Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that “the future belongs to Iran”, as he arrived in the United States to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations.
He challenged the US to accept that his country has a major role in the world.
He insisted that his government did not want an atomic bomb and that Iran was only seeking peace and a nuclear-weapons-free world.
In an interview with the Associated Press, he repeatedly sidestepped questions on when Iran would resume talks on its disputed nuclear programme and he said anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect.
He also deflected questions about his government’s harsh suppression of opposition forces after last year’s disputed election that returned him to a second term.
“The United States’ administrations ... must recognise that Iran is a big power,” he said.
“Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any other country.
“Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the option of friendship with us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that enmities will be fruitless.”
He did not acknowledge that the leaders of the political opposition in Iran have been harassed and that government opponents risk violence and arrest if they try to stage protests.
He did concede that there have been some judicial “mistakes”.
Ahmadinejad argued that the opposition Green Movement, which has largely been forced underground, continues to enjoys rights in Iran but said that in the end it must respect “majority rule”.
He did not mention that many newspapers have been closed down and that prominent opposition figures were put in prison and then tried after tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets claiming that the election that put him back in power in 2010 was stolen.
Ahmadinejad said international nuclear regulators had never found proof that Iran is pursuing an atomic bomb.
“We are not afraid of nuclear weapons. The point is that if we had in fact wanted to build a nuclear bomb, we are brave enough to say that we want it. But we never do that. We are saying that the arsenal of nuclear bombs (worldwide) have to be destroyed as well,” he said.
The US accuses Iran of hiding plans to build a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that and says it’s working only toward building nuclear power plants.