President Barack Obama today condemned as “offensive” and “hateful” the suggestion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the September 11 attacks might have been orchestrated by the US government.
The US president’s remarks in an interview with BBC Persian Television came a day after the Iranian leader included the incendiary comment in his speech to the UN General Assembly. It prompted a walkout by the US delegation and others.
“For him to make a statement like that was inexcusable,” Mr Obama told BBC Persian Television in an interview at his New York hotel. “It was offensive. It was hateful. And 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.”
In his speech, Mr Ahmadinejad suggested investigating allegations that “some segments within the US government” orchestrated the attacks in a bid to aid Israel.
US officials immediately denounced the remarks as “abhorrent” and accused Mr Ahmadinejad of trafficking in conspiracy theories.
In Mr Obama’s UN address earlier yesterday, he reiterated calls for Tehran to end its nuclear defiance and prove to the world its uranium enrichment programme is purely peaceful. But he also said the door remains open to talks that could end Iran’s sanctions and isolation.
Tehran has recently indicated interest in restarting talks with the West. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany made another offer on Wednesday to enter negotiations.
White House officials said Mr Obama agreed to the interview because of the audience of millions who listen to the BBC Farsi-language services inside Iran on radio, television and via the internet.
“Iran is a very dynamic new media society,” said Mr Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes. “We anticipate lots of blogging, lots of interest.”