran’s stature in the world community."
"And there is an easy solution to this, which is to have a Iranian government act responsibly in the international community, along the lines of not just basic codes of conduct or diplomatic norms, but just basic humanity and common decency."
Obama said that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would "change the dynamic of the region in a very postive way."
"This is an example of where the Iranian regime has a choice," he said. "It can be supportive of peace efforts that result in concrete benefits for the Palestinian people, or it can choose to engage in rhetoric and fund terrorist activity that ensures continued conflict, which may serve their political interests but certainly doesn’t serve the interests of a Palestinian family on the West Bank who would prefer to have a country of their own in which they can start a business or send their children to school."
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