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Ahmadinejad Driving US Media Blitz
Iranian President Telling His Side of the Story to US Audiences
09/24/2007 1:57 PM ET
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad categorically denied his regime has provided weapons to Shi'ite militias in Iraq Monday during the first major appearance during his brief visit to the US.

The Iranian president, in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting, appeared via video conference to answer questions for the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Whether or not he was being truthful is up for debate, but when directly pressed about accusations of material support for Iraqi militias, Ahmadinejad said, "No, this does not happen," also adding that he doesn't think the US is losing in Iraq because of two or three Iranian weapons.

As usual, the Iranian president accused the US of wrongly blaming Iran for the problems of Iraq, saying, "We think the military should seek an answer for its defeat in Iraq elsewhere."

He said American rhetoric against Iran undermines US power because "US politicians will not be able to make correct decisions."

Ahmadinejad played the role of responsible statesman with a respect for Iraqi sovereignty and a need for regional stability, emphasizing the neighboring countries' shared history. "We're two nations interconnected; we're brothers and friends," he said.

He spoke of a desire to see an independent, powerful, and developed Iraq "that will benefit the whole region," and emphasized that the regional powers would be capable of helping their neighbor establish security. "They don't need a guardian from outside to tell them how to do it," he added, referring to the American military presence.

C-SPAN's Washington Journal held a call-in discussion following their broadcast of Ahmadinejad's appearance, and many callers expressed hostile incredulity at Ahmadinejad's answers and casual rapport. A few spoke of their disgust that the NPC even allowed the Iranian president a public platform to speak.

Columbia University has faced similar criticism for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, where the event is just getting underway.

Though many critics have slammed university officials for formally inviting the Iranian president, it's clear so far from Columbia president Lee Bollinger's opening statement that he has no intention to lob any softballs, though he also just told him, "I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions."

Ahmadinejad will begin speaking in just a few minutes. His appearance is being broadcast live on C-SPAN and the video will be made available later.

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