Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that “the future belongs to Iran,” and challenged the United States to accept that his country has a major role in the world.
The comments came in an hourlong interview with The Associated Press on the first day of his visit to the United States to attend the annual general assembly of the United Nations this week.
He insisted that his government does not want an atomic bomb — something he has said in the past — and that Iran is only seeking peace and a nuclear-free world. He gave no indication of when Iran would resume talks on its nuclear program and said any anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect on his government’s policies.
Appearing calm and self-assured, the Iranian president said he was pleased about the release of American hiker Sarah Shourd from a prison in Tehran, but said her two companions still in prison would have to prove their innocence on charges that they illegally crossed into the country.
“The United States’ administrations … must recognize 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 of us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that emnities will be fruitless — and hence sanctions, too, will be ineffective.”
He added: “If they were to be effective, I should not be sitting here right now.”
Ahmadinejad asserted that 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.