COOPER: At the U.N., you spoke with great passion of of brotherhood, of peace and respect for all nations. Yet, in Tehran last year, you spoke about wiping Israel off the face of the map. That doesn't sound to many people in the United States like great respect for other nations.
Do you want to wipe Israel off the face of the map?
AHMADINEJAD: I'm surprised why American politicians are so sensitive and biased with regard to Israel. Is there a relationship, to speak with such prejudice?
Everyone is prevented from questioning the regime. Whenever a question is raised, some American politicians react very strongly to it, whereas we know there's a lot being said about many other countries around the world.
Lebanon was bombarded. In Ghana, people were killed with laser bombs. But it doesn't seem to have created concern among American politicians as much. But when somebody questions or criticizes the Zionist regime, there's so much reaction. Could you tell me why this is the case?
I would think it would be a good question to ask from American politicians, the extent of the prejudice we see with them about Israel, given the massacres committed by Israel, killing people in their own homes. Should they not be subject to criticism? Should nobody complain and raise objections about the violations of rights and the murders that they commit? Are they free to do such acts?
Should they not act within the framework of any law?
COOPER: To some in America, though, that is going to sound like you're not answering the question. The question really is, do you believe Israel has a right to exist?
AHMADINEJAD: I say that it is an occupying regime.
We say we must -- you must allow the Palestinian nation to decide for itself what its fate should be. There are 5 million displaced Palestinians, 4 million who live under the threat of bombardments, or actual bombardments and attacks.
So, let Palestinian people decide for themselves. We support the vote of the people. And whatever the result is, we must all accept. Why should there be objection to this proposal, or to the vote of the people to indicate their will? Don't the people in Palestine have the right to live? Are they not human beings? They live in their own homeland. In their own homeland, they are under attack.
COOPER: The same statement could be said of Jewish people in Israel, that they're living in what they say is their homeland. Don't they have a right to exist?
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, in Palestine, there were a group of Jews that lived there. But where did they come from afterward, the larger groups that came to Palestine?
We know what the trend was. A group of people came from other places to that land. Where does the father of Mr. [Ehud] Olmert come from, for example? Some of the ministers in Israel are in fact of Iranian origin, with no background, historical background, in Palestine. But they're there, ruling.
COOPER: So, you're saying, really, they don't belong there; they should go somewhere else?
AHMADINEJAD: I am saying, let the Palestinian people decide. The Palestinian people should decide what to do. And among Palestinians, there are Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Our question is, what about the rights of the Palestinian people? They lived there, and they were displaced and forced to leave their own homeland, under the threat of a gun, and, regretfully, with the support of the American government.
What is happening to the Palestinians? Do they not have the right? Shouldn't we be thinking about that? Their young people are being killed on the streets. Homes are being destroyed over their heads, even in Gaza, even in the West Bank.
After all, they are human beings, too. They have the right to life and to live in their own homeland. Others have come from far and beyond, and are now there ruling there and governing that land.
Why did they go there? They should return to where they came from. Or, even if they don't, they should at least allow the Palestinian nation to decide about that and the future.
So what I'm saying is quite clear. We want peace to be established there. We care for the Jews who live under pressure there as well, because they too are living outside their own homes, far from where they belong, their homeland, actually. That is not their homeland.
COOPER: You have repeatedly implied that the Holocaust never happened. And implied that more research needs to be done on whether or not it did happen. The argument could be made that the genocide was perhaps the most well-documented genocide of the 20th century. Do you really believe that the Holocaust never happened?
AHMADINEJAD: If this event happened, where did it happen? The where is the main question. And it was not in Palestine. Why is the Holocaust used as a pretext to occupy the Palestinian lands?
COOPER: But do you understand why it's deeply offensive to people?
AHMADINEJAD: That subject, how is it connected to the occupying regime in Jerusalem?
COOPER: You do realize though why it would be deeply offensive to so many people that you even say "if it ever happened"?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, you don't speak here for all Americans. In the past two or three days, I have met with many members of the media and the press here, some who are even related to the U.S. government. But the questions are the same across the board.
COOPER: Why can't you believe there was a Holocaust and support Palestinians?
AHMADINEJAD: No, that's not a reason at all.
The subject of the Holocaust is a different subject. I raised two or three questions that were very clear about it. I said that, in World War II, 60 million people lost their lives. They were killed. Two million of them were noncivilians, so to say, military. The rest were civilian populations.
And they all lost their lives. Their lives were all cared for and respected. But why is it that we concentrate so much on the lives of a group among the 60 million?
The second question is, assuming that this happened, why don't they allow more research and studies to be done about it? If it is a truth that happened, then we will need more clarity about it. And they must be impartial groups, or whoever who is interested should be able to do the research. Why is that prevented?
COOPER: President Bush, at the U.N., tried to speak directly to the Iranian people yesterday. And he said ...
AHMADINEJAD: Did you get the answer you wanted about the Holocaust?
COOPER: No, I didn't, but I know my time is limited.
It is a fascinating subject. ...
AHMADINEJAD: Are you asking the questions that are on your mind or questions that are given to you by others?
COOPER: Actually, in America, we have a free press, unlike in parts of Iran.
But I'm asking the questions that I'm interested in. But I know your time is short. Frankly, I would love to talk to you for two hours. But ...
AHMADINEJAD: Well, given that all the questions are very similar, it speaks for itself.
It seems to me that Mr. Bush fails to understand the reality of the world today, the conditions that beset the world today. This is not the kind of language you speak talking with a great nation. It's an insult to a great nation. I don't know what he is actually thinking, when he makes remarks like that. I invite him to speak for half an hour with our nation every day. And everyone will listen to what he has to say, but nothing will be resolved.
COOPER: He gave his message to the Iranian people. What is your message to the American people? What do you want them to know about Iran, about you?
AHMADINEJAD: Our message is a message of peace and brotherhood with all nations, with all people. And we like all nations and people. We are against oppression and injustice. And we love the American people, as we love our own. We respect everyone. And to clarify issues, I called Mr. Bush to debate. I propose that we sit and have a debate to talk about our positions, to discuss issues and allow everyone around the world to hear the debate. It was a great suggestion, I think, because I believe that, after all, it is the public opinion, the world public opinion, that must have information and decide.
COOPER: Your ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, today, speaking at the [U.N.] General Assembly, called President Bush a devil and said that he smelled sulfur.
I'm wondering what you think of his comments and whether you smelled any sulfur when you were speaking at the General Assembly.
AHMADINEJAD: Do you want to interview me or Mr. Chavez, perhaps?
COOPER: You have no thoughts on his comments?
AHMADINEJAD: I think that the United Nations offers a podium for everyone. And everybody can speak of what they think. So let's keep it open.
COOPER: You said at the U.N. yesterday that your nuclear program is, quote, "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors." That's not what [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors have said. In a recent report they have said that they frankly cannot verify the peaceful nature of your program and that it is not transparent.
Why not just open up the program and fulfill all the requirements that the IAEA would like?
AHMADINEJAD: They said that they did not find any evidence or sign, although they must continue inspections. And they're welcome to continue inspections at all times.
COOPER: The report that ...
AHMADINEJAD: The IAEA has declared that on numerous occasions in fact. And we know that that is not the first time they've stated that.
COOPER: The report that I read in August said Iran has not addressed the long outstanding verification issues or provided the necessary transparency to remove uncertainties associated with some of its activities. [IAEA chief] Mohamed ElBaradei was quoted as saying that he can't give you a clean bill of health yet.
AHMADINEJAD: Perhaps the report that you had and saw is incomplete. The IAEA has indicated that it has found no evidence that would show that Iran is developing a nuclear energy for other purposes that are other than peaceful.
So I like to ask ... are you positive that the United States of America in fact has not diverted from its own nuclear programs to develop, perhaps nuclear devices, that are not for peaceful purposes? The United States, are you telling me, is not building a nuclear bomb? Are you not concerned about that?
There has been no evidence saying that we are doing any such activities. Then why should there be a furor of concern among people, among groups? But please, go on.
COOPER: But well, you say that, without a doubt, your program is for peaceful purposes. The IAEA report I read said that they've not had all the interviews they would like to have. They've not had all the documentation they would like to have.
Are you willing to provide them everything that they say they would like? Or do you feel it's inappropriate that they are pushing too much?
AHMADINEJAD: We're working within the framework of international laws. They might, for example, choose to interview me personally. But that would be stepping beyond the framework of international law.
So they have to tell us exactly what provisions of the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] they're speaking of which they believe we have not abided by. There's no such case. They are interested in getting more information. And we're ready to cooperate with them and provide them with all information within the framework of international law.